Friday, November 12, 2010

Time for a new filter?

What is the rationale behind this cultural phenomenon that allows people over a certain age - 70 or so - to say whatever they want? We all know someone like that, don't we? They say any sarcastic, unkind, grumpy words that pop in their heads. We say their "filter" is gone. And we chuckle a bit, acting like they have earned that right simply by still being alive.

It's true that I can name at least one person in my life, under the age of 70, who also needs a filter replacement. You probably know one or two folks like that, don't you?

Here's an interesting story...

ONCE UPON A TIME a woman bought a new home. Before she moved in, a friend told her the neighbors to the left of her new home were very odd. So HE said.

In a sense, words are encyclopedias of ignorance because they freeze perceptions at one moment in history and then insist we continue to use these frozen perceptions when we should be doing better.” - Edward De Bono

The woman chose to embrace this perception about her neighbors. And guess what? Everything they said to her made them seem odd. Funny how that works.

One day, she and the neighbors found they had a mutual friend. Hmm... the paradigm started to shift. There was common ground. Today, having been given an open door, those "odd" folks have shown themselves to be great friends and neighbors.

Okay, so you weren't on the edge of your seat. But it is a valuable lesson.

“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.” - Leonardo da Vinci

How about this for a confronting thought: everything I see, everyone I meet, every new experience I have, every word I hear, circulates through a filter embedded in my brain, shaped by the words I have heard since childhood. One word, one criticism, one encouraging word at a time. It is inevitable that, up to a certain age, we see things the same way the influential people in our lives see them. Whether it remains that way forever is up to us.

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is - infinite.”
William Blake

How many people do you touch every day? How many hear your voice, are receivers of your mood and attitude, are affected by whatever is going on in your head? Only everyone you see, pass, speak to.
Every. one. That's a bit overwhelming, isn't it?

And what we project is rooted in our perceptions. We aren't "bad" people...we don't intend harm. But we judge people and situations based on our own or someone else's limited perception. We don't stop to think that the way we see every person and every situation is limited to what our filter allows.

Why oh why must it be this way

Before you can read me you gotta

Learn how to see me, I said

Free your mind and the rest will follow - En Vogue

The GOOD news is that, as an adult, I can create my own filter. Or is that good news? You see, knowledge brings with it responsibility. And adjusting the filter isn't easy.

It means stopping myself every time I am about to whine, or criticize, or offer an opinion when I haven't been asked. It means holding my peace, not riding a roller coaster of emotion and dragging everyone in my path along - whether that is in my home or in the grocery store. It requires dozens of small choices each day, requires asking myself if the words I am about to speak are true, kind and necessary. I don't mean HUGE, life-changing words...I mean the little cuts, the sarcasm, the unnecessary comments. Are the words my own or someone else's? Do those words support all the positve possibilities or are they rooted in negativity?

Most of all, reshaping my filter means resting in who I am, where I came from, and who I belong to. When I am confident in those things, very little can move me, and I am free to embrace, bless and truly see people in my path.

I have a filter. It shapes how I see you. And it shapes how I respond.

My response is my "voice" in this world. I can lift or oppress. I can encourage or discourage. I can embrace or push away. I can judge and condemn or be loving.

What kind of filter will I choose? What kind of voice will I be?

How about you?

Let me know what you think...


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rick Astley, DIY, and relationships...

Shout out to my friend Kevin for Rick Astley being stuck in my head for a week. It's a corny song by a one (or maybe two) hit wonder...but some of the lyrics are thought provoking. We'll get back to that.

I am building a shelving unit. From scratch, with no design sheet. I saw it in Crate and Barrel magazine and said, "PSSSHTTT. I can MAKE that."

Uh huh.

I have put together my share of build-it-yourself furniture from a box. And I helped my uncle make my entertainment center last year. Clearly, those activities qualify me to start with a sheet of birch wood and make a bookcase.

Uh huh.

The first challenge is my lack of appropriate tools. The circular saw with an 18 tooth blade wasn't effective, nor was the SawzAll. The jigsaw would have worked, except for challenge #2 - lack of appropriate workspace. It is hard to cut small pieces on a straight line while balancing the wood on the edge of a sawhorse. In the driveway. While it is sprinkling on the electric tools.

Having pushed through those obstacles, I started construction yesterday. Again, the unsuitable workspace problem arose. How does one attach shelves to a board without a large table or workbench, without clamps, with only two hands? I started in the garage, then moved to the basement where there is a chest freezer. Right now the unit is on the basement floor. All the shelves are attached but the whole thing is very crooked. It turns out not all the pieces are exactly the right length. Who knew 1/4 inch could make such a difference? ? After this break , where I vent to you, I will go back with the tape measure and level, and the revision process will start.

I could take it apart and put the pieces in the scrap wood pile. Just give up and try to find an easier solution. Maybe overextend my budget and order from Crate and Barrel. Or go a local store and find something which I may or may not like but which will be "good enough."

It's a choice we face pretty often, isn't it? We start something - a job, a bookcase, a new business, a friendship, a diet, a marriage - and we have so much enthusiasm.

Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down...

Some time goes by and the initial enthusiasm wanes. We face situations for which we don't have the proper tools. Maybe we don't even recognize that insufficiency, and wouldn't begin to know how to fix it if we did. Where would we possibly get different tools?

Or the workspace is inadequate. We need a better job, a bigger house, a faster-working diet, a spouse or friend who knows more/has more/listens better/acquiesces more readily.

I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling...Gotta make you understand...

That's the problem, isn't it? I want to tell you how I'm feeling. I want you to understand me. I don't want the expense of new tools, don't want to bother with revisions. If we have a problem, you need to fix it. If this boss doesn't treat me right, I will keep finding new jobs until I am happy. If this diet doesn't work, I will keep buying new books, subscribing to new services, acquiring new equipment until I find a diet that requires no lifestyle change and no effort.

Does this sound like anyone you know? Look in your garage, basement, closet, heart. The evidence of broken commitments is in all these places. You remember - the project/equipment/idea/person that started out as the "greatest" and became an annoyance because the details were more complicated than expected and you simply couldn't be bothered.

What we fail to recognize is the toll that kind of behavior takes on us. Sure, I could go out today and buy a bookcase. But I would know that I gave up as soon as the build-my-own project hit a snag. I would remember that for a long time.

Never gonna run around and desert you...never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye...

We fail to recognize that every time we give up on someone, every time we break a commitment to marriage or friendship, every time we block someone from our life, we leave a mark on our own heart.

It is a difficult paradox to navigate. We live in a throw-away society. And yet, we are created to be pack animals, to help each other, to love each other. So while some of us believe it is easier to throw away and start again, in all areas of life, that is a fallacy. Only hard work yields a treasure. "Good enough" never really is.

Think about it.

Back to the basement I go. There will be a follow-up report!

A full commitment's what I'm thinking of....

Tee know you will be singing it for days!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Regional planning, Rick Springfield...more perspective

My dear friend Barb shared her thoughts on yesterday's blog. Here are her words:

I am more inclined to encourage dialogue that would force examination of our biased perspective out in the open where it looks foolish. I try to get my students to engage, to challenge, to exchange.

I fully agree with that. And I love her for taking the time to sharing.

Yesterday I was reacquainted with the incredible annoyance known as State Route 228 in southern Butler County. The occasion was dinner with great friends then an interesting class- well worth the irritation.

I don't know the history of PA SR 228 and Interstate 79. I do know that when the two-lane SR228 was designed, there was no plan for insane growth of two communities adjacent to the road. That is very obvious. It's not important that you know exactly where Cranberry Twp and Seven Fields are located, only that their populations have doubled in the past twenty years, and their median family incomes far exceed the state average. Which equals a lot of stores and service businesses and cars. Imagine the burden such growth puts on a two lane road and the regional planners who work with it. Along much of the corridor, there appears to be no room for the road to expand. There are businesses and homes and schools that would seem reluctant to give up property. And yet, people keep coming, businesses keep building.

So what option do the planners have? Throw up their hands and do nothing? Pretend the unexpected didn't happen?

I thought about this today while watching Rick Springfield on GMA. Yes, that's right - "Jessie's Girl" and "General Hospital". He was promoting his new book and spoke of how amazing his wife Barbara is. They have been together for 30 years, and, he says, both know they are better together than apart. Still, he admitted, she has pushed through difficulty... his depression, drug use, infidelity. Unexpected. Not part of the original plan.

Life is like that, isn't it?

We think we are the regional planners for our corner of the world. We think if we build an infrastructure, make a plan for maintenance and growth, life will be smooth.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Why do we ever believe that?

We don't get to choose what lousy stuff is going to come into our lives. We only get to choose our response. We get to choose whether we see only from our own perspective or are willing to open ourselves to others.

And you are saying, "Hey Beth...tell me something I DON'T know."

Do we really know? Do we really believe that a new road can't be built every time something unexpected happens. The current road might need to be widened or rerouted. But, it is not feasible or possible or wise to always start over.

Look at the divorce rate, not only for first marriages, but for second and third. 50%, 67%,74%.

Think about the friends or family member you know who have at least one person to whom they refuse to speak.

Do we really know? Are we really willing to open our minds to the perspective of another, even when that person has hurt us.

Are we really willing to listen to what others say about our point of view? Or do we cling to the two-lane road that is no longer sufficient? Do we throw up our hands and run every time the unexpected happens?

We give up on people so easily, don't we? Don't want to hold on through their mess, don't want to help widen the road because it's hard and we might get dirty. We refuse to see that we helped make the mess, that reconfiguring and widening the current road will take us to wonderful new places, places a new road would never find.

Valuable lessons from unusual sources like regional planners and Mrs. Rick Springfield.

I am heading to the garage to work on a 4-shelf stand I am building. It doesn't look like I had planned, but it will work! I am reconfiguring...


Monday, October 11, 2010

Christopher Columbus and the Strike's all about Perspective

I just walked to the mailbox, was puzzled by its emptiness, then remembered today is Columbus Day. We learned in elementary school that Christopher Columbus discovered America? Funny, isn't it...such a matter of perspective.

More fall softball yesterday. It was a glorious day to watch a couple games. And even though the games did not affect any standings, didn't really mean anything as far as win/loss records, fans were still very involved, and somewhat rabid.

The rulebook succinctly defines the strike zone as the area between the forward armpit and the top of the knees, over the plate. But those words don't always play out as clearly as one would think. And from outside of the fence, balls and strikes are a matter of perspective.

So Christopher Columbus believed the world was round while everyone else said it was flat. That's what we were taught in elementary school. And it's not true.

When Christoffa Corombo (in his native Genoese language) set sail for Asia, it was already widely accepted by scientists and astrologists that the world was round. The question was how large the world was? There were two prominent theories, and Columbus chose the wrong one. Which is why he thought he landed in Asia, when it was really what we know today as the Dominican Republic.

He made three voyages, but none of them ever brought him to the place now called the United States. And rather than promoting the false belief that he proved the world wasn't flat, why don't we praise him for his vast knowledge of the trade winds which made it possible for him to return to Europe by a relatively easy path? He didn't find Asia, but he made great strides for trade ships by navigating the easterly and westerly trade winds in the Atlantic Ocean.

The first European to land in the United States was actually Juan Ponce de Leon. Why don't we have a day for him?

And why do we promote the idea that either of these men "discovered" a land, when that land already had inhabits? Because Columbus was the first European (read real/cultured person)? Because we never took the time to understand native American culture? Interesting perspective.

In softball (or baseball), there are only two people who have the necessary perspective to determine balls and strikes - the catcher and the home plate umpire. Not the people in either dugout, or the bleachers. Not the pitcher's parents or the batter's parents.

This is not to say umpires are infallable. They are human, imperfect, and sometimes inconsistent. Sometimes fans sitting directly behind home plate can identify those inconsistencies. But even the clearest view from the stands still has two people between the fan and the pitch. And for the rest of us, it's still a matter of perspective.

We make decisions and tell stories based on our flawed perspective, don't we? We choose the perspective of having a national holiday to honor the first European to touch North America, pretending Native Americans weren't already here.

We argue balls and strikes when we can't even see the entire plate.

But most importantly, we judge others solely based on our own perspective. We don't try to understand, to see through their eyes. We judge their motivation based on what our motivation is, or would be in a similar situation. We make choices to build bridges or walls based on our or someone else's faulty perspective. We withhold the favor of our kindness, and folks who needed us, OR folks who would have blessed us with great friendship are pushed away.
I have even judged right after a church service, about others who attended that same service.

Maybe I am alone in that. You have probably never judged based on a faulty perspective, have you?

Please understand, I have nothing against Christopher Columbus, and certainly fans have a right to be reasonable vocal.

But those minor points aside, wouldn't the world be a better place if we considered our own biased perspective before making a judgment?

I think so. I would love to hear what you think.

Gotta run to the bank...oh wait...

Happy Columbus-lands-in theDominican-Republic Day!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Photosynthesis, Fall Ball, and Marky Mark

Quick... what significant event occurred on Oct 5, 1991? Think hard...we'll come back to it in a minute.

Many folks in this area have been clamoring for the end of summer, for autumn to descend. And, oh goodness, it has. Rain. High temperatures in the low 50's. Yep. Autumn is here.

I understand what people wanted. A break from heat and high humidity. Days in the 60's, nights in the 50's. Beautiful colors on the trees. I get that. Autumn surely has its own set of attractions.

Interesting thought about photosynthesis: what we appreciate about it - brightly colored leaves - is only a brief and cosmetic part of an amazing process. While the most highly developed creatures (that would be us, folks) grumble and complain about snow, cold, and ice, the trees follow the sun's direction and begin to prepare in early September. They shut down growth, drop their food supply and prepare for the storms. What we see as beautiful color is the tree's way of preservation. And while we look at the spring buds with wonder, it was the bare tree standing firm through the winter that was the real miracle. The leaves aren't just beautiful, they are also a signal. It's more than what the eye immediately sees.

Football. High school, college, professional. Do you love it like I do? Fall is also a great time to golf...and to watch softball.

I love the intricacies of fast pitch softball. Yes, home runs and strike-outs are fun. But small ball is what wins games - solid defense, smart base running, moving the runners over - this is the foundational stuff that makes a championship team. Winning is always great, but fall ball is about building and learning. Spectators cheer when runs are scored, but the process, the skills being learned, the habits being formed are the true worth. Fall ball is more than what the eye immediately sees.

Which brings us back to Oct 5, 1991. Not really a significant day, unless you are Mark Wahlberg. That's right. Good Vibrations went to #1 on the Billboard chart that day. Marky Mark: NKOTB drop-out turned petty thief turned rapper . You remember. The song had a good beat, but the kid was a fluke, right? Then he made an exercise video. Still a fluke. Now he is an Academy Award nominated actor, a successful producer and director of film and television. Marky Mark was more than what the eyes could immediately see.

We do that so often, don't we? We judge what we see - or what we THINK we see. We don't ask questions. We don't even imagine the truth might be different than our limited perspective shows. We don't consider the process, only the immediate view. We guess at people's lives and motivations.

That situation or person I judged yesterday could be completely different than what I "saw." And I may have forfeited the chance to see the whole picture, the truth.

Maybe you have never done that. Maybe it's just me.

Photosynthesis, fall ball, Markey Mark...more than what the eye immediately sees.

It's such a good's such a sweet sensation...

Have a great day!


Monday, October 4, 2010

81 Days???

I was in a store today looking for Halloween decorations...had trouble finding them among the CHRISTMAS things!!! HELLO!!! What about Halloween and Thanksgiving?

Then the cashier reminded me that we have only 81 shopping days until Christmas.

Thanks, lady.

When I was a kid and "couldn't wait" for christmas/birthday/vacation/etc, my beloved Grandma would caution me about "wishing my life away"...and on the back side of my fiftieth year, I finally understand what she means.

Isn't it odd and confronting to think about your parents and grandparents at the age you are now? When my mom was 50, I was 29. We went to Disney and Pirates spring training camp to celebrate her 50th birthday. And now I am that age???
My grandmother was 52 when I was born. I still feel young, but I don't ever remember thinking my grandma was anything but old.
Funny how that works.

Death doesn't scare me at all, because I know what eternity holds.
Still, I have much left to do in my life...much to write, many people to touch, many ways to make a difference, many things to do for God. And the wheels spin faster each year.

It's rather counterintuitive to waste time thinking about it, so this blog will be short =)
But I believe it is something we all experience...and you know me, always wanting to share my thoughts!

Have a terrific day...make it a great one!!


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Am I My Resume and other life questions

Resume. Most of us have created one, used it to secure a desired job. A well-constructed resume details education/training, experience, a list of "here's-why-you-should-hire-me" skills.

One of my favorite musical theater lyrics is from A Chorus Line: Who am I anyway/Am I my resume?/ That is a picture of a person I don't know...

Can you identify?

Recently a dear friend (a fabulous marketing entrepreneur) suggested I write a personal resume, a "who am I and what do I like" document.

We had a plan for it...but, as often happens, the plan changed and we both found the process itself was a gift.

Why a gift, you ask? Think about this: when you meet someone new, how often is your job the first descriptor you use to describe yourself? Or where you live, or where you went to college, or how many letters you have after your name?

But none of those things really tell me about YOU!

This week I also started reading The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra. The subtitle is Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life.

I believe I haven't fully done that. Have you?

So here goes:
I am an excellent writer. Love to write about and hang with people who are passionate about and successful in their work (the two almost always go hand in hand).

I am F-U-U-U-nny, honest, loyal, trustworthy. People tell me I am a skilled listener and very easy to talk to. I believe really paying attention to people is one of the best ways to honor them. If you are willing to listen and pay attention, people will eventually show you who they are and what they want.

I love to cook and bake, and do it rather well. I am willing to try any kind of food but Italian and Mediterranean are my favorite. I make homemade pasta and sauce - doesn't matter what noodle type but my lasagna is really good! Tzatziki, dolmathakia, spanakopita, kourambiedes, kibbeh, tabbouleh are some of my Mediterranean favorites. I have made baklava but it is a PIA. And sometimes I am a good 'ole Western PA girl who likes kielbassi and pierogi.

I find football and hoops to be thoroughly enjoyable...but LOVE softball/baseball and golf. The intricacies, details and strategies of both sports fascinate me. Anyone who thinks baseball/softball is slow and boring doesn't have an appreciation for the beauty of the game. As for golf, I believe there are two kinds of golfers: ones who are just happy to hit the ball around (no matter their skill level) and ones who really love the game, who see it as a mental game as much as physical, who think about their shots long after they leave the course.

If the government banned the sale of potato chips, I would have to quickly find a black market dealer...otherwise the withdrawal would be ugly.

My dog is my favorite being on this earth. I think the feeling is mutual.

I have an incredible family and would not be who I am without them.

I believe excellence is a habit, and its foundation is in the details. When we do the small things with excellence, the big things will take care of themselves - in excellent fashion.

Making someone laugh unexpectedly
Shooting stars
Sun on my face
A book that is so good it keeps me awake trying to finish it
Having my feet in a blue ocean/sea
A checkerboard in the outfield grass
The sound of the club hitting the ball...when it's good you don't even have to look, you just feel it
Eyes that smile
Tomatoes from my garden
A day on a boat
Watching my dog roll in freshly cut grass
Sitting on my porch with coffee and my Bible

Deception/people who talk from both sides of their mouth
Warm beer
Decisions governed by fear (my own or others)
When my food runs together on the plate
Closed minds

There it is - the first draft of my resume about ME. Comments are welcome.

So how about you? Who are you behind the titles and the degrees and the address and the church affiliation?

Try it...see what the answer is to this:
Who would you be, if no one told you who you were?

You might be surprised.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stream of consciousness...or just me talking

Joni told me the Softball blog was "just okay." She is a dear friend, and trusted reader...and I appreciate her honesty. I could feel it when I was writing. Just couldn't get to the point.

We have days like that, don't we? Days when we aren't feeling it, when everything falls a bit short of the mark. But I am a writer and I needed to write. So today I am simply going to write. No goal direction. Just whatever is on my mind. Scary.

One of my friends got positive news about a biopsy today. Positive as in GREAT, as in no cancer. It is the result for which many of us have diligently prayed, as she has already beaten cancer twice. So YAY!!! Huge relief.

Is it hard for you when a pray is answered and your prayer request seems to be on hold? It's hard for me. I am truly thankful for the negative biopsy and happy for my friend. And I know and believe my request is being answered...I just can't see the answer and I WANT TO SEE IT NOW!

Maybe you aren't like that. Might be just me.

My dog hasn't felt well for a couple days. I wish she would tell me what's wrong. That language barrier is frustrating. Or maybe she is being passive/aggressive - she's not going to tell me what she needs until I don't do it...then she will BITE my head. Nah, she is too sweet and straightforward for that. Don't you wish some people were more like dogs?

Giant Eagle is giving away more pharmaceuticals. First it was antibiotics. Now it is diabetes meds. They have "formed an agreement" to provide these drugs at no cost.

Okay, firstly (!) NOTHING is free. Someone is paying. Big Pharma does not give drugs away free. Secondly, how about if we truly want to combat diabetes we give fruits and vegetables away. Or gym memberships. How about we treat the problem and not the symptoms? Crazy idea, isn't it?

Which reminds me of how annoying Walmart is. Very. I avoid it at all cost. Because if I do suffer temporary insanity and visit the Big Box, I am immediately accosted by people screaming at their crying kids. Often, it is two people...which means...ONE OF YOU SHOULD HAVE STAYED HOME...with the kids. Just a suggestion.

And I am shocked/amused when people say, "They moved things around in Walmart. I had to walk all over the store. I went in for one thing and spent $75." Seriously, someone should inform Walmart - they may want to develop a marketing strategy around that.

Why do we always want the weather to be different than what it is? All over Facebook: "I wish it was autumn." Don't get me wrong. I love autumn. But it only lasts, like, 10 days in Western PA! Autumn is not a season is a blink. If I am wishing for a different time than right now, it is surely NOT going to be for a future date ("Don't wish your life away" - Helen Painter). I am wishing summer before 7th grade. I want to go back. SHEESH...I don't want time to go faster.

I will stop with the stream of consciousness now BECAUSE I have something very fun to do. I am going to drive a scooter for the first time. Got my motorcycle permit last week. I have always thought a motorcycle would be fun, but not a responsible choice. Not sure what changed my mind...maybe driving one will reinforce my original thought? We'll see...

Thanks for hanging with me today. Next time I will be more focused...maybe...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Softball practice, curveballs, and other life lessons

My niece Kerrin is going to college on a softball scholarship. I know, right? SO exciting.

School doesn't start for another month, but she has already been practicing with her college coach - of course, this is not new to her. The kid has been practicing softball A LOT for 10 years . And it has paid off! Kerrin is an excellent pitcher, with five pitches that will each have you swinging at air.

Imagine: you are at the plate, 43 feet away from the pitching rubber, and here comes the rise ball at 60+ mph. It is a scientific fact that a softball hitter has less reaction time than a baseball hitter. Step it off yourself - 43 feet is not very far. How about the fastball at 59mph? Then, just when you have your bat moving quickly, the change-up comes in at 45mph...and you look like a fool.

Maybe the hardest pitch to judge is the curveball/screwball. It is the same speed as the fastball, and could be mistaken for a high fastball initially...then suddenly turns away from the batter (or into the batter if it is a screwball). So you think you are preparing for one thing then BAM, the direction changes. OOOO it makes the batter MAD to swing through the center of the plate, only to watch the ball move away.

That is a great thing to see when you are cheering for the pitcher...not great for the hitter's fans...not great in life.

You know what I mean, don't you.

We all have curveballs thrown our way. That's just life. An illness, job loss, unforeseen expenses that put our finances in disarray. Each of us gets our share of naturally occurring curveballs.

But what about the ones that aren't naturally occurring? What about the ones people intentionally throw? Those are harder, aren't they?

Someone lies to you, speaks nasty words about you, abuses your trust...HUGE curveball. You swing and miss, then life goes on. Right?


It's almost as if each curveball gets stuck in a pitching machine until we hit it. You think it's gone...then, in the middle of your day, there is the curveball again. And the emotions it brings are still strong.

So what do we do?

Here is advice from a softball coach on hitting a curveball: Learn to hit the fastball or you will never hit the curve; Learn to hit the opposite way - it may not be a power hit but it can still be a hit; study the pitcher - there are generally clues to when a curve is coming; practice then practice then practice.

Funny how softball imitates life.

Learn to deal with everyday life, be balanced. Then when someone throws a curve, it won't knock you down completely.

Learn to adjust your swing, so you can make something good happen, even if it is not a proverbial homerun.

Study the pitcher so you can see the signs.

Oh, I am so not good at this one.

Actually I AM good at catching the signs. Discernment is a strongpoint and gift of mine. I just don't always listen to my gut when it concerns me.

I see the signs. But I refuse to believe. I refuse because this is not's life and we aren't supposed to deliberately throw curves. My refusal does not always change the situation.

I have only had a couple folks who have thrown one curve after another while I stood in the box waiting for the next one. You've had at least one as well, haven't you? Of course you have.

But here is the great thing...practice helps solve this problem. Don't misunderstand. I don't mean subject yourself to abuse or drama. I mean practice balance everywhere else. Practice good relationships with others. Practice quietness of your soul and spirit.

I have found that diligent practice of these positive vibes give me the ability to see the curve coming and HIT IT! And when you hit it often, one of two things happens: the pitcher doesn't throw the curve anymore, or the pitcher is removed from the game.

Kerrin has a great curve that will one day land her in a Division I pitching circle. I am cheering mightily for that!

But none of us needs deliberately thrown curveballs.

Life is hard enough. How about we support each other in getting rid of the nasty pitchers...Whattaya say?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fat Gracie, MoJo, and Fear

Fat Gracie and Zooey ran away on Independence Day. Not because they wanted independence, but because the fireworks scared them. So they started digging - as dogs do - and soon were under the fence and gone.

Zooey was back in a few hours...without Gracie. And because the 4th was a Sunday, and the government holiday was Monday, all shelters were closed until Tuesday.

So my friends, their owners, prayed and worried and wondered.

I feel like my MoJo left me about the same time. Swag, as some folks call it.

Do you ever feel that way? Like you just can't put the pieces in place for several days in a row? You pray and wonder how to get your MoJo back...and no sign of it.

Mine left for the same reason Gracie did - FEAR.

There is a situation in my life that can, although not always does, but can make me fearful. Which I hate.

Fear is of no value. We are born with only two fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Every other fear is learned. Did you process those words? Every .Other. Fear. Is. Learned.

And don't we all have a couple people who exacerbate our fears! Just when you get the worse-case scenario out of your head, they come along with the WHAT IF. It's generally not malicious, but still throws you back into the cesspool of fear and doubt.

This is even more frustrating to me because I am afraid of almost nothing. Not heights, fire, snakes, spiders, small spaces, big crowded places (okay I don't LOVE those), tunnels, phobias.

This current situation doesn't cause me to operate in fear all the time. But it lurks. You know what I mean?

Here is another sign that my MoJo is on the lam: I misplaced something a few weeks ago. It was not something of life-changing importance. But I don't misplace things. I generally live by the "place for everything/everything in it 's place" rule, and I know where that place is. The act was more significant than the item because it pointed out that at least one wheel is not balanced. Definitely missing the swag.

I know and believe that Jesus, who is the author of my faith, fully understands all my challenges and difficulties. Even still, I don't recall a single time in the Bible when Jesus lost his swag. THAT is why I hate fear. It does nothing but suck power from me...I ALLOW it to steal my joy and power.

FEAR of a situation they couldn't control made Zooey and Fat Gracie run. FEAR of a situation I can't control has stolen just enough power and joy to render me slightly unbalanced. And slightly is too much.

On Tuesday July 6, my friends contacted every local shelter. No Gracie. Their last hope was a Craigs list ad. They clicked on the pet section to place a Lost ad...and there was a picture of Gracie in a Found ad!! She was taken in by a woman who knew there were loving owners somewhere, and hoped the ad would help locate them.

So while my friends worried, Gracie was having a party.

And somewhere in the land of good vibes, my MoJo is rejuvenating and waiting for me to stop allowing my power to be wasted.

I'm going put out notice that it's time for my Swag to head home. Thanks for letting me vent!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Clint and Bitty took a chance, and so will I..wanna join me?

Last Saturday, I attended the wedding of Clinton, a young man I have known since he was a child. Obviously a special day for that reason.

But also interesting for the diversity of the wedding party, the simplicity of the ceremony, and the fact that the mother of the groom arranged the marriage.

Yeah, you heard me.

Okay, it wasn't an "arranged" marriage akin to those in India or China. Actually it is a cute is the short version:

Susan, mom-of-groom was having a marathon shopping day, stopped at a convenience store for coffee - engaged in conversation with Brittany, the young woman behind her, as they waited in a LONG line - in the course of conversation answered "yes" to the Brittany's "do you have any kids" question- got coffee, said goodbye, left the store - felt the tug of a possible opportunity - pulled beside Brittany's car and suggested she might want to send Susan's son a message on Facebook...and Clinton and Brittany are married.

I love that story for so many reasons. Susan is my dear friend and the story so typical of her - and that makes me smile.

But more than that, I love the story because it reminds me that life is about choices and chances... I get to decide and I live with the results.

If I asked if you wanted to miss a great chance, you would undoubtedly say "no." But how many do we unwittingly miss?

Think about simple things, like standing in line. Do we see it as an opportunity or an inconvenience? I generally must remind myself that 5 minutes of waiting is probably not going to change my life significantly. But it could be a chance to give someone a good word, take a moment to pray , or plan the next step in my day.

How about you? Do you wait patiently or waste energy being irritated?

It has taken conscious effort for me to be open to folks around me, especially strangers. First, because I am inherently shy. Second, because I have at least 3 other conversations going on with myself at any given time. But being present in the moment is important... important to others... important because proximity is power and I must be aware that a great opportunity could be right beside me!

The most important lesson for me, however, is in seeing possibility where others may doubt. Susan listened to the nudging and sought out Brittany before she pulled away. Brittany took a chance and sent Clintona message.And Clinton responded.

Each of them could have refused to participate in this process. What man wants his mom setting up dates with a chick in a convenience store? And what woman wants to check out a man whose mom is soliciting dates for him while waiting for coffee? Seriously! Even if she is wearing Chanel earrings!

But they all took a chance. A chance tempered with wisdom and caution, to be sure. But still, a chance.

And I wonder if I have missed opportunities because I wouldn't take a chance? Because I ignored the nudge to extend a hand in friendship. Because I was too busy to take a class, too unsure to apply for a new job, too wrapped up in today's immediate issues to nurture my dream.

How about you?

Sometimes I am so consumed by the URGENT ( as seen by me and others in my life) that I lose track of the IMPORTANT.

How about you? Have you ever started your day with plans to spend at least a portion of time nurturing a dream, but get so wrapped in demands of the day that your dream is ignored? Spent years doing that? And now you think the opportunity is gone?

Sometimes I listen to well-meaning people who say that what I want to do, who I want to meet, where I want to go, will never happen. Too expensive, too time-consuming, too unlikely.

How about you? Have you missed opportunities because you listened to people who don't choose to nurture their dreams?

Sometimes I listen to the opinions of others, even when I feel a connection to someone. Or I am still compelled by the "don't talk to strangers" rule that really only applied until I became a young adult.

Here's the key; when I know who I am, whose I am and what I am seeking in life, I can be open to all possibilities, and yet, not be moved from my path. When I am comfortable with myself, the positive opportunities will shine and the false ones will not lure me.

Do I know myself well enough? Am I comfortable in my skin and stable enough to allow new things or people in without being moved from my path?

Do you?

I believe it deserves some thought. I saw what taking chances did for Clinton and Brittany...and I don't want to miss out on any good thing!

Thanks for reading...comments welcome!

BP =)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Greta Garmin, God, and my sense of direction

Have you noticed that folks have strong opinions about the influx of technology?

It is true that cell phones, gaming devices and iPods can be intrusive and/or exclusionary. Very true. They weren't designed to be a nuisance, but some users make them so, although not always maliciously. Hard as it is to imagine, some people simply don't think about the device being annoying.

Personally, I am more bothered by a television that drones loudly and constantly than by cell phones or iPods. I do have to shake my head in church or the theatre, not when the first cell phone rings - that could easily be an oversight - but when the SECOND one rings. Really? When the first one rang, you couldn't check to be sure your phone was off? Really?

But I digress.

My point is that technology is not inherently bad. Take the GPS. Very helpful tool when used properly - "properly" meaning the destination is entered correctly and the driver listens.

I am amused by folks who either haven't adjusted the GPS settings to their liking or simply don't believe what the guide is saying. "Fastest" and "shortest" may be different routes. "Shortest" and "avoid road construction" are, naturally, never the same route! Destination and route settings are equally important.

More than once I have had this conversation:

Passenger: "I don't think she(Greta Garmin) knows where she is going!"                                                    Me: "She knows where she is going"                                                                                              Passenger: "I don't think so. I've never been this way before"                                                                    Me: "She KNOWS where she is going!!"

If you set it right, Greta will get you there. She will. If you set it right.

I was in North Carolina recently for a family function. Six of us were in my uncle's vehicle returning from an event. Driving. Driving. Finally someone asks him what destination he entered when we left the event. He answered "Home" like it was a stupid question. He thought "Home" meant the last place you were, that "Home" would take us back to the hotel. Fortunately we were able to pull off quickly, stop driving to Pennsylvania and start back to the hotel. Incorrect destination.

I am no longer intimidated by the prospect of traveling to an unfamiliar destination because I trust Greta Garmin to get me there. And because she does so in direct fashion, I am becoming more familiar with areas that once left me confused. The dots are connecting.

So now I am shopping for a Garmin that is controlled by the Holy know, for my life. There could be a different model for every belief. Buddha model, Mother Earth model, etc. It would be a big seller.

Don't misunderstand. I am not saying I think I am flying alone out here. There is direction given. Accurate, complete direction.

But I would like the audible voice that says, "Drive to highlighted route" then shows me a picture. A PICTURE for goodness sake.

I want the voice that says, "In 2.3 miles turn right/turn left/exit highway."

I want to hear, "Recalculating" so I will know I have goofed up.

I know...I know. Part of the process is that I must have faith and learn to listen closely and discern. But sometimes I just don't want to. I JUST WANT A LIFE GARMIN. Darn it, anyway.

Don't you?

Wouldn't you like to enter multiple tasks for the day and be given clear, audible instructions on how to most efficiently proceed.

How about a map and an audible voice telling you what options you have when the road is torn up and impassable? Wouldn't that be helpful?

I don't want to be a robot or unthinking person. I wouldn't use it all the time. But when I am traveling down unfamiliar roads, it would be handy.

So, if some inventor could get busy on that, I would appreciate it. The marketing would be a cinch: "Audible, easy to follow directions from the Creator of the World." Who's not going to go for that?

Of course, I will have to adjust the setting and then do the hardest part...LISTEN. He does, after all, know where I am going. He knows the best way. He does. And He will get me down paths I have never traveled, when I listen.

Oh, one more thing...I really don't want the features that tell me how much of the journey I have left or when I will arrive. I would just as soon be surprised that the "Home" button was used as the destination.
Just saying...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dream, shoes that don't fit, and other significant things

Two significant events have taken place in my life recently. I had my first motivational speaking opportunity. AND I finally put the brown loafers in the Goodwill bag.

Unrelated? One less significant than the other? Not to me. They each represent a shift in thinking, a turning of the tide, if you will.

First, the brown loafers. They were stylish, trendy, and on sale. Still not inexpensive, but discounted nonetheless. You know how sometimes shoes fit your foot but don't feel right. And you think once you wear them they'll feel better. Yeah, you've been there. And they never feel right. But you keep them and keep them and keep them.

More about the shoes later...

For years I have dreamed of being a writer and motivational speaker. So many times, the little voice in my head and the Voice that holds my heart whispered to me that I was gifted to write and speak words that could teach and inspire people.

Maybe you have a dream that has been delayed or ignored? You can see it, you feel the excitement of it... but something keeps it just out of reach.

FEAR. Fear keeps it out of reach.

Do you disagree? I did for a long time.

I said I didn't have the money, didn't have the time, didn't know where/how to start, didn't have anyone who would help me.

All lies rooted in fear.

Do you disagree? I did for a long time.

I wish I could tell you there was an earth-shattering event or word from someone that changed everything - a blazing moment like that would be a much better story.

Instead it was a series of small steps, most of which I can't even name, that lead me to a place of "OOOOHHHH, now I get it"...that lead me to recognize the fear.

Thoughts of "lack" (money/time/help) are unnecessary energy drains...everything you and I need to make our dreams come true is already available. Our doubts have simply kept it away.

Don't believe me? Do this: take 3 days and listen to your own conversation (both spoken and internal), and to the people around you. What you will undoubtedly hear is fear, lack, doubt, lots of negative energy being passed around. It is a virus that infects you UNLESS you are aware and willing to CHOOSE something different.

For me, the fear came from not fully trusting myself or God. It came from listening to the voices around me. Please understand, I did not (and you probably will not hear) people specifically saying that you are not good enough. What you will hear is a pervasive amount of "lack," an attitude that believes only special people reach their dreams while the rest of us must drag through life being satisfied with a job we hate it, being resigned to a body that is unhealthy, being burdened by dreams that have died.

Don't buy into the lie. Listen to Power that created you and the voice in your head.

That's what I did when I said YES to a speaking engagement even though I hadn't started putting thoughts on paper. I said YES even though I lacked the details - but the details came, and it was successful and exhilarating and a first step. On paper I don't have a second booking...but the voice in my head and the Voice that holds my heart tell me there are so many offers I won't be able to accept them all. I choose to believe it and put my faith and energy toward that dream!

Believing is what I did when I left corporate America to be a fulltime writer. I listened to the two voices that love me most- mine (finally!) and God's (always!).

It's also what I did when I put the brown loafers in the Goodwill bag. I stopped listening to the fashion police and my friends who had the same shoes, and I listened to my feet.

As I did, I wondered what I might have missed because I listened to others. A restaurant that sounded good, a movie with an interesting trailer, a book with an enticing excerpt...and I passed because a reviewer said "thumbs down". Or, more importantly, the potential friendship I missed, the witness I didn't share, the witness I didn't hear, when I allowed the voice of someone else in my life to discourage me.from embracing another.

Please understand: I still listen to what others have to say. BUT I weigh it against my dreams, against the voice in my head and the Voice that holds my heart...

and I don't push my dreams aside...and my feet don't hurt.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mulch doesn't hide onions, and other life lessons

It is one of my great joys each year- planting vegetables, choosing annuals, watching everything come to life.

I have given much thought and time to the arrangement of my perennials...some people move furniture, I move perennials. I am on a mission to have color from April-October, so choosing the annuals is an important task...and lots of fun. My grandmother and mother passed on their flower gardening knowledge and tricks, and I humbly say I have a proficiency for the flower gardens.

Vegetables and I have a more contemptuous relationship. After many years of struggling with soil conditions, the garden was reduced last year to a 4x8 raised bed, surrounded, of course, by a new flower garden.

It worked well, and the new look received many compliments. The only problem was the onions.

Two years ago someone gave me a LARGE set of onions. I planted the whole set, and as in past years, the return was less than stellar.

Who knew they would thrive when covered with landscape fabric and mulch!!

So now, at least once a week, I attempt to evict the onions from my flower garden. They stubbornly remind me that I put them there, and thus am responsible for slowing digging them out. I tried more mulch, to no avail. Nothing seems to sufficiently cover them.

And then I remember how much I dislike when that happens in real life. Don't you?

Don't you hate when the unwanted onions in life won't just go away?

Sometimes you forget they are there, sometimes you simply WANT to forget. So you buy landscape fabric, and mulch and beautiful flowers, hoping no one will ever see the onions again.

When they start to poke their heads up, you immediately break them off - removing them from sight but leaving the root intact. And soon they are back.

Sometimes I have onions in my life. Do you?

Persistent little suckers that keep coming up. The person I hurt with no remorse or apology, the one I haven't forgiven. Things God wants me to do...things he wants me to stop doing.

Am I alone in feeling like that?

I can ignore. I can yank off the top. But none of that works, not for me anyway. The flower garden still looks good. Not great, with onion tails everywhere, but still good. And in truth, you have to be right beside the garden to even see the onions coming up. But they still exist. They still suck up nutrients the flowers could be getting. They still interfere.

The immutable law of nature, of God, of the universe is that sow = reap. Always.

Sometimes I like that law.

Sometimes I don't because it reminds me that I need to make adjustments, make amends, do some digging. Or accept the same result over and over. For me and the people I hurt.

So I gotta go now...have my digger in hand...the onions are doomed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Letting my hair grow and other tedious life processes

I’m letting my hair grow. Some days it is too short for my liking, and some days it is too long…occasionally there are Baby Bear days when it is just right.

Generally, I like what it is becoming. But it is a process, and as such, is tedious and uncomfortable - and promising.

We don’t much like processes, do we?

We want the meal-in-a-minute, the one-stop shop, the drive-through break-through. We don’t want to “go through” anything.

It’s easier that way. Easier to sit on the couch, grab whatever is available to eat, ignore food labels. Easier to buy whatever we want right now, move the balance from one card to another, borrow against tomorrow’s prosperity. Easier to give up on relationships, to blame other people, refuse to resolve.

We like “easy” more than “hard”…at least, we think we do.

Then one day, we find that sow = reap. It always does, you immutable law of nature, the Universe, and God.

We find that “easy” sows shallow seeds that yield lousy crops, that “easy” misses many opportunities because it has no resources at the necessary time, that “easy” turns into ”lonely” when we find no one is quite as perfect as we are.

Show of hands: who likes processes? Who likes to regularly put energy into buying and preparing healthy food? Get up at 5am to exercise? Who likes to see the CUTEST pair of shoes but resist the credit card and stick to the budget? No hands yet, are there?

Who likes to go through a tunnel of chaos in a relationship? You know, those days/weeks/months where everything is confusing and you have no idea where the road is going? When you can’t stand to see your friend/sister/duaghter/partner’s face? When you would rather quit than cry one more time? Still no waving hands - but maybe a knowing nod from a few heads.

I’m letting my hair grow.

It’s a process I am choosing to trust. Maybe you have a process you need to trust as well.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fool's gold, new "stuff", and SPRING!!!

So now what? Easter has come and gone, my Biggest Loser contest has ended. Did either of them making a lasting difference?

How about you? Where are you on New Year's resolutions, fitness plans, financial goals?

It's so much easier to start than to finish, isn't it?

All gung-ho, committed, ready for a change, a new you...

Sometimes it is exciting, the same way buying a new car brings a thrill.

Here's some hard truth...a car is only new for a couple months. Even if you keep it clean and are diligent about maintenance, it doesn't stay "new." And , of course, there are payments. What started as something fun and exciting is now a means of transportation and monthly expense. Doesn't mean you don't like it, just that it may not always be a "thrill."

Life is so like that. We get easily caught up in "new" and "shiny" and "cool". Fool's gold.

Instead of fixing old things, we prefer to get new things.

A new spiritual peak, but no change in heart attitude.

A new piece of exercise equipment, but no change in food choices or how much we use the new machine.

A new car, new clothes/purse/shoes, new techno-gadget, new friends...all of which stop being new and stop satisfying our desires.

And, at some point, the truth in these words (from Emily Saliers) hits us hard:

All the shiny little trinkets of temptation

Something new instead of something old

All you've gotta do is scratch beneath the surface

And it's fool's gold...

Which brings me back to the original what? The emotions of a High Holy Week are over, the challenge of winning a weight loss contest is I have take-aways that will improve my life for good? Will I be committed to the hard work of improving ME? Or will I take the easy road, look outside of myself, divert my attention with new, shiny stuff that will ultimately lead me to a place of looking in the mirror at the same old me?

Throwing out old things and getting new ones is easy.

Thinking my life will be better with new people, a new fad diet, a new popular spiritual approach, is easy.

Hurtful and ineffective, but still easy.

I don't want fool's gold.

I want the old me with a renewed relationship with Christ. I want the old me with a new BMI and new fitness habits. I want the old me with a new appreciation for the family and friends I have loved for years - because I have changed, not because they have changed to suit me.

I want a Spring filled with renewal and growth in MY heart that is so vibrant it makes life better for everyone in my path.

How about you?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easter, train tracks, and weight loss

What kind of week will this be for you? You get to choose, you know...maybe you don't get to choose all your circumstances, but you at least get to choose your responses, your countenance, your level of joy.

Sunday was the first day of Holy Week for Christians. It is also the last week of my Biggest Loser competition. Faced with a lot of topics for reflection!

2010 has been challenging so far. No complaints - just a statement of fact. Cancer, relationship issues, financial issues - lots of negative energy flying around, trying to bring people down.

This week can, in many ways, be an end and a beginning...a microcosm of life.

I like to imagine this journey being like a train track. One side has good stuff, positive vibes. The other side, well, not so much. It takes BOTH tracks to carry the train - there is no way to get around that. But we get to choose which track receives the most focus. We get to decide if the journey will be marred or even ruined by our focus on the squeaky, nasty track.

One of the primary tenets of our Christian faith is that we win by surrendering, we gain by giving away. Job, a man who had every right, in the eyes of human beings, to despise God instead reminded himself that God gives and He takes away, and still His name is blessed.

Gaining by losing weight has been a physical challenge, but the benefits of the Biggest Loser contest are easy to take.

Not so with everything.

In this week when we celebrate Jesus' greatest gift, I need to remember some things...

People are sometimes cruel and nasty, they bring sorrow and pain...but God will take that, if I let Him, and He will bring a new measure of love and comfort and peace.

Cancer might bring a change of schedule, a number of surgeries, nausea, a bald head...but God will take that, if I let Him, and He will bring beloved support people, laughter in unusual circumstances, joy in being alive, freedom from small things that used to be annoying but are now just inconsequential in the big scheme.

Financial issues can be stressful and scary...but God will take them, if I let Him, and He will keep his promise to sustain me, to care for me, to keep my feet from falling.

When I focus on the sweet track, not the squeaky track, there is no loss that is not offset by gain. I simply need to make the right choice.

I can focus on the challenges or on the sweetness. It can be new joy or old sorrow.

But it's my choice...and yours.

Gotta go...the train is pulling out

Friday, March 12, 2010

Putting Myself in Position and Other Fitness Tips

More wisdom from the Wii fitness instructor today..."exercising every day helps improve your posture."

It is one of the trainer's frequently repeated blurbs. Certainly a true statement.

Several things have surprised me as my exercise regimen continues into its third month. My muscle memory is apparently long-term, and some muscle groups have responded quickly to frequent work. I am thankful they "remember" being in shape, working hard, staying firm.

The habit of regular exercise has been re-established, and now I suffer physically when I don't exercise. rather than being stiff and sore when I do.

Much information exists detailing how vital the core muscles are to overall health. Digestion and balance improve dramatically with a stronger core. Obviously, posture improves as well. Notice the folks you pass today. How many have really BAD posture? Young and old alike. Every function is controlled, either voluntarily or involuntarily, by active that passes through the spinal region. Shouldn't we give our brain and nerves a clear path, a spine that is well supported and aligned?

Daily exercise helps improve your posture...and a whole lot more.

This is also sound advice for life in general. Physical daily exercise? Sure.

But putting ourselves in position, correcting our posture in other areas is also imperative. Often this is more overwhelming than a commitment to exercise.

Financially, emotionally, spiritually, professionally...all these areas require their own form of regular exercise. Personally, I have, at one time or another, neglected each of them.

How about you? Have you been lax in any of these areas?

Hard to get back on track isn't it? Just like physical exercise, the beginning stages can be rough. Focusing on this day's requirements is all I can do most days.

And maybe that is the key.

TODAY, I will acknowledge the space on which I stand. For the most part, I am here because of my own choices - choices of either action or attitude or both.

ALL I CAN DO on this day is put myself in position for good things to happen. Exercise in whatever way possible to improve myself just 1%.

1% improvement...that's it.

Is that challenge too big? In the 16-18 hours I am awake, I will be mindful of making choices that will improve my position 1%. Not back-sliding, not standing still...but not doing everything at once either.

Try it.

After a couple weeks you will notice your head is a bit higher, your countenance a bit lighter, your back a bit straighter...all from a 1% increase per day in whatever areas you need it.

Yes, Wii trainer, you are correct: exercising daily improves your posture!

See you tomorrow...Beth

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's my choice...except when it's not

I currently have two situations that have been receiving a great deal of my attention. One I can affect by my actions and choices, the other is out of my control.

Sadly, there have been days when they have received equal amounts of energy.

But why? Why do we give energy to things we can't change?

Right this minute, for example, I am sitting in a hospital waiting room. Don't want to be here, don't want the need to exist. But it does and I can't change that. I don't even consider wasting energy on "why why why?"

But there ARE times I get myself flipped around. I give energy to an issue that is in God's control, then I whine to God about a different issue I could have changed.

Maybe I am the only one who does that. You never do, right?

My level of physical fitness is under my jurisdiction. There are so many tools to help me be my best: Wii, other CD's, a treadmill, and friends who inspire me. But I still have to make the decisions to use the exercise tools and be wise in my eating. For that reason, God is less than interested when I whine about being overweight.

Whining is NOT good use of energy.

Nor is fretting about something I can't change...a situation of out my control, someone else's behavior and choices, etc.

The Universe has a pulse and a rhythm we can only begin to comprehend. But our part of it, our little place on the planet, our satisfaction in life, is contingent on doing what we can AND accepting/releasing those things beyond our control.

This has all been said before...none of it is new. And yet, we continue to spend time wondering how someone could be cruel to us, how life can be so unfair, how things don't go the way we desired.

And the things we can change, we too often don't.

Here's the deal: God has a part and I have a part. I can't do his part, He won't do my part. Easy enough, right?

"It's all good" is a popular saying. I don't use it because I don't believe it. Cancer, war, earthquakes, AIDS, recession, child abuse - none of these are good. But God is good. And I believe, in time, all things work out for good.

In the meantime, my mantra in situations over which I have no control is this: It is what it is. Not good, not worth wasting energy. It just is.

I'm not always successful, but it is how I am determined to live. Feed the positive energy. Starve the negative emotions. Be inspired by others who do the same, by those who better themselves a little bit each day. Be amazed by people who have turned their lives around in awesome ways.

Try'll be glad you did.

Start with not whining about the snow =) It is what it is.

See you tomorrow...Beth

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm strong to the finich and other things I forgot

I was exercising on the Wii Fitness board yesterday and the virtual trainer, whom I normally find to be irritating, said, "you're pretty strong, aren't you!"

Funny how the necessary word often comes from unexpected places.

YES, I am strong. I CAN stand against the best curve ball and change-up this life has to offer. And you can too.

But sometimes we forget.

We forget that we have given away some of our power to undeserving things, and that we must reclaim that power and use it wisely.

We forget to use the memories of past triumphs, forget to tap into the equity of those successes.

We forget that everything on this Earth is so temporary. Everything. Except the way we treat people. The hurts others inflict on us will be healed in divine ways. The sadness of death will one day be rejoicing at eternal life. But the love we share with others multiplies itself in our own lives. And abides.

We forget that the Creator if the universe is ready to carry us, prop us up, solve our problems and our hurts in ways that are infinitely more wonderful than we can ever imagine. Just ask...
Short and sweet...and just what I needed to hear today. How about you?

Do you need to hear it?

Love is eternal. Everything else is temporary. EVERYTHING ELSE IS TEMPORARY.

You're pretty strong.

And you have access to One who is infinitely stronger and more wonderful than you dare to think or imagine.

Have a great day, Popeye!

See you tomorrow...Beth

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes and a new chance...

Well, I knew a day of reckoning was coming. We are into week 7 of Biggest Loser and I haven't had a day that was a huge struggle...until Friday.

Last week was hectic - the stuff of each normal day, work required by 3 feet of snow, and two trips to a Pittsburgh hospital.

The first thing to suffer was my exercise schedule. ..although shoveling is certainly exercise! Within 3 days of my workout routine being altered, I felt like I wanted to eat anything in sight. Could be emotional, hormonal, or simply a reaction to the crazy way life has been the past two weeks.

Whatever it is, here's what it's excuse. Nor is it the end of the world.

If I was "dieting" I might be very upset about the food choices I made yesterday. But this is not a diet. It is a change of lifestyle...and the only thing upset is my intestinal tract.

So I seek the lessons to be learned, the actions necessary to making this a permanent way of life. Actions that are flexible enough to adapt to disrupted schedules, unexpected events, and days when my food choices aren't the best.

Americans, in general, are rather addicted to poor eating. Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, bleached white flour are major culprits in this Americans battle of the bulge. And if you think you aren't addicted, try eating no refined sugar for a week.

Don't misunderstand...I have made no rash changes because I know they probably will not stick. I have a goal in mind and I am learning each day what will take me a step closer or a step away from that goal.

One of the lessons seems so simple: When an item is removed from any space, tangible or intangible, physical or emotional, something else will take its place. I can't simply stop grabbing for the chips. First I must decide why I am eating them, then make appropriate adjustments.

Maybe my blood sugar levels are dipping at a certain time of day. So I need to eat something- just not a Snickers bar. I might have to plan better, shop more wisely, spend some time cutting vegetables.

Maybe chips and dip are my standard snack fare...sit down to watch TV or read, and the chips are just part of that equation. That requires a change of habit, as well as adequate planning. It is likely that, initially, whatever I choose will not seem to be satisfactory. In my mind, I still want the CHIPS!!!! So I have to change my mind.

But that's what it's all about, right? Not just the Biggest Loser, but life in general. Try something, make adjustments, decide to change your mind about a situation...take a few steps...repeat.

Things get in the way. People have needs. Work demands vary. It snows 3 feet. You understand what I mean.

But change always happens. Some I initiate, some requires response from me.

And so I continue, shaking off a bad day, bad decision, lack of time to make a satisfactory effort.

It is a new week. There will be new challenges, change required. That's fine. No change means no chance for improvement.

Here's to a week of better health, first and foremost...and also fewer pounds!

What's your goal for the week?

see you tomorrow...Beth

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What if God was one of us...and other snowy day thoughts

My friend Rachel, who is wise beyond her years (or at least wise beyond what I was at her age!) recently shared this thought with our Bible study group: God wants us to understand that we don't have to pray for His presence, because He is everywhere. What we need to pray for is an awareness of His presence, eyes to see, a heart that is open.

This is especially relevant for people dealing with serious illness, and the loved ones caring for them. I have spent a considerable amount of time in waiting rooms recently, supporting a friend who has cancer. And God is there.

Looking at the faces around me, I often wonder if they know God is present. Not just for those of us called "Christians" but for everyone.

Then two questions come to mind...first, those faces around me - the ones who question or can't feel His presence - do they see God in me? Do they see joy in the face of disease, hope in spite of a diagnosis no one wants a friend to hear, patience and a friendly countenance when waits are long, traffic is bad, people are short-tempered.

The second question is what do I see? Do I see the presence the God in people around me?

If God had a name what would it be?

And would you call it to his face?

If you were faced with Him

In all his glory

What would you ask if you had just one question?

I don't know what Joan Osborne had in mind when she wrote this song. For me, the words are a reminder that God unconditionally loves every beating heart. How much better would my part of the world be if I treated every interaction as if I was speaking to God? What if the glory of God surrounded every human encounter I had?

By neglecting to embrace selfless and unconditional attitudes, Christians often give God a bad name. I'm thinking He doesn't like that...just saying.

To be sure, there is a difference between having a rough day and having a mean spirit. Everyone has bad days...but even when you fake being Sister Super Christian, people know if you have a mean heart.

A friend recently shared that she was part of a Facebook group through her church. The group is studying a book about spiritual growth. My friend and the group's moderator had cross words - happens to all of us, right? So the moderator promptly removed my friend from the group...because that's what Jesus would do. Really? REALLY?

If God had a face what would it look like?

And would you want to see

If seeing meant that you would have to believe

in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints

and all the prophets

Maybe it would look like that person you just cut off in traffic? Or the one you avoid at work because the negative talk irritates you? Or the kid in your neighborhood who just wanders the streets with a scowl on his face?

And if you took the time to look in to the hearts and minds of these people, would you be forced to believe that God unconditionally loves every beating heart?

If I can look in the face of the hard-working folks I encounter at stores, restaurants, etc, and be nasty to them, do you think they care that I go to church every Sunday? Doubtful.

I do all the things int the world definition of a "good Christian" - read my Bible, go to church, give money, volunteer in several ways, even sing as part of the worship team.

But none of that means squat if I can't see the presence of God all around people, in weather, in small miracles that occur daily.

And yeah, yeah, God is great

Yeah, yeah, God is good

Yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

It's true - He is both the almighty God and the man on the bus. He is good and great, and is looking for others who identify themselves as his followers to be the same. He is not a slob, but He can be found in the heart of every slob, every homeless person, every store clerk or garbage collector.

Do I see it? Do I seek an awareness of God's presence only for my own benefit? Or do I want to see God in others, treat people like Jesus did, love extravagantly?

How about you?

See you tomorrow...Beth

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why do you want to be healthy? Not so fast with your answer...

Now in to week 5 of the Biggest Loser contest. My goal was 5 pounds per week and I am down week behind. Perhaps 5 pounds per week is not realistic. But I am aiming high.

My friend JoniBeth posed this question recently:

Why do you want to get healthy?

Your "blink" response is probably "DUH". Mine was. Then I let it roll around my brain, because it is an important question.

Yes, I want to fit in all the clothes. Yes, I want to look good in shorts on the golf course. But is that enough to keep me motivated on the tough days, enough to make me choose that 4 mile walk when it is cold or rainy?

Then I tell myself it is for health reasons...and that is good. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems are prevalent on my maternal side. But these conditions are not news to me, and did not inspire me to reverse my weight gain at any time in the past five years. Why would I believe they would be motivational now?

So we are back to the original question: Why do I want to get healthy? I lost 20 pounds last January/February, and gained most of it back. What is different this year?

It has taken me several days to put my thoughts together...

At the risk of sounding trite, my weight at the beginning of January was not helping me be the best Beth I can be. I was tired and prone to colds. I was unhappy with the way I looked and felt. And I defy anyone to tell me there is no connection between how they live life every day and how they feel about themselves.

How can I do my best, be my best, do the work God has in store for me, when I look in the mirror and don't like it? Mind/body/spirit...intricately and immutably woven.

I turned 50 last year...but I still have LOTS to do. God has a certain number of days and jobs for me, but I need to honor that by taking care of the only body He gave me.

So I want to lose in order to grow.

There are things to learn, books to write, people to love...being healthy is important.

So yes, I have a very personal reason for wanting to be healthy. Losing = gaining; shrinking = growing; less of me = more energy, more stamina, more confidence.

Being healthy is imperative if I want to see my dreams become a reality. My physical body can never take me to a place my mind has not already conceived. Every time my mind is skips back to "fat and uncomfortable" the dream is delayed.

Why do I want to be fit and healthy?

This time it is about more than looking good to others, or wearing my favorite size.

This time it is about my life dreams...and that WILL be the necessary difference.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Biggest Loser, Chichen Itza and other randomly related things

Hello!! I am back from the "missing" list.

Three weeks of the Biggest Loser contest are in the bag. My goal remains 5 pounds per week. At this point I am down 13.

The past two weeks have not gone according to my plans. Ever have a week like that? I'm sure you have. Things take longer than you expect, others come out of nowhere. And with them, lessons.

From a nutritional/diet perspective, the importance of water is abundantly clear. My food choices have not been significantly different in any of the 3 weeks. The difference between 8 pounds lost the first week, 2 pounds the second week, 3 pounds in week 3 ? Daily exercise and water. Simple, huh?

In the first week, I was diligent: weight / 2 = ounces of water per day, daily exercising with alternating workouts to keep my body from falling in to a routine.

Then life happened, as it always does. My zeal in establishing new habits was somewhat tempered. But that's fine...and here's why. It reminded me quickly and abruptly that unless I am Oprah or an actor preparing for a movie role, making good food choices, drinking enough water, making time to exercise, doing anything which leads to a healthy mind/body/spirit must be strategically incorporated into life. No one is going to put food in front of me or monitor my exercise. No one will come do household chores or run errands.

I have made that mistake in the past...focusing unrealistically on weight loss/exercise. And it might work for a period of time, but is also too much like a "diet" and not enough like a lifestyle change. Focus on the exercise, lose the weight, then get consumed again by everyday life...and POOF, it's all back on because while my pants size changed, my life didn't really follow suit. So what will make the difference this time?

My friend JoniBeth asked a question recently that helped me tremendously. She asked if I was focused on a certain number of pounds lost or on a goal weight. Are you thinking, as I did, that this is the same question? JoniBeth said, "it's not the same thing" and I nodded, but disagreed.

A few days later, while exercising, I suddenly understood that it is NOT the same question. My Wii trainer (ooo, she is nasty sometimes ) suggested I visualize the body I want - and the difference dawned on me. Each week I want to lose 5 pounds. That is a great metric to help me on a daily basis. But in certain moments, I can see the figure I want...can see that person swimming, golfing, buying clothes and not being disgusted by it!

Do you see the difference? Have you seen the steps at the Temple of Kukulkan in Chichen-Itza? For me, every 5 pounds represents a step, with the castle at the top being the equivalent to my ideal body image. Some days I need to focus only on the next step, sometimes I need to look to the top for motivation.

Same end, very different perspective in reaching it. Thanks JB! Very helpful.

So in the midst of life, in spite of the distraction and unexpected events, we press on. We understand that permanent improvements cannot happen outside the boundaries of a normal day.

This is not bad news. When we can incorporate changes we choose, it also makes us know we can surely adjust to the changes we don't choose. And Heaven knows we each encounter those.

See you tomorrow...Beth

Friday, January 8, 2010

Why does Jesus look like a taco?

Quick. What were you doing two weeks ago today? Hmm...let's see...

Opening presents? Preparing Christmas dinner ? Putting toys together?

Hard to believe two weeks have passed already. New year, new decade...and what is different? We put so much effort in to readying our homes for Christmas, to buying gifts in honor of Jesus' birth. What does that mean now?

My friend Jane displays a very simple Nativity set in her home. No elaborate faces or garments, but almost silhouette-like figurines which give us the opportunity to think about the real people represented - the simple carpenter and his young bride, the dirty shepherds, the baby who only wanted warmth and sustenance.

Several weeks ago, after studying the Nativity set, Jane's six year old granddaughter asked, "Grandma, why does Jesus look like a taco?" Jane admitted that, due to the stark nature of the set, the baby and his swaddling clothes did resemble a taco. We laughed about it.

It occurs to me, two weeks after Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior, a similar question can be asked by people who aren't laughing. It can be asked on any day by many people who don't know our Christ and wonder why they should, based on what they see in us.

Why does Jesus look like someone who is nasty to the grocery store clerk then leaves his cart in the middle of the parking lot?

Why does Jesus look like someone who doesn't tip well?

Why does Jesus look like someone who sits in the break room judging, criticizing, gossiping...or sits at the church dinner doing the same?

Why does Jesus look like someone who has so little peace that he goes off on his kids, his spouse, other drivers, anyone who crosses his path?

Why does Jesus look like someone who is racist, sexist, or any other -ist that hurts so many people?

Why does Jesus look like someone who is close-minded about what "church" should be, who we should welcome, how they should dress?

Just because "he" is the pronoun used doesn't mean women are not perpetrators as well. And these aren't issues one might see as huge and life-threatening.

But they are behaviors people observe. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, I can sponsor 10 children through World Vision and tithe half my money to the church, but if I am a nasty neighbor, no one is seeing the Jesus I celebrate. I can wear my Jesus shirt, and have the bumper sticker on my car and the cross around my neck, I can sing L-O-U-D-L-Y about how I loooooove Jesus, but when I treat my friends and family badly, none of it means anything.

Think about it. What have you done in the past two weeks to continue the celebration of Christmas? What have you done that makes folks think you have no idea what Christmas is about?

Why does Jesus look like a taco? Maybe we should ask ourselves that more often.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow, peace, extravagance, sensory perception..and stuff

I am so blessed with loving people who encourage me. And with positive people who inspire me.

Already today I have received these three nuggets of wisdom:

1. God loves without caution or reservation. He loves EXTRAVAGANTLY. How amazing is that visual image!?! Extravagant like a $100,000 car or a 10 carat diamond ring or the house of your dreams equipped with every gadget and convenience available. THAT is how the God of the universe loves me and you.

Now here's the rub... He wants us to do the same.

2. Inner peace =

A tendency to think and act deliberately, rather than from fears based on past experiences.

An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

A loss of interest in judging others.

A loss of interest in judging self.

An increasing tendency to allow things to unfold, rather than resisting and manipulating.

The list Brandie sent was longer, but you get the idea. How can we ever expect to have peace in our homes, our country, our world, when we have no peace in our own hearts?

And let me tell you this...having peace in your heart is SO WONDERFUL!!! Beyond explanation.

3. The Washington Post conducted a study of perception and priorities. The paper arranged for a world-class violinist, Joshua Bell, to play in a Metro subway station for one hour. Approximately 2000 people passed him. Six people stopped to listen, but very briefly. Children wanted to stop but their parents generally pushed/pulled them on. The previous night Joshua Bell had sold out a Boston concert hall at the average price of $100 per ticket. In his hour of subway playing he received $32.

We are so quick to judge, and so hurried that we miss amazing happenings all around us, every hour. Instead of walking barefooted in the grass, we complain about mowing it. Instead of listening to the nature sounds when the world is blanketed in snow, we complain about shoveling it. I shoveled three times yesterday...maybe I lost a pound, maybe the reward was watching my dog run with glee.

What if I become consumed with showing extravagant love to people... what if I covet and become diligent about maintaining and reflecting inner peace, what if I open every one of my senses to the wonders of each day...WHAT IF? clearly life would improve...and I am betting I would never again have to think about what the scale says!

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Not thin yet- still a great day!

Don't feel like I have much to share this evening.

Today has been a terrific day. I exercised for the 4th day in a row (varying my workouts). This is also one of the days I volunteer at a local elementary school. Then off to a meeting at church.

I have been mindful of what I eat but not so crazy that i will burn out by next week. One thing I need to improve on is getting better rest.

So as I head off to bed, I will pass this along...from Dan Robey:

The most important decision you can make in your life is

to take personal responsibility for it.

If you are overweight and unhealthy get fit and in shape.

Read books about healthy diets, healthy lifestyles, don't

accept anything but the best for yourself.

Be proactive!

It is you who has to live in "YOUR" skin!

You have to live with the consequences of

not taking positive steps to prevent sickness

and disease in your life, and it is you

that can take the steps to bring wellness back to your life.

It is "YOU" who may have chosen to live a life of mediocrity.

"YOU" have the power to change every aspect of your life.

"YOU" can choose to study the laws of success and

change your life to one of amazing success.

The tools are all yours for the taking.

Here's to intentionally choosing excellence!

See you tomorrow,


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Biggest loser, intentionality and other light subjects

"Instead of giving myself reasons why I can't, I give myself reasons why I can." --Unknown


This quote (thanks JoJo)speaks directly to my choice to stop focusing on the food ... think about the things I can do, instead of the foods I can't eat. Besides being a foolish choice from an emotional standpoint, giving thought-energy to my longing for food is selfish. Waa Waa Waa I can't have OreosChipsPoptarts and Pepsi to wash it down. Really? REALLY? How about what I CAN do - which is choose high-octane fuel foods every day. Many people in the world don't have the option. So the focus on food is ridiculous. And over.

Let's focus on cleaning...mind, body, and spirit. Great way to start a new decade, isn't it? And it's really not much different than cleaning the garage, which I did in early November. Did I do it because I was bored or didn't have 12 other things to do or wanted dirt in my sinuses? Nope- just wanted the car to have a snow-free home.

You know the routine- keep pile, give away pile, throw away pile. Sometimes in the midst of this cleaning, I discover things I wish I had, items that would benefit either the organization process or some aspect of my daily life. But far more often, I find items that are broken, out of place, out of style, or simply not necessary anymore.

Isn't your life like that? Mine is. I don't mean it to be that way. You don't either. But life happens, a few things get out of place, dirt accumulates. And there is a my garage, in my spirit, in my body. Do you know this story?

I say I don't mean for messes to happen in any part of my world. But maybe that's part of the problem. Messes are unintentional...but what IS intentional? What am I intentional about in my life? Think about that for your life.

Life is all about choices. In this new decade, I choose to be intentional about the health of my mind, body and spirit. To rid my world of toxins, ones I contribute and ones I abide. I choose to be intentional about pursuing excellence in my work and my relationships. I choose to be intentional about the fuel I put in this amazing machine God has given me to live in - choosing high octane fuel and exercise not so I can reach a number on a scale, but so i am healthy and able to complete the work He has for me.

I would love to hear about your efforts to be intentional. Together we can lift each other, be cheerleaders pointing to the goal when someone stumbles.

Right now, sleep calls.

G'nite...see you tomorrow,


Monday, January 4, 2010

Biggest Loser Day 2. Losing weight or bitterness or what?

Day 2 is almost complete . I believe I have lost 7 pounds...hey, it's my story - I will tell it my way.

I have made good food choices. And I did more research. The human body is a constant source of amazement, don't you think? Such intricate processes from the time food enters the mouth until it passes through 35 feet of intestine and is expelled. And I wonder yet again why I choose to put all sorts of nasty fuel in this machine??

What I know, however, is that overeating and bad eating is rarely about the food. You knew that too, didn't you? Being overweight is not simply about eating too much - losing the weight is not as easy as not eating.

Sunday's sermon topic was bitterness. I wonder how many weight issues have bitterness as a major contributor...I wonder if it contributed to mine. That's part of the goal. Not just treat the symptom (too much weight) but identify the source. Bitterness, boredom, lack of self-esteem...a cup of each?

Focus on weight loss and seeking out the underlying cause? That's rather demanding. Perhaps unrealistic.

I asked myself this question today: which will be more effective for the long haul? Focusing on losing weight or seeking the underlying cause? The answer is: I am giving up the focus on weight loss.

Maybe it's not the same for you. Maybe you need or want to focus on the weight loss. And that's cool. But for me, in this time and place, I choose to stop giving thought energy to the food and seek answers to questions like why I would NEVER allow my house, vehicle or yard to become overrun with garbage, but I have allowed my body to accumulate 60 pounds of fat?

In truth, I can't FOCUS on that either...more like open my heart and mind each day, listen, uncover.

Sleep calls.

See you tomorrow...Beth

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Overweight vehicles must stop at weigh-station...GAME ON!!

So here are the ugly numbers: weight =214/waist 39/ hips 46.5

When I started my first "cubicle" job in August 2002, I weighed 148. Wow. I had a dream last night that my midsection suddenly began making a humming noise. A doctor listened and told me it was the sound of my distended bowel. She said the humming would continue until I lost significant weight. Nothing Freudian there, eh?

I am astonished by these numbers. But there are what they are, so the other adjectives in my brain will not be given a voice. The key now is to change them, not talk about how bad they are.

We'll talk later today...I am off to church...praying for strength against potato chips ;)

"You wander from room to room

Hunting for the diamond necklace

That is already around your neck!"

-- Jalal-Uddin Rumi

The diamond I seek is already present...just buried. Here's to uncovering!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

T-minus 8 hours...first step toward Lightness of being

The Biggest Loser contest is but a night's sleep away. And I am READY!!

Today I went to the movie theatre and fairly screeched "YES, it's my last chance" when asked if I wanted butter on the popcorn...

Don't send me emails - I know it can't be that way. Extreme doesn't work. In any situation.

What I am excited about is being more healthy, not feeling like a slug, having a new /old wardrobe. I could bring myself down with "how did I get here" talk - but I AM here so the reasons only matter so I understand how to keep from being here again. Negative self-talk will not benefit me at all! I also look forward to this step being the initial one in a year of positive change in many areas, moving toward lightness of being in body, mind, and spirit

The most encouraging thing for me right now is that I can clearly visualize how I will look when it's time to wear shorts. In the past, I have wished for it or hoped for I can see it, which makes the path more clear.

Tonight, the sand man is on my heels. Look for an early edition tomorrow - first weigh in then taking measurements (for my own benefit). Time now for good rest.

Thanks for walking with me - see you tomorrow.

Beth =)