Tag Archives: wholehearted living

Shells & Alice Walker

 

Yesterday afternoon we were wandering along the shoreline, playing in the surf and happening upon gorgeous shells that were strewn along the shore.  Gorgeous shells just cast about like little gems.  No matter how many times I visit this part of the Gulf Coast – Marco Island and Sanibel Island – I’m always amazed by the shells.  Amazed someone has not already scooped them all up and hauled them away.  Surprised that there are always more.   And thrilled by all of the beauty that you will just stumble upon.

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As I woke up this morning and reflected on our experiences yesterday, I was reminded of this poem I love – on what we love and value.   Its a perfectly timed reminder to be present and elevate and focus on what really matters.  Thanks, Ms. Walker.

 

We Alone Can Devalue Gold – by Alice Walker

We alone can devalue gold

by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.

Feathers, shells
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.

This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
what’s scarce.

inhale … exhale …

Sometimes people in our lives can throw us an unpleasant curve ball.  They can surprise and frustrate us.  This is a reminder for those moments.

(Or you can just belt out Let it Go from the Frozen soundtrack … in my case, you really don’t want to hear me sing.)  This is safer.

Just follow your breath.

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…before they close forever …

Quote from Anthony Doerr, from the novel All The Light We Cannot See

My friends and family all know how much I love to travel.  To explore, to discover new things, to have adventures, and to share what I pick up along the way with others!  I just can’t get enough of it.  On the flight home from New Orleans I read the quote above: “Open your eyes and see all you can, before they close forever.”   And that’s it in the end – we are gifted with just a finite amount of time on this earth, and I can only hope to see, hear and experience life richly and to make an impact with the gifts and time I am given.

Sometimes we read things that just strike a chord with what’s on our mind or our heart.  Today this was it for me.   Find beauty.  Connect deeply.  Make an impact.  Love life.

MLK – On Choosing Love over Hate

Reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote during this time when the world seems so filled with hatred, intolerance and danger.

 

I have decided to stick with love.

Hate is just too great

a burden to bear.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

mlkday_FotorPhoto from a gorgeous little rock garden at my son’s former elementary school, New Castle Elementary School in Virginia Beach.

Grace Under Fire … or Hair on Fire?

When the going gets tough and the risks emerge on a critical project or situation, how do you handle the intensity?

If asked to describe you in stressful situations, would your friends and colleagues describe you as:

Grace Under Fire

or

Hair on Fire?

Now I have to admit that I’ve always been partial to Mr. Heat Miser and his little heat minions 🙂  But that’s definitely not the reputation (or image) that I’m striving for.  How about you?

As leaders,  our perspective, tone of voice, and attitude are crucial.  Whether we intend to or not, we set the tone for how we manage conflict and respond to challenges as we navigate these situations.  It matters a lot and deserves our attention.  None of us are infallible, but just being mindful of our reactions and how we recognize and encourage our teams makes an impact.

When I size up a day, I will inevitably see moments where I could have handled a situation better.  But, thankfully, I also see bright spots where I may have succeeded in recognizing an accomplishment  (not just the challenge ahead), the effort that the team put forth (not just the amount of time til work is done,) the teamwork during a difficult situation (not just the issue we might have been dealing with.)

I am grateful to spend my days with a group of talented, committed and kind people that are working toward a common goal.  We have our moments, don’t get me wrong.  And stressful situations will test you as a team, but when we get it right it also forges our sense of common purpose and willingness to help one another.   Little by little the trust grows.  And the more trust there is, the better we can go:

“hard on the issue, soft on the person.” (quoting Henry Cloud)

So here’s hoping that we can all try to keep enough perspective and self-awareness when  stressful situation arise.

My Word of the Year 2015: Self-Care

I like the way some people find an overarching word that really speaks to them and represents a theme of focus for the year ahead.  But most years I can’t narrow it down.

But this year … by George, I think I’ve got it!!  SELF-CARE.  

Most days, I think I’m fairly good at balancing family, work, friends and community.  I don’t typically feel like I’m overextended and try hard to keep us from being too heavily scheduled.  Definitely the work hard, play hard mode.  We have lots of fun and I wouldn’t trade a thing.    Except for one small problem.  Somehow I fail (forget?) (ignore?) to tend to those things that are specifically for ME.

Things that in isolation seem small – annual physical, dentist visit, OB/GYN exams, eye exams, time for an exercise class, attending a small group at church, important personal paperwork, personal finance stuff that isn’t on autopilot.

For someone who gets an incredible amount done, when I made a list of the personal ‘stuff’ that I had neglected, ignored or underinvested it – well, let’s say that it was a little long.  So this then became a two-parter.  (1) realizing that this is not a good, healthy pattern that I want to live and model for my kids and that I want to do better and (2) the root cause analysis (because this is me!)  WHY?  I am known for ‘getting stuff done.’  What’s going on here??

The answer is not TIME.  I think, for me, it would be more honest to say that its about PRIORITY.  About believing that investing the time to be the best person I can be – physically, mentally, spiritually – deserves to be high on my priority list, not dead last.   And aside from being the right thing, it also just makes logical sense.

  • Instead of the simple preventive care checkup, I might become ill.
  • Instead of the basic eye exam with some darn over-the-counter readers, I might end up with headaches that keep me from reading (which I love.)
  • Instead of taking care of the paperwork I needed, another quarter/year/more goes by without starting toward that personal goal that required me signing up for something.
  • Instead of feeling renewed and relaxed from a yoga class, I might instead be tense or agitated.

You get the idea … yeah, so do I.  No need to sabotage my health and happiness by neglecting important ‘me’ things.  I have an incredibly supportive family who I know wants me to take care of these things, and will flex to help me make things work.  But my mental ordering of what’s important will have to shift.

I do well in some small spaces of self-care – I make an effort to enjoy the morning quiet to read and journal.  Spending time with friends.  So that’s a good start to build off of 🙂

Not exactly sure of the tactic I will follow, but I’m going to try.  Wish me luck!  And if you are reading this and can see traces of yourself, join me!

Kwanzaa 2014 – and Justin’s Rite of Passage

We have participated in a Kwanzaa celebration annually for about 15 years now.  Our cousins Veldon and LaKicia Sallee have led the annual gathering of family and friends each year, and its a family celebration that everyone looks forward to each year.

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Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration of African family, community and culture.  It celebrates values like faith, self-determination, responsibility and creativity.  And for us, its a time when everyone focuses on lifting up family members – recognizing their progress, their accomplishments, remembering our elders and those that have left this world, and offering words of encouragement and wisdom to the children of the family.

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Here’s a link to read more about the 7 principles that Kwanzaa celebrates.

Principles and Values of Kwanzaa Celebration

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Each year, one part of the program is a Rite of Passage, where we honor, recognize and celebrate the youth in our family that have reached 13 years of age.   We celebrate their character, their gift, their accomplishments, and both their parents and extended family members of all ages offer them words of advice to carry into their journey through the challenging teen years ahead and onto adulthood.   Today it was Justin’s turn to be recognized and honored.

And our challenge tonight – Bryce’s and mine – was to try to sum up the life and character of this amazing little guy who has touched our lives and changed us as people and as parents in so many ways.  He is so many things, and not defined by any one of them.   He has autism, but is not defined by it.  He also loves running, Tae Kwon Do, Legos, and movies.  He’s silly, a movie buff, wears pajamas whenever humanly possible.

And he has come so very far …

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Academically, I remember back to around 5 years old, when he was just beginning to really speak in sentences.  To 7 or 8, when speech therapy was having a big impact, and helping him communicate more effectively.  To his years of occupational therapy to develop his fine and gross motor skills.  I remember Miss Subha and his other wonderful Montessori teachers who worked so closely to draw him out, stretch and challenge him.  Then his transition to a mainstream school and the wonderful teacher and administrators that showed caring and attention, and helped ensure that Justin had the supports he needed to thrive in that new setting.  And sports – how running, swimming, stand-up paddling, and tae kwon do have given him confidence in his strength, endurance and physical abilities.

Socially, I remember the early days when he would stand at the edge of the playground and not approach the other kids, or the sensory issues that had him rolling up his pants and pushing up his sleeves, rotating between a small set of clothes that he was comfortable in.  I smile when I think of his love of pajamas that has persisted even to this day- changing into them immediately when he returns home even still, no matter the time of day.

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Justin has been blessed with a few close friends over the years.  Best among them was Josh as the loving and giving big brother who he loved dearly.  But beyond his brother, these friends have loved, accepted and been protective of Justin – as school play turned to visits and later to sleepovers.  Friends like Michael and James and now Jacob who have helped him really develop socially and been wonderful friends to him.  His friendships have been as much a part of his growth and development as the teachers and other adults.

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During Kwanzaa, Bryce did a wonderful job describing Justin’s progress and work ethic and kindness.

And as the emotion welled up, I tried to to talk to the family about Justin’s positive approach to life and happy disposition.  How throughout any challenge – academic/learning difficulties, social situations, disappointments or other difficulties – he always remains positive and optimistic.  He shakes things off as best he can and tries again.  And that constant flow of positive feeling is amazing and inspiring.

Justin receive many words of encouragement, praise and wisdom.  We truly appreciate everyone that has encouraged him throughout his journey.  He know he has many rooting for him!  My father-in-law summed it up well at the end of the evening: Justin has a pure heart.

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And that’s really what it comes down to.  His heart is pure and vulnerable and open.    We hope and pray that even as he grows,  his resilience and positive spirit will continue on.

 

I am so grateful to be his Mom.  Love you, Justin!

Strength Through the Journey

This morning’s Advent reading was perfect and so timely.  The passage reflected on the need to seek strength and stamina through journeys and challenging times, but keep faith that there is joy and growth coming.   The passage used the  journey to Bethlehem to illustrate a difficulty journey that led to joy and new experience.

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Sometimes we are the ones going through the challenge that requires that extra stamina or mental and emotional strength, sometimes its our role to help support others through these times.  There’s a season for both.

For some this holiday season is a time of great joy.  I feel blessed and grateful that this is the case for our family this year.  But for some this time is difficult, stressful or depressing.  Whether due to financial issues, relationships challenges, living through the absence of a loved one during the holidays,or other emotional or spiritual issues – it can be a tough time for some.

So beyond being grateful for our blessings, we could all have a more direct and positive impact if we take a small step to touch the life of someone going through a rough patch this season.  It can be hard to seek help and support when we are going through a difficult season.  So even a small act of support, friendship and kindness can make such a big difference in people’s lives.

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daily gratitude for jan 2

Here are 5 ways to reach out and help make someone’s holidays a little brighter.

  1. Invite someone to join you for a holiday meal, or coffee or tea if something more intimate would be more appealing to them

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2.  Share an uplifting and inspiring book or piece of music that has helped you through difficult times

 

3.  Take their kids for the day to give them some downtime, and have some holiday fun with the kiddies

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4.  To share an experience – go for a walk together, take them to a movie, ice skating, out to see holiday lights, relax and laugh no matter the setting

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5.  Give – freely, lovingly and with no expectation of gifts in return

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Very best wishes for a wonderful holiday season from our family to yours!

Staying Open in Crisis Mode

What part of you shuts down when you go into problem solving or crisis mode?   Does it help or hurt your goal to show up as your best self?

When we jump into that problem-solving mode, lots of things can happen very quickly within us.

  • our focus narrows
  • we come highly alert
  • we prepare ourselves for anything
  • brace ourselves for battle
  • feelings can take a backseat to analysis

This is exactly what we need when we are in danger.  But if our immediate safety is not at risk, the way we steel ourselves for problem solving may prevent us from showing up the way we really want to – as present, open, aware, insightful, wise.   By getting out of our self/soul/heart and into only our head, we can leave behind parts of ourself that we need of we are going to be authentic in those situation that require is to make decisions, solve problems and resolve crises.

To be at our very best,  we have to stay focused on both HOW we solve the problem as well as WHETHER we solve it.  Some days we will be happy with how we showed up, others we will take stock of what we want to do better next time.

Ultimately, our relationships and careers are made up of a series of moments strung together – so how we show up day to day in these situations translates into the quality of our life decisions and the health of our relationships.

Like so many things, this is a discipline and a practice – something we try to be self-aware and mindful of.  For me as someone who is analytic by nature, it requires mindfulness – daily practice.

A passage in Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening focused on this question of our minds and hearts in crisis, and was a wonderful reminder to be watchful of how we show up in these situations.  book_of_awakening

 

The Book of Awakening is an inspired and insightful book of daily reflections – a lovely book that I definitely recommend.  I come back to it all the time when I need to get quiet and grounded.   Book Link

 

 

The small things we take for granted …

One of the many things affected by autism is social interactions.  The easy and natural ways that people engage in discussions, or share a joke, or just casually converse are much less natural.  Discussions with people outside of the family can be awkward, direct and typically short.  (Unless he’s telling them a story …)

Well this year Justin has develop a close friendship with his buddy Jacob.  And I have loved watching their friendship grow and seeing them interact so very much.  Makes my heart smile!

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They share a love of movies and can trade facts on movie history and trivia like the best of them – release dates, producers, casts, production facts, you name it.   Their personalities are not the same – my guy a little quieter and more shy outside the family, his buddy more talkative and expressive.  But when they are together I just love to watch the chemistry – Justin is drawn out a little more, laughs a little louder, is more talkative, and seems so at ease.  Nothing awkward about it at all.  Typical and taken for granted for many, HUGE for families with kids on the autism spectrum.

So this week was Justin’s birthday, and his buddy called to wish him a Happy Birthday.  I expected a 30-second call that would go something like “Hi.  Happy Birthday.  Thanks.  Bye.”   Not at all …

But much to my surprise, what happened was completely different.  They talked … and talked … and talked.  We had to end the discussion to head out to his birthday dinner – reluctantly.  Lovely conversation – about Halloween costumes, carving jack-o’lanterns, and upcoming movies to see.   I could hear encouragement “that sounds really fun!’ and connection “we need to see that movie together!” and laughter.

I can’t even say just how much I smiled listening one side of the discussion.  Phone calls with friends … one of the small things we can take for granted …

 

A Burden to Carry Gracefully

Last night’s reading in John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping touched on grace and humility in a powerful way.  He recounted a discussion with Dallas Willard on being challenged by someone in a very negative way and just letting it go.  Willard replied:

“Being right is actually a very hard burden to be able to carry gracefully and humbly.  That’s why nobody likes to sit next to the kid in class who’s right all the time.  One of the hardest things in the world is to be right and not hurt other people with it.”  Dallas Willard

He went on to say that he was practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.

Not that any of us are right all the time – or even often.  But when we are, how do we carry it?  How do we help bring people along to get to the right answer together.  How do we let go of the need to have the last word.  What a great reminder to stay focused on the words we choose, our attitude, our approach.  At the end of the day we leave a wake of both relationships and results, so getting to the right answers and results in relationship with others is critical if we want both our results and our relationships to be strong.

For me, sometimes its more nature to focus on our approach in one setting and not another.  What about you – do you do best at leading with grace and humility (even when you are right) with your partner, your kids, your team at work?

 

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Getting out of my head …

Sometimes I just have to get out of my head!  You know how it is right?  When your mind has been in high gear for a while and you have to shift gears.  Funny story, the first time my now friend Kellie tried to teach me to SUP, I was not steady and fell a couple times.  She looked at me (before she really knew me) and said ‘You think a lot don’t you??  You have to get out of your head!’   If she only knew …

For many years when I was younger, there was no other gear – always on, always thinking, all the time.  Then the kids came along and in addition to the fun and chaos of raising three kids, they sort of force you to shift gears and pay attention.

People often tell me how busy we seem, how many things our family seems to be doing.  What’s funny is I don’t see it that way at all.  For me, its more like … hey, not working, so lets have fun.  What shall we do?  So much to do, so little time 🙂

A few years ago I tried hot yoga and fell in love with it, and that was a great way for me to get completely out of my head and do something  physical and calming at the same time.  Love it!  But somehow I have fallen out of the habit and not made space for it in my schedule in a way – and trying to get back.  I feel so much better when its part of my life and routine.

Then late last year I tried a fantastic course call Gifts of Imperfection with Brene Brown and she did some creative or art journaling.  If you have never heard of Brene brown check out my other post t and her Ted talk for starts – amazing and inspired speaker and writer on living wholeheartedly and authentically.

One of My Posts on the Gifts of Imperfection Course

Link to Brene Brown TED talk

But as for art journaling … now this is me of the barely recognizable stick figures – so it was completely out of my comfort zone.  But SO fun!  Then I happened upon a mixed media course by Kelly Rae Roberts that I loved.

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I love my photography,  and photo editing is fun too.  Suddently I had these little bursts of creativity in my life – who knew! – and another great way to get out of my head.

And my latest discovery … Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan.

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(ok I’m a little messy!)

It’s a fantastic set of gorgeous paints for painting furniture.  While my Mom was in town we took a class at a terrific little shop, Delightful Digs, then tinkered with a couple old frames that weekend and had a blast.

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There are gorgeous colors, great techniques to master for finishes, lots of elbow great required for sanding to distress the wood, and fun waxes to finish and age them.  Plenty to keep me busy.

During one particularly silly moment my Mom tried to stay very monochromatic with her frame and I could not resist splashing a little color her way – the small color battle that what ensued was hilarious!)  Anyway, I am having lots of fun tinkering with Chalk Paint.

It’s great to see the boys swing by the dining room (which I have sort of commandeered) to see what ‘art stuff’ is going on in there.  Who knew?  Doesn’t even matter if its any good (though I kind of like what has resulted) – but its such a great outlet to be working with your hands.  Always envied people who can work with metal or clay … hmmm … maybe that’s NEXT?

How do you get out of your head?

 

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