October 24, 2011

right here. right now.

Where would I rather be than right here, right now?

Nowhere else! The response eagerly bounces off our lips so easily when we are in the midst of joy or contentment. A compelling, endorphin sparking activity like passionate sex? Right here!

But what about when we’re in pain, conflict or challenge? Do I really want to be right here, right now?

While it may not immediately jump off my lips, the reasoned answer is, yes.

Why? Because the ONLY place we hold power is now. The only place we make a difference in is now. We can’t change future facts. We can’t even know them yet. Truth and reality are now. 

By being attentively involved with what I’m experiencing, I can adjust my feelings, thoughts and strategies. I can shape my world now and indirectly effect my future. If I feel fear, HERE is where I let it go. If I’m struggling with a challenge, HERE is where I calmly face it and find solution.

I have no power over tomorrow. That’s okay. All my power is right here, right now.


October 20, 2011

passionate curiosity

I couldn't thrive without passionate curiosity. 
It's the horsepower of learning & the rocket fuel of discovery.
 
 

October 04, 2011

conversations

I still have my childhood imagination. Perhaps when I'm 80 (and wearing purple), "they" will whisper about me being loopy. 

For now, as I walk thru my garden after the first rain of the season, all I see around me are conversations. Little pieces of life that have been eying each other thru the summer are now engaged with the object of their affection...

My what strong arms you have...
 Pool party!
 Head over heels...
You're like a map!
 Junior, you need to listen to mom & dad...
 The clingy type...
 Sky diver safe landing...
TOTALLY into her...
  Don't look now, but that leaf over there is scary...
 Hallelujah chorus!
Neighborhood show-off!
Yeah, so what, I can reach the sky, too...
  Opposites attract...
Mom, are we done yet?


 


































September 18, 2011

freedom

Yes. I've been absent from this blog for a while. 
Struggling with challenges life is tossing at me. 
Apparently I've asked the universe for lessons...
and I am getting them in rapid succession. 
Lessons come with pain.
Humbling, isn't it?

Freedom

ah, to find freedom within
a tightly bound clasp
to set your heart on
that which is not purchased
to fear loss of that
which cannot be possessed --
This is folly.

ah, but to trust
childlike
to be unafraid of fear
and to give
without measuring cost
nor counting return
still feeling complete --
ah this is living!




August 01, 2011

lessons

I took my usual short stroll through my garden this morning, coffee in one hand and camera in the other, before I started work. Sunday, I had done a lot of work on my succulents, re-potting and rearranging the specimens in these decorative pots. I was going to document what I had accomplished but my eye was distracted by other changes in the garden. Ones that I hadn't accomplished but had evolved on their own. 

As I looked more carefully at them, I realized, each one held a mini lesson for me, a perspective altering thought...

New sago palm leaf:  No matter how curled up life seems to be, it always has a way of straightening out.
Bayou the Pond Cypress: Even the most messed up, frazzled days have a beauty about them.
New leaf on Tricky the tri-color beech: We don't just grow in the spring of our lives, we can grow beautifully in the challenging heat of those painful summer days...
Dakota (3 dissectum trees all babies from the same parent): As humans, we are connected and so very alike but we each shine and standout in our own unique way
Fu (a fuzzy textured maple): When you look a little closer at the perfect lives you think others may have, you'll see that we all have a few burns and scars. But those edges make the beauty that shines through even more stunning...
Blooming gardenia: What seems pure and perfect isn't. In life, there's no such thing. But when I learn to appreciate the gifts I've been given, I come to understand how perfect they are for me.

July 13, 2011

Panic. Pain. Pride.

"If you don't know where you're going you will end up some place else.
Yogi Berra's witty nonsensical yet smart observations make me smile and stop thoughtfully in my tracks at the same time!

Yogi's right. Have you ever seen a scared rabbit darting wildly in front of a car or that proverbial deer in the headlights?  Panic rarely enables constructive action. 

I rarely float in life. I'm an achiever. I'm most comfortable when I have a direction and goals I'm working toward. Yet recently, I witnessed the ineffective Bambi in me. Not pretty. Frustrated, unable to make headway, I only had myself to hold accountable.

So, I've been quiet on this blog for a few days resolutely aimed in a direction to achieve goals that are extremely important to me. I cleared distractions and committed to a singular focus is so often needed to succeed.

Like a wash of sunshine, it flowed in. Call it Drive. Grit. Hunger. Determination. A healthy sense of Pride. That "thing" that sharpens our aim and focuses our actions in order to achieve a goal so that we can celebrate success with our head high, shoulders back and beaming with joy and contentment with what we just accomplished. 

I know where I'm aimed. I'll celebrate with you when I get there. I may even celebrate key milestones along the way.

Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.


June 23, 2011

inadvertent cocktail

A friend challenged me, What does Judy want? Like a refresher course, it helped me revisit and be clear about my dreams and desires.

I am clear and focused on 4 priorities all centered on living joyously and as a constructive contributor to others joyful living.

  1. Strengthen my financial health and business stimuli by finding, securing and kicking ass at professional opportunities
  2. Strengthen my physical health to combat the inevitable duress of aging
  3. Strengthen my emotional health by operating peacefully grounded from the center of my life philosophy
  4. LIVE fully:  Choose, create and BE fully present in each moment experiencing the utmost joy, discovery, comfort, creativity and growth

My priorities are meaningful journeys not destinations. They cannot be accomplished; they can be fulfilled to the best of my ability every day.

However my life interacts with people, places, possessions or achievements, these are not answers or solutions. It is in me to determine what I feel and learn on my journey. 

Every interaction contains the potential for joy, discovery, comfort, creativity and growth as well as sadness and pain. Sometimes life is just an inadvertent cocktail.

While there are some don't wants, there are no must haves in life. There are simply dreams, desires and gifts. When its a good day, they come wrapped together.

 

June 22, 2011

shaken and stirred

In this twisted sequence of a couple of years, my usual independence is taxed and my resilient, energetic, lighthearted spirit has been pummeled. It’s in there but I haven’t yet embraced peace. My ego has been laid painfully bare as well.

While I desire to reclaim my vibrant spirit and sustain healthy interdependence, I've been constructively challenged to release my ego and embrace my true center.

This from Beyond the Frontier of the Mind by Osho inspires me. Excerpts below...

"Ego is always shaken, always in search of food, that somebody should appreciate it. That's why you continuously ask for attention. You get the idea of who you are from others. It's not a direct experience. It is from others that you get the idea of who you are. They shape your center. This center is false, because you carry your real center. It is nobody's business. Nobody shapes it. You come with it. You are born with it. 

So you have two centers. One center you come with, which is given by existence itself. That is the self. And the other center, which is created by the society, is the ego. It is a false thing - and it is a very great trick. Through the ego the society is controlling you. You have to behave in a certain way, because only then does the society appreciate you. You have to walk in a certain way; you have to laugh in a certain way; you have to follow certain manners, a morality, a code. Only then will the society appreciate you, and if it doesn't, you ego will be shaken. And when the ego is shaken, you don't know where you are, who you are.

... The difference is just like the difference between a real flower and a plastic or paper flower. The ego is a plastic flower - dead. It just looks like a flower, it is not a flower. You cannot really call it a flower. Even linguistically to call it a flower is wrong, because a flower is something which flowers. And this plastic thing is just a thing, not a flowering. It is dead. There is no life in it.

It is difficult to see one's own ego. It is very easy to see other's egos. But that is not the point, you cannot help them.

Try to see your own ego. Just watch it. Don't be in a hurry to drop it, just watch it. The more you watch, the more capable you will become. Suddenly one day, you simply see that it has dropped. And when it drops by itself, only then does it drop. There is no other way. Prematurely you cannot drop it.

It drops just like a dead leaf. The tree is not doing anything - just a breeze, a situation, and the dead leaf simply drops. The tree is not even aware that the dead leaf has dropped. It makes no noise, it makes no claim - nothing. The dead leaf simply drops and shatters on the ground, just like that.

When you are mature through understanding, awareness, and you have felt totally that ego is the cause of all your misery, simply one day you see the dead leaf dropping.

It settles into the ground, dies of its own accord. You have not done anything so you cannot claim that you have dropped it. You see that it has simply disappeared, and then the real center arises.

And that real center is the soul, the self, the god, the truth, or whatsoever you want to call it. It is nameless, so all names are good. You can give it any name of your own liking..."

I'm going to call my center Judy...

June 16, 2011

smile

thank you
for your smile
it tiptoed
across
tiny wires
and kissed
its sunshine
on my face
dancing warm.
it's strange
how i can
feel your love
even through
this telephone.

Every day, friends evoke smiles in me. From across the country, these tiny gifts come via phone or a simple text or email. Sometimes my neighbor across the cul de sac will send me a text that I'm sure she can hear me laughing over. As I work out of my home office, these smiles always shift my mood up a gear.

Yesterday, a friend gave me a smile and paid it forward. She sent me the text of a card I had once sent to her, helping me reclaim a truth.... peace. it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

Where will your smile tiptoe today?


June 15, 2011

not my idea

Have you ever held and petted a cat then placed it where YOU wanted it to be? In a fraction of a second, four paws escape from THAT place and look back as if to say not my idea. Three minutes later, after licking their furr, observing all around and circling, they often are curious, go back and curl up as if its the best place on earth... because now it's THEIR idea.

Sound familiar? That's human behavior, too.

We seem instinctively adverse to endings or change. But endings are good! Without endings, we'd never crown world champions! Projects would never be completed. Deals wouldn't be closed. We wouldn't be propelled through a book to see how it, uh huh, ENDS. With donkey hoofs embedded, we are dragged out of ruts, fears and comfortable behaviors only to find, yep, you got it, the beginning of something precious and new. Only when we let go, wave sayonara to destructive behaviors and fears, can we embark into new, refreshing paths that feed, fuel and transform us.

Want a vibrant life?  Respond calmly to the perceived threat of change. One of my best friends puts it this way: surrender to the moment. Soon you'll transform panic, even pain, into a rush of endorphins.

Teach yourself to SEE every ending as a beginning of something. Because it is...


June 10, 2011

fab service

Outstanding customer service. THAT never happens. No wait, it just did!

I just set up an HSA account at a new bank because the service, features and fees at the old bank were consistently underwhelming. That's putting it nicely. When a new fee surprised me, the representative I talked to rudely advised, obviously you missed the notification about that, it was included in your last statement. Proving he was right was the straw that lost my business.

After applying online, I received the paperwork & debit card in just a week from my new provider, First American Bank (FAB). Over the next 2 days, I set up online banking, electronic deposits and funds transfer from my old account.

For these 3 actions, I called with a question for customer service. No waiting on hold, a warm helpful voice quickly answered. The first representative answered my question about online banking and suggested they stay on the phone WHILE I set up the online account just to make sure it went smoothly. Wow. Big smile. On the second phone call, the representative promptly and cheerily supplied the information I needed to set up deposits through bill pay at my bank. Home run! Their reps can answer anything. On my 3rd phone call, the FAB representative answered my question about transferring funds and apologized it wasn't the convenient answer I was looking for. Bonus points for empathy!

But the 4th phone call knocked my socks off. 5 minutes later, SHE called me back. She'd done a little homework she said and researched an answer that would work better for me. Then she helped me make the initial deposit transaction I had wanted to make. Grand slam.

I'm in marketing. I'm passionate about helping clients build strong, memorable brands and cultivate customer loyalty. I hadn't read it til now but FAB's website says, We offer sophisticated financial products with state of the art electronic delivery, but at our core, we are a community bank. We differentiate ourselves from our competitors by being easily accessible to our customers. Each of us is dedicated to making your banking experience here a pleasure.

I didn't have to read it. 4 phone calls demonstrated everything about First American Bank's brand. With flawless delivery, I experienced every single one of their brand statements. I chose FAB because of their sophisticated, electronic-delivery products. I'll stay a highly loyal FAB customer because of their service. I'm looking at the other products they offer. I'm banking with FAB...

Want a pleasurable, dependable experience with a bank again? Make it FAB.

June 09, 2011

velveeta

Nearly 20 years ago, I was joking with friends at a party when I first met Melanie. The comraderie was instant. Within minutes, I felt I was talking with the sister I'd never had. We had so much fun we almost forgot we'd each come to the party with a date! Though we're 10 years apart in age and have never lived in the same city, for the past 20 years we've been inseparable.

We've cycled through jobs, relationships, pets, cars, fashions and hair styles... as best friends. She flew to my wedding holding hand engraved goblets the entire flight so they wouldn't break. She flew out to Austin after I moved there to bring out my cat, Charlie. We've laid on the beach talking for hours. We've eaten our tummies into a mess enjoying the autumnal frivolity of Apple Hill with all things apple and kettle corn. We've gone months without seeing each other and yet pick up right where we left off. There's nothing we can't share.

Crazily independent and strong willed, as we've hashed through some of life's toughest and most humbling moments, we've found solace and courage in each others warmth, humor and support. She's always got my back. I've got hers.

We share a code word we send in a text message when life REALLY sucks and we REALLY need to talk. Velveeta. We picked Velveeta because nothing melts worse into a sticky puddle of goo than Velveeta. Velveeta, sent as a 1-word text message, says, HELP! I really need the sound of your voice right now.

Today is her birthday. Today and when she visits me on Saturday in Sonoma County for a girls-day-out, we're going to celebrate her. I want to make sure she knows how special she is, how much she matters to all of us who love her.

Today, it's not about Velveeta. It's more like super nachos grande!!!

June 07, 2011

to me from me

I giggled chatting with Laurence in her beautiful glass art gallery in Occidental as she gift-wrapped my purchase. Out on my fave convertible, weekend drive thru Sebastopol, Freestone, Bodega, Occidental, and Guerneville, I found my one perfect treat: a necklace and earrings designed by Barbara Harris. I acknowledged this was a gift, to me, from me, with love and affection!

Knowingly, she smiled and shared her own story. As a young girl, she had saved up precious change for a treat of her own. When she was finally able to buy the object of her desire, the store proprietor asked her if it was a gift. No, she muttered somewhat embarrassed, it is just for meAh, the proprietor replied as she wrapped Laurence's little gift, it is a gift for a special girl, indeed. Laurence always wraps her customer's purchases. She knows each one is a gift.

Give yourself a gift. NOT a rationalized one, buy a cherished one. Like my friend Jason suggests, for example, avoid the money-sucking tractor beam at Kohl's, where stuff is 40% off but you don't need it. Don't add $20 more to your Amazon shopping cart just because you'll get $4.95 waived in free shipping.

DO give yourself a smile. It's a guilty pleasure without the guilt. When I order my fave Mahogany coffee beans online, I always fill in that little box where it asks if you want to send a "message" with the shipment. I write something quirky or funny that will make me laugh when I receive it. Sometimes I just write in "to me, from me, with love and affection." 

DO give yourself a treat. In my home office, I make a Judycinno of espresso, steamed milk, flavored syrup, a dash of cinnamon and a chocolate drizzle. Every morning, that aroma, that foam bouncing off the top of my lip and the warmth are a treat. Even alone, I eat on pretty plates, wear earrings or perfume. When we value and treat ourselves with love and respect, we affirm our worth, improve our self-esteem. We give the gift of life joyfully to ourselves. No waiting in line.

Jason is right. It's more the experiences we have, not the stuff we buy, that enhance our happiness. But they are beautifully connected. Every time I play my iPod, I remember I won it in a Kim & Jason contest. Every time I slip on my new jewelry enjoying Barbara's imaginative textures and colors, I'll giggle, think about Laurence, her charm and wit, and wonder what little gem she is wrapping for another happy customer today.

What gift will you treat yourself with today?

June 06, 2011

on the wings of a dare

no cloud ever ruled the sky 
without first defying the sun
no flower ever bloomed
without breaking out of the seed
no baby chick ever hatched
without daring to leave the shell

no artist created a masterpiece
without facing a blank canvas first
no climber ever scaled the peak
still clinging to the valley floor
no answer has ever been right
before risking it might be wrong

we all feel fear

in cowardice, we wither 
scared to fail 
in courage, we thrive 
bravely daring to succeed

 

June 05, 2011

by appointment only

The sign in the store window caught my eye. Lessons by Appointment Only

It seemed reasonable. Ask the expert at the golf shop to schedule lessons for you; they'll check their calendar and arrange it. 

Giggling as I drove away, I wondered what if life was like that? No lessons, baby, unless we ask first. Lessons by appointment only!

Would we ever call and ask for life's lessons? Lessons might be avoided by those who already think they know everything. They'd be lost on anyone who simply wants to avoid pain. They'd be lost on the arrogant who arrive at their supreme knowledge au solitaire. 

How fortuitous that the best lessons in life arrive on the unwitting. 


June 04, 2011

raindrops

Raindrops
plummeting silently
racing to be first.

Reluctant winners
splashing
into a puddle:
dwarfed thud.

Oh sky of thunder,
do you grumble
at this
misty darknes
or do you veil
a wordless hurt
trembling over
these tears
that fall?


June 03, 2011

painting a pig

Employed occasionally to photograph corporate events, I joke it is my job to make 50yr old women look 39 and slim 240lb men to 175lbs. Subtle digital Photoshopping is an art form.

Daily we're exposed to obsessive efforts to alter reality. Beyond the digital darkroom that renders models, actors and musicians into airbrushed versions of perfection, they sport implants, sculpting, liposuction, botox, lifts, peels, collagen... need I go on?

We've created a culture where fake is perceived as real. Sadly, in the quiet, not always so confident, chambers of our self-image, we believe ourselves less attractive and less amazing than we ARE.

I took photos of a friend who remarked how great the photos were but lamented they showed their age. They could not see the compelling character, beauty, wisdom, warmth and gentleness I and others are so drawn to. Just looking at the photos, we want to know them!

We don't need to paint the pig!! It is precisely who we, ALL of our quirks and foibles included, that draws us to others. When we allow others to see our flaws, we grant them permission to be REAL, flawed... and dearly loved.

Unapologetically and unrepentantly be you! Because when we see the truth, struggles, victories, vulnerability and realness in you, we are so incredibly attracted to and comfortable with you.

   Your mind and your experience call to me 
   You have lived and your intelligence is sexy
   I want to know what you got to say  
   I can tell you taste like the sky cause you look like rain

Have you looked in the mirror? You look like a pig. And damn, you're sexy!


June 02, 2011

7 words

I've been privileged to collaborate with my father, a talented author. I write essays and prose (and brochures for my clients); he has written numerous books and textbooks. While our writing styles differ, we both love to write.

Since he retired, he's devoted more time to writing. He's called on me to design book covers and layout and illustrate the interiors. We even wrote a book together, Voice 2x2, a warm and humorous comparative of our two voices, side by side, in a series of essays in response to the same questions.

As much as we like to write, we love to measure things. With our little weather stations, we both keep daily track of the rainfall as an example. We used to count steps walking to school but we got over that...

My latest project was assisting with his autobiography with the photos he selected as illustrations for key memories. While his life contains joyful discovery and experiences, as the last 10 years evolved, I found it incredibly painful to process. I had to stop and take a break for a few days as I found myself weeping. These pages held poignant recollections of people I love that are no longer alive and I found myself grieving all over again. Like my Uncle Les. And my grandfather with whom I share an incredible love for what can be grown in this earth's generous soil.

Then, I noted something sweetly startling. My father is consistent. Recounting his first 24 years, he took 2,805 words per year. No different in the last 11; he used 2,811 words, an average of 7 words a day.

His memorable experiences, influences and impacts expressed in 7 words a day! Wow. If our most meaningful experiences can be summarized in 7 words a day... what 7 words did I use yesterday? Did I bring joy to anyone yesterday with just 7 words? What impact will I have today with just a few warm words to a friend, client or store clerk.

What 7 words will define your day?

June 01, 2011

what are you focused on?

A friend sent me a curious text message, Where are you?

I answered, somewhat informatively about my whereabouts.

No, he responded with a wink, asking again, Where ARE you?

I smiled, finally grasped what he was asking, and replied, I am here, in THIS moment, right now.

What my friend so generously reminded me is that living in the moment transforms us from dully existing to fully living. It means we choose to be fully present drinking in every precious raindrop life offers.

As Thoreau contemplated in Walden ...I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived... I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life...

Ah, there is another underlying gift as well. Being here, fully present in each moment, painful or joyful, empowers us to align our perspective. Never underestimate the transformational power a positive or grateful focus can have on every moment in your life.

We cannot control all that happens to us. We possess the power to choose how we experience it. Or as Andy Dufresne said in Shawshank Redemption, Get busy living, or get busy dying.

Where are you? What are you focused on?



May 31, 2011

its just water

We need and yet dread rain. When a friend of mine didn't want to jog in the rain, we giggled together when I replied, It's just water.  We won't exercise in rain, yet when finished, we'll shower off the sweat in water.  

Rain quenches thirst. Rain gives life. Rain lets us appreciate the sunshine. 

This month, I wasted too many tears on an abnormal mammogram and a botched biopsy that left a temporary lemon-sized lump in one breast (not the one-sided boob job I wanted). I never felt more alone than when I drove home from the hospital holding the steering wheel in one hand and an ice pack on my breast with the other. I felt scared and sorry for myself. I wasted precious hours mulling anxious thoughts on career & income. Then a girlfriend reminded me to put on my big-girl panties!

Like you, I am not truly alone. But we all feel that way. There are just these moments when we want to connect with others to share our joy or grasp a friend's hand or lean on a shoulder for the pain. 

And sometimes, we believe others have a life that is somehow more better, fulfilling and content than ours. They don't. What makes us human is that we ALL have lives of joy and pain, sadness and excitement, gain and loss. Like the ebb and flow of tide, there's high points and low points. But each life is full and runs deep into the ocean and eagerly along the shore.

In the past few weeks, I've regained momentum grabbing life by the gonads and living in the moment. One morning, that meant walking in my garden taking pictures like this one. I've explored and traveled experiencing joy, giggles and life with friends I've not seen in a long time. 

Openly sharing my pain enabled my friends to tell me how they struggle, too. Then the sweetest raindrops fell. Treasured emails and phone calls of joy and encouragement. A friend I haven't heard from in a long time, called me to tell me I mattered in their life. Another emailed to say they thought I looked beautiful in my latest Facebook photos. Another called with the funniest thing they just experienced. Oh how these things quenched my thirst!

So, I'm writing again. My Facebook page can stay light and airy. But here, I want to blog, share prose and photos of what I experience to help us all keep sight of how connected we are. It's not just water. These raindrops are life.