Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Let’s Review

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This week might be one of my favorite weeks of the year. Not just because I work in education and get this week off, but also because it gives me some breathing space.

I look forward to this time all year to reflect on the lessons learned, experience gained, relationships rekindled or lost, and the unexpected surprises that buoyed my spirits or broke my heart.

Some of these things were in my control and many of them were not. Either way this year  provided a continually expanding arena for me to rearrange my perception of my place in the universe.

In an effort to become more visible and accessible, I became aware of how small I’ve been playing for a long time and how safe it is to do so.  The minute I risked becoming more visible and having an opinion, an agenda, or an attitude, I risked opening myself to judgment, criticism, and haters.

I can live with that. It appears to be the price of admission to a non-apologetic life.

What I can’t live with is being a writer and censoring myself so as not to offend or otherwise ruffle a few feathers. There were many things that had me worked up this year. It was also the year I embarked on an Integrity Cleanse so not writing about them was not possible.

As a writer, my job is to articulate the emotions underneath the issues so you can feel them in a way you may not have, left to your own devices.

I take this job very seriously. And though I don’t get paid to do it or enjoy celebrity status because of it, it’s the most rewarding thing I do. Because of you.

If reading makes us feel less alone in the world, then writing makes us feel more understood.

The greatest satisfaction I get from writing is knowing that some of you are reading this and thinking,”I know exactly what she’s talking about.” Especially when I describe the crazy stuff or make an obscure reference to something you thought you were the only one who remembered or had an experience of.

After a long day at work, I know I can retreat to my writing room and send something out into the world that will come back with a reassuring, “I hear you, honeyWelcome to my world.”

As I begin my week-long year in review, I want to start with saying thank you for being a consistent source of delight in my world and an incentive to keep pushing the envelope, expressing unspoken hopes and fears, and sprinkling a healthy dose of humor on ridiculous situations.

In between dog walks, reading, and savoring some quiet time at home, today I’m working on a few templates I’ll share with you tomorrow.

In the meantime, please share your highlights from 2016 in the comments below or email them to me at penny@wellpower.com.

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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Plan “P”

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It’s the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge and today “P” pitches its plan. You might possibly presume for a prolific person like Penny Plautz from Prophetstown, Plan “P” is probably my preferred plan. It packs a powerful punch and promises to pour a plethora of positivity into our peace producing project.

So many words beginning with the letter P pop into this paragraph and prompt me to play with a preponderance of profoundly pleasurable ideas that promote good cheer. It’s perplexing to pick one from the predominant pool of prized philosophies.

Although I pondered plunging ahead with poetry, prevailing wisdom prods me to publish something that may be perceived as practical yet profoundly perfect.

So today I present you with this plan.

Practice being present.Your presence is the best present you can give. Or, as I like to say, the magic of Christmas isn’t the presents, it’s being present for the magic.

I poked around on Canva and created this design for you. Permit me provide you with personal proclamations you can print out and post where your peeps and pals can put them into practice.

Here’s another positive prescription for today.

Pamper yourself with a parade of possibilities for pursuing your passion – from protesting the need to punish yourself for presumed imperfections to pulling off the phenomenal and placing yourself in a priority position. This proves you are preparing to powerfully procure your place as a prosperous player in a promising New Year.

Please leave your comments below and feel free to pen your own “P” plans and share them with the particular planet of prized people who read this blog.

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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Plan “N”

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No way! We’ve already narrated our way to Plan “N’ in our Here to the New Year in Good Cheer and nothing can stop us from neglecting our duties now.

The need for novelty necessitates less napping and more noting of nouns and verbs that begin with the letter of the day. Focusing on things of a specific nature nurtures a nuanced notion of creativity not normally noticed by novices or newbies.

But since you are nearly a ninja now at naming a number of basic holiday survival tips, I must be nimble and expose the naked truth in order to nab your attention in a noisy world.

Despite never ending negotiations as to whether you belong on the naughty or nice list,  nailing the nickname “Notorious”  by nosy neighbor Nigel does nothing to negate your nomination to St. Nick’s newly named Not Quite Sure list.

Here’s a little nugget of advice.  A nudge in the right direction is as near as one good deed away.  Notice, nourish, and nuzzle up next to any number of noteworthy causes.

When Jack Frost is nipping at your nose, neck, knuckles, and knees, donate hats, scarves, gloves and other necessities to local shelters or schools. The net gain gleaned from giving is often greater than receiving.

Or while nibbling away at Nana’s nutritious nutcracker cake instead of Nelly’s nachos, find out where your local food bank is and feed a family or two.

What needs nestled into the nooks and crannies of normal life might you meet for others in your neighborhood this season?

Give me a nod and share the ways you move up a notch on the Nice List in the comments below. For every like, comment, or sharing of this post with, I’ll donate a dollar in your honor to our local food bank. How’s that for spreading good cheer?

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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Day 3 – Plan C

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It’s Day 3 of our Here to the New Year in Good Cheer Challenge.

I love the letter “C” because there are so many compelling action verbs beginning with “c” competing for today’s tip. We have create, collaborate, communicate, connect, catalyze, curate, caress, consider, commit, coach, consult, conspire, cook, coax, comfort, cuddle, climb, compose, craft, complete, continue, conquer, concede, compliment, contribute, calibrate, cushion, chill, celebrate, chuckle, change, challenge, chant, choose, captivate….

Since it’s complicated to pick just one action, I decided to go with an idea that will inspire continuous action. That idea is curiosity.

Just as this picture captures this sweet little pup’s curiosity, you, too, can benefit from cocking your head to the side and considering something you’ve never thought of before. Or at least not in this context.

The trouble with getting all cranky and crabby at this time of year is that need your sense of curiosity, wonder, and humor now more than ever. It’s the connective tissue that keeps you compassionate and civil when your instinct may be more combative.

So try this.

Every day from Here to the New Year, write down at least one thing you are curious about. Just thinking about it won’t do. Please write it down somewhere every day.

By the end of the year,  you’ll have 35 conversation starters should you happen to be stuck at the DMV or cousin Carol’s Christmas concert. Instead of complaining, connect with a complete stranger and see if you can curtail any criticism or cynicism by starting a captivating conversation about any of the things you are curious about.

I’d love to hear where your conversations lead in the comments below. And if you haven’t officially registered for the challenge, please do so here so I can send you your free Holiday Survival Guide and enter your name for the goodies I’ll be giving away.

“What could those clever concoctions be?” you ask.

Stay curious and continue to check in daily.  I’ll leave clues that will allow you to connect the Christmas cookie crumbs to some sweet surprises coming soon.

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It’s How You Play the Game

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It’s not whether you win or lose,” the saying goes, “but how you play the game.

This comment is usually offered to the side that didn’t win.

I avoid writing about politics because, given the state of the union, I could easily offend half of you. Please know that is not my intention.

My intention is to write my way out of the aftermath of a game played with so much  disrespect and lack of decency that I feel gutted, traumatized, and heartbroken. Not just because of who won or lost but because of how we played the game.

Families, cities, states were divided in what felt like a civil war, except that there was nothing civil about it. Things were said, threats were made, and stunts were pulled that may work for reality TV, but as the foundation of our reality is truly terrifying.

I want to believe nobody voted for discrimination, exclusion, or hatred. I have to believe we all voted for what we believe in and who we thought could best bring about the change we seek.

But voting is not something we do with our heads.  It’s a primal thing we do with our hearts. Sadly, we can’t fact check the unspoken fears that live in our hearts because in order to control them, we kept them hidden.

Consequently, no one can predict their power at the polls until they surface and surprise us from ballots cast across the country in the privacy and anonymity of a voting booth or safety of our homes.

Clearly, we are unhappy. We are stressed. We are tired of government meddling in our affairs. We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.

But we also have so much to be grateful for. We have come so far on so many fronts. We seem to have lost sight of that in our rage against the machine and each other.

It’s easy to blame others for our discontent. But when we point a finger at someone else,  four are pointing back at us. We can project the blatant bad behavior on to others, but if we recognize it in others and are willing to be brutally honest with ourselves, eventually we recognize it in ourselves as well.

Because happiness is an inside job, we have to start with the man or woman in the mirror. When we abdicate our own power, we open the door to bullies who are more than willing to use it against us.

While we cannot control what bullies do or say, we can control how we respond.  And that response determines how we move forward.

You can add fuel to the fire of fear, anger, and hatred or you can practice peace, compassion, and decency.

As Stephen Colbert suggested, you can “get back to your life.” And in doing so, recommit to living consciously, intentionally, and with as much love and integrity as you can possibly muster.

It won’t be easy. Especially if you are discouraged, afraid, or otherwise disenfranchised. But I promise you, the world needs your light. When one of us shines brightly, we all do.

I wish our country didn’t need to go to the extremes it did for the past year to collectively learn the lessons this election offered up.

Mistakes were made. Assumptions were interpreted as facts. Unprecedented incivility was unleashed. A lot was at stake and lines were crossed that, as a country, we’ll have a hard time recovering from.

Playing the game this way has left us all bruised and battered.

As we move forward, I hope we will be kind to one another. I hope we can realize we are all fighting the good fight and, despite our differences, we have more that unites us than divides us.

In the days to come I wish you the kind of courage that allows you to speak up, act on your beliefs, cope with challenges, and carry on with conviction. Doing so sets us all free.

I’d love to hear how you will share your light in the comments below.

 

Doom & Gloom, Begone!

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It’s that time of year when things can get a little scary.  I’d like to say it’s because of Halloween, the one day where we dare to scare and frighten for the fun of it.

But the scarier stuff for me these days are things I seem to have little control over. Things like the political climate of nastiness and divisiveness in the country or the workplace, whether my team can win the World Series once in my lifetime, or how I can get my internet provider to do what they’ve guaranteed me every month for the past 6 months they would do, but still have not done.

On their own, any one of these things can put a kink in my otherwise cheerful disposition. When they all happen on the same day it’s enough to make me long for my days in the desert, wandering around with my canine companion, marveling at the simplicity of a solitary life unplugged.

While I default to the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer in the majority of cases, I do not do well with “it is what it is” when something clearly can be done.

I do not believe that the current environment is really the best we can collectively do. Partly because I know I can do better if I stay open, stay curious, and stay available to what is happening in the moment. And partly because we are smart and creative people.

We send people into outer space.  It seems like we can send elected officials to the White House who don’t polarize half the country.

If Century Link truly values my business, they would deliver on what they promised the first time instead of putting me on infinite hold, transferring me a minimum of three times, and still not addressing my concerns, making it necessary for me to repeat this torturous task every month.

Far from being a treat, this is tricky business. I can shut down quicker than a mousetrap when I get miffed. But over the years I’ve learned it’s my silence that comes back to haunt me, not the words I spoke truthfully, however harsh.

A few weeks ago I signed up for Martha Beck’s Integrity Cleanse. I suspected I was in for a serious smack down on my assumptions, but what I didn’t anticipate was the way my whole life would come under scrutiny.

Sure, the truth will set you free.  If it doesn’t kill you.

I’m by no means a chronic liar.  But I am a people pleaser and seem to need copious amounts of approval before I act on what I know to be true if it might ruffle some feathers or upset someone’s apple cart.

Ironically, what I’m learning from my Integrity Cleanse is one of the best gifts I can offer another is to ruffle their feathers or upset their apple carts if it is done with integrity and truth. As gratifying as it would be if you agreed with me, I get to see things from a different perspective when you don’t.

What I learned from watching The Cubs get to the World Series is there are just as many compelling stories and die-hard fans rooting for the other side. If they’ve made it to the playoffs, all these players have proven they are the best of the best.

Of course, I wear my lucky vest every night and go through any number of pre-game shenanigans in order to ensure the odds in our favor. But even when they lose, I learn something about myself.

Friday night was a case in point.  My day went exactly like Game 3 of the World Series. I had played defensively all week at work and then at 5pm on Friday I got a message from  my boss about a botched communication I thought I had cleared up on Thursday.  It was the equivalent of the bottom of the 9th, I had the winning run on base, and I struck out.

The good news is the Cubs get one more opportunity to turn it around. I have an opportunity to clear up the issue at work. I’ve already voted. And I can continue to call customer service until they get it right.

The doom and gloom that threatens to take over my mood and render me despondent, helpless, and hopeless will have to wait for another day. I have the ability to write my way out of despair and, as Maggie Kuhn says, “Speak the truth even if my voice shakes.

What about you? What scares you? What do you  do to catapult yourself out of doom and gloom and allow your truth to be voiced? Please share in the comments below.

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Stop and Smell the Petunias

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It’s Day 26 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to stop and smell the petunias.  Yes, I know the saying is “stop and smell the roses.” But since my puppy Ruby is particularly fond of petunias and is teaching me so much in a very short time, especially about taking breaks, I took some creative license with the saying.

Too often we look at interruptions as productivity killers, detours, excuses for our short little spans of attention. But sometimes taking a break to get up and walk around or sit down and relax, have a spot of tea, or nourish ourselves with a healthy snack or TED talk can cause epiphanies and unexpected pleasures.

I can easily spend my workday staring at a computer screen or piles of paperwork going over the same information in the same way.  But if I get up and walk around, move some tables and chairs, feed the fish, or water the plants, my energy shifts. By changing my focus for a while, the same situation looks different when I return.

One of my favorite things in my offices at work and at home is my standing desk. Because I spent most of my life as a fitness instructor, the biggest adjustment to life as a college administrator is the sedentary nature of the majority of my work.

To counteract this, I set up a makeshift standing desk where I can easily advise students and give them direct access to the information on the computer screen and hands on access to their information.

I also made sure we had a picnic table and bench outside so students and staff can get some fresh air, soak in the sun, and smell the lilies nearby when a change of scenery and perspective is needed.

I think in our hurry up and get it done world we’ve forgotten that there is a rhythm to life  There is an art to savoring the steps that get us where we’re going.

Today, take 5-15 minutes to do something deeply nourishing to your soul.  Maybe it’s reading that quote or poem from yesterday’s challenge (Day 25) or maybe it’s calling someone you love (Day 8) or maybe it’s arranging some flowers or fresh fruit and a bowl.

Try not to think of today’s challenge as an interruption and immediately look only for a way to return to the task at hand. Think of it as divine intervention sent to support your present predicament.

As always, I’d love for you to share your epiphanies or aha’s in the comments below.