Stop and Smell the Petunias

ruby 029

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.

 

 

Get A Quote

quotation icon. quotation vector illustration

It’s Day 25 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to find a quote, a poem, or a saying that inspires you and commit it to memory.

It can be something short like, “Fleas. Adam had em.” Or something long like the Gettysburg Address or the The Man in the Arena quote by Theodore Roosevelt that has served as the foundation for Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and leadership.

You may already have a quote that you know by heart that has served as a beacon of light during dark times. Or you may know some famous words that have gotten you to the finish line or helped you complete your degree. Undoubtedly these encouraging words have inspired you to do what you needed to do, when you needed to do it.

Like an anthem or a playlist (see Day 4), quotes and poems transport us to a place of possibility. A place where we can do, be, or have all that we’ve been striving for.

I love to  find a quote or a poem, type it up in the font that captures its essence – or find it on Pinterest– and print it out, and then put it in a place where I’ll come across it when I least expect it.

For example, I have Zen pictures and quotes scattered about my desk drawer, my sock drawer, my glove compartment, my laptop bag, my pencil case, my wallet, and my luggage. I purposefully forget where I put them so when I do come across them, I’m delighted to discover a moment of Zen.

Today I came home to find a package on my step that was held together by packing tape that declared, “You are adored.”  It really didn’t matter what was in it after that. Just seeing that message on the outside made me feel adored.

Inside I found a few magnets to adorn my refrigerator. They quickly became the catalyst for today’s post. (Because I can’t write about my new puppy every day.)

Because you are getting a lot of stuff done 1×31 this month, I’ll leave you with this quote from Mike Dooley.

“The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things.”

Take 5-15 minutes today to look up a quote or poem and commit it to memory.  Like knowing at least one clean joke, knowing this can make your world a brighter place.

Share your favorites in the comments below.

Don’t know any great poets?  May I suggest David Whyte, Heidi Rose Robbins, Mary Oliver, Hafiz, Rumi, Derek Walcott, or Pablo Naruda?  Or you could read one of Roger Housden’s Ten Poems series of books that introduce you to various poets.

 

 

 

Save

Gather Evidence of Good

Summer 2016 017

It’s Day 9 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s task is to gather evidence that the world is basically good.

You know how when you purchase a copper colored car and suddenly you notice copper colored cars everywhere? Well, it could be that there is a sudden influx of copper colored cars on the road, but it’s more likely that your reticular activating system has now put copper colored cars on its radar of important items.

Your reticular activating system is a small part of the brain with a big responsibility. Its job is to filter through the infinite amounts of incoming information and determine what is most important for you to know to stay alive and reach your goals.

The reason you need to know about this is so you can harness its power to help you gather evidence that the world is basically good, life supports you, and you have ample resources  ready to help you achieve whatever it is you are willing to commit to.

You already know there is more than enough evidence to convince you the opposite is true.  All you need to do is turn on the television, read a newspaper, look on the Internet, or relive a few of your favorite failures to “prove” it.

But today I challenge you to do the opposite. Counter every negative with a positive. For every insult you hear, offer a compliment. Should someone slam a door in your face, open one for someone else.

I guarantee you this will be challenging. 

But it will also be uplifting. And if you write it down in your optimist’s journal or take pictures of your findings as I suggested earlier this week, you will be blown away by all the goodness gathering around you.

Don’t believe me?  Just try it.  Make it a game. Give it a go. Actively seek out the silver linings.

It’s all in the way you choose to see, hear, or experience something.

As they say in metaphysics, “What you focus on expands.”

So let’s focus on the fabulous, shall we?

Leave your evidence that the world is good in the comments below and/or send me your suggestions for today’s playlist.

 

Here’s one that’s on mine.

Tell Me Something Good – Rufus and Chaka Khan – Gotta love the groovy outfits!

 

 

Wiggle Room

smiley faces on a pair of feet on all ten toes (VERY SHALLOW DOF

It’s Day 6 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.

Today’s challenge might be the most difficult one yet for you diligent doers. Today’s task is to relax the reigns a bit and give yourself some wiggle room.

What?” you ask. “We’re just getting started and you’re already going soft on me?”

No. I’m just reminding you that we’re all human, stuff happens, and sometimes we have to open ourselves up to the possibility that we might not always have control over what gets done when. I call this moving at the pace of grace.

For example, while my brain had a list of what I would get done today, my body had an entirely different idea.

You see, last night I made the mistake of eating something that didn’t agree with me. At all. I tried walking it off and then sleeping it off, but somewhere around 1:49, 2:37, 4:18, or 5:55, I knew this was not an ignore it and it will go away situation.

Still I attempted to override my belly’s protests and go to work anyway.  A few hours later I found myself back home in bed.

Faced with the reality that I would not get nearly enough stuff done at work or at home, I decided to look at it from a different perspective.

I work at being as healthy as possible. I seldom think about how having an illness or a chronic health issue might hinder my ability to get stuff done, not to mention affect my attitude about having to do it in the first place.

But today, I got to feel what it’s like to try to bulldoze my way through some very specific physical and emotional feedback. It wasn’t one bit fun.

Whatever was going on in my digestive track wasn’t responding to more demands. It did, however, respond most favorably to rest and relaxation.

I am a certified eating psychology coach.  I encourage people every day to listen to and honor their body’s wisdom.

Practicing what I preach was today’s biggest challenge. I might have totally overlooked it if not for today’s forced detour.

What about you? Where might you relax the reigns on your expectations of yourself or other people? What unexpected situation brought about an insight or experience you may not have gained without it? How can you be kinder and more responsive to the feedback your body has for you?

Share if you dare in the comments below.

 

 

 

Oh, to “Bee” a SCAD Grad

SCAD

“Once a bee, always a bee.”

Not the rally cry heard at most universities focused on football and other achievements in sports or even academics, but a promise made by Paula Wallace, president of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

I graduated from a college known for producing teachers. Although I knew I was not cut out to be a teacher in the conventional sense, I’ve always been one in the unconventional sense. As an educator and academic advisor, I’m not convinced conventional education serves everyone. Especially the creatively quirky ones.

When I attended my niece’s graduation from SCAD last weekend, I realized why.  Celebrating the achievements of these eloquent writers, devoted designers, illustrious illustrators, innovative architects, visual and sound artists, advertisers, fashion merchandisers, and gamers, I instinctively knew that finding the right educational environment made this moment possible for many of them. Their dreams might not have survived a conventional approach.

Had I known about SCAD when I was considering college, surely I would have gravitated towards it. But at the time, I didn’t know such a place existed.

So I carved out a creative life on my own. Slowly. Over time. Wandering around the desert with my dog.

As Barbara Sher says, “Isolation is the dream killer.

Consequently, I can appreciate the value of a college for creative careers that focuses on creativity, community, and collaboration. I swarm to that like a bee to honey.

In this brave, new world of instant and constant connection, there really is no excuse to hide out as an artist or creative person. There is always someone, somewhere who will “get you“, who will see, understand, and be empowered by your creativity. No matter how old you happen to be.

And while art school might have been or still might be a pipe dream for many of us (because art school is expensive), where there’s a will, there is often a way. Figuring out how to get there – wherever your Promised Land may be – is part of what makes arriving so satisfying.

As the confetti fell from the ceiling and the acrobats twirled overhead, I contemplated the opportunities that await these gifted graduates. I felt inspired not just by these students but by anyone who has the courage to create.

In my world, there is a special place in heaven reserved for those who make life bearable by sharing their art and the beauty of their words, their music, or their creative visions. (There is also a special place for those who make indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and clean, safe drinking water possible.)

You don’t have to go to art school to create something meaningful, beautiful, innovative, or excellent. You don’t have to graduate from any institution to prove your value, your worth, your right to be here, and your need to contribute.

It is something to be proud of, for sure. The connections made and the experience gained from any educational experience will serve you for years to come.

But so will showing up every day not just with your degrees, portfolio, client list, and resume, but with your palpable passion, clear purpose, endless curiosity, and open heart.

Oh, to “bee” a SCAD grad would be an honor, indeed. But so is being all of who you are and not being afraid to bring that to the table over and over again.

I’d love to hear about your “graduation” – from school, from a relationship, from a job, from a place – in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventure Begins

Bright Pink Sky with Adventure Quote

There was an unusually large crowd at the airport at 5am on Thursday morning. Although I knew it was my day to travel, I didn’t know I know it was also the day local veterans were traveling to Washington, D.C. as part of the famed Honor Flight.

Even though we were headed in different directions, we all had to get through security at roughly the same time. Consequently, I had several opportunities to practice my stress management skills as the media descended upon these war heroes and threatened to derail my imminent departure.

Having been the last one to board a plane in the past,  I knew what the walk of shame to my seat at the back of the plane felt like. I had no interest in experiencing it again.

Despite being a seasoned traveler, getting from here to there still unnerves me. There are many things I could do to become a better traveler. Pack less. Arrive early. Bring snacks. Have a travel buddy. Take sedatives. Stay home.

The very act of traveling means I surrender control of most things with the exception of my attitude. And I can only control that when I stay present and positive.

Thursday’s journey led me through fog in Iowa, snow in Denver, and rain in Texas. Someone had mistakenly taken my seat on the first flight. This set off the equivalent of a Chinese fire drill for the rest of us scrambling to find our assigned seats.

All of the iTunes purchases I had diligently transferred to “the cloud” were apparently stuck there, waiting to be downloaded, and were unavailable to me when I was literally in the clouds wanting to hear them.

Because I depend so heavily on my playlists to transport me to my calm and quiet place, this discovery was especially disconcerting. Fortunately, I had a few meditation apps on my phone and could listen to those as we lifted off and landed.

When things fail to go as expected I can get cranky or I can get creative.

About a week before I travel, present, or do anything outside my comfort zone, I start stressing out. About a day before lift off,  I’m downright difficult and berate myself for thinking the trip, the talk, or the big event was a good idea in the first place. The truth is by this point I’m terrified, so I’m a tyrant.

But once I get to the other side, I’m deeply grateful I had the courage to leap into the unknown. For instance, Austin was a damp and gloomy place when I arrived. Because I’ve lived in Texas, I know how quickly the weather can change. And let’s face it. It’s Austin – capitol, creative mecca, home to SXSW and all things techy. What’s not to love about Austin – even on a rainy day?

When my Uber driver arrived 5 minutes after I called like clockwork and charged me $10 for the usual $35 cab ride, I realized most adventures are worth the effort required to arrange them. When the hotel let me check in at noon instead of 3pm, I knew the tide was turning. When I managed to walk around town for a couple of hours and not get lost, my confidence returned.

Suddenly the sun came out and dried up all the rain so I headed to the pool. When someone came up to me and asked, “Penny?“, I knew I was not going to be friendless for four days. An old UNI alum who I hadn’t seen since the 80s was here to attend the same coaching workshop with Martha Beck and her wonderful wayfinders that I was.

When I think about the day I might have had if this were my normal Thursday, I doubt I would have had much to blog about. At 4:30pm when I wrote this and had been awake for well over 12 hours, the day’s biggest adventure hadn’t even begun.

At 6pm I met 30 new friends from across the country when we all attended Susan Hyatt’s Girlfriends Gone Wild dinner party.  No one could believe the story of the unexpected reunion with my college friend or the fact that we were both dressed similarly and wore almost identical leopard shoes.

I’m sure I’ll have much more to blog about in the next 72 hours. In the meantime, let my adventure spark one of your own.  I’m here to tell you, contrary to what fear tells you, adventures are the antidote to whatever ails you. Let them begin!

Take A Hike, Valentine

Penny's iphone 2016 824

Asking my Valentine to take a hike was the best thing I could have done this Valentine’s Day. Now, before you think this is the reason I’ve been single all of my life, let me explain.

Over the years, I’ve found that taking a hike with someone you love is a natural way to bond with them. Getting outside, moving your body, and connecting with the earth has a way of grounding a relationship and opening up conversations to new perspectives, insights, and influences that may not be present in familiar, indoor environments.

A few weeks ago I realized the stress that had been accumulating since December definitely needed to be diffused. I have a couple of presentations coming up at the end of the month that require me to be fully present and aligned with my message. Stressing about it only makes me less available to “aha” moments.

Knowing the state I can work myself into prior to public speaking, I decided the best thing I could do was to head to my power place and relax into the upcoming challenge.

For me this place is the Southwest. The solidarity of the mountains and the solar power of a high desert sun recharge my batteries like nothing else. Rekindling my love affair with the landscape and the architecture does wonders for my spirit.

Listening to the urgency of my insistent soul, I set my sights on St. George, Utah. Then I told my Valentine to take a hike – with me, of course!

Maybe it was all that male bonding he’s been up to lately over activities I want no part of that made him eagerly agree to accompany me to the desert. Or maybe we both need to escape Iowa winters in February. Whatever the case, an amazing thing happened on the way to Utah.

First, I lost my iPad. Or so I thought. This led to a meltdown that left me in tears from Cedar Rapids to Denver. Luckily I still had my iPod with me and could console myself with Snatum Kaur, whose music I can only describe as transcendent.  I needed something to lift me as far from my funk as the plane was from the ground. Snatum is a Sikh which means I don’t always understand what she is singing about. But she sings like an angel and her voice was the antidote to my angst.

I imagined her words translated to some variation of the following: “Let it go. Not just the iPad but the stress and all the accumulated hurts and slights and disappointments. Let go of  your expectations that it should have been any different or that people should behave differently than they do. Let go of the striving and relentless drive to prove yourself.” Because her voice radiated love and understanding, it produced ongoing waterworks.

This was followed by a reminder from Michael Bublé that I needed to say something other than, “Take a hike!” to my Valentine. As Michael and Naturally 7 belted out “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” I took the ear pod from my left ear and stuck it in Bob’s right ear.

Fearing that the meltdown might have had something to do with him, he visibly relaxed when he realized the crying jag had come to a conclusion. Just as we had left the cold and snow in Iowa, I had checked my stress and presumably my iPad at the gate.

As we made our connection in Denver to St. George, the laughter and lightness returned along with the excitement that we were headed someplace spectacular. We arrived to sunny skies and warm temperatures and a van waiting to take us to our dream destination. Admittedly, my dream destination – Red Mountain Resort.

Greeted by a gracious staff, incredible views, and the most delicious and nutritious foods that we won’t have to prepare ourselves, I’m pretty sure we landed in heaven.

I love labyrinths and discovered one onsite within the first hour. As I circled around and back I thought of how few trips around the sun we get to make. Life is really too short to get so worked up about stuff I have no control over. Sometimes I simply need a little distance from it.

This morning we took a remarkable hike into the Snow Canyon State Park and explored the red sand dunes and Snow Canyon trail. I had a record 14572 steps before noon. We got back just in time for a delicious meal and afternoon guided meditation.

This, of course, led to an afternoon nap for Bob while I wrote. This was followed by stretch class, an exquisite dinner, and a gathering of new friends at the hot tub.

So now, my funny valentines, I must leave you.  As naturalist John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”  Zion National Park awaits.

I will, however, leave you with this Valentine suggestion, which I say with love. Please…. if you know what’s good for you… take a hike!