The New Normal

The last day of what I would characterize as ‘normalcy’ to me was Thursday, March 12th. That was the last day I went about my normal routine: wake up, yoga/stretching, morning tea time with the hubby, breakfast, running around the house to get me ready, the kiddos ready, lunches packed, book bags packed, work bag packed and ready to begin another crazy day in our life. Little did I know how much the world would change in just a few short months.

Fast forward to Wednesday, July 1st where I would take a break from ‘the new normal’. The morning started in a similar fashion to the old: wake up, yoga/stretching, morning tea time with the hubby…but it was less stressful. The drumbeat of the ticking time clock was gone. I didn’t have to be anywhere at any specific time – yes, I had to get ready for work and actually physically go in to the office for a few hours, but the micro minute, under the gun schedule was removed.

I was asked to head into work to greet customers and escort them to our lab. I was nervous at first: what if I’m exposed! (The horror!) But then I quickly realized that my trip there was likely safer than our weekly trips to the grocery store and golf course due to the weekly cleanings and reduced interactions with employees. The entire workforce had been directed to work from home as of the end of March, with the exception of a small group of employees that were required to be on site.

As I was getting ready, I was reminded of my first days returning to work from maternity leave. After months of yoga pants and messy buns, the refreshing morning ritual of shower, hair/make-up and getting dressed into non-yoga clothes was refreshing. And I giggled to myself as I was putting make up on, transported back to that first day back to work from maternity leave, where I distinctly remember humming “I feel pretty, oh so pretty” from West Side Story. Curious if my work clothes still fit and if I faced the amusing ‘Covid-19’ weight gain, I cautiously stepped into my work pants and slowly zipped/buttoned. With a wince on my face, I breathed a sigh of relief – it fits! That same cautiously optimistic demeanor continued as I put in my earrings – phew, they didn’t close!

I kissed the family, and headed out the door and enjoyed the next 10 minutes of complete silence. It was completely glorious and somewhat meditative, reminding me of how important those ‘brain breaks’ are during the day. Prior to March 12th, I took for granted the commute to and from work, which I realize now is so critically important, allowing you to regroup and mentally prepare for whatever phase you are transitioning to: Mama to Leader or vice versa.

The biggest takeaway I had of the day had to do with the interactions with my team at work, those few members who were required to be onsite, and with the customer. I definitely noticed a shift in the communication: more focused, intent listening, intent eye contact driving connection. Since our mouths are covered, we seem to be using our eyes as the connection point to demonstrate we are committed to the conversation, which is exactly how it should be, but we were so preoccupied in the past.

I remember having a conversation with the hubby at the start of the year talking about how busy were were, how over scheduled our lives seemed to be and that now, is gone. My ‘attitude of gratitude’ has grown exponentially over the past three months and I feel more alive and awake than ever before. Recreating the simple task I executed every day prior to March 12th brought a realization of how much I was operating on autopilot before, and how much more in-tune I seem to be in this new normal. 2020 has brought in a new decade, and a new normal, one that we could not have expected. Every day appears to have a new challenge to deal with and while many days are scary, and we do not know what the future holds, there is hope in recognizing and embracing this new normal.

Book Review: Golf’s Sacred Journey

One of my absolute favorite activities is randomly sending books to my friends. Sometimes, it’s a ‘just because’ moment and at other times, what I’ve read makes me think of them. I know they are going through a hard time, or faced with a challenging situation and I have a feeling the selected book can help. It’s my signature mark. Rarely am I on the receiving end.

On Friday night, the boys alerted me to a package on the front porch. They know the drill in this COVID environment: no one touches anything until Mama has a chance to sanitize the package. I opened the door and looked down at the yellow padded envelope. A huge grin formed spanning ear to ear as I glanced at who sent the package. I instantly knew that whatever was in the package, was going to be great. Pam only sends the best over. Just as the book says, “Every so often in life, an extraordinary relationship unfolds in the most unexpected place.”

What was in the package? Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days At The Links of Utopia and TIME magazine with selected articles on Success. This woman knows me. We met a few years ago when I moved to Virginia and instantly formed a tight connection. She is a fierce, passionate lady who loves life. She speaks her mind, and is the type of friend that tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. If I had to sum her up on one word, it would be genuine (and firecracker).

I opened the book, read the first chapter to the kiddos for their bedtime story. My first thought: ‘This is good!’ The book is so wonderfully written with such descriptive detail that the movie unfolds in your mind. The book chronicles the journey of a superficial golfer who is on the brink of making it on the PGA tour but disaster strikes on his tournament. Not wanting to face his fans, or the press, he quickly scurries out of town and is faced with a crossroads. One way is a sign to ‘Utopia’, and the other…another Texas town. He chooses ‘Utopia’ and steps in to his destiny.

While in Utopia, he meets the wise sage, Johnny who offers him to spend a week in Utopia with him and guarantees at the end of the week his life would be changed. While the lessons were formed around golf, they had a deeper meaning. He learns how to trust himself, leveraging the confidence that is within and forcing himself to think deeply about why he behaves the way he does building up a solid foundation.

Johnny educates him on the importance of reflection…how appropriate is that in life, especially now, and highlights that contemplation is crucial in the change process. I don’t know about you, but in the pre-COVID environment I was in a ‘go-go-go’ state of mind, and now, COVID has forced the family (and me) to slow down. What do I want in life? What do I want to be? What kind of legacy do I want to leave?

Johnny shares a three word mantra that forms the base of the golfer’s transformation – see, feel, trust. And that mantra is applicable not only to golf, but whatever situation/goal you are faced with in life. In order to achieve it, you have to see it. Your training has set you up and taught you the next steps, intuitively, of what’s required and finally, it’s time to execute and trust yourself.

The daily teachings and transformation that the golfer went through was so exciting to watch. BUT. Nothing prepared me for Chapter 9 – tears flowed the entire time. It was at this point, the golfer realized that his life has a deeper meaning, and that meaning is driven by God. Once again, the wise sage delivers: “It is our job to seek God and listen to His calling for our lives, I believe that He sent me to you at this time in your life.” It is at this point, the golfer realizes that he has a purpose – he doesn’t know what it is going to be used for yet, but he soon finds out. He accepts God, and decides to carry on a life steeped in fulfilling his God given potential.

This book is a fantastic, feel good, highly applicable read. Filled with motivational nuggets throughout the book, sports psychologist David Cook delivers on an outstanding, motivational and highly applicable resource for all golfers, leaders and purpose seekers alike. This book has found its home on my shelf filled with the few books that meet this outstanding quality: The Book of Joy, A New Earth, The Alchemist, Big Magic and The Labyrinth Influence. I hope you enjoy!

Seek to Understand In Challenging Times

My “intentional” effort to remove Facebook on my phone has ceased with the Coronavirus epidemic. A full recognition that FB acts as a source of news, ideas on how to keep your kiddos busy admist the ‘homeschooling’ journey we all are on and a source of inspiration for random acts of kindness, I granted myself relief from the restriction I placed earlier in the year.

I noticed, however, that FB is still full of the political attacks from one person to another. I posted the video of Dr. Fauci struggling to hold it together while Trump announced the “…Deep State Department”, and immediately, was overrun by political comments. The readers assumed ill-will in my post; I thought it was simply funny and imagined how I would have kept myself together, knowing that once I get giddy, there’s no turning back.

That exchange reminded me of a post I had written for one of my prior blogs, which is extremely relevant given today’s environment. I’ve included it here today for your reading pleasure, and a challenge to “seek to understand, then to be understood.”

Diversity, Acceptance and Dialogue

On most weekdays, I call my Dad after I drop the kiddos off at day-care/school while I’m driving to work.  I’ve been doing this pretty much every day since I started my professional career. He’s a great sounding board for when I’m problem solving life.  Sometimes it’s brief and we only talk for a few minutes; others, like today, we talk the entire time until he hears my footsteps in the stairwell signaling that it’s time to go.

This morning’s topic: the debate.  If you saw my Facebook post, you could probably sense my frustration.  In the words of Pope Francis, what the world needs now is Peace.  Peace is obtained through DIALOGUE – a persistent, patient, strong, intelligent dialogue. The debate was far from that – accusations, he said/she said, his insult, her insult and no dialogue.  None. The moderators asked one question, and the candidates chose to answer their own question – not relating to the original question that was asked.  No dialogue.  No debate.  Just insults.  

For the record, I’m not a fan of either candidate and in turning in my Florida voter registration today, I almost selected the ‘Independent’ box.  

My Dad, who I think is a Trump supporter was arguing the perks to having him take the Presidency – as an example, Trump used the Government loopholes to his benefit and having him in office would fix those loopholes preventing others, like him, from taking advantage.  My challenge: if he found those loopholes, why would he try to prevent anyone from doing the same? I argued the good and the bad about Clinton.  Dad listened.  

And you know what I loved? The conversation was full of excitement – it was heated, when one made a point, the other was waiting to insert their view of the world.  And after every point made by either me or my Dad, the comment was “I see your point.” Not I agree, or I disagree or you’re wrong but I see your point.  I shared my perspectives from being a woman and growing up in my generation and my Dad shared his perspectives from growing up in his generation.  I left that conversation fully fulfilled, energized and ready to tackle work (and somewhat sad that the debate that just started had to end…but Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away.)

Then I started thinking and watching.  Facebook is littered with pro-Trump and pro-Hillary posts and some of my friends started debating – but it wasn’t the ‘I see your point’ that I enjoyed earlier with my Dad, it was ‘you’re wrong’ for having your viewpoint.  

And then I did some more thinking.  We have a two-party system in this country, where we take ‘like-minded’ folks and try to implement policies that benefit that party.  How, on earth, does that make any sense? Over the past 15+ years, the workplace has been focused on advancing diversity and inclusion and study after study has shown how bringing together people with DIFFERENT backgrounds, DIFFERENT views provides a better result, bigger bottom-line growth for the company.  It seems like we’re doing this everywhere but our government.  Over the past few years, we’ve seen how the party system failed, congress couldn’t reach an agreement and as a result everyone suffered.  Some individuals are so wrapped up in their ‘belonging’ to a group as a Republican or Democrat, that it’s blinding them from seeing the potential solution. And as a result, our nation suffers but more importantly, our children’s future suffers.  Instead of talking about the problem, and getting viewpoints on possible solutions, our congressional leaders look through the lens of their belonging and fail to resolve the problems.  Can you IMAGINE what the workplace would be like if every employee declared their party affiliation prior to a meeting? Every company would go bankrupt.     

What I would like to see in the next debate is Hillary and Trump discussing their views and policies and having a dialogue, challenging them to be better, challenging them to ‘think outside the box’ and work together to solve the problems that we are facing as a nation.  That is idealistic, I know.  

So I challenge you – the next time you happen to engage in a debate or discussion, share your views but consider the perspective of the other person.  Engage and welcome the dialogue.  

Family Vacation? Just kidding…

“People make plans, and God laughs.”  

That’s how the old saying goes, or at least that’s how I remember hearing that quote.  I don’t think God was laughing at me this week, rather I suspect He was holding me up and looking out for me, but the unfolding of this week was a great reminder of how volatile life can be.  It was a slap-in-the-face wake up call reminding me that I have a dream, and I better start making plans and taking actions to make that dream a reality.  

About eight months ago, we decided to take a family vacation to Hawaii over spring break.  It started with a week in Maui, and then we decided to tack on a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines of the Hawaiian Islands.  Fifteen years ago, we went on a similar journey, only that journey included our marraige, a wedding on the beautiful white sand beach of Makena Cove, or ‘The Secret Cove’ beach on Maui.  After we realized we recreated our wedding trip, we thought it would be fun to renew our vows, since it was our fifteen year anniversary and what a better way to celebrate than with our beautiful boys.  

After we decided on the plan, I visited our local bookstore and picked up a beautiful Dot Grid Planning Notebook to capture all of the plans – the logistics, itinerary, adventures, etc.  We started a family countdown and everyone was eager to embark on the family journey across the US to the beautiful islands of Hawaii.  

Only…I had a ominous feeling that it wasn’t going to come through to fruition and in fact, at work last week, I sent my husband a text and said “I have an ominous feeling we’re not going to Hawaii.”  

Two weeks ago  I noticed that I wasn’t feeling quite right.  I drink a ton of water during the day, and often frequent the restroom between meetings, doing my business and not thinking anything of it only I realized that I really had to focus to empty my bladder.  And what felt like a full bladder, ended up with only a few trickles.  “Hmmm…something’s going on.”  I assumed I was getting a UTI so I made a mental note to keep an eye on it went about my day.  It got worse over the weekend so on Sunday morning, 12 days before our trip, I decided to head to the Urgent Care.  Better get this taken care of before the cruise.  I went in to urgent care and ‘led the witness’.  “I think I have a UTI” and I reviewed my symptoms – loss of appetite, frequent urination, pressure in my lower abdomen, dull ache on my lower right back.  They did a urine culture which came back negative but she sent it out for a culture as when caught early, it sometimes doesn’t show up; she prescribed me with an antibiotic and I was convinced I would be healed.  

Only, that night, something just didn’t sit well with me.  I looked up the symptoms of appendicitis…oh my goodness, I have all of the symptoms.  (Sigh). I waited until Wednesday, still not having relief and while at work, asked a co-worker if she wanted to take a walk for coffee – something I used to enjoy but lately, has not been pleasant.  I was telling her of the symptoms, and said “we’re going on a trip, I don’t have time for this, I’m sure it’ll get better.”  She shared some experiences that she had and said “You need to go back to your desk and schedule a follow-up with the doctor.  This is serious, whatever it is. You need peace of mind.”  So I did just that.  

The doctor said that the symptoms didn’t necessarily sound like appendicitis but rather an ovarian cyst and she put in an order to have an ultrasound done – Monday – 4 days before we were to depart.  

Monday morning rolled around and I was energetically ready to start the week – a lot to be done, but our vacation was finally only a few days away.  A new Club Pilates facility opened near by and Monday was their first day of classes.  I was scheduled for the 6 am class.  My alarm was set, clothes all laid out only through Sunday night, I kept having an odd feeling that I shouldn’t go.  Something’s not right. The alarm rang to get me up in time, and I shut it off.  Hubby thought I slept in, but I intentionally decided not to go.  I shrugged it off as “whoops – guess I was more tired than I thought.”  I started the day and felt great.  Whatever I had must be on the mend…there’s no need for me to go to the Ultrasound.  I had a few meetings in the morning so I sent my hubby a text and said “You know what, I feel fine. I’m sure I’m on the mend. Can you call the Imaging Center and cancel my appointment.”  I got a text back “Done.”  

And then, out of the blue, my high school friend Kristin and her cousin Sarah popped into my head.  Now as a side bar, I’ve been trying to be more diligent about where I spend my time, and made a deliberate effort to remove Facebook off of my phone and limit the time I was spending on the app.  Kristin and I keep in touch through Facebook and since my deliberate avoidance of Facebook, there had been no reason for them to come into my mind – I didn’t see a post, had no idea what she was up to.  The odd thing, is that her cousin passed away several years ago to Ovarian Cancer. “You owe it to yourself to get this checked out” passed through my mind.  

I sent Hubby a text again “Can you call them back?”  I went to the appointment, fully knowing that the technicians aren’t allowed to say anything about what they are seeing.  I am a by the book rule follower but decided to try “I don’t suppose you can tell me if you see anything.” And her response “Let’s say I see what’s causing your problem.”  I looked up at the white sandy palm tree filled beach that was on the ceiling, meant to calm patients and thought ‘that’s as close to a Hawaii beach as I’m going to see.”  

The doctors called that night, and it turns out I have a large mass on my ovary – 9.5 x 8 x 6 cm.  The size of a large coffee mug.  Now. I’m not a very large person, 5′, 105 pounds – when they told me the size, I made a model out of post it notes on my desk and realized this mass was about a quarter of the size of my torso.  Fast forward to the end of the week – our vacation has been cancelled, I’ve been tested for Ovarian Cancer and am awaiting the results, and have a follow up with a Gynecological Oncologist to have the ovary removed in 2-4 weeks.  

As I’m sitting here writing this, Hawaii seems like a distant dream but it’s been a refreshing reminder of how precious and volatile life truly is.  I do have dreams, to become an author, and this week made me realize that I need to turn my dreams into plans and start making focused efforts to get there.  

You may wonder how I’m holding up, and I will tell you surprisingly well. This week was horrible as we had no plans – were we going on vacation or not? is there something going on or not? do I have cancer or not? But after the official diagnosis, and the path forward set by my doctor, I’m doing ok. We have a plan and there are things that are just simply out of my control. I spent some time today just relaxing, visiting a local bookstore and starting to stock up on my book pile while I’m down and out recovering from surgery and bought myself a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

And as the painting on the wall reminds me “Be Strong and of Good Courage. Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you where you go.” Joshua 1:9.

“Intentional” About 2020

Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2020? I certainly cannot. I distinctly remember the chaos of the “2000” new year just like it was yesterday. In the days leading up to the celebratory day, I took some time to think about the past year, and about how I wanted 2020 to look and all the things I wanted to accomplish. One of my favorite sayings is “People make plans, and God laughs,” so I’m fully aware that my plans may not come to fruition, but I wanted to do a better job, be more focused and deliberate in the coming days.

My first step was to decide on a key word for 2020: one word that could ground me and serve as the centering point if I venture off course. I chose the word ‘INTENTIONAL’. I want all of my actions to be intentional, to help drive me and my family towards our goals. In my 2019 inventory, I realized the crazy amount of time wasted on social media accounts so along with setting the word, I deliberately removed the social media apps from my phone. I can still access them when I’m at my computer, but gone are the days of wasting time while sitting on the couch when I could be engaging with my family, waiting for a doctors appointment, or the many other times we pick up the phone and disconnect from reality to engage in the virtual world. I want to be resourceful and intentional with the most precious element we’re give in life.

When I shared my word with the family, they all wanted a word (and boy can I tell you this was THE BEST decision for my little dude…his word is PATIENCE, and all I have to do when he’s lacking some is to ask what is word is and it simply clicks! GENIUS MOM moment, if I do say so myself!)

I displayed our words on our ‘Command Central’ located on the side of the refrigerator and every week, plan to update with a quote – something for us to talk about at dinner. The quote for this first week:

“Whether you think you CAN or you CAN’T, you are right!”

In terms of my work life, I decided to adopt the focus word and created a ‘word of the week’ to help me at work. I chose ‘calm‘ for this, my first week back from the two week holiday break and I am amazed by how visually seeing that word daily, helped me to focus, to not get spun up over nonsense and to remain, well…calm! I plan to share my ‘Focus Word of the Week’ on my Ginny Dandy Instagram page, so be sure to follow!

Lastly, I’ve decided to take the following intentional acts:

  • I’m starting each day with devotions – reading ‘The Daily Bible | 365 Daily Readings’ as well as ‘The Intellectual Devotional’. I’ve always wanted to read the Bible, and this version helps to reinforce what you are reading with explanations and clarifications. Because you read 2-3 pages a day, it helps with the retention. And can I say ‘BOY – were things messed up in Genesis!’
  • After my readings, I wake the hubby and we start our morning each day with our T-Time (morning ‘tea’ time, that is…or in my case, cappuccino). This week was a bit rocky getting back into the swing of things BUT, we started this tradition back in October and it has been wonderful for our relationship. Two rules: no planning, no cell phones, just talking.
  • Targeting a 2-3 day/week workout and I discovered the ‘Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘ workout (or RBG for short). It’s a 25 min workout, which is totally doable for the busy working mama, and is a mix between cardio, weight lifting, stretching and ending with cardio. I am really enjoying it.
  • Getting serious about my writing – blogging but most importantly, focusing on writing my children’s book. Everyone who knows me, knows that I’ve always wanted to write a book. I have SO MANY ideas in my head, but in the past, that’s where they stayed. In the sprit of being INTENTIONAL, I am DETERMINED to become a PUBLISHED AUTHOR in 2020.

My focus: being INTENTIONAL, focusing on my health, and writing. Everything else that happens in 2020 is just icing on the cake!

Thanksgiving

A time when you leave the life you’ve created, and travel back in time with extended family to reminisce about years past and create new memories. Full of excitement, anticipation and expectations about how the day (or week) will unfold.

I had a realization this morning that in some instances, my visit with family is framed by the teachings behind ‘Crucial Conversations’: when stakes are high, there’s opposing views and strong emotions. In an environment like that, it’s easy to get thrown off course.

A family that all grew up together in (very) rural PA, we’ve ventured far and wide and all have created a different life, with different experiences and expectations for the same holiday.

I’ll be the first to admit that, being a self-proclaimed control freak, I enjoy being in control and orchestrating the days events; Thanksgiving continues to be a fantastic teaching opportunity, reminding me to slow-down, be grateful and accept and appreciate every member of my family, “just the way they are.”

Wishing you and yours a joyous, blessed and memory filled holiday!

A Pittsburgh Gem

I absolutely love visiting Independent book stores. There is something nostalgic that happens each time I grab the handle to open the door to a new paradise; it brings up fond memories of visiting book stores with my Grandma, wondering what treasures would end up in my bag, and the anticipation of the journey I was about to embark on.

I have a life goal of opening up my own Independent bookstore one day, so anytime I am on travel, I love to explore the unique stores and take an inventory of what I like of each store.

Our Thanksgiving trip this year started with a trip to Pittsburgh to celebrate ‘Friendsgiving’ with my dear friend from high school and her family. As that visit came to an end and we started our journey across Western PA for our family Thanksgiving festivities, we stopped by a quaint shop down the road from Pittsburgh’s Little Italy, The White Whale Bookstore.

A quaint, small, gallery like store, it was bursting with the excitement that surfaces in every bookstore.

We carefully perused each section, from new releases, to bestsellers, to a feature of Pittsburgh authors. My observant husband found the table of autographed books and enthusiastically browsed each one.

My kiddos quickly navigated to the simple, yet abundant kids section in the store. We have two different readers in the house: a beginning reader and a middle grade reader and the kids section appealed to both.

Oddly, my middle grade reader picked up the new release and adaptation of one of our favorites ‘My (The) Book With No Pictures’ and my beginning reader was enthralled by the graphic novel ‘Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties’; he picked it up, found a seat and looked through the pictures.

My oldest was significantly disappointed that his brother chose book 3 in the ‘Dog Man’ series and the two had a serious debate, which amused the other visitors, about why his brother should start at the beginning of the series. Ultimately, my oldest lost the debate, but not without adding the first book in the series to our pile. I was smiling on the inside, pleased with the conversation between the two, and gave myself a silent pat on the back.

As we were checking out, I looked to my left and saw a beautiful display of unique wrapping paper, draped over the rungs of a display ladder. Oh how I would love to receive books wrapped in that paper! And what a clever idea, note to self for my bookstore!

In my visits to Independent Book Stores, I love to look for unique bindings of classic books. The White Whale did not disappoint. As you walk into the store, there is a rustic, ladder bookshelf to the left and on the top shelf, I found exactly what I wanted. I originally picked up ‘Tess of the D’ubervilles’ as I am partial to the name, but opted to go with Emma, by Jane Austen. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the movie will be coming out in February.

The White Whale was a wonderful store, full of Pittsburgh nostalgia, and I was pleased to see the numerous books about Fred Rogers and ‘Mister Rogers Neighborhood’. As a kindness advocate myself, I quickly scooped up the book. I’m only a few pages in, but am loving the story of a man that shaped my childhood and nurtured a love of kindness.

After our travels “home”, I snuggled under a warm blanket (a staple for this Florida resident in frigid PA ), and fanned the pages of the book. I stopped on the following quote at the start of Part II:

“The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away.” — Fred Rogers

If you happen to be in the Pittsburgh area, definitely stop in to visit this gem. And, if you have any recommendations of unique Independent Book Stores I should add to my list, please comment below! Happy Reading!!

Burstiness and Big Magic

During my last business trip (two weeks ago), my flight book was ‘No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work‘ ; I learned about the concept of ‘BURSTINESS‘ – creating a safe space for your team where everyone feels comfortable speaking up which leads to creative ideas BURSTING out of the room. This concept of ‘BURSTINESS’ was the ultimate takeaway from the book and one that I’ve tried to cultivate for the past 2 weeks.

This week’s flight book was intended for Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Talking to Strangers‘, a Next Big Idea Book Club selection, but right before I was to depart for the airport, I stopped by my (personal) library and swapped my traveling companion for ‘Big Magic‘ by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I have one word for what I experienced on that flight:

BURSTINESS!!!

From the get-go, I was consumed by Elizabeth’s easy narration and a quick story of how she experienced her ‘Big Magic’, which made me pause to think about a story I am actively working on and how several seemingly independent ideas all merged together to create the perfect plan. In fact, the ideas all independently came to me over the course of several years, but reading Liz’s ‘Amazon’ story made me realize the connectedness of those seemingly independent ideas.

It also scared the shit out of me…if I didn’t cultivate the larger concept, that the idea could leave me to find another rightful owner to bring to life.

And then…BURSTINESS! In the margins of the book, I mapped out all of the ideas, connecting them together to form a perfectly imperfect project plan (I’m a program manager by trade, so having a plan is key to getting anything done!)

It also reminded me of a conversation I had recently with my mentor. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll have met the wondrous PJ. During our last discussion, I looked at her and said “I just don’t know what to do…I have a children’s book, an early reader, a leadership & spiritual book – ALL IN MY HEAD waiting to come out. My blog even, I don’t know what to do or where to start!”

And her advice:

“Oh, just pick one and go! You’re getting in your own way!”

We then proceeded to finish dinner and made our way around Disney Springs looking for the infamous Micky Ears. PJ is a fan of the color orange, so we looked and looked, seeking out those specific orange ears. Then, all of a sudden, we passed a rack of ‘donut ears’ and one was on the hook backwards, and the color: ORANGE!

We flipped the front teal bow from back to front, and voila, orange Micky Ears.

We paused, snapped a pic and made our last stop at Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company. While ordering, one of the Joffrey’s pins caught PJ’s eye, a sparkly donut pin, so she purchased and handed to me and thus “donut stand in your way” was born.

So you see, things are connected, if you let them come to you and stop resisting – the independent ideas that merged together over the years as well as me feeling completely overwhelmed, not knowing where to start on my writing journey or how to make any progress. PJs guidance to ‘pick one idea and move, looking for mickey ears which happened to be donuts, to the pin and my new mantra for writing: ‘donut stand in your way‘.

That my friends is…

BIG MAGIC!

Leadership: The Power of Connections

In early January 2015, I received a call from a long time friend who had just returned from our corporate training center.  “You have to meet her. She reminds me so much of you. High energy. She’s great.” 

In his typical style, he promptly sent a follow up email stating how he enjoyed working with PJ over the past week and introduced me, asking a favor to set up a mentoring call (the power of your network!)  Now the ball was in my court to follow up. And I didn’t. I let the email sit for weeks, months and finally in March, something at work triggered a ‘moment’ and I quickly scanned through my email. “Hi PJ, Sorry for taking so long to follow up.  Do you think we could set up a mentoring call?” 

Fast forward a few weeks later to what may be, to this day, the best mentoring session I ever had.  From the moment we started talking, I knew there was a connection.  She understood what I was saying, that I wanted something more, that I felt that I had more in me to give back. And everything she talked about, I had in my head.  The connection was unbelievable. 

She didn’t give me the typical mentoring advice.  She talked about ‘Bliss’ – finding your spot in the universe.  And how the hardest part in finding it was slowing down, releasing quiet, getting rid of expectations.  She gave me a lot to think about during our call, one of the most powerful was “What do you want people to see, to think about, when your gone?”

On our next call, she asked me if I tried meditating.  I thought for a moment and I said, “Well, I pray, does that count?”  Yes, it does.  But, praying is us talking to God, meditating is listening to the universe.  And that’s how I found out about Deepak and Oprah’s 21-day meditation challenge (there’s a new one coming up – Creating Peace from the Inside Out: https://chopracentermeditation.com).

Over the course of the 21 days, I became less focused on the outside world, more on the inside.  Life started to present signs that this was the right path and it was interesting how it was like unwrapping a Christmas gift, anticipating what was under all of the wrapping paper. The idea of a peaceful, purposeful, good news community to spread light was born during that 21 day meditation, and I’m still ‘unwrapping’ as I’ve embarked on the launch of the blogging world and community. 

Fast forward to New Years 2016 and the time to make those wonderful ‘New Years Resolutions.’  My focus for the year – “Body, Mind, Spirit’ and I used a dry erase marker to write on my bathroom mirror so I could see the focus every day.  Is it tough to stay focused? Absolutely! Especially as you are juggling a career, the household, meal planning, laundry, extra-curricular activities for the kiddos and often, when a free minute surfaces, you long for a 10 minute nap or a 10 minute uninterrupted conversation with they hubby vs. a 10 minute meditation.  It’s tough but, without the focus, you slowly get into a routine, “Groundhog’s Day” (though I’ve never seen the move, it’s a good analogy for doing the same thing over and over and over).   

So take the time, commit to yourself 10 minutes to sit quietly, reflect on your thoughts, your dreams, your focus because, in the words of PJ, “You can’t be the best you, until you invest in you.” 

Update: I wrote this post three years ago, and since then I’ve had such tremendous growth on my path to becoming an aspiring writer.  My connections and insights from PJ contined and in fact, if you read the last blog post on the Morning Ritual, you’ll see that she continues to provide influence into my life, sharing nuggets that help me on my journey.  So I ask you, what nuggets are you emparting on others? Are you paying it forward? And if not, why not? I guarentee you will learn more from yourself, and you will help pave the way for others to come after you.  

The Makings of a Morning Ritual

After five years of virtually connecting with my mentor, I was thrilled when she told me she was coming to Orlando for a conference and wanted to get together. We would finally get to meet in person. YAY! I could hardly contain my excitement. She pulled into the parking lot, I got out of my car, ran over to her and we embraced in a hug, swaying back and forth, both giddy with excitement. After the initial shock and excitement, it was as though we were two lifelong friends and the shock of meeting each other for the first time quickly wore off.

We chatted about EVERYTHING. From home, to work, career, my writing (which at that time was still swirling in my head trying to decide WHICH direction I wanted to go, paralyzing me from taking any direction at all)…and then she asked me the question:

“How often do you and your hubby talk?”

Silly question, I thought. We talk all the time. “No. Really talk…sit and talk, not about the kids or schedules, or where you have to be tomorrow, but just talk?” Hmmmmmm…..I knew the answer: we are so challenged by our schedule and activities that our conversation time was practically at a screeching halt!

In a serious voice, and some what in a stern motherly tone she leaned in and said “You need to find a way to connect. What about morning tea?” He’ll never go for it, I thought. I’m a morning person, he’s a night owl. We’re two opposite ends of the spectrum. I tried staying up at night to talk with him, and could barely function the next day. So, about a week after meeting with my mentor, I gathered up my courage and asked the dear hubby: “What do you think about getting up for coffee/tea in the morning and sitting on our front porch? Ground rules: no schedule talk, no cell phones.” His response: “Sure, sounds great!”

And so, the morning ritual started. Sure, I have to get up early to get in my morning bike or yoga, but we both know, and the kids know, that from 6:00 – 6:30, we’ll be on the front porch, drinking our tea or coffee. Sometimes we talk a lot, sometimes we talk very little, but that is our dedicated morning time and so far, so good!

So on this Sunday, my advice to you is to stop and pause, and truly think about the connections you have in your life. How can you make them better?