Surprise Yourself

My friend bought me a Dream Journal for my birthday last year. I eagerly opened it and began the process of building my dream life. The first section walks through questions about what you want in your future.  I get that, if I want to work towards my dreams, I must identify them. I dutifully began to answer the questions in each section, mapping out my life and vision methodically through their process. Until, I got to a question I couldn't answer. I didn't have any idea. And it seemed counter productive to put something down simply to fill in the blank. Not how I want to live my life. Or dream my dreams.

At first, I accepted my inability to give an answer, "It will come to me." I decided, and put the journal down. A few days went by and I was no closer to an answer to the question. I began to feel stressed. How could I move forward without knowing where I wanted to go? I put the journal down again. A few days later, I had a therapy session scheduled. And I brought the journal. I work with an amazing person, Lisa Apel, who has guided me through the death of my ex-husband & moving my dementia afflicted mother across the country. Surely she could give me insight into the answer.

I showed her the journal and shared my challenge. I had begun to feel a sense of urgency around it. I wanted to start the work process. Still stuck in the planning portion of the journal was holding me back. As I explained the stumbling block and my lack of knowing the answer to one of the dream questions, she listened patiently. When I finished, she said, "Well you don't have to have every question answered to start moving forward in one area." 

What? *blink* I looked blankly at her as years of "be prepared" collided with her simple statement. "You mean, it's my life and my dreams. I can do what I know now. I don't have to know everything I will ever want to do or be in this moment to be able to start on my path?" Saying it out loud highlighted how ridiculous it was. I began to smile and I chuckled with the release of pressure and tension I had created around the act of creating my dreams. She smiled and nodded, "Yes. It is your life."

 

That Moment of Delight

Earlier this year I started acting on my dreams and goals in a more methodical fashion. I found a writing group and started attending with my son in May. I had put together a list of anthologies to start collecting rejection slips from, as all committed writers have a large rejection slip/email collection. I found this journal 6 days before the deadline and decided to dive in. Ali, my partner and amazing editor, committed her editing skills to the cause. When I saw the suggested edits tick over 100 for my 2 page essay, I knew she was taking my request very seriously. I pressed send on my submission an hour before the deadline. My first rejection slip request was complete.

Except ...

They accepted it. 2 am a slightly insomniac me casually flipped through her email and saw they had written. It was an amazing moment to have created something for a purpose and have it chosen for that purpose. A few weeks ago, I received the announcement the journal was in publication and would ship in mid-November

Paradoxically I feel unable to put words to this experience. It is an inspiring experience to work on something meaningful to me and see it bear fruit. As we close out 2017, I begin to ponder what I will invite into my world in 2018. 

Wisdom from Experience

Annually for years I have celebrated a version of Samhein. This year the theme I found that spoke to me was "One Who Gains Wisdom From Experience". I have had experiences. I am hopeful of gaining wisdom from them. 

Samhein is a time when I pause and thank my life for what it has brought me. While I do not enjoy all the experiences of my life, I appreciate my opportunities for growth. I celebrate the moments of connection and joy I have been gifted. This year I am especially grateful to the people who have been patient with me as I have sought to learn a new way of being in life. My family, of course. My partners. My friends. 

Photo by Ken Sieglinger

Photo by Ken Sieglinger

This is also a time when I invite a new direction into my life. I set an intention for myself to live into for the upcoming year. I invite you to join me in this, as you feel inspired. Take a moment and acknowledge your life. Or more than a moment. Write it out, burn it, fold it up. Once you feel clear in that, pause. Set an intention for what you seek to discover or create in the next 12 months. Perhaps more family time or greater community service? Perhaps making more time to learn new skills? Whatever it is, simple or complex, sweeping or specific, know you can create your direction with your intentions. 

It never falls out the way I imagine. So far, it has been a journey worth taking. 

Happy Samhein. May your journey be your joy. 

What Happens in Vegas... Ripples Across the Country

I was born in Vegas. A few years ago, my partner took me there for a weekend of silly extravagance to celebrate my birthday. My grandmother lived there when I was young. I saw ET with her at the Omnimax when I was 9. My cousins marveled grandma's energy (It was 2am and she wanted to find a place to go dancing and we were TIRED, they exclaimed. They were 20 years old, she was 70ish.) My grandmother passed away in the buffet line at the Silver Slipper Casino. The story is she turned to the guy behind her, smiled, and fell over from a stroke. It seems like how she would have wanted it. It was her favorite place. I loved the ice carved slipper they had on the buffet line. It felt magical. 

My partner and I spent a weekend there early on in our relationship, celebrating another friend's birthday. We saw Ka together. My ex-wife and I went there to see Melissa Ethridge in concert. It was weird and uncomfortable and awesome. My then gf gambled a quarter and won $40. She's always been lucky.  

I've ridden the New York Hotel roller coaster.  I thought Circus Circus was all that when I was little. My ex-husband and I were entranced by the dancing fountains at the Bellagio when we visited in college. My step-mom loved to shop there. She and my dad lived a couple of hours away. Her house was full of sparkle found in outlet malls in Vegas. I hated the way my hands smelled like cigarette smoke almost the moment I walked into a casino. I loved the cheap buffets. 

My cousin lives there. I texted her after the shootings. Isis claimed responsibility. The police say they can't find a motive. What does motive tell us? It shapes the story into a narrative meant to comfort us. Oh, this happened because this person is x or y. Next, combine it with ever increasing restrictions on liberty and invasive search procedures. Eventually the motive will be connected to something culturally expendable, something agreed to be 'other'. This will help with profiling, another way to feel safe. Only minorities or immigrants or ... something not 'us' would do this. Does it matter the shooter was a (seemingly middle class) white man? So, definitely 'us'. It matters to me. It matters to me because the fiction of 'not us' doesn't serve our country. It doesn't keep us safe to pretend only 'other' people do horrible things.

It hasn't worked. The invasive searches, the racial profiling, the restrictions on liberty, the ethnic profiling, the religious profiling- it hasn't stopped the violence.  Who benefits when we fear each other so much? Not us. Not our communities. Not our poor, hungry, sick, tired, black, immigrants, disabled, hispanic, white, working class, middle class, women, men, straight, gay ... not the majority of us.Not our kids. Not my neighbors. Not me.

As country, we respond with outrage and sorrow. We mourn the loss, the waste, the violence. Maybe we will react and demand stronger gun laws or better care for the mentally ill. I hope we do. What we have done, rage and blame, hasn't worked. 

I hope my cousin is okay. My heart is with everyone suffering and watching loved ones fight for their lives. 

 

Life's Side Mirrors

Cars have side mirrors because we evolved with eyes only going in one direction. Most of us who drive would agree our mirrors perform an important safety function. Life's side mirrors are a little more difficult to adjust. 

Life moves fast. I get overwhelmed by how much there is to know and learn. The gaps in what I know are evident. This doesn't even touch on the things I don't know that I don't know. As an educated and experienced person, I feel the pressure to "know" things or "do it right".  After close to 2 decades of social justice activism, I also know how unforgiving I have seen my communities be towards people who make errors. I watch in perplexed astonishment when folks rally to condemn imperfection.

In the world of social media and modern reflex reactions, it is hard to step forward and speak. Here are some guidelines I have in my own work to put myself out there. 

1. I promise to listen to people who have different experiences. 

2. I promise to grow and change. This means what I say or think today is limited by what I have experienced and know, right now. 

3. I don't promise to get it right. Or to agree with people based on generalized political ideology. Or to support you doing things I disagree with even if I agree with your politics.  

4. I will risk myself and my world in the service of my principles and values.

5. I will seek the wisdom and guidance of those who have gone before me.

6. I will seek out my own teaching on the lessons we are learning as a culture about race, ability, gender, economic justice, and more, and not ask people to explain their lives to me in addition to the work they are doing to live their lives.  

7. I promise to take responsibility for my words and actions. I expect I will sometimes be tired and do what it is easy. I might say something out of reflex.  I will make mistakes. I will address them honestly and directly. I will take responsiblity for my impact. I will work to do better. 

8. I won't waste my time in arguments with people that are going nowhere. I will leave those battles and conversations to people better equipped and focus myself on the work I can do.

Dream. Do. Repeat.

Do you have a dream for your life or your business? Do you have a plan to achieve it? If not, then you have already made things harder for yourself. A goal without a plan is a wish. Who grants wishes? Fairy godmothers. How many fairy godmothers have you met this month?

I have heard people express planning as ineffective and too much work. It is seductive to get caught up in the day-to-day needs of the business and life. Planning on its own isn't a solution. A good plan takes into account the current situation and the long term goals.

I recently spent 2 days working with a client on their long term goals and plans. What I love about working with my clients on their plans is the puzzle piece of finding the balance between the needs of now and the work to get to the dream results. Watching them execute the work and see the results is one of the most satisfying things I do. 

If you are a small business looking to get out from under a feeling of overwhelm, contact me. You will be surprised by how easy it can be. 

 

 

 

picture of puzzle

A good plan can open a seemingly impossible puzzle box

Also, it is really fun

Happy International Women's Day - reposted

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To the women who raised me, my mother who birthed me, my grandmothers who inspired me with their courage, my step-mother who nurtured me, my sisters who tortured and supported me, my ex-mil who was kind to me, thank you.

To the women who came before and forged the way, who went more than the extra mile to show that femaleness is a neutral condition in the search for competence and not a barrier, who suffered in ways I don't understand and still put one foot in front of another, to the women who fed the children in the desert on the run from persecution,  to the immigrants who brave and braved the oceans and the borders in the search of a better life for their families, thank you for your example and your sacrifices. My life and the lives of others are better because of you.

To the women who have become my family, who laugh and celebrate with me, who show up and help when things are rough, who remind me to be patient and curious, who tell me to check my privilege and stand with me when I am being dismissed, who show their strength and courage and beauty in undeniable, if sometimes unconventional ways. thank you.

To the women who have struggled to accept their bodies, because they lost a breast to cancer or were born women with male bodies or they wish they were stronger or one of the many reasons we struggle to accept ourselves physically. Who have to go through an obstacle course to pee or be seen or appreciated or walk up the stairs, who have shown me that despite the media's influence, we are all beautiful in our way and that our beauty is more than our appearance. And when I am sure my body is too round or short or sickly or my hair is too red or my skin is too freckled, they help me see that I don't have to be something else. To you, thank you.

To the women who show up and do their life in the face of racism and poverty and family illness and exhaustion and rape and ableism. Who somehow defy the odds and make it through one more day, who are often dissatisfied with their own performance because they don't really see the mountain they hike every day because it would be too much to even think about it. Thank you, for your example and your strength and for sometimes letting me stand next to you or with you and be part of your journey.

Happy International Women's Day.

1st Anniversary

My ex husband died last year. The father of my children. My first love. My best friend. I met him when I was 18, we started dating when I was 19 and we married when I was 20. Our parents weren't super supportive, they thought we were too young. We didn't care. I mean we did care, we wanted their approval, but we were full of the confidence of youth and our faith. We moved into a basement apartment with earwigs and ignored the color of the walls.  

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We were students together at Brigham Young University (BYU) and faithful Mormons, and we started our family rather quickly. Barely married, pregnant, and going to classes together, we awkwardly tried to figure out how to navigate our mutual dysfunctions. He was a brilliant artist and programmer. He wrote a zork-like game to ask me to homecoming our first year of marriage. (I said “YES!”) We spent our first New Year’s Eve as a married couple at his office, with another couple we knew, playing Doom until 3 in the morning. He worked too much. I studied like my life depended on it. 

Our baby was born and we were so delighted. Our little boy slept 5 hours a night from the start, rarely cried, and was constantly curious about the world around us. I realized I hadn't actually ever fallen in love before when I started loving my child. Pregnant again, still adjusting to life with our first baby, my exhaustion level rose to heights I hadn't been able to imagine before. My then-husband would get up early with our 10 month old and sit and program in the other room. He would put headphones on our son, so he could play on our little electronic key board while his father worked.

My former husband's father was a bully, my mother a narcissist, so we hurt each other in the ways we understood meant love. Our daughter was born and we adored her.  His job became more and more consuming. I learned how to make cinnamon rolls from scratch and to pretend I didn't miss being a student, didn't miss being seen as a person. We tried to be okay with how things were- until we couldn't pretend anymore.

We separated. We divorced. We stayed friends for years after, working together to be the parents we believed our children deserved. We celebrated holidays together, went to counseling, and took the kids to Disneyland with our other partners. We tried. We loved each other and liked each other and hurt each other in ways only ex-lovers can do. 

We found other loves and couldn't always find space in between to be our best selves. We tried. He fell in love again, with someone who finally consumed him in the way he felt was love. She demanded everything, including his past. He resisted for awhile, and then, finally, he gave it to her. We became a distant memory that he visited for birthdays, sometimes. Our children were confused and hurt. They knew he loved them, how could he disappear like this? We tried. I won financial support. I took them to concerts (he loved music) and supported their hobbies and hated my helplessness to give them the one thing I couldn't give them- their father.

June 2016, he died unexpectedly, 4 days after Father's Day. His wife, so caught up in her story of claiming him, threatened our children. 19 and 20, confused and broken hearted, they bore the burden of her insecurity. I watched our daughter grip her chest, gasping for air, when I told her I had learned her stepmother had threatened to arrest them for trespassing if they attended their father's funeral. I watched them crumble when their aunts and uncles, save one, and their grandparents, so afraid they too would be denied the chance to grieve, accepted this. "We don't want to take sides" said one aunt. Not realizing that was taking sides. That not standing up for the person being bullied and rejected is siding with the person who is doing the bullying.

We made it through. Unexpected kindnesses from old friends, and expected strength from their uncle and each other, together, we made it through. We were able to go to a viewing of his body, through much effort on behalf of many people. Our son attended the funeral, obeying the condition that he not acknowledge he was his father's son. They were mentioned in the obituary only as part of their uncle's family. They were erased, like she wanted, in her final attempt to claim their father's life in mourning his death. Our daughter couldn't make herself go to the funeral where she would be a stranger to her father. She couldn't accept the mantle of secretive mourner. She loved her father and knew that he loved her. She didn't want to hide that for someone's fears and insecurities. We went to Starbucks and read while her brother attended.

My ex husband died last year. And it changed the course of our lives in ways I would never have imagined.

Actionable Gamification

Gamification is a somewhat new business term that is that is about improving business practices. It is part of the Human Centered Design school of thought (I promise that is my last jargon-y word for this post!). 

Human Centered Design focuses on helping the corporate world remember that people work in their offices and factories and people buy their products and use their services. Features and function are important elements in a business and if you can't engage and motivate people, you won't succeed.

Gamification is one approach that is rapidly gaining influence as an effective way to implement Human Centered Design concepts. Yu-Kai Chou is a forerunner in developing usable concepts to create and implement gamified designs. 

This short video that I made is a brief overview of what he talked about at 2017 SxSW in his Actionable Gamification session.