Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving? Or Friendsgiving?

That’s the title Jeff and Chuck give to the annual November dinner to which they invite all their best friends. 

I love that word and the idea it expresses...because friends give us so much.
For some, they become family, taking the place of parents who are gone or siblings who live far away or relatives with whom we have little in common.  

How important are friends? Researchers at Johns Hopkins say that someone who lacks a circle of friends is more at risk health-wise than someone who smokes 15 cigarettes a day. 

Sometimes, life gets so busy that friendship lands on a lower rung after work demands or, if we’re parents, our kids’ activities.  We may take longtime friends for granted, assuming they’ll be there when we need them, forgetting that  true friendship is never a one-way street. Every relationship in life needs nurturing.

Maybe you won’t host a Friendsgiving party as Jeff and Chuck do. But is this a good time to think about the friends who enrich your life and to ponder how you might give back to them? 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tired of those women's magazine telling us How to Get Rid of Belly Fat?

Last night I had dinner with women friends "of a certain age" and we lamented bodies that are  more saggy than they once were.

So when I reached home I pulled out the following quote from my book, GRACE ON THE GO: Quick Prayers for Determined Dieters.  

A Prayerful Rumination While Sitting in the Hot Tub at the Ladies Spa

Oh Lord, I almost didn’t step in 
I saw her sitting there.        
Her belly is smooth satin,
Uncreased. Taut.
Unlike mine. 
Since my babies,
Mine has a more interesting texture.
Waffle weave, 
It’s as comfortable as an old sweater
Whose pockets sag with treasures.
I need your help, oh Lord, 
to celebrate 
The richness of my belly
Whose fabric is so well worn.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Can you forgive a betrayer?

Have you ever experienced a betrayal by someone you loved and trusted?  
I have. 
It felt like an earthquake: the very ground beneath me shook. The betrayer was my husband and as I realized that for the previous six months we had lived an intimacy that was actually a lie, I  wept in anguished rage.

And yet...and yet...
Did I want to endlessly reside in a bitter web of anger? 

At the National Institute of Healthcare Research, Michael McCullough, PhD, developed a four-step program to help people move beyond betrayal.
Step 1: Think about times YOU have hurt others. Were you deliberately trying to hurt?
Step 2: Recall when you have been forgiven. How did you feel when you needed someone’s forgiveness?
Step 3: Visualize your aggressor’s state of mind. Explain the hurtful event from his/her perspective.
Step 4. Try and go beyond the event itself to feel the imperfect humanness of your betrayer.

As part of step 4, I began to pray each day the familiar 23rd Psalm: 
“The Lord is my shepherd.” 
Only I substituted plural pronouns, so it became 
“The Lord is OUR Shepherd, WE shall not want...” 
Praying the entire psalm this way over a period of time
helped me restore a sense of shared humanity with my betrayer.  
It helped bring into my heart an awareness that
WE-- both of us--dwell in the house of the Lord. And WE, both of us, 
are children of God. 
Forgiving a betrayer does not happen easily. It takes time. And a willing heart.
Not for the betrayer's sake but for our own.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Revising your life story

Our instructor at the writer’s workshop I’m attending-- a petite blonde novelist who has a wonderful habit of scrubbing her face with both hands when she’s making a point--is listing seven steps to take when revising your writing. 
As she speaks, I have one of those “Aha!” moments, and I burst out, “Those are the same steps I took in my post-divorce therapy!” 
The class laughs. But if revision means to re-vision--that is, to see differently--why shouldn’t the revision of one’s life parallel the revising of a written story? 
After all, your life is your story. 
Here are the seven steps:
  1. Be willing to change the way you see.
  2. Drop all previously held opinions, judgments, and beliefs.
  3. Step back and look at the bigger picture.
  4. Relax. (This might include meditation).
  5. Activate your intuition. (Is your subconscious speaking to you through dreams?)
  6. Invite higher ideas.
  7. Allow your new vision to emerge. 
If you’re going through one of life’s transition periods, will these steps work for you?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Let's get real about our bodies!

Impossibly thin is so ‘in,’” my friend Donna sighed. “Why wasn’t I born when Reubens was painting his full-figured women?”  Donna  has a generous body, but though  she’s a large woman, she’s not obese. She walks two miles a day five days a week, and easily lifts ten-pound weights. But Donna is obsessed with what her scale says, and hers says 172 pounds.  
   Maybe that’s why I like Queen Latifah and actress Kathy Bates. Both stay physically fit, but their bodies are as robust as their talent, and they’re not trying to “skinny down.” Why can’t we acknowledge that beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes? And it’s okay!
From my book, GRACE ON THE GO: Quick Prayers for Determined Dieters, here is one of my favorites:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I like you anyway!

A younger friend, going through one of those troughs that show up now and then in marriages, asked me for the secret to a long, full-filling relationship. 

So I asked my son--he and Tami have been married 26 years and seem more in love now than when they first married--and my daughter who has a deep, loving friendship with her husband of 32 years. 
My daughter said her theory about creating a long-lasting relationship is this simply statement: 
                “I like you anyway.”
Because here is a great truth: each of us has habits of thought or behavior that inevitably irritate the special other in our lives. And ironically, it may be the very quality that most attracted us to the other! 
My daughter is wonderfully artistic. She also tends to clutter. Her husband loves her artistry; but the way she fills every surface?  Not so much. He, on the other hand, is addicted to ESPN sports shows, which  she tries to tune out.

Ever said  to your beloved,“You do this thing that makes me crazy"?  Next time, add this little phrase: 
“But I like you anyway.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

What are you waiting for?

Recently, I read “There are no tomorrows; only a string of todays.” How ironic that we grow up not realizing this. Instead, we are taught to dream forward. To yearn for some day.


I am rich
I am thin
I am in love
I am successfu
I am secure

I shall be happy.

But when someday comes, it is always NOW.
This very moment is all that any of us can be certain we have.
If you think about your own life,  you know this is true.

Jesus said to the rich young man,
“Drop what you are doing and follow me. Come NOW.”
But the rich young man was afraid to let go.  He said,

I have checked on my business
Saved more money
Met more of my goals

I shall  follow you.

But the universal God is always saying to us,
NOT when. NOT after.  NOT someday.
Someday is fantasy. TODAY is what we have.

Do it. Live it. Experience your life. NOW.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What do reunions tell us?

My friend Jim Todd and I attended his 50th college reunion. As I listened to the bios being read and watched the grey-haired men and women stand and smile at former classmates, I wondered again: what is it about school reunions? Why get dressed up to renew your acquaintance with people you haven’t seen in 20, 40, even 50 years--and may not see again? 
I think the person we really meet at reunions is ourselves. In the faces and stories of others we see a reflection of our own youthful dreams.  And we may ask:  Has my life turned out as I once dreamed it would?  
Initially, some might say no. Most lives hold surprises. And inevitably, some disappointments. 
But reunions can remind us also of how far we have come in our personal search for wisdom and greater understanding. Sometimes we learn the most from our greatest trials. 
It's certainly been true in my own life. So as I moved about at Jim's reunion, I thought, "This is fun, but oh, I'm so glad not to be as young and unformed as I was on the day of graduation."  How about you?  Would you say the same?  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pride and Prison

Here’s what Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote as he reflected on the recent death of Watergate figure Chuck Colson.
“Pride is the enemy of grace, and prison is the enemy of pride.
Chuck Colson’s swift journey from the White House to a penitentiary ended a life of accomplishment — only to begin a life of significance. The two are not always the same.” 
 In life, there are many types of prison. Some we build ourselves:
  • Self-medication through drugs or alcohol. 
  • A co-dependent’s choice to live in denial rather than face a difficult realty. 
  • The inability to break free of trying to meet someone else’s expectations.
Pride is our jailer. We’re unwilling to admit, “By myself, I am powerless to change,” or  “To become my true self I must tolerate someone else’s anger or disappointment.” Or, “Not I, but the Christ in me.”
Twenty years ago, an experience took away my pride and forced me to rebuild my whole sense of self. It was painful, as I’m sure Chuck Colson’s experience with prison was.  But with the help of God’s grace, I changed fundamental ways of thinking. Therapy, journaling, prayer, exercise, and friendship helped me become, not so much new, as real. The ‘real me.’ 
What about you? Are you in a prison of your own making?
What must you do to break free? 
I hope you will think--and pray--about your answer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Love Story

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, visiting my elderly aunt and uncle, who are 92 and 97. Theirs is a wonderful love story.When they married,  Lucille was a pretty middle-aged widow; Art was a 62-year-old shy bachelor who shared a  smalltown home with his widowed mother and a dog.
 On his 55th birthday, he  looked in the mirror, and said, “Life is passing you by. You’ve got to do something about it.”
So Art overcame his shyness enough to get involved as a youth group leader. Then he started taking ballroom dancing lessons. On the dance floor he met Lucille. For a few years after they married, they went dancing five nights a week. To show his love for Lucille, Art began memorizing Shakespeare’s sonnets, quoting one to her each night at  bedtime. Then he began to write poetry and discovered  in himself a talent he didn’t know he had.
“Art,” I said, “You’re the only man I know who has grown younger in spirit as you’ve gotten older in years.”

And that’s my message to all of us. 
It is never too late to change our lives. All we have to do is  look at where we are, decide where we’d like to be, and put the change in motion. Is it easy? No.
Doable? YES. 
Whenever Art and Lucille smile lovingly at each other, I’m reminded of that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What's your answer?

“If a magic wand were waved so you could go back in life and make a different choice at  certain junctures, would you want to?”  That was the  question recently posed by a friend. 
At first the answer seemed easy. A spontaneous “Yes!” 
After all, who has not made an occasional poor choice? 
But on second thought...
Our lives are created by the choices and decisions and actions we take and while some are wise and some are foolish, all contribute to who we are and who we are becoming. 
I have occasionally wondered: what if I had not moved my children to the Midwest after their father died? What if we had stayed in California near their grandparents?  Some painful experiences occurred in that transition. At the same time, my son and daughter grew up to marry fellow Midwesterners and create happy, long-lasting marriages. Their unions produced grandchildren I love. 
Spiritual writer Ed Hays once wrote, “Accept all circumstances as God’s mysterious way of guiding your growth.” 
Life only moves in one direction:  forward. 
Perhaps a better question to ask is this: Have I learned from the choices I made, both the good and the bad?”  
Have I grown? 
Do I like and accept who I am now? 
And especially:  Am I prayerfully open to making choices today based on compassion and love? 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Six Quick Secrets to Better Balance

Feeling a bit off-balance these days? Try some of these assignments from a talk I am giving to sales professionals. 

Secret number one: Know your mission.
Companies need mission statements, and so do individuals. Recognizing your life’s mission will help you put first things first.
Your assignment: Write a personal mission statement. Keep a time log for the next 3 weeks and observe. Are you giving adequate time to your life's mission?

Secret number two: Build a balance wheel.
Staying in balance means keeping all parts of our lives in sync: family * career * personal * spiritual * home * community.
Your assignment: Draw two pie charts. Mark one according to your ideal balance using the criteria above.  Mark the other according to how you're spending time now.  Note the difference.

Secret number three: Stay in the moment. 
Give up multi-tasking. Do one thing at a time and notice what you are doing as you do it.
Your assignment: Choose one  daily activity and do it slowly and consciously. 
For example, take a shower very deliberately. Be aware of the soapy feel on your skin, the touch of the towel as you dry, the softness of lotion.

Secret number four: Let go the non-essential. 
Release any activities or relationships that are no longer fruitful in your life. 
Assignment 1 Say no to requests that don’t fit with your mission.
Assignment 2: Acknowledge your own essential needs. (Not wants, but needs.) When our needs aren't met, we get resentful.
Assignment 3: List ten gifts of time or energy you'd like to give yourself. Commit to making five of them happen in the next two months. 

Secret number five: Delegate more. 
Give your children the opportunity to become self-sufficient and build self-esteem by doing more tasks at home: clean their rooms, wash their own clothes,  take a turn preparing family meals. At work, ask yourself if you're holding onto tasks that you could delegate.
Your assignment: Delegate a task to someone--spouse, kids, or work colleague--that you have held onto. Notice what happens.

Secret number six : Worry less.
There are two times not to worry: If you can fix the problem, stop worrying and go fix it. If you can't fix the problem, stop worrying because worry won't change anything.
Your assignment:  When you catch yourself worrying, say aloud the word "Stop!" Turn the worry into a problem to solve or into a situation that you are willing to accept.   

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Are you cheerful Happy? Or both?

Opera singer Beverly Sills, http://www.beverlysillsonline.com/ had the nickname, "Bubbles." She was known for her cheerful attitude even in the face of private grief (Two of her children suffered disabilities).  

 “How do you stay so happy?” one interviewer asked. “Oh, I’m not always happy,” she replied. “I am always cheerful. There’s a difference.”

Yes, there is a difference. Happiness happens to us; cheerfulness is an attitude we can choose. And researchers have found that feelings follow actions: so if we act as if we’re cheerful, we will gradually become so.

Try it for a day: Respond in an upbeat manner no matter what the circumstances. I'd love to hear from you if you discover it makes a difference.  I believe it will. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Enthusiasm Takes You Further

     Years ago, when I went looking for my first job, wise advisers urged, “Barbara, be enthusiastic! Enthusiasm will take you further than any amount of experience.”

     How right they were. Enthusiastic people can turn a boring drive into an adventure, extra work into opportunity,  and strangers into friends.

    “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

     It is the paste that helps you hang in there when the going gets tough. It is the inner voice that whispers, “I can do it!” when others shout, “No, you can’t.”
     We are all born with wide-eyed, enthusiastic wonder as anyone knows who has ever seen an infant’s delight at the jingle of keys or the scurrying of a beetle.

      It is this childlike wonder that gives enthusiastic people such a youthful air, whatever their age.
      At 90, cellist Pablo Casals would start his day by playing Bach. As the music flowed through his fingers, his stooped shoulders would straighten and joy would reappear in his eyes. 
     Poet Samuel Ullman wrote, “Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”
      How do you rediscover the enthusiasm of  childhood? The answer, I believe, lies in the word itself. “Enthusiasm” comes from the Greek and means “God within.” And what is God within is but an abiding sense of love -- proper love of self (self-acceptance) and, from that, love of others.
       Enthusiastic people love what they do, regardless of money or title or power. If we cannot do what we love as a full-time career, we make it a part-time avocation: the head of state who paints, the nun who runs marathons, the executive who handcrafts furniture. 
       We need to live each moment wholeheartedly, with all our senses -- finding pleasure in a back-yard garden, the crayoned picture of a six-year-old, the  beauty of a rainbow.  Don't waste tears on “might-have-beens.” Turn tears into sweat by going after “what-can-be.”

       Enthusiastic love of life puts a sparkle in our eyes, a lilt in our steps and smooth the wrinkles from our souls.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How high is your A. Q.?

Long before researchers came up with the idea of E.Q.--Emotional Quotient-- I coined the phrase A. Q. or Anxiety Quotient.
It’s my observation that people appear to start life with a built-in level of anxiety--like an inner bucket which we fill to the brim whether our anxiety is about terrorist attacks, earthquakes, or “OMG, are people gonna notice the zit on my chin?”

Another name for people with high A.Q. is Worry Wart. It’s the mom who drives her kid crazy by insisting, “Take a jacket. Just in case.”

Or the wife--in this case, a friend of mine--who told her new husband, “Honey, call if you’re going to be late coming home because if I don’t hear I go from late to death.”
Or the micro-managing boss who anxiously hovers over every project assigned to a subordinate.

High A. Q. can paralyze. We cling to what we know. We huddle in our comfort zone. We turn away from anything new. Or different. We fail to see the power of expanding horizons. We don’t risk.

Is your A.Q high, low, or in between? To lower it, start small. Keep a journal for a week and jot down what makes you anxious. Reread it a week later. Notice how few of your worries actually came to pass.

As for me, I try and remember what Jesus said to encourage his disciples not to be anxious: "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

To learn more about the book on Emotional Quotient, go to www.Amazon.com