Today It Was About Me

5588872236_fcf0856f51_m“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” ~ Maya Angelou

It wasn’t something I planned. It wasn’t scheduled. It simply presented and I invited it in. I took a mental break today. Within the sanctuary of my own home and property, I reacquainted with myself. It was an interesting combination of being self-centered and being self-aware.

Sure I had activities and deliverables that could have captured my attention. There may have even been a more prudent use of the day. But my heart spoke. And I always heed my heart.

I read. I napped. I played and exercised with Logan and Bailey. I soaked in the jacuzzi. I listened to some favorite music. I prepped a delicious dinner. I didn’t think too much. And surprisingly, it wasn’t a total waste of those cumulative moments.


I’m still smiling about all of it. :)

There’s a real danger in allowing ourselves to be entirely consumed by the next urgent task. If we never hit pause, we lose something important: space in which to think creatively, learn, consider problems and opportunities from a different perspective and perhaps, even dip our toes into unchartered waters.

This wasn't me. :)

This wasn’t me.

If the prospect of being at home wherever you find yourself is warming, here are three thoughts that might coax you into pausing more frequently:

  1. Sans intent. When you’re rushing to a solution or deadline, your mind will jump to the most familiar path. Yet when you allow yourself to look out the window for a few minutes and ponder, your brain will amaze you with new possibilities. It is this sort of unconscious creativity that leads to different perspectives. Think about how thoughts come to you when driving or in the shower. If you do create space in which to experience unobstructed thinking, be sure you do so with no specific intentions.
  2. Know when you need this. This doesn’t apply to dealing with inaction or procrastination. But If you know you are ready to stop, let go, and breathe, then a pause may well be in order.
  3. Simplify. When you have social commitments, shopping to complete and/or a home to keep up, focusing on yourself can be challenging. Be okay with saying “no” (even to yourself). Try not to over-schedule. And learn simple ways to take care of yourself. Being occasionally selfish is not a “bad” thing.


Becoming Better Communicators


“Communication works for those who work at it.” ~ John Powell

Jana Barnhill was elected Toastmasters International President at the 77th annual International Convention held August 2008, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She was only the fourth woman to serve as the top officer of the organization.

Recognized for her speaking skills, Jana placed 3rd in the World Championship of Public Speaking in 1993 and 2nd in 1996. In 1997, she became only the fifth woman in the organization to earn the coveted Accredited Speaker designation.

Jana Barnhill

Jana Barnhill

Professionally, Jana is a speaker/trainer for L.I.V.E. Speakers, Inc., a company she owns with her husband. She conducts seminars throughout the United States on management topics; including communication and leadership, team building, managing change and personality traits. She delivers keynotes and also serves as a speech writer and coach to other professionals.

Jana is no novice to staring trials in the face, while continuing to keep a smile on hers. Jana is a small plane crash survivor, suffers from a neurological disorder and her husband is battling ALS. She loves spending time with friends, theater, shopping, Christmas, movies, travel, anything fast, Disneyland (she has gone at least once, sometimes three times a year since 1991), entertaining and…shopping!


As my guest on this week’s Awakening to Awareness Radio Show, Jana shared how she never really sought a global leadership role; how community, culture, and connection are integral to the Toastmasters experience; how boomers can offer their wisdom and experience to help members of younger generations and; how listening is such a critical element of effective communication.

She shared two personal stories about being inspired and how mentoring builds confidence. She acknowledged that “people are her oxygen” and how they help to sustain her energy and positive attitude. Jana advocates for no matter where one is in their life, there are always opportunities to work on your communication skills.

Interested in learning more about Toastmasters, listen to the show podcast or visit


1193640557_d9fa8902e2_m“You are wholly complete and your success in life will be in direct proportion to your ability to accept this truth about you.” ~ Dr. Robert Anthony

When I think of proportion, finding the right mix is what comes to mind. Concepts of balance, unity, measurement, harmony or relative size might come to mind for you as well. Proportion can be simply defined as the proper relation between two things.

Proportion is abundant in its everyday presence. It applies to and we find it in/with:

  • investment allocations
  • food servings
  • sleep or lack of
  • sun exposure
  • use of time
  • relationships
  • spending/saving
  • Barbie dolls
  • scare resource use
  • home decorating
  • determining where to live
  • social media use
  • architecture
  • exercising
  • “work-life”
  • giving/tithing

6828186220_23d97e16c5_mThere will always be a mix that is appropriate for you and according to where you are in life. The challenge with proportions is how to consciously manage them. For example, how do you act at an all-you-can-eat buffet? Do you skimp on vital sleep at the expense of your health? Is you exercise regimen excessive… or too infrequent? Do you use water judiciously?

How often do you think about the various mixes in your life? Is there too much or too little of some things?

108139247_81df889079_mIf you’re open to reflecting on proportion, here are three steps you can consider taking:

  1. Focus on your mind and body. Start in small ways and find what level of healthy habits work well for you. Pursue being fit. Take a 20 minute walk. The same goes for your mind. A fresh mind is a fresh spirit. Read two out–of-the-ordinary articles each week. Listen to a podcast once a week. Spoken and written words enliven and harmonize our minds. Be rich in thoughts.
  2. Eliminate things that frustrate you. (This aligns with my recent post on being inconvenienced.) If getting home late on Fridays kills social events and puts a strain on important relationships, leave work a little early or limit your travel on Fridays. There can be endless sources of frustration in your life which yield disproportionate reactions. Simply take time to identify and manage them.
  3. Be intentional about time and proportion. Think of each year as 365 days of equal value, and then set out to get full value from each one no matter what you are doing.


What to Give

5824862885_0e7c2dd835_m“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” ~ Sarah Bernhardt

As a child growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I fondly recall my Dad taking us to the REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) store in downtown Seattle. With its warped wooden plank floors, it was located on the upper levels of an old warehouse. A co-op for all things outdoors (and more), it remains my favorite place in which to lose myself and spend considerable moolah.

My siblings and I were introduced to hiking, backpacking and camping at early ages. And we loved it! Now living in the desert Southwest, I pine for the pines, the mountain trails, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and nature’s majestic tranquility — well, unless one is white water rafting.


So where did I find myself today? At a local REI outlet. I was browsing for Christmas gift ideas because I rarely give a gift unless it jazz’s me first. I left the store empty-handed, returning to my car. And it was in that parking lot that I had an insight: I am a giver. I always have been. Of myself and the material/tangible. I enjoy benevolence and I know many have appreciated being on the receiving side of gifting.

But I’m done with what has, for decades, been tradition; unless there is a pressing/genuine need for something perceptible. This year my Christmas gifts are going to be different. I’ve got some ideas but I am committed to identifying creative alternatives. At my cost, my objective is to invite family and friends to be part of creating joy and significance for people who may have little or receive nothing. Something substantive yet beautiful in its simplicity.


This is where you can help and in doing so, share ideas for we of like mind. I would love to read/learn what you have heard about or done in this vein. I’m inviting your input. I’ve already had someone suggest gifting through Heifer International, an established, reputable organization that empowers sustainability efforts around the world with/for poor people in developing countries.

If you’re inclined to think ‘outside of the box,’ please do. I am encouraging all suggestions. In advance, thank you for taking a few moments to enlighten me with your thoughts. I’m navigating a new path and I’m excited for how this will be a win-win for, perhaps, you too. :)


Inconvenienced, So?

2084496457_ae3580dfdd_m“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.” ~ Robert Fulghum

A friend shared today that McDonald’s intends to “allure a new generation of teens and 20-somethings currently obsessed with Chipotle burritos and salad bowls with the company’s affordable coffee, new lower-calorie menu, and convenience check-out changes.” And I found myself wondering… they still don’t get it.

Yet convenience sells. People love easy. And comfortable. Can you imagine trying to sell something that inconvenienced people? Even if the benefits of that inconvenience were guaranteed? Why do you think the majority of people don’t follow through with their exercise program? It’s inconvenient.

What effect will all this efficiency, speed, ease, comfort and convenience have on us as a collective people over the long-term? How will it affect our ability to deal with real adversity and problems? How can we become a powerful, adaptable and resilient species when our default setting is locked on easy?


When we consider convenient versus inconvenient, some minds might conjure:

  • Driving when you could take a bus, train, bicycle or walk
  • Voluntarily recycling
  • Ending difficult relationships
  • Being selfish contrasted with giving freely
  • Rejecting life-giving organs from random/unknown donors
  • Choosing fast food rather than healthy/nutritious choices
  • Coping with last minute venue changes
  • Lying versus telling the truth

Sometimes we make plans and find them thwarted at every turn. We ride against the wind for a while, and then we complain and look around for someone to blame. Being inconvenienced is about how we deal with, embrace, and learn from things we can’t control; those outside forces that often blind side and force us to change. It also factors into how we handle stressful situations.

3125636743_01c7fe348b_mLife happens because it is existing. Just as our cells divide without our influence, so to do circumstances that inconvenience. Inconvenience has no motivation to know you or influence you in any way. It simply is. And when it presents, you can address it in many ways. Here are three for your consideration:

  1. Avoid always doing “me” things. These are activities that people desire to do on their spare time by themselves; sleeping in later, taking a walk by themselves, or reading a book in a quiet place. Instead, agree to an outing with friends even if it inconveniences you. Your time and company might just be what someone needs.
  2. In a similar vein, experience an Inconvenience Yourself Day. If you have to put someone else before you, how did that make you feel? Were you satisfied or unhappy with the result? Try to adapt and practice this often and see if it comes back to you.
  3. When inconvenience strikes, the behavior of others is a tempting target for resentment. One’s annoyance seems justified and self-absolving. Refusing to understand and own your reaction to being inconvenienced is simply shirking a personal responsibility. Why not simply chill and reflect on what just happened?


Considering the Unconventional


“It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold. Indeed, people must not be deprived the right to think their own thoughts.” ~ Boris Yeltsin

Last week I attended a diverse professional group meeting. Being my first visit, I was invited to rise and tell a bit about myself to this relatively small (>40) group, some of whom I casually knew. I acknowledged that I am a practitioner of the unconventional; a fan, if you will, of unorthodox… defined by as “not conforming to rules, traditions, or modes of conduct, as of doctrine, religion, or philosophy.”

I suggested they consider me not a rebel, but as someone who challenges stagnation in people and society by looking at areas in our lives most in need of repair or rejuvenation and then, deliberately, not doing what the conformist majority is doing. I am simply someone who encourages the use of information, imagination, and interpersonal skills to pursue life in creative ways — that defends choice yet, defies the herd.

Then there was silence. Followed by warm, welcoming applause. :)


It has been said that the more often you do something the same way, the more difficult it is to think about doing it any other way. Roger von Oech says “We can break out of this ‘prison of familiarity’ by disrupting our habitual thought patterns. He suggests writing a love poem in the middle of the night. Eat ice cream for breakfast. Visit a junk yard. Take the slow way home. Such jolts to our routines will lead to new ideas.”

Learning happens in unconventional ways. Some of us prefer more traditional systems and methods, while others are open to exploring unorthodox ways in which to play, interact, learn, and grow. Rarely is there only one right or wrong way to do things — unless one is a staunch conformist.


If you’re looking for unconventional ways of viewing what you’ve always been doing, simply use your imagination. Or you can consider any of these three ideas as starters:

  1. Work in the dark. If you’re feeling stifled, try working in a dimmer environment. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology has shown that darkness and dim illumination promote creativity. Other experiments discovered that you can gain insight by simply priming yourself with the idea of darkness – even just describing an experience of being in the dark.
  2. Generate provocative statements and then use them to build new ideas. This allows people to explore the nature of perception and how it limits creativity and possibilities. Provocation challenges limitations and can serve as an alternative to judgment. It allows us to develop a provocative idea into something viable and realistic.
  3. Re-educate. Our future can be seen in the quality of our youngest generation yet the current models of building quality people seem to be falling short. New modalities such as green schooling, homeschooling and even un-schooling children offer hope for something different. With access to unlimited educational resources via the Internet, almost anyone can educate themselves in myriad fields, and so the re-education of individuals is an act of considerable non-conformity.


Practical Publisher Perceptions

6319799633_a494d77bf3_m“Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Karen Strauss has worked in book publishing since 1981, when she started at Bantam Books as a senior publicist. She then moved on to The Free Press division of Macmillan (now Simon and Schuster) to become its Director of Trade Marketing.

In 1991 she founded Strauss Consultants, Inc., which was originally conceived to service small publishers who needed representation into the large chain and wholesaler book accounts around the country. With the advent of Print on Demand technology and e-books, Karen now works with self-publishing authors and micropublishers to help them develop a publishing program that gives them a more level playing field with the traditional publishers.

Karen Strauss Image resized

In 2012 she co-launched RockStar Publishing House, a hybrid publishing company, primarily built for entrepreneurs who write books to further their business or share their story. Since then, Karen has launched several branded publishing companies for organizations.

On last week’s Awakening to Awareness Radio Show (podcast here), Karen talks about the lightning speed with which the publishing industry has changed, highlighting the shift from “print-on-demand” to “e-books” being the most significant. She shares advice on why/what people are writing about: 1) a passion of theirs; 2) something they have accomplished or advice they want to share and/or; 3) that great novel they have always had in mind. If you’re going to write, she recommends being disciplined and write something every day.


Karen discusses three ways to publish in today’s market: 1) self-publishing; 2) traditional via big publishing houses and; 3) with a hybrid publisher – particularly one with national and international distribution. And she highlights the broad range of costs to publish, from package options to a la carte to one stop shopping solutions, and why it’s important to have a marketing plan for your book before you publish and subsequently distribute your book. In addition to her company website, her email contact:

It’s About the Smile

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” ~ William Butler Yeats

I got half way through typing a post and thought, nope, not today. It seemed too heavy a message to start or conclude a week, depending on which way you view Sundays.

Instead, I am sharing the above three minutes video. It’s four years young yet today was the first time I’ve viewed it. It easily brought a smile to my face and a lift to my spirit. The clip is a voice only, live orchestra, welcome home greeting. And it obviously accomplished its goal of pleasantly surprising arriving passengers.


As inspiring moments often do, this got me thinking about the impending, year-end holidays. And what each of us can do to make someone’s day uniquely memorable. Be it Thanksgiving in the U.S., Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa – whatever one celebrates – many people will plow full-steam ahead into the next two months without giving fair thought to how and what they can do for those not anticipating anything.

We don’t need to stage elaborate productions as in this video. We can create and present small acts that may well be emotional and unforgettable for others. Simple things like a pair of gloves or a scarf, a small gift bag, a blanket or (gasp!) an invitation into your home or a restaurant for a meal, can generate an endless smile, even tears of appreciation.


I’m going to flip my post format today. Rather than offer three ideas for you to consider, I’m inviting you to share one act (in comments) that you intend to perform in the coming weeks to create a special moment for someone, especially a stranger.

Of course, it is my belief that we ought to be doing this continuously. But that’s an opportunity for you to mull. :) Let’s see what we’re capable of doing to pleasantly stun a new, even if momentary, arrival in our life.


Stepping Into the Unknown


“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” ~ Barbara J. Winter

During my recent, brief blogging hiatus, I spent time reflecting on why I and others are often hesitant (if not outright frightened) when it comes to choosing action that requires us to step into the unknown. I know why I sometimes proceed cautiously and at other times, jump in headfirst. Each of us deals with our own blocks and how we break through them or allow them to hinder our growth.

I wondered how much time people actually dedicate to thinking about and addressing the unique rationale for why they cannot or will not step into the unknown. Or how for some, it’s simply a matter of ‘why not?’


For those of you unfamiliar with BBC One, the U.K. based broadcaster produces some exquisite videos. I particularly enjoy their “Life Story” pieces. Unfortunately, BBC One prohibits some of their videos from being posted to YouTube in the U.S. Instead, I invite you to click this link and (in just two minutes) watch a newborn Barnacle Gosling experience its maiden flight, fearlessly!

My take, after having watched this clip, is if that little one can leap out of its nest and into a vast unknown, I can too! I may have a bumpy ride and end up a little dazed, but I’ll still land on something solid from which to grow forward.

2699398136_0041c8b9fe_mIf you won’t take action because you’re unsure of its outcome or you’re afraid of what might/could happen, consider these three perspectives:

  1. Next time you make a decision, make sure you are doing it because it is indeed a better choice for you, and not simply because it’s the nearest patch of safe ground. If your choice leads you through a period where you just don’t know what will happen, see if you can politely let uncertainty sit down with you. Despite its bad reputation, you never know what it might bring to the table.
  2. Inhale, exhale, and smile. In the end, not knowing can be scary, but liberating and profound. Think of yourself in the midst of a turbulent sea and you are afloat without knowing where anything will go. But this is always true, even of people who don’t admit it to themselves. Enjoy the ride. Look at the amazing place you’re in and acknowledge it. This path of not knowing, is the path of life itself.
  3. If you’re afraid of getting in trouble, remember you’re already in bigger trouble by not following your heart. If you listen to the voice of your fears, you’ll live an empty life. But if you listen to the voice of your heart, you’re likely to live a remarkable life. Cliche but… there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Stealing Time


“Plant you own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” ~ Veronica Shoffstall

As I type I’m listening to Lisa Gerrard, one of my favorite artists. Her resonant voice has a way of reassuring me that everything is okay and that I’m aligned with my intended purpose and course.

When you’re in the thick of things, it’s hard to get much perspective. Perhaps you’re struggling with a particular decision or you find yourself putting off decisions or making hasty choices if you don’t intentionally pause and reflect. When you’re engaged in any creative activity – writing, designing, running a business – it’s important to create space (some may call this down-time). You need to get away from the constant busyness in order to do the best work that you can.


Not even a decade ago we weren’t exposed to nearly as much information as we are now. Compare today to a short 50 years ago and the change is mammoth. Processing all this information can be overwhelming, measurably because much of it is useless to us. We need to use our developed cognitive abilities to cope and survive. With so much information having little to do with our personal lives… our well-being, stealing some time away from the helter-skelter can be incredibly relieving.

So I am. I’m going to take some time to decorate my soul. I’ll be offline (and in an undisclosed location) for the next week. Some of us know when time for a break is important.


I’ll leave you with three reflections tied to solitude, as shared in this post. Some people are blessed with an abundance of time and have the luxury of its being discretionary. For those who presently have less time, consider claiming an hour, a day, or a week, whatever you need to decorate your own soul.

  1. Avoid mindless consumption. When you’re alone you have beautiful opportunities to think clearly about your life and the direction you want to take it. In the “mitote” of today’s world, you’ve earned quiet. If during that time you gain clarity about your path, what fulfills you, or how you’re feeling about what you spend your days doing – then it will have been time well spent. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose epiphany; simple glimmers and insights are valuable too!
  2. Quiet time is often lucid time. Simply sitting down and thinking through a problem can result in very effective solutions. Yet even if a solution isn’t immediately forthcoming, just thinking things through and understanding a problem can bring peace and a certain courage to carry on.
  3. Find a good spot for contemplation. During the week it’s often hard to make time and reunite with nature (or whatever setting works for you). Yet even time for simple walks in fresh air, maybe a very local visualization outing, can bring some clarity and lend a new perspective. Try to find a ‘place of power’ that gives you true inspiration.