I referenced the company Cardthartic before in this blog, and if you’ve ever received a greeting card from me, chances are pretty high that it was from this company. The founder, Jodee Stevens, and her wonderful card company email greetings out to their customers and “Cardies” on a regular basis. I always enjoy them, but Saturday’s really caught my eye. In fact, it caught both my eyes since I ended up in tears reading it.

I emailed her and asked her permission to include it in a SWOG blog post. Knowing what an influence my mom has been in my life and how she, in part, inspired this blog, I think you’ll understand the reason why this one hit me so hard–in a good way. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it helps you reflect on whomever in your life has inspired your purpose and your life’s work. Peace and blessings to you all in this New Year.

This weekend, many of us will be penning our post-Christmas thank you notes. Personally, I’ve always considered this little ritual an opportunity to savor all the sweet gifts and kind gestures I received all over again. I also know just how powerful getting a simple, heartfelt thank you can sometimes be …

Thirteen Christmasses ago, I arranged for my sister’s family to come cross-country to spend the holidays with my mother and me. At 82, my mom was Cardthartic’s original Fairy Cardmother, the unstoppable force who lived in the building next door. We had a great Christmas and, a week after our guests headed home — 13 years ago today — I found Mom on the floor of her kitchen. She’d suffered a stroke.

I was allowed in the ambulance with her, and got to stay by her side in the ER for those long nine hours she was parked on a gurney through the night. When she was finally given a room in the afternoon, I slipped home to shower and walk my poor dog. On the way in, I picked up my mail, and found this note from my mother.

Remember now, she lived right next door. She’d thanks me “for a wonderful Christmas” profusely in person. And by phone. And email. But, when it came to making sure a person felt truly seen and appreciated, my Fairy Cardmother firmly believed in notes — carefully written, stamped and mailed. 

Mom died peacefully a few weeks later. On the little desk in her kitchen, I’d found the open box of note cards she was writing, along with a roll of stamps, her pen on the floor where she’d fallen.

I’ve often thought, what a powerful legacy to leave me … the lasting reminder of just how meaningful expressing our appreciation on paper can be. I’ll never again be able to sit and talk books with my mother, or hear her nightly phoned-in, “Good night!” Her prolific emails? Long gone. But that note, in her handwriting, with her little signature mouse … it makes me feel like she’s sitting right here next to me. 
~ jodee stevens
founder & chief creative
 

For your own “thank you” cards or any other inspirational messages you want to send, you can access Cardthartic here: https://cardthartic.com


Happy New Year, Everybody! 2019 already! Grace (my Mom) always said time went faster as she got older, and at that time I did not understand her perspective. Now, I do.

And speaking of perspectives deepening with time, I promised you mine in the last post when I alluded to my house hunting escapades in North Carolina. Let me try to summarize the last two plus months of frantic house hunting activity.

Why frantic? Because my thought process drove me into looking at over 120 homes online and about 40 in person, all in the space of about four weeks. My Realtor and I actually physically looked at 18 in person one Sunday–absolutely exhausting. I made two offers, lost money on one, and that’s what finally drove me to pause and call a good friend and great coach.

What kind of thought process would make me do that frantic searching? Well, I gleaned some insight from the book Mastering Leadership which explains a body of research and an assessment instrument that you can take free online at https://leadershipcircle.com/products/leadership-circle-profile/

The book describes a group of leadership competencies that are positively correlated with leadership effectiveness. When you score high in those competencies, you are typically operating at a later stage of adult development and from a creative place which springs from your purpose and passion. When you score lower on those competencies and higher on the reactive tendencies of complying, protecting, and/or controlling you tend to be operating out of a place of fear–looking at an issue like a problem rather than an opportunity to advance your purpose.

Hmmm. Well, that sounded awfully familiar. When I was offered my opportunity here, I was provided three months of temporary housing and one month of storage for my household goods. After that, the cost would be on me. My apartment is conveniently located to the office, and I could bring my little fur buddies (a.k.a. the cats) with me–so that was good. But, the cats weren’t quite as enamored with the move. Gracie spent the first two days behind the clothes dryer and the next 10 days under my bed. Quatchie was more curious but would still cower and hide every time the big German Shepherd upstairs decided to bellow its deep and passionate bark. So, I found myself feeling pressure to find us more permanent housing–quickly.

I was looking at the house hunting as a problem and my fear of running out of time was driving me. I was projecting my dismay by being convinced the cats were scared and unhappy (gee, wonder who might have been feeling that way?) I was using a list of mostly aesthetics to try to find my ideal place–you know things like hardwood floors, open floor plan, stained kitchen cabinets and all the things I had back in my condo in Lancaster.

I told my friend/coach–who had been through the Leadership Circle assessment certification–that I felt like I needed to shift to a more creative way of approaching this process and asked for some guidance. Her advice…”Sit with it for a bit and see what happens.” Grrrrr. Not being a patient person and not liking to feel discomfort, that wasn’t my idea of a good time. Later that same day, I found myself grabbing for my laptop at least a half dozen times determined to look online for a house, only to slap it back down on the table unopened. I sat with my discomfort.

A funny thing happened the next morning. I thought about the purpose I had written when I went through the BB&T Leadership Institute Mastering Leadership Dynamics class in 2015 and later honed at Georgetown. That purpose is as follows: “Synthesize and share my learnings to help others grow and develop.” Now, I asked myself, “How should that influence my search for a house?” Then it dawned on me, and I wrote the following:

“I need energy to fulfill my purpose. My home environment has to be energy enhancing, not energy draining. That includes things like aesthetics; care required; financial pieces not draining me; the ability to still take my vacations; the way the home is situated and the type of light it gets; is there a peaceful place to meditate; what type of commute does it have–is it interesting or stressful; will I be in or close to nature; how easy or difficult is it do do certain desired or necessary daily routines;” and so on.

My whole mindset shifted. I felt a renewed energy and actually went back to revisit a house that I initially disregarded as too far a commute (it is only 25 minutes and passes through beautiful country). A screened-in porch facing woods provides both the kitties and me some peaceful opportunities. Gas heat, a gas fireplace and a gas range lend warmth and convenience. New construction gives me some peace of mind that the builder is available for fixing things at least during the first year. The energy feels restorative versus the other homes I came close to buying. Fingers crossed, I’m supposed to settle on it in two weeks from New Year’s Day.

Early in my blogging career I wrote a quote from a Don Henley song, The Heart of the Matter. “The more I know, the less I understand. All the things I thought I’d figured out I have to learn again.” I am continually reminded that learning never ends, and just when I settle in on a story or an explanation, I realize I’m full of baloney. Or maybe said more kindly, I get the nudge to challenge the story I’m telling and the conclusion I reached.

So, here I am…synthesizing and sharing my learnings as they exist in this moment. Please know what an honor it is to share them with you, and how much I appreciate your comments, emails and questions. Wishing you peace, joy and rich blessings in the year and years to come.


Oh my.  It’s been a while and certainly a lot has happened.  A new job; a big move; saying “see ya” to important people in my life and “hello” to some new acquaintances.  I have bid welcome to a world of using GPS to do everything from finding my way to work to figuring out where to get groceries and fill prescriptions.  And welcome to changing everything from my hair stylist (sniff…she subscribes to this blog…I MISS YOU!!) to my doctors, to my pet sitter, to my veterinarian, to my food to, well everything.

But, even in a new place “old” habits form.  I realized that today when I went for a walk in my apartment complex.  Everyday I drive in the same way and make a quick right, then a quick left and park.  Then I walk the few steps into my apartment building and in my door to plop down on my couch.

REALLY?!?

So today is a gorgeous day in North Carolina–the calm before several more days of forecasted rain.  And, no, I wasn’t here for the hurricanes, but yes I was here for the 14 inches of snow.  Are you kidding me?

But, today (Saturday) is beautiful and I decided my routine is not only adding to my waist and hip measurements but it’s getting a little tiresome.  So I ventured out into the complex.  It’s not very big and it’s all apartments, but I discovered some things.  There are garages in here.  THOSE would have come in handy during that snowstorm.  There is a beautiful woods at the back of the complex.  There are sidewalks throughout so there’s no good excuse not to walk because I can do so safely.

When I discovered these things I reflected on the fact that no matter how many big changes I made, I still fell into habits of routine where I missed opportunities.  When I do that, I miss the chance for a new adventure.  When I am not conscious in my actions I can get pretty bored and pretty boring.

How, I wonder, does that apply to our thought patterns.  Remember our thoughts lead to our behaviors which lead to our outcomes.  I’m reading a book right now called Mastering Leadership and it’s brilliant.  It furthers the learnings on adult stage development that I’ve posted on in the past.  How many of us behave out of the reactive, fear-based tendencies of “complying,” “protecting,” and/or “controlling” versus out of a creative place of purpose and passion.  I’m in the midst of house hunting and I can tell you that my initial house hunting activities were driven out of a place of fear.  I found myself thinking things like, “I only have a couple months of temporary housing before I start paying for it;” and “I’m soon going to have to pay for my stuff in storage.”

So what?  So I ended up starting and stopping and running around in a panic and worrying my little head off.  And I still had not found a nice place to live.  Thoughts–>behaviors–>outcomes.  After speaking to a good friend (and amazing coach!) I realized I needed to shift to more creative space.  What’s my purpose?  How does that relate to finding a home?

Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it in the next post!

2019 here we come!

BTW, the picture above is taken from my new office building, The Leadership Institute, www.bbtleadershipinstitute.com

 


Happy Easter and Passover Blessings my dear followers!

Yes it’s been awhile, but when I don’t have much to say, I promise I won’t bend your ear (or, in this case, your eye).

Now, I find I have a lot I would like to share but finding the best way to do that and the time is a whole other matter.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading in advance of a woman’s retreat, as well as participating in Oprah & Deepak Chopra’s latest free meditation experience.  The four books we were assigned are by the following authors:  Brené Brown, Pema Chödrön, Mark Nepo, and Jim Loehr.  The theme of the retreat is all about meeting life as it is and not trying to escape the up and down rhythms that go with it.

Yikes.  Much easier said than done.  Let me speak for myself…I am good at avoiding pain.  I run from it, avoid it and any confrontation that may cause it for me or others, and I’m good at numbing it.  I don’t choose anything illegal, just things like television, shopping, reading, being constantly busy, work, and so on.  Somewhere along the way I got the impression life should always be happy, pleasant, positive and–if it wasn’t–the goal was to get back to that place as quickly as possible. It’s caused a lot of issues to be swept under the rug, several terminated or unhealthy relationships, and I’m sure some negative health issues that have manifested through unresolved conflicts that rest somewhere below the surface.

Fairy tales even have conflict; of course when I watch a good happily-ever-after story, I like to fast forward through those nasty parts.  Yep, I really do.  You know when the female heroine gets confronted by an evil force or she does something really foolish–the remote control is there to buzz right through that painful part.  That way, I can get to the “happy ending” much faster and without too much distress.

You might say, “Well, of course.  We all hate pain.  Why in the world would you want to embrace it?”  I don’t know…except in those rare occasions when I have sat with the pain, I’ve come away a better person.  I’ve learned.  I’ve grown.  I’ve gained perspective.  I’ve developed deeper empathy.  I’ve found out things about myself that were both off-putting and uplifting.

What’s the formula for “success” in this pursuit of pain?  I have no idea.  I’ll probably be trying to figure it out for the rest of my life.  But, I do think it’s an important key to balancing strength and grace–which is of course what this blog is all about.  Pain enables you to have compassion.  It helps us realize that we’re all a part of this human experience in spite of the different views we hold.  It makes us not-so-different after all, underneath our declared passions and tough exteriors.  Pain, vulnerability, shame–if we live long enough we all share in these difficult emotions.  It gives us more in common than we think.  I imagine that could bring each of us a broader perspective and some much needed peace.

Something to ponder.

Much peace and many blessings to you today and always!

 

 


No, I’m not talking about pesticide.  I’m talking about the book TED* (The Empowerment Dynamic by David Emerald) and his Dreaded Drama Triangle which he patterned after Karpman’s Drama Triangle.  It’s a social model that is used to map conflicted or drama-intense relationship transactions.  The Karpman Drama Triangle models the connection between personal responsibility and power in conflicts, and the destructive and shifting roles people play.  Here’s a picture that gives you the general idea:

 

 

Oh, when I think of how many times I ended up on here throughout the years.  I’ll let you guess which role I usually started in!  But, as the theory states we shift roles around the triangle on a regular basis.

The Drama triangle is the stuff movies and songs are made of; every good tear jerker has a villain, a hero and a victim.  Sounds kind of familiar–doesn’t it?  And, those songs–OH those “killing-me-softly-with-his-words” songs that are crafted by master lyricists.  One of my recent favorite artists who does this incredibly well is Ed Sheeran.

I love Ed’s voice and his music.  He’s a good old fashioned story teller and he lays his heart out in his songs.  I just caught one of his songs off his relatively recently released album, “Divide.”  The lyrics are below, but you’ve got to listen to him sing it because his voice adds the necessary dimensions of sadness, longing, awareness, resoluteness, and all those other emotions you experience when you’re on the Drama Triangle.

If you want to listen to it, here’s the link from YouTube:

Save Myself

Ed Sheeran

 

I gave all my oxygen to people that could breathe

I gave away my money and now we don’t even speak

I drove miles and miles, but would you do the same for me?

Oh, honestly?

Offered off my shoulder just for you to cry upon

Gave you constant shelter and a bed to keep you warm

They gave me the heartache and in return I gave a song

It goes on and on

[Chorus] Life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels

I drown it with a drink and out-of-date prescription pills

And all the ones that love me they just left me on the shelf

No farewell

So before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself

I gave you all my energy and I took away your pain

‘Cause human beings are destined to radiate or drain

What line do we stand upon ’cause from here looks the same?

And only scars remain

[Chorus) Life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels

I drown it with a drink and out-of-date prescription pills

And all the ones that love me they just left me on the shelf

No farewell

So before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself

But if don’t

Then I’ll go back

To where I’m rescuing a stranger

Just because they needed saving just like that

Oh, I’m here again

Between the devil and the danger

But I guess it’s just my nature

My dad was wrong

‘Cause I’m not like my mum

‘Cause she’d just smile and I’m complaining in a song

But it helps

So before I save someone else

I’ve got to save myself

[Chorus] Life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels

I drown it with a drink and out-of-date prescription pills

And all the ones that love me they just left me on the shelf

No farewell

So before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself

And before I blame someone else, I’ve got to save myself

And before I love someone else, I’ve got to love myself

 

Want to guess which role he’s playing on the DDT?  The language kind of gives it away although you could make an argument that his lyrics indicate shades of all three.

 

According to my coach, rescuers get burned out and I was curious enough about that (I wonder why?!?) to read more.  Here’s what I found online:

 

The term burnout usually refers to an exhaustion and mental collapse at work, prompting a person to change professions.  It results from a person approaching their work as a Rescuer and repeatedly ending up as a Victim in the Drama Triangle.  Usually they are in the game of “I’m Only Trying to Help You” in which unsolicited work is done for ungrateful people.  In time, the Rescuer begins to feel like a Victim–frustrated, unappreciated and unsorted–burned out.

 

It sort of sounds like the song, doesn’t it?  Can anyone out there relate????  Oh, I have a sneaking suspicion you do!

 

 

 

 


I was trying to catch up on my Richard Rohr blog posts or at least place the new sub-theme this week in context.  Rohr takes a theme for an entire year and builds it out in sub-themes that he tackles each week or every couple weeks.  This week’s theme is “Connecting with Universal Meaning.”  I was intrigued enough to read on.

After reading his post, I decided to listen to his 8 minute video introducing the theme for the year (2017) which is “From the Bottom Up.”  There were several things he said during that video that inspired me to blog.  Yes, I know it’s been a while.  I did have a vacation in there to Scotland…which is where my feature picture came from for today’s SWOG blog entry.  Eilean Donan Castle is my favorite spot in the Highlands of Scotland and we were fortunate to have the sun come out just before we got there.

But, I digress…

Back to Rohr.  So back in the late 1990’s all the world was talking about “paradigm shifts.”  It was becoming an overused phrase and many CEO business leaders would suffer a gag reflex when someone in their HR or OD areas would use it.  So swallow hard, because I’m about to pontificate on our own personal “paradigm shifts!”

Rohr quotes the author Thomas Kuhn who popularized the phrase, and it goes like this:

A paradigm shift becomes necessary when the plausibility structure of the previous paradigm becomes so full of holes and patchwork “fixes” that a complete overhaul, which once looked utterly threatening, now appears as a lifeline.

That quote really hit me as important in the journey of life.  We all create our own stories.  We create our own paradigms as we go through life.  Our stories are written initially by early influencers like parents, relatives, teachers, coaches and those who teach us and mold us according to their stories for navigating life.  Our stories help us choose and then rationalize actions and behaviors in accordance to our story.  We practice our politics and our religion according to the story we’ve adopted.  We choose our friends, our mates, our homes, our jobs according to the story we’ve crafted for ourselves.

And here’s the thing that nobody tells you early on in your story creation:  The story changes.  Yes, it does.  The story changes because something usually happens to us that makes us question our neatly created and well-maintained story. And, as the author says above, “when the plausibility structure of the previous paradigm (read here: story) becomes so full of holes and patchwork ‘fixes’ (read here: when we can no longer fit current events into our old story)… a complete overhaul now appears as a lifeline.”

This seemed to be saying to me:  Grab the lifeline.  Be flexible with your story.  Stay open to a different way of looking at things–including yourself.  Stay open to a different way of being.  Stay open to listening to the cues that prompt you to a different way of relating…to yourself…to others…to your spirituality.

I think this is the underpinning of vertical adult stage development.  When your way of making meaning in life is no longer working for you; when it “becomes so full of holes;” it may be time for a personal paradigm shift.  There’s a quote that goes, “Change your story, change your life.”  I know that can work, too.  But, sometimes your life changes first and then your story doesn’t seem quite right.

Is it time to update the edition of your story?  I wonder how many editions we will write until it’s all said and done?

 


A week or two ago, someone on the Georgetown Listserv advertised these artwork “posters” from Society6 to help remind people of some sound advice during these uncertain times.  I could not resist purchasing one.

 

 

For those that can’t see the verbiage, here’s what it says:

THIS IS YOUR ASSIGNMENT

Feel all the things.  Feel the hard things.  The inexplicable things. The things that make you disavow humanity’s capacity for redemption.  Feel all the maddening paradoxes.  Feel overwhelmed, crazy.  Feel uncertain.  Feel angry.  Feel afraid.  Feel Powerless.  Feel Frozen.  And THEN

FOCUS

Pick up your pen.  Pick up your paint brush.  Pick up your damn chin.  Put your two calloused hands on the turntables, in the clay, on the strings.  Get behind the camera.  Look for that pinprick of LIGHT.  Look for the TRUTH (yes it is a thing–it still exists).  FOCUS on THAT LIGHT.  ENLARGE IT.  REVEAL THE FIERCE ENERGY OF NOW.  Reveal how shattered we are, how capable of being repaired.  But don’t lament the break.  Nothing new would be built if things were never broken.  A wise man once said:  There’s a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.

GET AFTER THAT LIGHT.

THIS IS YOUR ASSIGNMENT

Here’s the link to the Society6 site and the FOCUS print in particular:  https://society6.com/product/focus-by-courtney-martin-and-wendy-macnaughton_print#s6-7018448p4a1v45

I think it was Deepak Chopra that said something like (and I am going from memory so I’m likely paraphrasing):

When going through a difficult time ask the questions, “What am I supposed to learn from this?  What is this here to teach me?”

It’s worth pondering.  Peace and blessings.


Being a Superhero

Somehow the day after the Free Comic Book Giveaway seemed like a good time to talk about indestructibility.  We often think of superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in those terms.  They’ve been through all sorts of dangerous plots and still come out the other side whole.

You just know, however, that this plot–ah, I mean post–will have a twist.  So let’s start with Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, and I will endeavor to apply his guidance to our journeys through life AND indestructibility.

 

Dying Into Life

The Wisdom traditions look at dying and resurrection differently than we’ve been taught–at least in main stream Christianity.  And, just in case you’re about to tune out because I’ve said something that typically bores or offends you, please read on.  Several of you are dealing with “destructibility” issues right now, and all of us will deal with them at some point in time during our lives.  Rohr says:

Death is not just the death of the physical body, but all the times we hit bottom and must let go of how we thought life should be…

Now, I’ve got your attention.  I’ve experienced “hitting bottom,” and I’ve lived beside people who have lost children unexpectedly, who have lost spouses unexpectedly, who have lost parents unexpectedly, who have experienced debilitating health issues, who have lost jobs unexpectedly, who have lost life savings unexpectedly, who have lost siblings at a young age, who have experienced divorce unexpectedly, who have watched their companies experience rapid decline, and really, the examples could go on.  The examples of how “we hit bottom” are countless and usually don’t happen just once in our lives.

Here is where the plot gets interesting.  Let me continue to explain by returning to the quote from Rohr:

…must let go of how we thought life should be and surrender to a Larger Power.  And in that sense, we all probably go through many deaths in our lifetime.  These deaths to the small self (ego) are tipping points, opportunities to choose transformation early.  Unfortunately, most people turn bitter and look for someone to blame.  So their death is indeed death for them, because they close down to growth and new life.

But if you do choose to walk through the depths–even the depths of your own sin and mistakes–you will come out the other side, knowing you’ve been taken there by a Source larger than yourself.  Surely this is what it means to be saved. Being saved doesn’t mean that you are any better than anyone else or will be whisked off into heaven.  It means you’ve allowed and accepted the mystery of transformation here and now.

If we are to speak of miracles, the most miraculous thing of all is that God uses the very thing that would normally destroy you–the tragic, sorrowful, painful, or unjust–to transform and enlighten you.  Now you are indestructible; there are no dead ends….This is not a one-time cosmic transaction, but the constant pattern of all growth and change.

 

What Does This Mean To Me?

I watch all of us hang on to ways of life, ways of thinking, ways of doing that no longer serve us.  I hear people say things like, “I just want to get through this so I can get back to my normal life.”

What if you’re not supposed to get back to your normal life.  What if you’re supposed to allow the “death” you are experiencing to transform your way of being, your way of thinking, your way of behaving?  What if there’s a deeper message and you’re being “pursued” to open yourself to the learning it can teach.  What if your greatest living is yet to come when you listen and allow the lessons to soak in, changing your thinking, your beliefs and, therefore, your outcomes?  What if you are indestructible because you are reborn to a new way of approaching your changed life?

What if…?  Maybe you really are a superhero?!?!

 

 


So, I’m sorting through “life” right now–yeah, I know–I’m always sorting through life.  But, I’m trying to figure out where next career and job-wise.  Some opportunities are presenting themselves which is exciting, AND it makes it difficult for someone like me to know which way I should turn.

Late last night I opened a bottle of “Honest Tea” to take a few sips before I headed off to bed.  You’ve heard me talk before about Honest Tea and the quotes they have inside their bottle caps.  So, the bottle cap is lying quote side up on my kitchen counter top, and I was bending over my counter deep in thought.  I wasn’t focused on anything; I was just zoned out thinking about some of the options I need to sort through.  Quite frankly I was feeling tired and overwhelmed.

Suddenly my focus zoomed in on the cap and I moved closer to read the quote.  Here it is:

 

The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.    ~Albert Schweitzer

 

Hmmmm.  I think that was timely on the universe’s part, and I still believe there is no such thing as a coincidence!


From a fellow SWOG:

Let It Go from Danna Faulds

Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold:

the holding of plans or dreams or expectations – Let it all go.

Save your strength to swim with the tide.

The choice to fight what is here before you now will

only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts

to flee from the very energy you long for. Let go.

Let it all go and flow with the grace that washes

through your days whether you received it gently

or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders.

Take this on faith; the mind may never find the

explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward

nonetheless. Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry

you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dreams

or destinations. Let it all go and find the place of

rest and peace, and certain transformation

Trust and surrender dear SWOGs.  Trust and surrender.