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.


Good morning my dear SWOG blog friends!

I don’t often do tributes to SWOG stars.  Maybe it’s because I think all of you on this blog are STARS, and so it feels kind of funny to single anyone out.  I make this exception because this person is not only a STAR in my mind, but she kind of epitomizes the “Strong” in the Strong Women of Grace.

A dear friend from the Georgetown Cohort has been through about six months of hell.  Back in the late winter she started experiencing blood sugar drops which escalated in frequency and severity right up until she was diagnosed and then operated on for an Insulinoma (tumor in the pancreas) in early June.  Fortunately, the tumor was benign but the surgery was grueling, and the recovery–well–let’s just say it’s not been a picnic in the park.

She was in the hospital over two weeks for the surgery, discharged, and then she had to be re-admitted less than ten days later for a few days.  She’s home, recovering and making her slow and steady progress back to the land of the living.

This was a fight.  This was not a given.  She couldn’t eat.  She couldn’t sleep.  Before the surgery she was at risk of dropping into a coma and not coming out, and after the surgery she wasn’t able to hold any sustenance in her.  She was on more prayer chains than I can count, and those months between March and July must have felt like years for her.

She tributes her husband, family and friends for helping her through, as she has graciously said in recent weeks as her slow and steady climb out of the abyss has allowed her more interaction.  She acknowledges the journey is not complete, and she still has a ways to go to regain her strength and energy level that she was robbed of through this ordeal.

The other day I stumbled on a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that so captures the spirit of this woman.

 

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

 

March on dear SWOG.  You are an inspiration!  We hold you in our prayers and our esteem.

 

 

 


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?!?!

 

 


Impact = Intention

 

OK, SWOG Lady…what in heavens name do you mean by that heading?   Well, I’m so glad you asked!!

I was sitting in a webinar about a week ago and it was on coaching people in a certain stage of development.  The instructor–a really cool SWOG herself–said that so often our impact does not equal our intention and that is a great area for examination and continued development.

I love that equation.  Yes, we’re human.  So, this will likely be the case more frequently than we ideally would like.  After all, there aren’t many people that circle in our worlds that start out with bad intentions.  Most people don’t get up in the morning and say, “How can I really mess up people’s days today?”  At least, I would like to hope we all bound out of bed hoping to do more good than harm.  And, yet, there’s a lot of difficult stuff happening in our world and our lives.

If our intentions are good, the next question becomes, “Do our behaviors and outcomes match or equal our intentions?”  And if they do not equate, then what is getting in the way?

I’m spending a lot of time on this one.  It’s tricky.  Sometimes you can control your impact and sometimes you can’t–after all, how a message from you gets received by the recipient depends so much on their filters at that particular time.  But, I think more often than we suspect possible, we can get our intentions and our impact more closely aligned with one another.

How you ask?

Oh, I’m so very glad you did!!

First of all, I’m still working on staying curious not judgmental…so I want to say right up front…I don’t have the magic answers but I’m very willing to embark upon the discussion.  Most of you have read that I’m trying to meditate regularly and I’ve been using Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Meditation series.  I’m almost concluded with one on “Hope,” and it has some clues to our question posed above.  Here are some tidbits of wisdom from the series:

  • To reach people to share the energy of HOPE, you have to do more than just listen to them, you have to SEE them.  We all want to be seen and heard.  We all want validation.  When people are validated, they know you see them, you hear them and what they’re saying means something to you.  They feel like they’re not alone and that they matter.  That is the deepest reality, the deepest desire we all share–is to matter.  That’s the way to make HOPE real–for anyone in your world–make them matter.
  • The feeling level is all important.  Just as people detect when they are being judged, they also detect when they are accepted.  Don’t try to help someone if you feel you are angry, disappointed or ashamed.  Work on yourself first.
  • Getting to a place where you accept and welcome the other person’s existence, then you will create a heart-to-heart bond at the level of feeling.  This bond can work miracles because it takes down barriers of distrust, defensiveness, guilt and shame.
  • Realistically, every relationship gets tangled up in the past, making it hard to relate without judgment toward someone else.  Especially in families–there’s a tendency to put people in a box–believing they will never change. But consider how much you want to escape the box you’ve been put in.  Everyone has that feeling because everyone wants more freedom to be themselves.
  • When you allow that yearning of freedom in someone else, you can recognize how much you feel the same way and then ego doesn’t block your view.  You genuinely hope for the best in every situation no matter what happened in the past.
  • Staying in present moment awareness is simply conscious experience without the mind’s analysis or conceptualization (or judgment) including thoughts and feelings about the past and the future.  In any situation, allow yourself to be present to the experience without mental analysis and interpretation.  And you will find that you naturally drop the belief that you know what is best for someone else.

When our impact doesn’t equal our intentions, so often we missed the mark through our communication.  We pre-judge what someone is going to say or what they should do or what we hope they will do.  We don’t meet them with open minds.  We don’t stay in the present moment with a spirit of curiosity instead of pre-set expectations.  We don’t meet them where they are.  Why are we having difficulty having political discussions?  We’re so entrenched in our own views and biases about the “way things should be” we have difficulty listening with an open, non-judgmental mind.

And think of all the labels we use to pre-judge others:  Democrats, Liberals, Republicans, Conservatives, Felons, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Refugees, Foreigners, Working Class, College-Educated, Veterans and the list goes on and on. When you hear those labels, can’t you just hear your mind beginning it’s mental gymnastics and assessments?

I dare you to…!

Here’s a challenge for you:  take one day and a piece of notebook paper.  Be an observer of your mind.  Note how many times you pre-judge a situation based on who you’re dealing with or who you hear about through the news or conversations.  At the end of the day note how much opportunity you have for changing your impact on people and outcomes.

And when someone doesn’t treat you with that same open mind as is bound to happen…well, that’s where grace comes in.  🙂

 

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.    ~William Shakespeare

 

 


 

 

Deep Listening

Oh my.  My journey seems to be ramping up.  I just completed a women’s deep listening retreat in the rural foothills of Virginia with a community of women seekers from all over the country.  Our two wonderful guides were instructors from the Georgetown community.  Here is a poem from one of the lovely ladies which she wrote during a deep listening exercise.  It made everyone shed a tear, and I just have to share it with this broader community of men and women in the SWOG world.  It is so relevant in this season of Spring and time of rebirth.

 

A Season of Fierce Blooming

All beautiful women here

Loving souls, brave souls,

Steel Magnolias

We share a proud strength

As we stretch into vulnerability

Like a flower opening to the Sun

Wild flowers, passionate roses,

Sacred lilies, vibrant daffodils

And many more

The variety is sumptuous

The colors breathtaking

Across the World we go about our blooming

Yet ALL connected are we

By the same fertile ground

That feeds our souls

And encourages our unfolding

Oh, Divine Garden

HERE I AM!

(Mary Carr 4/24/17)

 

 

Thank you dear SWOG’s for your grace and kindness.

 

 


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.