Thursday, April 29, 2010

Just wanted to let everyone know I’m experiencing some technical difficulties this morning — who knew the scale was battery operated?!  Hopefully, weigh-in will be on Friday this week!

Jump On Life Today!

Several years ago, after attending another boring but educational lecture, I had an idea.  What if we sponsored a breakfast speakers series that would be inspirational in nature — people could come for breakfast and leave ready to try new things, step outside their comfort zones.  I even had a name for the series, JOLT (Jump on Life Today).  I shared the idea with some colleagues, to lukewarm response.  So, I dropped the idea.

Flash forward to earlier this academic year, when I brought out the JOLT idea and shared it with my friend Tricia, our campus counseling center director, and Layne, an amazing young professional in my department.  They met, without me I might add, and decided that it was time this idea became a reality.  The three of us collaborated, brainstormed, and began the series in February.  Yesterday, we held our third JOLT event and it was amazing!

Our speaker, Dr. Deann Fitzgerald (check out her website blew us away.  Dr. Fitzgerald and her team have changed lives in a big way both here in Cedar Rapids, and in Kenya (their latest project will bring clean water to 32,000 people).  She talked about failures (“they’re all outcomes…you just like some outcomes better than others”) and she talked about inspiration and passion being things that you have to go looking for…they don’t just appear.  They come when you take a step forward — in any direction — and decide to take another step.  She also says this is the way each person can change the world:  one step at a time.

After Dr. Fitzgerald finished speaking, she gave her email address and encouraged everyone to write if they had questions, ideas, or wanted to create change in the world.  I listened to people saying they want to go on medical mission trips, that they were moved and inspired to act by being in Dr. Fitzgerald’s presence…and that is when it hit me that JOLT was serving as a vehicle for inspiration — just what I imagined it could be when I first had the idea.

One thing that stands out for me today as I have spent some time reflecting on this experience is that I let naysayers prevent me from jumping on life, from taking a step forward in a direction I was inspired to go.  Thank God for Tricia and Layne, who talked back to the negative voices (those of my colleagues, and those in my head which suggested that others knew better than I).  They gave me a true gift when they joined hands with me to take that first step.  I am thinking it is about time for me to trust my own inspiration and creative energy.  Next time, I take the step forward on my own.

On feeling discouraged

It is a short step from satisfied to discouraged when you are on a weight loss journey: the length of the step from the bare wood floor onto the scale.  No matter how well you’ve stayed on track, what you’ve eaten, how you’ve exercised, it feels like you simply didn’t try hard enough if the digital number reads the same as last time you stepped on — or, worse, if it reads higher.

The dictionary says discourage means “to deprive of courage or confidence: dishearten”.  While I was looking it up, I saw a bunch of other “dis” words that describe how I felt this morning:  discomfited, disequilibrium, disgrace, disgust (I won’t bore you with each definition).  How easy it is to fall into the trap of allowing negative emotion to overwhelm us.

One way to combat the disheartened feeling is to find inspiration in those around us who have taken on the task of real life change.  I am lucky enough to have numerous examples around me:  Tammy, who has gone back to school in an accelerated night program in addition to working full-time and raising two beautiful daughters; Jen D., who has lost a whopping 47 pounds and counting; Rhonda who has taken control of her own physical health even though that journey has sometimes been scary.

Real change, whether you are working on your habits or your habitual thought patterns, takes courage.  It takes heart.  But even the most motivated among us has down days.  The trick is to find a way to bring yourself back up.  I found a few “dis” words in the dictionary to help with that, too:

  • Disencumber yourself of unrealistic expectations
  • Disembarrass yourself — all journeys have ups and downs
  • Dismiss negative self-talk
  • Dispel the fog of disappointment and take courage and inspiration from those around you.

No egrets…

In my January 15 reflection posted on this blog I wrote:

“Finally, I received a small package in the mail today from Jan Crawford in California.  She included a bag full of little glass hearts and her card read, “Just a little BAG OF LOVE to remind you how many hearts are behind you…”  I have been handing out glass hearts to people this afternoon.  I know Jan will understand my impulse to “share the love”; so often we assume that others know we care without any outward expression of it.  Please know, whether you received a little glass heart today or not, you are loved.”

This morning Jan Crawford passed away from cancer.  Jan, my friend Wendy’s mother, was a woman with a huge personality — when people say someone is a “force of nature”, Jan is the type of person they are describing.  The size of her personality was matched only by the size of her heart.   She loved Wendy, and took into her heart every person who was part of Wendy’s life…which is how Jan came into my life. 

For Christmas a year ago, Jan sent me 12 t-shirts, each bearing a different sassy phrase:  “I am currently away from my office”, “Teamwork means a bunch of people doing what I say”, “Sarcasm, just another service I offer.”  When I joined Sister’s Health Club last March, I wore a different shirt each of my first twelve workouts.  The other women at the club said they couldn’t wait each morning to see what my shirt would say, and their curiousity and enjoyment broke the ice and helped us develop a sense of comaraderie.  No one knew what to say the day I wore my personal favorite — “Egrets…I’ve had a few…”

In January, when Jan sent the package I wrote about, she was already well into her fight with cancer.   That she took the time to encourage me when she was feeling so ill meant a great deal.  In February and early March, I received several small packages, each containing items Jan was passing on to me: a book of poetry, napkins with a humorous theme, a favorite quote that had been hanging on the wall in her office.  While it is true that Jan, like all of us, had her idiosynchrasies and flaws, what I have come back to again and again is one characteristic that will stick with me:  Jan was fiercely generous.  

Tonight, those who were close to Jan are, I imagine, feeling many things.  My heart goes out to them.  What I am feeling is gratitude for the many generous gifts Jan brought to the lives of those around her, including mine.  May we all discover this fierce generosity within our own hearts!


I shocked my parents on Saturday by telling them I had been in my yard…doing yardwork.  Perhaps more than anything else I’ve told them about recent changes in my life, this one fact had the effect of solidifying their belief that something transformational has occurred. (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little for effect, but I know it blew them away!)

When I decided to get busy in the yard, I suddenly realized I had neither tools (not even a rake!) nor knowledge of what to do.  My trip to Ace Hardware was an adventure, and the salesman refrained from laughing (much) when I explained that I wasn’t even sure what I would need first.  I left, the proud owner of a rake, a claw-thingy, a trowel, a sturdy pair of clippers and work gloves.  Later, after two hours of bending and squatting, my quads and glutes were complaining but the “yardie” was full and ready for its maiden voyage to the curb.  I was full of the satisfaction of hard work as I sat in the sun and dialed my parents’ number.

This morning, as I stand at the french doors in my dining room and look at the half-cleared plant bed bordering my patio, I can see several inches of new growth on the hostas and the various bulbs which, until Saturday, had been obscured and choked by approximately three years worth of detritus. In some ways, I feel like the plants surrounding my patio, putting tender new leaves and buds into the open for the first time. 

People and plants.  We thrive best when we are able to clear away debris from the past and lift our faces toward the sun of a new day.