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Are you kidding me?!

“This is a perfect day”, thought the fish.  Swimming around in the bowl, wondering if it should do laps or circles.  It could see Sally and her brother looking out the window as Mom was away for a bit.  So peaceful. 

Then the cat showed up.  “That’s not good”, thought the fish.

The first sign of trouble was how happy-go-lucky he appeared in that tall stupid crooked hat – so crooked hat it couldn’t even stand up straight!  “How improper for this perfectly good day.  The boy appears alarmed because Mom is gone and that cat is here.  That’s not good.  Oh, dear.  Shenanigans! Hey...my water is splashing too much!”  It only took minutes to go from peaceful to pandemonium.

“WAIT!  Are you kidding me!?  If that damn cat isn’t enough..now we have Thing 1 and Thing 2 creating an apocalyptic atmosphere in my home!”, freaked the fish.

Can you relate?  You arrive at work on a perfectly good day, doing your perfectly happy job, having your perfect latte in your perfect office, then the phone rings with someone on the other end who didn’t have their perfectly good coffee of choice yet.  Or the office drama queen walks into your office with meltdown of the moment.  Maybe your computer isn’t working and you have a deadline.  There is a host of “Are you kidding me?!” moments that span a day...if you let them.

I just read a great blog post, attributed to Buddha, that might help you if you are having a day/week/life that the fish did in Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” story:

Buddha was travelling in the company of several other people. One of the travelers began to test Buddha by responding to anything he had to say with disparaging, insulting, hurtful remarks.  Every day for next three days, the traveler verbally abused Buddha, calling him a fool, arrogantly ridiculing him in any way he could.  Finally, after three days of that ongoing behavior, the rude traveler could stand it no longer! He asked Buddha, "How can you continue to be so kind and loving when all I've done for the last three days is dishonor, offend and try to find ways to hurt you?  Each time I try to hurt you, you respond in a kind manner?  How can this be?!"  The Buddha responded with a question for his fellow traveler, "If someone offers you a gift, and you do not accept that gift, to whom does the gift belong?"

The next time your perfectly good day appears to be rattled by some outside influence, you now have another option other than, “Are you kidding me?!” with which to respond.  You can take the "gift"...or not.


The geniuses in the world continue to spoil us…

I was driving with my daughter past a major interchange in the Twin Cities which is only a few miles from our home. There are retaining walls going up, no less than eleven giant cranes spiked toward the sky, tons of cement and rebar holding up what will be new roads to make travel less congested for us.

I pondered, “How cool is it that we don’t need to know that stuff?! Somebody else figured it out!”

Most of us live a life surrounded by conveniences. We travel highways that someone else engineered and constructed to handle extreme temps, heavy weights, drainage issues. I have no clue how to dry a coffee bean (are they even dried?) or make the pottery mug I am sipping from right now. When I talk to my mom on the phone, it still amazes me that somehow it sounds “just like her” – only the sound of her voice is coming out of my cell phone, while she lives far from me.

Bouncing through life with our daily routines, concerns, responsibilities, it’s common to miss the magic and miracles around us that are seemingly just “there”, expected. The natural world cycles with growing, blooming, feeding, seeding, decay. Ants are in constant busyness building their domed castles. Bees, birds and breezes handle pollination. The maple tree isn’t bitching because it’s growing next to the pine and the elm who are stealing some of its sun. Or maybe it is. Nature as a whole seems to be doing just fine without much “people input”.

Yet, there is so much else beyond the natural world we expect as a “what is” because some artist, inventor, engineer, builder, healer, teacher saw a need and decided to do something about it. They stood for something to improve life for all of us. Cobblestone roads were better than dirt/mud, so someone had to figure that out to put a bunch of stones together in a path centuries ago to form roads. “People input” has been used to harness the knowledge and resources of nature for food, building products, heat, transportation, medicine.

If not for ongoing curiosity and genius ideas from many considered “crazy”, the ones who came up with solutions for the betterment of society, we wouldn’t have a global system to even define “time”, much less an alarm with a customized ring tone feature on our mobile devices.

Here’s how to recognize how spoiled you really are. The next time you are sitting in traffic, whining about rush hour, remember these few tidbits and see what that does for your disposition: You didn’t have to know how to build or operate the construction equipment that was necessary to build the road that you are crawling on. You didn’t have to write your drivers manual or car manual or know where to place the street signage so everyone plays the same game by the same rules and stays on the correct side of the road going same direction. Somebody somewhere figured out how to engineer and build the car/bus you are riding in, and figured out how to refine the gas and oil that makes its engine work. “People input” also generated the radio/CD player/iPod options for you to learn something or listen to music that you didn’t have to know to record. Oh, and the surround sound isn’t hampered by outside traffic noise, because you can keep your windows up to regulate the car temp with A/C or heat, all for your traffic-sitting pleasure.

No matter what your journey/destiny on any given day, be glad that you don’t need to know all that much. Some geniuses solved a bunch of your daily life for you long before you knew you needed them. With most of the heavy lifting already handled in your day, you can do the work you are called to do without the illusion of inconveniences. Those awaiting you at your destination will be glad you took some time to realize how spoiled you really are.




Casual or Causal?

"Casual, Causal, Casual, Causal…", said the voice that awakened me before the alarm even went off one morning last week.  I have mind chatter on an ongoing basis, so I presumed it was simply another “distinction” or message I might get to pay attention to that day for myself or one of my clients.  I like distinctions – they denote clarity.

I did my internal wonder and rationalization as I do when I need to get the “conversation” removed from my brain.  Sometimes I even jot some notes, as I did in the damn morning pages that day.  Causal means I get to be focused on getting something done.  Causal is the opposite of formal or maybe means a slower, relaxed pace.  I probably can’t be casual and causal at the same time because things would move too slowly for me, blah, blah, blah.   I let the idea drop, figuring it would show up when it needs to be a message.

Alas, the concept couldn’t leave me alone as it came back this week.  Mother Nature decided to teach the lesson. Never at a loss for a sense of humor, “Mom” evidently thought that the aesthetics of my property were somehow diminishing and she needed to do something.  The snow banks have finally been shrinking on both sides of my driveway from face-height to hip-height over the past week or so with our 50 degree heat waves and some rain.  We’ve only had about 80” of snow to shovel this season so far to create the nice tunnel effect that I get to drive through from the street into my garage.  So for good measure, Mom Nature decided to take matters in her own hands and dropped about 6” of the nice heavy March snow – you know, the stuff perfect for snowball fights and making snowmen?  As I was shoveling that no-longer-fluffy white stuff off the sidewalk and driveway in order to amp up the snow banks, the casual-causal idea showed up again - with story analogies this time.

About half way down the driveway as I was energetically, methodically getting my equivalent of a P90X warmup, the Hare and the Tortoise story came to mind.  Both the rabbit and the turtle were causal as they both had strong intentions to finish the race.  Yet, which one of the two, if any, was casual?  Based on my original thought last week, both probably couldn't happen simultaneously, right?  Certainly, the hare dashed multiple times to his next stop so he could hang out and rest.  He could be considered casual, even unconcerned in his arrogance, knowing he would certainly win a race against a slow reptile.  Arguably, the determined tortoise could have also been deemed to be casual as he plodded, albeit unwaveringly, toward the finish line.  That said, my original theory from last week is incorrect.  "What's the point of this....my fingers are getting cold!", I found myself muttering.

The point:  What value could inspired actions, whether dramatic or diligent, offer us if our approach to a desired end was both causal and casual?  Could we land at the finish line more sanely?  Would someone who is used to a faster pace be bored or anxious?  Not really…I was casually (although not slowly as it was 30 degrees) and causally uncovering pavement and it was lovely because the all-encompassing hyper-focus of get it done at warp speed was missing.  The combo of casual and causal allowed me to enjoy the weather, the quiet and uninterrupted thinking time.

The purposefulness of being causal is what gets us into action toward a goal dream or end result.  The ongoing forward movement affords a sense of accomplishment. Considering a casual action plan, whether using methodical consistent baby steps (think tortoise) or big leaps followed by resting or regrouping (think hare), doesn’t mean jobs can’t be done quickly or without focus.  Steven Covey’s “Sharpen the Saw” analogy is an excellent reminder of the need to be “on purpose”, yet make time for self-care and improvement along the way.  Getting all wrapped around the axle pushing ourselves to a frenzy or burnout point serves no one in the long run.  Working casually often can take the rigidity away from the need to have something “look a certain way” while still creating a desired end.  Given our often hectic lifestyles, could that offer you a different perspective?

I wonder if Michelangelo, while chipping away at the rock that contained “David”, thought his work had to be done a specific, formal, rigid or hurried way.  Or was he simply intent to artfully remove any parts of the stone that weren’t David?  If your inner artist (yes, we all have one) were to master something in your inspired life, causal intention is necessary.  Would you do it casually, too?

BE the inspiration YOU are!



Mirrored Wallpaper, Madness and You

Remember the popular wallpaper from back in the 70’s or maybe early 80’s that had the reflective mirror-like backing with some gaudy design overlaid on top of the mirror effect?  Yes, by the early to mid-1980’s many people wanted that stuff gone and chose to update their décor.  I hung (and stripped) a lot of wallpaper in a lot of houses back then, having homeowners much happier when the “mirror effect” went away.

Fast forward to today.  A few weeks ago I moved.  A new beginning of sorts since I moved to a different suburb after living in Eden Prairie, raising my family, doing my businesses and volunteering there for almost 24 years.  I’m in a home older than I’ve been accustomed to and guess what adorns my foyer?  Yup…wallpaper from hell.

When one of my nephews, then one of my son’s friends, who helped with my move saw the walls in my entryway for the first time, they marveled, “Wow!  This is SO cool!  I wish I had this in MY place!”  Keep in mind, these guys are 19-23 years old and have never seen the mirrored wallpaper phenomenon since most of it was (thankfully) gone prior to their births.

What does that have to do with you?  Let me explain. 

Note:  For those of you outside the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, you can continue to read for an idea or two, yet the promotion might not be something you can take advantage of for logistical reasons....just sayin'.

As I was stripping wallpaper from what was the pretty Pepto-Bismol Pink bathroom this weekend (my adventure isn’t limited to the foyer walls), I had the best idea.

It occurred to me that there are 2 things that happen in early March that can help me expedite this house project dilemma.  Not high school sports tournaments.  Not Spring Breaks.  It’s that time of the year for both March Madness Sales and The Minneapolis Home and Garden Show. 

When I worked in someone else’s office years ago, I used to take a vacation day every year to go to the Mpls Convention Center on a weekday before the big weekend rush to visit the home improvement vendors and smell the flowers and dirt they brought in for displays.  A date I couldn’t deny myself when there were typically snowbanks everywhere on the way to all those blooms just waiting to show off downtown.  Loved it!  I like upgrading houses and I enjoy gardening, which is a bonus, since the place I moved to a couple of weeks ago has given me more than ample “opportunities” to do both.  Translate:  LOTS of work to do.  In EVERY room (literally).   Before gardening season starts.

As a gardener and artist, it’s one thing to be curious with anticipation and another thing to expect a major project.  I don’t know what’s under the 4’ of snow in my new backyard other than some evidence of a wire fence in the shape of a square doing its best to peek out for air.  “Grandma”, the lovely 90-year old lady that lived here for the past 35 years, promised there is a garden back there and listed a few surprises I may find if – I mean when – the snow melts.

Yesterday, as my best buddy, DIF, and I tackled layers of glue on the walls in anticipation of Spackle, Sandpaper and Blue Tape to do their duties next before the main event (paint!), the genius idea came to me:

Have a March “Stop-The-Madness” Sale!

I’m admittedly a bit creeped out about doing a sale this extreme, yet I really need to fund this house overhaul project this month – before I have my own madness AND before the fence in the backyard is uncovered.  If you feel inspired to get some clarity about your own “madness” (you know I’m not alone when it comes to that) and are willing to come into my “construction site” for the Deal of the Year, here are some things to consider if this Stop-The-Madness promotion is for you or someone you love and/or respect:

March indicates the end of the first quarter. 

  • Are you on track with your goals and aspirations for 2011?
  • Have you been one of the many to abandon the gym for the year (be honest) because your New Year’s Resolution was just SO long ago and that commitment has come and gone as quickly as a satellite in orbit?  You know what your "gym" is that you blew off already, so just fill that in the blank.
  • Do you have a nagging sense that you are “up to something”… and are having a heck of a time defining what “it” is – or what action you might take to execute “it”? 

I can inspire some insight.

FROM NOW THROUGH MARCH 10Almost all of my services* are ½ priceGulp.

  • 1-Hour Ideation/Effectiveness  Strategy sessions:  $75 (reg. $150)
  • 1-hour hand analysis reading:  $60 (reg. $120)
  • ½ hour hand analysis reading:  $35 (reg. $70)
  • $300 off 6-month Executive Coaching Program

This sale applies only to services purchased and started on or before 3/10/11.   Note that although I've recorded the readings I've done for the last 15+ years that I've been reading hands, at this madness price, they won’t be recorded unless you bring something along to record for yourself.  However, if we do any Ideation work in person, you can take my notes with you.  

*This promo does not apply to gift certificates, corporate events or appointments scheduled beyond 3/10/11.  It also does not include copywriting services provided by WordQueens, although you may want to check out that fun site if you need some irreverent, effective content writing for your marketing materials, website, etc.  www.wordqueens.com

Now it’s up to you.  Call or email me to see whatever time you and I can match our calendars and I’m yours!  Since we both have several things already on our agendas for the next week and a half, it would be important set this up sooner than later, because on March 11, my madness is technically over.  Ok, as soon as the paper is gone, it’s officially over.

Thank you for your contribution to yourself, your well-being, your success and the ripple effect you cause when you contribute to your inspired self when you get a handle on your own madness this March! 

Oh, and HUGE GRATITUDE for beautifying our world (no more mirrored paper!) by supporting my project.  You’ll have to stop by for tea in the summer once the surprise in the back yard unfolds. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

BE the Inspiration YOU are!





They sell cookbooks at the bookstore?

Yesterday I met Dorothy.  I needed a change of venue so I decided to get out of the office, skip the coffee shop scene, and go to the local mall’s food court to catch up on some paperwork.  The mall in my town has a gigantic fireplace in the middle of the food court, so I was instantly drawn to the glow and the heat as I left my car in the falling snow outside.  A chair as big as Papa Bear’s welcomed me to warm my bones while I settled into my reading. 

After a bit, a lovely, tender lady in a very fashionable hat, rolled a Sears shopping cart carrying only her purse over to the hearth and sat down right in front of me.  What a sophisticated hat on this petite, sparkling-eyed gem!  It wasn’t 30 seconds before she started,  “This is my home away from home.  I live 9/10ths miles from where I work at the high school in the lunch room and I really think the school should have underground parking because there is a lot of snow to clean off when I get out of work. I have the best job and make more money than ever in my life – 14 dollars minus a nickel per hour and I work 4 and ¼ hours except on Wednesdays when I work 4 and ¾ hours.” 

Her name is Dorothy.  I’m guessing at not even 5’ tall and 85 years old, the 40+ inches of snow so far this year is probably more of an inconvenience than a deterrent for sweet, feisty Dorothy.

For the ease of reading this, I added a few periods to avoid the world’s longest run-on sentence.  Dorothy doesn’t speak with punctuation.  When I asked about her hat, her response was something like,   

“Before the war (WWII) I used to be a Dayton’s girl and worked downtown, so I love hats.  Then my husband was in the marines and now I am widowed and I have 6 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.  I like to come here because they have some underground parking.  At the bookstore I was watching a book with pictures of all the cities in the country for when it would go on sale.  It went on sale, then on sale again so I could buy it.  I’m watching another picture book now and have to wait until that goes on sale a couple more times so I can maybe get that one someday.  The fire is nice here.  I come here a lot.  I like to spend time at the bookstore.”

We had further discussion about how bookstores were fascinating and a place we’ve both spent lots of curious hours.  I confessed that it’s also the place that I uncovered one of my most ridiculous moments of ignorance (of the many that I’ve uncovered).  I told Dorothy that many years ago, I dated a gourmet cook.  Early in our relationship, he would call me around 4:30 in the afternoon and ask what I was making for dinner.  My reply, “Dinner? It’s 4:30 in the afternoon!  Why would I think about dinner now? I’m still working.  I’ll think about making dinner when it’s time to make dinner...it’ll likely be something from a can, jar, box... or frozen.”  Unlike so many people who consider food an “experience”, to me food is fuel.  My experience of a meal comes mostly from the people I'm with and sometimes the aesthetics.  He would host dinner parties and I would help him with kitchen prep wondering why anyone would be intrigued with the process of all that.  Making it look pretty was appealing to me; the cooking....not so much.  He eventually got to the point of answering the phone when I'd call with "Hey! Can, jar, box or frozen!  How are you today?"  Eventually he informed me that he didn't care for how easily that comment flowed across my lips.  Which brings me to the embarrassing, yet meaningful point to this story.

One day this man informed me that he needed to go to the bookstore to get a cookbook.  I was confused.  So confused that I must have looked at him like puppies do when they cock their heads and ears perk up when they hear the word “treat” or “ride”.  Did I hear him correctly?  “You want to go to the bookstore to get a cookbook?!  They sell cookbooks at a bookstore?”  He was horrified at my ignorance.  He knew how I loved to read and learn and we’ve even spent a fair amount of time there together.  “Where do you think you would buy a cookbook?” he said.  Who knows?  In my entire life, it has never occurred to me to buy a cookbook, except now that I think about it, I got one for a microwave a hundred years ago so I could didn’t make my broccoli mushy in a pot anymore.  Aren’t cookbooks kind of like pens with logos...they just show up?  Maybe from bridal showers or from aunts or church fundraisers...right?

Off we went to the bookstore and what did I see for the first time?  Barnes & Noble had TWO full isles of cookbooks!  Who knew?  Plus another full rack of diet books!  Wow.  Hmmm.  And I went to college.  Genius.

That got me thinking about what else I am blinded to when it’s simply not on my radar screen.  I remember when I was house hunting, I noticed virtually every real estate sign in a front yard.  For the years I wasn’t looking for a house, I hardly ever saw one.  I presume all the For Sale signs didn’t magically disappear, they simply were no longer in my conscious awareness.  They had no need to be “drawn” from the background to the foreground for me anymore.   

It’s common to get in sort of a hypnotic state and miss much of our surroundings.  Did you ever drive home from work and remember getting in the car when you started, then parking at home, only to wonder how "autopilot" somehow mysteriously got you from Point A to Point B with no recall of the trip?  If it was a new route or you were lost, how different would your awareness become?

At some level, all of us go through life like this.  Backgrounds of beauty are simply white noise unless we pay attention.  Signs or signals of love, invitations, sunsets, appreciation, connectedness are always available.  What about the shifting to your "online" life....where so much learning is being gleaned from something with a screen?  Is that going to supersede gardening, or hiking or white water rafting or holding hands?  Would you call yourself diverted, focused, oblivious, engaged?

Or would your eyes sparkle when relating to relationships, like Dorothy? 

As I was winding up my visit with her, my daughter who is now away at college, called and I asked her if she remembered sweet Dorothy from when she was in high school.  “The lunch lady!  She’s the sweetest, kindest lady with a face I’ll never forget and has the coolest jewelry.”  Dorothy smiled.  Of course she has the coolest jewelry...she reminded me she was a "Dayton’s girl" before “The War”.

Be the inspiration YOU are!