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I live in a suburb in the Midwest with a large school district.  English is the primary language spoken in all of the schools except the Spanish Immersion school.  Only Spanish is spoken there by all who enter, so the students are “immersed” into the language and culture completely.  I don’t know enough Spanish to visit that school as it’s a rule that nothing else gets spoken inside those doors.

Sometimes we’re lucky like that.  We choose immersion.  We get the rules: don’t suit up and get on the field or the court unless you’ve been at practice and know how to play.   At some starting point when we decided to learn that “thing”, we signed up, showed up and learned, then we figured out enough from our coaches, mentors or teachers to be a success if we put effort into whatever it was.

Learning new things can ignite all kinds of emotional and mental dormancy.  There is a usually a rapid awareness of the 3 different Categories of Knowledge.

1)      What I know that I know.

2)      What I know that I don’t know.

3)      What I don’t know that I don’t know.

In the case of immersion, often times #1 is minimal, #2 is significant and #3 is either frustrating, keeps us in denial or helps us survive because of our naivety.  There is magic in #3, because often times our answers that we believe are beyond us live there.

Recently I found myself in “blog immersion”.  I decided that building a website for a new business venture couldn’t be that hard because, after all, I’ve been periodically posting on this WordPress site for some time now.  The language is in English, I can find anything on Google, so what the heck?  I was heavily immersed in Knowledge Category #2 (I thought) as I knew I didn’t know how to build a website.  I was blessed to get a few of Sandi Krakowski’s video clips to figure out that I had to customize my dashboard.  I soon realized it was very different from my lovely little blog dashboard behind this post which someone in WordPressland magically made super simple.  I began learning the “language”, which was a different English than I know.  “Plugins” are not really the thing at the end of the cord that goes into the wall to turn on a lamp.  “Widgets” are not the things that the guy at the hardware store sells to fix the whatever-it-is that needs repair.   How would I know that my hosting company was where I needed to deal with a FTP file...and what IS that anyway?!?  After my frustration level got somewhere between breaking out in hives and full-blown shingles, I realized that I wasn’t living only in the land of Knowledge Category #2, I was underwater in Category #3.  I didn’t even know what questions to ask because I didn’t know enough of website design language to ask Google.   I wanted to quit.  And I couldn’t.  I needed to get the website done.  Guess what happened?  I somehow crossed the “invisible line” that happens when we choose to continue, not retreat.  I switched my mindset into thinking “this is a fun puzzle and I’m liking to learn this new skill.”  Ok, it was “fake it till I make it” for a little bit.  Now it’s solid.

Where are you “immersed” in your life?  Immersion STRETCHES us beyond our comfort zones.   Do you think a seedling is all excited about poking it’s head out of the comfy ground in springtime just to get accosted by the elements?  It has no choice if it is to grow.  Neither do we.  Growth comes from restlessness, when our current state no longer "fits" us.

Whenever you find yourself in the space of "restlessness", that's a sign...it's time that you are "up to something", something different.  You've outgrown the need for your current situation as it stands.

Here are some questions to consider if you’re feeling an internal need of some inspiration, new learning or something "different".  Maybe you could use a bit more passion or excitement or feel "called" to do something new or "crazy"?  That's called a clue.  Time for expansion.

When you find an opportunity or something that you’ve not done that sounds intriguing, do you get excited and check it out or would you rather “pass”?

Do you find yourself giving in too soon because of frustration or wanting to only do what comes easily or naturally? Note:  in our instant-gratification-fast-food-texting world, that is something significant to pay attention to ... not all results are immediate.

Is there REALLY any mental stimulation in doing easy puzzles or limiting your reading to 140 character twitter posts?

Do you grow emotionally by only hanging out with people who agree with you or share your opinions?

Do you need to do grow in your job or expand into something else in order to create a more meaningful financial future for yourself?

Can you grow spiritually without learning forgiveness or self-care?

Are you really where you feel the healthiest you’ve ever been or do you need to adjust your diet or exercise program?

It’s easy to make-believe that, like a fish swimming in its same bowl, our “sameness” is working for us because the water doesn't change.  There is no growth in "familiar".  Eventually, there is no excitement in familiar.  Ask yourself if you are TRULY comfortable with your “familiar”, whatever you may name it.  Or has Restlessness poked its nose into your comfortable daily grind?  Maybe it’s time to choose an “immersion” for yourself!

Before I go, I need to touch on the other kind of immersion – the one that isn’t necessarily consciously chosen. If you are diagnosed with an illness, lose your job, get in a car crash or a loved one passes, you are immersed.  Fast.  The themes might be different, yet your head will be exploding with questions and your emotional triggers will be going off like fireworks after the Superbowl once you get past the initial shock.  One solution to aid you from shutting down is to come up with a simple daily practice.  Here's an example:

First breathe.  Next, write down (list) 1) what you know that you know, 2) what you know that you don’t know, and be aware that the largest category is 3) what you don’t know that you don’t know.  It’s crucial that you don’t let Category #3 scare you because that third list is "empty".  There’s an excellent chance that what you are looking for will come from there.   You’ll be surprised at how, as you write your daily lists in your practice, things move from list #2 to list #1.  And magically....more answers emerge!  Where did they come from?!  They came from you, your inner genius.  Then, because you did your part, the forces beyond us jumped in to play, too.  Lucky you.

So as I write this, I am experiencing a personal new "immersion"...that of a new lifestyle called "empty nester".  I realize I dislike that title as much as I disliked being called a "newlywed" a few...uh...years ago.   My youngest child left for college a few days ago.  After having my kids around for more than 27 years and all the emotion that this time stirs up in me, I'm experiencing restlessness.  How is being immersed in quiet and no drama is going to suit me?  I’ve got a pretty big category #3 staring at me and of course, the list is empty.  This isn't a "stick my toe in to check the water" situation.  I just dove into that unknown, have come up for air and I'm starting to swim....and the options of where to go are not mapped.  Immersions bring unlimited options!  Nice.

Thanks for stopping by.   I’d love to hear about your restlessness...or immersion(s).

BE the inspiration YOU ARE in our world...


My 6 is faded

I live in the suburbs.  On a monthly basis, we have numerous people visit our home for a variety of reasons.  They may come as a client, or possibly whoever my kids have visiting, or as a guest for a monthly event I host.  I didn’t realize when we moved that our street address numbers were not nailed anywhere on the front of our house.  The address numbers were sticky decals on the mailbox at the end of the driveway.  The street address has five digits ending in the number “6”.

It’s inevitable that on an almost monthly basis I get “notified” about the obvious when first-timers who visit say, “Did you know your “6” is faded?”  The feedback is consistent enough that I now acknowledge that fact when I give directions for a navigational clue.

I began wondering about how many things I get told where there might be a presupposition that I have an interest in doing anything about making a change that is the issue of import to the commentator.  I haven’t liked my mailbox numbers from Day 1, yet the mail gets delivered every day and people keep finding our house.

What determines the moment we feel we need to really change something?  Is it only when it’s broken or too painful to keep the status quo?  Maybe because we get bored?  Possibly if something gets outdated, the fad or the style has passed? Or how about getting worn down after a jillion repeated “Mom....I really need.....” pleas?

As long as you have a “should” or a mental reason about the need to make a shift of some kind, it won’t happen.   Certainly not if it's someone else's idea, either.  The only thing that drives action is emotion. Logic won’t get something moving, feelings will.  We make our decisions emotionally and justify them intellectually.  Any salesperson will agree.

I know a couple - lets call them Dick and Jane - who have been married for many years with a wonderful illustration of a resolution to this concept.  Jane told me what makes their relationship work so well over so many years is they live by the “Law of the Greatest Need”.  The way this law works is the one with the highest need to have something different simply does that thing.  For example, Jane leaves her shoes in the front entryway of their home.  Dick isn’t a fan of shoes on the floor.  When he has greater need than Jane to remove them from that space, he simply moves Jane’s shoes.  Jane, on the other hand, might like the kitchen cleaned in a more thorough way than Dick finds necessary.  So, Jane has the greatest need to put the kitchen in the order she prefers and cleans it to her liking.  No upsetness.  No arguments.  It’s all simply handled.  The things that need doing that neither of them have the greatest need to attend to are negotiated, which could simply mean hiring them out to be done.

What things, situations or ideas in your life are on hold because you have a “should” about making a change?  Is it something you can simply “declare complete” and stop lying to yourself that you’re ever going to do it?  Are you compelled to utilize your time, money, talent or other resources elsewhere and have some other professional take care of the areas that are of import yet not of interest?  If it’s necessary for you to complete tasks for your highest good or for those you love and those who love you, what emotional engagement can you create to easily get the necessary changes moving in your world?

You are your greatest need.  Living by other peoples’ determinations of what you ought to be managing in your life can wear you out over time.  Be true to you.  If you're the one sweating on field or the court, putting your all into the game, there are likely to be comments and advice from the stands for you, because it's a lot easier to be an observer than it is to be a player.  Years ago, I received some unsolicited “input” from some well-meaning acquaintances who were “concerned” about my choice in some work I was taking on and the potential subsequent effect on my family.  After ongoing conversations, I eventually let them know that I've decided that their continual need to inform me about how concerned they were about my family would be directly correlated to their interest in making my mortgage payment.  Magically, their concerns and commentary subsided.

Follow your heart.  Your head will eventually catch up and agree.  Be emotionally engaged with what you’re up to. Pick 1 word each day, and live that concept all day.  Be happy. Be responsive. Be attentive. Be a listener.  Notice I didn’t say “Do happy”, etc.  Your beingness is the light you shine on the world.

Don’t give up on the word that will inspire you each day.  It’s a great game.  Heck, I bet one of these days soon, I’m going to land on the word that will inspire me to fix my 6!

Blessings –


Sweetness in the Reality Check

It’s tax day.  Sometime over the past couple of months we’ve all had the opportunity to do a “year in review” at some level.  Being self-employed for as long as I have, my annual year in review usually contains quite a bit of detail, reflection, regrouping and amusement.  In addition to what was new, accomplished, invented, or sold, there is always the long list of interesting people, humbling lessons, celebrations, disappointments, great books, new venues and whatever my kids are up to.

I’ve also had a project come up a few months ago, which gave me cause to go through my personal archives going back to 2001.  Good grief.  Aside from the huge pain in the backside it was to dig out old records and compile data, that particular “memory lane” took me back to things I did in my businesses, events and adventures, places we experienced as a family, and an entire host of what life does as it continues to “life”.

What I discovered after compiling information and sorting data, my stats ended up offering me so many sweet realizations!  I got to reflect on so many fun activities and trips my kids did, especially in junior high and high school.  I reminded myself how happy I am that I wasn’t a hockey mom and all that goes into that commitment.  My family is extremely healthy with a minimal of basic medical bills.  Ok, the orthodontist is a different story after numerous sets of braces for the darlings.  Then again, they all do have gorgeous smiles now.  Amidst the hassle of all that paper, I found drawings and cards and “I love you, Mom” stories everywhere.  Like flowers in rubble.  Beautiful.  The final bonus was another garbage bin of full of "what was I keeping this for?"

This brings me back to tax day.  In your reflection of your 2009 “data”, whether credit card statements or charitable contributions, what kinds of sweet blessings did you discover?  Did you decide not to go on a family vacation due to what you decided your economy to be?  Has that had an impact on your travel for this year?  Have you been downsized or chosen to retire, knowing that your W2 is the last one you’ll ever attach to a Form 1040?  Could you have resolved that from now on, your forms will be 1099’s or K-1’s because you are SO DONE building someone else’s kingdom (or queendom)?  Did your PTO days get used for obligations or fun?  Did you realize you’ve made more money by working smarter because you were wise about what systems you implemented last year?

What about gratitude?  Now that you’ve found the blessings in the cold hard reality of your data, do you have an under-appreciated support group that got you here that might need to hear how much you love them?  Do your girlfriends, neighbors and/or family need to be commended for putting up with you?  Oh, where’s my mirror on that one….

Yes, our thinking and self-talk create our reality, yet we don’t live in a vacuum. Thank those that were part of your journey.  Love those that still are pushing you to have your dreams come true.  Be inspired by what your reality check taught you once you get real with your numbers -whether on your bathroom scale or your portfolio.  We are already into the second quarter of 2010, another year that is going to blink by as fast as these past three months.  What are you willing to do NOW that you can reflect back on during next year’s tax season and say, “Wow!  What a sweet life I’ve created in 2010!”?

BE the Inspiration YOU are!


Valentine’s Day – The Great Equalizer

Valentine’s Day has been my favorite holiday since I was 6 years old.  Not because, even as an adult, my favorite color is red, favorite shape is a heart and I believe chocolate is one of the five major food groups.  Not even because my maiden name means “heart” in Polish.  It’s because of a revelation I had in first grade.

I grew up in a rural farming area in the Upper Midwest in the 60’s and 70’s.  The town nearest to our farm (pop. 149) was mostly influenced by heritage from Poland, Russia and Germany.  My little community had 3 churches:  Roman Catholic, Polish National Catholic and Russian Orthodox.  Of course, unless there was a wedding or funeral, everyone would go exclusively to their family’s church of choice. Within the confines of an  8-10 block stretch of the main county road though town, there were also five taverns, a couple of garages, two grocery stores, a hardware store, feed mill, elementary school and a baseball field.  When the village eventually invested in street signs, the ball field in the center of town was surrounded by North Street, East Street, South Street and West Street.  To say everyone knew everyone would be an understatement.

My dear grandma had a matriarchal presence in the town.  She owned a tavern on the main road right across the street from the Catholic Church, which she cleaned weekly and went to mass at every morning.  She also wrote the local gossip column for the village that was printed in the weekly papers published in larger surrounding communities.  Grandma would house people for years (literally) and had taken it upon herself to help those in need.  Whenever she knew someone was sick, she would make a big pot of soup from one of her chickens and send me to drop off a jar to whoever was ailing. Being an amazing cook, she had customers drive for miles for her famous secret-recipe hamburgers.  She taught me that everyone was “included”, even if there appeared to be very real preferences in patronizing churches, taverns and stores.

Socially, my limited exposure in my preschool years to children other than my little brother, were the kids I would see at church or a few cousins.  Until I got into first grade, I was mostly influenced by adults who all knew each other for miles around.  The farmers would help each other with field work, everyone knew how to fix anything, and produce from everyone’s huge gardens was canned and shared.

Once I got old enough to go to school, my earlier illusion of life became quite confusing and eye-opening.  I went to a school where kids really were held back if they weren’t ready to do the work required in the next grade.  I really did read Dick, Jane and Spot stories in the reading circle of chairs in the front of the classroom and came to realize that reading wasn’t as easy for everybody.  Not everyone knew their letters or numbers or colors.  There were kids that were teased and had “cooties” and fights in the playgrounds.  I thought that people only fought with their siblings….what was this other stuff about?   The world of “inclusion” that my grandma showed me and the expectations of learning that my mom taught me was becoming shattered.  When we drew names at Christmas time, there was such nervousness that some people might draw the name of the boy that everyone else seemed to dislike.  I never understood why he had to sit by the teacher’s desk and was most shunned.  I drew his name.  I was glad.

Then came Valentine’s Day.  We had 29 kids in my first grade class and all got to decorate shoe boxes for our Valentine’s Day party.  We got the list of everyone's names and each of us was to bring a Valentine for every other member of the class and put it in each other’s boxes.  Based on the chatter that happened daily and the “worry” of whose name would be picked at Christmastime, I was concerned that not everyone would get very many Valentines in their boxes.  It was no different to me than if someone was sick and Grandma didn’t make soup for them.

Our school was fully decorated in the hallways, lunch room and classes with pink, red and white hearts and twisted crêpe paper.  The fateful day arrived and we got to put cards that took forever to sign and address into their own special boxes.  Party time would be the moment of truth.  Who would be rejected this time?  What would it be like to have one more time that those more popular or smarter or funnier would get yet more attention and have the kids already shunned feel even less included?  I was nervous.  Then we opened our boxes.  What a delight and what a relief.  Each of my classmates got the same number of Valentine cards!  My translation:  Everyone got the same amount of love, attention and inclusion as everyone else.  Valentine’s Day was the great equalizer!  If nothing else happened throughout the year to have those on the peripheral feel part of a “family”, at least I knew they would for one hour a year at the Valentine’s Day Party.

With the commercialization, media and pressure that so many put upon themselves and relationships at this holiday, sometimes it might help to go back to “simple”.   What simple and easy tradition can you do to reach out to someone special to you?   Remember when you would get your class list, pick “just the right card” for the boy or girl on the list, struggle with the lousy glue on the silly envelopes and figure out how to spell their names correctly?  That person mattered to you for those moments.  And you mattered to all the other kids in your class when they did their lists and picked “just the right card” for you, too.  Don’t dismiss or diminish the times that we all were capable to get over our judgments and decide that even for one day of a year, it’s ok to say, “Be My Valentine”.

Now it’s time to get my traditional Valentine’s Day cake baked.  Even though my kids are grown now, they still know I’ll be making my cake and crying when I think back to all the kids getting the same amount of “love” on the most inclusive holiday of the year.  What about you?  Think of who you can spend a few moments “including” in your life this day.  Pick “just the right thing” to say to them on twitter, facebook, email or your cell.  You won’t even have to mess with those silly envelopes with the lousy glue.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Be Mine…



When something new becomes common in your world, do you tend to start seeing or hearing it everywhere?  Take words, for example.  "Like, neat, keen, groovy, awesome, tight, sick" (all depending on your era, of course) are commonly used in conversation.  This leads me to my point of the day.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been seeing some rendition of the word “wonder” on a consistent basis.  The “wonder” of children, ”wonderful” ideas, “wondrous” works of some literary genius, even the seasonal “winter wonderland”.  Then just this morning, I read my friend Chere Bork’s Taste Life newsletter and one of her fans wrote, “Wonderful is the word of the year for me this year.” You can read her fun article at www.cherebork.com and look into her Taste Life Archives for today.

I liken this “it’s everywhere” phenomenon to the scenario where one never notices a certain brand of car until they buy a particular make and model, then the same vehicle seems to be everywhere.  Another blindness to what is always “out there” are real estate signs…do you really ever even see them unless you are in the real estate business or in the market for a house?

When I was in church on Christmas Eve with my family, Fr. Tim, one of the best storytellers of all time, gave a sermon about how some names are being banned from Facebook because they probably aren’t “real names”, although many of them actually belong to real human beings.   He went on to compare a passage from Isaiah 9:6-7 which says, in part, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  His point was…would Facebook ban these other names that were given to Jesus?  Clever analogy.  Yet again…there’s that word…“Wonderful”.

Dragging out Webster, “wonder” is defined 1) a person, thing or event that causes astonishment and admiration; prodigy; marvel. 2) a feeling of surprise, admiration and awe aroused by something strange, unexpected, incredible, etc. 3) a miraculous or apparently miraculous thing or act; miracle.

I wondered what kinds of things actually fit these definitions.  Do you realize there actually many different “Seven Wonders of the World?”  The original list we learned when we were kids, then the “New” list, and several others that could fall under definition #1 above because, although something to marvel, they were all built by people.  The Seven Natural Wonders of the World relate to incredible places in nature.  I’m suspecting the feeling described in definition #2 might be experienced when one would visit those sites.

Just the other night I was at a business after hour event.  Being that we just opened up this 2010 year, I was curious about a few of the conversations directed toward the excitement and anticipation of this new year and the larger number of people who were more than happy that 2009 is fading into the sunset.  Could it be an anticipation or glimmer at what definition #3 might have in store?  Does the clean slate that comes with changing calendars also create a hope, renewed energy and new space for miracles to take shape?  I wonder.

As you begin to wade, jump or dive into your new year and the beginning of this new decade, why not give yourself a gift each day?  Be curious about something you never paid attention to before.  It is sure to get you out of ruts that might form from sameness and habits of your day-to-day.

Nature is a great place to start, especially if you could put yourself back in time with thoughts.  It's easy if you have someone around age 4 in your world.  "I wonder how old that giant tree is?  I wonder why all the bees kiss flowers?  I wonder how come when I'm swimming in the lake, the “warm spots” move but the lake doesn’t move?  I wonder why people smile when they play with puppies?”  You get the idea.  Actually, kids use the word "why", which isn't all that effective for adults, so replace it with "wonder".  Plus, it sounds more magical.  You’ll be witness to miracles daily and your ability to find creative solutions in your work, play and relationships will skyrocket.

So at the end of 2010, after a year of “wondering” you can say, “Wow, what an inspiring year it’s been.  I experienced miracles, have uncountable wonderful memories, have given and received the blessings of many wondrous deeds!  I wonder what I'll wonder about in 2011.”

BE the inspiration YOU are in your clean, shiny, new 2010!

Wondrous blessings-