3.26.2014

One Word Wednesday: Transformation

trans·for·ma·tion
noun
a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
"people who share their stories, directly contribute to my life's continuous transformation"



“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 
― BrenĂ© Brown





3.19.2014

One Word Wednesday: Unexpected

un·ex·pect·ed
adjective 
not expected or regarded as likely to happen.
"snow falling on March 19th is unexpected"


"But life inevitably throws us curve balls, unexpected circumstances that remind us to expect the unexpected. I've come to understand these curve balls are the beautiful unfolding of both karma and current."  -Carre Otis

3.17.2014

Embracing The Cracks - Beautifully Imperfect

So in case you haven't figured it out yet, I totally drank some of the Kool-aid that Brene Brown is peddling. Her book, Daring Greatly, has become my bible. It's the text book of Figuring Out My Life 101, which is a 0 credit class at ITMU (I'm Totally Messed Up) where I'm the only student and the professor. Which explains why I say 'dude' a lot (student) and why I'm a pompous prick much of the time (professor). I'm trying really hard to make what she calls Daring Greatly a practice in my life as a parent, leader and wholehearted person.


It's hard, though. It requires being vulnerable. And ridding your life of shame and fear. Today I listened to the part of her book (again) that she calls, Daring Greatly: Appreciating the Beauty of Cracks - "To claim the truths about who we are, where we come from, what we believe and the very imperfect nature of our lives, we have to be willing to give ourselves a break and appreciate the beauty of our crack or imperfections." 

The vulnerability of being imperfect has stifled me as a blogger. I think of something I want write about, but instead of Daring Greatly and doing it I let the gremlins in my mind go to work. "What do you know about that?" "You will probably spell some stuff wrong & use commas in all the wrong places, and people will see how stupid you are." "If people see that you're blogging and not out looking for work they will judge you & they probably should because this blog is nothing...go get a job!" "Seriously, another photo of the sunset or your dog...why even bother?"  

These gremlins have prevented more blog post from being published than I can even tell you about. Over and over again I let the fear of not being perfect prevent me from being...anything. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project contributed to Daring Greatly with a quote about her own battle with perfectionism: 
"I remind myself, Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (Cribbed from Voltaire) A twenty-minute walk that I do is better than the four-mile run that I don't do. The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer. The dinner party of take-out Chinese food is better than the elegant diner that I never host." 
Like Gretchen, I'm constantly holding myself up to some fake bar of perfection and in turn have a lot of nothing to show for it. I have months of silent blogs, weeks of image less memory cards, and days of unopened books because I may not write, photograph or read perfect enough for it to matter. The loud mouth gremlins in my head made me forget that it all matters when it's coming from a place of love, gratitude and connection.

Today I wrote two imperfect gratitude notes, one imperfect blog post, and will make an imperfect dinner for my imperfect family. I did all of this with love, in the spirit of connection and with sincere gratitude for all the blessings in my imperfect life. I'm not even going to think about the commas.

2.21.2014

AUTHENTICITY & CIVILITY

After last week's emotional breakdown spiritual awakening, as Brene Brown calls it in her amazing Ted Talk, I laid low for a few days. I was feeling really exposed...self-imposed exposure -it's awesome and exhausting. I enjoyed the solitude of being home and able to process the events while walking with the dog and a relaxing snow day home with the kids. But after a few days I don't thrive in solitude. I'm a "people person." And not just in that job interview customer service sense of the term. I really love being with people. I thrive most in a community. I love the stories that come with people and their experiences. That's what I love about working at the hardware store and the leadership alliance. It's also what I love about Facebook and Twitter. These are places with their own unique communities - full of stories and people - full of life!


But being part of a community is not always easy. On a good day a community is like a meadow filled with a blend of prairie grasses and wildflowers all swaying harmoniously together in the gentle summer breeze, and on a bad day it's like a land field where one misstep blows up in your face and causes a domino effect. Unexpected explosions one after the other continue to happen with no real way of knowing when the destruction will stop. You just pray to make it out with your life credibility in tack. Because credibility is really all you have if you really want to contribute to your community. If you are part of a group where people can't believe or trust in you then you will not be very effective. 

I used to believe that authenticity was the most important thing when it came to being a successful community member, and I still believe that plays an important role, but I'm starting to wonder if I gave it too much emphasis. I'm starting to think that authenticity and civility are equally important. One can't really outweigh the other. 

I used to think that being blunt and direct about where I stood was kind of a noble thing to do. It's real, it's authentic, but I'm beginning to really doubt whether it's always kind, it's always true or it's always necessary. I kind of arrogantly believed that I could have an opinion about something, (or worse...someone) based on my experiences, and because I would say it to their face (if challenged) it was ok. I believed that being authentic it was the most productive way to be part of the community...probably because 'being real' comes fairly easy to me. I don't have the personality where I feel the need to make everyone happy, and I really don't mind being on the 'wrong' side. I'm typically pretty secure with that. But this authenticity, without civility, is basically just being a loud mouth! Like I said, it comes really easy for me! Probably a little too easy.

Lately I've considered (with the help of those who have been open and honest with me about my tone, body language or gossipy behavior) challenging myself to be more than just "the blunt one." I'm challenging myself to be the thoughtful one. Be a community member who uses directness and civility to be most effective. What I love about civility is that it's not niceness for niceness sake. It's not giving up your experiences or values to please anyone. Practicing civility doesn't mean you can't disagree, it means you assess other's opinions with the same value you assess your own. Practicing civility looks like this: 
Pay Attention. Be aware and attend to the world and the people around you.
Listen. Focus on others in order to better understand their points of view.
Be Inclusive. Welcome all groups of citizens working for the greater good of the community.
Don't Gossip. And don't accept when others choose to do so.
Show Respect. Honor other people and their opinions, especially in the midst of disagreement.
Be Agreeable. Look for opportunities to agree; don't contradict just to do so.
Apologize. Be sincere and repair damaged relationships.
Give Constructive Criticism. When disagreeing, stick to the issues and don't make a personal attack.
Take Responsibility. Don't shift responsibility and blame onto others; share disagreements publicly.
These principals allow for the unique tension that develops in a diverse and thriving community. A community where differences are embraced and valued. A place were we don't have to believe the same thing and we are not shunned or blamed or gossiped about when we have take a stance on something. Since that's the kind of community I want to be a part of, I guess I need to start behaving with authenticity & civility. 


2.19.2014

One Word Wednesday : Solitude

"Solitude is very different from a 'time-out' from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other."   --Henri Nouwen



 sol·i·tude
noun
the state or situation of being alone.
"she savored her few hours of freedom and solitude"


2.17.2014

GRATITUDE & BAKLAVA

Last week I received a card and some delicious homemade baklava as a thank you for passing my friend's name along to a contact I knew who had a position to fill. It required absolutely no effort on my part (other than opening my mouth...which we all know I'm really good at). I didn't really know if the position was right for her or not, and since she is way over-qualified and the work as extremely part time, I actually wondered if I'd only bother her by calling to pass along the information. But I did it anyway because I knew she was interested in getting back in the workforce.

When I received her gift, I was struck by how thoughtful it was. The card mentioned the experience I mentioned and another one recently where my network had benefited her job search. I wouldn't have even known about the second contact if she hadn't written it in the card. 

I thought I knew the power of a thank you note, (I mean I know that my 90 year old grandma has an iron trap memory when it comes to who sends her one or not, and if you're on the 'not list' you might not get your check next Christmas!) but receiving this sweet token last week made me reevaluate my thoughts on gratitude notes. I've decided they are not just "nice to dos", they are "need to dos" - so today I wrote 3 of them.  Like my friend, I tried to make them extra special by thoughtfully explaining what the item or experience personally meant to me. 

My friend added this quote from Mehmet Murat Ildan inside the flap of the card:


So let me tell you something big: find a friend who makes homemade baklava and do something nice for them immediately. I promise you will not regret it! 

"All you can take with you is that which is given away." Quote found on the wall of George Bailey's office in the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. 

2.16.2014

Who is George Bailey?

Welcome to I Am George Bailey. If you're not familiar with George Bailey let me bring you up to speed....Kris Tuchek!

George Bailey is this guy...from the movie It's A Wonderful Life. This has been one of my favorite movies for as long as I can remember. If you haven't seen it - watch it immediately! 


Here's the CliffNotes version of the movie - taken from here.
"George Bailey, if you recall, is a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy who constantly has his dreams thwarted because he’s always looking out for his friends and family. Ever since George was knee high to a grasshopper, he wanted to travel to exotic locales and build big things like skyscrapers and airstrips. Just when it seems he’s about to get started on making his dreams come true, some crisis happens that causes him to put them on the back burner so he can take care of other people. 
Things come to a head one Christmas Eve when George’s absent-minded uncle misplaces $8,000 of the Building and Loan’s cash funds. Losing the money would mean bankruptcy for the Bailey Building and Loan and criminal charges for George. At the end of his rope, George decides to commit suicide so his family can cash his $15,000 life insurance policy and pay off the $8,000 debt. 
Just before George leaps from a bridge to his icy, watery death, his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, jumps into the river and pretends he’s drowning. George, being the big-hearted guy that he is, saves Clarence. While they’re drying off, Clarence tries to talk George out of killing himself. When George bitterly wishes that he’d never been born, Clarence sees a way to convince him not to commit suicide. Through angelic powers, Clarence is able to show him what his family and Bedford Falls would have been like if George Bailey had never existed. 
It’s a hell hole. 
George’s younger brother dies because George wasn’t there to save him, quaint Bedford Falls turns into sleazy Pottersville, his mother is a bitter widow, and people are living in slum apartments instead of the nice homes George’s Building and Loan funded. Worst of all, George’s wife is an old maid and none of their beautiful kids exist. 
As you can guess, George sees the light and begs to live again. His wish granted, he runs joyously through the streets yelling “Merry Christmas!” to everybody. He arrives home to find the authorities with a warrant in hand for his arrest, but George doesn’t care. He’s just happy to hold and kiss his kids. His wife comes in shortly after, followed by what seems like the entire town. The townsfolk all donate enough money to save George and the Building and Loan, George’s old childhood friend Sam Wainwright (hee haw!) lends George $25,000, and George’s war hero brother arrives to declare George “the richest man in Bedford Falls.”
Among the giant pile of cash, George finds a copy of Tom Sawyer that Clarence carried around with this inscription: ”Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings! Love, Clarence.” 
It’s at this moment that George realizes what a wonderful life he really has. By seeing what the world would be like without him, he comes to a greater understanding and appreciation for the true richness of his blessings."
Just like From The Compound this space will be full stories and photos and insights from me, my family and special guest contributors. I love From The Compound and the amazing people I met through blogging there, but I decided to start this new blog because I feel like a different person. A wiser, more grateful, less scared person. A person who isn't ashamed. Someone who is no longer afraid of screwing up her life, but instead a girl who wants to share bits and pieces of her wonderfully messy life with others daring to live their own perfectly imperfect lives. Who's with me?