Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 In Review



As we sat down to write our annual holiday update, we realized this year we have no weddings, no new family members, no trips to Asia, Europe or Yellowstone, and no major home remodeling projects or purchases. It occurred to us, that we might have single handedly brought down the world economy. We apologize for that and will do our best to bring things back in 2010!

You might remember in November last year, Sheryl was laid off from the job she loved at Bluegreen Resorts, due to the unavailability of mortgages to finance timeshare sales and resulting staff cut of nearly 60%. She proceeded to become the busiest unemployed person ever, working as a marketing consultant for three or four companies at a time -almost 7 days a week. Thank goodness, in May she found a job with a company she likes, and a product she believes in – an online homeschooling curriculum – Time4Learning.com. Now she’s only working one job and managing a fun project as she is also developing and teaching email marketing courses for University of San Francisco through Bisk Education. She is much happier with a full-time job!

Toni feels very fortunate to still be with McClatchy Shared Services- this year was 20 years since she started at Miami Herald (now part of McClatchy). Despite tough times in the newspaper industry, Toni feels as strongly as ever about the importance of newspapers, and is glad to still be a part of this newspaper company! She just earned an Executive Certificate in Project Management at Florida Atlantic University and will sit for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam within the next quarter! (CPAs are supposed to talk that way- marking time in fiscal quarters!

We did have a couple of small trips this year – we went to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival with treasured friends Becky and Melissa and CAMPED out – in a tent- in pouring down rain, thunder and lightning! Toni was a MWMF virgin, though Sheryl has been many times. So Toni believed Sheryl during this 12-hour torrential downpour that if she even thought about touching the inside of the tent that Niagara Falls would come gushing through the tiny breach. It was the last camping trip for Toni who was extremely uncomfortable curled up in a fetal position all night, trying not to touch the inside of the tent. She has since questioned the logic of Sheryl’s thunderstorm orders, and would also have positioned the tent much closer to the port-a-potties.

This year we celebrated Toni’s mom, Patty’s, 84th birthday with a family trip to Orlando with Patty, and Toni’s son Jerry & his wife Tiffany from Chicago. We got to all stay at a vacation rental condo Patty owns in Orlando – so it really felt like a luxury vacation for all of us! We celebrated at a highly acclaimed steakhouse in Old Towne Orlando with nephew Mike & his wife Illham who live in Orlando! We are so grateful that we can all get together to celebrate her each year!!

We had a Labor day trip to Ft Myers for a fun-filled birthday celebration with dear friends Laura, Ginger, Cindy and Blanche, an adventurous road trip to Key West with close friend Julia, and short trips to see Sheryl’s mother and stepdad Bruce in New Port Richey and to spend more time with Toni’s Mom and family members in Central Florida. The good thing about the FL trips is we usually get to bring the puppies! We are still head over heels in love with our 4 legged kids – puppies Maya, Gabriel, and kitties Cassidy and Sundance.

We’ve enjoyed our visitors this year – Toni’s son Tom & his wife Amanda & top dog Joe came to stay a couple of times, and we had visits from Jerry & Tiffany, and Sheryl’s Mom, Bruce and her nieces Lexi & Jessie. Tony & Ryan stopped off as they took a cruise out of Miami. Wing & Cassidy made a quick visit- and we had a great time! We LOVE visitors! Please put us on your calendar to come visit!

Well since we started this newsletter a few days ago, we decided not to live in “fear” in 2010! Yesterday Toni booked an Olivia cruise to the Greek Isles for Sheryl’s Christmas and birthday present- and we will do our best to jump start the world economy! Our best wishes and love to all of you. Know that we love you and that you always have a place to stay if you make it down to South Florida!!

Happy holidays and a wonderful New Year from Sheryl, Toni, Maya, Gabriel, Cassidy & Sundance

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It Only Appears Bad Due to Lack of Perspective

The illusion that something is good or bad is usually only a matter of perspective. There is a great parable that illustrates this point. It is about a man whose son captures a beautiful, wild horse. His family and friends say to him, how wonderful, what a great skill your son has, how lucky he is and the father only responds, we will see.

When the son is thrown from the horse and breaks his leg, his family and friends all say how terrible it is and what a curse the horse is and the father responds, we will see. So when the military comes into town to gather up all of the able-bodied boys to march off to war, his friends and family say how wonderful it is that your son's leg was broken and that he was spared military service and his father responds...you guessed it, we will see.

So the moral of the story is that no matter how good or bad something may appear at the time, it is only perspective that allows us to see a broader meaning or reason for that thing to occur in our life. The thing itself is neither bad or good, only our perception changes bad to good or good to bad. Said another way, we would all be much happier and healthier if we could remember this at times when things appear to be going badly, or even in times when they appear to be going well so we don't get stuck in our mistaken perception.

Although I don't want to give up my joyful times, I certainly could do with some perspective in my less than joyful or sorrowful times. I experienced this lesson when I was quite young faced with a daunting decision at the age of 15. I found myself pregnant, in a relationship with a heroin addict and living in government subsidized housing. My mother insisted that I go to a convent to have my baby and then give it up for adoption. I knew this would be the end of my education and that I would soon follow in her footsteps and never make it to college even though it was always my dream.

I ran away and was picked up by the police after a few days of living on the streets. I spent several hours speaking with the Catholic Priest who was on call at police headquarters until my mother arrived to pick me up. The Father convinced my mother that she should honor my request to terminate the pregnancy and after she recovered from being told by a man of the cloth to allow an abortion, she agreed. So off I went to New York (this was just before Roe versus Wade legalized it nationwide) alone, afraid and feeling like my life was over in so many ways.

I managed to recover and found new meaning in my life once I was relocated to my grandparents' care. Only a short year later, I was instrumental in starting a community crisis hot line and high school peer counseling center where I personally helped hundreds of girls just like myself through the tough choices of teenage pregnancy. I was able to share the terrible truth of a decision to have an abortion and I know that I had a tremendous impact on those that sought my advice. I also know that I was a role model for girls who thought that suicide was their only choice as their life looked to be too terrible to bear. I assured them that it was only a matter of perspective and that eventually they too would see how this event could positively impact their life or the lives of those they touched. What a wonderful gift this experience was in that it shaped me to be able to return the gift to those in need.


So now I try to remember in the midst of something that appears to be terrible, that it only seems so because I don't yet have the perspective that will help me see it differently. I try to imagine that I am standing in front of a tree so close that I can't even see that it is a tree yet. And then I imagine slowly backing away from the tree, allowing distance and light to enter my field of vision, allowing me to finally see the situation clearly. This helps me have the patience to gain the perspective for whatever seems terrible to take on its true meaning in my life. Even if it might take months or years to get there, I trust that it will come. And this trust makes it easier to bear in the present moment and helps me embrace those terrible moments.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Who Am I?



I'm one traveler on a journey together on planet earth with my fellow travelers (that's you). I believe we all originate from the same life force and incarnate here together to give and receive love as we learn life lessons. Everything else is just a stage for the real learnings in life to happen.


My judgments about the things that happen are just an illusion as nothing that happens is good or bad, it just is. It is my thinking that makes it anything else and I get to decide at every moment how I will react. I am divinely blessed for where on this earth I incarnated. Yes I am grateful for being an American and realize that anything I can complain about is insignificant in relationship to 95% of the rest of the human population.

I was born a Pentecostal, spent many years as an atheist reading books titled “Religion as a Creative Insecurity” and "A Course in Miracles." I also lived for 2 years at a Yoga Ashram founded by a wonderful teacher, Swami Satchidananda. In addition I spent nearly 4 years living overseas in Brussels Belgium where I got to see Americans from the perspective of a non-American and found the experience terribly eye opening and self reflective. I now share a spiritual reality with those who attend the Religious Science Church (sorry, not Scientology) called The Center for Spiritual Living.

I seek to find the day when I can experience peace in all things, no matter what is going on around me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What is Prayer?


"Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I remember growing up that prayer was the time when I would be in need and I would beseech an outside entity to please hear my plea and aid my call. It was definitely a child/parent relationship. If I could just find the right way to ask for it, the parent would grant my wish. But then as I got older it changed, the whole pray and though shalt receive didn't seem to be working out so well, and besides, who said I really know what is best for me anyways. Creating the world in my own image is so limiting. I mean reality has much more imagination than I do. Why limit myself?


So then I studied Eastern religions and their method of prayer was meditation, where I learned to find peace no matter what was going on around me or no matter what lack I might perceive that needed to be filled. An hour of meditation a day seemed to make all things fall into place, to help me gain perception and learn how to be grateful instead of needy.


What a better place to come from. So no matter what name you give it, prayer, meditation or just being, Emerson said it best: It is a time for me to contemplate the facts of my life from an out of body point of view. Now if I could just find that hour a day that I need...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Emerson on self reliance


So, I'm getting to be on a first name basis with Mr. Emerson through my class at The Center for Spiritual Living in Ft. Lauderdale. And I can see why his concepts were so powerful especially in his day. The single most important essay he wrote was the one on Self Reliance. I created the cartoon strip above on self reliance to help drive home the point. You can click on the image to see it larger and legible. The situation described is a poignant one, how do you decide what is your genius and what is yourself making excuses for not doing something you don't want to do or maybe it's just a cheap excuse to buck authority?

Well, that's the million dollar self reliance question. I think maybe the acid test is in the results of your decisions and actions. If my inner voice tells me to do something and I follow it and in that following I am able to tap into a power greater than my own, then I know I am in the flow with my divine purpose.

Ralph's essay goes on to say, " Trust thyself." "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind." Still he doesn't give us a clue as to what that might look like and how we might tell the difference. He is a big one for non-conformity. He says, "Whoso would be a man (I assume this is true for women as well), must be a nonconformist."

He challenges us to not do something just because it is popular or expected. He asks each one of us to look inside our heart and make our lives from within instead of from without. He also states, "What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think." I've heard that put another way by Wayne Dyer, "What other people think about me is none of my business." (This is very similar to a book published in 1988 by Terry Cole-Whittaker - What You Think of Me is None of My Business). And yet Emerson said it in more emphatic and passionate terms back in 1926 in his essay on self reliance. Some people think his essay is the best way to describe our great Nation and what made it great and how so many great people have risen from nothing to successes, no matter how you measure success.
 
I only hope I have the courage and inner hearing to know what this means for me, to trust my inner self even if it means non-conformity, to find the strength of character to go beyond worrying about what others think of me and enter my greatness of purpose, even if it isn't socially acceptable. I hope you too my friend can find this as well.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Our words paint a self portrait


I'm reading the Emerson Essays again and there are two things about him that strikes me. He is 1.) wicked smart and has amazing insight into the human spiritual psyche and 2.) extremely inaccessible to mere mortals that don't have a reading vocabulary at the Ph.D level. Okay maybe I exaggerate a little bit but seriously, I have to look up at least 1-2 words per page of content and most folks don't have that much patience. In a world where our President is selected based on out of context soundbites, I can't imagine the average person taking the time to read Emerson.
So I had this idea, if I could somehow reduce the essence of Emerson, or any great spiritual thinker down into a manageable soundbite then I could do a great service to the world. The great thinking inaccessible to many could be delivered over coffee with the Sunday funnies. The only problem I have is that I'm an okay writer but my drawing skills are nil to none. So here's my first attempt at a comic strip sans pictures. Think of it as a strip in search of an artist.
I love the self portrait concept and have always believed this idea that what we say of others we really reveal about ourselves, but I never said it with such eloquence and directness as Emerson, "A man cannot speak but he judges himself...he draws a portrait to the eye of his companion by every word. Every opinion reacts on him who utters it."

I've seen it in my own life time and time again. And the reason this happens is that we typically have something inside ourselves that resonates with the person we are talking about. The more emotional we are, the more resonance.
So for example a thief will suspect everyone of trying to cheat him or steal from him because that is how he thinks about the world, what can I steal or take that isn't mine. And on the positive side, a trusting soul will leave their door and heart open to others because how they are is how they see the world, full of trusting honest people.
The next time you are tempted to go on a tirade about someone or something that is happening, take heed and notice how much more you will be saying about yourself.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

You are the author of your life



During my mid-life crisis years it seems I learned a lot about myself and was able to finally put some perspective on things that had eluded me in my youth. Right around this time of my life I decide to take a pre-retirement (retiring when you are young enough to enjoy your time off) and for a year I traveled and visited places that had significant draw and opportunity for spiritual growth. The places I went to included Hawaii (for about 5 months) studying with a powerful Shaman, Findhorn Foundation Spiritual Center in Scotland for about a month, Integral Yoga Ashram in Yogaville, Virginia (just South of Charlottesville) for about 3 months and Palm Beach Florida for a month to heal my relationship with my Dad. What a blessing to have had that year, to work for a company that offered unpaid sabbaticals and to have the savings to afford me this luxury.

In the Hawaii portion of my journey I worked with about 50 other people who committed to 66 days, 22 at a time to do some very intensive introspection. One of the most powerful takeaways was an exercise we did with an assigned partner over a period of 22 days. Our task was to tell our life story every day but each day we had to change the tone of the story. So one day our assignment was tell our life story as if we were a hero in our life, the next as a victim, the next day as a fairytale, the next as a tragedy, again as a comedy, and then a drama - on and on for 22 days, 22 different stories all based on the same factual basis. We could not change any of the facts of our life, only our interpretation of those facts from these different perspectives.

What did I learn? That my life story is just that, a story. Every single rendition was true. I didn't change any of the facts but what I did change was the spin on those facts. I changed my interpretation of my life events, which is what we do each and every day. We decide each moment how we are going to perceive every event in our life and it is just that, a perception, a judgment, a spin that we put on the facts or reality of our life.

I was so sick of "my story" at the end of 22 days, 22 tellings, 22 renditions that I didn't care if I ever heard or told that story again. That was all it was, a story. Something I made up about the events that happened around me in my life. None of it was true and none of it was false, the facts just were and my story was something in my mind that reflected those facts but did not take their place or become real just because they lived in my mind. Oh but how real that story had become to me and my emotional body, how much I had invested in it, how much unhappiness it caused me, and for what purpose?

It was about as real as the fairy tales I read when I was a child. A fantasy born out of some experience or idea that has little to do with reality. So my lesson was a reinforcement of one of my favorite historical figures most famous quotes, "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be" by Abraham Lincoln.

So what about your story, is it a drama, comedy, tragedy or a romantic novel? Remember, you are the one that gets to write it and tell it any way you want it to be.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Change Your Mind, Change Your Past

One of my favorite sayings and one that has had life changing impact on me is "Change your mind, change your life." (This quote is loosely related to one by Norman Vincent Peale "Change your thoughts, change your world.") This concept is easy to see if you think about the future - if I change my outlook then my future will reflect this changed thinking. That makes sense and I have seen it work in my life, almost like a miracle everytime i take the effort to change in my mind.
The idea of changing the past was a new one for me, one that I got to experience firsthand when I was 35. I always thought that the past was the past, water under the bridge, something to move forward from. In my case, I had this mental image for as long as I can remember of my Dad leaving me, walking out of the house, out of his marriage with my mom and out of his role as my Dad. I held onto that image and the emotions surrounding it for about 33 years. Even when I saw him every weekend, when I spent my time growing up around him, his new wife and his new family. The only thing I could see was his leaving me. Like being with someone but not being there - lights on but nobody home - that's how I would define our relationship.

So I did a brave thing when I turned 35 I decided to change my mind about the situation. I decided that his leaving was the only thing he could do at the time. I saw it for the first time as an act of love, to remove me from a bad marriage, from an unhappy couple and from an ill-prepared Dad. I decided in that moment to let down the wall I had built around my heart "for protection" from what he had supposedly done to me and an amazing thing happened.
I felt the flood of 33 years of unfelt love rush over me. As if it were waiting just on the other side of that wall I had built and fortified year after year. I felt the love the only way my Dad knew how to give me and it was overwhelming. A past, barren of my father's love was suddenly drenched in unreceived emotions finally finding their way home.

In that moment my past transformed. My relationship with my father transformed. It was as if my life was re-lived but this time with a happy ending. I called him that night and told him that I finally felt his love and I knew it had always been there, waiting for me to open my heart to receive it.
 
It took a few more years, but after decades of avoiding him, I moved to South Florida to be with my Dad, to share our lives and the love that was always there waiting for me to change my mind. The mind is a powerful force. I hope that I can always find a way to use it for good in the world. I love you Dad - happy father's day.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Friends Recommending Friends

I recently did something that I do all the time. A colleague of mine was looking to hire a freelancer that had skills another friend of mine possessed so I hooked them up and the colleague hired the friend and so the project began. Of course I highly recommended the friend to my colleague and my friend asked me if I could vouch for the company which I did. Both of these people know that I don't recommend anyone lightly so the marriage was made with my blessing.

Then life happened. The friend had childcare issues with a newborn baby that resulted in her only finishing 70% of the project within the project deadline. My colleague had to find someone at the last minute to complete the unfinished part of the project. And so ended a perfect match. My friend invoiced the colleague for the completed part of the job and my colleague turned around and hired a lawyer without paying a dime. Of course the colleague can't talk to me under advice of the lawyer and my friend is stressed emotionally and financially over a business arrangement I initiated.

I asked for advice from a few of my trusted friends and was amazed by the responses I received. I will share excerpts here:

"I would try to make good with the client somehow and earn their trust back. And a true friend would recognize you stuck your neck out for them. In the end, the job wasn't finished. Hopefully, on this copy job, they collected at least 25% up front. As I see it, the contractor owes you a make good in this case. If you need a copywriter, I'm happy to funnel a day's worth or work to my staffer on my tab for this should you need it. "

"...the important thing is you were trying to do a service to both for the introduction so you really can’t be responsible for the outcome. But you also need to make your own ethical decision on future recommendations of the two parties based on this! "

"I would warn people that they (the employer) have had a situation like this so they need to be cautious. I often find when companies don't pay people, it is a pattern and as a consultant, you wish you had known that ahead of time."


"If you feel so personally responsible, you should step in and offer to mediate a settlement acceptable to both parties.... A matter this small should never escalate to the point of litigation."


"As tempting as it may be to help your friends and salvage your reputation, the chances of you being able to improve the situation are slim unless they both ask you to do it. Butting in is likely to just remind both angry parties that you got them together, which is not good for you. It's kind of like cops with domestic disturbance calls - they hate taking those because the battling parties are likely to both turn on the cop. "

"...it seems straightforward, e.g. daycare. Since I have children, I know that "day care" issues can be resolved with planning. The person didn't have enough contingency plans. "


"Don't sweat this one. Give some of your time, in whatever capacity you can, to the original person. Ask the two of them to set a figure for financial reconcilliation. Talk to the person that hired the lawyer and say that never fixed anything and save the money. Then move forward. "


"I think we all rely on recommendations. Since you didn't make any referral fee or anything on the recommendation, it was made in good faith. As you put it, for years you have recommended people and all parties have been satisfied. "


"Did the company pay 100% of the bill to the agency? Did the company have any negative feedback about the copy/content provided? If they paid 100% and has zero complaints on the quality, then the agency is obligated to pay the contractor for the 70% delivered. "

"If this situation is resolved to your satisifaction and handled professionally by both parties, then you should not hesitate to recommend them both again. IF this situation is NOT resolved to your satisfaction and handlded professionaly by both parties, then you should not recommend either and you should disclose to both why you will not longer be referring business/work to them."


"If the situation has escalated to the point where lawyers are being called, then the options on the table have been diminished rather significantly. "


"I am assuming the owner of the company reviewed the person's work before the engagement of services and found the work to meet their needs and expectations. That said the company owner employed the person and therfore is obligated for services rendered. My opinion is that they should pay the 70 percent and be done the it. The agreement is based on time and that is what they are paying for. It's a little late to fault the writing quality since that should have been discovered along the way."


"Ask each party to consider they may be wrong. The answer is not for either party to stick to their guns, but simply to do this: GAIN RESOLUTION AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE AND MOVE ON. "

"As far as ANYONE's REPUTATION being tarnished--of the 3 parties involved, forget it. This is just life. Life happens. Move on and let all 3 parties move on...All three parties are good people. Good people have misunderstandings."
___________________________________________

Do you know what I have learned from this situation? That I have amazing friends that help me find my way when I can't see clearly through my emotions or perceptions. The last comment sums it up best, all three are good people and even good people have misunderstandings.

May we each find our way to an inner understanding, even if it cannot be found between those directly involved.
Namaste.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What does All Maya mean?


For some reason not a lot of people ask me about this, even when my email address for the past 15 years has been allmaya, my license plate on my car is ALL MAYA and my user name on most social media sites is allmaya, I'm surprised at how few people ask me about it. But the few that do ask me are always fun to watch when I tell them. It's like asking a 5 year old what they want to be when they grow up and they answer you with a full rundown of their plans to attend Harvard Medical School and then take up a specialty practice in Neonatal ICU - it just isn't what you expect as a response. Fireman, nurse, teacher, but not the depth of thought maybe.

So I thought it was worth a post. Maya is a Sanskrit word that represents the veil of illusion that we perceive the world through - a filter that is our perceptions, judgments and past experiences clouding this reality, changing it, making it in our own vision but changing it along the way from reality to illusion. For most of us the filter is so strong that by the time an experience gets through to us, it resembles nothing like what actually happened. This is why sometimes a situation will be experienced by two people and it is as if they didn't experience the same thing - because they didn't.

When I apply this to my own life it helps me to let go of things that upset me, things I don't like, things that don't turn out the way I wanted them to turn out. I hop in my car or I check my email and these words all maya remind me that whatever I perceive isn't reality - a reminder that it is all an illusion - all maya - something I made up and my emotional reactions aren't real either. They are merely my reactions to this made up story. It helps put things into perspective.

The great thing about this is that I can make up a different reality for anything that happens, I can choose another illusion and a different reaction if I want to. I did this at one time in my life as part of a 22 day intensive course where everyday for 22 days I had to tell my workshop partner my life story, over and over again. But each day I had to change the theme of my life story; one day to be the victim, the next to be the hero, one day my life as a tragedy, the next as a comedy. Let me tell you, after 22 days, I was so sick of my story I didn't ever want to hear it again. And I realized something even more important - it was just a story. It wasn't real. It was the made up things in my mind that were reactions to things that just happened, neither good or bad or happy or tragic, they just were. What a powerful release that was - to see it all as maya, my own personal illusion that was getting in my way of seeing the world as it truly is.

The tarot deck has a powerful figure that represents this concept, the high priestess. She sits in a place of honor with the scroll of our life on her lap. Behind her is the veil of illusion that once we are able to let go of, will reveal to us our true purpose in life. I like this image and she inspires me to let go of these things that stop me from seeing the world and my place in it for what it truly is and what I can truly be - a perfect child of God.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Information without implementation leads to frustration

The thing about being curious, analyzing and learning things is that it can create a situation where you become increasingly frustrated due to the lack of response to this information or your lack of ability to take action on what you now know. It is what happens when you conduct customer or employee satisfaction surveys. We gain access to valuable information that can be acted upon to make the company and workplace better for employees and customers alike.

And then nothing happens. Well other than the presentations and promises to make changes, at the end of the day and in the midst of an economic crisis, nothing really happens. Okay, lip service might be considered more than nothing by some folks. I mean the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

But it happens to me too. I learn something and know instinctively what needs to be done but then there are always too many things to do and not enough resources to do them all, even in my department of one in my personal life. I look in the attic and know that I need to purge to keep the flow of energy and things moving in the universe but do I do that or pay my bills? Florida Plunder and Loot thinks I can wait to act on my information while I pay my light bill.

And so the next time I'm in the attic struggling to find 2 inches of space for a 3 foot by 5 foot box, I get increasingly frustrated at my inability to act on the information I gained the last time I visited this remote region of my home.

So what's the answer? Do something small each day. If you have a choice to do nothing or the choice to do something small instead, do something small. So if you don't have time to completely empty the attic, open each box, purge and cart things off to Goodwill then at least take down 1 box and do that one small thing. At least the next time you are up there, you might have room for the new treasure that is finding it's way to the national storage facility (remember Raiders of the Lost Arc?)

Same thing with the surveys, with anything. Pick one small thing to do and act on that. Once completed you can select another small thing and so on. You will feel better and your frustration levels will subside at least a little and every little bit helps.

Monday, May 18, 2009

There is never a lack of time, only a lack of faith


I learned this lesson over 20 years ago when I wrote case studies for the Darden Graduate School of Management at UVA. My friends would respond whenever anyone asked me what I did for a job that I wrote term papers for a living. And they were right. Writing case studies is like research term papers due every few weeks, loads of fun collecting the data from interviews with C level folks at the company plus hours at the library ferreting out industry data to put the company in context. And then hours and hours of organizing, formatting
, creating tables and writing prose to bring the case to life and thread the pieces together.

There was this one case in particular that was both intriguing and overwhelming in information, facts and figures. It involved Ohio Arts who makes Etch A Sketch and their decision to license the Disney image of Mickey Mouse to create a younger version of the old standard toy where Mickey's eyes would move when the child turned the drawing knobs. I was under deadline as the CEO of Ohio Arts was scheduled to visit the school in a few weeks to hear the students debate the finer points of his dilemma, to renew the license or not.

It came down to the wire, the last night before the editors needed the final draft so they could do their magic, get it printed and distributed in time for student consumption. I sat down that night with only 10 hours left before the 8 am submission deadline. From writing about 15 of these puppies I knew that I had easily, 40-50 hours of work in front of me before the case would be ready for prime time. I was so overwhelmed that I didn't know where to start. I would pick up one stack of facts and then decide no, better start over here with this stack of interview notes and back and forth and back and forth accomplishing nothing!

I decided that I needed to center myself or this constant back and forth would sap all of my energy and not a word would be committed to paper. So I put my head down on the keyboard in front of me and prayed. I stated out loud that I couldn't finish this case alone and that I needed help. That there was not enough time to complete the task and that it would take a miracle and help from a miracle worker to finish it on time.

I was then very still and I let the calm of something other-worldly wash over me and then I heard it. As clear as if someone were in the room, the words came to me, "there is never a lack of time, only a lack of faith." So simple, so poignant, so matter of fact that all I could do was acknowledge the truth in its simplicity.

I sat up and immediately found the exact opening statement flowing from my fingertips onto the computer screen. Every fact or figure or quote that I needed presented itself to me as if it had surfaced from amongst the disarray on my desk on command. The words flowed, the story unfolded in a way that I almost felt like an observer in the movie that was the writing of this case study. I finished with an hour to spare, time for a quick shower and a cup of coffee before I headed to campus to meet my editor.

The case study was finished on time, the students came to the same conclusion that Ohio Arts did (they canceled the licensing deal) and the case study was voted as the student's favorite for that academic year, Etch A Sketch Meets Mickey Mouse. Even the title was inspired. When I read the case later, it was a work of brilliance, one that I don't remember participating in. But more importantly the case was an important lesson in the arena of faith. I have found that time isn't the only thing that we perceive is in short supply.

This simple truth applies to anything we think is in short supply - money, love, abundance, jobs, hope. I have now had an experience of what this looks like and when I remember to apply those wise simple words, the situation transforms itself right before my very eyes. The truth of the situation is that the process or the outcome may not look exactly the way we envisioned it, but whatever needs to happen will happen in the time, money, job or love allotted. And if we get out of the way it will always be better than anything we could have imagined.

There is never a lack of money, only a lack of faith.
There is never a lack of love, only a lack of faith.
There is never a lack of hope, only a lack of faith.
There is never a lack of jobs, only a lack of faith.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Focus on what you want in your life rather than what you don't want


Focus, focus, focus, if I could only just focus. But when we do focus, what is it that we spend our time and attention on? Is the glass half empty or half full? The reason this is important is that what we focus on is what we will create more of in our life.

Half Full Glass
So I ask myself, am I focusing on what I don't like about my situation or am I focused on what I want more of in my life. How many times in my life has someone asked me, what is it that you want most? And my response is a litany of what I don't like or want about my current situation.

How this works is much like the person with arachnophobia who hates hates hates spiders. And how is it that this person experiences more spiders than anyone else they know. It is as if their fear or hate acts like a magnet pulling toward themselves whatever it is that they are focusing on and in this case it is spiders albeit a hatred, it is still an intense focus.

But anything in life can be like a spider (or a whole herd of them if you really focus). If I am focused on not having a full time job and the fragmentation of having 3 part time ones, then I will get more fragmentation and keep attracting the lack of a full time job. If on the other hand I focus on more abundance than I can imagine from what I am doing now or something better then I have a better chance of drawing that into my life. It sounds so easy but how quickly we slip into our old pattern of thinking...where did I put that flyswatter anyway?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Glimpses of brilliance


So one thing that always amazes me when I read about enlightened beings or in the very few times in my life that I have had the opportunity to experience one in person, Swami Satchidananda, The Dalai Lama and Sivaya Subrahmanya Swami,I always marvel at how they got from where I am in my consciousness to theirs and I want to what I can do to get there myself.

One thing they all share in common is a wonderment that is very similar to a child. They see everything in the world as if it were new and beautiful, including even when they are doing something mundane. They also seem to be at peace and in bliss at the same time, experiencing something I recognize but just don't seem to get enough of.

You know those moments in your life when you have an experience of God. It can be a moment of watching the wonder in a child's eyes as they discover the world, that moment when you are overwhelmed with love for someone and you are so full of joy that you could burst with bliss. Or maybe it is a majestic sunrise that takes your breath away due to the beauty it bathes the world in. These are the moments that enlightened beings live in.

So someone told me that the way to get from here to there is to see these moments like a doorway on our dark room that opens a just a crack to let in brilliant rays of light from the outside and then closes again. My goal should be to have more of those moments each month, each week, each day, each hour so that the door opens more frequently. In addition I should focus on keeping the door open longer and longer each time it happens. To stay in the moment, to relish it, to not let the mundane interfere or shut the door. Slowly but surely I can get to a place where the door opens more frequently and stays open longer eventually filling the time of life experiences creating heaven on earth.

This makes it seem more attainable to me, increasing the number and duration of those small glimpses of brilliance a little at a time instead of going from darkness to total enlightenment in an instance. But then again, there is no difference between a small miracle and a large one in God's eyes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The golden present

The golden present. A great way to describe each moment in our life when we are fully present and savoring every thing that life brings our way - focused in the here and now. Those beautiful unexpected gifts in life are normally merely glimmers of gold that come on us when we are least expecting them and then pass us by so quickly that many of us miss them. Like a beautiful sunset or sunrise that can take your breath away but they last only moments - brief glimses of gold, pure majesty. That's why it is our challenge in life to be completely present in those moments and to cherish them for what they are - a golden present from the universe.

Not nearly as spectacular as the sunset this morning, but still a beautiful gift, I was handed one of those golden moments from the owners of the newly relaunched Z Ocean Hotel in South Beach Miami. They held a party complete with signature blue drinks on a blue carpet (to match their new logo colors), passed around Oprah's favorite grilled cheese sandwiches in the world and fried olives from Table 8 restaurant, peppered in amongst the tomato bisque served in shot glasses and Zushi Flirt rolls. And to top it all off they invited the Bacon Brothers band to help liven up the night with their energy and music. How fun!

What a wonderful gift, one of those golden moments that we need to be fully present to appreciate. Below you can see just a glimse of the brilliance in video and photo. Thank you LGD Communications and Z Ocean Hotel for your many gifts. I feel truly blessed.





www.flickr.com





Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The 95/5 Rule of Relationships


I know, you think I'm bad in math and got the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) wrong, but this is the rule that really matters in life, the 95/5 rule.

It is human nature, nothing magical about it, just something we all do in life. We do it with our jobs, our family, our intimate relationships, we just can't seem to help ourselves. Finding fault is not a virtue, it is a deal killer. I see it kill deals every day.

"I hate sitting in so many meetings, I don't like writing status reports, I miss my old boss or my friends back at such and such company" and on and on. Right now we are doing less and less of this at work if we are lucky enough to still have a job, so there is a silver lining in all this economic devastation. We are finally focusing on what is right about our job or our company or our colleagues because we are so thankful to have them.

Relationships are an even juicier outlet for the 95/5 rule. In the beginning our future soul mate is everything we ever dreamed of and more. And the reason this happens is that we have no idea who they are, so they can be whatever we want them to be. We project all of our dreams and fantasies into the knowledge void we have about who this person really is. But then over time the void starts being populated with facts and experiences that are attributed to the real person and we start to pick them apart, finding all of the things about them that are wrong. But the problem with this approach is that we completely miss the 95% of the person and relationship that is absolutely right.

Now of course no one is going to be 100% our dream but in reality, I'm not that great at dreaming and usually the person I'm with turns out to be better than my wildest dream, which is the case with my partner Toni. For me to find relationship joy I need to be open to asking for what I want in life and adding at the end of my endless list of demands the statement, this or something better. Because the person we are in relationship may not match up exactly to our expectations we can become fixated on all of the ways they aren't our perfect match, totally missing how they may in fact be better than we imagined.

I find that this fixation on the 5% starts to consume us, to get on our last nerve as the focus magnifies the differences and makes them take on a life of their own. All of the endearing qualities that our soul mate had in the first months of the relationship now drive us crazy with frustration, but how could they have changed so much?

Well the truth is, they didn't. It is just that we know them better now and they aren't the person in our dreams, they are a real person in flesh and blood. And given the chance to interact with my dreams and a real person, the real person wins hands down (no pun intended).

So if your goal is a lasting and beautiful relationship that is better than anything you could have imagined, my advice to you is to mindfully turn your focus each and every time one of those 5% issues rears its ugly head, to one of the many things about the person you love, to the 95% that is right. And before you know it, that 5% will lose its grip on your attention and most likely you will grow out of your need to have everything in life delivered exactly to your specifications. Relationships that last tend to grow deeper into wonderful things that we can hardly imagine but changing our focus is the only way to get to this deeper place.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Life is like a math problem


I spoke recently to someone I care deeply for and wanted an update on her budding love affair. Well, although they absolutely adore each other, she told me that she wasn't sure it was going to work out. She felt like she was losing herself in the relationship, just like she did in her last one. Somehow she had magically found and fallen in love with someone that was almost a carbon copy of her last long term relationship. How could this have happened? Indeed, how is it that when we leave unhealthy relationships that we somehow recreate them wherever we go, no matter who we fall in love with - they turn out to be similar to the one we left?

Here's my analogy, life is like a math problem. So we are sitting in class, math class, and our teacher (the person we are in relationship with) comes to us with a problem to solve. We don't like the problem so much so we change schools (relationships). And after the initial getting to know you phase, an amazing thing happens, the exact same math problem is the one that our new teacher presents us with.

So why is this? Well the math problem is our lesson in life, something we need to solve within ourself in order to move up to the next grade, the next level in our relating with others. And our math teachers are perfect children of God that volunteer to come into our lives to teach us this important lesson, no matter how unpleasant they might have to be in order to get the point across.

So when you think the other person in your life is being difficult because of some character flaw, that might be the case. But if that character flaw follows you around from relationship to relationship, then maybe it is something within yourself that can be changed, improved, learned. For example, if you find yourself in controlling dominating relationships, ask what is it in myself that teaches others that it is okay to control and dominate me? What things are there in my life that I'm not doing or getting that I have voluntarily denied myself so that I can give control to this teacher?

Maybe this relationship is an opportunity to change the way I teach people how to treat me? Maybe I won't give permission to anyone to dominate me. Maybe I will just go out and get that puppy afterall, even if it isn't logical, rational or perfect timing. Afterall, I'm the one that wants it and only I can prevent me from getting it. Well at least that's true after I graduate.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Be in the world but not of it


A friend of mine reached out to me yesterday for some advice about her work situation. She felt that her boss was trying to force her to resign so that the company wouldn't have to pay severance or unemployment. Things had gotten so bad that she thought her health may be at risk, feeling panic attacks and moments when her heart seemed to be beating in her throat either when she was at work or thinking about it.

She had decided to give her 2 week notice on Friday but wanted my advice before she did that. Myself knowing what a difficult market it is out here and knowing that she just had a baby in the past 6 months and knowing that her job is the one that provides benefits for the family I advised against that move. She then asked about an alternative of going to HR with her list of grievances to see if that would help the situation. Again I advised against that approach.

What I did suggest was that the universe was giving her a wonderful opportunity to learn how to be in the world but not of it, an opportunity to create peace and tranquility even in a difficult situation, to learn that peace is something that comes from within and isn't something that anyone can take away from you without your agreement. I asked her to find a picture of a lotus flower to help visualize what this might look like.

The lotus flower is a wonderful metaphor as it is one of natures most beautiful creations and one that grows best in the most stagnant and putrid of waters. It reminds us that wonderful things can emerge from seemingly terrible conditions. I asked her to visualize herself as that lotus flower, emitting her inner beauty and not reflecting her putrid surroundings. I also said this would help her direct her focus on what she wants to have happen in her life instead of focusing on what she doesn't want to happen.

Whenever we invest energy into complaining or fretting about a bad situation it robs us of the very thing we need to set us on a right and peaceful course in our life. The more time we spend focused on what we don't want there is less focus that we can give to what we do want. So I told her to find a picture of a lotus flower that she could look to for inspiration whenever the putrid waters rush over her. To look within to find the peace and focus to create something better in her life. It is an old Sufi saying that we should be in the world but not of the world which means that we are here to give to life our fullest potential rather than being sucked into anything less which might happen if we let the world around us determine who and what we are.

Of course I also told her to use some of the energy that this would free up in her life to create the next place for her to exercise her creativity. And I'm happy to report she is already seeing improvements on both fronts.

An excerpt from the site I link to about this quote written by A H Almaas about conflict and challenges in our life:
"Your essence is very intelligent, very generous. It has a way of throwing a conflict in front of you, so that by looking at that conflict or barrier you'll find out something you need to know. The situation that you are given is perfect in terms of timing, place, the people involved, your capacities, the capacities of people around you, everything, every detail. The situation is such that if you actually try to understand it, you'll understand something about your essence."

A not so funny thing that we do as humans is that when confronted with conflict or challenge we somehow think that if we can only remove ourselves from a situation, a relationship or a person that somehow we can remove whatever exists within ourselves that called that situation to us. So we throw away partners, jobs and friendships thinking that our problems will be solved when they are gone but then we eventually find ourself facing the same issue in the a new job, relationship or situation. How much easier it would be to understand and learn about ourselves so that we can grow into something even better, no matter where we are or who we are with.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What you give you get back, but multiplied

We went to the Morikami Gardens today to see a group of Taiko Dojo Japanese Drummers perform today. What an amazing thing to watch. I heard their lead drummer being interviewed on a local TV program and he said that the energy they display comes from the very earth they stand on and I believe it.

It was amazing to watch and feel and experience their energy, synchronized drumming is what I call it. The group is Fushu Daiko, a local Florida troop. You can't witness them without being moved by the sound, by the energy by the power of the earth that they call upon to create their sound.

I took a small clip on my camera to share with you. I am inspired to draw on the earth's energy to share with those around me, I hope they inspire you too.


Everyone is a perfect child of God

Everyone is a perfect child of God - how far from reality does that feel some days, for myself and for those that seem to upset me. I say seem to upset me because no one can make me feel anything. I am the only one that can decide how I react or feel about someone or something. So today's message for me is to remind me that we all are perfect children of God who are here living and learning and making choices every day to the best of our abilities.

So I try to think of it this way. I'm here on earth stumbling around trying to find my way back to my Godliness and all of the souls in heaven look down and say, hey, who wants to volunteer to give Sheryl a hard time so that she can learn how to be at peace no matter what might be happening around her. And some gracious soul raises their hand and says, "Its a tough job, but I'll do it" and they appear and give me a hard time.

My peace comes when and if I can remember that we are both, all, perfect children of God and no matter what might be appearing otherwise, it just isn't the truth about any of us if it looks differently from this fact. Do people sometimes do desperate or mean things? Of course they do, but if the meaning of life is to give and receive love then those mean and desperate things are only a cry for love from someone that needs it and perhaps they are in my life so that I can learn to give it no matter what they might be doing outwardly.

I couldn't get this video to work of this song by the Roches but it is one of my favorites and communicates this message very well:

Everyone is Good by The Roches

I would like to be a person who does not judge
Free to be me whatever that might be
I don't want to hold a position, don't want to hold a grudge
'Cause it seems to be the cause of a lot of misunderstanding
Heartbreak misery

Looking in your eyes you're different from me
Why does it have to be that one of us is better
Can't we both be beautiful even if we don't agree
Like the flowers in the garden and the animals in the wood
Each one with a purpose and each one is God

Everyone is good

Nobody's God says hate your neighbor
Even if the neighbor doesn't believe in God
Put aside your religion do your God a favor
And wouldn't it be something to be loving and kind
Forgive yourself for everything having once been blind

Everyone is good

Everyone is a perfect child of God.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Change your mind, change your life

It sounds so easy, if I don't like my life, if I'm not joyful and satisfied, all I need to do is change my mind and I can have all of those things, right? Sort of right. But for some reason I want to cling to things that make me miserable so I can whine about them. I mean if my life were great, wouldn't I feel guilty around all the people whose lives aren't great? Okay, maybe my life isn't great because I have lost perspective.

No matter how bad my life may seem, lost my job, upside down on my house, my dogs bark too much, I'm not wildly popular or rich, my bananas went limp, I'm behind on my bills, I'm disorganized, I'm estranged from my sister and brother, I'm overweight, all very important things, one thing I'm sure of, there are many people on planet earth that would give anything to have the life I live. I think unhappiness is a lack of perspective. Not having a job is terrible, but having 3 part time jobs is how blessed I am to have 3 people or companies willing to hire me in very tough economic times and pay me a decent hourly wage so I can maintain my lifestyle.

When I watch the news and hear about all of the people who are living in their cars and vehicles because they lost their job, their home and can't even pay rent, then I know that I am truly blessed.

When I see people whose health has failed them, suffering from cancer, recovering from surgery, or are differently-abled in a wheelchair or on crutches for life, I know that I am truly blessed.

When I see a soldier who has returned from duty maimed or injured beyond recovery of their former life just so that I may live in peace in this great country, I know that I am truly blessed.

When I see whole countries that struggle to provide clean drinking water and sanitation for millions of their people, many dying from cholera, malaria, Hepatitis A or AIDS, I know that I am truly blessed.

When I know that millions go to bed at night malnurished, hungry and thirsty not sure what or if they will be able to eat tomorrow, I know that I am truly blessed.

When I look at the numbers of women who are raped or beaten by someone they know or love and fear for their life and the lives of their children, I know that I am truly blessed.

I guess when you put things into perspective, my petty problems are just merely inconveniences in a very blessed life, and I need to realize that I'm doing that human thing where I focus on the 5% that is wrong with my life and not the 95% that is very right. Just going through this exercise has helped me change my mind at least for today.

Jana Stanfield came and stayed with us last fall (2008) and ended up writing a song about our coffee mugs that say "All that we ask is that you stay open to changing your entire life by changing your mind." I hear she recorded it for her next album, can't wait to share it with you.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Everyone makes the best possible decision based on the information available

Okay, that was a mouthful but it helps me remember why sometimes, some people will make decisions that I can't understand or agree with. I mean my decisions are so rational, logical and common sense to me, that when someone disagrees or decides something to the contrary I think that maybe they are either incompetent or purposely trying to piss me off (usually the latter because it is all about me).

So this lesson gives me a glimmer of hope that if I provide this poor decider with the same information and set of facts that I possess they can only make the right decision and agree with me, no? Okay, the logic may be flawed a bit and when I relentlessly harp on the facts and the obviously missing information in their dataset I do understand that I can be a pain, but in my mind I'm sure that I am just one fact away from agreement so why stop short?

Okay the thing that matters most here is for me to realize that maybe the other person has the missing fact that might pull me over to their side, if they could only get a word in edge-wise. My peace and happiness lie in my ability to ask questions, to probe and to uncover the knowledge I lack or to find the weakness in their argument and go for the jugular once I have it in my sights...

Old habits are hard to break.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gloom and doom are nothing but congealed lies

Michael Beckwith said it when he was in Ft. Lauderdale, he didn't want to watch the news or listen to anyone complaining about the economic meltdown. He was convinced that it was nothing more than congealed lies. As a matter of fact, anything we share that is negative or complaining fit into this category. Beliefs that we invest ourselves in so much that they become congealed in our mind even if they are lies.

Case in point, no matter what happens, good or bad, we have an opportunity to grow and become stronger as a result. So who is to say that this so called meltdown is anything but strength training? A much needed work out to make us stronger and healthier in the end.

It is human nature to complain and moan, of course! But the simple facts are this; as Americans we each can lose more in the stock market in one day than others on earth will make in a year, and hardly notice it. Sure I lost 25-50% of the value of my 401K, but even at 50% loss, we as a country are among the richest 25% on the planet consuming 75% of all the resources and wealth. I also know that 56 percent of the world's population lives in extreme poverty surviving on an income of less than $730 per year or $2 per day. Instead of complaining about my American economy, I should be counting my blessings - and I am.

We will get through this even with the Republicans kicking and screaming and resisting all the way. And in the end we will be stronger for it, a stronger housing market, a stronger banking system and a more regulated corporate America even if my investments take a beating along the way. I just need to remember that I'm Rocky in training and a few bruises is all part of the character building.




Rocky theme song -

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Never blend in

Two of my favorite moments of the night. Powerful, life changing words of courage in the acceptance speeches from the screenwriter, Dustin Lance and leading actor Sean Penn for the movie Harvey Milk.

Talk about the power of telling a true story and changing lives. We know that Harvey made the ultimate sacrifice of his life by living openly, pursuing his dream of equal rights, giving hope and in some cases saving the lives of those who are in the discriminated gay minority of America.

There's a new way to show your support for this minority with a small donation and the wearing of a thin white band that says "Never Blend In." The Harvey Milk site is where you can find them and your gay friends will love you for your courage to wear your support on your sleeve, or at least close to it. I also enjoyed hearing the words of Harvey Milk on this site.

Harvey Milk




Although it would be easier, I agree with Harvey that we can't afford to blend in and surrender our rights. Equal rights should be the right of everyone in America, not just the majority and we need to fight for them until they are granted. Please join me in that fight by doing whatever small part you are called to do. Even if it is as small as speaking up when given the chance to oppose Proposition 8 in California or Amendment 2 in Florida.

We cannot afford to blend in.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What would I do today if I were brave?

Jana Stanfield is one of the best songwriters alive today IMHO and she wrote a song that became the theme for the Girl Scouts of America, What would I do today if I were brave?

You can check it out here:


The song is awesome but the answer to the question is all tied into what matters most. I think the only thing that stops me from doing what I love most is fear, fear of the unknown, fear of what has gone wrong in the past when I have done it, fear that I won't be good enough, fear that I won't be able to make a living, fear that the world doesn't need what I love most -- telling stories that change people's lives.

That's what I would do if I were brave. Like Garrison Keillor on Prarie Home Companion or Dave Barry in his syndicated column, or maybe host a talk show like Bill Maher where I could say exactly what I think and feel and not worry if I offend someone. Maybe on second thought, Garrison's approach would get me fewer death threats.

Story tellers, all of them, and they have changed my life. So this blog is my feeble attempt at getting up the courage to finally do what I would do if I were brave. Today a blog with 3 followers, tomorrow an HBO feature.

What would you do today if you were brave?


There is no such thing as failure, only feedback

Why is it that when something bad happens, it feels terrible? I have been so conditioned to strive for success that when something goes wrong I feel terrible and I feel like a failure. But usually in time, after I get over myself, that failure turns into a valuable lesson. Of course to get to this point it normally takes time and perspective to see it as the lesson it is instead of the failure that it feels like.

I truly believe that if I could remember this at the time I could get to the lesson sooner instead of dwelling on the failure and spend more of my time in joy. At these times this lesson serves me well, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. My failure is only a failure if I fail to see the feedback, to take the lesson and apply it so that it is only a step on the way to eventual success, even if that success looks very different that what my original vision might have been. Funny how my limited vision can be without the valuable feedback I need to see my success a different way.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Timely improvements over delayed perfection

Once upon a time many years ago, I started my career in marketing. Those were the days that everything we did was in person, print, video or radio. A marketing campaign took months to strategize, plan, execute, measure and then adjust or refine based on the results. Making a change in a print ad or a printed brochure was a major undertaking, nearly as arduous as starting over again. And you had to have patience to wait on the results of a direct mail campaign, sometimes up to 6 weeks before you knew if your response rate was 2% (crack open a beer) or 4% (pop the cork on champagne).

And then Al Gore invented the Internet and I finally found my calling. For me, the Web is like marketing on crack. I can have an idea, execute it on my website, measure the results and adjust my campaign all within an hour if I have enough traffic to get statistically significant measurements (which I did at sites such as Travelocity.com and eDiets.com).

So this is my mantra; make timely improvements over delayed perfection. It fits with my belief that there is no such thing as a new idea but what defines success is in the implementation. Most ideas have been thought of before but few people are great at executing. Perfectionists tend to want to wait until their plan is perfected, their execution fully routed, proofed and tested and everything is tied up with a nice bow. But in the web world implementation and feedback can dramatically change your plan or send you down a different path altogether. But not to worry, you can always change it in about an hour or so. You gotta love it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't be a gaycist

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
(A poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller, published in a 1955 book by Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free)

 
So now they are coming for the gays, stripping us of our rights, the moral majority deciding the fate of the minority. I wonder how our world would be different if slavery were left up to a state-by-state popular vote of a pre-Lincoln America? Well for one, I don't think we would have our current president in office. I know that the Bible was used to justify slavery just as it is being used to justify gaycism denying yet another minority their rights all in the name of religion.

But then again we as a society are known to pick and choose only the things that are convenient or agreeable to us to follow in the Bible and we willingly ignore others in the same section that says "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." Bans against wearing gold, eating shellfish, getting divorced, having tatoos, cutting hair in a round shape or playing football co-exist with this proclamation but somehow we choose to ignore those edicts. I especially love the letter to Dr. Laura that made its rounds back in 2000 specifically addressing this hypocrisy asking her opinion on how we should enforce the penalties for these transgressions clearly laid out in that same Bible (death by stoning, selling daughters into slavery, removal of limbs).

How will the act of separating and denying 1,138 legal rights to same spouse partners protect the institution of marriage? It sounds to me like a group of elitists trying to exclude those that are different than they are from their position of privilege. In this country we have the right to bear arms and kill our neighbors, friends and family (in 2009 nearly 50% of homicides were by family, friends or acquaintances) and this is protected by our constitution.

But the right to love and marry who we choose is a privilege to be awarded to only those that meet the religious requirement of being a man and woman. What happened to separation of church and state? Where are the courts who are supposed to protect the rights of the minority from the majority vote? Where are the African Americans who remember how it feels to be told who they can and cannot marry? Oh, I think they forgot since 70% of African Americans in California backed Proposition 8, according to exit polls.

Well the reversal in California will impact loving couples, families, friends and co-workers for years to come, not to mention the future marriages (and revenues they create) that will never happen. Here's a stimulus package worth considering; let's agree to a law that will generate a projected $684 million in wedding services in California alone or the $111 million in Massachusetts over the next 3 years. What I don't understand is why in the world would we spend so much time and energy taking away rights when we have so many larger issues to contend with like wars in 2 countries, uninsured Americans, joblessness, financial fraud in epidemic proportions?

And then I remember, I don't have to solve these problems or answer these questions, only outgrow them. Join me in seeing each of those featured in this video outgrow this temporary obstacle, this opportunity for expansion, that we seem to be encountering as we search for the modern day Abraham Lincoln to save our country from gaycism.

Monday, February 16, 2009

We aren't here to solve our problems, we are here to outgrow them

Last week I had the experience of a hurricane named Michael Beckwith. I use hurricane to describe the experience because our time together was powerful, it was uplifting, is rearranged some of my thinking and it destroyed some old thought patterns that no longer serve me. He said something in his talk that was such a relief for me and something that rang so true, "we are not here to solve our problems; we are here to outgrow them."

What a relief that I don't need to figure out why my job was eliminated, how I'm going to make ends meet, why the stimulus package wasn't supported by any Republicans, how in the world will the health care crisis be solved. Michael suggested that any problem we are struggling with already has a solution, that the answer is within us. But we won't find it out there, the issues and problems I am dealing with are opportunities to go within and to go beyond my small view of myself to realize something even better. Even delays or obstacles along the way each deliver an important piece of my unique experience puzzle that will eventually complete a whole picture that I just can't see right now.

So I need to go beyond that which is directly in front of me to see something larger and bigger than what my small focus may not be allowing me to realize. It isn't about obsessing on the stimulus package or my lack of a job but rather the time I have in my life right now to find a larger definition of who I am and how I will earn the energy/money I need to realize my true potential.

I choose today to focus on how I can outgrow the obstacles in front of me to become something better and bigger than any problem in front of me now.

To see the hurricane in action yourself check out his presentation to the proposed new government office of The Department of Peace!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Life is a stage to give and receive our gifts

As a follow up to the meaning of life, I sometimes wonder how in the world those around me can love me or how in the world I can love them. Then other times I'm lucky enough to remember that whatever I might be doing for a job, for my social life, for my relationship, for my home, for my vacation -- everything is just a stage for me to interact with exactly the right people and to give my gifts and receive theirs.

Sometimes I forget this and think that whatever stage I'm on is the important thing, like selling timeshares or servicing owners or making a widget or seeing the Himalayas but then something will happen to remind me that those are all just the props, the set, the backdrop to do the important work of our time on earth -- to give our gifts and receive gifts from others.

Not gifts like packages, tied up in a bow, but gifts of caring, love, laughter, joy, sharing, connection - all of the things that define us as God having a human experience. I heard a great performer this weekend, Amy Carol Webb (she's the one on the left with the mug) and she sang a song called "God Has No Hands But Ours". It was a great reminder that if those gifts are going to make it to those of us on earth then it is up to me to deliver them and to receive them no matter what perfect child of God shows up to bestow them.

And if I'm caught up in whatever stage or drama that I happen to be involved in at the time, then I might miss that opportunity. So do me a favor, help me remember that life is just a stage where I am called to give and receive my gifts.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The meaning of life - to give and receive love

Welcome to the first posting of "what matters most" and some of you may ask why bother? I guess because we as humans increase the knowledge of our species by written and spoken word, I thought that maybe, just maybe I have learned some things in life that might be worth sharing. I also know that by sharing we also remember so life's lessons aren't just fleeting and lost moments that depart as quickly as they arrive. So I will start with the meaning of life, at least as far as I can tell -- To Give and Receive Love.


I know we all live our lives as if education, job, power, money, position, title, etc. are what matter in life but in the end whatever job we have, whatever things we have, whoever is in our life are really just vehicles or our stage to do what matters most -- To Give and Receive Love.


Anything besides these 2 acts are temporary illusions, perceptions and judgements that dissolve when our body temple no longer serves us. The only thing that remains is the love that has been given and received. Puppies and dogs know this, they are here to show us how to do what they do so well -- Give and Receive Love, unconditionally and without hesitation.


Okay, so maybe you have experienced people who aren't interested in giving you love, as a matter of fact they give you more of a hard time than love. That's just a cry for love on their part. No matter how unlovable they may seem, it is our calling, our purpose, the meaning of life -- To Give and Receive love.


I'm writing this to remind myself of this fact, I need the reminder, like everyone, I have more days that I forget than remember the meaning of life. But how much simpler and peaceful my life is when I do remember. My goal is to have those brief moments of remembering - to make each one longer than the last and to make the time between those moments shorter and shorter so that one day I can have that memory be my experience of life. Join me in remembering that the purpose of life is to give and receive love.