Lesser Known Holidays Part Two: The Everyday

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I know it’s a bit of a cheat to call The Everyday a lesser known holiday, but I’ve been turning over which holiday to write about for weeks.

At the same time, I’ve been taking Rob Bell’s eCourse called Practical Guide to Finding Joy and Meaning in Everyday Life and soaking in the notion that each moment we live in is filled with the miraculous.

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I am hoping he won’t mind if I share a piece of his message here. I am betting he won’t even notice. And you may want to check out what he has to say because hearing it second hand won’t be as good as the real deal. Bell has a fabulous way with words that rings in my heart and mind long after I’ve listened to him.

One of the best messages I heard in his six week course was  that what I am doing does not equate to the importance of the moment. Bell says, “Task does not equal depth.”

To illustrate, he described a monk who peels potatoes with such prayerful presence that people came from miles around to watch him.

Now, when I am sitting in traffic or trying to wrestle a shirt over my son’s head or counting my students’ attendance hours, I often pause to think about the miracle of what is happening in that second. It feels like I wake up from a dream and open my eyes to how amazing each moment can be.

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Sometimes it’s exhausting. Maybe that’s why we so often don’t. Really peeling those potatoes or tallying hours prayerfully takes focus and energy. But it is so worth the effort. 

This small pause at the wonder of life in the everyday has been incredibly powerful.

This week, I stopped again at Seymour’s Conservatory to take pictures of the flowers, pick up a fallen bud from a tree and look closely at the apple blossoms. I’m so glad I noticed those glorious moments even on the road where they have taken down the blackberries.

(I didn’t take a picture of my attendance spreadsheets but those were honestly beautiful, too. Each name on them represents a person with hopes and dreams.)

Wishing you all the gift of seeing the beauty all around you. It’s not a new message by any stretch. It’s just one I need to hear over and over again.

Happy Everyday to you!

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Losing My Way: What is Happening to a Beloved Horse Road

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Two years ago I wrote a long post about the horse road that I love near my home. I ended it by saying that I knew it might not last.

It hasn’t.

At first I thought the owners of the gravel pit trimmed the blackberry bushes and were done with it. I told my four year old not to worry. Blackberries always grow back. Then they brought in the dozers, and I knew the berries didn’t stand a chance this year. 

My neighbors say the pit owners are filling in the gigantic hole and then developing. I’ve seen big project announcements for months so I suppose I should have expected this. From looking at my last post, I know I did expect it.

But I’m still sad. Sad to lose an abandoned gravel pit full of brambles. Sad because the goldfinch don’t fly in front of me this year. Sad because I wonder where the coyote moved her den that was under those brambles. Sad because no rabbits dart in front of me now. Sad because the hawks no longer sit along the telephone wire waiting to catch those rabbits.

And mostly, sad because the wildlife had reclaimed their space after the ripping destruction of a gravel pit. Now their homes are once again destroyed. I hope for their resilience to come through again. I wish they didn’t have to.

I know this is off my usual topics and not the hopeful voice I normally use. But my heart is breaking and I had to say something somewhere to someone.

I can hardly bear to post the picture.

The Lesser Holidays Part One: International Women’s Day

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Recently, I looked up International Women’s Day while drafting my next column for The News Tribune. I had never heard of the holiday until my immigrant students brought me flowers, so I was quite surprised to learn that the celebration began in the United States.

Perhaps we dropped it in the U.S. because it was started by socialists and the holiday played a role in the Russian Revolution of 1917. This would also explain why so many of my Russian speaking students always remembered the date.

Or perhaps Mother’s Day took it over. Not all women are mothers, though, so I’m rather in favor of Women’s Day as we look at ways to improve our world. I sincerely believe that gender equality is in the best interest of my two sons as well as a benefit to my nieces. 

The personal essay I wrote for the Tribune speaks to one way we can move in this direction. It runs on Monday, March 9th, the day after International Women’s Day. The editor and I finally agreed on a title: Listen to What Women Say, Not How We Sound. (Titles are such a challenge for me!)

I’ll link to it here on Monday and then move on this March to holidays that usually don’t involve long vacations or fireworks. I write this wishing you all a fabulous Women’s Day this Sunday, March 8th. May we all hear each others’ voices. Beauty with Brown Eyes

Epic Fail Part Two: Believe it Or Not Failure Isn’t (Always) Someone Else’s Fault

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As promised after the Super Bowl Sadness, I looked into people who have made mistakes and bounced back. When I googled and asked others about this I found three interesting things:

1. Lots of people have made mistakes.

2. No one wants to talk about their own mistakes.

3. It’s much easier to think even our heroes were unrecognized — that they were unfairly rejected — than it is to think about how many times they had to sweat it out and improve to get good at what they were doing.

When I asked others face to face about famous people who recovered from big mistakes, several people paused, looked at me, and then said something like:

“Well, I’ve made lots of mistakes, but I don’t want you writing about me.”

Then I often learned of the writers or artists they know who were rejected over and over again until someone finally saw their greatness.

But, I kept thinking to myself, if that’s totally true and the writer or artist changed nothing about her/his work, then the people who rejected Harry Potter, Mickey Mouse and Jaws are the ones who made the mistakes, not Rawling, Disney, or Spielberg.

What’s worse, the rejectors had no redemption. They never recovered from their mistakes because the other organizations who saw the greatness made all the money.

What bothers me most is the idea that your stuff is either good enough, or it’s not. Either the world sees you’re already great or it does not. In this view, there is no room for the reworking a book, a drawing or a movie until it’s even better.

I”m still pondering this and what it means for my own work. But for today I will tell you of one successful artist who made mistakes, learned from them, worked hard to make corrections and went on to become a name you all know. I read of his failure in A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant life of Robert “Believe it or Not “Ripley by Neal Thompson.

Robert LeRoy Ripley got his first job as a cartoonist in San Francisco with a respected newspaper when he was a young man. Soon after, he was fired from his dream job because his work was not good enough for the publication.

Rather than rail against his fate or go back to the small town he was raised in to live out his days doing work he did not love, Ripley started taking drawing lessons and studying other cartoonists. He kept the lessons and study up even after he got his next dream job and worked ridiculously hard long hours to improve his skills.

Ripley did not resent his firing. He knew he needed to get better and put all his energy into doing just that.

His quest for improvement sometimes bordered on obsession, and I’m hoping to avoid manic no sleep sort of behavior. Still, I admire Ripley’s focus and determination in the face of his own deficiencies.

This encourages me much more than the stories of needless rejection because the amount of effort I put into getting better is under my control.

I’d also like to think those mistaken rejectors might have gotten better and gone on to recognize the next great person who knocked at the door. I’m that kind of optimist.

To finish this up today, I’ll leave you with Ira Glass who says the hardest part about beginning is allowing yourself to crank out enough stinky material until you get better, knowing all along that what you’re making smells like the fish those guys at Pike Place Market fling into the air. In other words, put in the time making mistakes.

Epic Fail Part One: The Gift of the Seahawks After the Loss

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My first column in The News Tribune ran last week. In it, I talked about my admiration for Pete Carroll and his leadership of the Seattle Seahawks. After reading it, several people I knew (and many I didn’t) sent me emails telling me how much they liked my work, including my high school English teacher Mrs. Koon.

It felt wonderful but also oddly terrifying in a way that I struggled to understand.

Apparently, it’s one thing to write along hoping someone will notice and that I will improve enough to be good. It’s another to have people watching for my next piece to see if they like it or not.

Then the Hawks lost.

Dramatically.

Because of a decision Carroll made.

I’ve read the posts and talked to my friends about it. Most people say it was a bad call. They say Pete Carroll made a mistake in throwing the ball instead of running it with Lynch or, my husband tells me, running the ‘read option’ where the Wilson fakes it to Lynch and then runs it in himself if he reads the situation correctly.

“What’s with all the throwing!?!” one person posted on my Facebook feed. “Run the ball!”

I’ve seen plenty of analysis as I’ve tried to process and understand what happened. I’ve even read smart statistics about why Carroll made the mathematically best move.

For the record, I think he made a mistake. Or, at the very least, he made a carefully calculated gamble and lost.

When I saw his face fall after the game ending interception, I felt a recognition. That is what I am afraid of when people say they liked my work and are looking forward to the next. That. Making a mistake, feeling the devastation, and having more people watching to see it.

In a strange way, it helped me that Carroll lost the Super Bowl.

Don’t get me wrong.(Please, dear fabulous Seahawks fans!)

I’d so rather we had won and keep wishing for the Hermione’s time turner so we could go back and make that last yard with Lynch, the read option, or another down. Anything.

It’s just that something about seeing a gigantic failure gives me permission to keep going, knowing that we all make mistakes.

Some will forgive us.

Some will not.

That’s the risk.

The pain of that football loss only happened to me because I cared enough to feel the absolute thrill of the victory two weeks before.

My writing is a calculated gamble I’m willing to make because the joy of getting the words right matters to me enough to face the risk of the defeat, public or not.

To that end, this month I’ll focus on the epic fail. I’ll look at different failures each week. For Carroll and for me, I’ll look for stories of resilience — of how others have overcome huge mistakes and come out stronger for the struggle.

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Creative Beginnings Part Four: The Peppermint Twist

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Another friend of mine named Robin has a musical creative outlet. She sings tenor in an a cappella quartet called The Peppermint Twist with Angie Whitten, Debra Aungst, and Shelly Bray Bristow. 

Robin Hornsby Osborn works for the Puyallup School district during the day, but in the evenings and on weekends she and her three partners take the stage, singing songs like “Beautiful” and “When I Lift Up My Head” while dressed in outfits that sparkle almost as much as their voices.

I asked her the same questions of the writer and the beauty consultant I interviewed for this series. Here’s what this talented singer had to say:

How did you get started in Peppermint Twist? Was there a person or event that got you interested?

I got started in Peppermint Twist because the previous quartet I had been in came to an end. The lead and I wanted to keep singing together, so we sought out two more singers and created a new quartet. I have been singing in quartets for about 10 years — it’s a natural progression from singing in a chorus, as it makes you a better chorus singer if you have to stand on your own (with three other people!!) in a quartet.

I have sung all my life and really enjoy the camaraderie and education I get from singing. Plus, it keeps me young!

As far as singing in general goes, my dad used to sing snippets of songs around the house. We always had music playing. My parents had records of many musicals, which my sister and I used to play and sing along and/or dance to.

I also sang in school all the way through my senior year. I also played the flute and piano, so music was really a big deal. Our parents encouraged us and provided private lessons, which really made a big difference in our skill levels. We also sang at church and since it was very small, we were also called upon to play the piano for the hymns.

In my early adult life, when I lived in New Jersey, I sang in the church choir. We left that particular church and the new one did not have any opportunities for me to sing. I’d heard a small group of women singing at a town fair and boldly asked them if they ever needed another singer to please contact me.

Funnily enough, they did!

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As I’ve moved, I’ve always sought out singing groups and found that the benefits of being part of a singing organization like Sweet Adelines really help with all the details. There are competitions every year, and arrangements and coaches available, which makes it much easier than just creating a singing group from complete scratch.

What was the hardest part about getting started?

The hardest part about getting started is dealing with stage fright. Now that I’ve done it for years and years, it is certainly easier to stand up in front of people and sing, but it’s always a little nerve-wracking. Having people around me who are also singing is a great support, it feels like a security blanket! I still do relaxation and deep breathing exercises before singing to help ease the nerves.

Singing in Peppermint Twist is really an uplifting experience. We keep getting better and better and each member is really dedicated to doing her part. It takes a lot of time, but it is totally worth it.

I always have songs running through my head and playing on my speakers, as well as doing pseudo-choreography while doing other things (like showering, getting dressed, eating – anywhere my brain doesn’t need to fully concentrate!).

My husband Wayne is very patient, as we rehearse at our house!

What do you know now that you wish you had known before you started?

I wish I had known how much fun it is earlier in life. Think how much better I’d be at this point if I’d started years ago!

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What is one of the best things that has happened for you since you began with Peppermint Twist?

A recent reminder of why I sing happened at Molbacks (garden store in Woodinville). We were singing Christmas songs one Saturday inside the store and after we’d finished one of our songs, one of the shoppers came up to us and said her mom used to sing that all the time. She had passed away and the lady said it felt like her mom was right there with us. It sent chills down our spines, and made us really happy to give that experience to her.

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Robin and her fabulous quartet conclude my series this month on creative beginnings. I’m brainstorming for February after that small football game is over this weekend. 

Meanwhile, I’m wishing you all your own creative beginnings whether or not you watch football. 

Remember to take Robin’s advice and start sooner rather than later. Think how much better you’ll be next year if you don’t wait!

Creative Beginnings Part Three: In the Pink

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For this week’s post, I interviewed Robin Stanton. Every time I buy her products, I remember her describing Mary Kay as her ‘want to job.’

Here’s what she has to say about how she started and what this creative profession with beauty has meant for her.

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How did you get started in Mary Kay? Was there a person or event that got you interested?

I was involved in Altrusa, a women’s service club, for a number of years where I met the friend who recruited me into Mary Kay.

I had been a customer off and on for about 10 years before she invited me to a make-over event. I was adamant that I was not interested in becoming a consultant and diligently tried to talk myself out of it! At the event, they were discussing the marketing plan and reasons people might choose to start a Mary Kay business. Many of them resonated with me such as buying my products at cost and having a business that would take me into retirement. (Since I pride myself on never paying full price for anything, I was sold at the mention of discount!!)

I knew that I wanted to have another stream of income in retirement, doing something that was fairly portable and allowed me the freedom and flexibility to travel/RV, so Mary Kay sounded perfect for that.

Before the discussion was finished that day, I had signed my agreement! With great excitement and anticipation, I waited for my kit to arrive so I could embark on a new journey of personal growth and enriching others’ lives.

What was the hardest part about getting started?

I had never owned my own business prior to Mary Kay and my self confidence wasn’t always the strongest when it came to tackling new challenges.

I delved through all of the materials in my kit and like a sponge, and soaked up information from anyone that I could. The down side of this was that I quickly experienced information overload, which started to paralyze me! There was a part of me that felt like I had to know it all before I set out on the journey, and so I was a bit slow to get started.

There is also a part of my personality that is a little rebellious, and, because of this, I sometimes wanted to do things my own way, ignoring the tried and true methods, steps, scripts, etc that the company provides, and instead feeling like I somehow knew a better way!

What do you know now that you wish you had known then?

There are so many things I know now that I wish I had known then.

One of them is that I am on my own journey. While there is a myriad of support from others along the way, and we are all in the same business, we all have our own “whys” for doing the business and each person needs to find her unique style in order to achieve her individual goals. This would have helped me to not compare my success to others in my unit.

Another thing I wish I had known, was that I did not need to know it all, nor would I ever know it all and to be comfortable with that.

A third thing I wish I had known, was that this was not a life or death decision! It was only a $100 investment that would open the doors to all sorts of new opportunities and growth for me. This would have alleviated some anxiety that I initially felt and undue pressure I put on myself. If I had realized that it was truly a win/win and there was not a way to lose at this venture, I think I would have approached it in a bit more relaxed manner!
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Has it been worth it? Why or why not?

It has absolutely been worth it because this business is about so much more than selling lipstick! In the process of learning how to empower others, I have learned so much about me. I’ve become more confident, organized, intuitive, knowledgeable and have developed a heart for helping others. The company has amazing tools to help build successful businesswomen, but my best growth has come from my personal interactions with customers, my director and my Mary Kay girlfriends.

Being that the company is comprised almost entirely of women, I was prepared to experience the same challenges I experience with women at my job — gossiping, back biting, undermining and other unflattering behaviors women in groups can exhibit!

I am amazed at the beautiful women I’ve had the privilege of working with in Mary Kay–women who genuinely care about each other and want to help each other be successful. This is nothing like I have ever experienced before in my dealings with women.

Mary Kay Ash (the founder of Mary Kay) was ingenious when she developed the marketing plan, because she designed a program where all women could have the same opportunities to be successful in the business if they put in the work. There weren’t a limited number of “top” positions, where women had to compete with each other, rather by helping others become successful, women were really helping themselves to be successful.
What is one of the best things that has happened for you since you began with Mary Kay?

One of the best things that has happened for me since I began Mary Kay has to be the wonderful friendships that I’ve developed, both with fellow consultants and with my customers.

I have some customers that began with me 12 years ago and continue to support me!

Despite that fact that some of my girlfriends no longer attend meetings, there is core group of us that continue to get together and fellowship on a monthly basis. Over the past 12 years, it has been wonderful “doing life” with them and I know that we will continue to do that for many years to come, because those relationships are deeply meaningful.

Of course, I can’t just stop at one best thing!

Another great thing has been having an additional source of income to supplement our other sources. My business has ebbed and flowed over the past 12 years, adapting as my life has changed.

Sometimes this means that I am more actively running my business, but when life is more hectic, my Mary Kay takes a back seat. I always know that it is there, if I need to quickly earn some money to pay a bill or we want to take a vacation and don’t have the extra funds for that. I can just work harder and make the dream a reality!

My husband decided to open a car detailing business after he was laid off from corporate America several years ago. The skills I’ve gained while building my Mary Kay business have been invaluable in helping him build a successful business of his own — bookkeeping skills, customer service, marketing, time management.

For all of these reasons, I am deeply grateful to Mary Kay Ash for her vision, tenacity and courage to develop a company for the purpose of enriching women’s lives. The impact has been felt worldwide for over 50 years!

(If you’d like to know more about Robin or Mary Kay products, you can find her on her website.)

In talking to Robin over the years I have known her and for this interview, I have marveled at how creative businesses like writing and makeup cross over. I hope next to find someone from the music world, so I can look at yet another type of creative beginning. 

Stay tuned! (Or connected to the internet, I suppose. Maybe plugged in? Cabled?)