The Things I Thought I Wanted: Real Barbie Paper Dolls or a Deeper Authenticity?

paper-dollsBarbie Paper Dolls.  Oh my.  How I wanted these!  Of course I look back on this grand desire of mine and I wonder why.  I ask myself why this wonder woman with the impossible figure, cute clothes, and a long string of suitors so caught my attention . . . but maybe I just answered my own question.  Barbie was, and very well might still be, the paragon of Cool and Smart.  A model of Beauty and Sophistication.  Fun and Adventure.

And she had the cutest clothes and shoes.  Maybe it was this that so drew me into her Barbie world of pink Corvettes and hip pool parties.  It was only implied that Barbie was wealthy, but how else could a girl be so cool, perpetually-unemployed, always ready to party, and have any boy she wanted.  Her Funhouse did not come with a bundle of Barbie-size funny money, but we could all imagine her taking a bath in a tub of $100 bills.  In short, Barbie was pretty danged cool to a little girl living in a North Dakota farm town.

In an effort to assist me in my realizing the Barbie Dream, my Big Sisters made us our own homemade paper dolls.  These facsimiles may have failed miserably in the Cool Factor, but they made up for it exponentially in the Effort Department.  While Mattel was not about to go busting down our door to rob us of our yet-to-be-patented North-Dakotan version of Barbie (a doll that swore freely in Polish, wore galoshes, and whipped up funeral hotdish to take to the church in her Barbie kitchen), the Dakota dolls earned an A+ in creativity and fine craftsmanship.

The dolls were made by meticulously cutting out desirable models featured in magazine advertisements, which were then glued to the equivalent of light poster board.  I remember the girls using the light cardboard insert that came packaged with my father’s new shirts or the empty cereal boxes from the kitchen.  Gluing the models to the cardboard was cause for concentration.  It involved using the just-right amount of glue to prevent bubbling and wrinkling in the wrong places.  We’re talking Knock-Off Barbies here with the end goal of Barbie Perfection, and the dolls could not afford an unseemly bubble or wrinkle in an inappropriate place.

After the glue had thoroughly dried, the laborious task ensued of cutting out the outlines of the dolls and the tricky spaces between the arms and the body for those models who held their hands on their hips.  This was all done with blunt-tip school scissors and a pair of dull sewing shears that my mother kept by her sewing machine.  We could not afford fancy craft knives, and our parents were not about to entrust the Big Girls with a box cutter.  They used what they had, and I have to hand it to them for keeping a steady hand.  While it would have been easier to have dolls with their arms glued to their sides or completely away from their bodies, the Big Girls were committed to their craft and kept the arms-akimbo models alive in our collection.

Next came the clothes.  The dolls were traced to typing paper, and then cute dresses and pant suits were drawn and colored.  My sisters had this process down.  I suspect that there was a fair measure of failed attempts before they learned to put the doll face down on the paper so that the tracing lines could not be seen in the dress or top.  Again, those arms-akimbo spaces had to be cut out carefully from all fashions.  I now know why so many of the outfits were sleeveless — thus removing the necessity of cutting those spaces out of fragile paper.

paper dolls III.jpgAnd all I can say is a resounding Chapeau! to my sisters for learning how to place the fold tabs just so, ensuring that the dolls’ outfits would stay put and not just fall off.  I am sure that Ken would have appreciated the latter consequence, but the big girls were fashionistas who wanted their designs to remain on the dolls.  It was a lesson in critical thinking and trial-and-error, is all that I can think.  I remember when one of my big sisters learned that if you cut the fold tabs with an added angle, the clothes stayed on even better.  I fully expected this sister to go on and become a Barbie-style engineer, such were her talents with the Barbie clothes.  Such was not the case, but she grew into one sharp cookie when it comes to design.

The sisters made faux-mink stoles and evening gowns.  Gingham dresses and sweater sets.  They made outfits for a picnic and for the repetitive First Dates with Ken.  All I can say is Ken must have had a lot of imagination to create the illusion of a first date over and over and over.  Either this or Barbie had suffered amnesia as a result of crashing her pink convertible.  Still, either option explains why Barbie didn’t stray from Ken. Ken kept the relationship alive.

Ultimately, the dolls cut from the ads became templates for my sisters moving on in the design world and creating their own paper dolls from scratch.  These dolls included Barbie’s trademark ponytail swirl and other popular hairdos at the time.  They drew faces on the dolls and cleavage that would peek out of an evening gown.  Some of the faces represented some of Modigliani’s or Picasso’s earlier work, but I didn’t care.  And in spite of knowing that these dolls were a far cry from the delicate-featured authentic Barbie paper dolls, they certainly made me feel included — like I was part of a Girls Club that was all about being creative with what we had and not focusing on what we didn’t have.

paper-dolls-iiLooking back, I wonder if I didn’t intuit and recognize a Deeper Authenticity in the paper dolls that my sisters made.  What started out as Barbie knock-offs became their own style, their own brand.  I remember them discussing which models from the ads would make a better sample or how to make a more tab-friendly swim suit.  Perhaps it was the fashion discussions or watching their faces filled with preoccupation as they cut and traced that drew me in.  Perhaps it was the girl-power camaraderie to which they allowed me, littlest sister, entrance.

I remember the dolls’ edges becoming mildly curled from an over-zealous pencil tracing the dolls one too many times for the Fashion Department.  Once the edges on a doll began to curl, the clothes didn’t stay on so well . . . so new dolls needed to be made.  And I, being the youngest and most lacking in fine motor skills, received the cast-off dolls.  Talk about a win-win.

My preference now?   What I wouldn’t give to come across some of the paper dolls that my sisters made.  Alas, our house suffered a fire after we moved into town from our drafty, roomy, once-upon-a-time boarding house on the prairie. No paper dolls were recovered. But they live in my memory.  And in my admiration for my big sisters who knew how to get creative when resources were scanty.  I thought I wanted fancy and new and Mattel-sanctioned dolls that every other little girl in the consumer market had . . . but what I really wanted, and received, was the love from the Big Girls who were nice enough to include me in their World of Fashion and Creativity.   Thank you, Sissies.  I remember your creative kindness.  It is the sort of thing that I will always want and treasure.

Barbie Paper Dolls- The 1959 Number One and The 1964 Ponytail Swirl

http://amzn.to/2bVC5x2

 paper-dolls-iii

You’ve got this!

flip-your-optimism-on

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When some positivity is just what you need, flip your optimism to ON.

  • When things don’t feel like they are going quite right and discouragement is hovering and waiting to swoop into your heart, it’s time to flip your optimism to ON.
  • Replace those voices (the voices that tell you that there isn’t any hope or that you have already tried and tried but to no avail) with inner shouts of joy that say, You’ve got this!   
  • Let your little light shine and eradicate those dark  thoughts that try to convince you that success is for those other people who, of course, were bound to be successful anyway, right?  (Wrong!)
  • Your light?  Let it shine and shine some more.
  • Believe.  Trust.  Know.  You’ve got this.  You truly do.

When you think you can’t.

You’ve got this.  I used to go to the gym each night after work, the kind of gym that offered those maniac spinning classes.  I used to look in to the classroom and watch those spinning pedals and sweating bodies and think, “That looks way above and beyond my physical abilities.”  I wanted my body and my mind to perform like the spinners in that class, but it looked so exclusive — like it was for people who were in far better shape than I was, both physically and mentally — and kind of technical really, what with having to adjust your bike just so.

Well, I met the instructor, Scott, one day when he was coming out of one of the classes.  Scott asked me if I would ever be interested in trying a class.  He told me that spinning is for everyone, and that he thought that I would love it.

I decided to just try.

I decided to try it.  I went to that first class and Scott was there, ready to help me adjust my bicycle so my ride would be comfortable, write down the adjustments so I could do it on my own for my next class, and make sure that I had a full water bottle.

It didn’t take long into that first class and I was hooked.  Scott wasn’t one of those class instructors who shouted and berated exercisers to push beyond their perceived abilities.  His mantra throughout class was always positive: “You’ve got this!”  Scott understood that optimism and encouragement were what helped people to grow and to be excited about new challenges.  The class was not only fun but spiritual, too.  The hard workout put my head into a new place that out-rode (pun intended) the thoughts from the day that were still chasing me.

While we pedaled like crazy, added resistance, stood up, sat down, and stretched to cool down, Scott told everyone how great they were doing.  He adjusted all of his instruction accordingly:  for those who were struggling with a particular ride, he offered alternatives so that everyone’s workout would be rewarding . . . and he ramped things up for those who had been coming to the class for a while and wanted even more challenge.

Success is a good fit for everyone. 

It was one of those very rare classes that fitted everyone.  We all added some visible muscle during those classes, and we all grew a good measure of inner strength as well.  We learned that we could do our best and feel good about it — no matter what we each had accomplished in class.

I don’t know if I fell in love with spinning or if I simply so appreciated Scott’s much-needed encouragement.  Maybe both.  In the ways of time and change, Scott moved to Portland, and I moved to an island.  I live where there are zero spinning classes and the mountain behind my house serves as my combination elliptical trainer, spin bicycle, and treadmill.

The elevation gain up the mountain is a gentle master and is much less challenging than the spin classes.  When I am out walking, I think about the other challenges in my life that have nothing to do with breaking a sweat or making another loop before heading home.

 

Encouragement is key.

We all need someone or something in our lives that motivates us to reach for that light switch — that extension of ourselves that pushes us to exceed our own expectations.  I used to hear from Scott from time to time, but it’s been a while.  When I do hear from him, he always has encouraging words to say.   Scott is one of those people who helps others keep their optimism flipped to On.  Thanks, Scott.  I’ve got this!

How about you? 

  • What have you been wanting to try?  To explore?  To do just for the fun of it?
  • Think about what it is and imagine yourself doing it, sensing it, being it.
  • Take the first step — it can be a Baby Step or a Giant Step — but take the first step.
  • What have you got to lose? [Nothing, right?]
  • What do you have to gain?  [Exactly!  Everything!]
  • Find a Scott in your life to help you stay focused.  Ask for encouragement and for accountability.
  • Remind yourself: You’ve got this!  Tape this message up throughout your home, in your vehicle, at work.
  • Be a Scott to someone else.  When you give encouragement to others, it makes such a huge difference and, like any kindness, will be returned to you many times over.
  • Keep the cycle going.  Thank the Scotts in your life.  It will make their day and it will encourage them to give even more to others.

 

Author bio: Kennedy Farr’s passion for writing first caught light at the age of four when she learned how to write her dog’s name P-e-p-p-y on a sheet of lined tablet paper.  Kennedy is a daily writer and blogger, a lifelong learner, and a true believer that something wonderful is happening right now in this very moment.  Kennedy lives view-high on the mountainside of an emerald-green island in the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Stumping Miz Grammar

We learn best

theunseenwordsproject.com

It was once my privilege – and challenge – to take over teaching mid-year in a 7th/8th grade grammar class at a very small public school.  This school was the classic one-room schoolhouse, located in a remote, road-less area in the North Cascades of Washington state.  The children there had grown up navigating the trails of the high country, floating the rivers, jumping in the glacial-fed lake, and tearing up and down the dirt roads on their bicycles.  It was a land of no cell phones, video games, and Facebook – a place of isolated enchantment that could not and would not be fully appreciated until these students grew older, moved away, and worked in cities that involved the many technological trappings now associated with modern living.

You can well imagine that the students did not feel a passion for this grammar class – my predecessor having resorted to dry lectures and long homework assignments, and it was my job to take over and to inspire some interest for the subject.  Being a grammar nerd myself, I wasn’t prepared for the level of apathy that the students expressed.  I remember telling the students on the first day of class that I loved the subject of grammar so much, I took grammar workbooks with me on vacation so I could relax and just enjoy the fun of language.  They thought I was weird, maybe a little insane . . . but that was all good because I was committed to understanding why they weren’t more interested in the foundational components of their native language.  After all, this is grammar that we are talking about?!

We started the class by getting to know each other a little better.  Every Monday, we would each recount stories from the weekend while I grabbed key words from their telling and then write these words into the eight parts of speech grid that I had graphed out on the board.  Then we would play The Synonym Game and erase the word on the board with a different word that might convey the story’s meaning a little more vividly.  They began to see how word choice mattered – how you could use the adjective great and maybe use the word fabulous or resplendent instead.  It was a small step but it made sense to take what they knew – their experiences – and translate them into a Grammar Stew on the board that they shared.  I knew that we were growing stalwart grammar-ites when one student used the adjective ebullient in his re-telling of how happy he was that his grandma had come to visit.  It made me feel positively ebullient!

For homework, each student was to bring one question each day to stump me – Miz Grammar.  I wanted to demonstrate how remarkable grammar actually is . . . that no one has all of the answers – not even Miz Grammar!  I wanted them to see how language is an evolving work in progress.  Just ask the Apostrophe Protection Society!  We can’t stop language!  The biggest advantage in Stumping Miz Grammar was that this was a rural school and there was zero access to Google or the Internet.  This meant that the students had to use their textbooks to find the questions and answers to stump me.

I don’t know how I managed to stay ahead of the students, but it quickly became apparent that it was going to be tricky to stay ahead of their questions.  The students would see me at the post office on mail day and ask, “Miz Grammar, what is a gerund?”  “What is a dangling preposition?”  “What is an antecedent?”  They were becoming a team of grammar experts without the students even knowing it.  And how could they know if I knew the answer if they hadn’t done the proper research and found the correct answer themselves?

I kept all of their questions and, at the end of the school year, the students compiled the questions into categories and organized a community-wide, grammar-themed game show.  Parents were the contestants and prizes were donated.  In an effort to alleviate grammar anxiety – which was prevalent, I might add, what with their children being grammar experts by this time – the parents wore costumes and adopted various personalities as game show contestants.  It was a bonding experience for the community, and it was a source of great fun and pride for the students as they led the community down the road of grammar enlightenment.

It is funny how one little crazy idea can grow into something larger than imagined possible.  One of the students went on to become a published poet.  Another student majored in journalism and was the acting editor of a Chicago university’s newspaper during his tenure as a student.  Another student went on to become a freelance writer.  The pleasure that these students took in dissecting language into its most primitive parts gave me great joy as a teacher and as a grammar lover!

Learning objectives are important.  They are the brass ring on the carousel, the t-shirt at the end of the marathon, the cake from the cake walk.  But what I had intuited as necessary at the beginning of this grammar journey proved to be true: you have to build a learning community before learning can happen.  These amazing students created a Culture of Grammar.  They built a team first and then, without even realizing it in the process, mastered the actual objectives of the course . . . and had fun while doing so.

Am I proud of these students?  Yes!  It is our goal as educators to infuse a love of learning while learning.  Like metacognition, or meta-anything for that matter, it’s all about being within the moment while being in the moment.  These students taught me far more about life than I ever taught them about grammar.  They taught me about community and to trust myself when in the midst of a challenging and seemingly dismal situation.

It’s good to know that we don’t know everything.  We are refreshed and invigorated when we enter the unknown territories in which we find ourselves and embrace the evolution of learning and growing.  Just ask Miz Grammar!  She knows!

13 Steps to take when you don’t know something that you’re expected to know:

  1. Just say it.  Admit that you don’t know.
  2. Research. Find your answer.  
  3. Look for new sources and ask experts.
  4. Lean on your community.  Like a 3-legged stool, every “leg” in the community is essential.
  5. Learn more than you started out wanting to know.
  6. Share your knowledge.
  7. Share your passion for knowledge.
  8. Offer your knowledge and experience to someone else.  
  9. Be a mentor.
  10. Laugh a lot.  Laughter doeth good like a medicine — especially when you are feeling stressed about a deadline or an expectation.
  11. Don’t give up.  There is likely an answer available.
  12. If you can’t find the answer, create one based on all of the above.
  13. Become The Expert!   
become the expert

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Riding Shotgun

What is one dream scenario that you have lost sight of?

quote. mission statement dog work

theunseenwordsproject.com

Yesterday I was crossing the street, waiting for a break in traffic.  A small, beat-up truck passed me — the very kind of truck I used to drive — and I saw a man driving with his dog riding shotgun.  Remembering my one most-amazing-and-wondrous dog who rode shotgun with me in my old truck, I felt a pang of sweet memory pass through my very core.

This particular dog went everywhere with me, so it was a common sight to see the two of us toodling around the county with the windows rolled down while singing along to some tune on a cassette tape.  The dog actually had a better singing voice than I did, but she was no critic.  Happy were we who got to go everywhere together.

When I saw this man and his happy pup in that truck, a dart of awareness passed through me.  It was one of those movie-montage moments where I could view time on film.  I could see me and my furry friend driving here and there in the succession of broken-down trucks that I had the misfortune of owning.

Yesterday as I watched the truck go jouncing down the road, I realized that one of my essential criteria for living a happy life had somehow slipped through the cracks of my ever-shifting paradigms.  At one time in my life, I would not even consider a job opportunity unless my dog could accompany me throughout the work day.  I turned down jobs in Alaska, California, Canada . . ..  If I couldn’t bring my faithful sidekick, I knew that the job wasn’t the right one for me.  As chosen priorities lead to reality, I ended up opting to live in a wall tent on 572,000 acres in a wilderness area.  It was a great situation where my boss did not care in the least if my dog tagged along.

The situation had all the potentiality of being lonely, but I never thought of it that way.  I was living in the midst of all of this incredible grandeur and my dog was right there by my side.  She was my true-blue, thick-and-thin companion in the middle of all that vast quiet.  She would run ahead of me on the trail and defy any bear, cougar, coyote, or free-range horse to come anywhere near us.  My time within all of that beauty there was such a rare opportunity, I appreciated every single day that passed.

All of this was bound to change.  And it did. During my years there, this ace #1 dog-of-a-lifetime passed on to Dog Heaven and other canine companions joined me.  Ultimately, a new job opportunity came up and I couldn’t pass it up.  The only problem?  I couldn’t bring my new dog to work with me.  The schedule was pretty good and the two of us were still able to get out and roam the trails on our 3-day weekends . . . but there was a shift.  And it was bigger than me not being able to bring my dog to work.  It was me compromising on what was important to me.

Looking back, I can see that “Bringing My Dog to Work” served as a bullet point on my Higher Self’s mission statement.

The years have passed.  That job led to another dog-restricted job.  Then I returned to school, and we all know how major universities feel about dogs sitting outside classrooms waiting for their human.  Not a good idea.  The mornings were full of classroom time and the afternoons were taken up by various half-ass jobs that supported me through school.

Outdoor-dog time grew to be more limited for me and free-range hikes turned into long evening strolls through the neighborhood.  Life had changed, as had I.  It didn’t occur to me at the time that I was focused on Ahead instead of looking at Right Now.

quote. Val. IMG_0103

theunseenwordsproject.com

All of these compromises.  With me feeling so buried by my decisions concerning education and future employment, the changes were all taking on priority status without me realizing that I was granting permission, one way or another, to something that was counter-intuitive to my internal mission statement.  I don’t rightly know how it all happened.  I don’t know when a yes became a no and a no became a yes.  Life changed when I consciously reversed the two and said it was all for a Better Future.

That’s the problem with giving in and giving up . . . you don’t realize that it has all happened until it feels like it’s too late to do anything about it anymore.  But that’s just it . . . it’s not too late.  Not at all.  All sorts of good decisions are before me.  All I have to do is choose.

Life is a lively event.  So many baby steps lead to where we are today.  Today, I want to honor my preferences.  Back up a little bit and review my Mission Statement.  Do a little editing maybe and re-commit to what is still important.  Invite my dream to ride shotgun with me again, roll down the windows, and belt out a tune.

How about you?

  • What’s riding shotgun on your Mission Statement? On your personal manifesto?
  • What’s one dream scenario that you have lost sight of?
  • Is it still alive inside you?
  • Are you ready to take some baby steps to renew it in your life?

We sometimes feel so bogged down by the progression of changes that have taken place in life that it can feel like it is impossible to reinstate one of our long-ago dreams.

Today might be the day that you sit down and ask what is important to you.

  • Commit it all to paper.
  • Keep the items approachable by using simple language. Dreams, written in your own language, will mean more to you than if they are crafted using lofty words and expressions.
  • Put your manifesto where you can see it easily and daily. Maybe it is your bathroom mirror or it is the wall by your desk or on a kitchen cupboard.  The important thing is that you make it visible.
  • Read your manifesto aloud. It might feel weird the first few times you do this, but it is as important that you hear the words as it is seeing the words.
  • When making decisions, think about what is important to you. Let your Higher Self guide you.
  • Dreams are meant to be followed.  Follow them.  They know the way.

 

 

 

 

Author bio: Kennedy Farr’s passion for writing caught light at the age of four when she first learned how to spell her name at a yellow kitchen table on a sheet of lined tablet paper.  Kennedy is a daily writer and blogger, a lifelong learner, and a true believer that something wonderful is happening right now in this very moment.  Kennedy lives high on the mountainside of an emerald-green island in the Pacific Northwest.

Website: https://theunseenwordsproject.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theunseenwords

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Unseen-Words-Project-1095815913825818/ 

 

Try Something New: Leave a Little Note

I was thinking today that I haven’t made a concerted effort to Try Something New for a while.  Being a firm believer in the good consequences of this practice, I thought I would go for sweet and simple today.  While running errands throughout the day — everywhere I went, I left a little note of encouragement for someone to find.

I didn’t spend a lot of time coming up with an elegant message.  I just scribbled an acknowledgement that the finder was doing a good job . . . that he or she was an important part of the grand scheme . . . that we all appreciate his or her smile . . . that life is good because he or she was in it . . . this sort of thing.

It might seem simple and I cannot even begin to imagine who found the little notes, but I do hope that whoever found them felt appreciated.  That they felt as if their life is testimony to contributing and doing significant things.  That they are visible to me, even though I can’t physically see them.  That they feel the genuine sentiment behind the words of a stranger.

Life is a lively event and, some days, I really have to scoot to keep up with the flow of things — but these little notes took but moments to write.  How about you?  Do you want to join me in leaving an anonymous note or two?  I am going to be in town again tomorrow, and it is my goal to leave at least three little notes.

little note on table

As I was leaving Dr. K’s office today, I picked up a business card that was on the counter.  The lovely person behind the counter said, “You should read what’s on the back.  I love what it says.”  I flipped the card over and this is what I read:

expect miracles

After a day of leaving notes, I felt as if this was such a sweet and pleasant thing to read.

My final note of the day for you, Gentle Reader:

Expect Miracles!  

Life + Movement = Balance

bicycle einsteinCan you remember that first time you were actually pedaling, steering, and balancing a bicycle all by yourself?

“Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”  Albert Einstein has had so many wonderful and uplifting quotes attributed to him.  Not only was the man a genius, but he was also very wise.

Life is like riding a bicycle.  If you are riding a bicycle and you stop moving, there’s a good chance that your balance will go all cattywampus and you will fall down. Boom and Ouch.

When it comes to bicycling and balancing, your options are somewhat limited: keep moving, stop moving and fall on the ground, or get off the bicycle completely and start walking.  And when it comes to life, we intuit and believe and know that out life options are not somewhat limited.  In fact, some of us believe that our options are infinite.  But are they?  I’m just wondering aloud here . . . what do you think?   I think that Einstein’s brilliance might be the answer here: Our options stay alive when we stay in balance our Higher Self with the pavement beneath us.

I like the spirit of Einstein’s quote and how he has reduced this simile to its simplest terms: ride or fall.  Keep going or get stuck.  And I do believe that some life changes have necessitated the need to trade in an old ride for a new one.

There are times in my life that I look back on and now can see that parking the bicycle was the best thing I could have done.  After living in a state of stagnancy, falling to the ground numerous times, and feeling the Ouch Factor, I finally came to my senses and parked the bicycle and walked away.  Heck, I didn’t even bother locking it up to a bike stand or a nearby tree because I knew that I was never going to give that bicycle another go.  Let someone else have it!  Some events in life are Good Riddance worthy.  At times like this, it is always good to select a new (and healthy!) set of wheels and ride like the wind off into a new paradigm.

Life, like a bicycle, is the vehicle we are riding.  Our infinite options in life are actually the directions in which we point our front tire.  The secret is to keep riding toward what we know are true directions to our Higher Self.  I have felt my spirit’s unsettling, intuitive nudge when I know that I have been pedaling in the wrong direction, and I have certainly experienced that feeling of What the heck have I done? right before crashing and falling.  Again.  My takeaway?  Patch up any scrapes and get back on the bicycle and find a balance point and keep moving forward.

Can you remember that first time you were actually pedaling a bicycle all by yourself?  It felt so liberating and exhilarating.   There was that split second when you felt your big brother’s hand leave the back of your bike seat and you felt your sense of balance kick into gear.  I so vividly remember this.  I went shooting down the driveway (and thank God that no car was coming up the street!), banked to the left and rode down the street to the cornfield that bordered the cemetery.  (Yes, I grew up in a very weird Midwest town!)

It was that split-second feeling that has stuck with me.  The second when I knew that I was balancing all on my own.  No sibling to steer for me or to keep us upright on two wheels when I was bumming a tandem ride on a back fender.  Just me, my hand-me-down sky-blue Schwinn, and the open road.  I rode all afternoon in the relative safety of the cemetery — the roads there being so peaceful.  I found My Balance while I practiced right turns and left turns.  Stopping and getting started again.  I arrived home feeling triumphant.  Liberated, actually.  I had discovered my independence.  My Movement.

Yup.  Einstein had it right.  Movement and Balance are key.  And let’s not forget Risk with a capital R.  It takes a lot of guts some days to take a deep breath and sail down the driveway, not knowing if you are going to keep riding or if you are going to crash to the pavement.  I believe that we all crave that feeling of Triumphant Balance in our days.  That feeling deep inside that tells us we are doing life justice with the right amount of movement and balance.

Today?  I am going to get back up on my Bicycle and ride like the wind.  There is no cemetery down the road from where I now live, but I am going to head there in my mind.  Back to that ultra-satisfying feeling of Balance and Movement.

When Encouraging Words Are Actually Discouraging

black leaf in sand and gravel beach

Have encouraging words ever served to utterly discourage you?

Like when you are saturated in “Just Keep Breathing” Survival Mode, you can’t look beyond the immediate present moment of “what is.”   And that “what is” just doesn’t feel all that great.  No matter how hard you try to put a positive and enlightened  spin on the situation, life feels like it pretty much sucks.

You are down and feeling like bad karma has taken over your life.  You are in the doldrums and stuck in idle.  Your friends and family know it.  And they feel for you.  They go into Encouragement Mode, or worse yet, Coach Mode, and they offer pep talks, platitudes, and well-intended reality checks.  Their support is so lovely.  You know that they are trying and you appreciate their concern.  But it still feels like the encouraging words actually serve more as a reminder of how bad things are in your life.

If you have been in this place, you know that what you are feeling goes way beyond feeling sorry for yourself.  You aren’t just stuck.  You are buried.

When life isn’t so hot

Not so long ago, I was going through some really challenging financial, emotional, professional, personal, and academic times.  I was going to school full-time, trying to sell the dream home that I had just finished restoring, going through a really yucky break-up, working four ill-suited, part-time jobs, and trying to negotiate house showings with an insane work schedule and three dogs.

I had to rush home from work each time a prospective buying agent called, so that I could take my dogs out for what felt to be marathon walks through the neighborhood while possible buyers viewed the house.  One of the three dogs was enjoying his retirement years and couldn’t really walk very far, so we four would oftentimes go sit on a bus bench up the street to wait out the showing.  Buses would pull up to the stop, mistaking my wave for them to keep going as an invitation to stop. They would pull up and shout at me like I was half a bubble out of plumb, “You can’t bring those dogs on the bus!”  “I know, I know,” I would tell them and wave them on.  The door would hiss shut and the bus would puff off in a plume of exhaust.  All I can say is this was a really low time of my life for me and for my dogs.

When friends think they are helping . . . but they’re not.

I remember the time my friend Mary was going on and on about her three-week vacation on the beaches of Mexico.  I was happy for Mary, but midway through viewing an insanely-long slide show of her pictures, I realized that Mary was the farthest thing from being in tune with me as a friend.  Maybe even as a human being.  I didn’t — and don’t — fault her for any of this (we are still friends) but her parting words that night of “Don’t worry, Dear.  You are going to get through all of this” meant so little to me.  In fact, they only served to discourage me.

It’s the little things . . . and the big things

50 bill.jpgI couldn’t help but think back to my old friend Donnalyn who stopped by my house one day to see me when I wasn’t home.  She left an envelope on my front porch, and in the envelope was $50 cash with a note saying, “I’ve been where you are.  After my divorce, I didn’t think I was going to be able to figure it all out.  You are going to make it.”

Donnalyn.  What an amazing and compassionate and empathizing friend.  And I can’t emphasize this enough: It wasn’t the money.  It could have been $1 or $0, and it would have meant just the same.  Donnalyn understood the struggle.  She had been there.  She knew what Panic Mode felt like in the midst of Survival Mode.  I will never forget her gesture of kindness, generosity, and empathy.

Empathy in action

Thinking about Donnalyn makes me realize that there comes a time when I need to put some action into my words of encouragement.  Saying I love you or You’ve got this is great but being of service is maybe even a little bit better.

It is the Little Things in life and there are so many Little Things that I can do.  Every little thing makes a difference, and the little actions carry a LOT of impact.  Offer your washing machine to a friend whose washer broke down.  Like and share a friend’s new blog to encourage her writing.  Drive a family member to his or her doctor appointment.  Scrub the floors for your sister who is returning from surgery.  Vacuum your partner’s car.  Clean the hideous microwave in the break room.  Help someone figure out how to upload photos to his computer.  Leave a little note of encouragement on the table at the coffee shop for the next person who is going to sit there.

When your new paradigm is Survival Mode

I was talking on the phone with my one of my best friends, Birdie, who is experiencing a major paradigm shift, and I asked her if she ever felt like this.  Birdie just graduated and is starting a new business.  She said the she, too, felt as if her life is in Survival Mode while she gets everything up and running.

Birdie told me, “People have been so nice, but I sometimes feel unworthy of the encouragement.  I don’t feel like I have the resources to take them up on their advice — which is all really good — and make things happen, so it sometimes feel like I am wasting other people’s energy when they are being so encouraging.”

This is so honest.  It made me think back to my Epic Life Meltdown and how I felt exactly the same as her.  Birdie’s words really resonate with me.  There is a difference between feeling sorry for yourself and Real.  Birdie’s experience is Real.  She knows that, ultimately, she is going to build her practice and that some of the bumps are eventually going to smooth out . . . but in the meantime?  I try to listen, and we do fun things together.  It’s the little things.  I think of Donnalyn and her $50, and I try to transfer that same $50-intention into Real for someone else.  I knew that my Birdie’s phone was no longer holding a charge, so I ordered her a new battery on Amazon and had it shipped to her house.  Once her phone was all charged up with the new battery, she called me.  She laughed and said that it has made such a difference not having to conduct business while being plugged into the wall.

No one will know unless you share.

And on the other side of this . . . tell people how they can help you.  You don’t have to go on a marathon downward spiral about how broke you are or how awful your relationship is in order to convey what is going on.  Sometimes we are admonished by the positive intenders in our lives saying that we need to stay away from negative talk . . . but how can people help if we don’t share our Real?

As for that crazy Survival-Mode scenario in the past . . . Well, the house sold, I graduated, I ultimately embraced the release of a bad relationship, I gradually let go of each job in lieu of one single job with the standard benefits, and I started to catch a rhythm of sorts.  I started to play music again and the dogs, as they always do, adapted happily to their new home.  No more marathon walks for lovely old Mac!   I was able to breathe a bit more easily within my Real, which was no longer hitting the door to my soul with a SWAT team’s battering ram.

The funny part: That was then.  This is now. Life took yet another epic turn, by my choosing, and I am reconstructing several pieces that have flown off the proverbial bus.  I am using baling wire, paper clips, and duct tape to keep things running, but I am getting there.  I have come to learn that I am pretty good at making the best with what I have on hand.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

How about you?  Are you in Survival Mode?

  • Share your situation with someone who you can trust to really listen.  Ask for input as to what he or she is hearing you say.
  • Reframe your feelings with new words that steer you in a more positive direction.  Even if you have to stretch the truth of your reality a bit, use words that set your thinking in a new light of positivity.  Not always easy, I know.
  • Keep your heart open to friends, family, and colleagues who might be struggling.  Give them a hug.  Ask them how they are doing.  Listen.
  • Take action — for others and for yourself.  Look for ways to surprise and delight someone who is feeling a burden.  Remember, it’s the little and the big things.
  • Be kind.  Be positive.  Be hopeful.  Know that, like an EKG line, life has its ups and its downs.  No one wants to live on a flat line.
  • Go with the flow and smile.  Looking for the happy in life is a lot more fun than accepting the overwhelm.

Author bio: Kennedy Farr’s passion for writing caught light at the age of four when she first learned how to spell her name at a yellow kitchen table on a sheet of lined tablet paper.  Kennedy is a daily writer and blogger, a lifelong learner, and a true believer that something wonderful is happening right now in this very moment.  Kennedy lives high on the mountainside of an emerald-green island in the Pacific Northwest.

Website: https://theunseenwordsproject.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theunseenwords

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Unseen-Words-Project-1095815913825818/ 

 

 

 

 

For the next time someone asks you at a party: “So, what do you do?”

val cuteYou’re at a party and you really don’t know anyone there.  You came because someone from your professional networking group invited you.  He tells you that it will be a great way to meet new people.  You are doing your best to “mingle” and make polite conversation.  On the inside you feel awkward and out of place and are wondering when you can make a move for the nearest exit.

While you are making small talk, what is the first question that people ask you after they learn your name?

“So.  Tell me.  What is it that you do?”

If you feel like you are never quite sure how to answer this in a way that reveals who you truly are, watch this video.  It is so sweet and simple, and Adam Leipzig simply nails it.  Leipzig’s explanation of how to discover your life purpose goes beyond writing your average elevator pitch.  It digs down deep and helps you discover what it is you want to do to help others.

Knowing your life purpose is important.  And sharing it with others is essential.  Connecting with others based on the sharing of your dreams, goals, and passions builds empathy and encourages others to do the same.  Living your purpose creates a  “knowing”  in your life that fuels you along life’s timeline.  It feels good and right and also makes a difference in the world around you.  This video is short and well worth the time you spend watching it.

Awesome TED talk: How to Know Your Life Purpose in 5 Minutes

After I watched this TED talk, I created a journal prompt for my students so that they could explore, discover, and be ready to share their respective life purposes.   Just click on the aqua-blue link below for your Life Purpose prompt.  It is best if you watch this short TED talk first, so you get the most out of the exercise.  Have fun re-kindling a connection with your life purpose!  [Click on link below]

Your Life Purpose.journal prompt

Life is a lively event.  And it is short.  

Make the most out of your journey by discovering and living your life purpose.

Oh, and please do share you life purpose with the rest of us in the comments section!  

We would love to hear what this video inspired!

What’s one nice thing a stranger has done for you?

What’s the nicest thing a total stranger has done for you?  So many people have done so many nice things for me in my life.  Hmmm . . . I am going to focus on the time frame of Lately to answer this question.

Today I received a reminder email, indicating that I was up against a deadline to take care some financial business.  It involved status verification, updated info, and the like, and I have to be honest and say that this is the sort of stuff that intimidates the heck out of me. Thoroughly disliking the dreaded consequences of unnecessary stress due to the linking of procrastination with deadlines, I went online to take care of it.  I entered the various user names and passwords and opened the various web pages.  One page led to another, and I was beginning to feel befuddled.  Ugh.  All of these confounding questions kept popping up at me from my computer screen — questions for which I knew not the answers.  What to do?

It’s true.  I am form-a-phobic.  If any of you out there understand this, you will know exactly what I mean when I panicked when I saw all of the little boxes to type information into and the little circles for clicking Yes or No.  I saw dollar signs and address requests and more deadlines, and I deferred to my general go-to: I picked up the phone and dialed and prayed for a kind person who would be willing to hold my hand through the entire procedure.

After enunciating Representative for the fourth time, I was transferred to the proper department.  My anticipated wait time?  One minute.  I wondered, One minute?  Is this for real? Is this karma working back in my direction after helping that tourist on the street yesterday find the nearest shop where she could buy underwear?  [Lest you think that she was a wimpy or inexperienced traveler — Just go to the nearest Target, right? — she needed to compensate for her luggage having been lost . . . and what with the shopping options on our lovely little island being quite limited, she was feeling quite challenged in the Undies Procurement Department.]

The minute passed and, sure enough, the absolute nicest representative picked up the phone, established that I was indeed a bonafide account holder, and away we went into Formsville.  I explained to her that, although I graduated from college with honors, I was incapable of passing a multiple-choice test with a passing grade.  I told her that I couldn’t figure out which way to go with the various flow charts that were swimming before me on the screen and asked if she could help me navigate the scary waters.

As I said, she was just so nice to me.  I could hear the smile in her voice and the patience in her choice of words.  Ten minutes later, I had all of the boxes filled and all was clear as to what my next step was.  She told me exactly what to write on the required documentation and to what address it should be mailed.

When it was all done, I felt so happy that I had conquered this chore four weeks ahead of the deadline.  Now?  All I have to do is follow up with a call in about 10 days to ensure that the information arrived at its destination.  I told her how much I appreciated her kindness and that she was very good at her job.  Every now and then we get super lucky when we say the word Representative.  Today was one of those days.

People can be very kind, and I appreciate this representative’s kind demeanor.  Life.  It’s not that hard to offer each other a helping hand.  Be it in the area of underwear consumerism or financial forms, it doesn’t cost us that much more to extend some niceness into the mix.  After my lovely encounter today, I am greatly inspired to extend this same kindness to the next person who asks for some help from me.

How about you?

What’s one nice thing that a stranger has done for you?

[ . . . and one last question . . . Why do we say complete stranger or total stranger?]

 

Try Something New: What’s Stopping You?

IMG_3357Is there something that you have been wanting to learn?  To do?  To try just once to see what it would feel like?

Is the Fear of Failure holding you back? Does it feel like a lack of resources is underwhelming your life?  Is there someone in your life who is telling you that you procrastinate and you never finish anything?  Is there a voice in your head that always gives you bad advice?  Don’t start.  You have so much to do around the house.  You have to get up early in the morning. You haven’t done laundry for a week.  The garage is a disaster.

Do you feel like you simply do not have enough time to even think about starting something new?

You make the choice.

Well, there’s bad news and good news.  The bad news:  You don’t have enough time.  The good news: You do have enough time.  You choose which news you want your inner soul to hear.  You choose.

I kept delivering the bad news to my heart, my mind, my hands, my spirit, while forestalling the good news for an unspecific time in the mythical future when “I had more time.”  I was living in a steady hum of constancy that was focusing on everything that wasn’t quite right with my life: playing an elaborate shell game with finances, juggling too many jobs with school and homework, barely keeping up with household chores, and feeling like my life had all the fun sucked out of it by some cosmic vacuum cleaner.  All of this MindSpeak was proving to be so exhausting to my Inner Spirit that I simply stopped trying to inject newness or creativity into my day.

It felt like I was buried by life’s stuff.

I wasn’t merely stuck.  I was buried.  I would find myself paying bills online while listening to a class-assigned podcast while brushing the dog while folding the laundry while feeding the cat.  I was all over the place.  All of this multi-tasking madness. . . until I thought to add a new personal challenge to the day’s mayhem: Try something new every single day.

In the beginning . . .

In the beginning, this challenge verified the bad news –> it was something that felt like an added extra that felt to be overwhelmingly huge and impossible.  My MindSpeak went into hyper-mode: When am I going to have the time to try something new every single day?!  My days already feel like pasta in a pot of water — on constant boil and threatening to spill over onto the clean stove top at any given second.

The Wooden Spoon Trick

IMG_3360But I was so craving Different in my life.  Better.  More centered and mindful.  I remembered reading that if you lay a wooden spoon across a pot of boiling  pasta that it won’t over-boil.  The pasta can boil merrily away with no more messy stove to clean up.  So simple and easy . . . and it works!  This Wooden Spoon trick reminded me that life need not be so overly complicated.  Just try . . . and do . . . and lay the spoon across the pot. And try again.  It is absolutely possible to turn a moment of my day into a gesture of mindfulness.  I can make it happen.  I will make it happen.  I scrawled across the top of the wall-mounted white board in my office with my blue marker: You’ve got this!  Try Something New!  Today!  I mean it!

It has proven to be a bit of an experiment to see how it works.

I originally intended on focusing on one single something new to try for the 30 days — in an effort to create a positive new habit.  My thought: develop some consistency and build some sense of discipline by adding only one thing for an extended period of time.  Like one of those scary-clown jack-in-the-boxes, all sorts of ideas came popping up out of my mind’s Procrastination Department.  Play piano every single day.  Save on gas and ride my scooter to work every single day.  Eat a healthy breakfast every single day.  Work out every single day.  Sort through one box in the garage and get rid of stuff.  Do one or all of these things every single day for 30 days.

What did these things have in common?

But I found that these ideas weren’t working — and they weren’t very inspiring either. And besides, everything that I was thinking of involved fulfilling some obligatory should: be healthier, practice music, save the environment, clean the garage.  All of which are very lovely ideas, but still . . . This challenge was supposed to be fun and invigorating.

As I was casting about for the best way to implement my challenge, I discovered that was working was trying something different, unique, and unexpected every single day.  Examples?  I started piano lessons — and have been pretty disciplined regarding playing everyday.  I went dancing at a casino — great stories as a result of this adventure.  I broke out the new orange-and-white kitchen towels that had been preserved in their pristine state in my kitchen drawer — now brightening my kitchen and thoroughly broken in with the hues of red wine, carrot juice, and tomato sauce.  I introduced myself to a stranger — and we have since become acquaintances.

IMG_3317You get the idea.  I called an old friend just to say hi.  I bought Swiss chard at the vegetable stand.  I wrote a long overdue letter.  I told someone about my current writing project.  I had dinner at a restaurant that I had been wanting to check out.  I took photographs of garbage.  I added kale to my morning smoothie.  I had fun with some color and painted on canvas.  And another new thing for me? I set aside judgment of “what is good” when I was done painting.  I simply valued the experience and the time spent swirling color around.

IMG_3355I started reading my horoscope.  I subscribed to a new-word-of-the-day website.  I started blogging.  I bought three tiny wooden tops, which are proving to create a really relaxing “stop point” during work and study time at my desk.  I spin the tops and, while they are spinning, I do absolutely nothing.  I learned that an absence of activity can feel pretty good.

My Try Something New Challenge has proven to be that magical wooden spoon on the pasta pot.  I not only have enough time to Try Something New, I have plenty of time.  Life’s harried pace has reduced its boil a bit.  Not completely, but a bit, nonetheless.  Nothing is boiling over and making a spilly mess that I have to clean up.

It feels like I have effected change.  Like the motion of the little tops, the vibrational ripples have been spreading.  There have been some really fun and surprising and happy results from being willing to shake things up.   I don’t understand the way that time has expanded, but it has.  What I learned about this personal challenge: The hard part was starting.  The easy part is enjoying the expansive feelings of reward and appreciation.

You’ve got this!

Vision Board 058Would you like to share in this challenge with me?  Is there something new that you have been really wanting to do?

Please, leave a reply and post your One New Thing and share how it is enriching your life.  We all would love to hear about it!

Life is a lively event.  

Try something new, spin some tops, & effect the ripples of happifying change.

What’s stopping you?