Sunday, August 16, 2009

The power of positivity

I've been having some interesting dreams lately. I won't go into great detail, but many of them involve feeling myself be pulled (literally) over to "the dark side"--- while fighting that "pull" every step of the way. Perhaps I've been watching too much George Lucas lately...?

More likely, I think it's because I've been paying more attention to the news lately... and while there are
some good things happening out there, there seems to be a heavier focus on the negative.

I'm not blaming the people who do the news. At least, not most of them. I
know people who do the news and I know 90% of them would rather not be focusing on negative stories.

I'll focus on the media another time (not surprisingly, it's a delicate subject). But I want to get back to the main point of this post.

Don't allow others write your story for you.

It's easy to let yourself become consumed by negativity when you see it all around you. The problems being reported in the news seem monstrously large--- perhaps even insurmountable. And that negativity can be contagious. How many stories have we all seen lately concerning people who are bitter and filled with anger?

An extreme example--- the case of George Sodini, the man who killed three innocent victims in a gym in Pennsylvania before turning the gun on himself. If you read through the excerpts from his blog you can see just how much he allowed rage over his life to consume him.

One of the things that struck me as I was reading that blog was this excerpt, written one day before the incident:

Unfortunately I talked to my neighbor today, who is very positive and upbeat. I need to remain focused and absorbed COMPLETELY. Last time I tried this, in January, I chickened out. Lets see how this new approach works.
It makes me wonder what would have happened if he had run into more "positive and upbeat" people that day. So many people fail to realize how a simple smile or kind word can make a huge difference to someone who is in pain. Just like they fail to realize how flipping someone off in traffic or swearing at someone can ruin a person's day... or week... or month.

Don't let negativity consume you.

So many people out there try to tell you how you
should be feeling. Or tell you there's no way you will ever be able to change things... so you might as well just give up.

But there ARE things you can do. Simple things.

It's amazing how something as simple as taking a split-second to smile at a stranger... or asking someone behind a counter "how's it going?".... can make a difference. I'm serious. I'm still amazed at how many strangers seem surprised when I ask them how their day is going.

If you have just a little bit more time... find a cause to support. Volunteer for 1-2 hours a week with an organization that helps people. It not only helps put you in a better mood, it also gives a fresh perspective on what REAL problems are.

If enough of us do just a little to promote some positivity... who knows what the cumulative result will be? Heaven knows it couldn't hurt. ;)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Time to thank the naysayers

If you've ever had someone doubt you or your will to get something done, you know how deflating that can be.

Throughout my lifetime, I've had a lot of people question things that I've wanted to do... and even had some people try to talk me out of things because... "there's no way you would ever be able to do that." And every once in a while, I would talk to authority figures who would advise me to "set [my] sights a little lower."

One example... when I was a reporter in Tennessee, I wanted to get to Washington state to be with my then-fiance. He was in Seattle, which-- at the time--- was the 13th largest TV market in the country.

Well, the place I was coming from--- Knoxville--- was ranked 65th. That was quite a jump, especially for someone who had only been reporting for about a year. So I applied for a reporting position in a much "safer" sized market: Spokane. Spokane was actually about #80 or so... so I would be heading in the "wrong" direction in terms of market size--- but I knew my chances of getting a job there were much better than finding one in Seattle. And it was a lot closer to Seattle than Knoxville. ;)

So. I sent my resume and my tape to TV stations in Spokane. I didn't hear back at all from two of them. The third one sent my tape back with a letter saying, "You are not really ready for this sized market." Mind you, they KNEW I was already in Knoxville--- not sure if they realized it was a bigger market than Spokane--- but whatever.

Anyway..... less than a year later, I was reporting at the ABC affiliate in Seattle. And had to smile a bit when I once did a live satellite shot for the station that had snubbed me in #80 Spokane--- while I was working in market #13. I'm sure they didn't remember me, but still--- it felt pretty good.

It took me a while to get to this point, but eventually I realized that naysayers actually make me work twice as hard to get things that I want--- in large part because I want to prove them wrong. ;)

So I am being completely serious when I say THANK YOU to all of the naysayers in my life. You all helped to light a fire under my rear. ;)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blessings in disguise

"Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."

~~ J.K. Rowling

This is a post I've been anticipating for a while.

You see---- as I type these words on July 18, 2009--- I still have a job. But I am almost positive that very soon (in the next few weeks or so), I won't. So if you are seeing this post after July 18th, it's because the premonition has come true. The economy is hitting everyone hard, and that includes the PR firm I work for. I've been laid off.

Here's the deal, though. I'm not that upset about it.

No, I haven't lost my mind. Yet. ;) Rather, I've decided that this is happening for a reason. This is the Universe's way of telling me, "okay, so you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?" It's time for me to put my own observations in this very blog to the test.

I've LOVED writing this. I find myself thinking of topics constantly. Right now, I have at least 30 half-written or barely-written posts on various topics that I haven't had time to finish. As much as I loved the teaching aspects of my PR media training job, I found myself too exhausted at the end of the day to do what I consider to be my first love: writing.

So. I'm going to take the theories and entries and ideas that prompted this blog... and finally put something solid together (most likely a book). I keep getting signs that this is what I'm supposed to be doing, and I feel pretty damn good about it.

Of course--- I'm looking for work as well. Gotta pay the bills, after all. As a matter of fact, if anyone reading this knows of anything.... ;)

We'll see what happens. I figure I have to at least TRY though. I shouldn't be afraid of failure, right? Look what it did for J.K. Rowling.

NOTE: no, I don't expect anything I write to reach Harry Potter status... just referring to her words above. ;)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fear, "frauds," and friends

A young friend recently told me he felt like a fraud because he was being strong for the people around him when he felt like he was dying inside. I assured him that he was not a fraud. In fact, what he's experiencing is LIFE. There's a reason that one of the bestselling self-help books out there is called, "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway." A big part of life is experiencing intense emotions, acknowledging those emotions, and choosing to move forward... in spite of what you're feeling.

In my opinion, you need to take a balanced approach, though. That can make the difference between simply going through the motions of life day after day after day, or using your current horrible situation as a springboard to another level. An emotional breakthrough, of sorts. :)

I'll get to that in a moment. But first, I want to talk about something that dawned on me as I was trying to reassure my friend.

I realized that those of us who've come to this conclusion are not doing younger people any favors by keeping this type of knowledge to ourselves. I remember when I was around his age, I thought I was truly crazy for feeling sad, angry, and depressed about certain things. Everyone else seemed to have his/her act together--- what in the world was wrong with me? I was able to keep the panic at bay for the most part--- but there were a couple of times when I headed into work and had to stay in my car for a half-hour before walking in the door. I later realized I was having panic attacks (to the point where I would be hyperventilating). I managed to compose myself enough to get through the door and start working… but the whole time, I felt like a fraud. What in the world was I doing trying to "fake" my way through the day? Why was I even there?

(Meanwhile, it didn't ever occur to me to think that everyone else around me thought that *I* was the one who had my act together. )

It wasn't until later I realized I was not in the minority when it came to putting on that smile even though I felt more like fleeing. And that was a liberating experience for me. So I was glad that I could share this with my young friend.

At some point in all of our lives, we have intense emotions that threaten to overwhelm us. Going back to one of my other tenets of life: what happens next is up to us.

Some people let the emotions eat them up and do nothing.

Others acknowledge those emotions and do whatever they can to work through it. Part of that involves taking the action of moving forward even when we don't feel like moving forward. And IMO, taking that step is quite courageous. I believe that by taking that step--- even if it feels "fake"--- you are starting the process of conquering whatever that emotion is. Moving forward is a sign you are refusing to let it get the best of you.

But--- IMO--- you can't leave it at that.

If you continue to move forward pretending that nothing is wrong, and keep putting on a brave face without taking any actual steps to work through those emotions, they will eventually eat you up. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away... and in many cases it even makes things worse, because it continues to simmer below the surface until it reaches a boil.

This is where the balance part comes in.

It only makes sense that if you feel off-kilter, you should look for support to help you regain your balance. Thinking of it in a literal sense, people who break a leg find a cane or some other outside source of support to help them stay steady while their leg heals. Turning to outside support to help you stay steady while trying to heal an emotional hurt is no different.

No one is an island. In my experience it is ESSENTIAL that you confide in someone as you go through a really tough time. Whether it be a very close friend or relative, a mentor, a therapist… etc. You should never try to face intense emotions alone. At the very least, you will most likely find someone who has experienced the same thing before and will let you know that you are not alone.

And in some instances, turning to someone with a different perspective might lead to something you didn't really think of before… or introduce a way to heal that you hadn't considered.

Going back to my work situation all those years ago, a couple of my mentors knew what was going on. And they are the ones who kept me sane during the process. One of them really caused me to see the root of my issue, which helped me eventually determine that I needed to move away from a certain workplace. It was a tough (and risky) decision at the time, but--- it was definitely the RIGHT decision (I can't stress just how much it was the right decision--- perhaps I'll write about it in a later post).

Another thing that happened --- I had an incredible boost in self-confidence. A result of realizing that I had the power to continue on with my life while facing my fears. I didn't let it paralyze me. But I didn't let it fester either. And I'm convinced I never would have been able to do so without support.

An important final note: if it's something that's really overwhelming you, consider seeking professional guidance. Some people have placed a stigma on seeking professional counseling… but I know so many people who have benefited from it. The right counselor will not only help you get through a tough time--- he/she can help you eventually thrive.

Another important note: In the interest of making sure I don't set myself up as an authority on this issue, please recognize that I have NO professional training whatsoever when it comes guiding other people. This (and every other blog entry for that matter) is solely my opinion. This is what I've determined works for me--- after YEARS of trial and error. ;)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Need to Vent

Sally: What are you saying? I should get married to someone right away in case he's about to die?
At least you could say you were married.
~~ When Harry Met Sally

OK. I know that I'm usually about joy and good news and happiness and harmony--- but please allow me to vent for just a moment--- because this is driving me CRAZY.

I have not one, but two girlfriends who are planning to get married in the next year.

Normally I would be blissfully happy for them. I would be jumping up and down with joy. I think love between two people is a very beautiful thing, and I hope everyone on the planet has a chance to experience it in their lifetime. :)

The problem is, neither of these women are sure if they are experiencing it. When you ask them about getting married, instead of talking about how happy they are and how much they love their partners... they focus their conversations around, "I'm getting to the age where...."

You can fill in the blank after that phrase. So far the ones I've heard the most (among other things) are: "....I'm sick of dating," or "...I don't want to spend the rest of my life alone."

I'm not trying to be judgmental. It just pains me, because the more I hear about their relationships, the more I feel they are selling themselves short. So--- you've found someone to spend the rest of your life with. Now you have a date for weddings and parties. You have someone to go to concerts with. You have someone to go out to dinner with every Friday night. But are you happy? I mean, truly happy?

If you were to eliminate the other situations above (going to weddings, concerts, etc.)... and say, found yourself alone on a desert island with this person for the rest of your life---with no way of communicating with anyone else ever--- how would you feel?

OK, that situation is a little extreme. But I am certain in at least one of these cases, my friend would cringe at the thought of spending the rest of her life alone with her fiance. And IMHO, that doesn't seem like a good sign.

Everyone deserves happiness. If you are planning to spend the rest of your life with someone, don't you also want to be happy?

Based on some of the stories I know about happy couples who met later in life, they seem to have something in common. They all eventually reached a point where they decided they were most likely going to end up alone for the rest of their lives. And soon after they came to that conclusion, they found their soulmate.

I'm not saying that once you resolve to be alone the Heavens will part and you will automatically find your soulmate. But I do think that once you become comfortable with the fact that you could be alone, you stop trying to force relationships to work. In other words, you don't spend as much time with people you "think" you could be with... and that frees you up to find the person you KNOW you want to be with.

Not sure if I'm making sense here. I must admit that I'm writing this in a bit of a fog right now because of a conversation I just had tonight with one of my gf's. It was very frustrating... because she just kept telling me that she didn't have any other options in life ("it's not like guys are lining up around the block to marry me"). :(

If I could have reached through the phone I would have shaken her, and then given her a big hug before saying: love doesn't have a deadline. Once you reach a "certain age," there isn't a big alarm clock just waiting to go off--- telling you, 'hey, forget about finding anyone, because your time is past.' My father-in-law found love after the age of 60 (he also got into the best shape of his life at that point too, because he took up cycling--- but that's another blog post). My own father found love in his late 50's.

Actually, now that I think about it... MANY of my relatives have found the love of their lives in their 40's, 50's or 60's. So I know for sure that it happens. :)

Not to mention the fact that there are lots of people out there who are unmarried and not only doing just fine, but also are very happy (although that argument would never fly with my gf's at this point).

My main point here: as long as you love yourself, and believe that you deserve happiness.... the rest will fall into place.

You don't have to marry someone just because you think they are your last chance. Don't sell yourself short. You never know what's just around the bend. Or, in the words of a great movie starring Tom Hanks, "Who knows what the tide could bring?" Hang on.

Thanks for letting me vent. I just had to get that out there. And if you think I'm being harsh... please know that I haven't told these particular girlfriends about my blog yet (and now, most likely never will....*sigh*).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Achieving the "impossible"

"One can't believe impossible things," said Alice.

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," the White Queen replied. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." ~~ Lewis Carroll

I decided to look up this quote a few days ago after reading my horoscope. The horoscope told me (regarding impossible things): "the funny thing is once you let yourself believe them, they don't seem all that impossible to begin with. The first step is to let yourself believe that such benevolence is in store for you. So go ahead -- what are three wonderful, lovely and no-way-that-could-happen-to-me things that you want in your life?"

That caused me to pause-- because from an early age we are taught, like Alice, to not even consider impossible things. It's just a waste of time, right? Why even go there?

Then it dawned on me... that's the main problem, isn't it? Very few people dream anymore. I know I'm guilty.

About ten years ago--- when I was really struggling for happiness in the news business--- a mentor of mine asked me what I wanted out of life. I told him that I really wanted to start my own business: a public relations firm for charities and non-profit organizations. But I had no money to start one. And even if I could get past that hurdle, I would most likely not make enough money to survive --- since I wouldn't want to charge my clients a lot for my services.

"Why don't you try to get a small business loan from the bank?" he asked innocently... as if getting a loan is the easiest thing in the world.

"Um," I was slightly annoyed. "because I would never get one."

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because they aren't going to give a loan to a person who might not be able to pay it back. There isn't a lot of money in providing PR services to charities at a discount."

He gave me a little smile. "So you're going to admit defeat before you even try."

(NOTE: By this time, I was highly annoyed and my head hurt --- which was always a sign that he was making a valid point.)

"I just don't see the point since I'm just going to be rejected anyway."

This is where he pulled out the maddening wisdom that always made sense: "So what? You could be rejected 300 times before you find someone who says 'yes'. At that point, it's only the 'yes' that matters."

And yet another dear friend of mine pulled out this quote from Thomas Edison just last year during a similar conversation. Edison says regarding the time that it took him to invent the light bulb:

"I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work."

And as my friend went on to say very succinctly and wisely: "Sometimes you have to figure out the wrong ways before you can find the right way."

Very often we get stuck in a rut, thinking there is no way out... so why even try? We give up on our dreams thinking that there is no way.

But just because you haven't found the right way yet, doesn't mean that there isn't a way at all. Like Edison, allow yourself to eliminate the ways that
won't work. Then, instead of feeling discouraged (which doesn't help anyone--- least of all, yourself) climb out of the rut and try another way.

My challenge for myself is this. I'm going to believe in three "impossible" things--- I'm also going to put the word "impossible" in quotes from now on ;)--- and reaffirm my belief for these things every day. At the same time, I'm going to take small steps toward achieving these things.

The worst that could happen is that I don't achieve the "impossible." But at least I can go forward knowing that I tried.

The best that could happen--- well, the sky's the limit. :) The beauty of achieving the "impossible" is that afterward....
nothing is "impossible."

IMO, the benefits far outweigh the risks. ;)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

"Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it." ~~ Lou Holtz
Of all of my blog posts so far, this one probably sums up best my attitude towards life. I've had this conversation with many people in the past.

There is no denying that bad things happen to good people. And it happens on a daily basis. How many stories do we hear about people suffering or hurting in some way--- and think to ourselves, "how awful! Life can be so unfair!" Personally, I can tell you when I was a journalist I felt an ache in my chest every time I told a story about someone who had lost a child. I know everyone who heard the story felt the same way.

And yet, when a horrific story happens, how many times do we see people focus their grief and anger in such a way that it brings about something extraordinary?

It happens more often than we might think. But it's hard to recognize because it's very difficult to see past the pain of the original incident. There are some truly evil people in the world.

On a January day in 1996, a man in Texas jumped out of a pickup truck and dragged a 9-year-old girl off of her bike... throwing her in the truck. A witness called police and gave them a description of the man and the vehicle. Volunteers, the FBI, and police searched the area for four days before someone discovered her body in a creek bed. An autopsy determined she had lived for two days before being killed.

Soon after, the girl's mother went before Congress to call for tougher laws for sex offenders. Her father talked with other parents who'd gone through the same heartache... trying to find out what they believed police really needed to know immediately after an abduction.

Two things came out of this incident: the national sex offender registry and what we now know as the AMBER alert -- named after that young girl, Amber Hagerman.

Before I continue, I want to make something perfectly clear.
I am NOT saying that Amber Hagerman's death was a good thing... in ANY way. As a matter of fact--- even though I am generally a positive and non-violent person--- if her killer were standing before me right now, he'd most likely be begging for mercy by the time I was done with him.

I have ZERO tolerance for anyone who would ever harm another human being--- especially a child. IMHO, there's a special (and not in a good way) place in the afterlife for those people.

Rather, my main point here is--- the aftermath of this horrific incident could have gone very differently.

Amber's parents could have chosen to back away and privately try to put their lives back together the best they could after losing their daughter. And no one would have blamed them for doing so. After something like that, I can't imagine even trying to get out of bed day after day.

Instead, they took that anger and that grief and pushed it back in the faces of potential child abductors everywhere. To date, the AMBER alert has resulted in the successful rescue of nearly 500 children in the United States alone... including some who were released as soon as the abductor heard there was an AMBER alert issued.

And the program is now international. Who knows how many children around the world will be saved because of it?

Lou was onto something when he said the quote at the beginning of this post.

Most of us will never have to go through what Amber's parents went through. Again, I can't even imagine. But the fact that her parents were able to get back up and not let evil "win" in this case is inspiring to me.

Bad things happen. In most cases, we can't prevent them from happening.
What we do after those things happen, though, is up to us. We have that power.

When something bad happens to you, it's up to YOU to decide whether you will allow those circumstances to paralyze you. When someone does something bad to you, it's up to YOU to decide whether you want to continue to feel like a victim and let that person steal your future happiness.

It's your choice. I hope you choose to make the best of that other ninety percent.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


One night about seven years ago, I was driving home after anchoring the 10pm newscast... when I got stuck behind a VERY SLOW car. I was highly annoyed. I was exhausted and just wanted to get home and climb into bed. The driver in front of me wasn't paying attention to the 30 mph speed limit... the car was only going about 20mph--- max. I was forced to stay behind the car for only three blocks before it turned onto a side street--- but it seemed like an eternity.

I quickly sped back up to 30. About a block after I reached the speed limit, I looked ahead to the next intersection and saw a huge SUV (without its lights on) ignore a stop sign and go screaming across the road. It was going so fast, I couldn't even tell what color it was. It was just a blur.

I felt the blood drain from my face as I realized... if I hadn't gotten "stuck" behind that slow car for three blocks, I would have reached that intersection right around the time that SUV went plowing through it. I would never have seen it coming because the lights weren't on. And I would have been broadsided by 3-ton hunk of metal going at least 60 mph. Even if
I'd managed to survive, I was about three months pregnant at that time.

All of a sudden, I had much greater appreciation for the driver of that slow car.

That incident also caused me to think. Sometimes what we want isn't necessarily what we really need. I really wanted to be able to drive faster so I could get home quickly that night. But if I'd gotten what I wanted, I might not be around to write this blog right now.

How many times have I really wanted something... and been frustrated when it didn't happen? And how many of those times did I not realize that what I wanted wasn't necessarily what I needed? At least not at that moment.

Applying that theory to life, personal experience has taught me that when I encounter many, many barriers on one path... there's usually some reason for those barriers. Reasons I don't see at the time. It took me a while to really trust my intuition when it comes to those types of situations. Sometimes my gut tells me to stick it out. A handful of times my gut has told me to just give up.

In most cases though, my gut tells me that there's something else I need to do before I pursue that path... and what I need to do is take a detour. It's frustrating--- patience is NOT one of my virtues. But I've discovered that by the time I get to my destination I have a greater appreciation for the barrier that sent me on the detour in the first place. Just like I had a greater appreciation for that slow driver. ;)

The wait can be maddening, but it also might be for our own good.

Sometimes we just aren't as ready as we think we are.

Sometimes we need to grow or learn certain lessons before we get it.

Sometimes it's just a matter of gaining a greater appreciation for what we want. Perhaps when we first want it, it's not something we necessarily deserve at that time. Once we appreciate it more, we are more likely to cherish it forever.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Live like a kid

It's been a VERY long week (and it's really not over... even though we are just about to enter a new week). My apologies for not posting anything.

That being said, I keep forgetting that I've posted things in other places that I can always share on this blog.... so here's one I put on my FB page late last month. :)


I'm sure almost everyone has heard the Robert Fulghum poem, "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten."

I was thinking of that poem this evening as I watched my kindergartner play at the park. I decided to jot down notes as I watched him approach kids he'd never met before... forming instant bonds.

And I came to the conclusion that six-year-olds are seriously underrated.


"All I Really Need to Know I'm Learning from My Kindergartner"

Talk to people you don't know, you may find a best friend.

Never pass a swing without taking a ride.

Splash in a puddle simply because it's there.

Laughing is good. Do it when you're happy, and even when you aren't.

Make art using anything you can find. Create the extraordinary out of the ordinary.

Sing for no reason.

Play outside as long as you can.

Question injustice.

Greet loved ones as though you've missed them forever.

Love fearlessly and fiercely.

Ignore the regular trail and create your own.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Enjoy the ride.

"Once you stop learning... you stop living."

The above phrase has been floating through my head the past couple of weeks. And I couldn't figure out why until I reunited with an old friend of mine this week.

Before I talk about what we discussed, I think it's important to explain how I met this particular person.

In August 2003, my son and I boarded a plane to visit my mother in North Carolina. My son was around six months old, and was actually a pretty good air traveler at that point (much better than when he reached the age of two). ;)

We sat next to a very kind looking man. I have to admit I was a little preoccupied with the kiddo, so didn't really chat. Until something very unusual happened.

As we taxied out to the runway, the plane pulled over to the side and stopped, and the pilot turned off the engines. His voice came over the PA system.

"Um, this is going to sound a bit unusual, but our flight is on hold right now because of storms over Cincinnati." (We had a scheduled layover in Ohio.) "What's really strange is that it's not the storm system itself that's holding us up--- it's the fact that lightning has struck the runway. So workers are now checking for damage, and will let us know soon if we have clearance to take off."

I've been flying regularly since I was a child--- a result of divorced parents who lived in different states. I've never heard of lightning striking a runway. I'm sure it happens, but it had never happened to delay one of my flights.

I became a little worried about my son. He had fallen asleep when the plane started to move. When the plane stopped, though... he was wide awake. The man next to me looked over at him, and started up a conversation about his own grandchildren. My son beamed at him.

We moved from talking about family to discussing work. He told me he was a theology professor. I told him I was a TV journalist. We started to discuss --- you got it --- good news and the power of good news. :) I had always wanted to report more of it, and he had always wanted to see more of it.

He told me he spent much of his time traveling all over the world, and he sees good news happening on a regular basis.

So it turns out the lightning had a purpose. We had plenty of time to talk about our passion for good news. Much more time than we would have had otherwise. Once we were up in the air, the trip wasn't that long.

We emailed each other a few times after that trip, but lost touch eventually. I moved to another state and took one more news job before I decided I had to leave the business.

I wandered aimlessly for a while, trying to figure out what to do next. I started my good news blog, but found myself unable to keep it up regularly. Then something happened to remind me about the importance of good news. :)

Last year, one of my co-anchors at my last station took some time off from work to make a trip to China. He was there to observe a forum of theological experts. Right before he headed home, he happened to strike up a conversation with one of the participants while they were on a train going through rural China. It was 4am and they appeared to be the only two people in the 45-member party who couldn't sleep. They decided to go to the dining car to chat. The conversation moved to news. And good news. And the theologian happened to mention the name of a reporter he once talked to on a plane, one he had really admired because of her passion for good news.

My colleague told me later he about fell out of his chair.

Names and notes were exchanged. A couple of weeks later, I received an email from my former co-anchor asking about having lunch to talk about how things were going. At that lunch, he handed me a note.

And now, a year after reading that note... I found myself sitting in the same restaurant I sat in when I first read that note, with the person who'd written it. :)

Anyway, this person is really special. He has had so many powerful experiences around the world.... and has so many great stories... I could listen to him for hours.

Something he told me really resonated with me. He loves to travel around the world because he's always learning something new. There's so much out there to explore... why would we limit ourselves to just one location, one way of life, one way of thinking....? He pointed out that so many people out there believe that once they are able to get their big house in the suburbs, their 2.2 kids, and their high-paying job--- their lives will be set. They honestly believe that once they get those things, they will not need to go any further than that.

But his philosophy is different. He believes life isn't necessarily about
accomplishing goals. It's all about the journey.

So many of us have been taught to believe that once we make enough money... once we get the right house... once we find the right job... once we find the right partner.... our lives will be complete. And we'll live happily ever after.

And yet, how many stories do we hear about people who have those things-- who still are not satisfied?

Some just live with the underlying feeling that something is missing. Others start doing other things to stir things up a bit.... drink a little too much, or cheat on their spouses, or embezzle from their companies.

Life is a journey. It is a constant challenge to grow and evolve and change our lives for the better.

Right after we are born, we strive to learn as much as we can about the world around us... how to smile, how to talk, how to walk, etc. Once we achieve those goals, we set new ones. Eventually we move from the basics and start to learn things that help us understand our world better--- things like literature, philosophy, science.

At some point, though... we grow tired. We have so much going on in our lives that we get to a point where we just want to survive, much less grow. But there's always a nagging voice in the back of our head telling us.... "there has to be more than this."

That's because there
is. Much more.

Of course, not all of us can drop everything and travel around the world ;).... but there are always opportunities to learn new things. You don't have to start big. Take up a new hobby. Sign up for a community college class. Buy art supplies and create something new. Plant a garden.

Life doesn't stop when we accomplish our goals--- why should we? Why stop learning and growing and creating...?

I'd like to thank my friend for reminding me of something I've always believed--- but had forgotten. Once you stop learning... you do, in fact, stop living. And that's where the ennui comes in.

At the risk of sounding like a Nissan commercial from the 90's: life is a journey. Never stop moving forward. And enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Wisdom of Seuss

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~~ Dr. Seuss

I have a collection of quotes I love. Today this one jumped out at me.

I've always thought everyone should live their lives this way. :)

It's been a long week (yes, I realize it's only Tuesday) so unfortunately I don't have more to add at this time. But I hope everyone will remember Dr. Seuss' words of wisdom.

More later. ;)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Change of Heart

Another good news story from my previous blog.... one that happened last year.

This is brought to us by a dear friend of mine (Jim Douglas, the reporter who wrote the original story), and it brought tears to my eyes. In a good way.

Jami McElrath has inoperable cancer. Like many terminally ill patients, she's been working hard to collect mementos for her children so they will have things they can physically hold onto to remember her after she passes away.

Among those mementos... she's been taking photos she wants to put in a scrapbook.

During a family trip to Texas, Jami's camera was stolen from her car while her family ate in a restaurant. The camera was loaded with photos of the trip, including their time at Six Flags amusement park.

As if that weren't enough, the camera also had extra sentimental value. It had belonged to her father, who died of a heart attack two years before.

Jami told her heart-wrenching story to Jim, who works at WFAA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Dallas.

"I just want my camera back," she told Jim in the story. "I just want those memories back."

Part of her plea also included this heartwarming message of hope: "People are good," she said. "That's what I'm saying. I don't think this person who took my camera is out to hurt people. I think they have a desperate situation they're in."

A few days after the story aired, Jim received a phone call from a man who didn't want to identify himself. He told Jim to look behind a red car in the station's parking lot. He also added that he felt bad about the incident.

Needless to say, Jim found the camera. He and a news crew traveled to Oklahoma to return it to Jami, who burst into tears. She had some words for the man who took it.

"Whoever you are, thank you so much," she said. "Thank you for having a conscience and bringing it back. I can't tell you what it means to me."

I love this story for so many reasons. I love it for the obvious reasons--- and one that's probably not so obvious. I love the fact that she had hope and positive feelings in her heart... even though her heart was broken. This is one of those stories that reminds me that the more love you send out into the world, the more it will return to you.

I have a personal story that also reinforces this belief, but I'll share it some other time. I want this post to be about Jami.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Living with Procrastination

If any of you get the OnDemand service on Comcast cable, I highly suggest going to "The Cutting Edge" section, and checking out some of the 'school scare films' on "Something Weird." Depending on how old you are, you may have seen some of these films in school growing up. My personal favorite is a variation on the classic "Duck and Cover," which offers you "lifesaving tips" on how to survive an atomic bomb blast.

My favorite gem from that film: "the instant you hear the air raid sirens, take cover under whatever you can find. A table, a doorway--- even a picnic blanket or a newspaper can provide some protection against an atomic blast!" (Here, the film shows a family enjoying a lovely picnic in the park when a bright light flashes and they cover themselves with their lifesaving blanket.)


They rotate the films every couple of weeks or so... so over the past several months I've seen other great "how to" films from the 1940's and 50's--- such as how to make friends (the lesson here: force yourself to be like everyone else--- suppress those pesky feelings of individuality....!), the importance of personal hygiene (a film for new recruits in the military--- did you know that foot powder can solve a whole slew of problems????), and a 60's film about the dangers of LSD (which--- honestly, was more of an ad for LSD than a scare film.... I don't think the "squares" back then 'got it').

One film I saw recently was about a girl named Mary who was the ultimate procrastinator. She was appointed by her classmates to organize the school dance, much to the chagrin of one boy who said she never did things on time and other students always paid for it. Well, you can guess what happened... Mary failed to let other students' mothers know days ahead of time which foods they needed to make for the party, she put off buying the decorations until the day before (the local store was out of what she needed), and she showed up late to the decorating party (because she was out looking for other decorations). The last scene shows the other students putting up their measly few rolls of streamers in disgust while Mary sits alone in the corner, obviously realizing that her life was now ruined--- all because of her
procrastinative ways.

I don't mean to make light of procrastination. I used to be Mary. When I was in seventh grade I was in an accelerated math course. Instead of making us hand in assignments on a regular basis, the teacher left it up to us to get the work done... and just hand it all in at the end of the semester (I still don't understand the benefits of this--- all of you teachers out there... would you really want a huge pile of papers to grade at the end of the semester?).

Well, since I was Mary--- you can guess what happened. I didn't do my assignments in a regular and timely fashion. I think I started off the semester by getting a half dozen assignments out of the way immediately... then everything else went on the back burner, because according to my seventh grade reasoning I was AHEAD at that point, right? If I could complete six assignments in one sitting, surely the rest would be a breeze.


The NIGHT before the assignments were due, I decided to tackle the other--- oh, 40-50 assignments I had for the rest of the semester. I was up all night. And my mother had very little sympathy for me the next day (shocker!) when I begged to be able to go in and turn in my assignments and then come home to sleep.

The good news is, I learned my lesson. I made a decision right then and there that I never wanted to pull another all-
nighter (at least not for schoolwork). And I never did after that.

But even though I now make my deadlines 99.9999% of the time, I still struggle with procrastination every once in a while. Unfortunately, I'm also a perfectionist. And as a perfectionist, I still beat myself up over leaving things until the last minute. Yet I keep doing it. So, I've decided to apply my new mindset (changing my perspective and looking at things differently) to this issue.

I've decided I need to make procrastination work for me.

A lot of life experiences have led up to this point. When I was in TV, I discovered that no matter how much time I had to put a story together--- whether it was ten minutes or five hours--- I always finished right at the deadline. It wasn't a matter of procrastination in TV--- it was just the way the business worked (we were always in a rush). But what's interesting is that some of those stories I slapped together in ten minutes were better than the ones I had more time to spend on.

I'm going to try to look at that as a sign that I actually thrive under pressure (how's that for spin?).

Likewise, I find that when I put off doing something, I tend to get a lot of other things done in the meantime. For instance, if I know I have to write a difficult email I will stay away from my computer and instead put away dishes, clean up the living room, mow the lawn... you get the idea. And the whole time I'm doing these things, I'm thinking about what I'm going to say in the email. So... by the time I sit down at my computer, I've not only decided how to handle it, but I've got a cleaner house and a tidier lawn as well.

And of course, since I thrive under pressure (see above) the email comes out a lot better later than it would if I'd spent the last three hours at my computer.

I know... it's a reach. But it's better than beating myself up for not sitting down until the last minute to write that email. ;)

I know this exact process won't work for everyone. But here's my point:
nobody's perfect. We all want to be, but sometimes life prevents us from living up to our own high standards. If you are trying to reach a summit--- there could be several paths that lead up to it--- and it really doesn't matter which one you take... as long as you get there.

I would love to be that person who starts things as soon as they are given to me. But the conclusion I've reached is that starting earlier (in my case) doesn't really help. I get things done in the time they need to be done. And they usually turn out really well. In fact, looking back at several projects--- I can honestly say I wouldn't change a thing... even if I'd had more time. So there's no point in me beating myself up for not starting sooner.

Now I want to make my own school scare film called: "Making Procrastination Work for You."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Music in the Key of Grey

One of the things I mentioned in my initial post (The Importance of Grey) was how wonderful it can feel to be surprised... especially when you have one expectation and discover so much more.

I'm hardly ever surprised by what children can accomplish. Honestly, if they had slightly better coping skills (which comes with age--- er--- sometimes) I would want them to run the world. I'm constantly learning things from my son. On a daily basis.

Still, there are those children out there who truly go beyond any expectations. Like Sungha Jung. I don't know his exact age, but I know when he played in this video he was ten or younger. And he gives professional guitarists a run for their money.

Enjoy. :)
(BTW, many thanks to my friend Stu for introducing me to Sungha's videos) :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Learning to Fly Again

I like to know how things work. Which is one of the reasons I ended up going into journalism.

I want to figure out the ins and outs of each situation, so I can look at it from all angles and come to my own conclusions. Likewise, if I discover I'm really passionate about something, I will spend endless hours trying to find out as much as I can about it.

As long as I can remember, I've been this way about flight. To this day, every time I hear a plane overhead I pause for a moment to watch it glide across the sky. I love to watch shows on the National Geographic and Discovery Channels about the history and manufacture of various planes--- both commercial and military. When I was a reporter, I always joked the only reason I decided to go into the business was so I could have a shot at flying with the Blue Angels--- and that I would retire soon after. I finally got that awesome, unbelievable chance and it was everything I thought it would be (BTW, I left the business a year later -- but that's another story for another time). ;-)

Also--- at the risk of revealing just how much of an aviation nerd I am--- I always listen to the cockpit conversations when I'm on airplanes that offer the option. There's just something fascinating about the way air traffic controllers guide aircraft through the sky.

I've heard some really interesting conversations over the years... like the time I was in a 767 approaching the runway for a landing at LAX. About 100 feet off the ground, the air traffic controller said quickly, yet calmly, "[airline & flight number] heavy, abort landing and head [direction heading here]." Instantly, you could feel the thrust of the engines as the pilot hit the throttle and the plane soared back up into the sky.

The explanation came seconds later, "Sorry about that [airline & flight number], we had another aircraft enter the end of the runway as you approached." It was interesting to hear the news before others on the plane did (the pilot made an announcement soon after to explain).

More recently, I was tuned into the cockpit while my plane was still sitting at the gate. The pilot got on the radio and asked if we were cleared to leave the gate. The ground traffic controller responded with, "[airline & flight number] I will check on that. We weren't expecting a request for a few minutes... you guys must be efficient." The pilot came back with, "I doubt that. That would imply we were adequately paid and happy to be here." They both laughed.

That instantly made me pause. I know I would LOVE to be able to fly for a living.

At least, I *think* I would. It's hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes.

A few years after I left college, I had a job that many people would LOVE to have. I was a TV reporter in one of the best cities in the country.

And yet, I was not happy. To the extent that I would see transportation workers holding the "SLOW" sign on the side of the road, and wish that I were in their place and they were in mine (that's not a joke--- I really thought that).

The reasons behind my unhappiness will take up an entire blog post, so I won't get into it right now. But it was one of the most trying experiences of my life. To the point where I would come home in tears on an almost daily basis. I almost felt guilty when people would find out I was on TV and say, "wow! That must be a cool job!" And I would have to somehow force myself to smile and give a little nod, "it has its ups and downs."

So when I was sitting on the plane, I had some empathy for the pilot.

But since I love flight so much, I was still curious. In fact--- at that point I wish I had had a microphone built in to my headphones so I could ask the pilot a question (can you imagine passengers having access to the cockpit radio???? A frightening thought...LOL).

My question was simple:

Why did you decide to take up flying?

I wouldn't have been asking in a snide way. I sincerely wanted to hear why he was drawn to flight in the first place. It's not exactly easy to become a commercial airline pilot... it's not one of those jobs you just stumble into.

Since I wasn't able to ask him, I can only guess what he would have said. But I'm assuming that it would have been along the lines of, "because I loved it."

It's interesting the way our perceptions change over time. And how disconnected we become.

Today I am a media trainer (which means that I teach people how to talk to the media). At least once a week, I run into someone who is under considerable stress because of work. We go through some of the training, and it's clear this person is distracted and unhappy.

When we sit down for a mock interview to practice the techniques I've taught, I start out by asking him/her typical questions a reporter might ask. If it's clear the person is still distracted, I throw in a surprise question:

What is the best thing about your job?

It always throws the person a bit... there's always a pause. But the eventual answer always comes from the heart. And you can see that person start to re-connect with their passion. It's really cool to watch. :-)

So if I could sit down with my younger self right now, I would ask myself why I got involved in journalism.

Just like I had no idea what the pilot would say, I'm not sure what my own answer would have been (a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then). But I'd like to think that at least for a moment, I would have been able to reconnect myself to something I'd lost.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Power of Good News

"It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn't in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals." ~~ Charles Kuralt

Not feeling so hot today (under the weather), and reading the news is making me feel worse. News outlets I really used to enjoy are focusing a little too much on "Jon and Kate" these days.

Don't get me started.

Anyway, I decided to pull out a good news story I once talked about on another blog. I started the blog with the intention of highlighting stories of hope--- stories that honor and celebrate people who do the right thing. I eventually had to give it up because it was getting harder and harder to find good news. Not because it's not happening--- but because no one is reporting it. Right now, the economy, GM's demise (ahem, excuse me.... "rebirth"), and apparently Jon and Kate :p trump those types of stories.

Every once in a while, I'll re-post one of those stories here. Because I think we could all use a pick-me-up every once in a while. ;)

Saved by a Stranger

A little girl needed a miracle.

Sarah Dickman lives with a genetic disease called juvenile nephronophthisis. The disease slowly destroys the kidneys, and can take the life of a child before he or she reaches the age of 15.

At the age of eight, Sarah already needed a new kidney. Doctors placed on dialysis and the Atlanta girl's condition was getting worse by the day.

Neither of her parents were a good match. Sarah’s name was already on a national waiting list, but no matches had been determined. So as a last ditch effort, her parents put up flyers around their community. They knew there was little chance of finding a suitable donor that way. But they wanted to give their little girl every chance they could.

34-year-old Laura Bolan saw the flyer at the elementary school where Sarah and two of Laura’s children attend class. Her heart melted when she saw the girl’s smiling face.

Laura noted that she had the same blood type as the little girl. She talked to her own family, and called the Dickmans later that night.

Two people called in about the flyer, but Laura was the better match. And she didn’t even hesitate. As she told a reporter, “It breaks your heart to know there's a little girl sick out there who you could help."

The two underwent successful surgery in February.

Sarah’s parents say they are not only eternally indebted to Laura, they also plan to pay the favor forward. Her father, Joe became a living donor as a result of the sacrifice a stranger made for his child... knowing he might one day have the same opportunity to save a life.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mountains, Lakes, and Filters

Why is traffic so infuriating?

I've asked myself that question many, MANY times over the years. I am a relatively level-headed and sane person--- until I get onto an interstate. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the type of person who is going to chase down drivers who cut me off... but I will admit that every once in a while, I've been known to raise my hands in frustration and say loudly (within the confines of my car), "you've gotta be frakking kidding me!"

I think everyone has their own personal reasons for this road rage transformation. I decided in my case, it centers around my frustration with selfish people.

Example: as soon as I see that there is a line forming to get off at my exit, I will move over into the lane as soon as I can. I will then proceed to wait for five to ten minutes in stop-and-go traffic trying to get off at this exit. Inevitably, there's always some jerk in the next lane who speeds his way to the front of the line and forces himself over in front of me JUST as I'm about to exit... and that's when I become incensed (not to mention the fact--- if EVERYONE moved over when it was time to get off the exit, we would get off the highway sooner. The reason the line backs up is because of the jerks who are forcing their way in instead of just following the rules of common courtesy).

So, the first thought that goes through my head when I encounter this EVERY DAY: what makes these people think they are so much better than everyone else that they don't have to wait in line?

My blood pressure is rising just thinking about it. And that's the problem. I've now come to expect this in my commute (because it happens every day) which makes the thought of getting on the road less than desirable.

I have to admit, though.... if it weren't for traffic, I wouldn't have reconnected with my surroundings this past week.

I work about ten miles away from where I live. Yet, on an average day in typical rush hour--- it can take 45 minutes to get to work. What makes this more difficult is that there are really only two ways to get to my workplace (and one of them is very much out of my way). Both routes involve bridges over a large lake. That's usually where the height of the traffic jam takes place... all of those cars trying to get across the lake at the same time is
not good.

This past week, I was sitting on the bridge in stop-and-go traffic... when all of a sudden we came to a complete stop. A check of the radio indicated that there was an accident ahead. When that happens, all traffic comes to a halt--- because there are no shoulders on this bridge. So I sat. And I looked at my watch. And I realized that I was going to be considerably late to work. The blood pressure started to rise.... :p

So, since I was sitting in one spot anyway, I turned and looked southward. I saw something I see almost every day (weather permitting) just sitting there. It's always been there... even before people settled here.

Mount Rainier rising above the lake.

I've seen it hundreds... if not thousands of times before. It's just part of daily life in western Washington state.

But this time, it hit me like a whack in the head.

Why in the world do I complain about sitting in traffic when I have one of the most beautiful commutes in the world?

When I first moved to Washington state, I fell in love with the natural beauty and couldn't imagine myself living anywhere else. I stayed connected to that beauty for a long time... but eventually it started to move its way into the background. I can't tell you when or how it happened. But---- as I realized last week--- it definitely happened.

This brings up a recurring theme for me lately. Filters. We all have them. We all use them to block out certain aspects of our lives... because there is way too much going on. We can only handle so much input at once.

IMHO, filters aren't necessarily a bad thing. Again, too much input would be overwhelming and exhausting. But I think many of us are letting too much of the bad through... at the expense of the good.

There's a LOT of good out there. We just have to recognize it, and let it come through. Even if it means RE-connecting with something you've gotten used to.

A little stressed as you head into work?
Along the way, notice the flowers and trees along the highway.
As you walk from your car to your office building... listen. Are birds chirping? Perhaps there's the subtle sound of leaves rustling as the wind hits the trees...?
If you are fortunate enough to have an actual lunch hour where you don't have to sit at your desk.... sit outside. And while you're eating, think about nothing. And notice everything.

Live in the moment.

As I noticed last week, this helps me handle stress throughout the day. Things that would normally seem REALLY stressful... aren't quite as troubling.

I should also mention.... since I started doing this, my commute has been much more pleasant. :)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Importance of Grey

Grey, n., any of a series of neutral colors ranging between black and white.

Our society is set up to make us believe that we have to have opposites in every situation... black vs. white, good vs. evil, Republicans vs. Democrats, the hero vs. the villain. Meanwhile, those of us who choose not to view the world in black and white are accused of being indecisive and dull.

The truth is, looking at things in black and white--- by definition---is limiting. Those who choose to stick to black and white are missing an incredible world full of infinite shades of grey.

Grey can be beautiful. And eye-opening. And inspiring.


Case in point: Susan Boyle of Scotland took YouTube by storm when she tried out for “Britain’s Got Talent.”

I know many people consider her 15 minutes of fame to be over, but I still think hers is a heartwarming story... because it's a good lesson in the importance of grey.

The 47-year-old church volunteer had spent all of her life with her parents, taking care of them as they grew older and eventually passed away. People who view things in black and white would most likely apply certain negative labels to someone with her life story. Labels like “spinster” or “old maid.”

And as we saw in the video, people in the audience had preconceived notions of her before she even opened her mouth.

The black and white conclusion: [older woman] + [always lived with her parents] + [doesn’t look like a singer you’d see on a Broadway stage] = obviously can’t sing.

The moment she sang her first line, it was clear the assumptions were wrong. Her appearance and age has nothing to do with what she is capable of accomplishing. She forced many people to shift their focus from black and white to grey. It IS possible for someone with her appearance, age, and life story to have a beautiful voice.

In my opinion, there are several reasons this story has been so captivating.

For those who view things in B&W, it proved that labeling people without actually knowing the person is deceiving... in a good way. Looking at the audience in that video, I’ve never seen so many people (including the judges) so happy to be wrong.

Also, her story shows that when you stop viewing things in B&W the world is full of infinite possibilities and opportunities.

We don’t have to be what society perceives us to be... or tries to force us to be.

(Change your Perspective: Many people think of dandelions as a weed. My 6-year-old views them as beautiful flowers and picks bouquets of them for me.)

So much of our B&W-based society tries to pigeonhole us at an early age, whether it be from teachers, coaches, parents, etc.

I spent much of my childhood education convinced that grades weren’t that important, because my teachers didn’t expect good grades from me (I'll talk more about that another time).

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I was limiting myself. And my possibilities. I was viewing things in black and white.

You see, when you look at things in varying shades of grey you realize all things are possible.

Viewing it in terms of stereotypes from high school:
The “jock” can become an artist....
The so-called “computer geek” can eventually become a rock star....
The cheerleader can become a software development engineer....
And the drama club devotee can get a Ph.D. in astrophysics.

Likewise, an 11-year-old can all of a sudden come up with the solution to world peace.
And a 96-year-old can all of a sudden decide to take up skydiving.

Anyone can do anything. Shades of grey are infinite. There are no limits or restrictions.

Take some time to celebrate the grey.
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