Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Boring Testimony

I am a Christian.  Some would call it a born again Christian, but I am endeavoring to not get lost in "Christian-ese" lingo.  Basically, there came a point when I made a decision on my own to trust that Jesus is the only one that can save me from the sins I have and will commit. He is the only bridge to the completely pure and holy God of the universe that cannot tolerate any unclean or blemished soul.  Jesus Christ was perfect and therefore made himself a sacrifice for me...a completely wretched, undeserving and fallible person. 

The point I made that decision came when I was 5-years-old.   I was at a vacation Bible school at my little church in small town, Nebraska.  The speaker told the story of a hen that sacrificed it's own life for its baby when a fire came.  The mother hen pushed is offspring under its wing and kept it there while being burned alive. The chick survived and the mother hen died, of course.  It's truly a very simple story, but to my 5-year-old heart on that day, it was the story I needed to hear that would open my heart and my eyes to the love God has for me.  I wasn't into sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  I didn't have a big dramatic conversion experience.  I didn't rebel against my parents. I didn't even drink in high school. I tell you all this to not make me seem like a goody two shoes or holier than though.  We can't all have a dramatic conversion story like the Apostle Paul.  I tell you this to encourage you.  

Perhaps you are looking for something.  You may not even know what your looking for.  Maybe you think in order to find this God that you've heard about that you need to be an addict with all sorts of crazy problems.  Not at all.  All you need is to acknowledge you are a sinner and ask Jesus to forgive you and enter your life.  It doesn't have to meet any sort of dramatic expectation that you might have in your mind.  It's very simple.  

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For those of us who are Christians, I think the "boring" testimony is the one we want our kids to have.  It's my story and it gets me a free relationship with Christ just the same as someone with a more "exciting" story.  It's all about grace and faith and love.

Thanks for stopping by today.  Feel free to comment below.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Are You Scatterbrained? I am.

I don't know if I passed my black belt test.  It will be a surprise to me.  I don't get a letter.  I don't get a phone call or a visit.  I get an unannounced gathering of my friends and family when I go to my regularly scheduled class.  Then a roast-ish type evening will ensue, along with a sword that will be engraved with my "karate name" and my passing date.  I don't know my karate name, not do I get to choose it.  Here's my guess as to what it might be: Squirrel.  

Do you remember the golden retriever in the movie "Up"?  He has a collar that allows him to speak audibly so humans can understand him.  He's a friendly fellow and introduces himself and continues speaking, then he's suddenly distracted by a "Squirrel!" That's me.  My problem is not lack of focus.  It's more an issue of a lot going on at once.  My brain is always going in a million directions.  Normally, it's not too much of an issue, but as I studied the last few weeks for my black belt test, I temporarily put a few things on hold.  I wanted to use brain space that I normally allocate to other tasks.  For example, I used to remember phone numbers. If my husband needed to call someone, he would just ask me their number.  That was obviously before the days of cell phones.  Now our phones remember for us.  I don't know near as many phone numbers as I used to.  My phone remembers for me.  Now I remember account logins and passwords instead.

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All this is to say that we have brain space, focus power, memory skills. Call it what you want. I believe we can choose what we want to remember.  Whether it is a name of someone you just met, an important date, or the details of our dream, we can choose to create focus. Sometimes it's by writing down what we need to come back to. Sometimes it's dismissing the extra things all together. I don't know the science behind this theory.  This one is just from personal experience.  Does our brain get full? I don't know.  I know mine seems to.  When I'm learning something new, I can learn for a while then I need to walk away so I have time to absorb it.

I'm a bit all over the place, all the time--even in this post today I'm a bit scattered.  It is helpful for me to keep sticky notes handy (on my phone or actual paper) where I can write down the extra, random thoughts and come back to them later. If you're scatterbrained or just think so quickly that you can't process it all before you jump to the next thing, I would encourage you to not be discouraged about it...find a way to make it work.  We're not all created the same.  That would be so boring!  Embrace the crazy.  Think less, live more!

I'd love to hear what little tricks you use to help focus and remove distractions.  Comment below.

Friday, April 24, 2015

What's My Name?

We're all self-centered.  It is our nature.  A group picture is taken and when we view it, who's the first person we look for?  Ourselves, of course.  We're in a group setting and everyone is talking and hanging out, we hear our name across the room and we forget the conversation we were in and listen to the one across the room where our name was mentioned.  What's the most important sound in any language?  I'd venture to say this: our own name.  When we hear our name, even as a young child, we tune in.  We want to be recognized and appreciated by name.

Then there's the other side of that: I'm just bad with names. We've all heard people say that phrase. It's selfishness, really.  It says we don't care enough about a person to remember the most important sound in the world to them.  I used to say I was bad with names...until I decided to be good with names.  Have you ever encountered someone that you recently met and you remembered their name? They're surprised aren't they?  Most people don't make the effort to remember names.  It conveys that you care about them as a human being enough to remember the most important sound in the world to them.  Our name is our identity, our reputation.  If your name is tarnished, it's almost impossible to recover it.  Our name is very personally and completely ours.

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I posted a couple weeks ago a list of some of my favorite books.  On that book was a classic that is completely under utilized these days: How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  People Skills 101, it could be called.  Mr. Carnegie talks about this.  It's just basic courtesy to remember people's names.  It's okay to mess up, too.  ( yourself grace.  Seems like we've talked about that before.) We're all going to forget sometimes.  It just happens, but ask forgiveness and just ask again what their name is.

"Forgive me.  I've misplaced your name.  Tell me again." And then remember it the next time.  It's pretty simple.  There are all sorts of tricks to remembering names.  I'll let you google that on your own and decide which ones work best for you.  And one more tip when you remember someone's name: pronounce it correctly.  My name is Jennille.  It's pronounced Jen-EEL.  Thank you, mom, for not spelling it phonetically.  Rarely does anyone pronounce it correctly.  It's not their fault and I don't get mad at them.  Just remember it right, please.  People skills 101.  When people feel valued, they will come back to you again and again to do business with you, and oftentimes they become friends.  You've made them feel good.  I bet Jesus remembered people's names when he walked on this earth.  I know He had the whole God thing going on, but I bet He said people's names as He talked to them.

I'll get off my soapbox now.  What's one little thing that you have found to make a big difference in your interactions with people?  Comment below.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Inspiration Overload

I love inspiration.  It's what I do.  It's what my business is and what I am growing it to be in a bigger way each day.  And yet...I found myself recently shying away and merely skimming over some great tweets, pins, and memes because it just seemed, well, less than inspirational.

Scroll, view, scroll, smile, nod, scroll, scroll, scroll some more.  We just look.  It's harder and harder to catch our attention, to actually grab us enough to stop and take a look.  We're desensitized to everything, it seems.  Cute & furry kittens, headlines of real and gruesome atrocities barely get a glance let alone a second glance.  At the same time, the "experts" are telling us we need to have a platform, be on Twitter, Facebook, have a blog and grow our actual business all at the same time.

Don't misunderstand me.  I enjoy seeing my friends and their families on Facebook.  In some of my busier seasons, I can jump on there for 10 minutes and catch up with a whole lot of people, at least on the surface.  While I'm relatively new to Twitter, I have created a Twitter experience that is relatively positive.  I follow people that seem to have similar interests and beliefs to my own.  I don't do the haters.  (It's not that I'm denying there is bad in the world.  I'm just choosing to focus on the positive.) What are people really searching for on social media?  They want motivation.  They want inspiration.  They want someone else to tell them that magic phrase that makes everything suddenly be come easy, and the ideas and money flow like the spring run off.  It doesn't work that way now does it?

I don't think I've ever read a story about someone that read a single pin on Pinterest and then went out and made their breakthrough and became a millionaire in two weeks.  We're searching for the magic pill that doesn't exist.  It's not bad to gain information.  I've told you before that I am a total input junkie.  I love new ideas and collecting information.  INPUT!!  Sometimes we need to go deeper, though.  Let's look at the underlying issues.  Let's look at the hole in our soul that can only be filled by a relationship with Christ.  Once that hole is filled, then let's look to HIM for our inspiration.  He can provide us with a desire to grow and learn more, but we need to know Him first.  If we ask Him, he will fill us.  In the book of James, it says this:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to you." So ask.  It's that simple.  Ask God.  The Creator of the Universe wants you to ask him for wisdom.  Then be filled and go forward.  Go live inspired--from within.

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What do you think about all this ask God for wisdom and He'll give you wisdom and inspiration?  I'd love to hear your comments below.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Process of Excellence

It's been a long road to get to my Black Belt test.  You've heard me talk about it a lot lately.  And now it's finally done.  Well, the test is done.  The anticipation is done.  The waiting, agonizing over flaws, torturing myself about perceived insufficiency, practice, evaluation, more practice, more evaluation and tweaking...are never really done.  It's a process and we don't just hand out belts like candy.  That's part of why it will be such an honor to get a black belt.

Unfortunately, I don't have my black belt yet.  I have just completed my test.  My paper is done and turned in (before Thanksgiving, thank you very much--all 55 pages!).  I honestly don't even know if I passed.  I won't know for a while, at least.  My guess is a month or so.  I'm hoping it's not much longer than that, but I don't know.  That is not in my control.

I once read a karate pin that went something like this:
     Student: Professor, how long does it take the average person to get his black belt?
     Professor: The average person doesn't earn his black belt.

This has been and continues to be a process of excellence.  I am not excellent every time, and many times I haven't been.  I am so much harder on myself than anyone else could ever be, but I want it to be perfect.  Perfect is just not attainable--but excellence is.  Excellence is attainable, but it doesn't happen overnight.  It's hard work, that I think most people are not willing to put in.  I believe that most people want the results of excellence by putting in average effort.  It doesn't work that way.  That's why it's excellence.  Average is the cream of the crap, and that's not enough for me.

Yesterday morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m.  That's not a far stretch for me.  I normally wake up at 4:30 a.m., but had actually planned to sleep until 6:30 a.m. yesterday.  (I am blessed with the ability to sleep even when I'm stressed.  Crazy, I know, but I'll take it.) Yesterday, my stomach was in knots and my mind just wanted to go over things...just one more time.  So I got up, made my coffee and sat down to study...just one more time.  It was good.  My mind was relatively quiet as I focused on my moves in my head: good form, fluid motion, intensity, crispness, power, speed.  Then my mind would lurch over to some craziness that has never happened.  Stop.  Pray.  Refocus on what I want to see.  Then I kept jumping around and around.  Stop.  PRAY.  Cry.  Pray some more.  I had friends praying for me.  They have been covering me in prayer.  It was such an amazing gift.  I was able to claim God's words for me as I went into my test.  The last text I received before I began my test was this from one of my dear friends,

    "'We say with confidence, the Lord is my helper: I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?' Hebrews 13:6...praying for you today." That is what was on my mind as I began.  So amazing!  I heard God's promises to me as I faced this task that was daunting, and He gave me His perfect peace that surpasses all understanding.  In  other words, there is no reason why I should have had any peace.  I was doubting myself.  I was doubting my ability to just physically get through the test.  But God gave me peace, and you know what?  I rocked it.  I really did.  I made a few mistakes, but I didn't get stuck there.  I didn't dwell on it.  I kept moving.  I kept pushing.  Just one more technique.  Just one more time.  I did it, but only with God's help.  Seriously.

He blessed us with a beautiful, clear sky and perfect temperatures.  We had to run outside and it was fantastic--which for me to say it was fantastic for running...I can't even explain it.  I've just never been a super fan of running; I'll put it that way.  Anyway, it was perfect. And now it's done.  The one thing that I really feel was so much a God thing, is my attitude during the whole thing.  He blessed me with peace, but I was actually excited to be there once we started.  I was so relieved that I actually got excited about it.  It was such an amazing blessing!  It was a privilege and an honor to test for my black belt.

I know this post has been a little longer than usual.  It's just been welling up inside me for a while now, and I actually reined it in a bit...I may or may not be done talking about this.  Thanks for hanging with me on this one.

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What have you been facing that is intimidating or terrifying?  What can you do to help conquer it?  I'd love to hear about it below in the comments.

As always, click the link to purchase the featured expression for your home or office.

Friday, April 17, 2015

My Best Run Ever

I've talked about it before, so you know I'm a crossfitter, which entails running.  I have never been a fast runner. (Why I ran on the distance team in track, I'll never know.  I think that's where they put the kids that joined the team, but were too slow to do sprint races.  Anyway!) In fact, when I first started doing crossfit, my trainer (who happens to be a SUPER runner) would include a lot of running as part of the workouts...and I would cry and whine about it--probably way more than any grown up should.  However, I kept coming and doing the workouts, and doing the running...and eventually, I looked up one day and thought, "Oh my gosh!  I can run longer than 400 meters without feeling sick and like my legs are lead and my lungs are going to explode.  What happened?"  

That's part of the beauty of crossfit.  We don't run at every workout.  In fact, because I only go 3 days a week (I'm doing karate on the other days), I often miss some of the running.  The beauty part comes in that the constant movement with lifting, squatting, dipping, whatever builds up your cardiovascular health, too.  Getting better at running without running?  Oh yeah.  That's what I'm talking about!  

So here's me: 

 Jen's Walls Talk

That's me in the pink bolder band and florescent pink shoes.  Notice the little cutie in the Young Life sweat shirt next to me?  That's my baby girl.  This was the spirit run at my kids' school yesterday.  In the past, I've gone and just cheered my kiddos on.  They appreciate it and seem to be glad I came, but it wasn't the same as running it with them.  

My girl asked me to run with her this time, so I did, because I could.  It wasn't a big ordeal to tell her that, yes, I can run the mile with you.  I just ran with her.  All the way, we ran.  She didn't walk at all. I don't honestly know our time, maybe around 10 minutes or so, but I don't really care about that.  It just mattered that I got to spend time with my spunky girl and being healthy and strong is part of that. I'm going to overlook my weird left hand (I can't change that.  I've tried and it just feels too weird.) I'm going to overlook my posture that is not as good as it could be.  What I'm going to focus on is that my girl and I are both smiling because we're together.  We're even on the same stride.  I love it.

I'm thankful my sweet friend, Lisa, snapped this pic of us.  I didn't see her taking the picture until after it was done.  What a blessing!  Running and selfie-ing are not easily done at the same time.  I was going to crop out our little friend in front of us, but decided not to for the simple reason that he is wearing the sign that my son made.  My little man's class theme for the run was Snow White and the 27 dwarves...he was Smirky (or Smerky, as he spelled it).  My man left us, and everyone else for that matter, in the dust, but passed on his sign before doing so.  He was the first to finish the mile!  

 UL runner with custom wording

I'm extremely proud of both my kids for their run yesterday.  They both were amazing, for different reasons.  I'm proud of myself for making the decision 4 years ago to take care of myself, so I can live life with my kids instead of having to watch from the sidelines.

What fun or surprising benefit have you found from taking care of yourself?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

I must give a little shout out to Amanda over at A Time To Dance blog for inspiring me to look at these moments with my kids a little differently.  Love you, sweet friend!

As always, click on my graphics to run yourself right on over to my website and grab them for yourself.  Today's "run, baby, run" is a custom wording over the runner embellishment, designed in the MyDesign Suite.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Positive Music Artist?

I was reading a blog post by Andy Andrews a few weeks back where he encouraged readers to highlight and celebrate artists that are talented and doing positive things instead of giving further attention to the Beibers and Mileys out there just don't need anymore attention.  So here's my contribution:

Greg Lynas
Greg Lynas

Most people don't know him.  He's not a big name...yet.  Maybe someday.  But he has an amazing voice and is a great guy.  He's a youth pastor.  In North Dakota.  (Anyone thinking Danny Gokey here?)

Greg writes original songs which is super fun and cool, in itself, but he actually writes them for his beautiful wife and their 3 amazing boys.  And he's just a fun guy to hang around.  Probably most guys that choose to hang around teenagers for a living are going to be fun--or fail at their job.  But Greg really is fun and cool and a God loving, real kind of person.  You might just pop over to his facebook page and check him out.  Then you can say, I liked that guy on facebook before he was a super star.  How cool is that?

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Who do you know that actually deserves to be bigger than Miley and Justin?  Comment below and be sure to include a website or facebook link so the rest of us can check them out, too.

As always, if you like my expressions featured in my graphics, click on them to go directly to my website.  Have a beautiful day!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Stop Wishing & Start Doing

Stop wishing and start doing.  It's really a pretty simple concept.  You can think about things you want to do, whether it be painting your bedroom, acquiring new skills for your job, learning a new hobby, or going to lunch with a friend.  It doesn't matter what the thing is, it won't get done until you go beyond "just wishing" and do it.

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Maybe this relates back to my series on self-discipline from a few weeks ago, but I just have to say that it drives me bonkers when people want to do something, but then never follow through and do it. It creates this "thing" just hanging out there.  Yuck.  That's not a happy feeling.

Sometimes, though, it is beyond our control.  For example, my black belt test in karate.  I've been studying karate for a little over 6 years now.  I've been prepping for this particular test for about a year and a half now.  In that year and a half, my test has been pushed back at least 4 or 5 times...ick. It kind of became this thing hanging out there, like I mentioned before.  We'd pick a date.  I'd study and practice, and study and practice some more.  The date would approach.  I'd come up to about a week or two before, and then my instructors would tell me that I wasn't ready...again...and again...and again.  I began to wonder if it would ever be my time.  It was a bad feeling, but reassuring at the same time.  They don't want me to fail.  I honestly believe that.  Imagine my surprise when my professor finally told me that I'm ready to test--this week.  This Saturday, April 18th, 2015, I will be testing for my black belt.

This is not some flippant, you've been here long enough and tried really hard so you can have a belt kind of test.  This is a yes, I've worked really hard, and I've got my butt off the bench and done the work, but there is no guarantee that I will pass this thing kind of test.  There is no wishing about this.  It's all doing...and a lot of praying.

What's your doing kind of thing?  What are you making happen?  I'd love to hear about it below, so leave a comment or two.  Remember, your "do" doesn't have to be a huge, physical test.  It might be calling a friend you haven't talked to in 6 months.  It could be painting a picture.  It can be anything.  Stop wishing & start doing.

Remember that all the graphics of quotes that you see in my blog are available for purchase just by clicking on the picture and it will take you right to my website where you can have it drop shipped directly to you (in the U.S. and Canada).  Thank you!

P.S.  And a great big happy birthday to my baby girl who turns 10 today!!!!  She thinks it's pretty fun to get a shout out on her mommy's blog.:)

Friday, April 10, 2015

8 Fantastic Books for Personal & Career Growth

I love reading.  I honestly can't get enough time to read.  I always have at least a couple books I'm reading and often recommend them to others.  Today I want to share some of my favorites and why I liked them.  Here goes...

The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews. Fantastic and solid life lessons packaged in an easy to read and reread story.  My kids liked this, too.  It was fun to meet people from history.  I'm not saying anymore.  I don't want to spoil it for you.

Start by Jon Acuff.  How to punch fear in the face.  What's not to love about that? Jon's writing style is fun and straight forward.

Quitter by Jon Acuff.  Making the leap from day job to dream job.  Hello?  We all want that, right?  Quitter includes practical, solid tips and real life experiences.

Business Secrets from the Bible by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Amazing book.  Fascinating examples of business and personal keys to everyday human transactions.  Whether you believe in  God or not, there is a ton to learn in this book.  (I must confess that I definitely recommend believing in God...that while eternity thing, and all.)

The Go-Getter by Peter Bernard Kyne.  A classic.  It's the story that tells you how to be one.  Simple, but simple doesn't mean easy.  Be a blue vaser.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  Every one needs to read this one.  People skills 101.  It's a simple concept, but so many people do not do it well.  It takes a lot of practice...myself included!

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.  Fascinating!  This book is not about any one thing.  In fact, Gladwell covers a huge range of topics from hush puppy shoes to smoking in teens, but he artfully ties it all together to make a fascinating read that can be applied to several areas of life.

The Bible by human hands inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Beautiful Instructions Before Leaving Earth.  God's word to us. Shows us His character and love, as well as providing encouragement, teaching, and direction.

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These are just a few of my favorite books.  I didn't even go into fiction favorites.  We'll save that for another time.  Here's my disclaimer: I am being paid as an affiliate a very small percentage from these links. But more than anything, I just wanted to share some of my book happiness.  I would LOVE to hear some of your favorite books.  Please comment below and be sure to say why you like them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Perfecting Perfectionism

I want to be perfect.  There. I've said it.  It's out in the open.  Unfortunately, I'm so very far from perfect.  I do have strengths, but that doesn't mean perfection.  

As I head into my black belt test next week, I keep wanting to put it off again, and again, and maybe one more time because I want it to be perfect.  I don't just want it to be perfect because it's taken me so long to get here.  I want it to be perfect because I am reflecting my school and my Professor and instructors that have poured hundreds of hours into me.  I want them to look good through my efforts. I want their time to have not been wasted.  I know that it hasn't been wasted.  I've learned so much new information.  I've learned so much about myself that it could never be called a waste.  It's just that there is a little, lying voice that tries to fool me with untruths. 

"You're not good enough, Jennille."

"You're not strong enough, Jennille."

"Why aren't you done by now?  What's wrong with you?"

"You started this too late in life." You get the point.

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Take every thought captive.  That's what God's word tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 .  Let's call these lies what they are: bold faced deception from the enemy to try and trip us up from what we are supposed to be doing.  Perfection isn't possible.  It just isn't.  Excellence, on the other hand...that is something we can strive for every day.

My challenge to you (and myself) is to quit trying to perfect perfectionism.  There comes a point when it turns into procrastinating perfectionism.  Then it's no longer a noble goal, it's just a time waster.  It's time to start.  It's time to finish.  It's time to go live.  We already talked about this.  Give yourself grace, remember?  Ninety percent perfect and shared with the world is better than 100% perfect and kept to yourself. (I can't take credit for that one.  That's Jon Acuff, again. I like how that guy thinks.)

So the gauntlet is thrown down.  Let go of perfectionism that is impossible.  Live with excellence.  Mess up.  Move on.  That's life. Enjoy it.

What are you trying to do perfectly?  Comment below.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Why Blog?

People blog for all different reasons.  Some blog to share recipes or cleaning tips.  Some blog to share fun family stories with extended family.  Some blog to give their opinion about __________.  That's the beauty of the internet.  People can say whatever it is they want to say. That's also the terrible, dark side of the internet...People can say whatever it is they want to say.

So why am I here on blogger?  I'm here because I want to be.  If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know that I study karate.  As part of my preparation for my black belt test (which is less than two weeks away....again), I had to write a 50 page (minimum) paper. It took me about 11 months to complete it, but it ended up at 55 pages in length.  The funny part is that when I started, I had absolutely no idea what I would write about--especially for 50 pages.  By the end of the paper, I could have kept writing for another 20 pages.  I had forgotten I like to write.  In his book, Quitter, Jon Acuff talks about finding your hustle, your dream, that thing you are meant to do.  It is often a RE-discovering of something we already knew and love or loved. Writing is one of those things for me.  I am under no illusions that I am an award winning, poetic, inspirational writer.  However, I can string the words together with a certain amount of clarity and cohesiveness to get my point across.  I enjoy writing, so I write.

 UL custom expression

My other goal in writing this blog is to expand my business platform.  My business is Jen's Walls Talk.  That encompasses my Color Consulting, as well as, Inspiration Consulting using my vinyl expressions from my Uppercase Living business, and some faux painting thrown in there, too for an extra measure of fun.  I want you to know a bit about this person coming into your home.  I want you to see the potential in my vinyl expressions and maybe see if they speak to you as they speak to me.  Yes, you always have the opportunity to click on the pictures to go buy them for your home.  This is a business after all, and I'll not apologize for that.  I don't think that's necessary.  It's still a free country and a free enterprise system, last time I checked.

I just want you to know why I'm here.  I enjoy being here and want you to know a bit about who I am.  Maybe you might just happen to learn something along the way.

Enjoy!  Do you blog, too? I'd love to hear your blog "why" and feel free to share your address.  Comment below.

Friday, April 3, 2015

What Is Brave?

Bravery is not the absence of fear.  It's being scared and doing it anyway.  It's that simple.

Tonight was talent show night at my kids' school.  My 9-year-old daughter decided she wanted to sing a song with a friend.  And so she did.  As most schools do, I'm sure, they had a practice run in front of the whole school before the big show at night in front of the parents.  Actually, there were maybe 75-100 parents.  The entire school watched them perform their acts for the first time on the stage.  Let me rephrase that.  Twenty-five kids volunteered to get on stage in front of ALL their peers and perform a song, dance, magic show, play an instrument, or do a comedy act that could have the potential to go very wrong for any number of reasons.  Let me tell you, these kids were amazing!  They weren't perfect or professional performers, but they all rocked it.  None of them even appeared to have been coerced.  Seriously.  It was so cool to watch.  The kids were creative and original...and brave.  So brave.

 caribbean blue

I don't know all the kids, but I know a lot of them.  Some of them I've known since they were tiny munchkins that would barely say two words to me standing 3 feet in front of me, let alone a crowd of peers (aka potential hecklers).  Now they are 8, 9, 10, 11-year-olds putting themselves out there in this big world for all to see.  What kind of world changers will these kids be?  No one knows for sure, but I believe they've made the first step in the right direction.  Now let's follow their example and not be afraid of what our contemporaries might say when we say we have a dream.  Be bold.  Be scared...and do it anyway.  Be brave, friends.

How will you be brave today?  Comment below.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Seeing Is Believing

It's a weird and wonderful thing, this mind of ours.  I don't claim to be any sort of brain or cognitive expert, but I do have one (that might be up for debate in some circles, but this is my blog, so I get to make my own assertions).  I would even venture to say that I use it on occasion, too.  It's no secret that I am preparing for my upcoming black belt test in my karate studies.  It's a very challenging task, both physically, and mentally.  The physical part is hard--not just hard, but grueling, exhausting, and daunting.  The mental aspect is even harder.  The mental part fuels the gumption to push through the physical parts, to not give up, to keep going, to finish and finish well.

But there is another side to the mental aspect of my karate studies.  It's not just the test of character. It's more basic than that.  The test is also a test of knowledge and memory and recall.  There will be approximately 150 techniques that I will need to be able to demonstrate proficiency and the ability to explain what it is I'm doing and what I'm doing to my attacker.  Sure, no biggie...  In addition to the techniques I have several Katas.  Simply put, a Kata is a series of techniques strung together to be aesthetically pleasing.  They should be fluid and graceful, almost a dance of sorts, with the added feature of being fierce and intimidating at the same time.  That sounds really cool, right?  I think so, but sounding cool and executing cool are two entirely different things.  

To combat my lack of grace, and my sometimes spotty memory, I've been practicing my Katas in my head.

 UL sugared plum & stone cottage

I don't just sit there and run over the list of moves in my mind.  I recorded my voice reading through each of my katas, then I sit on the couch and see myself making each little movement as I hear my voice say it on the recording.  I'll even listen to it as I'm driving sometimes.  It's really not the same as reading through it a million times.  When I just read it, I see the moves, but I'm not really focused on the minute details.  When I sit still, close my eyes, and go through each move, I honestly believe that it ingrains it into my memory more than actually doing the moves.  I'm totally serious.  I know some of you reading this think I'm full of bologna, but this has been my honest to goodness experience.  In fact, tonight as I practiced one particularly challenging (to me) kata in class, it was the best that I have ever done it.  It wasn't just in my mind.  One of my fellow martial artists commented to me that it was "the best he's ever seen me do that kata, and keep doing whatever it is" I'm doing to study.  I'm not saying it was perfect, but it has come a long way in the last couple weeks, and the only thing I've done to practice is the practice in my head.

All this is just food for thought.  It started years ago with reading an old book called Psycho-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  You can still get it on Amazon, I'm sure.  It's worth the read.

I'd love to hear different techniques or mental exercises that you have tried to improve physical performance.  Please comment below.

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