Friday, August 30, 2013

SLOW DOWN CHALLENGE : DAY 5: GIVE THANKS

Giving thanks wasn't a challenge today because last year it was one of my resolutions to make it a daily habit. 

Wait, I take that back. While I do make it a habit to be grateful every day I realized that I fail to vocalize it to certain people who need to hear it. Typically, my prayers of gratitude are done in silence on my commute to and from work, or during my prayer times. 

I don't know when my Fridays evolved into stressful anxiety-ridden days at work. While most people in the office are thankful for Fridays I'm beginning to dread them. I try to walk into the building with a positive attitude and mindset believing things will be different. 

Today, I planned on breaking away during my lunch break to walk outside in the sunshine and find something I'm grateful for. It didn't happen. 

Hence, the photo above. My caption on Instagram read: Giving thanks for whatever it takes to get me through this hellacious day at the cube farm: coffee, prayers, essential oils, and my super "friends."

Stress, which leads to anxiety, which causes fatigue, clouds my lenses of gratitude. In this state it almost feels good to wallow in the muck of my distress. But I pull myself out of it fast because I know it is only causing me long-term harm. It's akin to binging on a box of Krispy Kreme donuts after eating clean for months. You're left with a cramping gut, nausea, and bile rising from your throat. 

And no, I've never binged on a box of Krispy Kreme donuts but after eating one and feeling horrible afterwards I could only imagine what 11 more would do. 

Now that I've completed Jeff Goins' 5-day Slow Down Challenge, what next? 

It's up to me to remember to slow down, take time to notice my world, savor my days, let go of control, focus on one task instead of manic multi-tasking, and give thanks to my loved ones. 




Thursday, August 29, 2013

SLOW DOWN CHALLENGE | DAY 4: LET GO

Interruptions are pesky nuisances. I hold my schedule close with an overprotectiveness rivaling a mama bear. Anything that threatens to disturb the flow of my time causes me to roar with ferocity. 

Let's take the month of August. On August 1st I let everyone close to me know that I had three articles to write, a portrait session, and a wedding I'm second shooting so please leave me the F alone. 

I wrote, planned, and organized my daily schedule to the millisecond. I think I was cruising along for a few days until I heard the screech of brakes and smelled burnt rubber. 

My oldest daughter was paying us an impromptu visit for four days and although it was a welcome interruption, I knew it was going to be difficult to get my groove back. She was going through a break up and Mom was needed. 

That wasn't the only interruption this month but I won't bore you with the details. 

Jeff Goins says interruptions need to be welcomed into our lives because: 
  • They teach us to let go of control.
  • They remind us life is not just about "me."
  • They help us become more patient.
If that's true then I'm still a selfish, impatient, control freak. 

In the past year since I've learned the discipline of meditation I noticed I hold my breath for long periods of time when I'm stressed. I should be brain dead for the lack of oxygen I cause myself. 

Today's challenge was to let go  and allow interruptions to help us grow. 

I think I've mentioned that I use my lunch breaks to work out. Today was no exception but the difference was I finally listened to Rylee when she interrupted my dumbbell plank rows to draw with her. Fine with me since I think I strained my obliques. 

Had I not stopped my madness I wouldn't have known how quickly she solved the math addition problems I wrote out on her sketchbook. It took her less than 10 minutes which earned her four gold stars. When asked how she figured them out so quickly she grinned, "I used my brain, mind, and fingers!" 

I rose up to today's challenge but it's up to me to make welcoming interruptions a daily habit. 







Wednesday, August 28, 2013

SLOW DOWN CHALLENGE | DAY 3: FOCUS

There’s nothing more amusing than watching myself whirling and twirling in my chair multi-tasking in my smugness to get things done. I laugh at myself because really, who am I kidding?

I used to focus on one task at a time. Mainly, it was reading a book, which was a source of contention for my parents. Growing up they called me lazy because I had a one-track mind geared toward books.

I’ve changed since I was a kid but I can’t say it’s for the better. I can never focus on ONE task anymore. Often distracted by technology I’ll be writing one minute, checking Instagram the next, looking at Twitter soon after, then reading e-mails that just came in, wait, let me just edit five photos while I can, and hey, gotta squeeze in some bicep curls. 

Press repeat.

Oh, and let’s not talk about how I’m reading five books at a time, one chapter at a time. Currently, I have two e-books on my e-reader and three books in my bag.

Who needs intervention?

I had no clue what Jeff Goins’s challenge was going to be today but I giggled when I saw it.

Focus on one task I need to accomplish.

I spent my lunch break making final edits to an article I was working on for My Refuge House: What Human Trafficking Means To Me. With my cell phone clicked off and work computer locked, I revised to my heart’s content.

Except, my attention was solely on editing that I edited on top of the edits. I’m my own worst editor.

I got it done and submitted it earlier tonight. This is pretty freakin’ sweet if you ask me since it’s the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream Speech.” What a way to honor the man who spoke of freedom and equality with an article on what human trafficking means to me.

Since this has become one of my life quotes, I'd like to focus on it today:

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects & enhances the freedom of others." ~Nelson Mandela











Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SLOW DOWN CHALLENGE | DAY 2: SAVOR

In today's challenge Jeff Goins suggested we savor food but for me that's no challenge. I'm a 45-year-old whose wearing braces for the first time in my life so eating food with meticulous care is not an option. 

What's more challenging is savoring moments with my loved ones, especially today when smartphones consume our attention. Compound that with my full-time job, photography business, writing, volunteering, and working out then I'm on constant overdrive. 

The older I get the less efficient I am at multi-tasking. I'm a certified nutcase trying to do too many things at once. 

When I work from home I spend my lunch break either working out, exercising to a DVD, answering phone calls/texts/emails for my photography business, editing photos, scouring the internet for social justice issues, reading emails about human trafficking or trying to work on my current writing project. 

I know it sounds very productive. NOT! 

Today when my granddaughter invited me to play with her in our backyard I acquiesced. I savored her game of freeze, running around in a yard I didn't know was infested with lizards of all shapes and sizes. I'm sorry but anything reptilian transforms me into a squeamish mess. Yet, today, I savored. Man did I SAVOR. 

When Rylee sqealed, "Awww look at the baby lizard on my bike, Gramma! Look! Look! Hey, come back, where are you going!!!! Look at how cute the baby lizard is!" I went back and savored the cuteness of the baby lizard. 

For the rest of the day I made sure I savored other moments and loved ones to permanently erase the image of the baby reptile searing my brain. On this second day of slowing down I've gone from 100mph to 80mph and hopefully I can get to cruising speed soon. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

SLOW DOWN CHALLENGE | DAY 1 : NOTICE

Last Friday I posted a photo on my Facebook page challenging people to pause and look at their world with a childlike reverence. God must have been knocking on the door of my heart to slow the heck down...AGAIN! 

I fall into these ha-I-got-it-under-control moments when I fool myself into believing everything I'm doing is fine. I'm meditating, exercising, praying, reading the word, finding solitude, and using essential oils to reach my idyllic place. 

Then I'm told I'm a monster when I've got writing deadlines. I admit, I get freakish and stressed. Please tell me I'm not the only writer who turns into a beast while in the midst of writing? 

Last week Rylee's constant lament was "GRAMMA! Why do you always have to write?! You need to quit all of that RIGHT NOW!" 

It's my third month writing for the social justice team for The Good Men Project (you can find my latest article here) and I'll admit the added responsibility has disturbed the semi-chaotic flow of my life. But here's the thing, writing is all I've ever wanted to do since I learned how to read and write. 

Writing words, reading words, and constructing words into coherent sentences gives me an acute sense of existence (and purpose). I was a fool to believe the people closest to me would understand. 

When I write I put my entire being into it---blood, sweat, tears, angst, heart, soul, determination---E V E R Y T H I N G. It's impossible for me to bust out an article the way I do a blog post because there's extensive research and fact checking involved. But those closest to me act like I could just pull an article out of my a$$ and voila, written piece completed! I wish! 

Also, I've learned to be close-lipped about it to others because their attitude is "Hey, you agreed to this it's your fault you're busy and overwhelmed." Or, "Oh, so you got suckered into it." 

Of course I had to make adjustments to my life. To make room for my writing I stepped down from church ministry because I felt it was something I had to do. Now, I only book 2 photography sessions per month as opposed to cramming as many sessions as I can on the weekends. I've also been firm with my friends about not having the extra time for socializing because what little free time I have goes to my family. 

Which brings me to the slowing down part...

I catch myself in this pattern often and I need to press pause long enough to notice, really notice, what's in front of me. I miss so many details of my day because of it and THAT, my friends, is a tragedy. 

Call it serendipity or coincidence but today I noticed on my Twitter feed that Jeff Goins was having a Slow Down Challenge.  I scrolled down quickly hoping to ignore it but my heart beat faster. It was time to press the pause button.  

So here I am. 

For today's challenge I walked to the beach on my lunch break which I haven't done in over a year. Summer is almost over and I regularly run/walk during my lunch break but didn't venture farther to enjoy the beach for 10 minutes like I used to. 

I noticed the warm breeze on my face making my skin tingle as I walked down the hill . I noticed the yellow weed flowers growing in the middle of a heap of dirt causing the dingy sidewalk to burst with color. 

When I walked across the sand toward the jetty noticed people laying out trying to savor the last days of summer. (I used to ignore these people because I was in a hurry to get back to work.) While noticing how blue the sky was my eyes caught the lifeguard escaping the heat in the shadow of the lifeguard station. (Again, I never paid attention to the lifeguard station in my previous lunchtime jaunts to the beach.) 

Most of all I noticed the kids running along the jetty with their buckets and makeshift crab catchers made out of twine and plastic forks. (See photo above.) I even made eye contact with one of the kids and smiled at him whereas before I'd be so overprotective of my lunch hour I'd ignore them. 

Day 1 isn't over yet and I plan on noticing what others are overlooking.




Monday, August 12, 2013

LESSONS FROM MY GRANDDAUGHTER




"Everyone is leaving me what are we going to do tonight?!" 

Her voice reached through my phone and managed to twist my heart into a knot. That ache. Part pain and an abundance of love only a grandparent is privy to. You want to make her feel better, comfort her, make her happy. 

I was on Grandma duty last weekend and Rylee interrupted my morose mood which is the norm on Fridays at the cube farm. Casual Fridays taunt me in their oxymoronic existence because my Fridays are hardly casual. It's the busiest day of the week and I couldn't wait to get home in time to take Rylee to Barnes and Noble before they closed. It was Book Lovers' Day after all and she was stuck with me all weekend. 

Books made her forget that her mommy was gone for the weekend but Ray and I promised her the OC Fair on Saturday morning. She was beyond ecstatic. With the $3.00 admission between 10-11 a.m. we scored big in bringing happiness to my grandchild. 

What I didn't expect was to learn a few life lessons from Rylee while I mentally checked off how quickly our $20 budget dwindled to nothing. While we cooled off in the shaded building of the Fun Zone Rylee was drawn to the excitement happening onstage. 

The Fun Zone was like daycare at the fair where parents could either supervise their children or rest their aching feet while kids explored the different activities set up in the building. On stage a contest was in full swing and that's where Rylee wanted to be. Three young contestants had 30 seconds to fill their paper plate with plastic objects using metal tongs. 

"Gramma! I want to do that!"

Inwardly I cringed. My overprotective granny meter was on overdrive and I wanted to shield her from hurt, disappointment, and failure. Distracting her with the maze behind the stage was futile. 

Determination sparked out of her eyes and knew I was done for when she looked up at me. Powerless to say no I gave her permission to enter the contest. 

As she stood in line I observed the expressions on Rylee's face as the cogs in her brain worked out a strategy to win. Missing from her face were fear, doubt, and apprehension. In that brief moment I envied her fearlessness, asking myself how I lost it in my old age. 

Rylee won 2nd place in the contest but you couldn't tell she didn't take 1st. There was no sadness or disappointment tainting her beloved face and she held up the little rubber ducky prize in a victorious salute. 

"I've always wanted a rubber ducky!" she squealed.

Coming in 2nd place didn't trash her confidence like it would've done to the adult me. It was inconsequential considering the prize she received in the form of the little rubber ducky her heart desired. 

Ray and Rylee walked away to see the next attraction oblivious to my contemplative silence behind them. There, at the OC flippin' Fair, I was reminded of the cowardice, fear, and self-doubt that still plagues me. 

Tonight I'm hovering on the borders of panic land. It's the middle of August and I have nothing in my arsenal of article ideas. There's a vast world of social injustice yet I've got nothing to write about. Zero. 

Cowardice whispers in my ear. "You've been fooling yourself. You're not a writer. Quit while you're ahead. It's too hard." 

Self-doubt nudges me. "Yo! You're not good enough. The last article was your best and that's it. You're done! You can't do better than that." 

Fear taunts me. "You will fail this month and won't submit any articles. You're a fraud!" 

So I sit still, take a deep cleansing breath, and tell my triple threat to shut the F up! There are remnants of an inner child inside of me that isn't enslaved by doubt and fear who faces a challenge with a steadfast determination. She's no stranger to me because I recognized her in my own granddaughter's face at the OC Fair. 

What is it about adulthood that robs us of our mojo? When do we allow the opinion of others to stop us from dreaming the impossible or having the confidence that we excel in our gifts? Why do we hide our childlike bravado behind a false mask of bad ass? 

I'm tired of cowering in terror to move forward with faith in my gifts and talents. I need to give myself permission to fail and learn from it so I can do better. I have to remind myself that there will be off days and right-on days. 

When I submit the three articles I need to write this month I'll hold my fist up high in triumph knowing I got the rubber ducky I've always wanted! 












Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BOOK LOVERS' DAY | AUGUST 9

Attention my fellow bibliophiles! Did you know this Friday, August 9, is Book Lovers' Day?! Why haven't I heard about this until now?! If you're on Instagram let's be friends and tag me (NRica40Photo) in your Book Lovers' Day photos because I want to see how you're celebrating! Happy reading!

Book Lovers Day
Illustration by Ghergich & Co.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I BELIEVE

 
 
Because it's the first Monday of August and I need a kick-in-the-butt reminder that Life is filled with blessings.