My Muse

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So, if you look up the definition of the word “muse” as a noun, it will tell you that a muse refers to “a person- especially a woman- who is a source of artistic inspiration”. If you look at the word “muse” as a verb, it means to “consider something thoughtfully”.

 
Thank goodness, we’ve thrown gender roles out the window, since my muse is a man. At the risk of sounding sappy, he is my verb and my noun.

 
Anybody that knows him would tell you that he’s not always the easiest person to get along with. Heck, he’ll tell you that himself. But, he’s usually right, and he is definitely the yin to my yang.

 
He is supportive of my choice to be a writer. In fact, he rarely reads anything I write. It’s not because he’s not interested. He doesn’t want his opinions to taint my writing style. He has confidence in my ability to get my point across, and will not proofread my work. My muse challenges me to get better every day, and that encourages me to work towards doing so.

 
He will help me with the organization of my business and my production schedules, which is so helpful to me. He is supportive as I navigate through the learning curves that are inevitable with any business. Although he has been dreaming of retirement, he has delayed that dream while I establish my career.

 
So, while other writers, artists, painters, and musicians may be inspired by whimsy and beauty, I am inspired by a strong and steady muse. And, I am ever so grateful.

-Cat

 

 

Making A Difference – Going Viral

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I was going to use the starfish story to make my point here, but I think that’s been overdone. Instead, I’ll go with the marketing of Faberge Organics shampoo.  These commercials ran in the eighties, so the story might be new to some of you.

The premise is that you’ll use this shampoo.  Then you’ll tell two friends.  And then they’ll tell two friends.  Who will tell two friends.  And so on, and so on…

This is a perfect example of viral marketing, although it didn’t have a flashy name in the eighties.  Let’s apply it to making a difference and impacting your circle of influence.  Oh, you didn’t know you had a circle of influence?  You do.  It’s made up of the guy that gets your coffee in the morning, the guy pumping gas next to you at the gas station, and the lady at the bank.  It includes your boss, coworkers, and customers.  It even encompasses your family, your friends, and your neighbors.  You get the idea. When you tally all this up exponentially, you’re a pretty big deal!

So, starting every day with a clean slate, you make a choice with each of these interactions.  You decide whether to make a human connection.  You can smile and say “good morning”, or you can avoid eye contact. You can approach with a pleasant attitude, and recognize that everyone needs encouragement.  Perhaps you’d rather go around with a chip on your shoulder.  It could be that you feel stressed and rushed, and you can’t be bothered.  Maybe you are shy, or maybe even snobby.  Or, you might think it’s better to stick to yourself and mind your own business.

It’s definitely safer to stay in your shell and avoid the world.  There’s not much risk in that.  Neither is there any reward.  Make yourself unapproachable, and there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be approached. But, you’re not cashing in… remember, you’re a big deal.

Here’s my strategy:  Let people know who you are, and that it matters to you whether they have a good day.  Say hello, and offer your warmth.  Exert your superpower and unleash your sunshine on everyone that you meet.  Some people will roll their eyes.  Some people will look away.  But, most people will respond in kind.

Back to the shampoo commercial.  These people will use their influence, which has been lifted by you, with the people that they meet in the course of their day.  And so on… You get the picture.  Instead of going viral with videos of silly stuff, let’s be serious about being joyful and spreading that joy.  Take it to the next level!

Who wins in this scenario?  Everyone that responds to you, and everyone that they pass it on to.  Do you know who benefits the most from this?  It’s you!

See what you can do tomorrow!

-Cat

All I Want for Christmas

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Emotions run strong for a lot of people during the holidays.  A lot of anxiety centers around getting people just the right gift.  Along with that goes the pressure to spend a lot of money.  This will supposedly prove how much the recipient means to gift giver.  Sometimes, this expectation is there, whether you can afford it or not.

I’ve scaled back quite a bit from my younger days.  What I’ve found out is that shopping early with a plan and a budget makes the holidays less stressful.  What I’ve also learned is that it’s the same Christmas.  It doesn’t matter if you spend $50 or $500 per person.  The enjoyment of the holiday is the same.  Except that you don’t have the January hangover after the December spending binge.

I cringe when I see young people at work fretting over buying a $2000 bag, for someone who they’ve been dating a couple of months.  It’s sad when we have to buy someone a gaming system, and a ton of games to prove our love.  A big screen TV always screams I LOVE YOU!

I think what bothers me the most are the car commercials.  Just about all the auto manufacturers that run these this time of year.  I know you’ve seen the Lexus with the red bow on it.   This is so disheartening.  It’s a small percentage of the population that can afford to buy a brand new luxury car for a Christmas gift.  Sure, some people can do it, but should they?  Why do car companies have the nerve to put this kind of pressure on people?  It’s sad, in my opinion.

Where does the Christmas spirit figure in here?  What does this holiday even mean anymore?  I’m sticking to my strategy.  I’m thinking about the person I’m buying for.  I’m considering their interests and their passions, and buying each person on my list a heartfelt gift or two.  I’m not breaking the bank, or going into debt to do it.  I shouldn’t have fall into financial trouble for anyone to know that I love them.

I hope you find something fun to do together, see some cool Christmas lights, and have a nice meal with loved ones.  I have a friend that hands out purses filled with personal items to homeless women on Christmas morning.  That’s her tradition.  I’m not that awesome, but it warms my heart to know she does it.

The holidays are hard for folks that have lost someone.  Don’t feel awkward about giving them a hug and some encouragement.  It’s a rough time of year for lots of people.  You don’t have to buy them a luxury car, just shine a little of your light on them, so it’s not so dark in their life.

– Cat

One Foot in Front of the Other

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We all encounter dark days as we take this journey through life.  Sometimes we feel as though we just can’t take any more.  It is during this time that you have to keep pushing, even if you don’t see the point.

The point is that this is the ebb and flow of life.  Nobody escapes the roller coaster effect.  Sometimes you are traveling down a path and something happens to force a fork in the road.  Decision time.  Sometimes you reach a corner, and there seems to be a signpost.  One side says “Your Life Now”, and the other says “No Longer an Option”.

Sometimes you walk through a door, then turn back only to find the door is locked.  Okay… enough gloomy examples.  What I want to you remember is that, no matter what, keep putting one foot in front of the other.  There is a light, and you will find it.  But you must keep moving forward.

If you feel as though this doesn’t apply to you, and that you’ve got everything figured out, more power to you!  Most people who I’ve met will struggle from time to time.  Tell us the secret in the comments section of this post.  I have these dark days too.  I’m not saying I have everything dialed in.  I’m just sharing what I’ve learned in the hopes that it will help you.

I think the critical issue is faith.  I don’t necessary mean faith in God, or in a higher being, although that will work well.  Let’s call it the faith that things will work out exactly like they’re supposed to.   We can all agree that it’s hard to know whether something is a blessing or a curse until you’re on the other side of it.  Sometimes you never find out.

If you are a person that prays, how many times have you caught yourself praying, “Here’s my problem, God, and here’s how you need to fix it!”  We run into trouble when we assume that we know the big picture.  That’s impossible for anyone to know, as our lives are revealed to us bit by bit, not on a big map or relevant timeline.

Yes, make goals for yourself.  Yes, have dreams and work towards fulfilling them.  Give yourself that sense of direction.  But, for every disappointment, or setback you perceive, have faith and keep it going, step by step.  If you see that someone else has stumbled, pick them up and remind them to keep going.  Offer encouragement where you can.  There are plenty of opportunities to go around.

Accept encouragement from others.  You deserve it.

Keep it going!

– Cat

Self-Esteem – Where Can I Get It?

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There is so much talk these days about self-esteem.

Sometimes people hold others accountable for damage… or even possible damage, to their self-esteem.  We often feel that high self esteem is something that we’re all entitled to.  Some folks think that everything hinges on it.  Others downplay it’s importance.  It’s definitely become a catch phrase.

I can hold you in high esteem, but I can’t hold you in high self-esteem. Self- esteem comes from within the self, not from external sources.  It is how you view yourself, take pride in yourself, and is often reflected in the way you care for yourself.

How can you make an impact on the way you view yourself?  What you do, and what you say to yourself, should be your concentration. Here’s how you can do you… and increase your self-esteem while you’re at it.

Find Some Work Worth Doing

When you spend your time contributing to society, you will feel your self-esteem blossom and grow.  This is usually done through your work, which is where you spend most of your waking hours.  Unemployed? Use this time to learn a new skill, do some self-reflection, and make good use of your time out.  Can you volunteer? Do something that interests you.

Be Helpful

Just pitch in.  Get started.  We all have talents that we fail to use to their potential.  If nothing else, we all need encouragement.  Ask yourself “who can I encourage today?”.  A smile goes a long way.  Make it your goal to give smiles away and collect them in equal measure.

Forgive Yourself

Are you experiencing depression, financial trouble, or relationship problems?  It’s easy to blame yourself.  Start today to forgive yourself.  “Why can’t I feel better?”, “Why am I so bad with money?”, “Why can’t I make my partner happy?”.  Feeling guilty and beating yourself up never works as a strategy for coping.

Talk to Yourself

You can run a negative talk track with yourself, or a positive one.  You have total control over what you tell yourself.  Even if you have to “fake it until you make it”, you have got to nourish yourself with kind words.  No matter what your issues are, you just can’t afford the luxury of talking down to yourself.

Have an Open Heart

What do I mean by that?  I mean that you approach everyone you meet with an open heart.  Be willing to be present in every interaction.  Don’t downplay the importance of connecting.   Listen and reflect on the conversations you have with others. Every path you cross is an opportunity for you to make a connection outside of yourself.

So, to wrap it up, how you choose to spend your time and resources can bring you the biggest sense of pride in yourself.  Don’t wait for others to serve you up a heaping dish of self-esteem.  No matter the circumstances, your self esteem is yours to claim!

    – Cat

You Could Spell Pigeon If You Had The Right Letters

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Photo by Tyler Lambert

 

In my family, we play Scrabble.  My daughter plays. I play. My Mom plays. Her Mom played.  Other women in our family, as well as close family friends, have joined in over the generations.  We even let the men play from time to time.  We’ve had marathon games, and we’ve  heard stories about memorable games over the years.  It’s kind of like sports in other families.  At family gatherings, we would fix dinner, eat, clean up, and settle in to play.

My daughter has the deluxe version of the game, with the rotating turntable board.  It’s the actual one that I bought for my Granny.  The styrofoam is missing from one corner.  It was chewed away by a raccoon that got into it at Granny’s house, when she stored it in the basement.  Inside the lid, you can find documented historical moves.  You can see the date when Granny’s best friend, Francis, dumped her rack.  You can also see particularly high score games and other outstanding accomplishments.

My husband is from Scotland. We played Scrabble on our wedding night.  He likes to think he can use words that are common usage in the UK, but I only allow this when we are playing in UK.  He is a good player, and it’s usually a pretty close game between us.  I keep a little notebook in my Scrabble box, so that I can keep a dated record of every game played.  My letter tiles are in a bag that my Mom sewed for me after the original bag gave out.  It’s made out of a pig print fabric, because I love pigs.

You see, there is a reason why you have to get dinner, and all the clean up, done before you start to play.  You never know when a game is going to end.  It’s not unheard of for a nap to happen between moves.  There is a story of one such game that has been retold many times in our family. It presents a great analogy for life, so it’s value is immeasurable.

So, Granny, Francis, and her Aunt Clydie, are playing into the night.  Granny’s son, my Uncle Chris, is a little boy sitting on laps.  He  moves around the table as the women take their turns.  He knows he is not allowed to give away any secrets.  He can see all of the letters on everyone’s rack, and studies them as he moves from seat to seat.  The play is long, the room is quiet.  My Uncle looks up and says “You could spell PIGEON if you had the right letters”.  Everyone has a good laugh at this punchline.

The point is, you can spell anything if you have the right letters.  So it is with life.  As you move through life, you will sometimes get the distinct feeling that your rack is full of vowels, without a consonant in sight.  Sometimes, you have all the high scoring letters, but you’re sunk without a vowel. Then there are the times when you’ve got an awesome word, but no place to play it.  Some days, everything works for you, and you dump your rack.  You will struggle as you grow, trying to beat your Mom, or your Granny, in a game.  When you do, it may not feel as sweet as you expected.

You get to pick your letters, but you don’t get to see them first…  Just like life.  We need to accept our letters and play our best every day.  It’s always easier when every thing goes your way, and your letters are perfect. Sometimes, though, when you have no other options, just play your word and move on. 

I’m My Mom. By the Way, My Daughter is Me.

So, the audiologist looks at me and says “You have mild to moderate hearing loss”.  It sunk in.  I remember when my Mom started losing her hearing.  I would get so annoyed when she would ask me multiple times to repeat myself.  Sometimes she would answer the question she thought you asked.  Never mind the actual question.  My Granny, Mom’s  Mom, was deaf at the end of her long life too.

I’m older now.  I am becoming my Mother.

In so many ways, I’m lucky to be like her.  She always says hello and starts a conversation with strangers.  She likes to help.  She’s quick-witted.  She has a weird sense of humor.  She has the Scrabble gene that runs strong in our family. She loves music.  She doesn’t watch sports.  She loves to hear and tell stories.  I’m so lucky to have her.

I have a daughter now.  She is the very best parts of me and her father all mushed together.  Although we’ve always been friends, I always admired her because she was different than me.  She never went through that bitchy teenage phase. I did.  She always seemed very quiet and private to me.  She is an artist.  She used to be embarrassed when I talked to strangers.  She always seemed wise beyond her years, and sometimes I wasn’t sure who was raising who.  She’s all grown up now, married, and has a son.  I love him to pieces.

We share a lot of things.  She calls me nearly every morning and we talk about EVERYTHING.  We both love music, even though we’re not musicians. We share and build playlists together. All her brothers are musicians. She and I are fans.   She encourages me, and I return that encouragement.  She talks to strangers more than she used to.  We play a game of Scrabble now and then.  She’s good at it.  She has a weird sense of humor. She loves to help, and teaching is her passion. I’m so lucky to have her.

My daughter is becoming me.  Still different in so many ways, but I’m starting to notice the similarities more. She’s older now.

She’s having a baby in June.  I hope it’s a girl.

 

  •  Cat