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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Animal Training

I am listening to a wonderful book called What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage by Amy Sutherland. In it, she explores animal training techniques and how applying them to our relationships can be beneficial. One key concept that she wrote about that caught my attention was Incompatible Behavior.

This technique is to teach animals to do a behavior that is incompatible with a behavior they want to stop. For instance, the author had a problem with one of her dogs harassing her other dog when they got in the car. She opted to teach the harassing dog an incompatible behavior, rather than punish and fight with the situation. The aggressive dog now jumps in the car and immediately starts to lick her on the cheek. Licking her on the cheek is incompatible with harassing the other dog. The dog simply can't do both at one time.

Hmmm....can I possibly use this animal training technique on myself? Instead of punishing myself every time I eat a donut, maybe I could teach myself an incompatible behavior. When I am walking towards Top Pot for a donut purchase, maybe I could go for a walk around the building instead. The reason I am usually headed for the shop has nothing to do with hunger or the nutritional value of the donut, but is more likely stress, self pity or boredom. So a good, healthy stroll around the building would keep my hands away from the sweet, but also give me a physical and mental boost.

I like the idea that I don't have to actually change my behavior. I don't have to stop eating donuts. I just have to train myself to do a new behavior; one that just happens to be incompatible with what I'd like to stop. If it works for dolphins, cheetahs, tigers, parrots, baboons, camels....(you get the idea) might just work on me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Do De Dewing

Often times in nature, I find things that amaze me. More often, it's the smallest things that I hadn't stopped to consider before. One of those things that I "discovered" a few months ago was "dew point." I was so enthralled by the point of dew that I decided to name my new promotion business after it, DewPoint Studios - and here's why:

Dew Point is actually the temperature that the air needs to cool to in order for dew to appear. That temperature varies, depending on humidity and a few other factors. The drier the air, the lower the dew point temperature.

What occurred to me is this is the point of change. Almost like magic, this temperature is when water moves from an unseen vapor to real, tangible water. It's the action point - it's seeing something come to pass, not wishing for it.

Also, "dew" is in the Bible thirty-seven times. It's considered a great blessing of God, even preceding the manna from heaven that God blessed the Israelites with in the desert (Numbers 11:9).

This just translates so well to our goals, dreams and grandest desires. When we identify what we want to happen in the future, it's essentially born into existence - into a vapor. We can't actually see it yet, but it's there. As we work and struggle and fall and triumph, we're creating the right conditions - cooling the air. At the point when we see the dream come true (celebrate that goal weight, sell that painting, hold that baby, finish that race), it's the dew point. We've walked into the reality that was only a vapor before.

What are you DEWing?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Good List

I don't know about you, but I am very good at keep a mental score card of all the 'bad' things I do, say, think, feel or eat. I feel guilty if I may have unintentionally offended someone...who may not really be offended...but I could see how my words might have come off badly...maybe they didn't notice...should I apologize the next day anyway? *sigh* Yeah, I'm an expert at keeping my 'bad' list.

So where's my 'good' list? The 'good' I seem to forget. Making this list feels weird, though. Part of me thinks it's selfish to think about the 'good' things I've said, thought, felt or ate. The bad list keeps me humble...right?

Thanks to a Weight Watchers meeting, my new list is only 14 days old, but it includes one thing a day that I'm proud of or makes me feel good. I wrote down a compliment that someone gave me - in quotes. I wrote down a good decision I made, a salad I ate and an idea that I came up with. 

I'm truly surprised at how this list of 14 things makes me feel about myself and the difference it's made. My life is not a list of bad decisions and I get to acknowledge that. Not only has this list been helpful, but it's also freeing to give myself permission to feel good.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Knitty Gritty Guest Post

My sister is a wonderful writer. My favorite cards that I've kept have been from her when she pours out her heart. She recently wrote this blog for a class and she read it to me over the phone. I found it so inspiring, I asked if I could repost it on my blog. Thankfully, she loves me, so she agreed.....and, she mentions me in the post, so I felt I should share. Enjoy!

The original post is here: A. Riley....Declassified (Thanks Ang!)
Knitty Gritty

"Central to the appeal of knitting is that it wakes like a meditation. Everything become quiet, still and peacful and all the turmoil of life seems to succumb to the silent rhythm of the needles and the orderly progression of the stitches." - June Hemmons Hiatt

I've always enjoyed creating something out of nothing. From the time I made a diorama of a flying bee out of an old clock motor as a kid, just for fun mind you, to more recent ventures like knitting. I didn't have the benefit of a wise elder who has made everything from a simple strand of yarn she spun herself, her nimble fingers showing me how to weave the thread between the needles methodically. Nope, I never do it the easy way. I learned basically from a coloring book.

Learning to knit is not an easy thing to do. My venture started out at first as an obligation. I had taught myself to crochet fairly easily at 23. My sister, generally the best gift giver in history, mistakenly bought me a knit kit for Christmas. Great. Thanks, sis. Now I have to learn. I opened the box and luckily found instructions. Even more fortunately, there were pictures. Soon, I realized the complexity of this overwhelming task. The pictures I was so enthralled about only seemed to confuse more than they helped. Time and time again, I attempted to mimic the visual. Time and time again, I failed. Miserably. Very, very miserably.

I boxed up my present only a few months later in complete frustration. Then I thought, 'What was so hard, really? You're a smart gal, creative and whatnot. Perhaps a little less than graceful with sharp objects, but have another go at it! We can do this thing! WOOOOO!' And I got all pumped up. Again. And I failed. Again, only slightly less miserably.

Over the next year or so, this happened several times. Like having a child, I would forget the pain of birth and want to try again. Finally, something clicked. Something beautiful. What happened next was almost miraculous, transporting me from my year in craft purgutory to the big yarn ball in the sky through gates of golden knitting needles. I knitted. AND purled! The child in me danced to the rhythm of the clicking needles while the adult in me sat in quiet satisfaction of creativity.

The first REAL thing I started to make besides practice swatches was a blanket for my mom. The two hues of purple contrasted the white perfectly. It's progress was punctuated by intermittent delays to make hats, scarves, mittens, baby clothes, etc. It was awfully hot to work on in summer, so winter became prime time to make progress as the blanket grew, stitch by stich, row by row. Three years later at Christmas, I made my mother cry by its sheer beauty. Either that or it was like when you bring a drawing home from kindergarten and your parents shamelessly hang it on the refrigerator to make you feel good. I'd like to think it was more impressive than the finger paint creativity of a five-year-old, but either way, my mom cried. Honestly, the thing was nothing like I originally planned. It was a mere remnant of my idea, with flaws only my overscrutinizing eyes could see. But purple sure is pretty. And I proudly gave my mom her prize.

Still today, I knit. When my needles move in harmony to create beauty out of nothingness, the world stops yelling obscenities at me, if only for a brief moment. Time stops, only to have tocatch up real quick once I stop. And I remember to keep fighting, keep trying, because although you don't know the definite outcome, you know each stitch brings you closer to the dream. Even though it's never as easy as a coloring book picture makes it look.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bend But Not Break

A few of the best trees to have in your yard during a hurricane are Dogwood, Sand Live Oak, Sabal Palm, Crape myrtle and Southern Magnolia, according to the University of Florida and LSU AgCenter.

This really piqued my interest. What properties do these trees have that set them apart? From what I read on these sites, they share similar qualities:

1. They are slow-growing trees.
2. They have a deep penetrating root system and low centers of gravity.
3. They defoliate, or shed their leaves easily, which equals less branch loss.
4. They have a high elasticity and 'modulus of rupture', which is how much the wood can bend before breaking.

There are also recommendations on how to landscape your hurricane-susceptible yard, according to Florida Gardener.

1. The best chance for survival is when trees are planted in groups.
2. Prune trees regularly to keep their center of gravity low.
3. Keep the root system healthy and plant shrubs around the tree to deflect the wind upward.

I know I'm not the only one making the life-application connection here, but I'll lay it out anyway. (this photo is from Florida, of the Fairchild Oak, one of the largest live oak trees in the south)

When we're striving to quit smoking, lose weight or another big, grand goal, we're going to face storms and high winds. What is going to set us apart from someone else that gets uprooted in the process?

1. We will be slow-growing. We'll take the time to do it right. We'll research, learn and grow steadily.
2. We will have deep roots. We all know diets and quick fixes don't work long term. We'll root deeply for the long haul.
3. We will defoliate. We will shed the baggage that would otherwise take us down. Shed past failures, negative self-talk and other fears.
4. We will be elastic. If we too forcefully try to resist the wind, we will be uprooted. Instead, we will bend under the high pressure, but we will not break.

And, how best to care for ourselves?

1. We will root in groups. We'll find other trees like us and become a stronger part of the landscape together.
2. We will prune regularly. We'll be brutally honest with ourselves to prune bad habits or self-made barriers. This will give us a lower center of gravity.
3. We'll take care of our roots. What good is a great root system without a foundation, encouragement and a sense of purpose?

So, friends, let's choose our favorite of the beautiful, resilient trees above and model our lives after them. After all, they lived through the worst hurricanes on record and survived to give us an example. When our storm passes, we, too, will stand upright again, the way we were created.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Have you ever done a bunch of dumb things to avoid something you knew had to be done?  Instead of jumping with both feet towards our dreams, we avoid it by....eating donuts, playing video games, watching a movie, eating donuts, checking on all our Facebook friends, writing a blog.....  None of things are wrong, but if done simply to avoid something else, they can't truly be enjoyed.

If we have a dream we're going after, but aren't sure how to get there -- wouldn't it be better to sit down and map out a plan than to run to Home Depot to remodel the bathroom?  While the bathroom project may be necessary, after it's completed, the details of the big dream still haven't been solved.  In this case, Breath-taking Bathroom = Disorganized Dream.

Let's say we made our New Year's resolution to lose weight, but we never join a gym, buy vegetables, seek out a plan that works, find support or get rid of the Cheetos -- instead we go to the local animal shelter and get a cat.  Hurray for saving the cat's life, but what about our life?   We get an immediate feel-good, but still haven't dealt with the long term needs.

It's hard to be human.  We feel feelings.  Feelings don't always feel good.  Love is amazing, but a broken heart can kill us.  Maybe it's easier to eat than to feel lonely?  But, maybe, if we took the time to feel our feelings, we could deal with them.  Maybe really feeling loneliness could lead to action which brings internal comfort.  Maybe actually confronting the disappointment in the mirror can lead to the true desire to change.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Blog Design

Nothing profound, but check out my new blog design! I had fun creating it. I wanted something easier on the eyes and pretty.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Six Feet to Food

I have to be honest. I don't think I could ever make it as a giraffe. I think I would have died in birth.

First, the mama giraffe has to remain standing during the birth. If she sits, she'll crush the baby. What this means is that poor baby giraffe has a SIX FOOT drop to the ground when it's born....head first, I might add.

Second, baby giraffes are generally standing on their new legs within 30 minutes. Uh, yeah, because that's where the food is. It's not like when human babies get handed to their moms, cozy, wrapped-up and laying in our arms. Nope. Mama's up high. It has to work for it.

Let's review. Hit the ground with my head from a six-foot drop, then I have to work like crazy to get my new legs to order to eat. No time to rest, get used to the light of the world, the feel of the grass...simply survival of the most determined.

Well, on second thought, we may be more like that baby giraffe than I thought. We have goals, dreams and desires that feel like they are outside of our reach. We may feel like we've been dropped on our heads with only four wobbly legs as tools. Let's take heart and follow the way of the baby giraffe. Our life may be at stake.

* Squeamish Warning: Actual giraffe birth with head-drop and wobbly legs - not exactly 'pretty'*

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What's in a Name?

I briefly met a woman recently whom I see every day. I performed my usual smile and nod, but after I met her, I added a little half wave too. About a week after our introduction, we walked past each other and she said my name in her greeting. I was truly shocked...and then touched. She remembered me.

Names are identities. We might not love our parents' choice or maybe hate when people misspell it, but it identifies who we are on a certain level - one that separates us from the majority.

Want to inspire and encourage someone today? Say their name. They may also need a good inspirational quote or a thoughtful compliment, but when you match that with what identifies them as unique, it makes it personal.

Classic example: watch You've Got Mail again (as if we need an excuse, right?!) and watch the scene with Tom Hanks in the grocery store where he convinces the store employee, Rose, to do something she didn't initially want to do. It's a beautiful example of identifying with a stranger by using their name.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pick Your Hard

This isn't an original. I don't claim it. I heard it at a Weight Watchers meeting about a year ago. Today, it came back to me.

Losing weight is hard.
Being overweight is hard.

Pick your hard.

Funny that today, I realized that this is everything in life. Going after your passion is hard, but sitting on your passion is hard. Keeping faith through tough times is hard, but losing your faith is hard.

So what "hards" are you trying to choose between? It's all hard, my friends. Pick the one that gives you the ultimate joy in pursuing. Yeah, it's hard, but pick the hard that worth it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Trail Blazing

A friend of mine put a seed of a thought in my head a couple days ago. It's bounced around until it's become this:

When we meet resistance in going after our goals, it's not a sign we should quit. We're just blazing our own trail and that takes effort. The path will get clearer and easier to travel, but we have to get through it a few times.

At least we don't have to buy our log homes from the Sears catalog and build them ourselves, like the original trail blazers who headed out west.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

Monday, January 11, 2010

How Average Are You?

The average American will eat 35,000 cookies in a lifetime and spends 120 hours a month watching television, the equivalent of five complete days in front of the TV. (

The average American woman spends 55 minutes per day getting showered, dressed, and groomed. (

The average Facebook user has 130 friends on the site, spends more than 55 minutes per day on Facebook and clicks the Like button on 9 pieces of content each month. (

In 1941 the average woman was 5' 2", 129 pounds. Today she is 5' 4" and weighs 144 lbs (wearing between a 12 and 14). (

The average person keeps old magazines for 29 weeks before they throw them out. (

The average college GPA is 3.11 (from 2007 -

The average family has more televisions than people. (,28804,1674995_1683300,00.html)

As of third quarter 2008, the average person in the U.S. watched approximately 142 hours of TV in one month.  In addition, people who used the Internet were online 27 hours a month, and people who used a mobile phone spent 3 hours a month watching mobile video. (

The latest study on the average number of texts for American teenagers is from Q4 2008, reported by the New York Times.  Ready?  2,272 text messages per month. (

I’ve been thinking about averages lately.  What are they and why do we care?  Averages can make us feel good, like we belong….and sometimes not. We seek out these number and hope that we fall in a range of numbers that are acceptable.   In the end, they are just numbers. Numbers, like those random things on the scale. 

Personally, I’ve probably blown through the 35,000 cookies in my lifetime so far. My family has the same number of TVs and computers as people and I have 173 Facebook friends to date. In 1941, I would have been taller and heavier than the average woman, but now, I’m shorter and lighter.

So what?

I’ve decided my job is to be the best I can be. I am to do the greatest thing I can do in a given moment, no matter what the "average" calls me to do. I have a family to love, a serious set of goals to work on and dreams to accomplish. If I set my eyes on what is average, average is what I’ll get in return. I’m aiming for the moon - - how about you?

“Refuse to be average. Let your heart soar as high as it will.” - A. W. Tozer

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars." - Les Brown

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sometimes We Fall

Last month, we experienced a bit of an icy blast in the Northwest.  My car fishtailed as I took my son to school through the neighborhood.  When we finally parked by the sidewalk, I turned to him and explained that it was very icy outside and that we would have to be careful.  I told him we could hang on to each other, but that we would have to BE CAREFUL.  As I was explaining this, a group of older kids walked by our car.  As if on queue, two of them dropped to the ground right outside his window.  "See?" I said and I used the older kids as an example of not being careful.

I walked to his door and slipped a bit.  "See?" I said. I moved my boot over the ice to show him how slick it was.  I told him to take it slow and pay attention to his steps.  I know, I know.  I'm beginning to annoy myself with all of my motherly warnings.

The boy hops out of the car, both feet fly out from under him and he is INSTANTLY on the ground.  His rear landed with a thud and the wind was knocked out of him.  He was stunned at first and then started crying.

I think my exact word to him was, "DUDE!"  I couldn't have prepped him more if I tried - even having living bad examples - and he flopped to the ground anyway.  But, over the next couple icy days, he didn't come close to slipping again.  Even today, when it was raining outside, he paused before stepping on the sidewalk and asked me if it was slippery.

Sometimes, no amount of warning or talking or examples will make a difference.  Sometimes, our rears have to hit the ground - H-A-R-D - before we can really understand.  But after we hit, it's what we do after that makes all the difference.  We can learn.  We can adjust.  We can become more stable.  Or, we can sit on the sidewalk and cry for the rest of our lives.