DEF CON 26

I returned home yesterday from DEF CON in Las Vegas. I attended with my teammates from Defiant. As we are a remote team, this is our annual get together for some face-to-face meetings, hacking escapades, and some fun. I knew there would be a lot of people there. I was woefully unprepared for the sheer crush of humanity.

I brought my kids. After living in Mount Shasta, they haven’t traveled a ton lately. They had never seen Las Vegas. Mark took them around to sightsee while I did work things. We also got a badge for Max to attend DEF CON. Of course, Claire was jealous and wanted to see too. So we swapped badges for a bit so she could visit the R00tz Asylum village and play. Both of my kids had a BLAST. And I had fun, too. Claire wore her Pen Tester for Hire t-shirt to school today. I hope it is well revered.

Max and I attended a talk on hackable touchscreens that ended up on Wired before we even left the room. When the webcam intrusion lit up the screen during the talk, Max’s eyes lit up, too.

Meeting my teammates and bosses for the first time was great.

I felt a little torn having both family and work at the same event — I wanted to spend time with everyone — but it all worked out. I had some heart-to-heart talks with my friends and laughs with my family. And the crescendo of them all together on the last night was amazing. 

There may or may not be video of me dancing to Michael Jackson. (Spoiler: there is)

Ceasar’s Palace was lovely. Until the last night. Others have written about the hotel security checks more eloquently than I ever could. We had a visit, and I just let Mark handle it. If I was alone, I probably would have been much more upset about the visit. If I was alone with the kids, I would have been freaked out.

They had said that we had not had our room serviced, and that meant they had to inspect the room. Problem is, we DID have our room serviced. There was no valid reason for the visit from Ceasar’s Palace security, even though it got sorted out quickly. No one else on our team had a visit. All in all, it was weird. 

It’s over, though, and so I have turned my attention and focus to the good memories.

Not nearly as long as I thought it would be.
DEF CON Patrol included golden retrievers. (Not sure these folks were here for DEF CON.)
Send your USB drives to North Korea. 
Mr. Bean (at least the cardboard cutout of him) came along with us.

That all being said, I’m fairly certain it will be my first, and last, DEF CON. 

 

Someone Moved

We moved to Phoenix in mid-June. I don’t yet feel at home. The oppressive heat has been wearing on me, but I can see an end to the furnace-inspired onslaught soon. I find ways to stay positive and adapt.

I like the skies here. 

Last night, a dear friend from Mount Shasta called.

Before I could even lament the heat, he said, “I know you’re homesick. I know it’s hot there. But if you were here, you’d have to deal with the heat AND the smoke. When the winds are from the north, it’s smoke from fires in Oregon. When they’re from the south, it’s smoke from Redding.”

The fires have been giving me a strong case of survivor’s guilt. My heart is still firmly planted in Mount Shasta. What happens there matters a lot to me.

And yet, the wildfires of the last few years were a deciding factor in my decision to move. I really never wanted to leave. But three summers of intense smoke were getting too much to bear. Watching Alex suffer through the smoke while he was so sick last year was really the last straw.

Some compromises were made after housing searches near the coast were proving unfruitful. A visit to Phoenix in May opened a lot of opportunities. We’re renting and not quite sure if we’re permanent valley residents quite yet. People tell me to hold on, hang in there, by fall I’ll love it here. I am surrendering to that.

I like that I can find anything and everything I want here. 

August was to be trips to the coast, and I was holding out for that. One small problem: the Phoenix area school year starts August 8. Not even kidding. I suppose I should have checked on such things. But honestly, every school district I’ve ever known starts sometime near Labor Day. I thought perhaps with the summer heat, school might not start until mid-September. How naive, non-Arizonan!

With the pain of inevitable growth and loss hanging overhead as I stretch out of comfort zones, I catch glimpses of good things on the horizon. Though it is hot, I am venturing out and about and meeting new people. I’ve found volunteering for things that I like makes a new place so much more interesting and fun, so I am doing that.

And writing.

This blog has languished. And I’m getting strong intuitive messages that it’s time to up the commitment to this space and maybe even another. I switched some design elements around and I’m diving into the WordPress Gutenberg editor. Again, more staying positive and adaptation to my environment.

I like Lake Pleasant is close. There are pools everywhere and I don’t have to take care of any of them.

The move has been hardest on me and Max. We both loved our mountain enclave. I miss my neighborhood, my neighbors, my friends. I miss my morning walks through quiet forests. The desert is so different.

Mark much prefers here, and Claire is embracing change and new opportunities.

So, we adapt.

Fun things:

  • I visited Saint Louis and attended WPCampus as a representative for Defiant. I had so much fun with this group of very passionate and connected higher ed WordPress users.
  • The kids and I took a trip up to Sedona. Max asked why we didn’t move there instead. He has no idea of my lifelong Sedona fascination, and yet somehow he knows. He enjoyed it rather a lot.
  • I have all but given up on Facebook. Long story. Privacy, usability, a community of hateful commentary… I’m done. I still use it to check in on some things, but it’s starting to feel like AOL 1999.
  • Work is fascinating. Every time I think I’ve done all I can do and have mastered my world, a new challenge shows up to pull me out of my comfort zones.

I like that I can smell opportunities everywhere. 

And finally, some photos.

Arizona sky
The skies are beautiful, especially with monsoon season.
Max in Sedona
Sedona got this teenager out of the car and taking pictures.
pyramid mountains
Though it’s not exactly Black Butte in Mt. Shasta, it has the same pyramid like feel. I like these hills.
bodhi and sven
The fur-enabled beasties are either adapting or plotting my demise under the kitchen table. 

This post was written and organized using Gutenberg. So far, so good. Here comes the future. 

 

On Writing; the Drought of 2017

A new acquaintance asked me why I stopped writing. “Life. Work. Kids. Mostly life,” I answered.

“Well you have to have all of that if you’re going to have something to write about,” she replied, knowingly.

I had promised that no matter what came along, I would not stop writing. Promises made to ourselves in the quietude of a perfect Sunday morning never get kept, you know. They are the red-headed stepchild of promises.

2017 wasn’t one of my best years in many ways. I lost my dear beloved Alex though I tried valiantly to keep him alive. He acquiesced quietly and obediently, suffering through lymphoma until I was ready to say goodbye. My readiness was fleeting during the pre-dawn hours of a Saturday morning when I sat with him and prayed over his failing body. He took my moment of acceptance as his opportunity to leave.

Seven months later, I’d love to tell you that time heals. It doesn’t. It just makes you forget more frequently. But I think the wounds of losing Alex will always be a raw spot if I need something to cry about.

The experience of trying to keep Alex alive, combined with the ridiculous nature of public discourse these days gave me ample excuse to immerse my remaining brain cells into work. I have been lucky enough to join an amazing team of people I adore doing really interesting work that never gets boring. That, too, kept me from wanting to write. I adore this team in the way people adore long lost tribes. My sense of humor is rarely misunderstood, my passion for jumping head first into challenges is encouraged and supported. I have learned all that I am capable of. And above all I am having great fun.

Politics. I’ve been a political junkie for many years. The election of 2016, starting in the primaries, made me rethink much of that. I’ve always leaned liberal. I drank blue kool-aid before we knew that kool-aid kills. I had a lot of hope for Bernie Sanders. And then the Wikileaks started to drop. I bit my tongue. I was horrified.

I’ve made my peace with what is, and I have hope that things will get better. But not many want to see that yet. They’re too angry, and that’s their right. Far be it from me to dissuade them from a dark night of the soul. Dark nights show us our true power. 

For me, well, life is too short. If it doesn’t make me laugh or feel joy, I have no time for it. And there is much to laugh about in the midst of all of this. I’ve done my time in the salt mines of unassailable frustration. I think we all have. I was shaking my first at the sky in the 1980s. And Mark Twain was shaking his fist during his time. There was political backstabbing in the times of Ceasar. It is the very nature of politics to have discord and indignation.

I’d just rather laugh.

My kids have been going through their own challenges. We’ve outgrown our idyllic enclave in Mount Shasta. We are ready to begin playing more on a wider stage. It’s time to move, and I’m not quite ready for that either. But it’s happening, and I’m attempting to let go in the midst of a big change.

Even with all of the change and pain, life is unmistakably good. 

We have a new friend now, Bodhi. He’s a beautiful, intelligent and kind golden retriever. He thinks it is funny to make us chase him and he loves everything and everyone as all golden retrievers do. Yes, I know they have a higher incidence of cancer. I learned that the hard way. I would rather be blessed for a short time with a golden retriever than blessed for a long time with any other dog.

Will I start writing again? Do I have relevance? (Do any of us?)

I have rather a lot to say about things, and maybe those things will resonate. I think I’ll try shorter and more frequent writing instead of letting it get too far ahead of me. 

 

Alex

I’ve been trying to write a post about Alex for months. But when you’re living in the midst of inevitable decline, it’s hard to put the experience into words.

After a short fight with lymphoma, Alex passed away in early September. I was with him when he passed, which was both a blessing and… incredibly difficult. The memory of his last moments will haunt me forever. And I’m still not over it. Not sure I ever will be.

Alex was my beloved golden retriever we adopted in 2010. He was 2 years old at the time; a family a couple hours south of us couldn’t keep him anymore. It was very serendipitous the way Alex came to us, and he was an integral part of our family. For seven years, Alex was my best friend and my near-constant companion. He was primarily Max’s dog, but also very devoted all of us.

This was the first photo we took of Alex when he came home to us. He was 2.

Alex, first day home.

He made fast friends with Riley, our neighbor’s golden retriever, and for four spectacular years, Alex and Riley were the core of my pack. When Riley passed away three years ago, Alex lost his very best friend. He was never really the same after that. I debated getting another dog for him, but he was so growly at younger dogs. I opted not to. In retrospect, I wish I had. I think he would have been happier with another friend, even if it wasn’t Riley.

Earlier this year, I noticed Alex losing weight. He’s always been a skinny pup, but it became more noticeable. He also started drinking a lot more water. I wondered if maybe he had diabetes and started feeding him more protein. He was starting to have intestinal issues. The first vet diagnosed him with renal failure/kidney disease and recommended a lot of rice and veggies, less protein. He got worse. A lot worse.

More tests led to the more accurate diagnosis: lymphoma. These are two very different rabbit holes for a dog mama to dive down, but they are both deep dark holes that are confusing and heart wrenching.

Cancer. It’s so loaded and weighed down with generations of fear and pain. A strong intuition guided me to stay away from thinking about Alex’s condition with those heavy weights. Instead, why not let Alex show me what he needed?

He had good days and not so good days. We went for a lot of car rides, he ate the best foods, slept on Claire’s old twin bed. Until the end, he would not give up his morning walk around the neighborhood. He loved his friends here, human and canine.

We spent a lot of time at the lake. I canceled an important business trip to stay home with him as the stress of not having me here with him might have been too much.

We treated him with as much good stuff as we could. We tried CBD oil, a raw food diet, immune system support. But during our car rides around the neighborhood, I’d play Tom Petty’s Wildflowers album and I could see it in his eyes. He was staying because of me, but he knew it was time to move on.

There was one point in late July where I was certain it was time for him to go. I contacted a friend who is a vet and asked if he’d help me. Later that day, Alex perked up and came alive. He almost seemed happy for a bit.

During this timeframe, I stopped fighting for him. Really, I stopped fighting him. Getting his medication into him was stressful, and he wouldn’t take food from me because he knew it had something in it. After a while, I just let him be. I would put out a smorgasbord of delectable treats for him: sardines, raw meat, cooked meat. Chicken, lamb, beef… whatever. Sometimes he would turn his nose up at all of it. Sometimes he would eat.

Alex had a good August, and I started to get very hopeful he would get better. His lymph nodes decreased in size, but he still wasn’t eating like he should have been. I let up on some of the CBD oil and for a while, I felt like I had our dog back, though much more frail than he had ever been.

Then, the wildfires started and we were socked in with smoke. We had three HEPA filters going all day long, but we still had a rough time. Alex started coughing up blood and stopped eating and was really having issues. A couple of days later, he ate! Finally! But eating that food seemed to make things much worse.

I slept next to him that night, but he didn’t sleep much. Around 5:30 am, I woke up and he had moved away from me and was suffering quite a bit and was unable to walk. I had spent so much time and energy helping him heal and try to feel better, but this time it was obvious he wasn’t going to get better. It was just getting worse. I told him it was okay to go. Then, a few hours later, I insisted that he go. A few minutes after I changed my tone to insistence, he passed away.

I haven’t wanted to write or talk about Alex’s illness and yet it has been the primary defining event of my 2017. I was silenced by a fear of being overly optimistic or overly pessimistic. I tried very hard to distract myself from the soul crushing sadness of an event over which I had no control.

So much of my life here in Mount Shasta was surrounded by running around forests and meadows with Alex and our friends. The weeks following Alex’s departure left me in a daze. I’m not entirely sure I’m out of it.

But life goes on. Just much emptier than before.

 

Peace in Perfection

It’s been a while since I’ve written. And yes, I have an excuse, but is there ever a good excuse for not writing when you fancy yourself a writer. 🙂

It has been a whirlwind spring and summer, and all of the sudden I find myself looking at the leaves turning colors and the kids are back at school. How did that happen?

This spring, an opportunity popped up in my email to get back into tech work. I went into it thinking, “Hey, I know this stuff, and this might be fun.”

The company I’m working with set everything up as a challenge at first, and that’s the kind of thing that sucks me in and gets me going. Challenges. I tend towards not shying away from them. Some of them I should, but this one has been really good. It is akin to being really into crossword puzzles and finding a new crossword puzzle on my desk every day. And with recent changes, it’s more like, “Take as many crossword puzzles as you want.” (Now I need to learn some boundaries and force myself to take a break.)

I am really enjoying my work and it dovetails nicely into my life. I enjoy the challenges, I enjoy the people, and I enjoy learning something new every day.

The benefits to me have been great, but I’m seeing how inspiring it is for my kids, too. Max at age 15 loves computers, and seeing me work through challenges and succeeding in both big and small ways is inspiring him to work through his own challenges and learn new things. He’s taking a college-level computer class offered at his school, and he’s reading the book in his spare time and finding things that aren’t exactly right and correcting them. (I don’t know where he gets it, this perfectionism.)

Claire, still trying to come up with a new way to get a horse in the backyard, asks me how she can learn what I do so she can make money and buy the horse and all of the accoutrements of equestrian life. Of course, at age 8, the work I do is all a bit much for her to understand.

“Do people have to buy a lot of log files to build a web site?” she asks. Ha. Apparently, I mumble a lot when combing through website log files looking for evidence of intrusion.

The one thing I promised myself is that I wouldn’t stop writing even though my focus was going elsewhere. Huh. Promises, promises. And now that I’m busier than ever, I find the drive to write is getting stronger. Weird, that.

But we’ve got eclipses happening right now, so what better time to make a bit of a shift.

Peace in Perfection

I’ve been struck lately with awareness of how much our lives are absolutely perfect at all moments in time. I noticed it by watching how much my kids are passionate about their own individual things, and how much freedom they have to explore those things. My kids are perfect, just like they are. They’re amazing, inspiring, and impassioned.

I wouldn’t change a thing about either of them. Everything is just perfect with them right now. Sure, we have our moments of discord. They argue and fight. They tease each other relentlessly. But from here, as mom, I can see the perfection.

They still have the “have to do” things in their lives, but they also have a lot more time to explore and become impassioned about their pursuits than I ever had when I was younger. And yet, even that was perfect.

My realization of seeing perfection in them snowballed into seeing everything else in my life as… perfect. Just as it is.

The work I’m doing showing up when it did: perfect.

Ending up in Mount Shasta when I did: perfect.

Everything is just… perfect. Sometimes it’s perfectly broken, but it all happens for various reasons, and who am I to judge?

Even when something goes horrendously wrong, who knows what perfection is right on the other side of working through it?

This peace in perfection I am finding right now is not a normal feeling for me. But it also feels like immense grace showed up and just made me realize that everything has always been perfect all along, and everything will continue to be perfect. Even, or maybe especially, if I cannot see it.

It’s not even an “accept the things I cannot change” type of thing. It’s more of a “the things I cannot change are perfect just as they are” type of thing.

That’s unusual for me. Usually I can find exactly what’s not right about something and know what needs to be done to fix it. Or snark about it.

What am I going to do with my snark now?

Expanding into What Is

In finding not only acceptance of what is, but the perfection of what is, it allows a certain level of freedom. It allows the present moment the freedom to expand into whatever it needs to be. Instead of looking for something that does not exist and attempting to make that manifest, I find that I can allow an expansion of what is to happen.

When we can appreciate the most unattractive thing in our life as beautiful just the way it is, we have the tendency to see the beauty in all things. And the unattractive thing starts to show its magic to us. And then, when we can hold those competing observations of beauty and ugly, judgment and acceptance, happiness and sadness, and allow it all to be whatever it is no matter what it is that we think we see, there’s something really magical in that space.

(Have you been there? Have you been sad, angry, mad, and held that competing emotion at the same time? It’s like being in the middle of the yin-yang and something in your heart opens up and you just… get it. If you haven’t experienced that, I highly recommend it, especially when the dominant emotion is begging you to run away with it.)

We’re not here to whitewash our reality into something other than what it is. We’re here to dance in the dust, sing in the rain, and expand the knowledge of our own individual perfection, beauty, and magnificence. It starts by not picking at what doesn’t live up to the made up standards we picked up over the years. It starts by looking at our mistakes as magical opportunities, it starts with letting go of guilt, and it starts with letting go into the magic of the ride we’re on.

It doesn’t mean we become passive bystanders in life. We still take action, but the intent behind our action is what makes the difference. The next “perfect step” in life has a certain feel to it. There’s a “what if…” sensation, a curiosity, a child-like playfulness that comes along. We don’t stop our work, whether it’s our vocation or avocation. We move into it ready to explore what the next moment wants to be.

 

Magic of Mount Shasta

I know I am woefully behind on getting an update written. So much to write about, so little time. But I had a really magical experience the other evening. Claire insisted that I take her on a bike ride around the neighborhood. I protested that it was too late, but she insisted, “You promised!”

Had I done what I wanted instead of what Claire wanted, I would have missed this magical sunset. The colors only lasted a few minutes. Luckily I have a good camera on my phone, so I was able to stop and get a few shots.

This is why I live here. Mount Shasta is magical.

IMG_6021

A few months ago, Claire insisted I get a lottery ticket, too. It was one of those cheap-o scratcher tickets. I didn’t want to, but she insisted. Of course I won some cash, and now Claire uses that as a reminder that I need to do what she says.

I lament having an 8 year old tyrant at times, but sometimes it pays off to do what Claire asks. The money was nice, but the magic of seeing that lenticular cloud glowing pink with the sunset was worth so much more.

More soon. I promise!

 

Create Your Life

I want to share a process with you that I have personally used multiple times to change my life dramatically.

The first time I used it, I tripled my income in a matter of months. That was over 20 years ago. The last time I used it, I shifted quite a few things I never thought possible in a matter of a week.

Life on planet earth has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Our manifestation efforts are rewarded much sooner as we become less dense. Time appears to be speeding up, but really, we are the ones speeding up. Time just seems to reflect back who we are. Our spiritual selves are awakening to who we really are, and that is ensuring that our reality reflects our beliefs much more quickly.

It means that when we worry, we create more of our worries. When we delve into anger, we create more of our irritations. When we entertain our fears, we see more that reflects danger. It’s made the world look a lot more wobbly and messed up, but again, we see, hear, and feel what we are.

But this shift also, of course, presents an opportunity. It presents an opportunity to create more of who we really are, more of what we really want, and more that brings us joy if we’d only allow ourselves to go there more often.

And because we live in a forgiving and safe universe, it doesn’t mean that we have to hold those states permanently. We’re allowed to wobble.

It’s kind of like working out… you start, and it hurts and feels uncomfortable. But then after a few weeks, you feel great and you can’t wait to work out. First, we allow ourselves to go to the place where all is perfect in our world. After a while seeing our world reflecting back that experience to us, it becomes much easier to maintain that state going forward.

So, here’s the process of consciously creating what you want. You’ll need to customize the process for yourself.

Determine how you create. Do you write? Paint? Draw? Scrapbook? We’re all creative somehow, as we’re all co-creators with the Divine energy that flows through us. It is entirely who we are. Decide how you’re going to create.

For me, I create in words. I write at least 1,000 words every day, sometimes for myself, sometimes for others, sometimes into the 3 books I need to finish. But I am a writer. So for me, I write.

For my good friend the artist, drawing and painting is a better creative outlet that allows him to get into that flow state where time and space disappears.

For another friend who is hyper organized and scrapbooks for fun, that’s her modality of creation.

There are many ways we can get lost in creation. I can also get lost in gardening, cooking, or even making natural deodorant and toothpaste. But for this process, choose something with computer, paper, or canvas. It is more about finding and maintaining that creative state and less about what you create. Immersing ourselves in that creative flow is what we’re looking for.

Imagine your perfect life. We’re creating a representation for our creation in the medium of words, pictures, or drawings, but that creative force of our desires resides within our imagination. Don’t limit it, don’t think about practicalities or how it might happen. Just imagine what happens after the perfect experience has come into your life. Here are some areas to think about, but also focus on the area that scares or worries or makes you feel sad the most.

What does your perfect life look like? Think about:

  • your finances
  • the car you drive (if you want one)
  • the house you live in
  • the area of the world you live in
  • creative opportunities you have to explore
  • the relationships you have with friends, children, family
  • that intimate relationship
  • your great job (if you want one)
  • your business
  • your body and your health

get creativeCreate the story of that perfect life. It’s just a story, just a picture, just a drawing, just a scrapbook. You get to have as much fun with this creation as you would like. Allow yourself to get really lost in the creative feeling, that blissed out place where you feel slightly altered. Write whatever comes to mind. Draw whatever comes to mind. Just let it flow and keep working on it. You might need multiple pictures, or maybe just one. You can go through magazines or internet searches to find pictures of the things you want, the experiences you want. Don’t think too much about how you will get things, or what needs to happen, or who needs to do something, just imagines that it has already all been done for you. It already exists in your mind just because you have imagined it. Now you’re creating the plan, the blueprint, the model for what comes next. Remember, it is less about exactly what you find and create and more about the state you are creating for yourself. How does it feel to create that? How does it feel to see your perfect life? How do you feel while you are creating? Really allow yourself to feel that.

Quiet the critical mind. The critical mind is the part of you that wants to keep you safe. It’s the part that tells you things need to be written a certain way, or that something is out of proportion. It tells you thinks could be better, or thinks of what others might say. Thank your inner critic for its feedback, but remind it that this is just play for you and that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Words can be misspelled, and sentences can be repeated. You can jump from relationship to finances and back again based on whatever is flowing and coming up. There is no perfect process, only a perfect vision. Trust that the process that flows from you is good enough.

Let go. After 10-20 minutes of creating, when the words or pictures are not flowing anymore, put it all away. Save the document, file it away, or get it out of your mind and immediately change into a different activity. If you think about it too much, you can end up sabotaging your creations. You have to let go, trust the universe, and stop thinking about whatever is happening now. You’re creating something new. When you’re done, you’re done. Go back to your life, and live it. Stay present as much as possible; don’t think about the process, just live and use that state of creativity to be in your now.

Allow the wobble. You’ll start to see some rather interesting activities reflecting back to you that something has changed. Allow the wobbling to happen, and don’t fret too much about it. Just know that the universe has heard you, and that your manifestations are coming. You might get some negative feedback from someone that is comfortable with where you are and wants you to stay that way. Forgive them for their fear, and trust that even they will be okay.

Repeat this process no more than once per day, but only when you have a few stress free moments to allow yourself to go into that carefree, anything-is-possible state.

I’d love to hear how this process works for you. It’s done wonders for me, multiple times. And it’s working rather quickly for me these days.

Remember, we’re only limited by what we believe. If you believe that you can’t, you cannot. If you believe that all is possible, you’re absolutely right. Enjoy the journey!

 

How to Turn Negative People into Cheerleaders

iuAnyone who has accomplished anything in this world has had to deal with negative people. No matter what you set out to accomplish, the very fact of having a goal is going to bring out negativity in someone somewhere. Whether you’re going to art school or becoming a lawyer, you’ll hear someone say something negative about what you’re trying to do. You may even have someone actively sabotage your efforts when you’re at your weakest.

Whether it’s a roommate bringing home a pizza and ice cream when you’re on day 5 of a new diet or perhaps a parent refusing to support a career decision, you’ll eventually have to deal with negative people in your life. They are, in fact, a part of life. Here’s how to look at negative people as a gift rather than an annoyance.

Understand the fear.

There’s a reason why negative people are unsupportive, and it’s likely fear based. The roommate or spouse sabotaging your diet might be afraid of how your relationship will change if you become one of those healthy people. What does that say about them in comparison? Unsupportive parents might have their own fears about what you’re trying to accomplish, and they want to protect you from disappointment. Sometimes people have a fear that stops them from being successful themselves. As you start creating success yourself, they have to face their own fears. And sometimes it is easier to try to control you and knock down your success than it is for them to deal with their own blocks and fears.

When we can see someone else’s negativity as connected to their own fears and blocks, it makes it a little easier to accept them as they are. It doesn’t it make their negativity right or good, but it allows us to rise above it and see it for what it really is. And, it lessons the impact of the negativity when you can clearly see the motivation behind it.

Deepen your commitment.

A negative person gives you an opportunity to deepen your commitment to your dream. If you’re fully committed, it’s easier to brush off negativity and see it clearly. When you’re not wholly committed to a project or an idea, however, negative people can make you doubt yourself. They may cause you to waver. However, if you approach it from a place of commitment, a negative person can actually be an asset.

Say for example you’re going to start a new business selling a product you really like. A negative person tells you that there are so many people selling that product, you’re never going to be able to make money doing it. And maybe they’re partially right. Maybe the market is truly saturated, and you’ve got an uphill battle. Remind yourself WHY you decided to start the business. Remember why you love the product. And in deepening your commitment, you deepen your focus and start creating a differentiation in your mind. So yes, the market might be saturated. However, what about your passion makes you different?

No matter how much competition exists, you can always set yourself apart. Think about those who have succeeded in highly competitive environments and claim that experience for yourself.

Do your research. 

If you’re encountering negativity, find evidence to refute their beliefs if you don’t have it already. Even if your dream is to become the next big pop star and the evidence of probability is against you, find stories of pop stars that were successful and read them. Watch videos on how pop stars became successful. There will always be evidence to support any belief you choose to magnify. Find the evidence that supports what you want to create, and use it to convince yourself they’re wrong. It might not make sense to try to convince the negative person, especially if their mind is made up. After all, it’s your thoughts and beliefs that will create your experience, not the negative person’s.

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Take control of your thoughts.

Negative people have the power of being somewhat like the fire that blacksmiths use to shape iron. When you’re in the fire of negativity, you and your project become malleable like the iron. If you stay in the fire too long, the iron becomes a pile of goo. But just a little fire allows you to shape your thoughts about yourself and your project in creative ways. Your thoughts create your experience of your reality, so if you take control of your thoughts when you’re in the fire, get yourself out of the fire and reshape your thoughts into something that helps you, the fire has been of benefit. But don’t let the negative person be the blacksmith. It’s your life, your mind, your thoughts, and your project.

Deepen your attention where it matters.

Your attention is your greatest asset. What you give attention to magnifies. If you give too much attention to negative people, their words and actions magnify. Deepen your attention on what you would like to magnify, the success of your venture. Consciously make a decision to magnify what you want, and minify what you do not want. If you give your attention to doubts, they magnify. If you give your attention to possibilities, those magnify.

Act quickly.

Negative people, if given attention and focus, can often take us off plan and take us away from the things we’re trying to create. The best way to move beyond negative people is to act quickly. Nothing silences negative people like action and success. Action also helps you get out of your mind, where the worrying ego-based thought processes might actually entertain a negative thought.

Meditate.

You’ll never find negative people inside. When you meditate, you silence the monkey mind that loves mulling about with worries and negative what-ifs. When you meditate, you find the still calmness within where everything is possible, all ideas are valid, and dreams are incubated. The greater your connection to your inner self, the less negative people can sway you from your dreams. Go for walks, focus on the possibilities, and immerse yourself in the positive creative energy of all that you are. There is no amount of negativity that can overcome who you really are.
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Establish boundaries.

If a negative person is seriously undermining your ability to get a project done, stay on your diet, or do what you really want to do, it’s okay to establish boundaries. It’s okay to say, “Hey, this is not okay.” It’s okay to tell your roommate to eat pizza at restaurants, and it’s even okay to tell your parents that art school is your final decision. And if your negative friend or family member doesn’t wake up to what they’re doing to you, it’s okay to say, “I love you, but I need some space here.” After all, if they’re not in support of your dream, do you really need them in your life? Say no thank you, and mean it.

Ultimately, the key to making negative people your cheerleader is to be successful despite others’ negativity. The more you commit to your idea, dream or project, the more successful you’ll be. And then they’ll be the first person to say, I knew her when…

 

Less than perfect parent

Last weekend at Target, I came across this journal in the stationery section. It’s a journal with writing prompts for parents to write why we are less than perfect and to check off our parental shortcomings. No, really. I knew you might not believe me, so I took a picture.

Do you need to remember why you sucked today?

Do you need to remember why you were a terrible parent today?

Are we supposed to bring this to a confessional when they graduate from high school to become absolved from being imperfectly human?

I don’t know a parent alive today who needs a reminder of the enormity of the therapy bill they’re racking up just trying to keep it together.  From paying bills, juggling work requirements, keeping the house clean enough to keep the health department at bay, getting homework done, extracurricular activities, making dinner, etc., modern day parenting might need its own diagnosis. Post traumatic parenting disorder? Is it any wonder our hair goes grey so fast?

Being present with our kids — perhaps the only job that really matters — takes a back seat when we’re under that much pressure to be super mom or dad.

Having both a teenager and a 7 year old is a good contrast for me to remember how fast it all goes by. I haven’t forgotten all of the bad decisions I’ve made with Max. Yes, I remember them just fine without a neurotic journal. I have to work to remember the good things I did for Max. I know my intent has been good, though my execution often was not. And hindsight… well, you know.

As parents of the next generation of grown ups, we’ve got a big job. The role of humans on planet earth is changing in ways we’ve never seen before. The old rules of engagement are changing, the old systems of education, work, and relationships are shifting in ways we can only imagine. Information is disseminated in ways we never dreamed of, and the entirety of human knowledge and experience is at our fingertips. Education is morphing into something far beyond chalkboards and number 2 pencils.

We humans created the internet, and the internet is changing humanity. Our kids get this, I think, more than we do. Even having worked in internet-related fields for much of my life, this is still much more my kids’ world than it is mine.

So, what’s a parent to do when the challenges  and pressures are greater than ever, and the wellbeing of the most important people on the planet, our children, hangs in the balance?

I have some rules. They’re mostly to keep me sane.

Grades matter much less than laughter. Creativity and passion matter much more than tardy slips. Appreciation matters much more than attendance. Connection matters more than discipline. And yet, there’s room for grades, discipline, and showing up, too. They just don’t take precedence over what really matters.

Lucky for us, there’s a school that shares my love of life-long learning and creativity without stress, and we’re enrolled in it.

Though the parenting journals at Target might not understand, being aware that I am an imperfect parent teaches me to be a better person. When my kids are facing a challenge, I know that there’s a message for me in there, too. Recently, Max wrote a really amazing poem. His teachers at school were astonished, and when I got a hold of it, I was really proud. And yet, he’d rather not have too much attention called to his writing. That’s a message for me, too, in a way. I can’t encourage him to publish his work if I’m not willing to publish mine.

If I want to see qualities expressed by my children, I need to express that myself. I have to let go of the small stuff and move beyond excuses. I have to follow my own passions and get excited. I have to keep my heart wide open. And I have to stay present and I have to step into my own potential. I have to stay positive in the face of uncertainty, and I have to approach my own life with grace.

After all, isn’t that what I wish for my own kids? How can they find all of that if I won’t allow it for myself?

We’re all less than perfect parents, and that’s entirely okay. Letting go of that need to be perfect, knowing we’re going to screw up somehow, allows us to be who we are to the best of our ability and loving with all we’ve got. There’s freedom in that, for us as parents, and for our kids, too.

I hope that awful Target journal stays blank forever.

 

How horseback riding helps kids

Claire has loved horses for as long as I can remember. For her, it is much more than a passing phase. Of course, living in a neighborhood full of equine enthusiasts amps up her desire for her own horse, a desire I’ve been reluctant to fulfill.

Claire's diaryLast fall, Max was teasing her, as most big brothers do, and found her “diary.” In it, she wrote, “OMG, my mom is so pasave agresave because she won’t buy me a horse.” Of course, I had to share on Facebook. It’s pure comedy, as most days with Claire are. A local friend, after saying how much trouble I am in, suggested that I get her riding and learning about the equestrian world before I even consider buying her a horse.

And I know. As a fan of all animals big and small, I know there is a lot more to horse care than mucking out stalls and buying hay. It’s the little things I don’t know that will get me in trouble, I’m sure. So, I’m trying to learn as much as possible before being responsible for the wellbeing of a 1000-pound flight animal and an over-confident 7 year old. I’m sure it’s not just me looking at that as a recipe for disaster without some proper preparation.

I knew Claire wanted to jump; she knew what a parallel oxer was before she knew how to read. I myself still am not entirely sure what a parallel oxer is, but I’m certain I will one day see Claire jump a horse over one. She sets up boxes, toys, and anything else around the house and jumps them while whinnying. Santa was generous enough at Christmas to help out with a helmet, riding pants, gloves, and boots, and her first official riding lesson at Shasta Riding Club was on New Year’s Day 2016.

claire riding gear

Claire models her riding gear on christmas morning

As I watched her ride, it became ever more apparent how good riding is for her. And over the last couple of months of riding, I’m seeing shifts and changes in her attitude that are quite positive. Riding is helping her in ways I never imagined. With the challenges she’s had at school this year, riding has been the one good experience every week. She’s found a place where she can do what she loves while diving into the responsibility of horsemanship.

Not only does she ride, but she learns about riding gear, called tack, how to put it on the horse, clean it when she’s done, and how to be safe around horses over ten times her size. Though the horses and ponies at Shasta Riding Club are all great with kids and very safe, safe riding habits make worried parents less worried.

I love watching her ride, hanging out around the barn and watching the horses. They are all such happy and playful horses, and I love getting to know their personalities. This is Ferris. If I forget to say hello to him, he knocks on his stall door.

Ferris

Because Claire is so dedicated to her riding, we decided that it made sense to support one of the horses at the riding club. So, we’re sponsoring Tequila, a gentle older horse, half arabian and half morgan, that is the closest thing to owning a horse that Claire’s going to experience for now. He’s a great horse that does exactly what is asked of him, but not much more than that. Which, if you think about it, is absolutely perfect for a beginning rider like Claire.

Claire riding

Claire and Tequila.

How Riding Benefits Kids

Subtle communication. Claire has always been a strong-willed individual that always finds a way to get what she wants. When she was a toddler, I could tell her no for something she wanted and she would go to every other person in the house and ask them. We joke that she’s a natural salesperson, as hearing “no” does nothing to discourage her from getting what she wants.

When she rides, she has to learn that there are many ways to ask a horse to do what you want it to do. And she’s learning that she can ask gently and get what she wants. She’s learning an art of communicating with her horse that might not have worked in a classroom full of kids or even at home amongst people older than her.

Clear communication. And yet, she has to be very clear about what she wants the horse to do. She has to be clear and firm, and she has to let the horse know she’s serious and clear about what she wants. She has to be clear within herself about what she wants. She can’t think left and ask a horse to go right. There is an intuitive component of communicating with horses, and that inner and outer alignment of intention gets real when you’re in an arena with a horse.

Confidence and self-esteem. As she works with a horse that listens, and forgives when she is learning, she experiences a mastery in the riding arena. Horses don’t have to cooperate. But these horses do. She has a pride in taking care of them and knowing she’s done a good job.

Work ethic. She learns to clean tack, groom horses, clean their hooves, muck out stalls, and take care of the barn areas. Taking care of horses is a lot of work. Life is a lot of work. But when it’s work related to something or someone you love, it’s easy to do.

Listening and following directions. Claire doesn’t like being told what to do, and she’s a perfectionist (where on earth did she get THAT trait). Yet, her desire to ride overrides her stubbornness. She lets go just enough to learn because her desire to learn is stronger than anything else, and she focuses that perfectionism on really assimilating what she learns.

Responsibility. Along with developing her work ethic, Claire has a level of responsibility with riding. Because we’re sponsoring Tequila, she has to earn the money to pay for the sponsorship. She does so by helping around the house and helping me make products, Claire has a level of awareness of her responsibilities and the benefits of that work.

Connection. Spending time with animals, big or small, provides connection and reduces stress. Horses are wonderful companion animals, and Claire has craved interaction with horses since she was a small child. Going for a walk in our neighborhood necessitates at least 5-6 carrots to stop at all of the pastures to visit with our friends.

Clarity. I had listened to a podcast last fall with comedian Whitney Cummings on which she discussed how equine therapy had helped her significantly. When you’re tasked to lead an animal or a team of people, there has to be a level of clarity within yourself about who you are, what you want, and what you need others to do. In the arena, there are no games. Being “pasave agresave” gets you nowhere with a horse. The horse sees you, feels you, and knows you. You have to be completely congruent inside and out with what you want from a horse. You have to let go of the data, the emotions, and the junk of relating that we pick up over the years. You have to show up open-hearted and ready to be who you really are.

And this to me is the biggest gift that horseback riding will give Claire. She’s young enough where she hasn’t picked up too many games of relating that so many of adults have. Now that she’s homeschooling, some of those troubling behaviors can fall away. She’s fairly aware and clear (Claire!) herself, and she gets to solidify that as a part of her character.

I know as she rides more, these positive character traits will become second nature, naturally ingrained in her ability to navigate life. Claire, as you might be able to see in her picture with Tequila, is blissed out at her riding lessons. She doesn’t even realize how much she’s learning. And really, isn’t that the point of all of this parenting stuff… to give kids experiences that will help them throughout their life in ways that make them happy?

Claire grooms Tequila

Claire grooms Tequila.

In some ways, watching Claire develop her equestrian skills makes me a better parent. Intuitively, I see what she’s getting from the experience, and I can step out of the way and let that experience unfold for her, knowing she’s getting all she needs.