A Day In the Life Of a Penguin

My love affair with penguins started in the 5th grade when I had to do my first research paper (ack!). We were able to chose any topic that we wanted to write about. I was completely at a loss, so my mom suggested I look in something called The Encyclopedia Britannica for ideas.

Yes, that’s the way we did it back then. No quick internet search right at your fingertips or in the palm of your hand. No, Sir-ee, not for my generation. We had to do things the hard way. Like walk a mile back and forth to school in 2 feet of snow, uphill in both directions.

Anyway, as I was flipping through the entire collection of books I saw a picture of a penguin. Eureka! I had my topic! My mom looked a bit skeptical when I told her I wanted to write a paper on penguins, but she agreed to help me. Over the next few days, we both fell in love with these adorable mammals as we learned about their habits and patterns. I even remember a few fun facts to this day.

For example, penguins are incredible social. And, even though they can’t fly, they can jump as high as 9 feet. That sure would come in handy in a ballet class or during my ninja training days. Also, penguins display very intricate courting behavior. I guess that means the females preen their feathers and the males flex their muscles.

I even remember how they know if it’s safe to go in the water. They all gather at the waters edge and begin pushing and shoving each other until one of them falls in. If the penguin swims around, they’re good to go. If the hapless penguin gets eaten by a predator….well, you get the idea.

I learned a lot of life’s lessons doing that report. First of all, it’s good to belong to a community. After all, there is safety in numbers. Next, sometimes you need to be able to jump and rise above the fray to get to where you’re going. Finally, don’t make it a habit to push to the front of the line in a crowd, because you might not make it out alive, literally and figuratively.

This sweet memory was triggered when my sister showed me a video of the penguin parade at the Pittsburgh Zoo last month. And, the fact that National Penguin Day was last month. Who knew?

I still love penguins. And I love the fact that for the next 40 years, any time my mom and I saw a penguin, we would look at each other and smile. My mom would always ask if I remembered “our” report on penguins. Which , by the way, I got an “A” on. I always assured her that I did. Because I remember everything, especially a day in the life of a penguin.

Karma Cooties Can Really Bug You

Karma cooties can be a real threat to our health and well-being. We all get exposed to them every now and then, and they can be very infectious. And contagious. However, just like we can protect ourselves during cold and flu season, there are precautions we can take from being susceptible to the little buggers. And the first step is knowing that they exist so you can avoid them.

The first time I heard about karma cooties was about 20 years ago from a friend who was a massage therapist. She told me she had a client that she had to cut loose (in other words, she fired her) because her karma cooties were so bad. “Karma Cooties,” I responded in confusion, “What are those?”  

She explained that we all experience hurts and transgressions in life. You got that right. After all, life is full of hits, and none of us get through this roller coaster of life without our fair share of them. But, some people let those tough times define them, even embrace them, which breaks down their karmic immune system. Okay, she kind of lost me there, but at least I had something to think about.

So I began paying attention. I noticed that some people could suck the joy out of a room by simply walking into it. Or suck the life out of me just with a phone call. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. You might even have a friend like that, which can be a real problem for you.

I had a friend who was so infected that she was beyond hope, and I finally had to cut her loose. It was awkward, especially since we had been friends for 30 years. But, being exposed to all of that negativity isn’t healthy. Eventually, it breaks down your resistance and draws you in. So, just like you do during cold and flu season, take some precautions to keep yourself safe.

Because staying safe and being healthy is much better than being bugged.

Simple Steps to a Happy New Year

Here we are at the beginning of another New Year. I find it hard to believe it’s 2019. Where did the time go? Along with the excitement of a shiny New Year comes the resolve of self-improvement through (ack) New Year’s Resolutions.

I personally dislike New Year’s Resolutions because I believe they set us up for failure. And disappointment. Statistics reveal that most people give up in less than 2 weeks! That’s a terrible way to start a New Year, by feeling like you’ve already failed. I have another idea.

Each and every day is a new start, and an opportunity for self-reflection and self-improvement. Or not. After all, life is full of hits and unexpected challenges that can undermine even our best intentions and throw us off track.

It’s important to remember that we are all works in progress. Part of our life journey is how to be kind to ourselves and not to beat ourselves up. Trust me, there are plenty of people out there who will do it for us.

I shudder when I see the sign at the local gym that I drive by every day which blasts in red letters “New Year….New You!” As if to imply that there is something wrong with the current version of you. It’s almost a form of subliminal body shaming. I don’t like that. Besides, I think you’re perfect just the way you are.

But, if you do want to make changes over the next year, take it one day at a time. Start small, and start slowly. Over the next few months I will offer simple tips and steps you can follow to help you achieve your goals, no matter what they are. You can pick and chose which ones make sense to you, and ignore the ones that don’t.

Most of all, never give up on your goals. Or your dreams. Not just once a year, but every single day. I’m your biggest fan, and I believe in you. Happy New Year!

Don’t Fear the 5-0

A lot of my young friends are getting ready to turn the big 5-0. Meh-heh-heh. I laugh because none of them seem very happy about it. As a matter of fact, some of them even act like it’s the end of the world. As a deliriously happy person over fifty, all I can say to them is “Buck up, Buttercup!”

Turning 50 is NOT the end of the world. As far as I’m concerned, turning 50 was the best thing that ever happened to me. To be honest, my 30s were a bit of a nightmare. My 40s were even worse. There were times I didn’t even think I would make it to 50, and neither did a lot of my friends.

But, for some reason, I figured if I could make it to the big 5-0, maybe things would get better. For once in my life I was right. It was almost like magic happened. I felt like I was finally comfortable in my own skin. The nagging and sabotaging negative self-talk that plagued me all of my adult life finally fell silent. Don’t get me wrong–it still does rear its ugly head every now and again. But at least I recognize it before it gets out of control and I can tell it to kindly shut up and mind its own business. In a loving way, of course.

Once I hit 50, I felt happier, more content, and less stressed over the little things. I learned that it was okay to walk away from “friendships” that weren’t working for me. I learned to like myself more, and to be my own best friend. My 50s were so great that when the big 6-0 came creeping up on me, I ran toward it with arms open wide, ready to embrace whatever came next.

So, if you are turning 50 soon, stop worrying about it. It will give you frown lines, and laugh lines are far more attractive. Besides, the best is yet to come. Embrace it.

Breaking Up With My BFF

Breaking up with someone is always awkward, and uncomfortable. But I had the McDaddy of uncomfortable breakups when I had to break up with my BFF of 30 years.

Because, how do you tell someone that you have been best and dearest friends with for 30 years that you haven’t liked them for the past 15 and have been trying to figure out how to break up with them for the past 10? Like I said, it was awkward. So awkward and uncomfortable that I actually had to seek professional help.

My friend and I met in ballet class 30 years earlier and established an unlikely friendship. She was quiet, reserved, shy, and highly intelligent. I was loquacious, demonstrative, outgoing, and just smart enough to get by. For some reason we got along famously.

However, over the years what had begun as a wonderful friendship based on mutual support, respect, and caring somehow turned into one that was demanding, controlling, and manipulative. Our social interactions left me feeling drained, depleted, and even angry. Her arrogant condescension set my teeth on edge. When I tried to limit our “girl time” she became hostile and belligerent. I couldn’t even imagine how she would react if I tried to break up with her.

I slowly tried to interrupt our habitual patterns  by setting clear boundaries and re-establish new patterns in our relationship. After all, we had been friends a long time, and I wanted to salvage our friendship if at all possible. Besides, we had shared our deepest secrets, so we both knew where all the bodies were buried, so to speak. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way.

Sometimes you just have to cut the ties that bind.

No You Can’t–Or Yes You Can

Have you ever wanted to try something new, or do something different and exciting, and were told, “No, you can’t?” Perhaps it was pursuing a dream, achieving a goal, or changing a career, and were told, “No, you can’t?”

I was born and raised in a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania, which is why I live in Denver. Nah….I’m just joking. More or less. My hometown was a great place to grow up, especially when I was a kid. We were all living the American Dream, and it was wonderful.

However, I wanted more out of life than what my town had to offer. I always wondered what it would be like to get out on my own, see the world, and make a life for myself away from the safety net of family and everything that was familiar to me.

During my senior year in college I decided to do just that. When I announced my plans to move to Denver, my friends and family were shocked. I was bombarded by well-meaning (but misguided) people who told me “No, you can’t.” Denver was too far away. It was too dangerous. I wasn’t smart enough, or strong enough to make it on my own. The list went on and on.

However, the most persuasive argument came from a guy I was dating, who told patiently explained, “You can’t go to Denver, because you have to get married. And since you have to marry someone, it might as well be me.” That convinced me. Two days after I graduated college I was halfway to Denver before the ink on my diploma even had a chance to dry. So much for “No, you can’t.”

The point is, there will always be people who will try to hold you back, keep you from pursuing your dreams, or simply tell you, “No, you can’t.” It’s your job to smile, nod your head, walk away, and do whatever it is you want to do. Because you can.

Excessive Apology Disorder

When I realized how often I was saying the words “I’m sorry” to everyone for everything, I became acutely aware of how many people apologize excessively when they don’t have to. I even came up with a name for it, which I dubbed Excessive Apology Disorder. Thank you–I thought it was pretty good myself.

When we have EAD, it allows for a close cousin to come creeping in, which is the chronic and nagging voice of self-doubt. Think about it. Every time we take responsibility for something that isn’t our fault, we relinquish a little bit of our personal power. We literally hand it over to another person, typically the one we are apologizing to. When we make excessive apologizing a habit, (like I did), we are constantly chipping away at our self-confidence and self-worth. Even worse, we eventually open the door to guilt and shame. Yikes!

When my Sensei called my EAD to my attention, I was mortified how much I apologized for no reason. I was stunned how much negative energy I was allowing to take over my life. Once I  stopped saying “I’m sorry” to everyone for everything, I felt my power and my self-confidence begin to improve. I found my voice again, learned how to stand my ground, and discovered how to set clear boundaries. It was a beautiful thing to behold!

Besides, if you are constantly saying “I’m sorry,” you diminish the impact of a sincere apology when the situation calls for it. So, notice how often you say you’re sorry. And pay attention if it really was warranted. Don’t say you’re sorry out of habit, or because you think the other person expects it. After all, most of the time you don’t have anything to apologize for, and everything is not your fault.

I’m Sorry….So Sorry. For What??

Have you ever noticed how many times a day you say the words “I’m sorry?” Especially as women, it seems like we are always apologizing for something, even when we’re not at fault, or there isn’t even anything wrong in the first place. What’s up with that? Is it just a habit (and not a good one, I might add), or do we really feel that we are responsible for everything that’s wrong in the world?

There was a time when I believed that everything was my fault, and I took full responsibility for it. Everything from world hunger to human trafficking to PMS and menstrual cramps. My fault. And it really wore me down.

But I didn’t realize what a problem it was, or how often I said it until I was 2 years into my martial arts training and I was testing for my green belt level. My partner was one of the black belt instructors who I had become good friends with, so he graciously offered to let me beat the stuffing out of him during my test. After all, what are friends for?

Every time he attacked me, I took him down. Hard. Fifteen minutes into the test, my Sensei stopped us. He looked at me and said, “If you apologize one more time for doing a technique well, I am going to stop the test.” What do you think I said? Yep, you’re right, I said those dreaded words, “I’m sorry.”

I was horrified. My partner gave me a nervous glance before he looked at Sensei, who was glowering at me and scowling. That’s never a good sign. I hadn’t even realized that every single time I took my partner down I said “I’m sorry” before he even hit the ground.

Sensei didn’t stop the test. But I learned a powerful lesson that day. I stopped apologizing for no apparent reason. I no longer said the words “I’m sorry” unless I sincerely had something to apologize for. And, when I did, magic happened. But I think I’ll save that for another day.

Summertime: And The Living is Easy

Summertime….and the living is easy. Or at least it’s supposed to be. I hope you have had a wonderful summer so far, and have taken the time to replenish yourself in body, mind, and spirit.

My summer has been interesting, to say the least. In early June I entered a contest sponsored by a local radio talk show host who is on the search for the next great podcaster. Why in the world would I do such a thing?

First of all, it’s because I absolutely love the lady who is hosting the contest, even though I never met her. She won me over the first time I heard her say she had to stop talking long enough to wipe the sarcasm off her screen during a broadcast. I laughed so hard I almost drove off the road. My husband fell in love with her when he was a caller on her show and she called him a badass on the air.

When I heard about the contest, I thought to myself, “Why not?” But then I got the application to officially enter the contest. I had to come up with a logline (um, what’s that?), a description of the show and what it would be about (gee, I would love to, but I have no idea), come up with 10 topics for episodes along with a brief synopsis to let listeners know what each episode was about (is that all?). The grande finale was to include a 5 minute video of yourself talking. At least I know how to talk.

Well, I did it, and I made the cut. I am one of 5 finalists. I have had to learn how to download the software to record a podcast as well as how to use it (a minor detail), learn how to edit , export to an mp3, and post it to a variety of social media sites. UGH, technology! My love-hate relationship with it continues. Fortunately, I found a millennial for hire who was happy to help out.

Anyway, the contest has ended and I’m just waiting to find out if I am going to be one of the next great podcasters. I’ll certainly keep you posted! So, as you can tell, my summer hasn’t been easy at all. But, it’s been more fun than I’ve had in a really long time!  

Where’s Your Tipping Point?

I heard the most fascinating story a few weeks ago. A friend of mine was leaving work early to rush off to an afternoon ballet class. It had just begun to snow, even though it was late spring. That happens a lot in Colorado.

When she put her key in the ignition, a snowflake gracefully floated down from the sky and landed squarely in a chip on her windshield. As soon as that snowflake touched down, the entire windshield shattered. From one harmless little snowflake!

She sat there in shock, trying to figure out what just happened. How could one delicate little frozen drop of water shatter an entire windshield? In her own words, she said, “If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I never would have believed it.” At least she wasn’t driving at the time. So, instead of going to ballet class, she (carefully) drove off to get her windshield replaced.

Two days later, she shared her story with us. We all marveled at the power of one tiny little snowflake. We speculated what conditions must have existed for that to happen. Was it temperature related? Did the snowflake have the identical size, shape, and dimensions of the chip which caused it to shatter? Are the properties of glass not as solid as we think? Or, was it merely a bizarre coincidence? What was the tipping point?

The truth is, we all have a tipping point. Everything in nature does. And, as I learned in my martial arts training, water can take down a mountain. So it makes perfect sense that it can also shatter a windshield.

Like everyone else, I’ve hit a tipping point multiple times in my life. Sometimes we feel like we’re out on a ledge, ready to go off a cliff. Other times it takes us completely by surprise. But how we react to these life changing events is what counts. The important thing is to stay positive, resilient, and learn from the experience.

So….where’s your tipping point?