On Family

I really wanted to wear a green dress for my wedding.  I found one in the sundress section of a catalogue shortly after we set a date, and I was determined to be different. It was from a catalogue because I don’t care for shopping in any form, and wearing green seemed like something that would be a fun way make a statement.  To be contrarian.  To be different from America’s typical run of the mill wedding detail.  To damn the wedding culture man, as it were.  A way to make sure people understood I was doing it my way.  Etcetera.  

The green dress was a no-go.  My mom and I visited a few wedding dress shops, and I ended up getting a white one instead, still simple, still from a catalogue.  But it was white, and from the “wedding dress” section.  

I also wanted Nick and I to say our vows in a field down by the Big Sioux River.  I love nature, the prairie, feeling the wind on my face, looking at the sky.  I wanted to step into marriage on my own terms, and at the time, one of the ideas that made me feel like things were on my terms was having the wedding in a field of prairie grass down by the river. We didn’t do that either, and thinking back I’m not sure I ever actually suggested this idea out loud. The ceremony was held in the church I grew up attending, with my future father in law presiding. So, at the end of the day, I wore the white dress and had the church wedding.  And I’m glad I did, because my wedding wasn’t just about what I, the bride, wanted at that point in my young adulthood.  It was about grafting a new branch onto the family tree.  It was about public commitment to a new way of being in partnership with another human. And it was a commitment to a new way of being in relationship with a new group of people – an extended family. Continue reading “On Family”

Encounters With Hummingbirds

When I sat down to write a blog post today, I was going to write about this encounter I had with a hummingbird last week.  I was going to tell you how I had just stepped outside after dealing with some issues with our health insurance policy, issues that made me feel uncomfortable and required a phone call to sort them, and how I was reminded of the bigger picture of what’s truly important by watching a tiny bird flit around the wildflowers that cover the hillside behind my house.  I was going to tell you how the hummingbird eventually flew up to where I was standing with my coffee and hovered directly in front of my face, just inches from my nose as we looked each other in the eye, one creature to another.   It was going to be an illustration of finding the beauty that hovers even in the midst of dealing with undesirable things, like health insurance.

And as I started to think about what to write,  all I could think about was my privilege as a white person in this country.  I could have opted to simply describe my encounter with that hummingbird, keep my focus on the beauty of nature around my home, and move through my days giving thanks for what I have.   And there’s nothing wrong with doing those things.  But that’s the definition of privilege: to opt out of thinking or talking about something because you can.   There IS something wrong with not talking about what needs to be talked about.  Hummingbirds, nature, and gratitude are important.  So are basic human rights, peace, and changing our cultural story.

If you haven’t seen the news lately,  white supremacists held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, people were hurt, lives were lost, and the continued ugliness of what is still happening in the world in regards to race and equality has been slammed back into focus yet again.   Continue reading “Encounters With Hummingbirds”

Tiny Beautiful Things

Cheryl Strayed wrote a book a few years ago called Tiny Beautiful Things – It’s a book based on her stint as an advice columnist known as  “Sugar” and it’s full of people sharing their heart wrenching experiences and asking advice.  It’s full of stories about the things that make being human so hard, yet at the same time, can hold so much beauty if we let them.  The story I’m about to share isn’t about overcoming drug addiction or sexual assault or homelessness like many of the  Dear Sugar columns were, but tiny beautiful things don’t have to be about overcoming the hardest stuff of life.  They just have to be tiny and beautiful.

Continue reading “Tiny Beautiful Things”

The Dark Side of Positive Psychology

I have been a wellness coach for almost exactly 10 years. And along the way, I have gotten thoroughly immersed in positive psychology.  Which, if you didn’t know, is a fairly new field of study typically said to be pioneered by Dr. Martin Seligman in the late 1990s.  It’s all about reaping the benefits that can be had from focusing on the good in life, and where you want to go in the future, rather than on unpacking all the stuff that has happened in the past as more traditional psychology models tend to encourage.  I’ve see it work for plenty of individuals over the years – there’s a lot of benefit to placing your focus on what you do well already and the good things that you want to bring into being.

Right now I’m reading a book called America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks.  Midway through the book, Dr. James Coyne, in an interview with author Ruth Whippman, shared the name of a lecture he was to be giving the following week.  It was “Positive psychology is for rich white people.”

In my work as a coach, I recommend ‘practicing gratitude’ on a regular basis, regularly help people take ownership of their choices, and often encourage calling out the positives in life while staying present in the moments as they unfold.  These strategies have made a difference for many of the folks I have worked with, so I know positive psychology has plenty of benefits.

Plenty of benefits IF you were born into privilege.   Continue reading “The Dark Side of Positive Psychology”

Remembering How To Live

The real challenge is, and has always been, remembering how to live. ~Ian Mackenzie

This morning the thermometer on the back deck says -9 when I walk into the kitchen to feed the cats after rolling out of bed.  I haven’t been getting up in a very timely manner lately: No work schedule, the sun not rising until 7:50am, plus frigid temperatures means there’s not a lot of incentive for getting up early.  At some point, this will probably shift, but for now, it is what it is.  I’m trying not to fight with myself over the little things. But this lack of routine is throwing me off balance, and sometimes I feel like I have forgotten how to live in the modern world of appointments, deadlines, meetings, phone calls, and quality assurance programs. Continue reading “Remembering How To Live”

Year In Review: Really?

Yes, this is a post about 2016, a classic “year in review” run-down, a “hey look at me, this is what happened in my life” kind of post.  Because this is my website, so I can do this sort of thing.  If you have a website, maybe you can do the same.  If you don’t have a website, you could even do this on a piece of paper.  The point is to find the clarity in the messes, the good among the catastrophe, and the pattern that flows through the chaos.

Danielle LaPorte posed five questions to herself, and they seem like good ones to ask as I reflect on the past year.  So I’ll go ahead and borrow them — here they are: Continue reading “Year In Review: Really?”

Balance For Today: Lessons from a Rock Cairn

Yesterday I took to the woods in the afternoon.  It’s the first week in about ten years when I don’t have any sort of schedule.  There is no work calendar hovering in the background, I’m not on vacation for a certain amount of time, there are no appointments to plan around.  I’m a free agent, at least for now.  So I did what I do when I can do whatever I want – I went to the woods.

Going to the woods is what I tend to do when I am feeling melancholy, unsure, anxious, or angry.  It’s a place to go when I’m grieving, wondering, lamenting, or stewing about something outside of my control.  Basically, going to the woods (or prairie, or ocean, or any other natural area) is healing.  It’s a place to go in celebration as well, but lately, its role in my days has been one of holding space for what needs to rise from the ashes of what has recently burnt away.  Continue reading “Balance For Today: Lessons from a Rock Cairn”