Overgrown

HarmD-The Grotto 24x18 880 Vel v2 (2)

The Grotto landscape collage painted by master gardener and artist Diane Harm

On the historic grounds of the Dayton VA sits an exquisite garden called The Grotto dating back to the Civil War.

After many grand and glorious years, The Grotto eventually fell into significant disrepair.

Following decades of neglect, this historic gem became so overgrown it was nearly hidden from sight.

Enter a group of dedicated Master Gardener volunteers. Volunteers who had a vision of what could be. Volunteers who took the initiative to start. Volunteers who showed up week after week, year after year and who are still going strong.

Volunteers who are using their perfectly, perfect gifts to honor the lives and service of past, current and future veterans by returning The Grotto’s sacred grounds to a place of beauty, a place for healing and a place for serenity.

So many gems, like The Grotto, are in our paths everyday. With a little inspiration and a little initiative, there’s much to be unearthed.

As my father, who has been leading The Grotto project says about all aspects of life, “Dig in – there’s nothing to it!”

Ready, Set, Pee!

Pets? No thank you.

For years I have taken exceptional delight in being a pet free home – except for the brief stint many years ago of one Waggley Tails Fin, an overweight goldfish. With our daughter having severe allergies, I was definitely home-free in keeping our abode a pet-free sanctuary – or so I thought.  Enter karma.  Enter allergy shots. Enter Chandler the hypo-allergenic beauty dog, thirteen months ago.

As I was bemoaning the arrival of a four-legged addition, I was showered with lots of encouraging and effusive support.  Statements about how much I would love a dog, what joy the dog would bring, the companionship, how much I would learn from a dog.

Chandler the Beauty Dog!

Chandler the beauty dog!

For those of you who were lovely enough to provide your “you’re going to love having a dog” encouragement while I rolled my eyes in obstinacy, I will say this, “You were right, I was wrong.”

In fact, I’m learning quite a bit about life. At this point, I’m hoping my mother isn’t reading as I share one of the more eye-opening learnings from Chandler the beauty dog.  Specifically, his urine elimination patterns – sorry mom.

Having never been a dog owner I was fascinated that when the beauty dog “tinkles” it’s not a full bladder release.  Rather a little here, a little more there until he has officially marked the entire block – of course, marking over some other four-legged friend who has already been out for her morning walk.

In Chandler’s “sprinkle overs” I quickly recognize a very specific person around the board room table.  The one who has determined their singular role at the meeting is to “tinkle” all over everyone else’s ideas and suggestions while not contributing their own.  Or the group who claps when you acknowledge that you’ve met the term limits of your leadership. Or your well-meaning colleague who believes your idea won’t work because it’s already been done.

Your big dream is too important, too amazing, too wonderful to be soiled by anyone.  Surround yourself with the people who will genuinely cheer you on and provide you the support to launch your art, your big dream. The world is waiting for your perfectly, perfect brilliant dream!

Fri-ta-da!

Art.

Thinking of everything you do as “art” is a concept I’ve learned from Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker. In his newest book It’s Your Turn, Seth introduces this idea of making great art no matter the medium.

It’s amazing how differently your work and life feel when you start to think about them through the lens of creating art.

For instance, that rote weekly report due at 10 a.m. on Monday mornings – when was the last time you really thought about the data reflected in it? Are there ways in which it could be visually enhanced to improve its readability and in turn its usefulness? Or, perhaps, is the report no longer relevant? Is it time for a complete overhaul that more effectively addresses the company’s needs? What might need to happen so you can confidently say “ta-da look at my art” when you submit your weekly 10 a.m. report?

My perfectly, perfect brilliant sister-in-law with Sunday morning art: fri-ta-da!

My perfectly, perfect brilliant sister-in-law with Sunday morning art: fri-ta-da!

Or what about the dozens of emails you send and respond to everyday? If you thought about them as art what changes? Might you format your correspondence in a way that is easier to read? Might you include some additional resources that could be helpful? Would you take an extra half moment to cheer someone on who is knee deep in a project and panicked that they won’t meet their deadline? What might need to happen so you can confidently say “ta-da look at my art” when you hit the send button?

Your perfectly, perfect brilliant self has the opportunity to make exceptional art that is important and useful. Art that has meaning and is in service to your own personal intention, dream and vision.

Ta-da! Look at you creating the art that only you can!

Get stuck!

My husband and I worked on a project several years ago for a non-profit. Creating refrigerator magnets with the words Love, Care, Serve was one way the project took shape. In order to save a few dollars, an inexpensive magnet backing was selected for the trio of magnets.

"Care" trashed

“Care” trashed

Earlier this week I walked into our kitchen to discover that “Care” had succumbed the same fate as the “Love” magnet had several months ago – the less expensive magnetic material had lost its efficacy, no longer sticking to the refrigerator. Unceremoniously into the trash went “Care” to eventually join “Love” at the landfill.

Yet the intention for the project was to keep all three magnets – Love, Care, Serve – front and center as an ongoing reminder of the non-profit. A reminder of encouragement as well as a reminder to support the organization with time and money.

Magnetic efficacy #fail

Magnetic efficacy #fail

If you want your project to “Serve” for the long haul with all of its components in place, you’ll need to ascertain just how committed you are. Are you willing to invest the time, energy and resources to make your project have magnetic efficacy, to have your project stick?

Are you willing to invest time, energy and resources into the people who will make your project thrive?

Are you willing to stay the course once the attorneys get involved with their “devil’s advocate” scenario building? Or, will the “devil’s advocate” suppositions compel you to abandon the project, and the people who have invested their love and care in the project? Will you go so far as to abandon your own values and fortitude for the project once legal-ease is spoken?

How magnetic is your project? How magnetic is your own resolve?

Love, Care, Serve with magnetism – make it stick!

Glob it on!

When you begin thinking about new ideas and projects that push you out of your warm, comfy bathrobe and slipper zone, it can feel daunting and overwhelming.  Any of these ramblings sound familiar?

  • I don’t know how to do this – I’m not smart.
  • This idea already exists.
  • If I were smart enough, I wouldn’t even know where to start with this idea.
  • This is a colossally ignorant idea.

That’s what jackhammering sounds like.  The jackhammer has powerful results too.  It effectively pummels your brilliant creativity and curiosity.  (And who really has time to sweep up all that dust and rubble?!!)

Instead, you have the opportunity to be the glue to your own perfectly, perfect ideas and brilliance! Before you know it, things are starting to stick.  Your idea is taking shape. A little dab of brilliant glue here and a big glob of sparkling glue there.

Wow – look at what you’re creating!

Be the glue.

Me First!

“Ooh, ooh, ooh, pick me, pick me!”

“Me first, me first, me first.”

“Pleeeassse, pleeeassse, pleeeassse!”

Remember what it was like to move to the edge of your seat, with your bottom barely attached to your child-sized chair? Your arm waving wildly and your mouth moving even faster to get your teacher’s attention?

Remember what it was like to want to be picked first, even when you didn’t know the answer?

Remember when you did get picked first and you didn’t have the answer? You’d put your little hand down for a red-hot second before it shot back up in the air with re-energized pleas for the teacher to pick you even though you still didn’t know the answer.

Remember what it was like to go first? There was no hesitancy. Just the pure, unbridled thrill of jumping-in.

At some point that incredible thrill of jumping-in begins to wane and sometimes even wax. Our bottoms become a little more glued to our adult-sized chairs. We begin to question whether our idea or our response is the right one. We begin to worry that if we jump-in it will be with a belly flop and not the perfectly timed flying forward one-and-a-half somersaults pike off the high dive (and it’s extra tragic to think about belly flopping wearing an out-of-season suit that you found on the triple mark-down clearance rack three seasons ago!).

Here’s what I know. Going first takes guts. Going first takes courage. Going first takes willingness to belly flop over and over and over. Going first takes the belief that in every thrilling belly flop lives the perfectly timed flying forward one-and-a-half somersaults pike off the high dive.

Who better to go first than perfectly, perfect you? Jump in!

Butterfly Nation

There’s definitely been a change in wanting to learn and do new things since I reached the half-century mark several years ago.  I continually look for the next “what’s next” to push me out of my comfort zone.

Women on Fire Book I

Women on Fire
Book I

Last December I submitted a “what’s next”, out-of-my-comfort-zone-proposal.  Women on Fire was accepting proposals for chapter authors for its second Women of Fire book – a collection of real stories designed to provide inspiration, strategies and support for women.  I waited until the very last minute to submit my proposal.  I was unsure about sharing my story in such a public forum.

News regarding the status of my proposal arrived via email the second week in January.  I didn’t see the email until nearly midnight as I had attended an out-of-town work event.  While perched on the side of my bathtub, contemplating whether or not to take my make-up off or just go to bed, I did a quick scan of email.  There it was.  My out-of-my-comfort-zone-proposal had been accepted!  A late night punch in the gut of excitement, fear, anxiousness, nervousness and, oh dear, what have I done?

Since  January I’ve experienced lots and lots of nervousness and excitement throughout the writing process.  My chapter – “Voice Lessons” (about finding my voice later in life) – has been through multiple rounds of edits.  I’ve fretted over certain words and then delighted in landing upon one that felt just perfect.  At times I wanted to throw my hands-up and forget about the entire project and move on.

I am happy to report that my chapter is complete.  However, I continue to have the same case of butterflies that I caught that night while perched on the side of my tub.

En route to NYC

En route to NYC

So, here I am, on a plane headed for NYC (need to work on my #selfies) to meet the twenty other chapter authors as we begin preparing for the Women on Fire Book II launch later this summer.  I don’t know what tomorrow will hold – I’m nervous and excited – it’s an extreme case of butterflies now.

Sitting here though, it dawns on me, that like a butterfly our lives are a series of metamorphoses.  As we change and grow we just keep getting better.  So rise up Butterfly Nation and help us be brilliant as we each write and experience new chapters in our lives.

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