Monday, August 17, 2009

Trying Not To Be Negative Has Moved!

After two years, I have decided to buy the actual domain and redesign.

Please go to

I hope if you are subscribed, you will sign up at the new site - or - change your bookmark.

The new location offers more design options and features. I hope you like it. Please let me know!

Thanks so much for reading!!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's It Like to Ride the Zorb?

Riding in a Zorb is a wild rebirth of an experience.

Last year when my husband and I were watching the Amazing Race, the contestants raced down a hill with Zorbs in New Zealand. We knew we’d jump at a chance to try. After firming up our vacation plans with our friends to go to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, my husband and I were dual-laptop researching the area and he turned his screen toward me with his find. “The Zorb! How close?” I asked. “IN Pigeon Forge.” Woah, baby!

After hiking along cascading streams and then to the top of an amazing waterfall in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our group was hot and wanted to cool off. Ranging in age from 8 to 48, the nine of us couldn’t wait to ride in a giant ball.

For years I played with my sons designing Marble Raceways and dropping balls down plastic chutes. At the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, one exhibit has balls travelling around on metal tracks. Maybe because I love roller coasters, I always stare fascinated by the motion of gravity, trying to imagine what it would feel like to be on those tracks. This was my chance to be IN A BALL as it free falls, twisting, turning, reversing down a zig-zag trail on the side of a mountain.

So what’s it really like? You start by diving in arms first through a small tunnel. You are zipped in twice for the inner and outer balls. The ride is too brief, only 40 seconds. The sensations were just as I imagined and I laughed the whole way down. Water in the Zorb allows your body to shift from side to side, back and forth. Sort of like body surfing on a wave but with much more motion and sloshing. You are at the mercy of your weight and gravity then wind up falling backwards. If the zippered opening rips across your back, you need to shift your body to another side or pay a raw red consequence. You get out by slipping feet first out of the hole with all the water, which resembles my vision of birth a little too closely. We all felt a weird birthing moment at the end.

The price for our group was $33 each. That’s a steep cost for such a quick experience but we all were glad we did the Zorb. It’s just one of those things you HAVE to do in your life because you CAN! We all tried the water version, Zydro. The other version is Zorbit, which allows you to experience weightlessness and g-force. My arm was in a sling and I’m still trying to decide if I would have strapped myself in for the dry rollover version if it wasn’t.

Maybe I have an addiction to balls but you want to ride the Zorb, even if it’s just once in your life!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Secret Cindy: Who Are You Online?

Friends came up to me at a picnic and immediately asked about the motorcycle rally I attended. I blurted out a short description which had them laughing, “I didn’t need the Lane Bryant coupon and I’m not a lesbian.”

“That’s not what you said on Facebook, but I have a much better picture now.”

“Yeah,” I responded, “Lately I’ve been wishing I had a Secret Cindy account so I could be myself.”

Over the past couple of years I’ve happily added friends, acquaintances, political figures, co-workers, church members, family, and bloggers. I enjoy reading the news feed and keeping up with everyone, but I don’t know who I am now. When I post a status, who am I talking to?

I think some people don’t post status updates for exactly this reason.

I don’t have anything to hide. But if I posted the description of the motorcycle rally, people who don’t know me well might not understand my comment in the right context. I’ve always been overweight and have shopped at Lane Bryant. For many of the women, the rally was a chance meet up, but obviously not for me. If you aren't a close enough friend to know how I struggle with my weight and have close friends who are gay, you might misjudge my status.

A friend didn’t like how Barack Obama, as a candidate, changed his demeanor for different audiences. When he first mentioned it, I realized I do the same. I don’t speak with a friend from another culture the same way I speak to a politician. My word choice, speed, and content are different. Both online and offline, I have a diversity of friends. Isn't this true for all of us?

The situation on Facebook is perplexing, especially when professional contacts are included on your friend list. Obviously I would tell my family more intimate details about our weekend than I would share with a state delegate. Family want to hear about your kid's accomplishments but to everyone else it's bragging.

A friend who grew up down the street from me, couldn’t believe a current friend called me “Cindy” on Facebook. Didn’t I hate that? For 23 years I was against the nickname unless we were family or close friends, but as work blended with socializing, the distinction blurred. Eventually I felt silly telling people to call me Cynthia.

Now people from every part of my life are blended together on social networks. I’m very conscious of what each person thinks about every word I type. I'm concerned aboout what people will think.

I like sharing details of my life which helps me keep in touch and get to know others better, but it is difficult to speak to large, diverse audiences. Even though the message is the same, often the words need to be different. My status updates are generic and perhaps less fun, hence my wish for a wild and crazy Secret Cindy account because I like to joke around.

Who are you typing to?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Dad Was Way Before United We Serve

A friend from high school said he never drives past a volunteer community car wash without thinking about my dad. My dad owned a gas station and he was always letting scouts and schools have car washes. My friend marveled at all the gallons of water he donated.

I’d never thought about it. In fact, I’d forgotten all about the car washes.

A couple of years ago, I was chatting with a friend and recalled the name of my dad’s gas station -- Community Service. I’d never thought about that either. You take everything for granted from childhood. I’ve never taken a step back to think about a person naming their gas station Community Service.

A large group of men hung out there. It was truly the hub of our township. The hours were filled with lots of joking and discussion. I couldn’t help but think about the men at the gas station when watching Gran Torino. Clint Eastwood’s character takes the boy into the barbershop to teach him how to talk like a man, which involves foul language and insults. Although they cleaned up their act for me, I know this occurred. My grandmother always disapproved, especially when our minister joined them.

On June 22, 209 First Lady Michelle Obama, kicked off the United We Serve campaign at Bret Harte Elementary in San Francisco, California. She explained what United We Serve is all about:

“It's a nationwide effort to call Americans to make service a daily part of
their lives -- like all of you here; it's not something that you do in your
spare time.”

Surprisingly, the first thing I thought about was my dad and his gas station. He was a successful businessman who held the highest ranking volunteer position in Boy Scouts. He always sponsored a work study program at our local high school. He took young men, gave them a job, and taught them work skills. My dad was great at what he did. The teachers always sent him the toughest cases. He struggled with one boy who wouldn’t make eye contact or speak. Others needed to learn how to show up on time and be dependable. Simple skills like making change and being courteous to customers were unknown to these boys. For years, day in and day out, he spent his time at work teaching them how to make a living. Although it wasn’t always easy, they became functioning members of the workforce. Many came back to visit and it must have been so satisfying to know the important part he played in making each of them succeed and talk like a man.

My dad had not graduated from high school. He never went to any formal leadership training.

With New Jersey’s laws requiring gas to be pumped, he needed workers. He combined this business need with a community need. He offered his business to help community groups on a regular basis. He used what he had to help others regularly. Nothing fancy.

He obviously influenced me because I’m a Boy Scout leader and volunteer in my community to make people’s lives better too.

As Mrs. Obama said:

“… community and national service is something that's near and dear to my heart.
It's not something that we just started to do in the White House. It's been sort
of the air that we breathe in the Obama household in so many ways…”
How does it become the “air that we breathe”, a daily habit? Community service spreads by example from father to daughter. It spreads by invitation from neighbor to neighbor. The only necessary ingredient is a person who cares. It’s a lifestyle of growing and nurturing those around you while seeking or creating opportunities to help every day.

We simply need a call to service, a daily mindset. Now we have it from Mrs. Obama.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Being Leftovers

Sometimes I wonder if attending a funeral during our honeymoon influenced my fairly frequent thoughts on the frailty of life. After traveling for a week, my groom and I visited his grandmother. Soon after we arrived his grandmother’s sister lost her husband in the middle of the night and the commotion woke us. I still can picture every detail of the guest room as I lay for a long time holding tight to my new husband.

This week I took my sons to see the movie Up. The loss of a long-time partner never fails to make me crumble. Since I don’t want to spoil the movie, I won’t give away any plot, but go see it even if you don’t have kids.

As many people know, one of my best and most supportive friends, Michael, lost his partner last summer. Ira’s friends and family have maintained a blog in his honor. I read the posts and feel Michael’s pain.

Reading Michael’s most recent words and seeing Up both brought me to tears, but more importantly they both showed me strength and hope after losing someone you’ve spent a lifetime loving.

So I’m sharing part of Michael’s message of renewed spirit:

He would be proud of Zachary and I but at the same time tell me to settle down -
just be. Sit on his beloved couch, read a bit, take a nap or just hang with
Zack. This Michael who understands mortgage rates, homestead exemptions and
watches the market's rise and fall would be very boring to him and worst of all
only make worry about us more. He would ask what happened to my shopping,
gardening and why aren't you sitting down to dinner anymore? The poor guy - his
last meal was leftovers and he was perfectly happy with that. I've always hated
leftovers but he defended them like a UN Peace Keeping Force.

So that takes me to the thought, in end I've become a "leftover" another way to
look at being a widower. But what if I embraced it the way he did? What if I was
a "festival of leftovers"? What if I represented the very best of what I had
been? What if what was left of me, of him, or us was the very best - made
richer, full of flavor - savory. Now I understand the attraction to the
"left-over". So cast in the light of open refrigerator I am resplendent like a
piece of apple pie at midnight or cold pizza for breakfast. So embrace your
inner leftover and maybe just maybe you'll here his chuckle, feel the warmth of
a distant smile or know the perfect happiness of cold KFC.

We shouldn’t waste our lives thinking about what was or what might be, rather we need to embrace what’s best in our lives now, confident of our love. I've become a great fan of leftovers too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

All I Really Needed to Know About Success I Learned In Kickboxing

While grunting with each move, I push myself to complete the rotations from my kickboxing instructor. As I finish the last one I invariably think “Wow, I can’t believe I just did that!” and she almost always yells “Again!”

For the first time in my life, I’m physically pushing myself beyond anything I have ever imagined. Muscles I didn’t even know existed all over my back, sides, shoulders, arms, and legs hurt constantly. Since I never seriously trained, and only half-heartedly exercised for most of my life, I had no idea about the pain involved with reshaping your body.

In class I have the reputation of repeating the instructions. She’ll say “jump rope – 5 minutes” and I’ll incredulously repeat “5 minutes?” Granted I can jump for 5 minutes but after 20 minutes of nonstop physical activity, I’m not happy about it. In fact, I hate working out and my body groans in agreement.

I thought people simply went through repetitious moves and their bodies looked better. Now I know why people say “No pain, No gain.” How could I have been so clueless?

Lots of people have been noticing the changes in my body. They ask questions about how I’m doing it. With my slug background, I’m asking myself the same questions and the answer is always “my trainer”. She’s a natural. Having left everything behind in Chile to move to the United States, Lyu Pollard is strong and driven, which rubs off on her students. As I’ve learned and struggled, I’ve realized her methods for improving my body apply to many situations in life.

How much better can I be doing this? My trainer’s heading to California to obtain a 5th degree black belt. All the martial arts are based on improvement. There’s always a next goal. Since she participates in our instruction, we are always training right along with her. The important lesson is thinking about a next level. Never accept the present situation. To be successful we need to constantly seek the next best thing in whatever we are doing then work toward it.

Haven’t I done enough? Since my trainer grew up with a military dad who made her wake up each morning at 5:30 AM and exercise, her demeanor resembles the sergeant’s program. We sometimes hear “Let’s go soldiers.” When we don’t want to do something or start to loose energy, we need motivation. I lack discipline, but my trainer insists on it. She’s tough and points out when we are slacking or taking the easy way out. “Not like that!” “Lift your leg higher, you’re trying to kick them in the face!” Constantly test yourself to see if you can do more and go further. You might be surprised by your own stamina and dedication.

Can’t I do this alone? My kickboxing instructor used to be a trainer in one of those fancy gyms. She knows all about the muscle sets and complete fitness. Sometimes we need specific help from knowledgeable people. If you can’t make yourself do what’s necessary to improve, then find someone who is qualified to push you in the right direction. Surround yourself with good people who know what they’re doing. This might mean joining Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous or Toastmasters. Perhaps you need a special course, a partner, or work mentor. My whole life I’ve viewed getting help as a weakness but I’ve finally learned to reach out to others. I lost 50 pounds with weekly Weight Watcher meetings because of the program and the people. Everyone in my kickboxing class is supportive. We cheer each other’s accomplishments because we are all struggling together.

After my first night of kickboxing I decided that if I could actually do her class, I would be in excellent physical shape. Underneath I didn’t think it was possible, but I keep showing up.

I’m learning more than I expected.

Kickboxing Classes are at the second floor studio at Rockville Martial Arts and Learning Center (just south of Woodmont Country Club entrance). Everyone is welcome to stop by and try a class for free, no pressure. There are monthly rates or less expensive long-term commitments. Believe it or not, I still pay by the month and could revert to being a slug at any moment!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Real Life Parable Made Me Think

After church started on Easter Sunday, an Asian man in his 30’s sat down in the pew in front of me. I had the feeling he was homeless but it wasn’t obvious. I handed him my bulletin and showed him where we were. When it came time for the offering, I couldn’t help but watch. I worried because if I was right about him, this could be an uncomfortable situation. He opened his wallet and all I could see was a coupon and two dollars. He pulled out the two dollars and put them in the offering plate.

We all know about the parable of the woman giving her small amount in the temple showing far more love than the rich man who gave a larger amount but a smaller fraction of his wealth. I had witnessed the real thing. While I thought selfish thoughts on his behalf, he emptied his wallet.

So today I sit here thinking I would never give away all our money. Who would empty out their mutual funds, retirement plans, savings accounts and stocks? I wouldn't, not in a million years. Where does this leave me?

When my husband and I were young starting out, we had very little. I knew in the back of my head we were “safe” from this parable lesson. The day I married my husband he was ABD without the dissertation started and had no income. He didn’t even have a car because he had to junk it on the way to the university one morning. Meanwhile, I was working at a local nonprofit. We had nothing but our love and my large inherited real estate debt.

I learned real estate, bought and sold property, then refinanced our current house seven years ago when the interest rates hit rock bottom. One day I told my husband we had earned what we had. He was quick to point out that it was all a gift from God. He was right.

The homeless man reminded me of my wealth.

All the gifts in our lives are precious. Sometimes I think I squander love and friendship much more than money. We can lose everything we love very quickly.

While adding up the terrible investment losses from last year, I thought about everything I could have done with the money to help others and fulfill our dreams. Now I’m reminded it’s never too late to start.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been hanging onto it after all.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

We’re All In This Together: Mandatory Volunteering

As I was sitting at a picnic for one of my son’s activities, a leader stood up and proceeded to describe all the volunteer duties for parents. “O boy,” I thought, “This is entirely my fault.”

After leading a youth organization for a few years, I decided to tell parents to commit to a volunteer job on an index card and hand it to me along with their membership payment. One night in a parking lot as we were leaving a meeting, this leader talked about how certain parents were overburdened with a few jobs each, while other parents did nothing. I told her about my new system for my group and she was intrigued.

If you have ever volunteered for your school’s PTA, a scout organization, youth group, or sports team, you know how volunteering usually goes. The leaders do all the activity coordination themselves, a few other parents step forward on their own, or the leaders beg the same few volunteers to help. Eventually people don’t want to step forward as leaders because the job is overbearing.

The burden must be evenly spread across all members so everyone feels like they are doing their fair share. When I implemented the system, I worried about parents’ reactions to being forced to do an activity. What I found is that parents went overboard in their responsibility. Since they knew it was their “one thing” for the whole year, they threw themselves into the job. We almost had to hold them back. My leaders knew they could concentrate on their real responsibilities without additional time requirements. The quality of all our activities improved.

After the presentation at the picnic, the leader came to me and confirmed my earlier thought. Her presentation was due to my suggestions. All I could do was laugh. She talked with the leaders and came up with the plan to encourage more parent involvement.

Taking my idea a step further, she had taken a collage of photographs of the kids, cut it into puzzle pieces, and put a volunteer job on each piece. She encouraged the parents to take one puzzle piece and create the full picture together. When some did, she was delighted.

Perhaps mandatory volunteering will help your organization. Don’t be timid when you ask.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Learning to Love Letting Go

Scaffolding rose up toward the ceiling where the altar usually stands at the front of the church. Even though this was a special day for my son to celebrate Communion, we were not going to be kneeling at our familiar altar. Nothing was usual.

When I first heard the stained glass window was to be re-installed and the church would be in disarray, all I could think was “bad planning”. In my life, both personally and professionally, I plan everything. Schedules, timetables, and details are paramount.

But I think God had a strong message for me today.

The makeshift altar and distribution held the same promise. This Christian family meal provided the same joy of celebration with the millions of Christians who have lived or will live around the world. Life can’t be typical with so many people in the chaotic throws of life. You can’t plan everything with thoughts and power crashing in all directions.

When I became pregnant with my first son, a colleague told me having a child would be good for me because I would have to learn to let go. Everything would not go exactly as I expected. For the past dozen years, her words were a daily invitation to put each instance in perspective. I have changed.

Today’s free-wheeling service took my thoughts a step further and made me appreciate the unexpected, embrace the uncontrollable unknown. After all, earthly objects are immaterial.

A couple of weeks ago, our seminarian preached about his first time in our church. Our minister told him how he loved the stained glass window of the Ascension. As Jesus rises, the disciples are all standing around with expressions on their faces which seem to ask “Where are you going and what are we supposed to do?”

I ask myself the same thing everyday.

Today I realized I'm supposed to take Communion even when there’s no altar and be glad while I do it. After I am fed, I'm responsible for feeding, or looking after, others.
In life we often have to succeed with a failed plan. We will, by letting go of our perceived failure and finding joy in the situation.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Should I Abandon Real Life for My Laptop?

As I began to start a new community website, I caught myself thinking I’d need to jettison real life commitments in order to maintain it. Then it hit me, I was actually thinking about quitting my volunteer work with other people to sit at my laptop.

In the last week I’d volunteered at our elementary school festival and field day then participated in a cub scout service project. Between my family, work, church and a city commission, my days are booked. Something would have to give.

Should we really reduce our real life community time in order to have one online?

When I confided my dilemma to a friend, he told me about his six years maintaining a national website for train enthusiasts. After a while, the site took up so much time that he realized he wasn’t fixing trains anymore. All he wanted was to grab tools and scrap paint to repair old engines in the museum, but he’d spend his weekends on the website. He stopped.

For people who don’t have volunteer or community activities, online groups and interactions provide a sense of community. Anyone can spend time blogging and commenting to provide a place for like-minded people to participate from the comfort of their own computer screen.

But what if your time is filled volunteering in the flesh? Even if you streamline, you still need to have the time to do a good job and respond to others online. It’s unavoidable.

Now I’m seriously considering the benefits from all of my activities by asking myself four simple questions.

Does the organization have a positive influence on a priority in my life, such as my children?

What do I get out of the experience personally?

Am I truly helping a broader good or cause?

Will the online interaction improve an aspect of my real life community or career?

When I find the answers, I still have to prioritize whether an online effort with the same benefits outweighs a real life effort with people physically in the same place at the same time. It’s amusing to even consider it.

More and more, time spent online truly competes with real life interactions. How many times have you been dragged away from your computer or internet cell phone connection by someone standing in front of you?

A fellow mom sent me a piece of Flair on Facebook, “Not now sweety, mommy’s on Facebook.” I read it out loud with my 7-year old in the room and he said, “That’s alright mommy.” I spun around in shock and explained that I was only reading something. Was I ignoring him for the computer? At that moment I hadn’t thought I was. Though I often say, “Just let me post this blog real quick and we’ll do something together.”

I can’t imagine quitting as a volunteer to spend my time on my laptop no matter what the reason.

What we all need are online clones to handle our internet duties, blogging, programming and design. Our look-alike avatars could handle everything for us. Who’s working on THAT kind of robot?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Summer Camping at Disney Turns Out to Be Cool

Last July when a friend asked if it was hot enough for me, I blurted out “No, I think I’ll go to Florida and camp at Disney World for two weeks”. Most people in the Washington DC area couldn’t believe we were even contemplating such a trip in the summer swelter. Since I would never take my kids out of school and we couldn’t afford a hotel vacation, this was our only option.

Our friends’ doubts about our sanity were very much on my mind as we drove over the Florida border and I spied a road crew working on the side of the highway. Before I could stop myself, I thought they were crazy to be outside in Florida’s summer heat. Soon I realized the ridiculousness of the thought. Life goes on in Florida just like everywhere else in the summer.

When we pulled into the Disney campground, Fort Wilderness, the only thing we had was a printout of our campsite reservation. Since so many people had discouraged the trip, we had only booked the campground two weeks earlier and didn’t have tickets or restaurant reservations. Everyone plans these trips a year in advance and we arrived for our dream vacation with nothing but the sweltering heat. Parental fears of failure were strong as we walked up to the check-in cabin. As our two boys watched Disney shows on an old-fashioned TV, a staff member arranged our tickets and meal reservations. In short time, we were making our way to the campsite in our Class B RV. With trees creating a full canopy, we found the campground shaded, clean, and comfortable.

Early mornings were cool and relaxing as we ate at our picnic table. We decided to forgo the bike and golf cart rentals and depended on the regular bus, boat, and monorail lines to get around Disney World. Our loop was situated between two bus routes so we would pay attention to the buses during breakfast and head to the road where the next one was expected. The air conditioning on the buses was consistently near freezing. Most of our trips were spent shivering rather than sweating.

In ten days we visited all of the Disney theme and water parks. Each morning we arrived for the park openings with a plan to get wet on a particular ride and see the air-conditioned shows during the hottest part of the afternoon. However, in our drenched clothing, the air-conditioning was almost always too cold.

We religiously followed a schedule from The subscription for this service was cheaper than the tour books. We choose “Tween Boys” and our days were efficiently planned for us. We knew exactly where to go, when to get a FastPast, and when to wait in line. As we breezed past others and experienced everything by mid-afternoon, I found myself joking that I would send them more money when we arrived home. Following the tour plan and avoiding lines, kept us out of the heat.

Months later as I think about our summer camping trip at Disney World, I don’t remember feeling hot. If anything, I remember dreading the cold bus rides and freezing theaters. Since most afternoons brought quick thunder showers, we spent our time trying to stay warm and dry.

Summer’s a great time to visit Disney World, and you can even camp outside with an RV.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Can Yahoo Be the Better Facebook?

According to Alexei Oreskovic in his Rueter’s article, Yahoo’s Plan: create community from isolated sites, Yahoo Inc co-founder, David Filo, and new CEO, Carol Bartz, are planning all kinds of social networking features for

Yahoo is turning up the volume on many of its communications and community features and building bridges between the collection of Yahoo sites that have at times operated like virtual islands.

"You start to introduce Yahoo users to other parts of Yahoo," said Filo.

Whether users warm to Yahoo's vision of the social Internet with the same zeal they have for social stalwarts like Facebook and News Corp's MySpace remains to be seen. But if Yahoo's social networking features catch on, advertisers will take note.

Here’s why I’m intrigued:

* While she was visiting, my sister-in-law hit all the Day-After Thanksgiving Holiday Sales on my laptop with Yahoo. She surfed the web and charged her purchases to her Yahoo account.

* My friend, who leads a support group for parents of children with food allergies, wouldn’t start a Facebook group because everyone is happy and active with their Yahoo Group.

* My husband, an early adapter to Yahoo, cruises the daily photos from around the world. As I peak with my head on his shoulder, the popular photos summarize the world’s news, catastrophes, festivals, fun, nature, and … everything, in just a few glances.

Ms. Bartz is on the fast track to turn Yahoo into a social networking site. Yahoo would be packaged with a live stream of friend’s activities from the real groups in their lives. Saying it could be successful if done correctly is an understatement.

Facebook is a take-it-or-leave-it place for most of the people I know. Most users sign in when bored or procrastinating. I’ve been accused of updating my status too much and I only do it once or twice a day. “No,” I reply, “You should see some of the other people I connect with on Facebook, they send out stuff all day long.” But for most users this is not the norm.

For me, and almost everyone I know on Facebook, it’s a place for friends. We fan famous people and products, but it hasn’t morphed into actual sales for products and services on Facebook. Bottom line: companies want to make money, so they need customers or potential customers buying what they are selling. Companies can interact on a more personal level directly with customers on Facebook. Pages can encourage product loyalty. Also, the herd mentality of fanning what your friends fan is another quick/free marketing benefit. However, the ultimate goal of sales cannot be ignored.

Since Yahoo is such a commercial site already, it could happen in a spectacular way with Yahoo. We don’t think of as a place for friends but rather a place for information.

Mr. Oreskovic writes:

When an individual recommends a news story from the Yahoo homepage, uploads a photograph on Flickr or makes a trade on a fantasy baseball team from Yahoo sports, Yahoo will send an alert to a network of friends or contacts.

Yahoo is developing technology to broadcast roughly 100 types of such posts and actions.

Many of Yahoo's properties rank among the most popular on the Internet. Yahoo's homepage had 329 million unique visitors in February, according to research company comScore; Yahoo Mail had 282 million unique visitors in February, second to Microsoft HotMail.

In the last decade, in order to stay informed by my kid’s school, the delegation of PTAs, and my support group, I had to join Yahoo. Plenty of other people were forced to do the same. We’re all still there. It’s a big job for Yahoo, but there’s potential.

I’m going to go update my profile on Yahoo right now and give it a chance.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Facebook Un-Friend

Friends keep asking social etiquette questions about Facebook. For the most part, the interactions are unchartered. Although I advise the same good common sense as in real life, I’m now struggling with my own situation and how it will spill over.

I’m not by any means a public figure in my city but because of a local community blog, people know me. A city staff member once wrote, “We haven't met (and I'd like to remedy that) but I am ______________; and I am in need a of a great big favor.” So we corresponded and I tried to help.

A short time later her city email showed up on my friend finder in Facebook and she accepted my offer of friendship. As I like to make personal contact with all my new friends, I wrote on her wall, etc.

But she has unfriended me. I find myself wondering why. She could have just blocked me from seeing her status updates.

Gosh this whole Facebook thing is getting complicated.

I’m sure the college kids are way past this. Truthfully, I don’t care. To me it’s a friendship lost. I liked her status updates and thought she was fun and wild like me.

But this is the communications person for my city. Since I blog about our city, I’ll have to interact with her in the future. What do I do?

1.) Directly send a message on Facebook and ask why? Did I do something wrong?
2.) Ask her why when I see her in person?
3.) Pretend nothing happened both in emails and in person?

Yes, we weren’t really friends, but I was hoping to get to know her better. Yes, I understand it is more of a professional relationship with me and you don’t want your crazy everyday observations to go public. Today she has 195 friends, not many by a younger person’s standards, but obviously more than just a close circle. Plus, she has kept my fellow community blogger as a friend as well as other city staff, so it’s just me kicked off the list.

It’s just Facebook right so I have to ignore it? I guess I will.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Don't Wait

During a seventh grade dance Anthony told me that if I lost 50 pounds, I would be really good looking. He was a kind boy who had stopped girls from calling me names. He was trying to be helpful and give me advice. A year later he was killed in a car crash. I can still picture the coffin going down the aisle.

In tenth grade Dominic dived into a quarry and never came up. His mother had hand-sewn a dress as my birthday present in second grade. Then Maria’s house was on fire and although she came to the window and people yelled for her to jump from the second story, she went back to get her mother and they both died. I found out in advanced chemistry that morning when they made the announcement. She had been the lead in the musical and had a beautiful, unforgettable voice.

Lately I can’t stop thinking about them.

At 43 years of age I finally lost the 50 pounds, so I think about Anthony … then it snowballs. Anthony was right. I wish I hadn’t waited my whole life to feel so good about myself. I was so tired of being overweight. No matter what anyone says about accepting their weight and it not mattering, you feel like a failure when the methods exist to lose it to be healthy and you don’t. My greatest fear is that I will fall into a bad place and gain all the weight back, hence the constant training and exercising.

We don’t know how much time we have. If you feel bad about something in your life then change it -- now. Find the epiphany moment before it is too late.

Often when people are interviewed they express surprise at deadly situations. Bad occurences never surprise me. I’ve always felt bad about taking them in stride. How could I do that? Clearly, a very long time ago, I accepted how life could be over in an instant. For good or for bad, it carries with me each day.

I only have five years until I’m the age of my father when he died. He didn’t have long. I might not either, and I don’t want to squander my time.

So I’m constantly asking myself, “What’s important?”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Burning Bridges

Recently a friend was contacted by an old business associate. My friend started this person in her career and helped her rise to the executive level. Then the protégé made unflattering comments in meetings and was untrustworthy with information. My friend wanted to know what to do after years of separation.

Earlier that morning I had wandered around the grocery store wondering if I burn too many bridges with people. Generally, I give people a few chances. I try to understand the situation if I’m approached with anger or high emotion. I’m accepting of different kinds of people and can put myself in their shoes. I revel in an eclectic group of friends and like to trust them. But if a consistent pattern of bad behavior develops, it’s difficult not to avoid the perpetrator.

Carrying around disappointment and anger can erode your soul. Forgiveness is tough. In my faith journey, forgiveness is the hardest part. However, not forgiving is grievously worse. If you burn a bridge with someone, you have the oppressive task of lugging around the charcoal pieces and can no longer continue your journey in that direction.

During my conversation with my friend, we decided on an email olive branch. Although a small gesture, it was a significant act of forgiveness.

I guess the gnawing in my gut has to do with a bridge that’s rebuilt in a shaky, piecemeal manner. The old level of friendship and trust are never reached. We do it all the time. I can’t help but believe that this really isn’t forgiveness. The bridge is still burnt.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Volunteer Victory

“I know this is going to sound dumb, but I’m really going to miss all the emails, editing, and back-and-forth of working with you the last few weeks.”

Wow! I didn’t know what to say to this volunteer. We had just sat down to celebrate the success of my organization’s annual fundraiser, but these simple words meant so much more to me than the event.

He had lugged all his professional video equipment to three different locations to tape my interviews for our award winners. A friend of our organization had asked him to help. He’s an up-and-coming videotographer who produces videos for athletes seeking college scholarships. Our project demanded a substantial time commitment. He had to make sacrifices in his schedule to accommodate our taping. This was my first attempt at creating videos and he had obvious technical talent. Along the way we discovered that we were an excellent team. People from all walks of life were comfortable with us and the conversations produced meaningful footage.

I do a great deal of volunteering and manage many volunteers, so I’ve experienced it from both sides. I’m never in it for the glory or recognition. Since that evening, I’ve been thinking about what makes volunteering special. Why do people continually give of themselves? What makes me personally want to continue?

1.) The cause has to be meaningful. If a volunteer is not familiar with your organization, you need to introduce them. In this case, the volunteer had never been involved with the population served by my organization. The first time the two of us sat down together, I talked about what we did. I knew what impressed me and told him.

2.) A volunteer has to have support from others in their personal life. A parent praising the work or a friend already volunteering make a big difference. Since volunteer time commitments can impact family and socializing, it’s no small matter to make sure volunteers are encouraged by the important people in their lives.

3.) The experience needs to be fun. Recently a co-worker told me about working in a car assembly plant for three years. The experience sounded terrible but he enjoyed it because of the other workers. The task doesn’t matter but the interpersonal relationships do. My video guy and I compared notes on many aspects of our lives, our community, and our dreams. We became friends which made our success all that much better.

4.) You need to make sure the volunteer winds up having the time to get the job done. We only have so much time and sometimes our jobs or commitments change. Never assume or demand that a job be completed. Continually ask if the work is possible. Volunteers need to know that they can change the project or timeline to fit their schedule.

5.) Your expectations need to be reasonable. Since I didn’t know how difficult it would be to switch out certain footage or change pictures, I asked the volunteer what could be done on the tight timeline then respected his expert answers.

6.) Make sure the volunteer job is a good fit. Obviously, someone who creates videos for a living likes the job but sometimes people get tired of volunteering for the same duties they perform professionally. In this case, a wonderful variety of people were interviewed so the project was a tremendously different experience. We both were enlightened by the people we interviewed.

7.) Volunteers should grow either professionally or personally. My volunteer needed to overcome a strange sound problem near the end and he discovered a cutting-edge program to fix it. Any technical geek will appreciate this reward. The volunteer gained valuable knowledge that will come in handy professionally. Many volunteers talk about wanting to become better pubic speakers or learn a new communications skill. Volunteering can create safe environments to improve or discover hidden strengths.

Each experience bestows new insights, so I’m sure there’s plenty more to add.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Fear of Aggression

My kickboxing instructor asked me to punch her. She wouldn’t punch back. She's training for a big fight and needs to get used to being hit.

I don’t know if I can.

Why am I kickboxing anyway? For a few years, my husband has been suggesting kickboxing whenever I lament my large “slavic thighs”. Joking about my thigh genes being passed down for thousands of years to the women of my family, I have the legs of my mom and grandmother. They are the last hold out for my fat deposits, so I need to work them.

My instructor has started to talk to me about competition. An exhibition could eventually lead to sparing against other women. I hold back telling myself that I’m in it for the exercise.

During my third class I took her up on the offer to release my frustrations on the bag. Until that moment, I was just going through the physical motions. “What’s bothering you?” she yelled. With the thought of an annoying situation in my life, I really wailed on that leather bag. The sensation was scary. I’m afraid I’ll lose myself down the long dark tunnel of this aggressive world.

My instructor has a fourth degree black belt. She tells the story of the guy who came up to her with a knife one night. He said “Give me your bag.” She tried to warn him by saying “Don’t mess with me.” He decided to repeat “Give me your bag.” So she tossed it high in the air. When he went to grab it, she punched him hard, caught the bag, and took off. The thought of that kind of power hasn’t left my mind since I heard the story.

Imagine having such control and confidence.

So what’s it going to be? Can I really fight someone? Will I slip into this world and not recognize myself?

I’m still trying to figure out who I am. I must be alive.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

True or False?

One day in high school honors geometry our teacher, Dr. Sahagian, wrote a premise on the board and asked the class to vote if it was true or false. I raised my hand for “true” and then the entire class voted “false”. The teacher pressed me several times to change my vote. He called on the brightest students in the class to justify their opinions. Although placed in the most advanced classes, I knew math wasn’t my strength. My answer made sense and felt right. I held firm.

I was right.

I embraced the truth in opposition to the entire class. When my teacher and classmates expressed admiration, I didn’t understand the fuss. Everyone said they would have changed their answer when faced with such opposition. I couldn’t imagine agreeing to a falsehood in order to be part of a group.

We don’t recognize defining moments in our life while they are occurring.

As a philosophy major in college, I reveled in my Introduction to Logic textbook by Irving M. Copi. Today I continue to hold the book in my hands reading my meticulous answers with deep-rooted satisfaction. I stated the converses of propositions, constructed definitions by genus and difference, and classified arguments as deductive or inductive. My natural inclination for geometry stemmed from an ability to think logically and dissect arguments.

These days I blog. I’m obviously blogging now. I take pride in accuracy when writing. When reading other blogs and comments, I notice that people are often confused about truth. This week a friend pointed me to an article with a valid argument resulting in a false conclusion. A beginning student of logic could have diagrammed the statements and known, but the article was heralded around the internet with acclaim. The blog sounded cutting-edge and often that’s all that counts.

Beyond the simplicity of dissecting arguments to prove their falsehood, we can “disagree in belief” or “disagree in attitude”. People may have a disagreement in belief as to whether or not something has happened. But even if they agree something has actually happened, they can disagree about their attitude toward it. A writer can choose a word with exactly the same descriptive meaning but with an opposite emotive meaning. One may describe it in language that expresses approval while the other disapproval. A disagreement in attitude is not easy to settle. People use persuasion and rhetoric to attempt to change people’s attitudes.

Recently a committee accused me of writing “several errors” in a post on another blog. Since I reported using the exact words of the presenter, the disagreement is not in belief. With a predetermined opposition to the presenter, they may have thought of arguments against him or felt that he was not properly answering their questions. This is their attitude toward the speaker rather than the facts.

Since I worked for the same organization as the presenter 15 years ago, they believe I have a predetermined attitude. I did however represent the facts without attitude or emotive language.

Hopefully people will see their attempt to discredit me for what it is. In the meantime, let’s all stick to the facts.

We all know I’ll stand up for the truth and won’t back down.

Overcoming Shyness

When I was younger, especially as a teenager in high school and college, I would never participate in group discussions. I’d spend my time squirming in my sit wishing I had the courage to raise my hand. When in social situations, I would nod and smile but never speak first. One fellow student in high school gave me the rhyming nickname “Snotty Cotte” because I never spoke to people. After he spent some time getting to know me, he admitted he was wrong. I was terribly shy, not standoffish.

Perhaps you know the terror and awkwardness of meeting someone and having nothing to say. An awful silence fills the space. All your inadequacies flitter through your mind paralyzing any confidence to start a conversation. Knowing that my silence gave people a terrible impression only left me feeling more inadequate.

Lately, I think most of the people in my life would be surprised to learn that I was shy. Several people have described me as outgoing, and I admit that I schmooze my way around town. What happened?

As I grew to hate meetings, conferences, and clubs, I started to notice when these social situations weren’t painful. One time in particular at a youth leadership training, I observed how everyone was nervous. One fellow smiled and asked me a question. When I answered, a conversation followed and eventually others joined in the discussion. Relief spread across our faces because we were no longer in a scary situation filled with nervous glances. We were all put at ease and made great progress together that day.

I had paid careful attention. I knew that one simple question had completely changed the situation. Everyone had been just as nervous and uncomfortable then felt relief to get past these jitters. I marveled at the thought, “I should do that.” What if I was the person who started the conversation and improved the situation? But really, I didn’t think I had the confidence or energy to make it happen.

For a couple of years, I silently observed interactions. More and more I noticed how a simple gesture or question made introductory situations better. Eventually I had enough confidence to find something to say to the people next to me in groups at school, home, seminars, trainings or church.

Now I blurt out questions or comments. Sometimes I really have to think about an introductory topic, but I realized we are all the same. No matter the wealth or religion or occupation, underneath, most people want to connect, even if just to pass the time while waiting.

Many people don’t enjoy small talk or the dreaded cocktail conversations, but with some effort, the conversations can become more meaningful. The art of conversation can carry people beyond the trite.

Underneath I’m still shy and nervous but to all the world, I’m talking.

My Blog's

Click on the image to go to the Wordle Gallery:

Wordle: Trying Not To BNeg

I like that people, always, and care are the largest and therefore most frequent words.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why Do I Care?

Last week I wondered. Why do I care about the historic preservation of a building? Why do I care if the affordable housing community is built? Why do I care that there are homeless people living on our streets? None of these outcomes will change my life directly.

Most of the time, it’s not easy to care. When you really care, you take action. For these types of issues, you are often in the minority. Others may care but not enough to take action. If you act, you feel like the lone voice in the wilderness.

Even if you do find like-minded supporters for certain issues, it’s still not easy. If you stick your neck out, the repercussions from a loud and angry crowd of NIMBYs can be devastating. When they resort to personal attacks or try to discredit you, caring can be painful. People tell me you have to be thick-skinned.

Nothing new here to those with any experience with campaigns or NIMBYs. But when it happens to you, it feels like the first time. It is new. When taken on a personal level, aggressive emails and public complaints feel like you are being bullied. Standing up to a bully takes strength. People tend to shy away from confrontation so the bullies, and NIMBYs, win.

Last Sunday I visited a church. The minister preached about what Jesus could have done with his life. He could have continued to heal all day or preach nonstop, but his ultimate actions resulted in a movement, Christianity. She talked about how two thousand years later we have many people preaching to others, healing in hospitals, and working for nonprofit institutions.

I’d never thought about my nonprofit career as a fulfillment of Jesus’ mission. Throughout my teen years whenever I prayed in church for guidance in my life, the message was always so clear and loud. You must help other people. I could never escape it.

When I decided to “stay home with the kids”, I swore I would not go back to nonprofit work. I have.

Along the way I spent all my free time volunteering to make my little corner of the world better – the schools, the scouts, the church, and the community. I can’t help myself.

Last week, I reported on a meeting where one side of an issue presented their response to the other side. Unbeknownst to me, many didn’t want that information out in the community. The person who made the presentation said my writing was accurate, but his opponents are trying to discredit my integrity and ability. That’s tough to bear since it’s not been done in public, nor in a way I can respond.

So, the minister’s words were comforting to me.

Rest assured that this experience does not make me think that I’m on some type of Christian mission when I volunteer or work. I wouldn’t be so bold or ignorant. I acknowledge two sides to every issue and portray both evenly. My training as a Philosophy major forced me to accurately portray arguments then analyze their strengths. Sometimes this meant admitting that the argument against my belief was stronger.

A force … a strength … pushes me each day and keeps me going, even when it is not in my best self-interest. This much is sure. Where it comes from may not be certain.

Love and caring does extend beyond personal interests. Why do you care?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why Being A Cosmo Reader Is Good For Society

Is it such a bad thing to be a Cosmo Girl? Should I be embarrassed to celebrate my 45th birthday this week and “fan” Cosmopolitan on Facebook? Ever since I was in college, going to the beach or the pool always meant a Cosmo magazine in my bag.

If you threw up in first grade, you could still be “the kid who threw up” in college, so I’ve been thinking about my image with every word I type.

I’m not into the fashion and beauty products. You don’t need to tell me that color-coding your files will not get you a raise in the workplace. That’s not why I read Cosmo. The tag is “Fun Fearless Female”. Usually one of the headlines catches my eye and more often than not it contains the word “sex”. We all have the same questions and concerns about this subject but very rarely trust a friend to discuss them.

When I worked for the Chancellor of New York University, I stumbled upon the section of the library for PhD students studying Human Sexuality. I read every book on the shelves. Perhaps I would have earned a graduate degree if I had abandoned the school of public administration for this concentration. I couldn’t believe people were earning doctorates in the subject.

A few years later, when my husband, then boyfriend, was in graduate school, Dr. Ruth came to speak at the University of Maryland. He managed to get me a ticket. I remember being so glad that all the students were respectable and earnest with their questions.

So yes, I’m a Cosmo Girl, except now I’m probably a Cosmo Woman. I can’t help but notice how the magazine is geared to young readers. All the uncertainty of dating and relationships makes me glad to be older. However, I still get the same sense of satisfaction that someone is answering women’s questions about the subject and suggesting ways for improvement. There’s nothing wrong with mixing it up and experimenting. Self-improvement should always include everything that you do.

Often I think I should be more respectable. Since I care about my personal brand, should I have admitted my secret magazine reading? Worst yet, should I be writing this explanation?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wholesome sex between consenting adults. It’s a natural part of life.

I’ve always believed that as a society we are completely contorted about sex. Sexual abuse and sex crimes statistics are always sickening. 1 out of every 6 women in the United States have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. At least 20% of runaway teen girls were sexually abused. I think we have made progress in taking abuse seriously and prosecuting it as a crime, but its implications are still far reaching, especially concerning depression and substance abuse.

Although I want to have that perfect image, I’d never do it by hiding who I am. What’s attractive about Cosmo goes beyond any of my personal preferences. Those pages allow women to be women and discover what that entails. The articles provide a benchmark for a healthy way of approaching this part of life and send a message that women shouldn’t accept anything less. The more we as a society make strides to be open about sex, the more we will feel comfortable condemning the mangled, disgusting incidences of its abuse.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Living With the Political Enemy

One day my friend asked me how I could be married to my husband. After ten years in a support group for our children, we have shared many intimate details of our daily lives. Her unease didn’t stem from abuse or any other serious concern, but rather the fact that my husband and I belong to different political parties.

Since no one had ever blatantly asked me this question, my answer wasn’t very savvy. I stumbled through an explanation on how we had never had a disagreement about money and went to church together each Sunday. Many facets of our marriage were far more important than his voting habits. I chalked this whole episode up to living in the Washington, DC area where I once “interviewed” to live in a group house and didn’t make it because of my political party.

When my husband and I met at Gettysburg College we were both politically active. He volunteered. I protested. Many people still don’t believe we wound up marrying each other. We agree on the outcome desired for most issues but not on the systems for solving these challenges. Our training and philosophies don’t match, but our hearts do.

When I first started dating my husband, a friend from high school insisted that I break up with him. We would always get together for presidential debates and scream at the television. A presidential policy decision had directly ruined her senior year in high school. How could I sleep with the enemy? After meeting him for the first time she called to tell me that she was sorry. He was a kind, nice person, not some faceless opponent to despise, and she approved.

Back during the election, my alma mater distributed a news story about two friends and roommates. As president of the College Republicans, one organized an appearance by Cindy McCain while the other, who is president of the College Democrats, arranged a visit by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. The fact that they lived together and held such strong, opposing views was news worthy. Although hopeful, this is a sad commentary. The friendship was so unusual that it drew media attention.

Last year my husband completed a one-year work detail at the White House. Our family took full advantage of the Easter Egg Roll, Staff Holiday Tour, Marine One Landings, and Oval Office Self-Guided Tours. Even though all of the friends we invited to join us for these events had opposing political views, they appreciated that the Office of the President was not the same thing as the actual President in office. The fanfare of the White House continues no matter who lives there. Our democracy depends on this respect.

President Obama brings an unprecedented level of involvement from many people new to activism and politics. The President's support is strong and emotional though not complete. Anxiety is running high about the deepening worldwide financial crisis. In order to get through this terrible era, we are going to need to treat each other as friends. We’re going to need to work together beyond our differences.

It can be done. These times really don’t give us a choice.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Finding Courage In Our Modern World

Lately I’ve been feeling like a fraud. In an attempt to keep things in a positive light, I often write or take public opinions that gloss over bad behavior or actions by others. Sometimes I do this because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or because it will make me look just as bad but most of the time I think I don’t have the courage.

It’s easier to stand by and do nothing. Back in a college sociology class, we discussed how a woman was killed while screaming for help. Although many people heard her, she died on the street. No one took action to help her. In this day and age, hopefully someone would at least call the police on their cell phone.

We can now text message or call the authorities and comfortably take action without having to actually involve ourselves. It’s somebody else’s job, right? I’ll just call and let them handle it instead of saying something to the troublemaker or coming to the rescue. Perhaps this is the answer for a society that will stand by and let awful things happen without helping. As humans, this may be all we are capable of doing – a text message.

Often when something bad is happening we shy away. We don’t want to put ourselves out there. Why should we take on the conflict ourselves? If we speak up, we might not be liked. We could be hurt, killed, or embarrassed.

What if you are the only person around when a conflict arises and the police won’t get there in time? What happens if you can’t hide behind your happy keyboard or convenient cell phone?

In cub scouts, I need to speak to my second grader about courage. The discussion is a requirement for him to become a Wolf. They also teach “moral courage” at his school. The teachers playact situations to demonstrate that students should do the right thing even when no one else is.

What forms should courage take? Is a text message enough? What actions should we take to help someone? How should we act on the truth?

My son will to great lengths to defend the people he cares about. As a protective mother, I’ll talk about having courage and making safe choices.

A friend from college always says that he’s afraid he will act in a crisis and lay his life down for others. This has always shocked me because I’ve always been afraid that I wouldn’t.

Each of us may think we know how far we will go to help someone or right a situation, but who knows what will occur under pressure. We have our own personal amount of courage for each situation and sometimes we need to find it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kicking In The New Year To Become Your Opposite

The kickboxing instructor looked at me with distain. “You do yoga and running, but nothing aggressive?”

Even though I just met her, I had to prove myself. This is me. I ride a motorcycle, hike, camp, and take the hard knocks in life standing up. Had I really never done anything “aggressive”? That couldn’t be true. I stood there thinking and remembered judo in college. Yes, I had officially done something aggressive! I quickly explained that the girls refused to be my partner because they were afraid of me. I had to throw the guys and that was easier because the bigger they are the easier it is to get under their center of gravity and the harder they fall. Whew, passed the first test.

Why did it matter to me?

I didn’t know her and hadn’t even signed up yet. Obviously she’s the type of person I admire. Although small, she was straightforward and filled with a recognizable strength. Even more so, when I set my sights on something, I hate when someone thinks I can’t do it.

A long time ago, I took a simple personality quiz. The whole premise was that we all have characteristic traits from four areas. One is our strongest and one is our weakest with the other two in between. People spend their time trying to determine their personality, but that’s not what’s important. You need to concentrate on the person you are not. If by the end of your life you do not become your opposite, you will be unfulfilled.

My whole life I’ve been an overweight slug and I have the thighs to prove it. As I was turning 40, I decided to change. Other women told me that I shouldn’t bother to lose the weight, but I lost 50 pounds. For nine years I’ve practiced yoga, and I found the Thrive Yoga studio to help me reach a more advanced level. Two years ago, I started running on New Year’s Day and I’ve never missed going out a few times a week.

Fellow blogger, Amy Kimes, posted a link to her friend’s website about creating a personal vision board. With limited time, I answered the questions and created a personal vision statement which included kickboxing.

Throughout my life, I’ve ignored my physical well-being. In order to be complete, I need to be more adventurous. My instructor turned out to be a national champion in kickboxing. She trains, completes, and teaches in a few martial arts. I gave her hope that she could still have children in her 30’s and she inspired me to be totally fit.

Think about the person you want to be. Create a vision about where you would like to volunteer, what you dream of doing, what you would like to accomplish in work, and where you want to take your vacation.

Spend some time thinking about everything you don’t like to do. All those activities and situations you would never be caught dead trying. When you hear yourself saying “That’s not me”, take some time to determine why. Decide whether there are any barriers that might be stopping you from doing something fun, different, and challenging.

Most importantly, take it one year at a time -- starting this year.