Cinnamon Buns

We have been having a pretty big adventure here at my house. My neighbor took this picture, but I didn’t know about it until after the bear was at my house.  This bear is standing on the driveway leading to my house.  She named this bear Cinnamon Buns. At first I was telling people that I had a brown bear at my house and they looked at me rather strangely. Of course a brown bear is also know as a Grizzly Bear, and we don’t have those where I live. What I didn’t know is that Black Bears come in many colors, and one of them is cinnamon brown. When the sun was on his back you could definitely see the cinnamon color.

A few days after the driveway picture was taken, I had just come out of the shower and was heading for my closet. I looked out my bedroom window and saw a bear climbing up onto the picnic table in my backyard.  I really didn’t think I was really seeing a bear! How could that be? He laid down and started licking his paws.  Then started getting down.

Cinnamon Buns in the tree

A few days later I saw this.  Cinnamon Buns was up in the tree eating the apricots that hadn’t fallen yet.  Not only did he sit in the tree eating apricots, he also stood up and shook the branches to make the apricots fall. From where I was watching I could have literally reached out and touched him if I had opened the window. I confess I really wanted to touch him and see what that fur felt like, but cautioned prevailed and I didn’t do it.

Cinnamon Buns was exploring my yard and eating all the apricots that were on the ground around the trees.  There were probably close to 1000 apricots on the ground.  That’s a lot. I probably got 2-3 gallons of them picked before the bear showed up. I have 3 apricot trees and he cleaned them all out. We always thought it was the birds that were eating the apricots before I was able to pick them. Now we are not so sure about that.

Curious Bear

He seems to be a very curious bear. It was fun to watch him checking out the garden. He was a good boy and didn’t eat any of my tomatoes or herbs.

My dog Seamus was outside on Thursday when Cinnamon Buns came to the house and scared the bear and made it run up a tree.  It was difficult to get Seamus to come back in the house.  Silly me, I went outside to get the dog! Just a few steps….. but when I got back into the house I couldn’t believe I had done that. The bear stayed up in the pine tree for a long time and was panting from the quick climb up the tree.  This picture shows Cinnamon Buns walking on my garden wall back toward the apricot tree.

I haven’t seen him since then.  All of the apricots are gone from the trees and the ground. While it is better for all involved – the bear, my dogs, and me – I really miss him. I bet he will be back next year.

Nostalgia

Marion's Piazza

Nostalgia is a really funny thing. I was driving down I-40 the other day with my windows down. There was this smell, no, aroma. I know my brain was playing tricks on me, but I was sure that what I was smelling was Marion’s Piazza pizza. In fact I was certain that it was pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and green olives.

Not only was this one of my top two favorite pizzas, it was a part of some really great musical memories for me when I was growing up. One of the things I really enjoyed was attending shows at Memorial Hall staged by the Kenley Players. They would often have some really big names come through. After the show my mom and I would go to Marion’s Piazza, eat that amazing thin crust pizza, and the stars would sign my autograph book or program.

I don’t know for sure how many summers we went to these shows. It feels like there were probably a lot of them. I’m not sure where those programs and the autograph book are now. The autograph book must be somewhere in my stash of memorabilia.

I also went to Marion’s at other times too, with family, with friends, and after some sports events. I don’t have a single bad memory of the place, the people, or the food.

The word nostalgia (Oxford Languages) is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. That really is the right word for what happened when I was driving on I-40. I remembered the happy personal association of the events that surrounded eating at Marion’s. Perhaps even more importantly, I remembered what feels like a simpler time. There were fewer decisions to make. And, there was a feeling that my future was stretched out ahead with endless possibilities

Doesn’t that sound nice? I do wish I had appreciated it more at the time.


14,000 Things To Be Happy About

14,000 Things To Be Happy About is a small book that I noticed when I went for a massage. With nothing better to do, I picked it up and started reading. According to the author, Barbara Ann Kipfer, the book is a list of 50 years worth of things that made her happy or that she appreciated in life. The entries don’t seem to be in any particular order, but just reading them made me happy. Some notable entries included butter mints, waffle irons, and second chances.

I’ve done, and recommended gratitude lists for people. This seems to take it to the next level. What do you imagine would happen if we all did this every day, all the time, for our entire lives. We would be making a conscious choice to celebrate the little things that happen in our lives instead of focusing on the negativity of the news and social media. Seriously, loaded baked potato soup, devouring a book in one sitting, teeter-totters.

No matter how old you are, I challenge you to start now. Create a computer file or buy a journal and just start making a list. I believe that if we all did this the world would be a so much nicer place to live.

Overwhelm

overwhelm

Overwhelm is a word I hear a lot. In fact, I hear it often enough that I decided to explore it more in depth. If you look up overwhelm in the dictionary you will find 1) to affect (someone) very strongly, 2) to cause (someone) to have too many things to deal with, and 3) to defeat (someone or something) completely. Usually it involves all three of these meanings for most people I talk to.

When I ask what symptoms people associate with overwhelm, I hear decreased sleep, increased worry, fatigue, tearfulness, irritability, and intrusive thoughts. Those symptoms can be associated with many different feelings so they don’t set overwhelm apart from other emotions very well.

Factors that often contribute to this feeling can include having too many tasks. Excessively high standards, poor time mangement, inadequate mindfulness skills, or focus on another person’s evaluation of you can also contribute. This certainly suggests definitions 1 and 2.

Expectations of one’s self also may play into the feeling of overwhelm. The high standards or expectations mentioned above fit in this category too. I find that the words “should” and “shouldn’t” are the biggest contibutors. When these evaluations are present they really can drain a person’s resources and limit problem-solving skills. Many people have pretty rigid beliefs about how things should or shouldn’t be without being really clear about why. In fact, it is often just a preference.

Having weak boundaries can also contribute to feelings of overwhelm. People who self-identify as people-pleasers often have too many things to do and not enough time to do them because they haven’t learned to say no. They are also afraid to engage in the self-care that would increase their energy for tasks and overall resilience. Difficulty with prioritizing can also be a factor. If you look at your task list and see everything on it as the highest possible priority it would feel overwhelming.

Possibility List

When all of these things are considered it seems clear that the feeling comes from the inside but there may be outside factors. If the boss wants something NOW it likely impacts overwhelm. But if there is a confidence in one’s own ability to prioritize, set boundaries, and complete tasks it probably won’t be nearly as uncomfortable.

Other words people use to describe overwhelm include swamped, buried, flooded, saturated, overloaded, and engulfed. I was drawn to the words saturated and overloaded. Interestingly, saturated seemed to be from outside forces (although I acknowledge I have some control on what I let in). Overloaded seemed to be more internal for me. It is sometimes quite difficult for me to choose from the many things I like to do. I often take on more activities (because I really like them) than fit easily into my day.

When considering difficult to manage feelings it can be helpful to consider where you feel them in your body. This can be a great way to monitor how your coping skills are working since it makes the feeling more tangible. Does overwhelm feel like a knot in your shoulders? Maybe a pressure in your chest? Does it feel hot or cold? For those of you who know about tapping, it also is useful to use the bodily sensation as a focus for your tapping.

I Can and I Will affirmation

When you get down to it, the thoughts in your head that are associated with overwhelm generally are some variation of “I’m not enough” or that “I can’t handle it.” Those belief patterns come from so many different places. For me there is a childhood statement from a parent of “why can’t you be more like Lori.” Then there was a question about whether I deserved to be valedictorian since I was in chorus instead of advanced math. The media also perpetuates those feelings of not being enough for many people.

I would argue that for most of us the truth is really more like “I don’t want to handle this” or “I shouldn’t have to handle it.” This is an important thought pattern to explore and it can lead to solutions.

Speaking of solutions, here is a brief list of solutions you may want to try:

  1. Planning – Break tasks into the smallest possible pieces and assign a time to do them.
  2. Values clarification – Decide whether the competing tasks share a similar value for you. Do the things that are congruent with your highest values. (This isn’t always easy to figure out and it is ok to get professional help with any of these.)
  3. Mindfulness – Practice your mindfulness skills. Then you can stay in the here and now rather than ruminating on the past or catastrophizing about the future.
  4. Affirmations – Make statements of affirmation about your own ability to problem-solve, self worth, and intellect.
  5. Tapping – Tapping is a great way to manage the feeling of overwhelm.
  6. Self care – Set aside time (even a few minutes) to rest, relax, and renew. It will help you be more productive when there is an onslaught of activities.
  7. Language-monitoring – Watch your language for should, shouldn’t, ought to, have to, etc. These are energy drainers and not helpful.
  8. Choose your battles – There really will be times when it is not possible to do everything. You also might not be able to do everthing at your highest level.

Practice Room

Or….Making Room For Practice

practice room for piano

What do you visualize when you hear the words practice room? I immediately see a small windowless room with a piano, bench, metronome, pencil, and a pile of music. The walls are a dull industrial greenish grey. In reality I never practiced piano in a room like this, but that is what pops into my mind.

What happens if you visualize a practice field? I see a football field that is only half-scale in size and in poor condition. What about practice time? Is it a clock ticking loudly? How do things change for you if you say room to practice? I see my brain with its attitudes, thoughts, and processes. More on that later.

Practice can be defined as:

  1. Perform an activity or skill repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency
  2. Carry out a particular activity, method, or custom habitually or regularly, or
  3. To train by repeated exercises

To practice something requires a certain attitude. Practice is NOT a performance, so there needs to be a willingness, or even an expectation, to make mistakes. As noted in the definitions above, it also includes an expectation for repetition. We’ve all probably heard, and lived, the phrase “use it or lose it.” That’s where the idea of practice being regular or habitual fits in. Did you take Spanish in high school? How much do you still remember if you don’t use it every day. I remember a few words and phrases, but have lost most of it. The same happened with Japanese.

practice soccer

Historically, I’ve not been a fan of practice. I was fearful of mistakes, treated practice like a performance, and didn’t particularly like drills or repetition. This was true for sports and piano. I wasn’t very good at waiting, and practice felt like waiting. I didn’t embrace the idea that something could be happening while I was practicing.

Recently (very recently) my attitude about practice has shifted. Now when I think of practice it is less about the room, field, or venue and more about making room in my brain and life. It is helpful to take a few extra minutes to set an intention for the practice. I ask myself, “what do I want to accomplish right now?” I also think through different strategies to reach the goal.

practice with metronome

Practice can be summed up by trying to do one thing better than I did it before. I wish I could give credit for that wisdom since I didn’t come up with in on my own, but I don’t know where I heard it. I recently found it scrawled on a piece of paper when I cleaned off my desk. That one line changed a very old attitude for me. Wow, am I thankful! Today….I am working on page turns. That will be my practice plan.

Unsolicited Advice

Stop Sign indicating stop giving unsolicited advice

I could write a very short article on unsolicited advice; one declarative sentence. Stop, Don’t Do It! It is rarely a good plan in any relationship. Why?

  1. It doesn’t work, at least not often, and it can strain relationships
  2. It makes you responsible if your advice turns out poorly.

There are some key words to define. Lets start with the word advice. Oxford Languages defines it as guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent future action. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as a suggestion about what someone should do or how they should act. That doesn’t seem too ominous. Then there is the word unsolicited. Merriam-Webster defines unsolicited as not asked for or requested. This is where the problem lies. You were not asked for it. As a result, it then runs the risk of triggering defensiveness in the receiver of that advice.

I know that watching someone struggle is difficult. That is particularly true if you believe that you have the answer to their problem. If you are really honest, how often do you welcome unsolicited advice? If it is task-based or work-related it can be helpful in some situations, but you also run the danger of conveying that you don’t believe the other person is capable of figuring things out.

conversation without unsolicited advice

Perhaps a better approach is to just say something general about your willingness to help if the other person needs it. Then, you can expect that they will ask if they are uncertain or unsure of something. If it isn’t procedural, and is in the realm of opinion, sharing is even less desirable. If someone wants to know your thoughts and opinions they will ask.

Exercise vs Movement

Exercise vs movement

There is something about the word exercise that causes an emotional reaction for many people. I find it interesting that the word movement rarely elicits the same emotional response. Go ahead, say the words exercise and movement aloud and then notice what you feel. Try “I’m going to exercise” vs “I’m going to move.”

Although the literature suggests that exercise is beneficial for both physical and mental health, I believe many people are avoidant due to the negative connotation the word exercise has developed. Perhaps you were picked last for teams in gym class. Maybe you were teased about your level of coordination in the past. Maybe you have an internal dialogue about not being athletic.

Here are some steps you can use to get moving in the right direction.

walking on beach for movement vs exercise
  1. What forms of movement do you enjoy? Do you hate sit-ups but love to dance? List as many pleasurable ways to move that you can think of. My list would include swimming, dancing, and walking in the mountains or on a beach.
  2. What forms of movement can you tolerate, even if you don’t love them? I can tolerate an elliptical machine and stationary bike.
  3. What forms of movement do you really dislike? I dislike stair climbing, core strength training, and running.
  4. What forms of movement have you been curious about? My curiosity list includes kayaking, paddleboarding, yoga, rowing, and zumba.
  5. What holds you back? Some obstacles for me are physical limitations, availability, and not wanting to feel foolish, embarrassed, or “stupid” if I’m not good at something.
Possibility List

Once you have the answers to these questions you can start to create a Possibility List. Then you can use the list to increase the amount of movement you do each day. It’s ok to start small with types of movement you really enjoy.

How much different would it feel to say “I get to walk in the mountains” instead of “I have to exercise?” I have said it before, words have power. Deliberately choose the word that helps you live your values in a comfortable way.


Do I Still Do Reiki?

Reiki Symbol

People have asked, “Do you still do Reiki?” The answer is Yes, I do. However, much like tapping, I don’t use it as intentionally or as frequently as in the past. That realization makes me feel sad.

I find that the absence of a local Reiki Community is a factor. My Reiki Community in Ohio was robust. I loved being around other people, doing, sharing, and talking about the practice. I really miss that. I also miss those people that were in my life then.

I deliberately use Reiki in two ways now. When I am enjoying time in nature I often send energy out to the trees and animals. Combining Reiki with tapping is also something I do fairly frequently. I focus the Reiki energy in my fingertips while I am tapping on the meridians and it seems to enhance my experience.

Someday I would like to re-engage in a more intentional program of study, practice, and instruction. Teaching Reiki has always been greatly satisfying. Now does not feel like the right season for me, but I remain open for it when it appears

Mindfulness

Lea standing at Grand Canyon

I am sure you have heard the word mindfulness. In my lifetime it has evolved from a “hippie” word to a mainstream buzzword. I think that is for good reason. It can be helpful to think about mindfulness as both a group of techniques and a lifestyle. For me, mindfulness as a lifestyle is more aspirational, but I do believe that frequent practice of the techniques can lead in that direction. I define mindfulness as the practice of actively engaging the full mind in the present moment without simultaneously carving out space for reviewing the past or planning the future.

Mindfulness is often associated with meditation. They can can go together, but I prefer to see them as separate. I consider meditation as one technique or one method to engage in mindfuless. It can also be practiced in other ways that don’t seem particularly meditative or spiritual.

Two examples that come to mind include mindful toothbrushing and mindful eating. Toothbrushing and eating are often done without any mental focus or effort. If you switch your toothbrush or fork to your nondominant hand, you have to come into the present moment and focus on the mechanics. There is no mental space for reflection on the past or projecting into the future unless you want to make a mess.

Mindfulness meditation is also beneficial, but can be strenuous. Most people think they are terrible at it and have unrealistic expectations. My first real experience of this was at a 2-day meditation retreat. That’s right! I started with 2 days! This is something I do NOT recommend. I had the expectation that my mind should be clear of all thoughts and I would avoid all distractions if I was doing it right.

What I experienced was almost instant and continuous monkey mind. Sitting in silence felt painful, and I didn’t do much better with walking meditation. I noticed everything around me and started mentally describing everything I saw. It took real effort to return my thoughts to the present moment over and over again.

I thought I was getting the hang of things on the second day…until the bird flew into the window. At that point I started worrying about whether or not it was dead. That storyline continued all the way to wondering whether cats eat dead birds. If that wasn’t enough, my brain engaged in comparing myself to the others at the retreat. They all looked like they were doing it right.

Yes, it is hard. It makes one wonder, “why try?” There are so many reasons.

  1. Mind mastery. If you can repeatedly return to the present moment in meditation practice (or while brushing your teeth), you will be more likely to be able to do it in real life situations.
  2. Greater joy in the moment. Being fully present while eating that fragrant, visually beautiful, and incredibly tasty pizza will bring so much more pleasure than worrying about whether they will find something awful when you have your colonoscopy 20 years from now and how you will handle that.
  3. Decreased anxiety. If you consider anxiety as unproductive thinking about a future possibility that has not yet happened, mindfulness or being in the present moment does not allow space or energy for anxious thinking.

There are many books and references about mindfulness. I recommend Good Morning I Love You, by Shauna Shapiro as a good introduction. Easy to read, well-written, and gentle, it includes practical exercises for readers at all levels of mindfulness and meditation practice.

Accept that it will not come naturally at first. That’s ok. Mindfulness is not a destination. It is simply a practice.

“I Can’t” – A short rant

“I can’t”
“I don’t want to”
“I won’t”
“I shouldn’t have to”

I’m sure you have seen or heard me say this before, words have power. Many people use the above statements interchangeably and I believe it is to their own detriment. The statement, “I can’t” is particularly problematic. When I call people out on this they often dismiss their use of I can’t as trivial. Your brain stores this and over time it becomes true just by repetition. More accurate labeling of your emotion leads to better solutions and avoids the repetitive mislabeling.

Consider this, “I can’t take it any more.” What does that actually mean? Is there something that is implied but not stated? I often hear people using that statement when they are really meaning that they think they shouldn’t really have to do something or when they don’t want to experience something.

Not everyone will agree with me, but I think using I can’t instead of the other terms is a subconscious way, in many instances, to reject taking responsibility for whatever happens next. If I can’t do, tolerate, or handle something then I have more license to get mad, melt down, or avoid.

This isn’t always the case. There are times when I can’t is accurate. I really can’t bend my knee all the way. Multiple injuries and surgeries have rendered that an impossibility. I can’t handle scary movies is less true. More accurate for me would be I don’t want to watch scary movies because they make me uncomfortable and ruin my sleep.

The repeated use of I can’t can reinforce a victim mentality and disempower the user. What you practice will grow stronger. If you repeat something often enough, that belief will grow stronger. Perhaps it would be better to remember the Little Engine That Could. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Or in some cases, I choose not to….I choose not to….I choose not to.