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Summer is over. The growing season is coming to an end in Central Ohio and with temps threatening to fall into the 30-degree range over the weekend, it is time to clean the flower beds. In the past, I’ve always experienced pangs of regret when an annual I’ve carefully and thoughtfully tended during the warm summer months succumbed to the deadly effects of Jack Frost.

This year, however, I decided to save an especially vigorous asparagus fern and bring it to the studio, where the temperature is moderated and we have sunshine in abundance. Back in May, I purchased several small starts of these ferns. Most found homes in planters around our condo, but one special little guy made his home on the corner of my desk at SJ. He has been sprouting new growth all summer and has nearly outgrown his allotted space. Throughout the past weeks, colleagues have even regularly commented on how great he looks.

But when I brought in his brother this morning, the one who had spent the summer at home, I was shocked by the disparity in their progress. Months ago, they sat side-by-side on a shelf at our local garden center, any difference in size or vitality was unnoticeable. But now, well, see for yourself:

photo 1-1

photo 2-1

Both are healthy and growing and are visually appealing. They both received attention during the growing season. (Truth be told, the little guy was fawned over five days a week while his big brother was given a cursory glance and the occasional squirt with the water hose as it sat on the front steps.)

Same plants. Same soil. Same start in life. Different size containers.

See what happens when you are given space to expand and room to grow? To breathe and dream and imagine? All things being equal, it’s more likely you’ll reach your potential more quickly.

Living. Being healthy. Looking good. Blooming where you are planted. These are worthwhile goals, but not the same as reaching your potential. I’ve heard it said repeatedly, Good is the enemy of great.

Where are you planted? Is it the right environment for your growth? The people, the routines, the expectations, the costs, the payoffs—are they pushing you or holding you back? Transplanting a fern–much more so a life–is risky, no doubt about it. But if you want to stretch and grow and expand beyond where you are right now, it might be just what you need.

Whatever you are, it matters where you are planted!

Deanna

fit-just-go-run

Last year I committed to “running” a 5K in August to support the shelter that took great care of Dewey until we found each other. My sister recommended a handy little app called the C25K (Couch to 5K) which takes the would-be runner (me) through a series of 9 weeks of training — 3 days a week for 30 minutes each session. On the last day of the 9th week I was commanded to “Go Run A 5K.”

Sure. Except that I still couldn’t really “run” a 5K, but I could do much more than before starting the training. I jogged part of it and then I needed to walk a bit to catch my breath until I could jog some more. I finished my first 5K at just under 41 minutes, at age 47, and I was very proud.

This year I have committed to “running” two 5K races. One in August for the pet shelter, and one in September to support Ovarian Cancer Research as a tribute to my mother. So, I dusted off my C25K app and started again with a goal to run more than I was able to last year and finish sooner, even if only by a minute.

Let me explain something — with the exception of playing as a child, I have never run. Running is really difficult for me. I don’t look forward to it. I never participated in team sports in school. And, after a painful introduction to running last year, I discovered I can’t just hop out my front door and start running like when I was nine. NO WAY! You have to KNOW things like the correct way to run and breathe and stretch.

So, you may be asking, why run at all? I run because it’s difficult. Because when I make my body keep moving when I feel like stopping, I feel empowered.

As an adult, I’ve discovered it’s easy to create a routine that’s complacent, easy, mindless. A life where I’m not forced to eat my vegetables, observe a curfew, or step out of my comfort zone. Where I’m allowed to . . . because I want to. And in the process, I’ve become lazy.

That’s why I run . . . because it’s hard and I don’t want to. It doesn’t come naturally. Because it makes me feel alive and in control. Because when my muscles hurt and scream “NO!” my mind screams back, “Oh, YES YOU WILL!” Because when I’ve been jogging 20 minutes and sweat is pouring down my face I cheer myself on, “You can do this!” Because it’s proof I believe in my ability to overcome. Because I’m filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment when I’ve conquered the training which will enable me to finish the race. Because I will finish.

Whatever you are, reignite your passion by doing something difficult –

Deanna

 

Lilly of the Valley blooms from my garden.

Lilly of the Valley blooms from my garden.

 

Last week, something happened — and I don’t even recall the events any longer — but I do remember saying to my colleague at the time, “Well, that certainly could make you feel invisible.”  And then I stopped and thought about that for a second. Feeling invisible. Like what you say or do or think or contribute is of absolutely no consequence. Meaningless. Life can go on and on and on without your leaving a mark of any significance.

When I dug a little deeper, I heard it this way: Your contribution is so meaningless, that you should stop whatever you are doing to tend to whatever I need. And, before I could allow an oversight to become an offense, I stopped and realized this is what women sign up for when they become mothers.

  • Cooking dinner? Stop it immediately to comfort a crying baby.
  • Balancing the checkbook? That can wait, a diaper needs changing.
  • Enjoying a quiet moment at the end of the day? Investigate the patter of feet in the hallway.
  • Planning for an important meeting? Reschedule because of a conflict with the recital.
  • And on, and on, and on.

In life, as in motherhood, there is always a conflict — competing priorities and limited resources. On a daily basis (and usually much more often), your influence, voice, desires, and activities take a back seat — often without acknowledgment or appreciation — to attend to the needs of another.

But make no mistake, your presence is quietly influencing, adjusting, correcting, encouraging and changing the future. I was reminded of this when I stepped into my garden on Friday and was delighted with a sweet aroma. After looking around to discover the source, I found that our Lily of the Valley had come into bloom.

Their blooms are tiny in contrast to other flowers that easily catch your eye. Their white bonnets are quietly tucked away between leaves instead of loudly announcing their arrival at the top of tall stems. Basically, unless you are looking specifically for them, they are invisible. No worries — they influence not necessarily through sight, but through an amazing smell that belies their smallness.

Influence doesn’t always stir the crowd by shouting from the pulpit. Often it is the quite, unrelenting, “invisible” consistency that comes simply because you are present.

So, the next time you feel invisible, take heart in knowing that you are influencing in ways you can’t even see.

Whatever you are, don’t worry about being invisible!

Deanna

PS: A very Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who have encouraged, corrected, listened, and influenced me in ways that may have seemed invisible at the time.

Image

 

I snapped this photo while out walking Dewey this morning. Today is the first full day of spring and Mother Nature is bursting with pride in Central Ohio.

The bright yellow blooms inspired me with their bravado. In spite of being surrounded by dead leaves, sad-looking grass, and reminders of our long cruel winter, they just did their thing. Blooming where they were planted, without a thought to what their friends and neighbors were doing.

They didn’t ask permission to take action or require the leaves to blow away before making an appearance. The flowers weren’t waiting on someone or something else or for the conditions to be perfect.

I like that tenacity. It gives new meaning to the well-worn adage “Bloom where you’re planted.” Don’t miss the window of opportunity to fulfill your destiny. Regardless of what it looks like in your corner of the neighborhood, stick your neck out and bloom like it’s nobody’s business.

Whatever you are, be a good one –

Deanna

You: A Jerk Whisperer

A friend on Facebook recently posted the following image:

Although the message is humorous and one that is sure to be liberally passed around to friends, family members, and office colleagues alike, there is a lot of truth behind it.

There are people in our lives–whether intimates or casual acquaintances–who are haters. For whatever reason they choose to focus on the differences rather than the similarities. They prefer to hoard offenses, point out deficiencies, and recall failures.

Who knows why? More importantly, who cares?

There are individuals who revel in generating poison and being bossy, and no amount of your trying to clean up their outlook or reset their attitude or change their point of view is going to have lasting effect.

Good News: Your job is not to win over the haters. You are not the Jerk Whisperer.

Think about it for a second.  What are you trying to win them over to? Your point of view? Your ideas? Your ideal? And while certain things may work fabulously for you, obviously it is not the philosophy they have chosen for their own life.

Who’s to say you are exactly right and the other person is so wrong anyway? Frankly, your consistent nagging and criticizing and quarreling (trying to win them over) creates a strong argument for your being labeled a hater. >Ouch<

How about a little more kindness and flexibility in your approach? Why not give the other person the benefit of the doubt now and again?

What would happen if you would agree to disagree (without serving up a side dish of malice)? What would it take for you to find some common ground to build upon?

Remember, “the ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree but hold hands” (unknown).

Whatever you are, don’t be a hater (or a jerk whisperer),

Deanna

Stevens Creative Consulting

A Farewell to Can’t

I tore a page from a Town & Country magazine a few weeks back and I’ve been carrying it around with me ever since.

It wasn’t colorful or clever or cute. It was a simple one-page ad, on a mostly white background, for Outward Bound. I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve overlooked it in previous issues as I hurriedly flipped from one slick photo to the next interesting article, approving and disapproving of people I don’t know and lifestyles I can’t fathom.

But this time the message beckoned to me like a whisper of encouragement. And as I’ve reread it during the past few weeks, the hint of a suggestion has transformed into a shout of declaration:

A Farewell to CAN’T

This goodbye does not make me sad. I will not miss you.

I have discovered what it feels like to do the unthinkable.

The hard. The long. The challenging.

You have no business here anymore.

From now on, difficult will seem doable.

I will see the impossible as simply not-yet-conquered.

Farewell, Can’t. You will haunt me never again.

Hello, Can.

Welcome to my world.

Regardless of what person or circumstance or decision you’re facing, I encourage you to say your own farewell to Can’t, and a warm welcome to Can.

As Michael Jordan said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Whatever you are, bid farewell to Can’t,

Deanna

Stevens Creative Consulting

Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten” [G. K. Chesterton].

Go out there and slay some dragons!

Think back to when you were a child and you had a favorite story book. Do you remember?

It was the one with the smudges, dogged pages, and worn cover.

It was the one you spent hours reading. You were amazed by the illustrations; delighted by the story; emboldened by the hero’s courage. You cheered as the enemies became victims of magical plans.

One of my favorites books was The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Mickey Mouse in the title role. I loved the story of a young character, home alone, misusing his power. Sure, it was great fun at first but, as my friend says, “Too much laughing leads to crying!” And before the young apprentice could wreak more havoc or create another army of servant brooms, the sorcerer returns and saves the day.

Once upon a time we believed that all things were possible. That dogs could talk and spiders could spell and a mouse named Mickey could cause brooms to come to life and cows could jump over the moon.

But somewhere along the way we stopped believing in things we couldn’t see. We came to believe that magic and fairy tales were for children. We outgrew the belief that dreams could come true.  And although we were still compelled to fight dragons (as adults we give them different names), we no longer expected to win the battles.

Life can be like that.

The truth is, you still have within yourself the power to storm castles, slay dragons, save the day, and change the course of your life. Magic still exists. The adult-version is called self-confidence and action, belief and positive attitude, determination and courage.

What story will you write today? One where you are banished to the tower in a distant castle? Downtrodden, held hostage by unfulfilled expectations and disappointments? Waiting for a mysterious stranger to come and save you?

Or, one where you grab life by the tail, fight your hardest, slay the dragons, and make dreams come true?

How could your life change if you had the courage to take one step toward your future, instead of putting things on hold, waiting for Prince Charming to arrive?

Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales
whose gates are guarded by dragons:
we must fight in order to conquer it.
~Alexandre Dumas

Be willing to go after what you really want. Fight for it. Slay the dragons. Be determined! Realize “you may have to fight a battle more than once to win” [Margaret Thatcher]. Keep fighting . . . victory will be worth it in the end.

Whatever you are, write a good story today!

Deanna
Stevens Creative Consulting

One of my favorites essays. Originally posted 2/19/10.

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