Saturday, January 28, 2017

Guiding Star Week #4: Touchstones


I am off on another adventure, but through the power of the Internet (and my own will power), I was able to get this post ready for you before I left.

No, I'm not here.

Let's talk about your Touchstones.  These little phrases can be incredibly potent, IF you allow them to infiltrate your life.

These are my 2017 Touchstones:

- Persisting brings joy

- Create to feel great

- Listen

It's the last one I want you to know about right now.  One word.  Simple, yet powerful.  Right?

Here's the conversation between my Buddy and me from my original Plan.  She's blue, I'm red and she's italics.

3. Listen Just curious. To others? To yourself? Or both? Everything.  Everyone.  Myself. I am often crafting my response as others are talking to me.  I’m often judging people mentally and not hearing them where they are. Then there’s the whole divide in the country.  While I’m still not ready to listen to Trump and his supporters, this reminds me to make an attempt. Good! Isn't it interesting how one word can contain so much?

And my husband. And my colleagues. And my friends. And my students. This year, thanks to Guiding Star, I'm already on my way to being a better listener.

Okay, 2 final things to tell you.

#1 - I'm leaving you alone with your Guiding Star Plans for a month. No worries, I'll still be blogging about other creative needs and desires.

#2 - The clock is ticking down on the super-duper discount!  One-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour through February 1, 2017 (Click here to schedule a session).

Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? One more week of discount remains!  One-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour through February 1, 2017 (Click here to schedule a session).

I'm not here either.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Guiding Star Week #3: Stay Focused, My Friends

Sorry I'm a day late.  Whew, what a weekend!

I was going to blog about our Slogans today, but then this happened.

Members of my family at the Million Woman March.
At this point, we've walked 4 miles and we've got about 2 to go.
We're good.

My husband, my stepdaughter and me.
On our way to the Million Woman March.

I know that many of you Creataviters were marching throughout the world on Saturday.  Hooray!  Wasn't it an incredible event?  If you're like me, you came back fired up and raring to go.  Fired up about what?  Raring to go where?

Believe it or not, you designed your Guiding Star plan for this exact moment.  Now's the time to open that plan up, spend a few minutes with it.  Need to adjust a Touchstone?  Go ahead.  Need to adapt a goal?  Do it!

One of my Goals this year is:

Study and volunteer for gerrymandering reform for 30 minutes each week.

Last week, I hit the button to volunteer for Fair Districts PA, an organization working on gerrymandering right here in Pennsylvania.  Do you think it was a coincidence that I received a call from the organization, giving me a specific task, while I was marching in DC? (No, I didn't answer!  I was shuffling down 14th St, heading to the White House with hundreds of thousands of others!)

Neither do I.

Stay focused my friends.

Her dad said I could take her picture

Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? One more week of discount remains!  One-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour through February 1, 2017 (Click here to schedule a session).

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Guiding Star Week #2: Accountability

It's Friday afternoon and I just spent 15 minutes researching blogging conferences.


Because in last week's post, I told you I would.  Because attending a blogging conference is one of my 2017 Guiding Star goals.  Because how could I tell you to work your plan if I don't work mine?

Thanks for holding me accountable, Creataviters!

That's one of the beauties of having a plan like Guiding Star.  Now, all those dreams, desires and ideas that have been floating around in your head are in front of you, in black and white.  Now they start to feel possible.  And, if you've found a Buddy, there's at least one other person on the planet who is ready to hold you accountable.

Week #2 of Guiding Star is right in front of us.  This week isn't much different than last week.  

- Take 15 minutes to read your plan. 

- Still feeling odd when contemplating your Slogan?  I continue to stop, breathe and say mine to myself.  

- How about working on one Goal this week?

- Writing down what's working and what isn't might help.  Go ahead.  Give it a try.

- If you are someone's Buddy, this week is a good time to check in.  Encourage some action, even a small step.  We don't need to solve global poverty this week, but if we spend 15 minutes on it, we will get somewhere.

Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? One-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour through February 1, 2017 (Click here to schedule a session).

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Forgotten Ones

I had forgotten Gordon Bischoff, my middle school band director.  Thanks to Donald Trump, he was brought back into my life. At least Trump's done one good thing.

See, I started communicating with my middle school pal, Tim Lyke, after the election.  Tim lives in the town we grew up in - Ripon, Wisconsin (really, you should click on that.  You're going to be surprised.). In fact, he publishes the local newspaper.  The fact that Tim's bio is in the midst of all of his employees' bios here should give you a sense of what type of person he is.  Warm, great sense of humor, smart - that's some of Tim's better qualities.  We see each other on Facebook occasionally; we haven't seen other in person for a few years.  When Tim and I talk, it feels like we last spoke a few days ago.  That's the friendship we have.

Ironically, as Tim and I were reinvigorating our conversation, Mr. Bischoff died.  Don't worry, he was 90. I must admit, I hadn't thought about him for years.  Which was unfortunate, but to be expected.

Some mentors just never leave our awareness.  I have one I talk to regularly.  I thank her regularly.  I see her on Facebook all the time. She saved my life when I was a teenager. I'm not kidding. Others do great work and slip into the fringes of our memories.  That's what happened with Mr. Bischoff.

Look, he was a fine teacher.  I remember he'd get a little ornery.  He was exacting, insistent, would occasionally crack a joke.  and you know what?  He had a HUGE influence on my life.  HUGE. I became the musician I am today because Mr. Bischoff insisted that I hold that quarter note for the entire beat, tap my right foot, not my left foot, that I practice that phrase again.  All those little pieces that, in the end, added up to an unbelievable musical education.

Tim tells it even better than I do right here. If you're feeling lazy, I've published the entire piece at the end of this post.

Real music.
My friend, Tim Lyke and our middle school band director, Mr Gordon Bischoff

Here's to the forgotten mentors of your life.

Column: Mentor, student make music with licorice stick, sludge pump

By:  Tim Lyke, Publisher, Ripon Commonwealth Press
Wednesday, September 9, 2015

GROWING UP IN RIPON in the 1970s, I respected, revered and (a little bit) feared two men who still live in our city: Gordon Bischoff and Dave Schanke.

They were my middle school and high school band directors, respectively.

Every week from sixth to 12 grades, I paid a one-on-one visit with these fellows for a trombone lesson. (Come to think of it, given my assault on their ears, they probably feared me, too.)

The night before my lessons, my heartbeat quickened, my hands turned sweaty and my stomach churned as I realized that again, best intentions to practice my horn every night had been for naught.

So I’d try to cram a week’s worth of rehearsing into a single night — the dreaded lesson eve. The next morning, I’d face the music (using the term very loosely).

Messrs. Bischoff and Schanke were on to my scam, but I was well behaved and rarely emptied my spit valve into Janelle Schulz’s saxophone in front of me, so I usually got away with a B in band.

I still play trombone today — even get paid for it, on occasion, which seems criminal, given how much I enjoy it.

I am indebted to Mr. Bischoff for getting me started and never giving up on me, even when it seems I had given up on myself.

HE COULD SEEM STERN. But his guidance, patience and encouragement were unwavering.

Perhaps Mr. Bischoff endured me and my classmates because he knew that he could escape us novices on those fall Sundays when the Packers played at home.

He’d drive up to Lambeau Field to play his clarinet with the Green Bay Packer Band — one of Wisconsin’s finest ensembles.

This was in the Lombardi era, when the Packers were at their peak. You could turn on your TV after church and, at halftime, see your band teacher accompanying America’s best team with what surely had to be America’s best team band.

SINCE GRADUATING, I’VE run into Mr. Bischoff around town now and then.

I’m no longer intimidated by the man I now address as “Gordy,” though my respect for him is undiminished.

I hadn’t seen him for about a year when I spotted him a couple weeks ago while visiting my mom at Prairie Place.

Now 89, Mr. Bischoff , was in the assisted living facility’s less-skilled unit, his clarinet case by his side.

I asked if he was performing for residents. He explained that he wasn’t sure how he got there but needed a ride home to be with wife Joan. (Staff told me Mr. Bischoff now lives at Prairie Place and that I should not offer him a ride.)

During daily visits to Mom I would occasionally bump into Mr. Bischoff ; I’d remind him that I was among the hundreds if not thousands of Ripon students he taught to play an instrument.

“Such a rich legacy you leave with the joy of music you have given them,” I’d say.

I’d tell Mr. Bischoff that he taught me to play the trombone more than 40 years ago. “You get all the blame for that,” I’d add.

He’d slowly smile.

I’d then ask him if I could one day play a duet with him, noting I’d be thrilled to play with a guy who used to perform for Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston.

He’d slowly nod his head, indicating the thrill would be mine alone.

ONE WEDNESDAY AFTERnoon I was delivering Commonwealths to Prairie Place when I came upon Mr. Bischoff standing in the dining room in front of a music stand, giving a mid-afternoon concert to resident Fern Wagner and an aide or two as they would walk by.

I ran out to my car and grabbed my trombone.

He graciously watched as I assembled it and stood next to him.

Together, we played part of “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

The pieces were simple, and I know there was a time when Mr. Bischoff could have improvised solos and harmonies and runs. But that day, he was content to read the quarter and eighth notes, tolerating my attempt to harmonize. His tone was impeccable, with a hint of vibrato at the end of the longer notes.

When we were done, I beamed, thanked him and confessed that I was thrilled to play with him.

He offered a half smile, the sort you’d expect from a man who previously looked resplendent in his spotless, stiffly starched, dress whites with gold epaulets as he marched smartly down Watson Street while leading 80 musicians, each of whom he personally had taught to master their instruments.

Now here he was, wearing his U.S. Navy baseball hat as he played his clarinet for an audience of one or two in an institution from which he wasn’t permitted to leave without an escort.

Mr. Bischoff joked about how I should bring my own music next time, though I could tell he didn’t know who I was or why I had such a goofy grin on my face.

My hero had made my day — my week, even.
Attachments area

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Guiding Star Week #1: How We Doin'?

Sunrise on the Nile

My, oh my, oh my.  I am humbled.  I am honored. I am astonished. I am thrilled. You're giving Guiding Star a try.  As I promised, I'm not going to get you started and then turn you out into your cold, cruel lives all alone.  I'll be checking in frequently for the first 2 months, standing next to you and, hopefully, providing insight and motivation.

You've got one simple task this week.  You ready?

Spend 15 minutes with your plan.

That's it.  Take 15 minutes to read and ponder your plan.

Some questions to fire your pondering.

- Any events this past week that felt different because of your plan?

- How's it going as you incorporate the Slogan and Touchstones into your life?

I know. Me too. It's a challenge. When I first incorporated these phrases into my life, it felt downright hokey.  But I kept doing the work, mainly because my Buddy was so insistent at the changes she had experienced.  Sometimes, it still feels hokey to me.  Not as much as it used to.  Plus, I've had some mind-blowing experiences where I felt the slogan or touchstones working.  That was enough to convince me to work through the hokey times.

By the way, my Slogan is still a mess, so I'm still working with it.  I have been trying out different language, usually while I'm walking (I actually say different versions out loud, which can look rather silly). I tell you this so you know it is just fine if you don't feel quite right about some part of your plan.  Keep exploring.

- Any events coming in the next week which could use a different mental approach?  Can Guiding Star help?

- Can you begin working on one goal?  Even setting a task of researching online for 15 minutes will feel good.  You will have started.  For example, one of my Guiding Star goals is to attend a blogging conference this year (I bet you all think that's an excellent idea). To get going on that goal this week, I'm intending to take 15 minutes away from Facebook and research blogging conferences.

Bonus: If you want to spend more time with your plan this week, take the time to write a brief "report".  Did you start on a goal?  Did you notice an attitude change?  Did you get frustrated?  Having these reports (which we'll all be doing on a monthly basis) to look back on as the year progresses are fantastic. You'll see progress when you thought nothing was happening, which will make your motivation zoom.

Double Bonus:  Listen to this fascinating podcast of an episode of the NPR One show, Hidden Brain.  The title of this episode is Getting Unstuck.  Based on discussions I've had with some Creataviters, I think it will be of value.  FYI, you'll need 30 minutes.  I listened to it while knitting a Pussy Hat (not crazy about the name, but I'm crazy about the concept).  Special thanks to my niece, Liesl Eichler Clark for putting this in front of me.  PS - check Lee out; she works in green energy, another field that requires creativity.

Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? One-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour through February 1, 2017 (Click here to schedule a session).

Sunrise on Mt. Sinai

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Even Now

Let's take a break from Guiding Star.

Through the wonders of technology, I made a new friend in December - Marjorie Warkentin.  I'm looking forward to actually meeting Marjorie in person in 2017.  Until then, I felt it important to share this recent post Marjorie wrote for her blog.

Christmas Is Coming

I know reading the word Christmas in early January seems, well, out of date.  It's time to move on from the red and green season.  I also know there are many in my life who seem to be struggling more than usual in these early days of 2017.  I think Marjorie's post can help.  That's my hope.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Guiding Star #7: The Plan

Here we are.  The final Guiding Star exercise.  All the contemplating, pondering, grumbling (yeah, I hear you), and questioning is over.  Today you compile your plan. I've created a Google Document for your plan, which you are welcome to modify so that you feel inspired and motivated all year. Below you'll find some final guidance.

Okay, let's get going.

Materials: For this exercise, I suggest you head to your computer.  For ease of sharing, my Buddy and I use Google Docs.  Your Buddy will be seeing this document at least once a month.

Time:  30 minutes should be plenty to complete your master plan.  

2017 Guiding Star Plan

This link should lead you to a template for your plan.  You should be able to copy that document and paste it into your favorite program.  As I said above, feel free to modify.  

 - Fill out the areas with the delightful material you've created through the exercises.  Explanations for each section follow.

Over the year, your Slogan will become the most important part of your Guiding Star.  We’ll put it at the top of the plan.

These are the deep messages you uncovered in Exercise #3: Can You Hear Me Now?  Due to my error, we are now renaming them Touchstones.  Find the 3 that fill you with the most passionate energy.  Write them here.

From your list of Hats, choose one to be your Focus for the year.  Believe it or not, I find it best to choose one that has been ignored.  You'll know which one it is; it's usually crying out to you. Go ahead. Pick the ridiculous one. The life you are meant to live is underneath that one.

Here we are!  The fun discoveries from yesterday's exercise!  Remember that we are looking for a blend of professional and personal, necessary and desired.  The minimum is 5; the maximum is 10.  Be realistic.  Keep them simple. You’ll feel so good if you achieve a goal, even if it feels ridiculously simple.

- When your plan is complete, share it with your buddy. Ask them to review it one last time. Listen to their feedback and make any changes you both agree are needed.

 - Now, pay attention.  This next step is simple, yet crucial. Pick a monthly date when you will write your report and share it with your buddy. Write it in your calendar, on your to-do list, set a reminder on your phone, do whatever you need to do to honor that date.  Example:

I am starting by 2017 Guiding Star plan on Sunday, Jan. 8.  I have put a note on my to-do list on Wednesday, Feb. 8 (and every following 8th day of the month for the rest of the year) reminding me to write my monthly plan and share it with my Buddy.

- Now, pay attention again. This next step is also simple and also crucial. You need to visit your Slogan and Touchstones daily.  How are you going to do that?  Will you memorize them and ponder them when you wake up?  Will you write them on a card and carry it with you?  Will you send yourself an electronic reminder?

- Finally, pay attention one last time.  You guessed it - another simple, yet crucial step.  For the first 2 months of your Guiding Star plan, I urge, no, I exhort you to review your plan weekly.  All you must do is look at it and reflect on how you are incorporating your plan into your life.  That's all.  FYI, I like to do this on Sunday evening.  It is usually a quiet time in my life.

You made it!  Your 2017 Guiding Star plan is complete!  Now the fun begins!  Don't worry, I'm not leaving you alone.  I'll be guiding you along, particularly in the first three months.  

Oh, I'm SO excited.  I've been meaning to create this plan and put it out here for you for at least two years.  I'm proud of myself for finishing the task.  I'm also proud of myself because I just dove in. I didn't ask for anyone's approval, I just did it. 

Let me know what's happening!!!

Always remember:
Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? One-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour through February 1, 2017 (Click here to schedule a session).

Related Posts:
Find Your Guiding Star
Guiding Star #1: My Crystal Ball
Guiding Star #2: It Was The Best Of Times
Guiding Star #3: Can You Hear Me Now?
Guiding Star #4: The Shift and The Slogan
Guiding Star #5: The Hats
Guiding Star #6: Goals

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Guiding Star #6: Goals

Happy New Year!

I am starting off with a mistake, which might work in your favor.  I am just now noticing that I duplicated one of the exercises in my original plan.  The good news is that means SEVEN exercises instead of EIGHT.  We'll be rocking and rolling a day early.  Hooray!

Now look, I could have used that as an excuse to shut this down.  I could have thrown up my arms and said, "See?  I'm always making mistakes!"  But I didn't and you shouldn't either. It's easy to use a mistake as an excuse. It's easy to say, "Well, once again, I'm not where I want to be with my life. Even worse, I don't see a way out. I can't even get my New Year's plan done on time! I guess that proves that I should not even bother with all these stupid hats and goals and positive thinking.  Forget it. I'll just see what comes my way this year."

I suggest to you there is another way.  Stay tuned into Guiding Star.  See where it leads you.  Why not?  What do you have to lose?

Look!  Someone's waving to you through the fog.  Come on over here!

Today's exercise is my favorite.  Today you will find the specific goals you want to focus on in 2017.  If you're like me, this is where you'll find your motivation for 2017.  This is where you'll see the actual work happen.  This is where you'll see results.

At this point, I'm going to turn this post over to my Buddy/Coach, Jean McDonald.  Jean wrote the ideal post about Goals.  Read on!

My Year of Joy
I am a goal person. I have been setting (and achieving) 8-10 goals per year for the past 16 years. Last year, as I was looking over the last few years of goals, I saw that I almost always achieved the goals that were work-related, and I almost never allowed myself to follow through on the one or two goals I had that were just for me, for fun.
Ridiculous! I was turning 50 in February, and I decided to celebrate the entire year (my wonderful husband’s idea), and set only goals that sounded fun. I wrote my goals in 20 minutes (unheard of), and quickly sent them off to my awesome coach, Heidi Hayes, before I could change my mind. She responded immediately with a strong “Yes!!”
I threw myself into attaining my goals. My major focus was “Fun Seeker,” (Heidi here - That's what we're calling your Hat) and just looking at that phrase gave me a thrill. I took a short retreat, went on a canoe trip with my family, took a jewelry making class and tried Zumba. My husband agreed to a vacation at the Grand Canyon for our family – to celebrate my 50th year on the planet. Talk about Joy! Yes! This was my best year yet!
Then I stumbled. There were a few goals that included other people. I hesitated to ask them, they have busy lives too, right? Well, I was determined to achieve these goals, so I reached out and asked for help. Guess what happened? The people in my life were happy to help! In fact, I realized that the only way that some of my joy goals could happen was if my friends and family stepped in to help. Asking for help has never been easy for me, but what a big payoff. We were doing fun stuff, so my relationships were benefitting from my goals. I met my sister for a bike ride, I took an extreme hike with Heidi, I took my family to see a show. More Joy!
Now, as I look back at my year, I remember the moments of joy – big and small – and I realize that I have learned a few things. Perhaps this list will help you find more joy:

1. Allow yourself to set goals that sound fun and exciting to you.
2. Enlist the help of your family and friends. They will be happy to help!
3. Let the chores go more. They will always be there, and if you wait for them to be done, you will never have time for joy.
4. Look for small moments of joy. They abound!

And now, Joyful Reader. What will you do for yourself in 2017? Just for fun.

I’m wishing you abundant joy, the kind that bubbles up inside you and lifts you up.


With Jean's fantastic story and tips in mind, let's get to work.

Materials: For this exercise, you will need something to write on or in.  A journal, a computer, or scratch paper - doesn't matter.  The results of today's exercise will be seen by your Buddy.

Time: Start with 15 minutes, but you're definitely going to want more time.  Spread it out over a few days.  Work as you can and stay as joyful and engaged as you can.  If this becomes heavy, change your approach.  Look for the fun first.

2017 Goals Exercise
- Light a candle or find some delightful music to play.  Or both!
- It can be helpful to set the timer to a shorter period of time.  I like 10 minutes.  This will keep your brain on task.
- List anything you would like to accomplish in the next 12 months.  Anything.  Don't edit. Aim for a minimum of 5 goals. If the timer goes off and you're not finished, you can keep going, but I would suggest no more than 60 minutes.

Choose active, positive words.  Setting time limits within the goal is extremely helpful.  Example:

Tonya wants to lose weight.  She starts with the goal of lose 10 pounds.  She has failed at this goal for years, but knows it is important. She rephrases the goal as attend one exercise class every week for three months. The specificity of this goal (one class per week for three months) feels doable to Tonya. It's also realistic - even though Tonya works fulltime and cares for her father on the weekends, she already has an exercise class she enjoys in her schedule.  In addition, maintaining a specific commitment for a realistic amount of time (three months) will help Tonya create a habit.  Finally, unlike the abstract lose 10 pounds of the original goal, Tonya has more control over achieving this goal. That feels good to Tonya.  No, wait - that feels exciting to Tonya!

- Assign each goal A, B or C.  A is for priority goals, B is for important goals and C is for goals that could wait.
- Review your rankings.  Have you included a mix of personal and career goals?  Are you excited by all of the goals?  Have you used specific, active and positive language?
- Choose 10 goals that will be your 2017 goals.  If 10 feels overwhelming, choose fewer.
- Ask your Buddy to review your goals, specifically looking for realistic, positive and enjoyable goals. 

Well friends, tomorrow is the final day of creating your Guiding Star plan.  Look at how far you have come this week.  Look at the fresh approach you have crafted for 2017.  This is exciting!

Look into the light

Always remember:
Positive works
Keep it brief
Feeling stuck? One-on-one assistance is available at the discounted rate of $30/hour through February 1, 2017 (Click here to schedule a session).

Related Posts:
Find Your Guiding Star
Guiding Star #1: My Crystal Ball
Guiding Star #2: It Was The Best Of Times
Guiding Star #3: Can You Hear Me Now?
Guiding Star #4: The Shift and The Slogan
Guiding Star #5: The Hats