Investing In Creativity

I’m picking up the pieces of last year. Well, more than that, I’m juggling recovering from yesteryear with reinventing this year and beyond. It’s not easy picking up the pieces, but it’s something we all understand because it’s something we’ve all had to do or will have to do.

For me, it started with grieving. I lost a friend, a pet, and my security when my home was robbed. Grieving morphed into hours spent on Pinterest. For the record, Pinterest is more addictive than social media games that seduce you into buying fake candy and harvesting fake corn at two o’clock in the morning.

As a trained life coach, there’s extra pressure (from myself and others) to practice what I preach, which is of course a double-edged sword. But there’s also value in the proven practices I use to help others assess where they are and determine a plan for where they want to go.

A lot of people ask me if it’s just positive thinking. I’d like to say that just positive thinking is a social cliché and that what matters most is the plan to move forward. The truth is, positive thinking is a key element. We have to believe in a brighter tomorrow to be willing make an action plan to get there.

So right now, I’m combining positive thinking (which for me includes meditation and prayer) with a solid action plan to move forward and reinvent my life. It’s why I’ve been silent on my blog for three months. Time allows for perspective.

Part of my plan to move forward includes making time for my work as a food photographer. I just returned from Maui where I shot a new Hawaiian menu for Classic Events. And in a few weeks, I’m headed to San Francisco for more beautiful food shots. I launched my food portfolio on Instagram and Twitter @PNWfoodPhotog earlier this month. If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in heaven on my IG @PNWfoodPhotog Just browsing it cheers me and I’m the one who created it.

It turns out that investing in creativity is a sure way to smile more and worry less. My creativity is flowing again and I can’t wait to see where it takes me in 2018! Join me if you like. Let’s support each other investing in nurturing creativity and experiencing more joy in 2018.

Embracing the Detour – On the Road & In Life

Like life, road trips don’t always go as planned. But here’s to finding the beauty and value in the detour.

I had a life plan and I absolutely expected to achieve great things. Over the last four decades, I’ve learned that a life plan is not all that different than commencing a road trip using GPS (global positioning system). Without a plan/map, one could drive in circles. With a plan (GPS) what could go wrong?

Driving from Central Washington to the Washington coast during late fall presented two options for the 260-mile trip. The first option was to take a major interstate, across the mountain pass, through the Greater Seattle area, down through Olympia and west to the ocean beaches. The second option included a two-lane highway, more scenic, through a host of small towns, and according to the app on my phone, it was ten miles shorter and ten minutes longer – all roads being perfect and traffic free.

So I decided to take the scenic route, not knowing there was a 20-mile detour around Rimrock Lake, and not knowing the speed limit on the detour was 35 MPH instead of 55 on Highway 12. At first, I enjoyed the detour. The myriad of trees and shrubs beside the lake offered a full rainbow of fall foliage hues. I enjoyed a waterfall, deer, birds and mountain vistas. (I’ve included pictures below.)

At one point, with no cell service, I had no idea if I missed a turn and stayed on the route. There was no one to ask. Just before the detour around the lake ended, I was feeling stressed, impatient and frustrated that the road was so long. I wasn’t even a quarter the way to my destination and I was suddenly asking, “Why did I take this route? I can’t even call anyone or figure out where I am.” And once the detour concluded, I still didn’t have cell service. At one point I almost turned off to Mt. Rainier because the road wasn’t marked well. I started to worry about things that hadn’t happened: what if my car breaks down? What if I hit a deer? What if I have to go to the bathroom? What time will I arrive?

An hour later I stopped at a little motel in a tiny town with no cell reception and asked the clerk if I was on the right road. She confirmed I was and I would be able to access cell service a few towns ahead. GREAT! I totally should have taken the interstate through Seattle, I thought. But then, a mile down the road, I pulled over to find a family of deer. They were magnificent.  I’ve never been so close to large wild animals in their natural habitat. I was awestruck by their beauty.

I did actually get lost in Aberdeen, Wash., and I pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot to reconfigure my GPS, where I flagged down a police officer. I explained to him that I was lost, and he gave me back road directions straight to my destination.

To make a long story short, none of the things I worried about happened. I enjoyed the most incredible views and took some beautiful fall pictures. I had time to think, pray and cry (which is sometimes very cathartic, especially after what happened this past week at home.) I enjoyed my downloaded music and sang along. And with all my stops, and even getting lost, I arrived in two hours less time than my parents who took the I-90 interstate through Seattle and down I-5. You see, they hit rush hour traffic from Bellevue to Olympia, and crawled more than half their trip.

Twelve years ago, my life took a detour. At first, it was awesome. I enjoyed the slower pace. I enjoyed time with my family and life in a small town. I touched a lot of lives, and honestly, that felt good. It’s affirming to make a difference to someone else, especially someone who is not in a position to return the favor.  But over time, I felt like a hamster on a wheel, spinning and going nowhere. None of my great plans came true. My dreams were dying and while I knew my prayers were heard, I certainly didn’t see or hear any answers. God used me to help others but I didn’t think there was any way I could ever get my life back on track. Doors closed left and right on me, and my personal GPS stopped working. I felt panicky and hopeless. I was surrounded by loads of advice but no one who actually took my hand and said, “Here, let me help you.”

Then it occurred to me. What if my life wasn’t off track?

What if my destination was the same – and I could have taken the back roads with the great scenery, time with my family, the chance to make wonderful friends, and the inspiration to write my first novel, with my personal GPS disabled – or I could have taken the city route and sat in traffic, with my GPS working? What if this life detour that I have been lamenting was actually a hidden treasure?

The truth is – I don’t know how my story turns out. I haven’t arrived at my destination. I’m still traveling. I have faith that God sees and knows a future for me that right now doesn’t look that bright. I have hope that doors will open that right now are still closed.  I trust that my life has mattered beyond just the measure of achieving my own personal/professional goals, plans and hopes. And beyond that I just breathe and stay on the road – pulling over occasionally to marvel at our beautiful world, or to cry. Because even in the midst of struggle, loss, disappointment, and uncertainty, there is beauty. There are reliable friends and kind strangers. There are open windows and indelible views.

We are all traveling. As long as we’re alive, we’re traveling. And the truth is, everyone has detours and most people spend at least some time with their personal GPS disabled. I don’t even know what today holds, let alone tomorrow. But my faith is in the One who does, and I choose to trust that while I may not be able to live the life I planned, I can still live a life that matters and makes a difference. One step and one mile at a time.

Taking In Fall & Toasting Mom

There are moments in life when we hang onto every minute.  The first time I experienced this, I was 19 years old, and leaving my hometown for Washington State University. I had worked part-time at the tennis club since I was in high school and through a year of community college, and it was time to transfer as a junior to WSU. I remember going to the tennis club where I worked, standing out on the balcony where I had stood so many times, and gazing out at the tennis courts on which I had played hundreds of hours of tennis over the years.

I was super excited to go away to college and finish up my Bachelor of Arts at WSU, but a part of me knew that opening one door meant closing another. And I remember breathing in that moment so completely that now, more than twenty years later, I can still close my eyes and conjure up exactly how I felt that day.

The Pacific Northwest is known for our four distinct seasons – although not always equally divided up among the calendar year. Some people love them. Personally, I resonate better with a climate where I can wear shorts and swim outdoors year around. But right now, as summer has ended and fall is in full swing, I know winter is coming. Winters in the Yakima Valley can be severe. Snow. Ice. Unimaginably cold temperatures. Last winter was especially rough.

And so those days when the upper temperatures hit the upper sixties in October, it’s worth drinking in. It’s worth capturing physical and mental pictures, because like the days before I moved to Pullman, I sense life is about to change. And so here in the fruit and vegetable bowl of the nation, when the fall days are sunny and warm, and the evenings require only a light windbreaker, it’s worth appreciating.

Life has seasons too.

Today is a particularly special day for me. I finished the first draft of the final chapter of my first novel. Now the editing begins. It started out as a trilogy, but the books nestled so perfectly and they were on the small side. So instead of three small books, three shorter stories, I’m pulling them together to create one epic story of a how one family transformed in four years. I’ve been working on it since January 17, 2015, although I still do not have a name for it. The book is a special nod to my mom.

Mom and I are in many ways opposites. We see and experience life from very different lenses and that hasn’t always made for agreeable conversations. I wanted to get to know my mom better, and appreciate her more. I wanted to experience life with her in a way that would ensure I wouldn’t live with regrets if the day came where I didn’t have her. So I created one of my protagonists loosely based on her. It would have been impossible to make Harriet so likable and relatable without developing a better understanding of my mom.

Just tonight I called my mom for advice about some pie crust dough that had dried out due to inattention. “How long did you step away from it?” she asked.

“Well, it’s actually for the book,” I said. “Isabelle asks Harriet’s advice and I wasn’t sure how the dialogue should unfold.”

Without missing a beat, mom jumped in: “Throw it away and start over. That’s what Harriet would say.”

I smiled and savored the moment.

Mom and I are still very different, and we still get under each other’s skin from time to time. But I appreciate her and what drives her in a way I never could have without this book. And so, tonight’s wine is a toast to a dear lady who still drives me a little cra-cra, but who I have come to respect, accept and like as much as I’ve always loved – my mom. Here’s to you, mom. And to the changing seasons of life.Patio dinner 2

A Small Step in a Fresh Direction

We’ve all experienced those times when the best laid plans in life fell apart. It’s okay to grieve and grouse, but then it’s time to take a small step in a fresh direction. It’s basically that or drink a lot of wine, give up or die. This post tells you which option I chose.

We all have dreams! As a dreamer, I have lots of dreams! Have you ever felt stressed when you know you should be feeling lucky and thankful? I’m referring to those moments when everything in your rational brain knows one thing to be true, while at the same time, another voice is grumbling inner sounds that resemble the famous mumbling teacher in every Charlie Brown television special?

Despite the fact that looking back at what might have been is unproductive – unless there’s a specific lesson to be learned to move forward – I feel a bit like a puppy chasing its tail as I reflect on the last year.

Winter in the Northwest can be a bit of a bear, and last year, Central Washington saw more snow (I hear) than in the last twenty years. I’ve only been back here for twelve. It was also colder than when I lived in Wisconsin! So this past spring, I decided last winter was my last winter in a cold climate, and I started applying for jobs in Arizona (where I have a solid network of friends), California (where I lived for six years), and Texas (where two of my best friends live.)

And then it happened. My best laid plans went up in smoke. Last month, my knee surgery was postponed, and the dream job, with the huge salary and benefits amazing enough to make a grown woman cry with joy fell through. I came in second. It’s mid-September now, and I should feel incredibly lucky – but instead I honestly feel a little bit (okay, a lot bit) like engaging in high levels of grousing.

I really shouldn’t be complaining. I mean, I am really lucky! I tore my meniscus on the job 18 months ago and I had a Washington state claims manager who fought for me to have my case reopened and receive a second opinion. He even warned me not to move out of state until I had my surgery because he feared I might not actually get it once I left Washington, and he wanted to see me healthy again. (WOW!) I was assigned an exceptional physician for my second opinion. I was accepted by the exact surgeon I wanted, despite the fact that he rarely accepts L&I. My long projected recovery is due to the fact that I have no arthritis in my knee and the surgeon will be able to stitch my injury up in such a way that will result in a perfect knee ten weeks from now. I am employed at a job where I make a difference to thousands of students and teachers. I have a roof over my head, basic needs met, family and friends, three pets I adore – the list goes on.

But the other side of the coin: I lost a dream job and dream house, with a hot tub for ten, in Phoenix. I haven’t even had my surgery yet and I’m looking at a recovery that includes crutches for six to eight weeks. It’s mid-September. And the thought of spending another winter here makes me want to cry.  But I don’t cry. I take a deep breath and murmur quietly to myself like the teacher in Charlie Brown specials. I watch hurricane aftermath coverage and read social media posts about people who are battling life-threatening illnesses and I feel worse. Because despite the fact that another year passed me by without my dreams materializing, I know that life truly could be so much worse.

And so I do the only things I can. I send out resumes, connect with former colleagues on LinkedIn, hug my pets, thank my loved ones for caring and pull out boxes of Christmas cards to start addressing. Because if I’m stuck in a full leg brace, in a cold climate for yet another winter, at least my holiday cards are going out on time this year. It’s not Phoenix, Los Angeles or Dallas, but it’s a small step in a fresh direction. And hopefully it will silence the disappointment and grumbling sounds in my head.

Blog puppy

Energy Awareness and the Seven Levels of Winning

We are all made up of and surrounded by energy. Most people accept that. But as a life coach, one of the things that most impacted me, early in my training, was the realization that understanding energy levels and how to recognize and alter them actually gave me access to a tremendous reservoir of power I didn’t know existed.

To better understand energy and differentiate the possible outcomes, consider a gradient that divides this spectrum into seven levels of winning, which I’ll get to in a minute.

But first, it’s worth asking: Why does your energy level matter? Or more importantly, why does knowing your energy level matter? There are a lot of answers to this, but the most important one is that being aware of your energy level makes you the most powerful person in the room, circle or community as it relates to you.

It’s like having a mirror to make sure everything is where you want it to be. Imagine going into an interview with a tear in the back of your shirt. If you don’t know this, it might detract from the image you want to present. If you do, you might change your shirt or respond in a different way.  In life, everyone has people or entities that control them to some degree: bosses, creditors, the government, a partner, commitments to children, etc.  Knowing your energy level and having the tools to adjust it through the practice of reframing prevents the people you don’t want to control you from impacting your emotions and experiences.

Here are my seven levels of winning, or seven energy levels, if you will.

  1. I lose. I am losing.
  2. I win, so therefore you must lose.
  3. I win, and hopefully you win too.
  4. You win.
  5. We all win or no one wins.
  6. We always win.
  7. Winning and losing are illusions. (With which no sports coach ever agreed!)

Winner

Taken out of context, these seven statements mean absolutely nothing. Taken out of context, there are clearly better levels and worse levels. But because this is energy, and not a football game, every level has a purpose and a place. Every level is equally important. For instance, in grief (about anything), it’s very normal to experience, acknowledge and even sometimes accept losing. Whether you lost a purse, a pet, a game, or a person, failing to experience Level 1 Energy equates to lacking the capacity to emotionally connect. You have to connect to grieve. And you have to connect to give and receive from others within the context of a relationship.

While self-preservation is critical to help ourselves and others (which is why flight attendants reiterate, “Secure your own mask first,”) anyone who has volunteered to help someone or chosen to serve others, understands that serving others supersedes the need to care for themselves. If you’ve ever served food to the homeless or the needy in a food kitchen, or at a company Thanksgiving celebration, you are exercising a classic Level 4 Energy where your goal is to experience the Level 4 Energy of Winning: You Win. It feels good to help others win!

The most important take-away is recognizing that every level of energy has its place. Every level includes distinct advantages and disadvantages – and knowing where you are, gives you the power to continue or reframe your mindset and energy to project the message and give off the energy that will best serve your goals in any given situation. Find thorough explanations of each energy level and what it means to your personal or professional life on the Olive Press Coaching Facebook page.

Debra Yergen – Author

Join Author Debra Yergen on a journey to explore the best parts of humanity – how we live, how we serve, how we help and how we make a difference collectively.

Still in Development

More than two decades ago, my high school English and Journalism teacher told me to write about what I know. That one comment induced what felt like a 10-year stare into space (creatively speaking). What DID I know? From the time I was little, I knew I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to eventually create characters that made the story compelling, not that merely plugged into an interesting story. I knew I wanted to elicit emotions and inspire my readers to believe that every obstacle had a lesson or a silver lining. And so, long before I knew it, I started observing and taking notes on current events, on people I knew, and some I only met. I started paying attention – to the beautiful and the not-so-beautiful aspects that made up human behavior and the circumstances we face.

But that’s not what I wrote about – at least not at first. My first book Real Life 101: Winning Secrets You Won’t Find In Class, addressed the challenges of adapting from college to the professional working world, because I did that! And then the Creating Job Security Resource Guide and the Green Light Scoring Model came next, because again, life gave me the opportunity to hone a set of skills and resources that could help others, in addition to myself. I wrote a children’s book series set in the Louisiana Bayou, because I’m a big kid at heart, and I probably always will be. And now, I’m working on The Gift of Grace fictional trilogy, that might have originally been planted by my English and Journalism teacher at West Valley High.

Does life come full circle? Ask me two decades from now. I’m still figuring it all out.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Feel free to comment. Hopefully I’ll make you laugh and cry along the way as we dig into the hearts of humanity, current events and the evolution of the human spirit. And you never know: share your heart, infuse kindness in your community, and find a way to inspire one person in your world – and your good deed might just end up included in the Gift of Grace fictional book series. Like life… it’s still “in development.”  First blog post

Welcome to my world…

This is the post excerpt.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Feel free to comment. Hopefully I’ll make you laugh and cry along the way as we dig into the hearts of humanity, current events and the evolution of the human spirit. And you never know: share your heart, infuse kindness in your community, and find a way to inspire one person in your world – and your good deed might just end up included in the Gift of Grace fictional book series. Like life… it’s still “in development.”

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