How my Positive Pathway Project Led to Many Matrix Probes

In an effort to be more aware of my thoughts and be “more positive”,  I increased my focus, followed a new trail and ended up expanding my understanding of reality.

What started out as what I thought was a simple Toastmasters Pathways Level 3 project morphed into a complete reevaluation of my worldview.

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I feel like we are living in a multidimensional matrix where there are countless numbers of people plugged into a multitude of different “systems”.  Could it be that if you are connected to one system then you completely unaware of and can’t even communicate with people attached to other systems?

Is a shared view of humanity an illusion?  Are shared values possible?  Can there be positive national identities?

Is anyone truly aware of the genuine nature of the world or do we all have our own unique perceptions and lens with which to comprehend and experience it?

As author and heavyweight boxer Ed Latimore wrote in his book, Not Caring What Other People Think Is a Superpower,  “Many people have no desire to wake up.  They enjoy the lie and the comfort it brings.  As Morpheus said in “The Matrix”,  “The matrix is a system.  The very minds of the people we are trying to save. You have to understand,  most of these people are not ready to be unplugged.  And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to keep it”.

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As I pay attention to my thoughts and focus on trying keeping a positive outlook, I can’t help but wonder- is that even possible?

Is it realistic to be optimistic in the world today given the various limitations (blind spots) on our view of reality?  Or will our connection to the “system” provide us with the ability to stay content in a comfortably numb but happy bubble?

What about people who seem to be plugged into a system that keeps them perpetually upset, negative and anxious?  How will they become aware of a different and more productive matrix?

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I dislike the binary choice of a “blue pill” or a “red pill” and it is my hope that humans can wake up and take a “clear pill” so that they can see things in a perspicuous and unimpeded way.

How’s that for “staying positive”?

 

Coming Out of Lockdown

No one in the world was ready.

Not a single person was perfectly prepared for the tsunami named COVID- 19.
Some early warning was given, some was heeded, some ignored.  It was the Lunar New Year after all.

The consequences of so many leadership decisions worldwide in January and February 2020 will be analyzed and scrutinized for years. The unintended consequences will be felt for decades.

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Photo by Sean Sandoval on Pexels.com


The past 100+ days have been a challenge for everyone. The world is united in its suffering and we all are experiencing it our own unique way. Our own personal lens and experience defines how we view and perceive the dreaded coronavirus.

I’ve been hit harder on an emotional level than I thought I would be.

My writing had ceased. My creativity was squashed. The pandemic lockdown rocked my perspective.


I know I am not alone. My problems are not unique. I’m not a snowflake but I do feel more fragile than ever.


I am not alone. This sucks for a lot of people on the planet. But what choice do we have? We survive, we cope, we endure, we adapt. That’s what humans do.


I’m writing again, and you are some of the first people to read my words this year.
I am writing again and it won’t be perfect but it will be real, raw and heartfelt.


The reality is that I feel a rainbow of emotions each day. Some warm, some cold, many are red hot.


I’ve recently resolved to be more positive (it’s also part of a Toastmasters level 3 Pathways project) and I have to confess –  it is extremely difficult to be positive in the world today.


I’ve never had to isolate so much and sever my physical connections from my family and friends. It hurts.

But now, as July approaches, I have new resolve and clearer focus!

I endeavor to pay attention to these 4 areas:

  1. Creativity
  2. Grounding
  3. Writing 
  4. Discipline 

I was inspired by a great quote from Ed Latimore which proclaims “Self discipline is freedom”.  I like that since the only thing I can control is myself- my own behavior and habits.

And so, I work on myself and my reactions to the external and often negative input and stimulus.  I work on my own thoughts and actions and I pay attention to what I consume (digitally, emotionally and physically).

I don’t know what the future holds but at least I am writing again and I hope that this messages reaches a few people around the world and lets them know that they are not alone in their suffering. We are not alone in our difficult challenges.

I may not have been ready for this pandemic but I am certainly adapting and modifying my thoughts and behavior to survive the storm.

In closing, I’m looking over at the wall hanging in my office which says,

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass,

It’s learning to dance in the rain”.

– Vivian Green

I’m dancing and I’m writing and I hope that you will join me.

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Strong Connections, Healthy Brains

A 3 Point Inspection Plan for a Battle Ready Body

One of the things that surprised me most when I served in the US Army was the insane amount of time spent cleaning- whether it was cleaning our equipment, our weapons, our boots or the bathrooms,  it seemed like we always polishing, maintaining and recovering things. At the time, I didn’t fully understand and appreciate why there would be so much focus on Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services otherwise known in the Army as PMCS. The sergeants and officers in my unit were obsessive about this and we had these checks on the training schedule more days than not. And so my platoon did Physical Training (PT), inspections and equipment maintenance nearly every day. Why did we do this? To be in the best, most high performing condition and ready for battle.

Now let’s think about how many cars you’ve owned in the last 25 years? How many oil changes, tire rotations and maintenance checks have they had?  How many 15 point inspections were done?  How much time and money have you spent to ensure that your vehicle was in good condition and ready for a road trip?

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One of the things that puzzles me about American society today is how much time and energy people put into the care of their motor vehicles and how much less effort and focus is put into maintaining their bodies.

Speaking of bodies. So far on this planet, how many human bodies have you had?

Last I checked, we only get issued one body at birth.

The good news is, unlike a car or machine, our bodies are self-healing and adaptable, we just need to give them the proper care and attention.

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I am excited to share with you a simple 3 point inspection plan to help get your body battle ready.

One of my favorite bands of the 1970’s is Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and this is how you can remember the three points:

  1. Connect

  2. Care

  3. Recover

First let’s talk about the importance of Connections.  What I miss most about being in the military is the camaraderie, bonds and cohesion. I always felt like I was part of a supportive team.  Someone always had my back.  The value and benefit to having a strong circle of good friends and family should not be overlooked in today’s virtual world.

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Positive support, help and encouragement from others is shown to increase our immune systems.   People with a positive network of friends and family that they can personally connect with have longer life expectancies.

Organizations like the American Legion, VFW, Toastmasters International, Rotary Club, and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) like the Military Veterans Network (MVN) at my company Charles Schwab help bring people together and promote common bonds.

 

The second point in the Inspection Plan is Care, specifically self-care.  We have all heard about the importance of eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated and getting enough physical exercise.  I’d like to highlight and focus on two other factors that have a huge impact on your health and wellbeing- Sleep and Stress.  The importance of a good night sleep cannot be overstated since stress and sleep are often inversely proportional.

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Quality sleep plays a vital role in the body’s ability to heal and repair itself and is necessary for the brain to rebalance by clearing out harmful toxins.

Recover is the third point in the plan and involves rebalancing and restoring your body, brain and mind each and every day.   I find this to be the most interesting area with the discovery and application of new science and technology.   Advances in neuroscience have fueled the emergence of new Brain Performance centers across the country.

Last year, I took part in a six month program for military veterans at a Vitanya Wellness center in Tempe, AZ where I experienced the benefits of reducing my stress, increasing my sleep and restoring my neural balance through a combination of brain health supplements and brain wave entrainment devices. By consistently taking care of myself and leveraging these new techniques and protocols, I found that my resilience, mental sharpness and memory improved in ways I had not thought possible.  For more information click here.

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Technology aside, there are many things you can do each day to help yourself to recover and rebalance including yoga, meditation and other restorative activities.

One of the things that perplexes me most about my fellow humans is their ability to learn and gain so much knowledge about what is good for their health and well being and then how rarely, if ever, they apply it!

It is my hope is that you will remember the importance of a daily PMCS- just like I did while I was in the Army.

Take care of the one body you were issued at birth because there is no plan B- there no spare one sitting in your garage.

Do your Preventative Maintenance Checks and Service and the daily 3 Point Inspection to have a battle ready body for as you travel in your journey of life you will encounter twists and turns and the inevitable steep hill.

Know that positive connections, proper self-care and recovery can give you the strength and resilience to power through the tough days and overcome whatever obstacles cross your path.

Connect, Care and Recover with spirit and zeal.

Take care of your amazing organic being and let it take you on the ride of your life!

 

The Real Meaning of Toastmasters- Reflection on 25 years,

As I write this blog, I’m sitting at the dining room table where a small group of my Toastmaster family gathered in November to share in the celebration of my 25-year anniversary in the organization.

That night, the room was alive with boisterous conversations and intriguing stories of experiences, heartaches and triumphs. The laughter was contagious and complimented the culinary delights that were passed around the table.

The only thing that got too heated was the tiny fire in the oven from my bacon wrapped scallops! This ridiculous oversight by the hostess, yours truly, will be the topic of many speeches and embarrassing stories to come.

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Jason, Don and Pat: before the flames!

The evening ended on a fun and creative note as we formed a large circle about the kitchen and asking asked each other Table Topics questions.  One of the most memorable responses came from a husband of a Toastmaster I work with.  His impromptu query was “Grateful Dead or Led Zeppelin?” and he enthusiastically answered that he had seen both bands live and shared a short rainbow of memories. Also, he preferred Zeppelin!

A long time Toastmaster and past International Director, Don Griffith, asked me to talk about my journey in Toastmasters over the years and I happily shared my adventures of joining my first club, Word R Us, in Bentonville, Arkansas and how so many people have touched and changed my life.

When I joined this organization, I had no idea that I would have such an extended circle of amazingly talented and generous friends and colleagues. For this I am eternally grateful.

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The club I helped charter at Charles Schwab- Lone Tree, CO-  2015

In this time of deep and divisive polarization in America, it was heartening to see so many people come together in peace and good will, with the simple goal of celebrating a positive achievement. The group had two things in common, 1) we are part of the human race and 2) we are (or are spouses of) Toastmasters.

It is a rare, novel and happy occasion to have a group of people of such diverse political, religious and cultural backgrounds come together to simply laugh, plays games and tell stories.

After this milestone and event, I reflected upon the real meaning of Toastmasters that goes beyond the communication and leadership skills it builds in its members.

To me, the real meaning of Toastmasters is fueled by the authentic connections and camaraderie which lifts so many spirits and inspires so many to achieve their dreams.

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Great people from District 26, Colorado- Deborah, Mitch and Linda

The real meaning of Toastmasters is: 

People Sharing Life, Love and Laughter

Like a health tonic with the ability to uncover superpowers, Toastmasters clubs across the world are making a positive difference in this challenging and sometimes lonely world.

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A Christmas Party with friends from the Titan Toastmasters club in Lone Tree, CO

I was so happy to be able to celebrate my 25thAnniversary with so many special and talented people.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store in the next quarter century and I’ll be sure to cater the event to avoid a flaming surprise!

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Opening Opportunities for Veterans- The LEGION Act

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There’s good news for US military veterans who want to connect with their community and be part of a strong veteran’s service organization. The eligibility requirements to join The American Legion have been modified and more people are now able to join.

The recent change is thanks to the LEGION Act which was enacted in July 2019 and will open the door for approximately 6 million veterans.

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The LEGION Act stands for Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service will enable more people to join the American Legion and gain access to its benefits and programs.  Click here for more information on the LEGION Act.

Now that the legislation has been signed, The American Legion’s eligibility criteria changes from seven war eras to two:  April 6, 1917 to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 and continuing . No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed.

The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to community service and assistance.

With over 2 million members and more than 12,000 posts in communities throughout the United States, the Legion is the largest nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization.

Ahwatukee Post 64 is a very active in the local Phoenix, Arizona community and provides many volunteer services and support throughout the year, including:

  • Honor and Color Guard – over 50 events and ceremonies last year
  • Collection of used US flags and proper retirement
  • Benefits Assistance
  • Family Support
  • High School Oratorical Contest and Awards
  • Arizona Boys State sponsorship
  • School Awards and Scholarships
  • Homeless Outreach
  • Comfort for the Recovering
  • Honor and Remembrance ceremonies (POW-MIA)
  • Adopt-a-Street volunteering- Elliot-Warner Loop clean-up

For more information on The American Legion, click here.

To check out the Ahwatukee Post 64 website, click here.

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Members of Ahwatukee Post 64 Color Guard

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Remember the Analog

Remember the Analog!

My husband posted this clever and thought provoking statement on Facebook the other morning and it perfectly ties together the theme of this blog which has been bouncing around in my head for weeks.

When contemplating the reasons why I miss the experiences of the 1980s so much, it comes down to some pretty basic things- some simple human needs that that time satisfied for many in my generation.

I often ask,  Why do Gen Xers love the Netflix Stranger Things series  so much?.

In my first blog on the topic,  I discussed four things that the ST characters and plot exemplified:

  1. Loyalty ( close knit bonds with friends and family)
  2. Character
  3. Adventure
  4. Freedom

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Upon further reflection, I realized that these things are all analog and are supported by in-person, live connections and relationships.   In short, most analog activities make us happy.

I also discerned that my four reasons where also closely aligned to the five basic human needs outlined in William Glasser’s book “Choice Theory” which are:

  1. Survival
  2. Love and Belonging
  3. Power
  4. Fun
  5. Freedom

Choice theory psychology posits that almost all behavior is chosen and we are driven by our genes to satisfy these five basic needs.

I find myself longing for more analog activities like riding bikes, playing board games and socializing with friends because it brings me more joy and relief from the bitter and angry world of social media.

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The positive memories of growing up in the 1980s is a safe and happy shelter for many people and this is why period pieces like Stranger Things and GLOW are so popular.  Plus, the clothes and the music of the 80s were just so funky and hilarious.

For me, the feeling of being part of a group where I could have free, fun, empowering adventures was an amazingly strong and positive gift that I wish I could replicate in the world today.

So how can we get a piece of that happiness back in our lives without having a TARDIS or a flux-capacitor fitted DeLorean?

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Here are some Remember the Analog Ideas:

  1. Invite friends over to play some non-digital games-  D&D, charades, Taboo, Monopoly, Clue, Twister, Catan
  2. Go bowling
  3. Ride bikes
  4. Play musical instruments
  5. Listen to music
  6. Lie on a blanket on the ground and look at the clouds- talking about what the shapes look like
  7. Watch classic movies together-  appreciate the artful composition of the shots while noticing (sometimes laughing) at the odd (slow) pacing of the scenes
  8. Go shopping at the mall
  9. Practice group yoga on the living room floor
  10. Tell stories about hedgehogs ( Ernie asked me to add this one)
  11. Play hopscotch in the driveway
  12. Do cart wheels in the grass
  13. Bring out the crayons or pencils and color or draw
  14. Attend a Toastmaster meeting
  15. Take an Improv class
  16. Sit around a campfire and tell stories
  17. Physical love and intimacy
  18. Go to a museum
  19. Group wine and painting events
  20. Have others over for a home cooked meal

When looking at these activities through a psychological  lens- they do seem to satisfy  the human needs of Freedom, Fun, Power and Control ( with #19 & 20 clearly being for Survival).

I am a huge fan of the series Stranger Things and GLOW on Netflix and I hope that these thoughts and ideas can help bring you a bit of the fun, happiness and adventure I had growing up in the 1980s.

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Respecting the Roses and the Violets

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

Though we may disagree,

I respect you.

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I’m a Coordinator for Better Angels which is a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America.

The group’s mission is to:

  • Try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it
  • Engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together
  • Support principles that bring us together rather than divide us

To learn more about Better Angels click here.

Ugly Mall Job Uniforms and Other Stranger Things- Part 3

I just finished watching the final episode of Stranger Things Season 3 and Scoops Ahoy! I was not disappointed.

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Memories of my first job at the Brunswick Square Mall in central New Jersey came rushing back in full neon color.  It was 1983 and I was a Hostess at the York Steakhouse and if you can believe it, my work uniform was ten times as dorky and considerably more ugly than the sailor suits that Steve and Robin donned at the Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Parlor in the Starcourt Mall.  My lovely restaurant server wear was a heinous burnt orange, one-piece polyester dress with puke yellow trim.  It was cut above the knee and was a remnant from a bad 1975 style.  Oh how I sympathized with Steve and his silly sailor’s cap.

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J_ojI do have many positive memories of my childhood at the local mall and some of them actually include the color orange.   My favorite all time dessert drink is the Orange Julius and the show had me craving it and a big, warm chocolate cookie in the worst way.

In the first few episodes of Stranger Things Season 3, the scenes in the mall were fun, campy and true to most of my memories.  I don’t recall my mall being as crowded in the summer months because most of us in were playing outside or down the shore.

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Growing up, our mall’s anchor stores were Bamberger’s and JC Penney and I spent many hours in The Children’s Place, The Gap and at the Piercing Pagoda were I got my ears pierced at age nine.  I was encouraged to wear earrings because my haircut at the time was very short (a failed attempt at the “Dorothy Hamill look”) and my sister didn’t want people to mistake me for a boy.   I, like Max in Stranger Things, was a bit of a tomboy and I didn’t like to dress up in frilly clothes.  I spent many fun and unsupervised hours in the early 1980s riding either my skateboard, my Huffy ten speed bike or my Schwinn unicycle.  Riding bikes with my friends topped the list as my all time favorite thing to do.

While there were many threads and plots in the rich and complex Season 3, the overarching theme that resonated with me most was the strength and unshakable power of the friendship bonds among the characters.  Even though they were all were changing and growing in strange new ways, they never stopped caring about each other.  Even though they were often confused and upset with each other’s words and actions, they never gave up and never stopped fighting or sacrificing for one another.  That’s what I remember about my friends and family in the 80s- a strong sense of loyalty, honor and integrity.   

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The bold, stark and often comical contrasts of many of the scenes had my emotions shifting faster than the bumper cars at the fun fair carnival.

In all, it was an action-packed storyline with a strong and emotional ending.   No spoilers here!

The other fun and random things I enjoyed about ST Season 3 include:

  • Dustin going to Science camp was totally awesome as I was fellow nerd who as part of the Science League at High School and attended string music camp with my cello for a week each August.
  • The budding romance of El and Mike and the demand from Hopper to keep the bedroom door open 3 inches.
  • The community pool antics, the aviator and Ray-Ban sunglasses and the big hair and blue eye shadow of the fawning ladies in the chaise lounges.farrells_mustache_bp
  • Fond memories of hanging out at the mall with friends and going to Spencer Gifts just to look at the stupid toys, stuffed animals and posters. For me, the mall was also the special place to go to eat large quantities of ice cream at a place called Farrell’s.

 

  • The rise of Girl Power and strong, smart female characters. Nancy, Robin, Joyce, Max and Erica (Caleb’s sassy little sister) all showed the boys a thing or two.  I also admired the technical prowess of Dustin’s elusive girlfriend Susie who knew Planck’s number by heart.
  • The understanding and acknowledgement that cherry Slurpees are the best and only flavor worth having.
  • 10-4 good buddy! What’s your 20? I loved the CB lingo on Dustin’s ham radio and the boys’ walkie-talkies.
  • Being a Nerd is cool and often helpful in killing the large, hungry monsters.
  • The hilarious clothes shopping spree with El and Max was just like I remember doing with my girl friends. I did own a pair of yellow pants with attached suspenders and a shirt very similar to Nancy’s purple blouse with the square cutouts at the top.
  • The nods to countless cool movies of the time like The Terminator, Back to the Future, Red Dawn, The Shining and ET.
  • A common bad guy/enemy in the Russians. Memories of Rocky 4 and the way Sylvester Stallone kicked butt in the ring with the hulking, blonde Dolph Lundgren.
  • The realization that I didn’t like New Coke and don’t know what all the fuss was about.
  • Banana boat ice cream sundaes.
  • Billy’s haircut was spot on for some of the boys I remember from my high school’s class of 1984 and 85.
  • The music from the mid 80s:  Corey Hart- “Never Surrender”, REO Speedwagon- “I can’t fight this feeling”, John Cougar Mellencamp- “R.O.C.K in the USA”, Motley Crue- Home Sweet Home” ( played in the Season 3 trailer).
  • The cars, the cars, the cars! My family, friends and classmates all had some version or another of some of the vehicles featured in season 3 including the clunky and hulking Ford LTD, the sturdy Chevy Blazer, the sexy 1979 Camaro and the beautiful, butter-cream yellow 1984 Cadillac Eldorado.

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Scoops Ahoy!  I can’t wait for Season 4.