Transcending Failure – Lessons from Harry Potter and His Creator

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I have had several conversations lately with women who have expressed a longing for . . . something more in their lives. I've spoken with some who are considering change of one type or another, but who hesitate, held back by a fear of failure. I understand that feeling. Many of us are at a crossroads of one sort or another, perhaps facing a change in the season of our life, or contemplating a new direction that both excites and scares us. The prospect of failure (or the memory of a past failure) in a role that matters deeply to us — motherhood, a profession, a new business venture, or whatever it might be — can be paralyzing, holding us back from taking the next risky step.

My former Thompson & Knight colleague, Dr. Cindy Pladziewicz, coaches and consults with attorneys and other professionals on, among other things, career development matters. (Learn more about Cindy and her fabulous professional coaching services at her website.) Cindy recently published a brief but inspiring blog post about transcending failure. In her post, Cindy summarizes lessons learned from J.K. Rowling's brilliant 2008 Harvard commencement address. I love Rowling's inspiring and eloquent speech; I recently posted a link to it on my Facebook page. I actually was thinking about writing my own blog post on this topic, but Cindy beat me to it and did such a good job that I thought I'd just point you to her. I encourage you — especially the women who read my blog — to read Cindy's short blog post, and then listen to Rowling's speech.

Check out Cindy's blog post by clicking here. Watch the video of Rowling's commencement address by clicking here.

I would love it if, after you've done so, you would come back here and leave a comment, letting me know what you think and what, if anything, you learned from it. Is fear of failure (or guilt over past failure) holding you back from the next step in your life? Can we encourage each other to move forward?

I Was Just Thinking . . .
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Let’s Have Some Fun!

I saw this on Cara Putnam's blog and had to steal it.  If you want to play along, the rules of being tagged are simple: answer the questions provided and then tag 11 others. 

1. Book or movie and why?

I love movies, but I think I have to say that I prefer books. I can take them anywhere with me (especially with the advent of Kindle and iPad) and get to participate (via my own imagination) with the author in creating the world of the story.

2. Real book or e-book?

Do I have to choose? I love the feel and smell of real books, and definitely prefer the real thing for reference materials and generally most nonfiction. But I do love my Kindle and my iPad, and the ability to carry a whole library with me everywhere I go.

3. Funniest thing you’ve done in the past 5 years?

Although I spend a lot of time laughing with family and friends, I honestly can't think of a single funny thing I've done. If any family members or friends read this, help me out — leave a comment below about something funny I've done. But be kind, please.

4. How would your best friend describe you?

Reliable, I hope.

5. How do you put yourself into the books you read/write or the movies you watch?

I'm working on my first novel, and although the story is intentionally not about me or my life, in order to minimize research I've used some of my own history as a starting point. So the lead character is a professional woman (but not a lawyer, this time anyway) who comes from the Pacific Northwest and moves to north Texas, and she's married to a musician. 

6. Favorite kind of car and why?

This depends on the weather. I love, love, love my little copper red Mazda Miata convertible when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. I feel like a racecar driver when I get to take that baby through all six gears on the stick shift.

7. Would your choice party be a catered meal or a BBQ out back?

I don't actually care for the taste of BBQ, but I'd still say a BBQ out back. Nothing more fun than a relaxed, casual get-together with good friends.

8. What’s your favorite season and why?

No question: Spring! The sights of the trees leafing out and the flowers blooming, the sounds of birds through open windows . . . nothing better.

9. What specific lesson have you learned – Spiritual, educational, occupational?

Spiritual: God will wait as long as it takes for us to reach out to him. Time means nothing to him.
Educational: I can learn from the most unlikely people and situations.
Occupational: There is not enough money in the world to compensate you for a job you don't love.

10. Besides writing, what’s your favorite thing to do when you get some extra time?

Spending time with my family — there's never enough time for that.

11. What’s one place you can be found at least one time every week?

My office in Dallas.

Want to play? Post on your blog or Facebook page and leave a comment here so I can find your answers!

Book Review: Caring Lessons, by Lois Hoitenga Roelofs

LoisBookCover.jpgLois Roelofs describes herself as a rebellious minister’s daughter, a reluctant nurse, a restless mom, and a perpetual student who eventually became a fun-loving teacher of mental health nursing. During her forty-year nursing career, she cared for patients and taught nursing students in primarily mental health and medical-surgical settings. As a caregiver, she learned the value of caring for herself and did so by changing jobs to suit her interests, going back to school more than once to feed her craving for learning, and seeking professional help when personal and family crises invaded her life.

Recently I enjoyed the opportunity to review Lois Roelofs' memoir, Caring Lessons (about $12 on Subtitled “A Nursing Professor's Journey of Faith and Self,” the book gives an interesting look inside the life of a woman growing up and discovering herself in the 1950s and '60s. Although longing for travel and adventure, Roelofs chose one of the few career paths that she felt were available to her and became a nurse. The book follows her from her high school graduation through nurse training, marriage, the births of her children, an emotional meltdown that ended with her being briefly institutionalized, and from there to an expansion of her world as she sought, with her husband's support, advanced eduction. She eventually earned a Ph.D. and taught nursing. Along the way, Roelofs shares an inside look at how it felt to be a woman, wife, mother, and nurse during those eras.
There are no overt lessons in this book. It simply is a more-or-less chronological tale of one woman's life. In the preface, Roelofs describes the book as “a potpourri of stories dipping in and out of my nursing life. . . ,” written at least in part because “with nursing shortages, so few nursing memoirs in the bookstores, and significant health care changes on the horizon, nursing stories are needed to inform, to inspire, and . . . to provide humor to all nurses, and to the public — many of whom will wake up someday and see the caring face of a nurse.”

LoisAuthorPic.jpgReaders who enjoy memoirs that provide a glimpse into another person's life will find much to appreciate about Caring Lessons, a carefully told tale of an ordinary life that reveals some of the universal struggles of women in the fifties and sixties and beyond. This intimate and introspective memoir is by turns amusing, sad, and inspiring. Without being didactic or preachy, Roelofs demonstrates the importance of faith, family, and friendship, and of caring for yourself as well as caring for others. 
About the Author:
Lois longed to fly the friendly skies, but in 1968 minister’s daughters did not become stewardesses. They chose practical careers like teaching or nursing. For the entire first year of nursing school, Lois made weekly calls home to beg her parents to let her come home. Then her instructors decided she had a “bad attitude. Despite her lukewarm feelings about a nursing career, Lois set out to prove those cranky old instructors wrong. 
Lois’s attitude, as well as her feelings about nursing, changed radically during her over decades-long career. She retired in 2000 as professor emerita from Trinity Christian College with Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in nursing. But even that wasn’t enough classroom time for Lois. She recently completed three years of the University of Chicago Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults. She now spends her days writing and being a happy grandma. To learn more about Lois, visit her website. Excerpts of Caring Lessons are available by clicking here.
Just Thought You Should Know:

Caring Lessons would be a nice gift for a nurse celebrating a flurry of nursing holidays in May:
  • National RN Day (May 6) 
  • Florence Nightingale’s Birthday (Mary 12)
  • National Nurses Week (May 6 to May 12) 
  • Nursing Month (May) 
  • Nursing School Graduations (May)
Mental Health nursing and personal mental health issues are also a sub-plot of this memoir and May is Mental Health Month. 
If you decide to read Caring Lessons, please come back and let me know what you thought of it. Are there any memoirs you've read recently that you particularly enjoyed?                                              

The Secret to a Long, Happy Marriage

This Friday, March 16, marks the 33rd anniversary of the day that Mike and I were married. On that day in 1979 we were just two crazy (and crazy about each other) eighteen-year-olds, with no idea, really, of what it meant to be married or to make a life together. I'm sure our parents had their doubts about whether we were even capable of taking care of ourselves. We had just graduated from our respective high schools less than a year before. Nevertheless, with our parents and friends there in support, we walked down the aisle and started our adventure together.

Our parents probably were right to worry. Both of us were not just young, but immature in many ways. We loved each other (as much as we understood what that meant back then), but we married for many of the “wrong” reasons. Each of us was lonely and looking for someone to make the loneliness go away. Although we had a lot in common — a love of music, a heart for ministry, and many shared values and priorities — we were very, very different people. Mike was the responsible, gifted introvert who was drawn to my outgoing, articulate, life-of-the-party personality. I was the insecure, fearful girl who believed that this steady, reliable, self-sacrificing man would take care of me.

Funny thing, though — those “complementary” differences that were so appealing in the early years became irritations that drove us apart as the years passed. Over time, the steady, reliable provider became a judgmental grouch, and the life of the party became a selfish, defensive shrew. A few people closest to us know that we almost didn't make it to 33 years. A couple of times, we almost called it quits, tired and frustrated and fed up with hurting each other.

I think of those times when people congratulate us on the sadly rare accomplishment of keeping a marriage together for more than three decades. “If you only knew,” I think. Some people seem to think we've figured out a secret that appears to be hidden to much of the rest of the world. So as we are celebrating this milestone, I thought I'd let folks in on the secret:

There is no secret.

There is no magic pill or special dispensation that keeps a couple together for this long. There's nothing special about us, or about our relationship — at least nothing that's not available to everybody else. Sustaining a long marriage is just about accepting the reality that being married isn't fun all the time. Sharing your life with another person has its joys, but it's not easy. When the conflicts and hard times come — and I promise you, they will come — you have to be willing to do the hard work of

  • forgiveness
  • compromise
  • service
  • honest communication
  • acceptance
  • listening
  • purposely and intentionally remembering the good things about the other person
  • walking away (for the moment, to let emotions cool) or pressing in — and figuring out which one to do when

Sometimes I haven't wanted to do that hard work. Sometimes Mike hasn't. Sometimes it has seemed too much to ask, to keep working through the differences that divide us, and too hard to remember the things that brought us together. Nobody can hurt you more than the person you're closest to, and we've given each other plenty of opportunities to practice extending grace and forgiveness.

Our culture, especially modern media, promotes a vision of love as one big passionate, romantic adventure, in which two people are swept away on waves of emotion as they find completeness in each other. Our society seems to be addicted to the overwhelming, all-consuming feelings that come at the beginning of a relationship. And when the emotions wane, when the feelings change — and they always do — then that's taken as a sign that the love is gone, and the two people owe it to themselves to move on, to find someone who makes them happy.

What a crock.

Here's what I've learned out of these decades of ups and downs: it's not Mike's job to make me happy. I'm responsible for my own happiness, and if I can't be happy with him, I probably won't be happy with somebody else either. As evidence of that truth I need look no further than the serial relationships that so many celebrities find with one “soul mate” after another.

Love isn't about feelings. Feelings come and go, and over thirty-plus years they've come and gone many times in many different iterations. Love is a decision to stay when the feelings aren't so fun, to stand by that person that you made a commitment to, because a commitment means something. Vows mean something.

We are a living testament to the truth that there is virtually no wound that can't heal, no offense that can't be forgiven, no incompatibility that can't be overcome . . . if — and this is a huge if — the people involved are willing to do the work of forgiveness and reconciliation. Grace exists. Compromise is possible.

Love can prevail.

Thank you, Mike, for doing the work all these years. Fortunately, it's still fun most of the time. Maybe, if we have another thirty years to practice, we might eventually get it right. I plan to stick around and find out. 🙂

One Approach to Getting Thinner & Fitter (Part 2)

Last summer, I published a couple of posts about my weight-loss journey. I gave a little bit of my background, and a list of the eight simple steps I followed, here. Then I elaborated a bit on the first four steps here, promising at the time that I would elaborate on the final four “soon.”

Well, it's not soon, but here are my brief explanations of the other four steps I followed. Before reading this post, you might want to click on the links above to read the first two posts in this series.

5. Keep healthy snacks handy.

Everybody I know is busy. Most of us have multiple demands on our time – more things to do than we have time to get them done. When you're frazzled and running crazy, it can be easy to just grab whatever's handy to satisfy those hunger pangs. Unfortunately, too often what's handy is some nonfood junk item that might not even really be what we're hungry for. It's just there, so we shovel it down while we drive on an errand or work at our desk.

The way to combat this is to plan ahead. Keep healthy snacks handy — things that you like but that will contribute to health. I love fruits and vegetables, so I try to make sure I always have a couple of apples or bananas in my office, or some grapes or cherry tomatoes or a bowl of fresh blueberries. Whole wheat crackers and a bit of peanut butter or a slice of cheese can be satisfying. For “emergencies,” I usually have a couple of protein bars in my desk — not the perfect choice, but better than a Snickers bar. A handful of raw almonds or walnuts can stave off starvation until mealtime.
A little advance planning helps ensure that you've got something healthy at hand when life keeps you from a decent meal.

6. Start small, and increase gradually.
When I first made the decision to lose my excess weight, I had been a couch potato for years. I sat at a desk most days, and by the time I got home at the end of long stressful work days, all I wanted to do was drop on the couch and watch TV while I ate my dinner. So it would have been insanity for me to head out the door for a five-mile run first thing. I would have keeled over before I reached the end of my driveway. So I started with just ten minutes on the stationary bike. It wasn't much, but I made a commitment to myself to spend that ten minutes every day. After a week or so, I started adding a minute or two every few days. Without realizing it, I was getting stronger, and before long I was up to thirty minutes a day.

It didn't take me long to get bored with sitting on the bike every day, so I tried our treadmill. This was new for me, so I cut back to fifteen minutes of brisk walking. Over time I added a few minutes each day until I was up to thirty minutes a day of walking. Then, rather than add more time (because I had little time to devote to exercise), I amped up the speed, alternating a minute of jogging with five minutes of walking, and I increased the incline a little bit. Eventually I increased the jogging time and reduced the walking time, until I could jog thirty minutes at a stretch.

To add some variety, I decided to get adventuresome and take my “run” outside when the weather permitted. Of course, running outside on uneven ground is different from treadmill work, so I again readjusted my time and pace. I reverted to brisk walking, going only as far as I was sure that I could make it back home. At first I could only make it a half mile or so, but I again pushed myself a little each time, going a little farther, and then a little faster, until I had worked my way up to being able to jog as much as four miles at a time.

Too often in our determination to make a change, we push too hard, too fast. Baby steps might seem less effective, but you can sustain it over the long haul if you start slowly and increase gradually
7. Get help when you need it.
After a year of working on my own, walking/jogging almost daily and watching what I ate, I had lost about thirty pounds but then hit a plateau. No matter what, I simply couldn't get those last fifteen pounds or so to budge. I'd done enough reading to know that I needed to add another component to my program — strength training. Not only does building muscle help boost your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day, but strength training can help strengthen your bones (battling the onset of osteoporosis) and helps create the muscle definition that makes you look more toned and fit.

The problem was, I had no idea how to do any of that. After talking with a friend, I decided to seek professional help. I joined a gym and signed up for sessions with a personal trainer. My intent was to learn how to use the various machines and free weights so that I could do strength training on my own. It didn't take me long, though, to realize that I simply was too much of a weenie to make myself do that hard work by myself. So several years later, I still have regular sessions with my trainer at the gym. Besides helping me learn proper form and use of the equipment, Pasquale motivates me to try harder. I have accomplished more with his help and encouragement than I ever thought I was capable of.

Not everyone can afford the expense of a gym or a trainer, especially not on a long-term basis. But the principle still applies. If you need the encouragement of group accountability to stick to your healthy eating plan, then seek out a Weight Watchers group or other support system. Try just a few sessions with a trainer, either private or small group sessions. Talk to a nutritionist if you're not sure what you should be eating. Take a fit friend to lunch and ask her to share her secrets with you.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.

8. Take one day at a time.
Losing weight and getting healthy is a long-term, lifelong endeavor. It's not about going on a diet until you lose that ten pounds, or exercising for awhile so you'll look good for your class reunion. Long-term health requires long-term commitment.
That can make it seem overwhelming, though. If I thought that I could never eat another bowl of chocolate ice cream, I might just go crawl under my bed and cry. But although I always keep in the back of my mind that this is a lifetime choice, I focus on one day at a time. Today I'm going to go outside for a run. (Not, “I have to run every day for the rest of my life.”) Today I'm going to choose healthy foods. Today I'm going to remember to drink plenty of water.

Some days go better than others. Some days I'm hormonal or overstressed or tired. Some days I “slip” and overindulge in the treats I love. But rather than deciding it's hopeless, I simply give myself some grace for that day, and start over again on the next day.

So there you have it: the last of the eight key “rules” I've tried to live by on my journey toward getting to a healthy weight. What works for you? Leave a comment with your suggestions — or your questions.