Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

Tiiiime Is On Your Side, Yes It Is December 19, 2014

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Card2These days, I don’t think that most of us feel great about time. Time is always doing the wrong thing; it’s moving too fast or it’s going too slow. We rarely feel like “time is on our side”. The pressure to: “be on time”, “make up time” and “find time” is a relentless “TICK-TOCK” in our over-booked lives. But for all the pressure the passage of time puts on us, I would like to argue that at this time of year, when the calendar is about to slide from December into January, time becomes a quiet gift. Because the passage of a year is not just quantitatively different than the passage of an hour, or a day, a week, or a month – it is qualitatively different as well.

When we pass into a new year – we celebrate that transition with parties and silly hats, giant dropping disco balls, fireworks and champagne. “Out with the old and in with the new” – we make resolutions and promises to make dramatic changes in our lives, and we welcome the opportunity to begin again with a fresh new slate.

“Happy New Year!!!”

And while celebrating is great, I would like to invite you to add a little quiet reflection to your annual celebration this year. Find a moment in these next couple of weeks to sit quietly, and review the year we are leaving behind. Take stock of the challenges that you faced along these last twelve months and the wins and triumphs that brought you through them. Spend a little time thinking about something you learned, someone who positively impacted you, a moment you are proud of and a beautiful experience that touched you. Savor and reflect – a year is a long time, a lot has happened and you have grown – spend some time acknowledging it.

Then when you are ready to start looking ahead at the new year on our doorstep, try to resist the pressure to make New Year’s resolutions. Instead slow it down a bit and delve a little deeper. Create a map for yourself that offers more substance and possibility for real success. It’s not as simple as making resolutions, it’s really about creating a map of goals, plans, intentions and then: working it, refining it, reworking it, retooling it and moving forward. So spend some time reflecting on where you’ve been and where you are now and then take the time to thoughtfully look forward to where you would like to be. If it feels right, you might consider hiring a coach to help you along your way; someone with whom you can explore your next best steps, what strengths you bring to the process and how to harness them, someone who will help you heighten your self-awareness, challenge you to think deeply and then hold you accountable for the plans you make.

We don’t need a change in the calendar year to make changes in our lives, but this time we can use the passage of time to our advantage. It is a natural touch point – a time to reflect, a time to dream and a time plan. This time, time IS on your side. Make the best of it.

Wishing you Happy Holidays and A Great New Year!

http://firebirdlifecoaching.com/

 

Giving Thanks November 23, 2014

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I am lucky, and yes, grateful that one of my signature strengths is: gratitude. For those of you who may not know what signature strengths are the term comes from the work of psychologists, Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson who identified and then quantified twenty-four Character Strengths that we all possess, that are consistent over time and across cultures and which we all value. The “VIA” or Values in Action Survey of Character Strengths, is the test that you can easily take if you are interested as it is available online at no cost. The survey will rank order the 24 Character Strengths that Peterson and Seligman identified, and highlight your “Top Five” Signature Strengths. The test, which I use regularly in my coaching practice, is a powerful tool for self-discovery, focusing on the positive and providing a vehicle for numerous applications which we can use to increase our sense of life satisfaction.

For more information or to take the test, go to: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/home.

So, gratitude is one of my top five. And while I would have to say that I am aware of the daily appearance of all of my strengths as I navigate my day to day life, gratitude is more like the lens through which I see everything. I notice the things I am grateful for all of the time; the deliciousness of a warm cup of coffee, the opportunity to work with all of my wonderful clients, having a comfortable home for myself and my boys, the color of the sky, the coziness of my bed, and on and on and on. It makes me humbled, it makes me feel blessed, it fosters respect, encourages me to keep working and when life’s challenges challenge me… it helps me to keep perspective and be more optimistic. I am in fact, grateful to be grateful, and it’s as simple as that.

So this year, as those of us here in “the States”, gather around dining room tables on Thursday to share a meal with friends and family we will all most likely take a moment to “give thanks”. We will reflect on our blessings and good fortune, and take some time to think about those who have been challenged by all manner of sacrifice and struggle. And collectively, our hearts will open a bit, the “good will meter” will register a little higher and a little more humanity will fill the space between us. And for that we should all be grateful.

My challenge to you this holiday season is to hold on to that perspective a bit: to look with kindness on one another, to treat each other with respect, to listen, to give and to allow yourself to receive and to be grateful for all of the big and small things that happen in our lives every day. There is so much to be grateful for, at the very least, we are still here, we are still breathing and that means we still have the chance to do great things, even of the smallest kind.

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Happy Thanksgiving with Deep Gratitude –

Lisa

 

Amazing Gracie June 30, 2014

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20140626_094408-1 I wasn’t allowed to have cats when I was child. My mother didn’t like or trust them, having grown-up around cats when she was young whose primary function was to serve as “mousers” – and not as pets, she was always a little scared of them. I once brought home a kitten, from a fair, hoping that she would be moved by its soft, grey, “kitteny” cuteness – but found myself having to return it to the family I got it from a couple of days later. But once I moved out on my own, I have always had at least two or three feline family members of my household. I don’t know about the whole “dog-people” -vs. – “cat-people” thing, but I guess though I grew up with dogs my preference is for cats. I appreciate their independence, their affection (when they choose to share it) and their overall orientation to life. Cats are cool and I simply like having them around.

For the last ten years we have had three feline members of our family: Taku and Soma, two littermate brothers that we adopted as kittens from a local animal shelter and Gracie a neighborhood “stray” who we took in about four months after getting “the boys”. From the start, these three were not like any of the other cats who have been part of our family over the years. I think this stems from the fact that they had “feral” rather than “domestic” origins. The biggest difference that was very apparent was that they were all pretty darned skittish. While our previous cats seemed to like our human company, these three all displayed what can only be described as “terror” and mistrust when it came to casually interacting with the human family members. Though, they each had their idiosyncratic preferences for when, where and how they would interact with us, the general rule was, that it always had to be on their terms – certain rooms, certain times, certain people, certain interactions were tolerated – but there was little to no – “casual” opportunities for affection and interaction. For the first couple of years we had them, I was primarily aware of their presence because someone was eating the cat food and using the litter box – but not because I ever had the chance to actually “enjoy” them.

That doesn’t mean that they didn’t hang around us at all – all three cats would sleep with my sons every night – often switching between rooms throughout the night, I assume to make sure that everyone had a chance to snuggle. Gracie would join you on the family room couch if you were watching a movie and gladly stand in front of your face so you could not see the screen. Taku would race in front of you if you were walking up the front steps, hop on my son’s bed and purr wildly while you pet him and Soma, would sit next to me in the kitchen while I paid bills at the table, allowing me to pet his head or more importantly to crunch up small wads of paper for him to chase around on the floor. There were a number ways you could interact – but they were all very specific, and were interspersed with plenty of frantic fleeing from the room if you happened to walk through, as if your very presence was inherently threatening. They were three goof-balls and not at all like our previous pets – who were constantly present, endlessly affectionate and relatively mellow.

Anyway, the dynamics all changed a couple of years ago, thanks to a couple of coincident factors; one – my boyfriend, the self-described, “God of Cats” became a more regular presence in our home, and two – Gracie lost her hearing (which eliminated all of those startling sounds that had previously frightened her). The result – was that slowly, but surely the God of Cats and Gracie became the best of friends. Taku and Soma, observing Gracie’s interaction without catastrophic incident, eventually followed suit and came round themselves to regular interaction with the humans of the household and over time – we became one big happy family. It only took about eight years to get to something that resembled the ideal that was in mind when we brought these three felines into our home, but who’s counting?
But Gracie’s loss of hearing and apparent connection to a bottomless desire for affection was only a small part of the physical and personality changes that she was going through. Though calmer and definitely happier in her quiet little world, she was also aging rapidly and suffering from a number of health problems, which were slowly but steadily taking their toll. One by-product of her hearing loss – was that her “meow” went from normal range to something that sounded more like a super-sonic goat and she had a lot, and I do mean A LOT – to say. It could be tough first thing in the morning, and she could be pretty darned persistent, but it was also pretty darned funny. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have imagined the sounds that she made if I hadn’t been there to witness it firsthand. That girl had needs, and if she wasn’t fast asleep she would make sure that you knew about them – as she wanted either to be fed or purring in your lap almost all the time. Taku, not much for independent thinking, decided that if it was working for Gracie, then he should give it a try too – and though he neither fit on your lap as easily (since she was very underweight due to a number of health issues and he is quite overweight from stealing her food as often as he could) he took almost all of his cues from her. “Gracie is meowing, I should Meow. Gracie is hopping on the chair; I should hop on the chair. Gracie wants to sleep on this pillow; I should sleep on this pillow, etc.”

Gracie went from being one of the shyest cats I know – to one of the most affectionate. And by her example – Taku and Soma learned that they could get affection and attention at almost any time of day, in any room, from anybody. It was a great thing.

Last week, we made the difficult decision to have Gracie euthanized. Sweet and seemingly happy as she was, she was also very ill and in the last couple of years had lost a tremendous amount of weight and muscle mass. It’s hard to tell, because cats are pretty stoic creatures, but it sure looked like it was difficult and probably painful for her just to lie down and stand up toward the end. But she never stopped being sweet and affectionate. We will miss the old girl, her loud talking, her constant companionship and her sweet loving face. I am so glad that her last couple of years seemed to make her so happy, despite her health issues. I hope that Taku and Soma remember what she taught them and continue to be more interactive and affectionate than they had been before. Time will tell.

But whether they do or not, I guess taking this time to reflect on the last ten years with these three just feels important to me. Our pets whether they are cats, dogs, bunnies or whatever, really do become a big part of our lives, a part of our families. Their personalities shape our day-to-day experience and it is amazing how much love they can bring us. In this case, I learned too, that the capacity for change and transformation is present in all sorts of creatures – finding opportunity within obstacles. Thanks, Gracie.

 

Are you starving your creativity? June 24, 2014

Child's Drawing2

I can’t go without eating, none of us can. It is one of those fundamentals that all living organisms must satisfy in one way or another or perish without it. No surprises here. But what about our other urges, needs, drives and desires – and specifically, what about creativity? Do we need it? Will we perish without it? And beyond our own personal needs to express and utilize this aspect of our selves, do others need it from us? I say, yes. While we may not wither away in our physical form – without creativity our lives can become, bland, unfulfilling and stagnant. And the impact goes beyond our own well-being – without creativity how do we move forward as a species, where will our society be without new and innovative thoughts, ideas, objects of beauty and personal expression? No place that I want to go, I can tell you.

Why is creativity important?
Let’s pull it back a bit here – while the impact of a world without creative expression may evoke visions of bleak, grey automation – what I really want to talk about here is how it affects us in a personal way. There are those of us who identify ourselves as “Creatives” and our form of expression might manifest itself in ways that are easily recognized for their creativity: music, the arts, writing, etc. While for others the expression of their creative inclinations might take shape in how they dress, what they cook, how they approach confounding questions that arise during the work day, or the “hobbies” they engage in, be it knitting, model building or gardening. In different ways each of these activities, actions and approaches to life, involve that part of us that is “creative”. And to leave it out, to not have a place or a way to express it would not only make our lives less colorful, but on a basic fundamental level – it would be less satisfying, less enjoyable and more fulfilling.

Creativity: luxury or necessity?
That said, for many of us, unless we are fortunate enough to have occupations that require us to flex our creative muscles on a regular basis, we find ourselves left wanting. Wanting to find the time to pursue a creative activity; wanting to take that guitar lesson, to write that story, to paint that picture we have in our mind. It’s a luxury. Something we can’t afford the time or energy to commit to amidst the responsibilities of our daily living. Recently, in a writing group I was running, the members of the group discussed that though finding the time and commitment to create a space for writing is an on-going challenge – to not do it – to let it go, simply doesn’t work. And, why not? Because the “need” to do something creative, never goes away. It remains, like a nagging brain worm, turning and turning over in your mind, vying for your attention and simply not giving up. Expressing your creativity – is not a luxury, it is a necessity – and without it you can never quench the thirst that its absence creates.

So, what are you going to do?
Why deny yourself something that is so meaningful? Why keep putting off, that project for another day? As with all goals, if we refuse to commit to taking action, it will never happen and in this case that desire may get quieter if you continue to ignore it (though in many cases, it often actually just gets louder and louder) it’s simply not going to go away. So do it! Get out there, get started, create the space, make a mess, and allow for the “ugly”, but just do it anyway. It’s fundamental and without it – life just isn’t as satisfying, exciting, interesting or beautiful.

There’s strength in numbers!
If you are ready to start exploring and expressing your creative side, consider joining me and other creative folks who are ready to commit to making it happen in an interactive for this interactive virtual group! Where we will explore ways to: foster, hone, support and create opportunities to enhance our creative expression in whatever form that may take. Registration deadline is only a week away, so don’t put it off. For more information: http://conta.cc/1iBRmnH

 

“Where I am From” June 11, 2014

Sorting through a file of miscellaneous notes and assorted paperwork this morning prepping for a newSitting group I am planning on accessing the creative inside of us – I came across this… Below is my first pass at my “Where I am From” poem, see – http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html. What a great project and a wonderful exercise – might just have to incorporate this in to my group.

I am from Binney Park, baccala and bicycles.
From Aunts Emma and Violet
From head scarves and rubber bands.

I am from delicatessens and mansions.
From soft hearts and strict rules
From bocce and “BINGO” on Independence Day.
From wet snow pants and 45 records.

I am from the “rattle” of the utensil drawer and
the “kerchunk”of the library card.
From stories of WWII and Sunday visits.

From neighborhood hide and seek and whistles for dinner.
From dress-up and tadpoles.
From innocence and cigarette smoke.

I am from knowing too much and not understanding.
I am from the outside, looking in.
From train rides to “THE city” and walks to the beach,
From Friday nights and Barbie dolls.

All wrapped tightly in a bunch,
In a ball, a basket.
Buried deep and bubbling to the surface
All that came before and all here now.

If you haven’t tried it – I suggest you do. Offers an interesting way of thinking about your childhood – where you came from and who you are.
Be well… Lisa
http://firebirdlifecoaching.com/

 

On Rising May 27, 2014

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Quietly opening her eyesDawn Birds
The silence of the morning,
Before traffic,
Before car doors, mowers and construction equipment,
Before birds,
Well almost before birds.
Lying in the stillness, warm sheets, veiled thoughts.
What day is this?
Wisps of dreams remembered, pieces of pictures floating in and out.
Feet touching the floor
Enter another new day,
Awaiting her fingerprints and plans.
Each moment familiar and never before seen.
Always, always an opportunity – you are here.

 

Lessons from Flowers March 18, 2014

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Hanging Flowers (I promise that someday soon – I will once again post a blog, that is just that… a blog. But since lately I have been pre-occupied with various other projects – I thought I would once again share an article that I wrote a while ago for the The Divorce Support Center about resilience, personal agency and self-care which has just been published and featured on their home page. It is relevant for all of us, I think – no matter what our marital status is!)

About an hour ago, I stepped out onto my porch to see two very sad looking hanging baskets. Vines drooping, flower heads sadly bent toward the ground and leaves folding in on themselves – all combined in one plaintive and unmistakable plea, “Water, please!” So, I obliged, as I always do, except for on the days that I forget, like yesterday, apparently… An hour or so later, when I went back outside to add an empty bottle to the recycling bin, I looked up to see my floral friends: refreshed and rejuvenated. This got me to thinking… Wouldn’t it be nice if people could “perk up” as quickly and easily as a freshly watered flower?

Life is hard. Stress abounds. And that is especially true when you are going through a divorce. There simply is so much to deal with on top of the needs and responsibilities of just regular old everyday life – that it is no wonder that some days we just end up feeling wilted and defeated. While it would be nice to wish for days of endless sunshine, plentiful water and the proper nutrients needed for continual and blissful growth, the reality is that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine, the rain doesn’t fall and the nutrients become depleted. So what’s a plant or a person to do?

Luckily, unlike plants whose personal agency is severely limited by nature and the sometimes faulty memories of our caretakers – as people we have much greater control. So the question is what can you put in your own metaphorical watering can on those days when you are feeling a little wilted? Each of us will answer that question differently, wouldn’t we? For some it could be an extra hour in bed, while others might choose to awaken early to have enough time for the gym or a brisk walk before work. Some might pick-up the phone and call a friend while others might take out their journal, pour a cup of tea and snuggle up in a comfy chair to work through their thoughts and feelings on paper. Maybe you want to do a little meditation to clear your mind or head out to hear some live music and dance so much that your negative feelings are left somewhere underfoot on the dance floor. The options are as infinite as each of us is unique. But the common denominator, is taking the time to reflect on what we need a bit and to give ourselves the nurturing that’s required.

The solutions may not be as simple as sunshine, water and nutrients – but that’s really more of a blessing than a curse. So fill that watering can and keep it close because, “You in full bloom – is a beautiful thing!”

 

Make a Wish… March 13, 2014

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birthday cakeHere’s an article of mine which was just featured on the Divorce Support Center website. http://divorcesupportcenter.com/

My sons aren’t “little” anymore, though they were when their father and I got divorced. And that was scary! I think the single biggest issue for their father and I

when we decided that our marriage was simply not going to work, was how to end it in such a way that the impact did not negatively affect our children. It wasn’t easy.

Because truly, with the exception of possibly ending an abusive, volatile relationship – how could a divorce negatively affect the kids? The very nature of the beast requires significant changes at the very core of our lives for all of the parties involved, and the importance of stability at home is probably felt most acutely by those who have the least control and resources with which to understand it – the children.

In fact, it is probably true that many couples, stay together “for the children,” despite their own personal needs and desires to separate. Not too long ago, that was probably “the norm,” but not so much anymore. And I am not going to digress here into the “rightness” or “wrongness” of a couple’s decision to remain married or not, there are enough eager voices out there who are willing to judge the life choices of others, mine is not one of them. But I will say this, if you are a parent whether you choose to divorce or stay together – you absolutely have a responsibility to do your best to give your children what they need to grow up into confident, healthy and well-adjusted members of society.

So what does that mean exactly? Well, in the case of divorce, it means keeping your children out of the emotional fray, letting them know how much they are loved, providing as stable and consistent a home life as possible, fostering healthy relationships with both of their parents, being there to support their emotions, and finding other outlets to deal with your own: for starters.

And you may not want to hear this but if you thought that parenting was challenging before, you better brace yourself for the challenges of single-parenthood, which is not to say that it won’t at some point become easier and more normative. But if the situation allows it, the reality is, they still have another parent and is your best option. It isn’t always easy; after all your emotions are running high, too.

But you are the grown-up, and your children need you now more than ever to act like one. Agreeing with your spouse to put the needs of your kids first – is the first step. And you may need to remind yourselves, over and over, and in countless ways, what this actually means on a day-to-day basis – but you will be rewarded in the long run.

Last week was my son’s nineteenth birthday. It was his tenth birthday since his father and I separated. And I was a bit surprised when about a week earlier he had asked me if his dad could join us for dinner. I said, “Yes.” And though clearly it wasn’t the “nuclear family” of yester-year, it was a pleasant evening. I made his favorite dinner and his dad made his favorite cake. I don’t think any of us, for even a moment were fooled by the guest list into thinking that we were the same family that we had been years before, and yet we were still a family inextricably and forever bound to one another.

It was awkward and fine. But most importantly, my sons were both happy, and that’s what it’s all about.

 

Forward Footsteps February 28, 2014

FeetHere’s an article of mine which was just featured on the Divorce Support Center website. http://divorcesupportcenter.com/

“Baby Steps” – we all know what that means, right? The small forward movements we make in our life to get us closer to where we want to be. They are as important to acknowledge as they are to take. After all, if you are making forward movement in your life but are discounting or failing to recognize those steps, how will they impact you?
You don’t need me to tell you how difficult going through the divorce process can be, if you are reading this likely you are experiencing it, firsthand. So many areas of your life are in flux – that it can be harder to recognize: “what stayed the same?” than “what has changed?” And along the way, as these changes unfold you are right in there, making adjustments, alterations and compromises as your new life is unfolding in front of you. And how do you get there? One little step at a time. Today, you unpack the clothes from your closet, tomorrow you open a new checking account, the next day you speak to your child’s teacher, and on and on and on.
Sometimes it feels like the process will never end. You’re six months, one year, two years or even more into the process, but the divorce still isn’t finalized. The reality is that even when it is – you still aren’t done, because the adjustments to your newly “single again” life are going to keep coming one after the other, too. You spend your first night alone in your home for the first time in years, your toilet needs to be fixed, you don’t know how to do it and your former spouse isn’t there to help you, your kids are adjusting to their new routine in a two household family, and you find yourself with a free night to do whatever you want to do – but have no idea what that even means anymore! But day after day you will face these changes, make decisions about what to do and not do, cry into your pillow and smile at your progress even if at times it feels like a pretty meager victory.
It takes a lot of strength and a lot of courage to get a divorce. It’s heart-wrenching and liberating, painful and affirming – and you will make it through, one step at a time. Because that’s what we do – we adapt, we evolve, we move forward – there is no other choice in the constantly changing landscape of our lives. So while you are at it – take a moment, lift your head and look around at how far you have come. Give credit where credit is due, as they say… Sometimes the best we can do on any given day is to just “show-up” for ourselves. And that can be enough, the “new normal” is just down the road a piece, and when we get there, that will change too! Life is change, and we move forward into our futures one moment and one step at a time. Envision your future, acknowledge your past and step forward into this new life – it is waiting for you.

 

Sleepy Bear January 29, 2014

HibernationI think I have been hibernating. That’s what I am going to go with anyway. It’s wintertime, and this year with the “polar vortex” turning the cold season into the frigid season, it feels even more appropriate than usual to pull inward until the world begins to thaw.
In my head, hibernation has always meant dormancy; a long, slow, quiet, sleep – but my current experience calls for a little redefinition of that concept. Yes, there is a palpable, quiet, sleepiness to life at the moment – but there is also much going on. It’s just that the activity is more inward than outward. For me, these last few weeks have really been about pulling inward: reflecting, planning, reviewing and taking stock. My mind is alive and awake with a quiet intensity that fills all my waking moments, and some of my sleeping ones, too.
And, I like it. It feels powerful, it feels necessary and it feels right. In all honesty, no matter what the season, my mind rarely sleeps, there is always a lot of activity in there – but something about this particular season’s meanderings feels different. There is a sense of reflection and quiet, retooling and making ready that covers my consciousness like the quiet stillness of a fresh snow.
I will welcome the spring warmth when it arrives, but I am in no hurry. Clearly, nature has its time for all things, and being right here, right now, is where I need to be. When I awake, stomach grumbling and ready to move out in search of nourishment, I will welcome the re-birth of the season. “All things in their own time”, comes to mind. Mindfully, taking pleasure in the gifts of the moment, knowing soon the seasons will change and new moments will bring their own lessons, their own gifts and their own challenges. Sweet dreams…