Tour de Heel: A Perseverance Story

For the past seven years I had been trying to successfully complete a pair of hand knit socks. Socks are great.  They are soft. They warm the toes.  They can highlight a dancers ankles (don’t believe me watch an old Gene Kelly clip, see his pants are tad short, so your eyes are drawn to his socks and therefore his ankles. Want a more contemporary example take a look a Michael Jackson video).  Socks cradle tired feet after a long day. They can be hand puppets.  The can be a mitten in a pinch. I just like socks, so I decided to learn to knit some.  Knitting is a creative, meditative process that is also a wonderful mindful practice and a thing I really enjoy. I knit other garments, so why not socks?

But turning a heel was a mystery to me. I read my patterns carefully. I watched others turn heels. People I knew who knit socks offered me tips. I accessed online knitting resources. But each time I tried, and I tried at least annually for 7 years, I blew it on the heel turn. What row am I on? Do I decrease here or not?  Dang IT I dropped stitches! So I frogged (ripped out) the sock in progress each time- that is until my time on the Cabot Trail this summer.

This was going to be my personal Tour de Heel, while it was the Tour de Cabot for my husband and the others with whom we traveled. I packed my double point needles, my Opal sock yarn, a basic sock pattern from Knitting Rules by the Yarn Harlot, my knitting inspiration. I reasoned that since I was going to be in Canada, the home country of the Yarn Harlot AND using her pattern, things were aligning.  I would just trust the pattern and myself. I would ask my husband for his encouragement.

While I waited in the SAG wagon for my husband and the other riders, I knit. In the cabins with our friends at night I knit. My husband was my chief support, asking me how the sock was coming and commenting about nice it was looking, even when he was dog tired and sweaty from riding. Our friends watched me knit and listen to me tell my story about the d@*# heel. And when I turned the first heel we all cheered and I beamed.  No one knit for me, but each supported me and let me grumble when I had to rip out stitches. They celebrated my win, even if it did not make a whole lot of sense to them why this had been such a challenge for me and for that I am grateful. A couple of days after our trip I silently thanked each of them when I finished the second sock alone at home.

The socks are extra slouchy. They are not perfect or even all that good looking, but they are complete and they are mine. Made by my own efforts, my own hands and because of perseverance and support. My next pair of socks will be more perfect and better looking, but I will never treasure them like I do this first pair.

What did I learn? Keep trying. Ask for support when you need it, even when you are asking for support for a task that seems trivial. Trust the process, yourself and the universe. Always celebrate the wins, big or small.


Tour de France – Tour of Life

Seven years ago my husband introduced me to le Tour de France. My husband loves sports. Loves them like he and I both love ice cream with unbridled passion and desire. The man has been known to participate in three fantasy football leagues at once- a feat that amazes and sometime bewilders me- but to each their own joys and release. Me, I like sports. I have been known to yell at the TV when a bad call (in my humble estimation) has been made. The Olympics, both summer and winter, are a highly anticipated pleasure for me. Watching the Lithuanian National Basketball team play several games during the last Summer Olympics, while in Lithuania visiting family was a thrill! Who knew that my 84 old farm woman cousin would be as up on the team as my city slicker 45 year old, business man cousin- but that is an other story. I cheered when my 15 year-old brother got himself 2 goals a hockey game this past season.  But, I don’t love Sports the way that I love ice cream or dance. I did not get up at 6:30 am on a Saturday to watch a bike race and could not understand why my night owl husband was doing so.

Needless to say my interest was peaked. So I found myself getting up and watching the Tour with my husband. I asked a million questions about how the race worked. “How is it that a rider can maintain the lead position, but finish in the peloton 3 minutes behind the stage winner?” “What is the appeal of being a domestique?” “So I am I right in understanding that each stage is a race in itself?” As my husband answered my questions, the structure and flow of the race, the honor of finishing the Tour de France, the importance of each member of a team fulfilling their role and their supporting each other became incredibly clear.  Yes, the race has a declared winner, the person with lowest overall time across three weeks of cycling on flat lands, over mountains, in time trials, through all sorts of weather and over varied road conditions. The Tour Winner does not get to the podium, or the end of any stage of the race alone. A team of people supports him; each with a specific and special role and each of those roles are celebrated. Each individual win is celebrated, with an eye towards the final goal. There are races within the race: each stage win, the fastest sprinter, the most aggressive rider of the day, the King of the Mountains, the Best Young Rider, the Best Team.

When there is a crash in the race, more supporting members come out for the rider, doctors, mechanics, teammates to help ride him back into the pack, and the fans watching. They all pull for the rider to get back in the saddle and continue on the ride. There are always crashes. A moment’s inattention to the road, or hazardous conditions, or seemingly without a reason, crashes occur. At times the crashes are spectacular, taking your breath away as you watch someone skid along the road, or flip over the handle bars and guard rail on the mountain side or cause a chain reaction involving multiple riders. The riders hurt at the end of each day’s ride, and even more so when involved in a crash. Crashes are cause for concern, some times the result is the rider has to drop out of the race for the year. But rarely are the crashes fatal. More often the riders are able to pick themselves up, right the bike, or get a replacement bike and complete the days ride. That amazes me.  I think this is a powerful metaphor for life, life as our own personal “Tour de insert your name”.

Yes it is nice, even desirable to be declared the winner or get a place on the podium.  But there is at least as much honor in finishing the race, through rain and sun, along empty stretches of road, over grueling mountains and between lines of cheering people. It is even more honorable to get up after a crash, mop up the cuts, finish the race and attend to the bruises. It is important to accept the support and gifts that others offer and to be humbled and grateful for those. It is important to work hard for yourself and others, but also for the greatest good of all. Don’t work at such an expense that you make enemies out of those you may need in the future. Keep your eyes and self aware of the end goal, but be very present in each stage of the route. Pace yourself. Don’t cheat the cost is high to you and others. When someone has a win congratulate them and keep working for your own wins.

Yes, I was hooked on the Tour de France after the first summer of watching and enjoyed it again this July.

A sense of place, peace and wonder

Some time ago a friend described to me the importance of sense of place to her. When you know a particular city, region or neighborhood holds a home or an embrace of sorts for you. There is something about the location that just fits what you need for a minute, a week or a lifetime. She is a Southerner who deeply loves the landscape, charms and quirks of her home state and the South as a whole. However, she also feels a compelling, spiritual pull for the Rocky Mountains, Este’s Park area in particular.

Mountains, big hills, the scent of balsam, humus, clean air, the sound of rushing stream, rolling waves, the crack of a twig underfoot… all of these elements evoke a powerful sense of place and peace for me. Recently I was fortunate to travel the Cabot Trail in breathtaking Cape Breton, Nova Scotia with my husband and some friends. They cycled the trail (its not the Tour De France but hat’s off to them) and I happily drove the SAG (support and gear wagon) enjoying the scenery and some hiking, it was a restorative and wonderful trip.


The photos from the trip help to ease the transition back into the chaotic world of work and other every day normal tasks.  I just breath better when I look at them. Someone wise once said if you can change your breath you can change your life. The stress of changes at work, selling a house, managing the grocery shopping… all become much more contained and smaller with each breath and each look. I hope you enjoy the views above and have a sense of place of your own that can transport you and connects you with something deeply personal and exultant.

Words to Consider: “Your best teacher is…”

Your best teacher is your last mistake. – Ralph Nader

 Ah mistakes, let me count the ways you have taught me…

  1. Stay calm when presented with an opportunity that seems too good to be true… it just might be
  2. Look beyond what you want to see so that you can clearly assess what is in your line of vision
  3. Sometimes taking the proverbial plunge in the deep end really is the way to learn to swim
  4. Most mistakes are not going to tear apart the fiber of the universe
  5. Saying your sorry when you are is the right thing to do, even if the other person is not willing to accept your appology
  6. Be strategic when choosing  your companions for a long journey of any sort
  7. Trust your instincts
  8. Go to bed when you are tired, unless the house is on fire, or you have been handed the keys to THE RED BUTTON, or something else of real magnitute most things can wait until you can give them your full attention
  9. Don’t say  “Yes, I promise” unless you really mean it
  10. Learn to enjoy surprises
  11. Being rejected is not the end the world or your social life, it may not even be a reflection of you
  12. In the long run it is easier to be yourself than not, quirks and all
  13. Don’t wait to try something you have longed to do, you’ll only waste precious opportunities that may not come again
  14. Don’t forget to have some fun
  15. Say what you need to even if it is painful, that pain will fade faster than a regret ever will

I could go on and on. How about you?

How to to Find Your Knowing Gut

This post picks up from yesterday’s post on trusting your instincts.

First sit in a comfortable place and position. Quiet your external environment.  Turn down or better yet, turn off the radio, TV or computer. Dim the lights if you are indoors. If you can get near natural sunlight, please do.

Close your eyes. Breathe in, and out, in a gentle steady rhythm for you.  Keep breathing like this for the remainder of the exercise. Become aware of what you are feeling in your body, your arms, your stomach, your legs, your chest, your back, your fingers, your head… What do you feel? And where do you feel it?

When your mind wanders to some thought, just notice that it has wandered and bring your attention back to your body. What do you feel? And where do you feel it?

And when your mind once again wanders to some thought, just notice that it has wandered and bring your attention back to your body. What do you feel? And where do you feel it?

There are most likely consistent answers you are getting to the questions: What do you feel? And where do you feel it? This is your knowing gut. It might be in your abdomen, or legs and left little pinky finger, different people find it in different places.

Are you not entirely sure what and where you are feeling? That’s okay. Keep practicing this exercise and the answers will become clearer. The smog we have in our internal environments can take time to dissipate. But it will dissipate.

This is only one possible exercise to find your knowing gut. If it does not work well for you, try something else. You might go for a long walk, during which you focus your attention not on the thoughts running around in your brain, but rather on those coursing through the fibers and bones of your body. 

Know of some other exercises? Please feel free to share them with me in the comment section of my blog. I’d love to learn about what works or not for you.

Words to Consider: “Creativity comes from trust. Trust …”

Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. – Rita Mae Brown

“Trust your instincts.” “Go with your gut.” “You know what is right for you.” At some point in time we have all uttered these words and probably have had them said to us too. When do we say or hear these words? Most often when facing a difficult decision. Sometimes the decision forces us to confront facts we would rather not. Other times the decision involves compelling but competing options, or a decision that is right but does not make sense to others.  It can be difficult to trust your instincts and go with your gut.

How often have we really reached down in to the knowing core of ourselves, where our hearts and minds speak the same language and gone with our gut? It is an act of faith we step off the proverbial ledge and trust.

We all know how our sense of certainly has been knocked well off kilter in the last year or more.  Dang the old adages of “Everything changes. What goes up is bound to come down.” are true.  How then do we trust our instincts when the good fortunes experienced so many people seemed as if they would go on endlessly and it turned out we were wrong? Very wrong, even though deep down inside we knew that the continued spectacular economic growth and accompanying feelings of stability were not realistic.  Getting back to the fundamentals, the basics, the core truths and values of your self provides the environment to trust yourself, your instincts, your gut. This environment is one you carry within yourself and demands we are mindful of what is already right with us and the world.

We put so much energy in to what we see as wrong with ourselves and in the world. We are bombarded with reminders aplenty of what is not “right” through the amazing technologies available to us. What if we decide to take that energy into what is already right with us, in our connections with our exterior world as well as our interior world of sensory perceptions, thoughts and our emotions? Would we then begin to see the interface, the deep interconnectedness of our senses, and discover or rediscover the intuitive pull for balance? It is the intuitive pull for balance that I think is speaking to us through our knowing gut, our instincts.

To get back on a sense of balance we first need to know where our “knowing gut” is located in our bodies. For some people it is indeed in the abdomen, for others it is in their solar plexus. For you, who knows, it could be in your hamstring muscle of your left leg.  Once you rediscover where your “knowing gut” resides you need to be present enough to hear what is saying. Being present in the current moment slows down time and affords you the opportunity to choose to trust your instincts, a wee bit of magic in this frenetic day and age.

Tomorrow, I’ll share an exercise I use with my clients to help find their knowing gut and rediscover mine when it get lost in the smog of uncertainty, other people’s opinions and the distractions we all encounter in our daily lives.

Negatively Charged Personalities: How to Spot ’em & What to Do About ’em

In my post on Monday, I wrote about negatively charged personalities and how they can drain you. Coping with or avoiding prolonged encounters with negatively charged or toxic personalities is a regular topic for my clients.  Brett Blumenthal wrote a wonderfully descriptive and concise piece describing 8 toxic personalities. If you have not already read 8 Toxic personalities to avoid here is your opportunity.

Now that you have familiarized yourself with these personality types, take an other look at the list of negatively charged people in your life. Which of the personalities do you see reflected by the people on your list? Are there any other toxic or negatively charged personalities that you have experienced?

Are you tired of having your energy drained by these personalities? I thought so. So what to do about it? Once you know how to spot ’em you can start to be attentive to what specifically about these personalities gets under your skin. Just pick one personality, and start to write down what is it about this type of personality who just drains away the positive from you and HOW this occurs. Once you are aware of and become familiar with the “how” of their impact you can begin to develop effective strategies for you to diffuse the impact of the negative energies, as well as developing effective strategies to reactivate your positively charged energies.

Let’s take Debbie Downer as an example. For several years, I lived next to a woman, “Mrs. Q.” who was the classic Debbie Downer personality. A late May day could be sunny, the temperature about 82 degrees, have a soft breeze blowing with little humidity (a feat that time of the year in New Orleans where I lived at the time), and picture perfect clouds in the sky. I’d comment about the beautiful day and how nicely her Camellia was blooming.  She would say “ACHK, but it is going to rain cats and dogs tomorrow and Hurricane Season starts in a week.” Wish her a Happy Holiday and she would complain about how infrequently her only child came to see her. There were times I wanted to pull my hair out or waited until I was sure she was gone before I walked out my front door. Since neither option was to my benefit (or hers), or even practical in the long run, I had to do something different.

What got under my skin was how easily her voice to cloud my thinking about the day or whatever else it was we had been talking about. One day I tried a new approach. I would wish her well for the day and wait for her complaint. While I listened to her complain, I consciously reminded myself it was her speaking, not me. I then wished her a good day and went about my day. After about a week or 10 days it dawned on me that I no longer dreaded seeing her or went out of my way to avoid her.  My theory is I had some new neuropathways fired and wired regarding our interactions.

What tips and strategies do you have for spotting and coping with negatively charged personalities?