Sunday, August 29, 2010

Do I gossip?

Irises I bought my daughter Savannah this weekend
Copyright (c) 2010 Wendee Holtcamp

As I mentioned, I'm participating in the online 40-day Inner Mean Girl Cleanse, and what that means is that for 40 days there will be weekly hour-long talks by 6 different authors/speakers on 6 different focal areas - plus journaling and paying attention to that particular issue in our life (and as one of the 'Self-Love Ambassadors' I'll be blogging weekly about my experiences). The overall goal is to stop our inner critic and turn it into a voice that will help us. And to stop self-sabotaging behaviors. As I mentioned, the opening call was with SARK - the original Succulent Wild Woman, and someone who I've loved for a long time (her email newsletters are how I of the Inner Mean Girl Cleanse). But the first week's actual topic is gossip, and the guest speaker is Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Tripping the Prom Queen and Toxic Friendships.

I have never been one to gossip about people. It's just not what I do. I adore my friends, and generally most things roll right off me. I just don't have anything bad to say about any of them 99.9% of the time! However, after reading a blog post by Christine Arylo (one of the coaches behind the IMG Cleanse) called "You May be a Gossip And Not Even Know It!" it challenged me to think beyond the obvious type of gossip to other times we may talk about someone to another, holding the thought in mind: Would I feel bad saying this if they could hear me or if they were in the room?

And I realized that the person I would often talk to my girlfriends about was... the guy in my relationship (or sometimes my mom). I would call my girlfriends and vent over some frustration, and was this actually helpful? Could it be- gasp - gossip? So, even though that particular relationship is now over, I had an aha moment in this realization that I need to take forward in my life. Don't get me wrong, everyone needs a close confidante to share deep issues with but I have several close girlfriends, and I would vent or discuss the issues at hand with any number of them. So... I realize now that this is probably not so productive. In retrospect I also see that I should have been out of the relationship many months ago but I have a tendency to hope against hope, and believe in the things I want to see at the expense of the obvious.

About the whole concept of "Tripping the Prom Queen" - I haven't read the book but the call was quite interesting. As an adult I have many super close girlfriends and I love them to pieces. However, I recently had one of those experiences where some women (woman?) treated me in that manner, and I was sort of the victim of this "tripping." It was not pleasant to say the least. However there were some life lessons there, as always. Still processing it all, to be honest. Maybe I will blog about it sometime - in ten years? :)

I had a productive weekend! As I mentioned before, I'm trying to get my house in tip-top shape so I can sell immediately if the need should arise. So my kids and I worked on the yard - besides mowing and edging, we put out some new bark mulch around the trees in my front yard. Sam helped me put the towel rack back on the wall, as it had fallen off (involved drilling a new hole in the wall, putting in an anchor etc). We also painted two walls in the kitchen. One section we just did the same white as most of the walls, and another we created a mustard yellow accent wall only the color turned out to be a bit more greenish-yellow than I realized and I'm not sure I love it. Oh well, it is going to have to do! In my living room adjacent to the kitchen the walls are brick red, which I love, and I have mustard yellow drapes, so I was hoping the kitchen wall brought it all together. I think it all looks ok. But I feel good about what we accomplished. And I went for a run today! Below are a few photos. Ugh looking at them makes me want to repaint the wall. It really is too greenish for my taste. I may have to get some more paint and paint over it... Sigh.
Before painting - I had stripped the border off the top, so the wall had some staining where the border used to be. I actually started taking the border off in the kitchen about 4 years ago... and it was tougher than I realized so I left it sort of half-stripped off this one wall (you can see the border on the wall next to it - I left it around the rest of the kitchen). It's taken me this long to motivate myself to actually paint the one wall and fix the problem I created by attempting to take the border off. So I'm very happy to have accomplished this!
Here's the finished product. It looks better when you can see the wood floors (which I love!) which set it off and accent it better than it looks in this shot. It looks even greener in the photo to me than it does. So I'll give it a couple days and see if it grows on me.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

40 Days to Freedom!

Do you have Cooties! My Inner Mean Girl does!
Photo Copyright (c) 2009 Wendee Holtcamp

I kicked off the (FREE!) Inner Mean Girl Cleanse this week with an amazing call with SARK - aka Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, author of Succulent Wild Woman and many other books. I've always loved SARK's free-spirited style and joie de vivre while still being very real and honest with the challenges she has faced. I learned of the Inner Mean Girl cleanse from SARK's eNewsletter, which I subscribe to (you can subscribe here - click on eletter).

A few things about the Inner Mean Girl Cleanse:

  • It's an online, interactive program put together by two authors and life coaches, Christine Arylo - Inspirational Catalyst and Queen of Self-Love - and Amy Ahlers - the Wake-up Call Coach.

  • The Inner Mean Girl is the inner critic that we women hear inside our heads (sometimes we have more than one). It's not about being mean to others, but how hard we are on ourselves, and learning to turn it into a superhero ally!

  • It runs for 40 days. Even if you missed the first week, you can sign up anytime here. Each week the focus is on a different issue that we all deal with. Over 6,000 people are signed up and doing this simultaneously and you can join too!

  • I signed up as a Self-Love Ambassador and will be blogging each week about the issue at hand.

  • After the 40 Day Cleanse is over, they are offering Inner Mean Girl Reform School which is a paid online course. So if you like what you experience during the free program, you can sign up! (and if you do it from here, I get a referral commission). :)

The cleanse kicked off with a call in through MaestroConference- a conference calling system. I have never done anything like this, and it was really cool! At a certain time, I called in and Amy, Christine, and SARK were all talking to us. After a few minutes, they broke us into sub-groups where each person (of several hundred calling in) could say their name and the one thing that came to mind about what we are most hard on ourselves about. I said "relationships" since that was what I'd been struggling over lately. Then SARK talked about how to 3 steps in turning our Inner Mean Girl from an enemy to an ally. They are:

  • Awareness. The first step is becoming aware of the "Inner Mean Girl" - and you may have more than one! We are encouraged to draw them, which I did. I actually have two so far. They're not very nice!

  • Attention. Give the Inner Mean Girl some attention by journaling and listing out the kinds of things that are said. In the Artist's Way, Julia Cameron calls these "blurts."

  • Allowing. Reassure yourself that you are whole.

After the hour-long chat by SARK, Amy and Christine they broke us into groups of three and we were able to introduce ourselves and chat about the call and the issues we're facing. All three of us had similar challenges, so it was really serendipitous! (After the fact I wondered if they didn't match people up by the concern stated at the beginning of the call - but regardless, it was really fantastic to share with other women going through similar things). We exchanged emails even and I hope to keep in touch!

Each week there is a new topic, and the first week's topic is Gossip. I have never been a gossip or considered myself in that capacity but I already have had an epiphany about it, which I'll share in my next post!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Simple Pleasures!

Trekking in Eastern Nepal. Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step."
- Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's been pretty darn busy around here since I returned from the Gulf of Mexico trip (remember, my nickname is Whirlwendee, after all)! First I had to write a feature, then I had to edit it some, then I had to work on another piece - which I have finished a draft of and am now letting it "gel." I like to have a week, or at least a few days, after writing my initial draft where I can set it aside, and not think about it. Then I come back to it, tweak it, and it always ends up the better for it. Sometimes I do not have that luxury, when I'm working right up to my deadline. So after stressing a bit over an approaching deadline, I was very happy that I finished a draft early so I can have the time to let it sit, and come back to it in a couple days. And meanwhile, I can catch up on my email that is ever-accumulating. I feel much more on top of things when I'm caught up on my email - don't you? I like to keep my inbox under 100. That means I sort and file a lot of emails, but still.

After almost 2 years, my boyfriend and I broke up. So... it's been a bit rough. We have gone back and forth, back and forth, gotten close, grown apart, spent time traveling (both for our respective work) and in the end, it just isn't working for either of us. Even though this is a cliche, it was sort of like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Really, we can't change our man. We can love someone, but after enough time you start to see that who they are, or how they behave towards you, can't be explained or justified by... unemployment, stress, etc etc. It's good to be able to see people we love at their "worst" because to make a long-term relationship move to a deeper level, we're eventually going to see that anyway. But when it's not pretty, and it drags you down too, that can't be a good sign of hope for a beautiful future.

I started reading The Artist's Way again, and this morning was sitting outside in my backyard and read about how we creatives are often attracted to "crazymakers" - sometimes relationship partners, sometimes friends, sometimes parents. I'm just sayin... sometimes we allow a relationship to steal away our creativity because we pour time, love, effort into that relationship instead of into nourishing our own spirit, soul, creativity. I love deeply and don't give up easily. I tried so hard. We even tried to break up before, but never could make it stick. I miss him. But I can't go back. Even though he's now doing things that are so wonderful for his life, making new friends, training for new jobs that contribute positively to the world. Not now. I wish him well, and will continue to be his friend.

So, I have made a commitment to nourish my creativity and to devote the next few years to making sure I have good relationships with my kids as they move into young adulthood. I only have 3 and 4 years left with the two of them, and it will fly by! I am going to look for workshops and such for things like parent-child communication, listening skills, and that kind of thing. So imagine my surprise and delight when just this very day I came across two very cool things that I am going to participate in online, and they're totally FREE! Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way talks about how when we step out in faith, serendipity intervenes and God puts these things in our path.

  • The first thing is a 40-Day "Inner Mean Girl 40-Day Cleanse" - to get rid of the inner critic voice inside that drags us down. It's taught by 6 different relationship/life coaches, all online and all free! It begins on Wednesday, so sign up now if you're interested. There's also a free MP3 audio of the Mean Girl School Open House you can download here. I just did but haven't yet listened to it. The website says, "How to transform the critical voice in your head so you can stop being so hard on yourself, enjoy your life & feel truly successful!" I'll report back!

  • The second is a teleclass "Get Close. Get Real" by Sharon Day - about connecting more deeply with your daughter. It's on Sep 7 at noon central time, and it's free. I think that she may be offering a longer teleworkshop after that which is not free, but I'm just doing the free one for now!

The cool thing is how this so closely ties into what I'm reading about in The Artist's Way. Ch. 1 actually talks about "blurts" which are things that our inner critic says when something positive happens. The goal is to replace them with positive affirmations.

On another note, finances have been really tough lately (over the past couple years, like many people) and another thing that was really stressing me was feeling like I was trapped in my home and would not be able to sell it if I needed to. I have a great little house and have kept it up well - other than the carpet which definitely needs some work due to my bulimic cat - but I had started and not finished some projects and knew I needed them done before I could even think about selling. I had always wanted Doug to come help me work on them, but since that's not going to happen now, I empowered myself by deciding that myself and the kids would do the work together. Basically I have to paint a wall, a bathroom, and a ceiling because I started to strip off wallpaper border I didn't like after I first moved in 5 years ago and quickly realized...this was not working. The border was stuck steadfast to the wall and my attempts to use DIF (the blue wallpaper glue loosener) only succeeded in turning my wall and ceiling blue. had stayed that way for years! Sam spent last week taping up my wall, and then we got the rest of the border off, sanded down a couple parts of the wall, spackled in the holes, and am all ready to prime and paint. Yay us! Baby steps...

Today is a good day. I feel happy about my article, and about the two free online finds, and am about to go to Panera Bread and work catching up on emails. I finished a 12-day Master Cleanse and am truly enjoying the simple pleasures of drinking coffee, nibbling on ginger chocolate, eating homemade vegetable soup. I enjoy conversations with my friends, new and old, and am feeling spacious and open to what the universe holds for me in the next few years.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gulf Road Trip Day 5-flyover of wellsite

One the final day of our trip, we got to do a flyover of the Deepwater Horizon well site in a Coast Guard plane. Right before our trip, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and two parish presidents had gone up with Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft (federal on-scene coordinator for the spill) and NOAA Science Support Coordinator Steve Lehmann to survey the site post-Tropical Storm Bonnie.
After they landed, they gave a brief press conference. I knew the mayor of NOLA was on board but I didn't know which one he was, and so everyone milled about in the airport (it is a very small airport, and no one was there but us), and he introduced himself to me, but I didn't even realize who it was until the press conference... I suppose I shouldn't admit that, but I got called at the last minute for this Coast Guard flyover, and I wasn't there to interview the politicians. :) He's the one in the center.
Zukunft, Paul Rhynard - Coast Guard Public Affairs Officer, and Lehmann.
In the air, Zukunft and Lehmann look at a map of the spill's recent trajectory.
I hate this photo of me but... it's the only one I have. To my left is Matt Gutman, a reporter for ABC News, who has been covering the spill a lot.
Melissa on the plane. The shot is out of focus but it's the only one I have that turned out.
In the back of the plane, there were two Coast Guard people (Coasties) in jumps seats. Halfway through the trip, once we got to the well site, they opened the back of the plane so we could see and shoot photos but unfortunately my photos of the site didn't turn out because of the lighting. To the left is Jeff Adelson, who reports for the Times Picayune.
Steve talking to NY Times reporter Campbell Robertson (based in the New Orleans office).
Adm Zukunft looking out the window.
Zukunft and Gutman looking at the map.

On the way back in, we passed over Louisiana's coastline, which is mostly coastal marsh and estuaries.
The Louisiana coastline.
Another shot of the marsh This cameraman, I can't remember his name, shot for Jeff Corwin on NBC. After the Coast Guard flyover ended, we hauled butt straight back for Houston. It was a long day, and a long drive, and it was nice to get home! And right when we drove past the Texas border, we saw this double rainbow! You probably can't see the other larger, less vibrant rainbow in the photo but it was there, welcoming me back home.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Gulf Road Trip Day 4

I'm a bit behind on my photo editing - here are pics from day 4 of the Gulf Coast Road Trip. On the way from Mississippi to Louisiana we stopped at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. Then we headed to the Northshore of Louisiana where we went one one of Dr. Wagners Honey Island Swamp tours - with gators! (I had previously gone on a similar swamp tour with Cajun Encounters). This area is connected to Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans, and the people there are concerned that if a big storm comes, the oil would wash into these sensitive swamps. At the same time, tourism has been negatively affected by the image that "oil is everywhere" in Louisiana, which also isn't the case. Here are a few shots!

This is a pitcher plant from the Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR. The MS Sandhill crane is an endangered subspecies that is non-migratory and so lives only here. We saw some cranes but I didn't get a photo.
Scott Hereford, the refuge biologist showed us around and was really knowledgeable on the local wildflowers. These are the flowers from the pitcher plant.
Another shot.
Scott looking through a blind, trying to spot the cranes.
Here's a shot of the pine forest at the refuge. My other landscapes didn't turn out great. In fact this one didn't either, but you get the idea.
Some little wildflowers in the swampy fields...
Here's a bumblebee on a flower - I'm not sure the name but I bet Scott knows!
This is a sundew, one of several carnivorous plants here in addition to the pitcher plants.
Two bugs mating or doing something! And yes 'm pretty sure these are "true bugs" - Order Hemiptera!
These next shots are in the Honey Island Swamp on a swamp tour. We saw several alligators from small to large!
The gator is in a bunch of giant salvinia which is an exotic plant, ie non-native/alien, and it causes a lot of problems in choking up the waterways throughout much of the area where it has invaded. I know it reached Texas a few years back. And no the gator isn't eating it - it's just in his way.

He was coming up to get a bit of the hot dog the swamp tour guy was going to feed him... I"m not crazy about the idea of feeding the wild alligators, but it did allow me to get good shots!

A smaller gator.

A shot of some of the cypress and tupelo trees in the swamp.
I saw this sign on the river and thought it was pretty funny.
Close up of a gator head!

A small gator slithers through the swamp.
This is an example of one of the many homes out there in the swamps. Most people don't actually live here but use it as a place to go fishing on the river on weekends, holidays, or whatever.
That hot dog was yummy! Maybe not good for me, but yummy.