Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Comfort? Zone


the comfort zone  Learning from Students

Recently I had a pleasant lunch with a former student.  This happens more frequently than you would imagine.  I enjoy staying connected with former students to see how their lives are progressing.

Josh is a former high school student of mine who is now a college junior.   He is an aspiring writer who has all the talents to make his goal a reality. He had recently attended a writing seminar that greatly motivated him and he wanted to share what he had learned with me. The conference premise was that our entire  life is a story.  If we give the way we live our lives the same thought and importance that we would use on a story we are writing, the world would become a better place. Donald Miller, the conference speaker, said. “The best way to change the world is to tell a good story with your life.”

This concept resonated with Josh and he chatted for maybe half an hour sharing what he had learned.   Josh even brought me my own copy of the conference workbook because he knew this topic would intrigue me also.  He was right.  I’ve been working my way through the activities the workbook suggests.

It was during this lunch Josh told me about one of my classroom lessons that had also wormed its way into his psyche.  These are the moments a teacher lives for.  A golden nugget.  A student recounts a classroom conversation that has really become a part of the way a student lives.

Let me share that classroom conversation/lesson with you.

What is Comfortable?

I start by asking students to list words or things that they think of when I say the word comfortable.  They usually list items like slippers, robes or sweat pants.  Some go in the direction of comfort foods and list hot chocolate, mashed potatoes, pizza or warm brownies. Others describe a place like a comfy chair, their bed or lying on the beach.  Once they’re deep into the conversation about comfort I pose a new question.  “Is comfort ever a bad thing?”

Most immediately say, “No.”  I wait.  One time after a long silence one teen girl finally spoke up and said, “Well there is that old boyfriend that you’ve dated for years. You break up and get back together over and over again.  Deep down you know he’s not really right for you anymore, but you keep going back to him because he’s comfortable.”


As soon as one person breaks through others chime in with their own examples.

“You know the outfit doesn’t flatter you, but it’s comfortable.”

“You have a friend you’ve outgrown.  That friend is making poor choices, but their friendship is comfortable.”

Once we get that conversation flowing, I tell them the bad news  about the comfort zone.  We think if we are comfortable all is well.  But when we are completely comfortable we aren’t growing.  For a while this feels okay.  But eventually we learn that if we aren’t growing we aren’t really even standing still.  Our world is shrinking.  We stagnate.  And that no longer feels good.

It’s important if we want to live fully, that we make a conscious effort to push outside our comfort zone.  Is it easy?  Not usually.

teaching comfort zone

The Teacher Learns

I never went into a restaurant to eat alone until I became a professional speaker.  I thought I’d be too self conscious…look too pathetic…eating alone.  I had to push outside that discomfort.  Now it’s possible for me to drive through the city to an airport, fly into another city I’ve never visited before, rent a car and using Mapquest or GPS, drive hours to a speech location.  Once there I check into a hotel, go to a restaurant alone, sleep and then give a speech in front of thousands. Sometimes I venture from one state to another in a series before traveling home to my comfort zone again.  Increasing the size of our comfort zone opens up a world of possibilities. Confession: What remains as my only crutch?  I still need to carry a book into that restaurant and read as I eat alone.

We much teach young people AND remind ourselves about the perils of the comfort zone and encourage them to expand their own.  If you’re too afraid to drive into the city, before you know it you’ll be avoiding the interstate.  Next you’ll avoid high traffic times on the state routes.  If you’re not careful to force yourself through the discomfort, you’ll find yourself giving up more and more activities that you may have enjoyed.  Your freedom goes down the drain.  Comfort, packaged attractively, may keep us from living the lives we want.

The teacher learns

Thanks Josh, for taking that lesson in and living accordingly.  And even greater thanks for telling your teacher that you remembered.  It was always my goal while in the classroom to share lessons that would change people’s lives.

What I’ve Learned from Blogging


What I learned from bloggingCelebrating My First 50 Blog Posts

The last blog post I wrote about Father’s Day was my 50th post!  This is quite a celebration for me.  Why?  I was dragged into blogging kicking and screaming. “No way!” I’d holler when people told me how much I’d enjoy it.

The only thing I knew about the word blog was that it rhymed with fog.  And I was OK with that.  I loved to write but techie stuff bamboozled my brain.  I wrote blogs for two months before I knew how to attach a picture.  I couldn’t figure out how to edit, tag, or link.  I just wrote.  When people talked about SEO I thought they were talking about the president of a corporation.  I just wrote.  When they talked about engaging, I thought they were talking about getting married.  Where was the diamond?  I wanted to know.

What Blogging Has Taught Me So Far

  • Blogging is like any other adventure or challenge.  Starting is the hardest part.  Once you have started you can figure out the rest of the stuff as you go.  Just write.  I used to blog about the things I didn’t know how to do.  “Help!” I’d say. I don’t know how to attach a picture.  Someone would email me and tell me how.  Some of my greatest encouragers even came to my house to show me how to do things.
  • The more I write, the more ideas I have for writing.  The longer I go without writing, the harder it is for me to come up with ideas.  Anytime an idea pops into my head now, I just capture it on a new post.  I may only have a title but I’ll save a draft until I’m ready to go on.
  • I discovered I’m better at writing humor than I ever knew.  A blog is a perfect place to write humor.
  • Brief writing is often better writing.
  • If you read blogs featured on Freshly Pressed, you’ll get better at blogging.  When I started I honestly had no idea what blogging was.  I faithfully looked over the blogs featured on Freshly Pressed.  It showed me how to improve.  One of my dreams is to be featured on that site.  A gal can dream.

  • People from all over the world read my blog.  Isn’t that a riot?  I don’t even really understand how they know I’m writing.  Like I say, some of the bigger mysteries of blogging elude me.  But I did discover when I post in the middle of the night, people from Scotland and the Netherlands are in the middle of the day.  One guy from the Netherlands commented on my blog.  I said, “I see you are up in the middle of the night like me.”  He said, “I’m in the Netherlands and it is the middle of the day.  Your post popped up on a readomatic.  I still don’t know what a readomatic is.  I just keep writing.
  • Ironically while writing this blog, bragging about my new skills, I’ve encountered many challenges.  For instance, it somehow automatically ‘published’ before I finished it.  ??  I don’t know why.  Perhaps I’ll figure out that mystery before I write my 75th blog.
  • I’ve learned that people who knew me well already knew I would enjoy blogging.  They kept suggesting it to me.  They were right.  I was wrong.  Bless the naggers in my life.  You know who you are.
  • Blogging is fun.  Take it from the Queen of Reluctance.  Don’t fight it.  Just write.

Father’s Day


An Everyday Father’s Day

Kelsey and DadIt didn’t happen on Father’s Day, but it defined a father’s love better than any other small moment in my life.

From a very young age our daughter, Kelsey had to endure a significant number of hospital stays. She was very brave about these hospital interludes and accepted them with a calm far beyond her years.  However following that trying period in her life, she was left with one residual inconvenient trait.  Every time someone left and said good-by to her, she would cry.  It was quite emotional and baffling to her, but I think in a subconscious way she connected the experience of someone ‘leaving’ for any reason, back to those scary hospital times. She talked to me privately about it.  I comforted her and reassured her she would eventually outgrow it.

During this time my husband had to go to Atlanta for business for a week.  We decided to make it into a family mini vacation by flying to Atlanta with him and spending the weekend together.  But when the weekend was over it meant that Kelsey and I had to fly back home for work and school, leaving Dad in Atlanta.

The Good-by Wave

Father's DayThe airport good-by was emotional, but Kelsey tried her best to maintain her composure.  She didn’t want to cry in public.  To help her through the transition her dad promised to wave from the terminal building when the plane left. However, once she and I were seated on the plane we couldn’t see him. Kelsey quickly figured out the plane would need to move forward for us to see him wave.   But that plane wouldn’t budge.  It was one of those inexplicable Atlanta delays.My daughter started to cry quietly. We sat on the plane for probably thirty minutes not moving forward an inch.  Then finally and without explanation, the plane started to move slowly….backwards.  Kelsey was never one to make scenes but her quiet crying escalated to sobs.  She simply couldn’t choke back her emotions any longer. Over and over again she sobbed, “I want to wave to my dad.”

The atmosphere in that jet was already tense from the delay.  We continued to sit in our new location as the day turned from light to darkness for another agonizing forty-five minutes.  No one knew why.   My daughter  continued to sob repeating her plea to wave to her dad again and again. She and I, of course, both knew he was long gone by now. This was in the days before cell phones so there was no way to call him.  I tried to comfort her or distract her in every way I knew how. The already tense passengers struggled to politely endure the sound of this heart wrenching scene.

Finally, finally, the plane started to taxi forward.  I dreaded when she wouldn’t  see her dad at the  window.  As the concourse came into view it was totally lit, while we were in complete darkness.  It was a sight I will never forget.  There was only one person in the entire illuminated concourse and he was standing right at the window and waving at a dark plane.

That’s when tears also formed in my eyes.  Dad knew and understood the importance of that wave. When that solitary waving dad came into view the passengers surrounding us gasped and broke into spontaneous applause.  Before long the whole plane was applauding.  I like to think the ovation was in tribute to a dad’s love.  I’m not certain that is the only reason everyone on that plane applauded, but it’s the reason I choose to remember.

good-by wave

Happy Father’s Day to Dads Who Remember to Wave

I Can’t Stand this Woman


voice in my headShe Has to Go

Seriously.  I don’t like to be rude; but there is a woman in my life who has to go.  Do you know a woman like this?   Maybe we could form an un-fan club or something and brainstorm ways to get rid of these women.  We could put them on a deserted island and let them annoy one another.

She pesters me enough, that if she were my neighbor I’d move across the country to avoid her.  She never has anything nice to say about me.  And of course she is always talking about me. She complains about my weight, my hair, my clothes, my face.  Let’s be honest she doesn’t like the way I look at all.

But that is not the worst of it.  She questions all of my abilities.  Oh, how I hate it when she questions my abilities.  According to her I can’t say or do anything just right.   I’ve never beat up anyone.  But this gal honestly deserves a punch.

 self talkPOW!  

I know it’s not nice to talk about people.  But I’ve really had my fill of this gal so I’m gonna name names.

Her name is….drum roll please…. The Voice in My Head.   You see why it is difficult  to move away from her?   She is my shadow critic.  When I’m tired or discouraged she works overtime and her words become louder and louder until I almost can’t hear anything else.  Even ear plugs won’t help because she rattles around inside my brain.   But when I experience a success, she can yell and I can’t hear her. Oh, how I love those moments.  When I’m with my friends, her words roll right off my back.   I can even laugh at her and ridicule her opinion when something good happens.  “Take that!” I say to her.   I love it when I can prove her wrong.  I do a little mental victory dance in front of her.

There are only two small things that I have learned from her.  And please don’t give her any credit for these.  She is too mean and negative to deserve credit of any kind!  I give myself credit for learning these two things from the old meany.

  • I’ve learned how to say nice things to myself when she taunts me.  Sometimes I even have to say them out loud.  Sometimes I have to say those kind words over and over again.  But that’s OK.  I deserve those nice words.  If I don’t say them she can paralyze me.
  • She has taught me how to recognize when other people are struggling with a negative voice in their heads.  As a teacher, that has been a valuable tool to possess.

But Honestly, She Has Got to Go!



When Breakthrough Breaks Down

So what happens when you go public with three habits that have consistently beaten you for years?  I can answer that question.  In fact I’m an expert on the answer to that question.

First comes a surge of success shored up with determination and resolve.  BIG progress is made.  You are filled with pride and one burning question.  Why didn’t I do this sooner?  It is so easy once you simply commit yourself.  Why didn’t I make this public sooner?  I will inspire everyone.  I am Super Woman!  Watch me soar!  I will be a role model for the world.  Everyone will see that I can do this.  Then they will conquer all their bad habits and overcome all their fears.

It takes a few months for the backward spiral to begin to eat away at your best intentions. Then comes lots of  self recriminations followed by a pretty large dose of self loathing.  It is all wrapped untidily in doubt  and topped with a big bow of guilt.  You scramble to hang in there.  Your fingernails are ripping as you try hard to hang on.  This is no longer just a personal failure.  I HAVE FAILED THE ENTIRE WORLD.

Oh how I wish IHKMBMS.  I’m at that age when it is difficult to keep all the texting acronyms straight.  And let’s be honest, I just made that one up.  So in fairness I will let you in on what it stands for.  “Oh I  wish I had kept my big mouth shut.”  Perhaps now I will.  Maybe that is the big lesson in this whole venture.  Right now I doubt if I can even keep that resolution…the one about keeping my big mouth shut, I mean.  But I’m gonna try.  These days that is all I can promise.