Monthly Archives: December 2014

Best Year Ever ~ 12 Week Program

jackkoerouacGearing up for the New Year seems temptingly simple. We’re past the holiday demands, family is going back to our separate spaces and it feels like there’s nothing standing in the way of a brand new you.

And then the thing happens, where you get diverted and you’ll start on things next week. And there’s a snag in the next week and you’ll put it off one more time and before you know it you’ve lost momentum and it’s September. And you still don’t know French and you haven’t gone on a single hike…

Don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger.

I have full faith in you that this year is different. The sun is shining on your intentions and they’re going to blossom into the successes you desire.

And even so, even if this is how it will be this time, you can always use a bit of help. We can all use a lot of help if we’re being entirely honest with ourselves.

That is what I’m offering you. I’m offering you a chance to make it different this year, have the handholding-accountability-coach-Dreambuilder-life-changing-belly-laughing-friend you need to take what’s already good and build a life for you that is better than you ever allowed yourself to hope.

The Dreambuilder Program is a 12 week course. Our group meets virtually for support, insight and cheering one another on. You’ll receive homework each week, a bit of writing and an opportunity to know yourself in a way you’ve never imagined.

We’re starting next week. Before you lose momentum.

Message me ASAP with questions and reserve your spot.

Michelleatplay@gmail.com
503-957-0821

Money back guarantee.  What have you got to lose?

Pixie Dust & Champagne ~ A New Year’s Eve Primer

New Year’s Eve, welcoming in the New Year, it’s cool I guess. I’m not trying to be lukewarm about it, but let’s be honest here. Can you get real with me for a few minutes?

My relationship with New Year’s Eve started off rocky. The first years I can remember were of me at home, alone waiting for the Time Square experience. Pixie Dust and Champagne Dreams raining down like tiny wishes being granted for the year to come.

As it turns out, while Dick Clark may have been partying it up, I have never, not one time, felt a thrill as I watched the ball drop on Time’s Square.

I will cop to the years I may have spent New Year’s Eve in dubious company and questionable sobriety. Sobriety was not my strong suit as a teen anyway and who can blame me for going classic? While I certainly had more company and I was definitely celebrating in the traditional way, still the thrill eluded me.

champagne-glass-confettiYears passed and some of my fondest New Year’s Eve memories included letting my children stay up until midnight east coast time while we were planted firmly on the west coast. Eating festive foods and lighting off a few fireworks was fun. Making magic for children is the only way I know to resurrect the mystic of childhood.

Maybe my fondest New Year’s Eve memory is of my first with Mr Dreamboat. We weren’t married yet and had gone to a young adult dance together. With no buzz to be found there, it was shortly before midnight when we finally left.

We were hungry and it was remarkably hard to find someplace open to ring in 1987. Ultimately we found a Subway Sandwich shop open in the bowels of Southeast Portland. Just as we got out of the car and started walking into the restaurant, bells started ringing and fireworks started popping and I kissed my one, true love in the parking lot.

Thrill found.

It is my experience that the world is a devious storyteller. Hollywood paints some pretty pictures and talented artists do a bang up job with a soundtrack to die for. Ads sell you fairy tales with perfect skin and lives that look flawless and affluent and even if you put all the prescribed pieces in place, it might still be lacking.

Beauty is in the details, in the quiet moments. Life is in the sharing and the little kindnesses we do for others and we do for ourselves. And whether you find yourself celebrating in Time’s Square or Paris, France this year, my hope is that you find pleasure in the details, magic in the making and that you find your thrill, whatever that may be.

Like, share, comment, tweet and can we please find a song to replace Old Lang Sine already?

I Have Nothing Left To Say

I am speechless. I am literally and uncharacteristically without speech. And it’s much harder than you’d think, and it’s a little lonely, a little sad and scads of interesting.

It started about two weeks ago. Mr Dreamboat and I were headed back from a business trip on Lake Las Vegas and I had just a touch of laryngitis. Truthfully this is not unusual for me, especially at CEO Space.

So common is it that I have a touch of the ailment that if it had gone away I would hardly remember it ever even happened. But it didn’t go away. And what I the thought of as “laryngitis” now seems like a bit of a scratchy throat because what I have available to me now, is nothing. Or it’s a notepad, some crude hand gestures and nothing more.tasteyourwords

With much of the family at the beach we are enjoying a very social time together as a clan. The jokes are flying through the air and no matter how fast I write on my notepad and no matter how fervently I gesticulate, I am not a part of this repartee. This is the lonely part. And it’s a little bit of the sad part too.

What is interesting is what it feels like to be silent. I am thinking different thoughts than I would were my verbal skills in tact. I’m observing exchanges, becoming less anxious at lulls in the conversation I cannot remedy and becoming mindful of how few words are needed to say the most important things that need to be said.

The most thought provoking element of my compulsory experiment is that I normally throw words around carelessly. I use them as if there’s no limit to what can be said. I throw words around a room full of people, tossing them about like a drunk aristocrat with a loose wallet.

Maybe for the first time in any conversation I’ve had, I am thinking far more than I am speaking. The experiment simultaneously delights me in what I’m observing and concerns me that I spend so much time on dime words and cheap comments.

My voice box is, for the moment, completely frozen. A whisper is my only audible option and from what I understand, whispering is a strain as well, and so I abstain. While the experiment is most certainly temporary, I hope to take something permanent from it.

I have a friend who talks about using words in a more exacting way. She tries her best to choose her words, cast off the fillers and use the precise expression to fit each, unique situation. I wish for that too. And the experiment is giving me the time to think about exactly how to do this.

Like, share, comment, tweet and use your words…

The Best Holiday Mind Blower Ever

For Christmas Mr Dreamboat gave me a book. This is a fairly typical gift in our household and I was delighted, but not surprised. I opened the book, flipped through it for just a moment and almost immediately put it in the box to my left where Christmas presents addressed to me amassed.

As the day’s festivities wound down and the lot of us drove to the beach for our traditional holiday getaway, I revisited the book and found in it a most delightful adventure I would not have imagined.

Seriously, wouldn't he be the MOST interesting lunch date ever? If you know him, will you make an introduction for me?
Seriously, wouldn’t he be the MOST interesting lunch date ever? If you know him, will you make an introduction for me?

The Shape of a Pocket is written by writer/artist/philosopher John Berger. I want to meet him. I want to be best friends with him. His book requires a companion piece in Google as I know very few of the artist’s the author references and every single one of them is breathtaking and peculiar.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that I am broadening my view so completely. And it’s work. I could read the words, understand them individually, but to really take in the meaning, I have to work and understand them in context. Which requires Google.

One of the very best things about receiving gifts is that we receive what others think and hope we might like. We are given gifts that reflect the way we are seen, giving us a unique opportunity to understand a little bit better how we are known.

If you want to know the truth, Mr D thinks too highly of me, but that too is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to become as good as he thinks I am. So it’s a win for everyone.

I hope during this season you have the chance to have your mind blown. I hope you broaden your scope, Google your brain to a higher level and most especially I hope you surround yourself with people who think you’re the best and then you take the opportunity to become so.

Like, share, comment, tweet and buy the book. The book that blows the roof off your mind.

It’s Hard To See The Truth When It Smacks You In The Face ~ Michelle Church

It is painful, and yet in the end I must own it, that I like to see myself as always in the right. This is likely true of us all and at least for me, the sooner I see this characteristic as one I own, I might then rid myself of it.

A belief I believe I can afford to keep is that my intentions are almost always good and even when they lean to self-serving, at the very least I believe they are good at the time. That’s about as far as it goes though.

Beyond those beliefs lie the next layer of truth and after that an ever truer layer and so on and so on.

What is right and what is wrong is rarely absolute. Most people are like me and they usually see themselves living in the first arena. Most of us live in the place of “right” and rarely question our own motives.

It is only when we’re willing to peel back the layers of reality and embrace the fact that we are only privy to levels of truth and not the ultimate truth that we begin upon the journey of understanding.

A friend of mine recently told me a story about his children. As he and his older daughter sat watching TV, she smacked her much younger brother on the head as he innocently passed by.

My friend, a very smart man, asked her why she hit her brother and was entirely at a loss when she told him she hadn’t.

To his credit, he remained curious over irritated and continued to question her.

angry_preschoolerThe truth at first appeared to be obvious. I little girl hit her brother. What had actually happened was that just ten minutes before the two of them, with their mother had been playing tag. As the younger brother passed by, his older sister continued the game. By all appearances, she had simply smacked him. But there is always a deeper truth.

Thomas Paine said, “My country is the world and my religion is to do good.” I would add to that to seek truth and find the good as well.

It’s all there. In layers. And it’s going to take some work to peel them back. But in doing so, we’ll get closer than we ever can in taking things at face value. I’m not always right. But I hope to find truths as I make my way along a very windy road.

Like, share, comment, tweet and if you’re going to smack people, do so more judiciously.

Covered In Chocolate & Shame

For a season that lasts just a small portion of the year, it seems we sometimes spend months and an inordinate amount of our incomes in order to capture the memories, feel the spirit and, worst-case scenario, keep up with the neighbors.

While we may be entirely aware of this phenomenon, we nonetheless are often swept away in it. Even with the most satisfying holiday traditions, at the end of them we are regularly worn down and worn out.

It was last year when I came screeching out of the holidays and firmly into the New Year that I finally recognized a pattern that has haunted me for years.

chocolate-bingeMy business had virtually come to a skidding halt from late November through December. This part wasn’t a surprise, but when January finally rolled around my plan was to roll up my sleeves and dive full on into the career that brings me so much joy. I was looking forward to the end of the rich foods and the leisurely days of vacation.

Armed with some killer New Year’s resolutions and a box full of P90X wellness, the future looked fit and productive. Without the holiday distractions I imagined spending all of my time and energy in a state of personal wellness.

And January came and well, it went. I had my aggressive plans and rather than rolling up my sleeves, what happened was extended couch time and a full schedule of Netflix watching. I cannot recall what it was I watched.

This was not my first go-round with January and it seems every year I spend the entire month trying to garner back the energy so carelessly thrown about during the holiday season.

As a woman, and a life coach I know well the demands we put upon ourselves. Unreasonable demands. And because those demands are unreasonable, if we persist in raising the bar every… single… year… we will tap out. Or at least lay on the couch covered in chocolate and shame throughout the coming month.

As you ride your own personal whirlwind through the holidays of your heritage and choice, I propose caution and self-care. While we all know that more does not mean better and busier does not equal happier, we are each prone to those pitfalls and we become victims of our own, unrelenting expectations.

With just a few simple strategic shifts in how you use your resources, it doesn’t have to be this way. Your holiday guests will enjoy the gift of your company far more than an elaborately decorated home. Your family will relish the gift of a loving and relaxed wife and mother. Time and energy are your most important resources and guarding them and using them with care benefits family, business and your well being.

Slow down, my friend. Take a deep breath. Spend less, love more and if you do end up on the couch, keep the chocolate and throw out the shame. That’s the best gift you could ever give yourself.

Let Christmas Happen To You

We spend hours of time in the attempt and weeks in the effort. We spend thousands of dollars and there is no scientific way to gage exactly the amount of stress and anxiety we expend to create the perfect holiday.

If I preach, it is because I am the gravest of sinners and if anxiety over creating magic is a sin, well damn me all to hell.

More accurately, I have taken myself to hell and back with the worry and apprehension.

Ironically it’s the little things that make magic.

The Northwest doesn’t get a ton of snow, but from time to time a storm will hit us and for a few days we are snuggled in with the hot chocolate we’ve stored up for such an occasion.

snow on forest hill
This was the house, though there was 10 times the snow then.

A few years ago when we still had four children at home a storm of such magnitude hit that we were snowed in for the better part of two weeks. Bitterly cold and wet, each night the six of us would troupe out to the barnyard to refresh the water buckets full of ice and tend to the animals in the unusually cold weather.

Out of basic need, each meal was at home and the family spent time on board games and old movies.

Just a few days before Christmas the snows finally melted and the children rushed out of the house like wild horses too long in their stalls.

That year as we recounted the holiday season at one more meal together, each person was asked what their “high” for Christmas was that year. Without exception no one mentioned gifts or magical activities. No one commented on how pretty the tree was or how much fun they had exchanging presents with friends.

Every single person sitting around the table found their Christmas magic as we broke through the snow to care for the animals. Together. We found the magic together.

You can bet I’ll be working the wonder this Christmas Eve. I’ll be baking and choreographing and trying to make sure everyone feels loved and cozy. And as I write this I admit I am writing it to myself. I am hoping I will take the time to let it all unfold naturally.

Tonight, take a deep breath. Love who you love, and let them love you back.

Merry Christmas to us all.

Where To Find The Best Christmas Lights

Perhaps we celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year because the winds blow cold and the skies rain and snow and the memories of summer feel oh-so-painfully elusive.

I am reveling in the joys of the holiday season, and even so, as I look out my window I see a bleak and inhospitable Mother Earth. I miss the sun.

Without nature to faun over us like the generous mother she is, it is imperative that as brothers and sisters we extend the kindnesses not handed to us by nature’s pure light.

The sky does not warm me with rich and growing light and so I naturally seek it elsewhere.

I am reminded of Christmases past when funds were short but there was no lack. I remember my mother providing generous Christmases from childhood and when we were a young, struggling family.

be-the-lightIt is happy to recall years when my sister and I would help each other back and forth. When I was in need she would find ways to help me. I will always remember a suspiciously needed $50 bill found in my car after visiting her home one holiday season.

While we are financially far more stable now, I still see kindness passed out like candy canes as I go into the shops and public places with my fellow man. Kindness is everywhere.

Most importantly I hope I extend those kindnesses to every single soul in which I come into contact. I hope that, not just during the holiday season, but all year long I practice kindness, I see people as the kindred souls that they are. That I put my comfort second and other’s needs first.

I miss the sun and will definitely do my happy dance when it returns. Until that time I will look earthward to find the light, to grow and to know we are the light on earth and to act as such will always bring the joy that might be missing in our hearts.

Thank you for your light.

Like, share, comment, tweet and practice random acts of kindness.

Christmas Is Weird ~ A List Of Ten Things

Christmas, while certainly a time of joy and revelry, is weird. Not the celebration of the Christ, but the way in which we celebrate. Here are a few things that have me scratching my head:

1 ~ The Christmas tree. In its ever-changing glory, from the little fir from the copse down the road to the pre-lighted, chemically scented plastic trees gracing many a home today. We love ‘em, but you have to admit they’re strange.
Here’s the why: The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God.
2 ~ What’s up with mincemeat? Sure, I get that tastes change over the years, but do they change that much?
Here’s the why: In the mid to late eighteenth century, mincemeat in Europe had become associated with old fashioned, rural, or homely foods. Victorian England rehabilitated the preparation as a traditional Yuletide treat.
3 ~ I like to sing. I like to do things with my family and while I like Christmas caroling just fine, the idea of standing in your neighbors yard singing them uncalled for songs is a little strange.
Here’s the why: Caroling was not originally associated with Christmas. Dating back no further than the 19th century, originally one was more likely to carol on May Day than the Christian holiday. Conventional religious hymns were merged with Christmas folk songs. In England the word wassail was to go door to door and wish neighbors health and wellness through the new year.
4 ~ Santa Claus, Sinter Klaas, Sant Nicholas. I can never decide if we’re creating magic and charm or we’re simply gas-lighting our children.
Here’s the why: It is well known that the name “Santa Claus” comes to us by way of the Dutch “Sinter Klaas,” which in turn, was a form of Saint Nicholas. Our modern Santa Claus took his name from the Christian Saint Nicholas so we need to begin with a look at this Christian bishop of the fourth century. You need to listen to this:

5 ~ Over eating. I love to eat. I like savory and sweet. I love to enjoy the treats of the season. But overindulgence and self loathing? Don’t mind if I don’t.
There is no why. There is only regret. For this reason I plan to pull back just a bit. Regret and cheer were never on the same team.
6 ~ Auld lang syne. It’s simply strange that we say something we don’t understand the meaning of. Also, the song is enigmatic. Sure, getting that melancholy feeling Auld Lang Syne might give you is germane to the passing of another year, but we could always just sing a current song that we understand instead.
Here’s the why: It simply means “times long past”. Do with this what you will.
7 ~ I don’t mean to be a humbug but when did My Favorite Things become a Christmas song? If we’re hard up for Christmas music can’t we just write some more?
Here’s what I think: I think it’s because it references packages tied up with string and snowflakes. This is a weak link and I’d like to speak with the manager, please.
8 ~ Why December 25th? By all accounts Jesus was born in the spring.
Here’s they why in a nutshell: A combination of religious, pagan and pre-christian traditions. We do it now because of a perfect storm of traditions. We just have to go with it…
9 ~ Fruitcake is a mixed bag. Hah. I didn’t even mean to do that! We love ‘em, we hate ‘em, we name crazy people after them.
Here are a few facts about them: The oldest recipes come from ancient rome and included pomegranate seeds and pine nuts. In the middle ages honey, spices and preserved fruits were added. My friend Melissa makes a coveted fruit cake every year. Mr Dreamboat hordes it. I’m just saying they’re not all bad. Just weird.
10 ~ Each of us seeks the spirit of Christmas in our own way. Whether religiously or secularly, we all want that feeling of home and comfort. It’s strange we forget what the Grinch finally learned:
grinch quote

Like, share, comment, tweet and have a cup of eggnog. Except for it’s kind of weird and oddly yummy.

HanuKwanaChristmas ~ Michelle Church

It was Ghandi who said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

I’ve thought quite a lot about Ghandi and his observations. Most importantly I wonder what Ghandi might see in me were he to accept a brave and ridiculously random dinner invitation from me.

Would he see a true heart, a loving soul and the desire to alleviate pain? Or would he see a soul so far astray that he could hardly recognize the source of my religious inspiration?

Last night as we visited the restaurant of a dear friend, she wished us a Happy HanuKwanzaChristmas. And it made me smile. And I did feel happy, perhaps because she meant it in all the inclusive and loving ways.

I am not so interested in the religion to which you subscribe, the club that claims you or the sports team for which you cheer. In fact, these things make no difference whatsoever.

These things are not relevant. Whatever I choose to align myself with is not at all as important as how I choose to play that belief out. I don’t mean in how I tell you that you should live your life, or in making sure you have the opportunity to believe the way I live.

I mean, when I walk down the street, how I react and act, do these things align with those the same things I align myself to?

ghandiThough the rain shooshes down the gutters and the cold winds blow through the bare and lonely trees, this month we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. While my beliefs shift and change as I grow, one thing that has not and I dare say will not, is my desire to live a life that honors him.

How sad I would be were I to discover that the life I live in no way resembles or respects the life of Jesus Christ… “Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

As we each celebrate the holiday season in the ways that are unique to ourselves, our families and our communities, may we do so in ways that celebrates goodness, reveres generosity and celebrates diversity and inclusiveness.

My friends, I truly wish you a happy HanuKwanzaChristmas. May you celebrate with love and laughter and the traditions that make your heart feel at home. We are each children of the Universe and this season is the time to remember we are brothers and sisters every one.

Like, share, comment tweet and hear those sleigh bells ringaling, tingtingtingaling too…