Lesson Learned: Put down Your Guard, Lift up Your Shirt

Walls have gone up for centuries. Buildings are constructed one brick or one piece of wood at a time. Like buildings, we construct our lives in the same way. Over the years, we forget how open we were in childhood to try new things. We forget to make snow angels in the snow, to splash our feet in puddles, to roll down a long hill, or to jump in the leaves after raking the backyard.

We need to learn to do frivolous things again – loosen our guard and let the walls down. As we age, I think we build those walls to protect ourselves from getting hurt or to hurt someone else. While in some ways this can be wise, in other ways it prevents us to live life. Now for the second half, when I say to lift up your shirt, I mean to allow yourself that freedom to take a chance. Get out of the enclosed shelter that you’ve built and continue to hide in.

In the next year be conscious of what new things you try, the ones that are fun and make you want to lift up your shirt. Write down what you do on a piece of paper to keep track. For example you could do something challenging like ski in the sand dunes or raft in a Class 3 river. You could also do something simple like swing on a swing set or have a picnic on top of a hill. Try one new event a month, whether large or small. On a note, if you haven’t done it in the last ten years, consider it new.

Once you challenge yourself on a monthly basis you will start to find other “firsts” as well. You won’t limit yourself to one a month. I find it rewarding to check my list every so often to see what new experiences that I have completed. I also look forward to think about what I want to do next. My guard isn’t completely down, but I have started to lift my shirt. 🙂


Interviews and Pitches

Job interviews and agent pitches are similar in many ways. First, the excitement of receiving the call or setting up the appointment gets your heart racing. You stay pumped and think big. You see yourself as being successful in that new job or getting word that five publishers want your story. You know you can do it.

And then they day of the interview or pitch comes along. Your stomach turns into knots, your hands shake, and your mouth becomes dry like the sand in a desert. You begin to wonder how you can back out of the interview or postpone it for another day. You’re going to be sick. Unfortunately, this happens too many times. Your nerves take over your confidence.

The best way to tame those nerves is to be prepared. Here are a few tips to help:

  1. Dress up. Be professional and clean. When you look sharp, you’ll feel good about yourself.
  2. Smile. Show them you’re personable. You don’t have to be a comedian or be too friendly. Be polite and upbeat. Let them know that you work well with others. This is especially important when pitching. They have to see that you’re outgoing enough to market your book.
  3. Be familiar with the organization or agency. Mention a positive fact that you’ve seen or heard about them that made you want to apply or pitch to them.
  4. Don’t babble. White noise in between questions is okay. Take a deep breath as you think about the question and to organize your thoughts before you respond. Remember, if you don’t know the answer, you don’t know. Say it. If you don’t understand the question then ask for more detail or for them to explain.
  5. Sell yourself. A previous boss gave me this tip. He said to think of four strong points about yourself that you want them to remember. In the interview, make sure to get those four points out. Even if you have to tell them in the first minute of a five-minute pitch – do it. Sell yourself.

Just remember, nerves will always be there. Use them to your advantage and charge yourself with positive energy. If you go in prepared, you will come out feeling good about the interview. The big thing to remember is that it’s a two-way street. You need to feel good about the interview as well. They have the choice to offer you the job, but ultimately it’s your choice if you want to accept.

Communication across the Miles

I sympathize with the military families involved in the different wars, and the rare occasion when they heard from their loved ones fighting on the frontline or off on a mission. They were lucky if they received any contact at all, and their only form of contact may have been snail mail or word-of-mouth.

I am so grateful for today’s means of communication. I appreciate the ability to connect with my son Hans who is in the military. He has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He lived in Korea and now lives in Germany. Sometime next year, he will deploy to an active war zone again. If I couldn’t speak to him, I would go nuts! International calls are so expensive. In an active war zone, the phones are terrible. In Iraq, they had four phones and only one worked. And that one, I knew if Hans and I were disconnected, we’d continue to disconnect with shorter periods of talk time in between. Now we only use the internet to communicate. I can keep in touch with him through Skype, email, or Facebook to see how he’s doing.

Skype is the best. A face-to-face conversation is like having him in the room with me. I can see if he looks healthy. I get to see his smile. He’s given us tours of his room wherever he’s located. I get a peace of mind knowing that he’s good. Facebook comes second. If I don’t hear from him through Skype, I check out Facebook – not to be nosy, but to see if he has any activity on his page. Activity means he’s not on a mission or hurt.  Email is also good; however, Hans doesn’t like to write. When he was home, I asked if he could write a little more in his emails, let us know what he’s been doing. Now he counts how many sentences he writes (I told him at least four).

I would hate to have been a mom or a wife or a sister before the phones or internet. If I don’t hear from Hans every couple of weeks I get worried. Now I just pop him an email if needed. I’m sure there’s others grateful for modern technology as well. I think of the fathers and mothers being able to see and talk to their children. Recently, one was able to watch the birth of their child. Even nonmilitary families can connect. When my mom was in transitional care, another patient would Skype with her grandchildren every Sunday. Who wouldn’t want to connect with family via the internet? I don’t think anyone would miss the chance if available.


Last week, my long-time friend’s mother passed away. She took her last breath with family gathered around. She left this world in great spirits even as her body failed her.

Irene is a woman that I will always admire and remember. She was positive and took care of her family. She always had a smile and was a fun spirit too. In her seventies, she put on a pair of her teenage granddaughter’s jeans  and strutted them around the house during one of the many parties we both attended. That same granddaughter also took her out one night to toilet paper the neighborhood since her grandmother had never done it before. I wasn’t there for that one, but I heard she had a lot of fun.

At 84, she was ready to go and be with her husband who died many years ago. She gave what she could to this live and was ready for her next adventure. Here’s to Irene.

Lesson Learned: Age and Slow-down

Yesterday my husband Mike and I went biking on the Cannon Valley Trail between Cannon Falls and Red Wing, Minnesota. Mike’s initial intent was to bike the entire trail, a 19-mile stretch. I wasn’t sure if I could bike 38 miles. I could count on my hand the number of times I’d been biking this summer so I was skeptical. We compromised and decided that the town of Welch would be a good halfway point and then we could ride around town and see what’s around.

Off we went. We biked ½  mile to get to the trail. The first four miles on the trail we stopped three times. Once was to pay the park fee. Five miles felt like a warm-up. Ten miles wasn’t too bad either when we reached the Welch rest stop – quite the hub for bikers. We rode up the street to downtown and found that it consisted of a three-way stop. I could circle around the intersection to tour the town. At this point, Mike and I decided to ride the trail to the 15-mile mark. As we peddled off, Mike made an observation. We hadn’t passed one rider on the trail. Everyone else had passed us.

This wasn’t the first time Mike noticed we weren’t the ‘passers’. For almost 17 years we walked during our lunch hour – be it cemeteries, parks, or the downtown skyway system. When we first started walking through the skyways, we would zip through the buildings at full walking speed. We’d move to and fro passing people left and right. And then a couple years ago our pace slowed. Now it’s about half and half ratio of us being the passers.

Yes, we had slowed down. Our bike riding and our walking hasn’t been so fast-paced, not like it used to be. One can only assume that age is a factor.

For our bike ride, we went a little beyond the 15-mile marker to eat our snacks at the wetland observation deck. I knew the ride back was going to be a challenge. After riding the 15 miles, I started to feel it in my butt, thighs, and legs. We rode at a faster pace so we could get to the winery before they closed. I hoped my knee wouldn’t give out as we kept riding with fewer stops. We passed three groups of bikers on the way back.Yes! We were happy.

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