Archive for the ‘Beating the Feeling of UN’ Category

Driving the Train

There are two types of people in this world.

People who actively steer their own destiny…

Purpose Life

…and people who essentially sit back and let life happen to them.

A few years ago when the economy went into the toilet tank and I was a brand new business owner, someone said to me:

Think of this situation like a train ride.  We’re the passengers.  We can’t control what track this train is on…or how fast it goes…but we can stick our hands out the window and grab the positive things within our reach.

I believed that….for a while.  Now, I think the person who gave me that advice attends too many Grateful Dead concerts and smokes the happy pipe of life.

There is no doubt that I was a passenger on the train of life the past few years.  Some situations, like my mom’s death and the economic climate were out of my control.  In fact, it seemed like I wasn’t in control of much at all.  After a while, the train ride in the passenger cabin took a harsh  toll.   I felt very UNcertain…UNappreciated…UNinspired…and UNmotivated.

Just before the holidays of 2011, I decided that enough was enough.  “Passenger No More!” It was time to march up to the front of that train, kick its incompetent engineer aside, and take over.  And that, my friends, was the last and final day of the UNs.

Being passive and letting life happen led to a life where my hopes and dreams were unrealized.  In fact, at some point I got off the train altogether and watched it pass by, waving goodbye from the platform.

(c) A Motvicka

As a passenger, we aren’t responsible if the train runs of the track.

From the platform, we play it the safe and avoid all risk of a crash.

As the engineer, we have control. We may not be able to change tracks right away, but we can decide on our own speed, see what’s ahead of us, and make decisions about where to stop and what to pass by.  We can also insist that all dead weight be removed.

There are certainly going to be periods in our lives where we simply must buy a ticket and go along for the ride.  But, there are also times when we must take control…drive our own train…shape our own destiny…and sound the steam whistle.

 Train © A. Vörös Woooh! Wooooh!

What about you – do you feel more like a passenger or a driver right now?

The 12-Week Break

Hey everyone!  If you’ve been checking up on me, THANK YOU!

I’m a-okay and unfortunately did not take a 12-week break from blogging because I hit the Super Lotto.

I overindulged for the entire 2011 holiday season….


…. then headed to the California coast until the holidays were officially DONE.


I took complete and total advantage of the time off from work…off from blogging…off from all responsibility.  And, it was glorious.

To ring in the new year…I headed to the desert.  Some people find the desert bare and ugly. I find it amazingly beautiful.  The Palm Springs / Palm Desert area of California is one of my favorite places to visit.


Hello Desert!   Oh how I have missed thee…

IMG_5068 The battle of the UNs #10 and #11 were conquered bright and early on this mountain.

Next up was the Rose Parade…

IMG_5113  IMG_5145

There are two things that are not shown during the TV broadcast:

1) The before-parade craziness….


and 2) the after-parade mess….combined with religious fundamentalists on roller skates, dodging the trash and crowds.

IMG_5197 IMG_5194

And then came….2012.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the paper placemat at your local Chinese restaurant,  this is the Year of the Dragon….which, according to my previous co-worker Linda Sun, is supposed to be a great year for me. I distinctly remember talking to Linda 12 years ago about how 1999 was such a bad year.  She asked my birthday and said not to worry, because 2000 was the Year of the Dragon and I would have a super year.  It follows the absolute worst year, the Year of the Rabbit.

I don’t know much about the Chinese Zodiac other than what Linda told me and the tidbits on the paper placemats at China Garden. Regardless, if the Chinese are right, the worst year ended and the best year began….and it’s been a fierce 6 weeks so far.  I’ve been working intensely, playing intensely, and ready to start blogging again.  Most of all, I’m super excited to find out what you’ve all been up to!

Oh….and I almost forgot to tell you about the final, top-secret, #12 task that I completed to officially Battle the UNs.


…it will take a while to explain, so be sure to check back for the next post.

How has 2012 been treating you so far?

#9 – The Fear of Failure and Blame

Hi everyone!  My apologies if you’ve been checking in finding me AWOL.

The past few weeks have been VERY busy.  Plus, I’ve been working on #9 in the ongoing Battle of the UNs, Conquer a Fear.  I had hoped to finish battling the UNs by the end of summer, but the last few tasks on the list are taking some time, particularly #9.

For #9, I did some deep thinking about my fears and determined that I have two.

# 1 – Chatting with someone on the Internet, arranging to meet them in person, and then realizing they are completely psycho.  My #1 fear is getting famous on the nightly news as “Missing Woman Found Stuffed in Port-a-Pot by Internet Stalker.”



I’m not sure how to conquer this fear, so I decided to move on to fear #2.

#2 – Trying to be successful and failing.  I thought about this fear for a while and determined that the Fear of Failure is a misplaced fear.  It’s not the Fear of Failure that I’m afraid of…it’s the Fear of Blame.

There should be nothing to fear about trying something and failing.  You start a business and it flops.  You run and race and come in last.  You publish a book that doesn’t sell.  You put $10 on black and the roulette wheel stops on red.  So what.  It didn’t work out.  Who cares!?!  Just move on and try something else.  Failure not a legitimate fear…it happens all the time…every day…to everyone.  So, what is the real fear?


I think it’s the Fear of Blame.  The fear of criticism.  The fear that someone…or lots of people…will look at our failed attempts and call us out on them…saying the reason we failed is because we’re not smart enough, or not talented enough, or didn’t apply ourselves.

The Fear of Blame has a power over me.  In a good way, it pushes me to do my best at work and to follow through on my commitments.  In a bad way, it terrifies me from stepping out of my comfort zone.

Over the past few weeks, I’m taken a few steps out of that zone.  I agreed to speak at a National Conference at the end of October.  I proposed an idea to a client that was really thinking out of the box.  I agreed to write an article that a lot of my peers will read.  And, over the past eight weeks I’ve been intensely training to get myself back in shape.

If I fail, people might point a finger at me.  I might get embarrassed.  My confidence will probably get crushed.  But, that’s the worst that can happen.  I’m not going to end up homeless and no one is going to die.

If you need to conquer the Fear of Blame, ask yourself this….

“If I try this and fail, what’s the worst that will happen?”  If the worst is that you’ll be criticized and your feelings will be hurt, then don’t let the fear stop you!

On the other hand, if there’s a chance that you’ll lose your life at the bottom of a Jonny-Jon, then give into the fear and run the other way.

What is your biggest fear?  Does the fear of blame stop you from trying new things?

# 5 – Finding Hell in a Drawer

Continuing on with the Battle of the UNs, I backtracked to complete Task #5…the purging of a closet or drawer as suggested by Sidney.

IMG_2556There is one particular drawer in my house that was nearing an overflow explosion of great proportions.  It’s the one that I fill with papers that are “not important enough for the safe deposit box, yet way, way, wayyyyy too important to mix in with anything else.”

I purged its guts onto the floor…

and started to to rifle through the contents. 

Among paperwork about insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other legitimate important-ness, I found THIS little gem:


Seriously.  There it was.  Right under my Social Security Statement.  This little 23-page pocket guide to hell was stored in a drawer side-by-side with the Social Security Administration’s verification that I earned $3.35/hour in the summer of ’88 working as a “salad bar girl” at the local rural airport.   

I have no CLUE why this pamphlet was in my “important stuff” drawer.  I obviously put it there, but why?

Did I have a good reason to think that my soul was destined for eternal destruction?  If so, did I honestly believe that having a pocket manual to punishment was going to make things go a little easier?  Did I need directions for the damned? 

I want to read it, but sub-headings like…

  • Where is Hell Located?;
  • Punishment by Cold; and
  • Greatest Pain of Hell

…have me a little freaked out tonight. 

Plus, I  hate the cold and I don’t particularly want to know where Hell is located…although I have a pretty good idea that it’s somewhere near the storage locker at an airport salad bar in Pennsylvania.

In my own belief, I think that there definitely is a Hell and that the choice to go there is made during life, primarily by outright rejecting God.  I can only assume that’s the point of the pamphlet and the reason why I decided to throw it in the important drawer.  After all, what can be more important than a reminder that after this mortal life, there is more yet to come?

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Thanks again to Sidney and her suggestion to purge a drawer.  Half of the contents were trashed, the other half were organized, and one little hellish pamphlet was…ahhh, I have no idea what to do with the thing…but I’m sure it will find a new drawer and shock the next person who finds it there.

#6 – Adult Playtime

Get your minds out of the dark, dirty gutters my friends.  I know what the title of this post could imply, but it doesn’t.  There’s nothing but PG-13 going on here today. 

This is me as a kid.  My parents were a little hippie dippy and my mom made some of our clothes.  It was the 70s and things were Flower Power back then.  Can you dig?

IMG_2522 Tracy

One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was to go outside and PLAY.  No fenced in yards.  No cable TV.  No fears that my face would appear on the side of milk carton. 

At some point in everyone’s life, we abandon the luxury of free play.  When a bird flying outside the window calls “chase me to the highest limb,”  we stay seated at our desks….continue doing laundry…keep typing on our computers.  Go away, bird.  I’m busy. 

How long has it been since you’ve simply PLAYED?  When was the last time you felt free from potential embarrassment…free of any fears…had an entire afternoon to forget about the obligations that hold you hostage to adulthood?

Andie suggest that to battle the UNs, I take some time to be a kid again. So, over the weekend among a  fun-loving group of family and friends, it was PLAYTIME! 

There were water balloons filled….


…and broken.

Water Balloon Toss 

There were raw eggs tossed…


…and caught.

 Egg Toss

And after the second-place winner of the egg catching contest basked in her glory, there were apples floated and bobbed for….by kids and adults alike!


Many studies have shown that unstructured, imaginative PLAY can help kids to grow into happy, well-adjusted adults.  It can help build creativity, social skills, and even academic potential. 

So, I ask.  What happens when we reach adulthood?  If giving children a break from organized activities, TV, and other electronic screens is essential to healthy development, then what about us adults?  SHOULD WE HAVE PLAYTIME, TOO?

When is the last time you simply…played?

#8 – Pow Wow WOW

Have you ever had a once in a lifetime experience?  You know….a WOW moment that would be very difficult to duplicate.

This past weekend while on a girls trip to New Mexico, we came upon an authentic Native American Pow Wow.   The only word that can describe it is WOW.

Taos Pow Wow 1 Taos Pow Wow 2

Taos Pow Wow 3

The trip was very spontaneous.  When we found out that a Pow Wow was happening about 60 miles from where we were staying in Santa Fe, we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and headed north…following the sound of a beating drum. 

Taos Pow Wow 4 

The goose bump part was the opening speech, introduced in English but delivered in one of the Pueblo languages.  Everyone was very quiet, listening with intensity to the words being spoken about culture and tradition and spirituality.  I couldn’t understand the words, but the aura of the crowd was unmistakable. 

Taos Pow Wow 5 Taos Pow Wow 6 Taos Pow Wow 7

Like any traditional fair or festival, there were arts and crafts for sale…

 Taos Pow Wow 20

good food…

Taos Pow Wow 15 Taos Pow Wow 9

and lots and lots of dancing.

 Taos Pow Wow 11Taos Pow Wow 12  Taos Pow Wow 13

And then it got dark under the arbor and it was time to pack our moccasins and go.

Taos Pow Wow 10

Absolutely amazing experience.

Regarding #8 in my battle of the UNs, “Travel and Make it Worthwhile” suggested by Jo, I declare you complete.  The UNs are definitely leaving my life.  I’m going to backtrack and complete #5 and #6 this weekend so that I can finish up all 12 tasks before the end of summer!  Also, it’s time for me to get back on a regular blogging schedule.   The recent spurt of travel is now over…back to regular programming. 

Have you ever been to a Pow Wow or experienced a traditional culture up close? 

If you liked this post, you may also like Folking Around.

#7 – Whiskey, Anyone?

Don’t let your eyes fool you….


  That’s the front of my shirt.  The back reads….


A lot of people look at the front and think it says “Walt Disney.”  Then they see the back and realize that their eyes played a trick on them.

Given that Task #7 in the battle of the UNswas Drink a Shot of Whiskey, the shirt fit the occasion.  The setting for this task was a motorcycle rally held in my home town.


I love riding on the back of a motorcycle and dig the whole vibe of 200,000 people with wind-blown hair and tattoos walking around the streets of town.

When I was growing up my dad rode a motorcycle and took me and my sister for rides.  We both got really comfortable riding and can easily side into the ‘biker chick’ role for a weekend, leaving our regular life behind in the dust for a few days.

 IMG_2144  Thunder 2011

Did you know that your first impression of someone is largely shaped by the environment you meet them in?  For example, if you met me at work, you might think of me as an educated conservative.  If you met me at a bike rally ordering a shot of whisky at a crowded bar, you would think something completely different.  Just like the Malt Whiskey shirt, your eyes might fool you

Me:  I’ll have a shot, please.

Bartender:  A shot of what?

Me:  Oh, a shot of whisky.

Irritated Bartender:  What kind?

Me:  Oh, I don’t know, whatever.

…and that, my friends, was the beginning of a fun-filled weekend and successful completion of Task #7.  Thanks Mike, for suggesting that one.

When you’re in different environments, it’s important to know your own BACKBONE and be consistently you, no matter where you are and what’s happening around you.  The person you are in church is the same person you are at work…at a motorcycle rally…or in Las Vegas for the weekend. 

Different Sides.  Same Person. One Backbone.

Have you ever pinned someone wrong because of the environment you met them in?  Have you ever been misjudged yourself?

#4 – Beautiful Intrusions

Over the weekend, I accomplished Task #4 in the battle of the UNsCelebrate the Happiness of Someone Else.  While doing so….enter stage right…a life lesson called Beautiful Intrusions.

To celebrate the happiness of someone else, I planned to crash a wedding on Friday night and attend a wedding that I was formally invited to on Saturday.  Friday night was an epic fail but Saturday was the real deal…



The Wedding Cake:  Slice me! Eat Me!  Smash me in someone’s face!

As if the wedding cake wasn’t enough to give every guest a giant sugar rush, a tradition in this part of the country is to have a cookie buffet at wedding receptions.  The family of the bride and groom made home-made cookies….enough for every guest to eat several hundred dozen.  Sugar + open bar + a DJ not afraid to play Thriller and the Village People’s YMCA absolutely made the UNs temporarily disappear.

Cookie Buffet The Cookie Buffet.  Pick me!  Eat me!  Take me home for later!

During the wedding service, the preacher mentioned something about Beautiful Intrusions.  He said that in a Christian marriage, God intrudes into your human relationship.  I thought about this statement and decided that it’s true.  Sometimes God is invited to intrude into our lives and sometime’s not, but each time He enters the picture, the intrusion is beautiful whether we immediately realize it or not.

The day after the wedding, my dad, sister, aunt, uncle, and I went to the graveyard together to visit my mom’s resting place.  It was the first time I had been there since her death in March.


Standing above my mother’s grave…seeing her name  perpetually inscribed on the surface of a stone…I remembered what the preacher said during the wedding about Beautiful Intrusions

At the end of a life, God forcefully intrudes.  He takes someone away from our grasp.  Sorrow runs deep.  It seems impossible to see any beauty in the icy feelings of reality…a life alone without the person we love.

So, as the five of us stood at the cemetery, watering flowers and feeling the intensity of our own pain and loss…I thought…but what about her?  Where did she go?  Did her tiny ship lower its anchor in a more beautiful place like I wrote about on the day she died?  Is the pain of her long illness gone?  Can she hear music more lovely than Thriller and the YMCA?  Is she…could she be…is it an impossible concept to believe that she is looking down on us and is…happy?

If the answer to any or all of those questions is yes…then at that very moment…as I processed the reality of seeing her name and date on that stone…I quietly and tearfully celebrated the happiness of someone else…in the truest and most emotionally difficult sense possible.

Task #4, I declare you complete.

Have there been any Beautiful Intrusions in your own life?

#3 – Nothing = Something

As suggested by fellow bloggers SuziCate, Ron and Penny, over the past 120 hours (that’s five consecutive days, round-the-clock), I’ve simply gone with the flow and let life happen.  Except for a scheduled Memorial Day cookout at my house with the in-laws, I made no plans…and just did things as they presented themselves. 

I felt as free as a bird…

IMG_4295Dove.  Not the soap.  Not the ice cream bar.

…and it was glorious! 

I took a 24-mile bike ride, finished a book, hung out with neighbors and friends, went out for ice cream, bathed my cat (she didn’t like it)….and  just a whole bunch of nothing that added up to something big…called me time.

If you haven’t had some you time in a while…or if you are so stressed that it’s almost straight jacket and rubber room time….

Mental Health Sign

…take it as a sign to look at your calendar, block out a few hours, an entire day, or a few days as time for Nothing = Something.

I used to think that doing nothing was simply a waste of time.  I would sit in a state of physical idleness while thinking about the 1,00o other things I could or should be doing instead.  This mental battle between what I was doing (nothing) and what I should be doing (something) was very unsettling.

Then, along came my vow to beat the Feeling of UN.  After five days of me time, I am now a believer in the mental health value of taking time for nothing.

When I look at my calendar, my schedule usually looks packed.  Work, family obligations, housework, lavish parties (okay, I’m dreaming about the parties).  We all wish there was more time in our lives to relax and do nothing.  But, when we get a moment to do absolutely nothing, our minds are on other things or we distract ourselves by watching TV, checking our e-mail, browsing the internet, or doing chores.  We don’t enjoy time spent in nothingness.

Instead of writing a few more paragraphs and compelling you to read them, do this….

Close your eyes for what feels like a full minute…and do nothing.

Did it feel like you wasted your time?

#1 – Make a Significant Difference

If you’re catching up, a brief recap…

On Tuesday I revealed that I am suffering from the Feeling of UN…a general sense of being UNcertain…UNappreciated…UNinspired…and so on.  I also vowed to beat the Feeling of UN in ways that will be chronicled here on The Chameleon’s Backbone over the next 12 weeks.

Based on your suggestions…


Make a Significant Difference in the Life of Someone Else (per Judith, it must be a person who I am not related to and outside of my circle of friends).


Dress up and go out on a date with me, via e-mail from Mr. Backbone.  Sweet!


Go with the flow and let life happen, by SuziCate, and seconded by Ron and Penny.

#4, 5, 6



Courtesy of Mike, do a shot of Jack Daniels.  Now we’re talking!  I’m going to build an entire weekend around this one.


Travel, and make it worthwhile, suggested by Jo.

#9, 10, 11, 12


There’s still time to submit your suggestions, so suggest away!  If I don’t get all 12 spots filled by next week, I’ll fill them in myself.

#1 – Make a Significant Difference in the Life of Someone Else.

Before revealing #1, I thought long and hard about what I would do, because making a significant difference cannot happen by a single act, unless I saved someone’s life…and I simply don’t have the patience to wait on a Pittsburgh bridge for a jumper to scream for help.  I could be there for months. 

For many years, I’ve been interested in being a BIG, and now I finally have the time to do it.

If you’re not familiar with the program, it matches adults to children who need role models in their lives.  It’s a one-to-one match for a minimum of one year, where the BIG and LITTLE do about two activities together each month. 

I’m currently in stage 3 of the screening process, and will likely be matched sometime this summer.  The screening interviews have been intense, where I’ve had to talk a lot about myself, my own childhood, what kinds of situations I’m comfortable and UNcomfortable with, and why I think an underprivileged child would benefit from my involvement in their life.  It’s forced me to be introspective and think once again about how not having kids has shaped my life.  If you missed my post on that topic, it’s here at I’m Not KIDding.

Stay tuned over the summer, as I’ll be sure to be posting about my LITTLE and how it’s going.  I’m super excited! 

Have YOU ever made a significant difference in someone else’s life.  If so, how?

Also, if you have suggestions for spots #4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, or 12, above, remember to leave a suggestion.  If I’ll agree to do a shot of whisky for Mike, I might agree to almost anything.

Have a great weekend!  I’ll be back on Tuesday.