Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teetering the Teeter-Totter

How do YOU define balance?

That's the question the Inspirista wanted me to answer if I had any chance of being a guest on her Blog Talk Radio show. Specifically, her media inquiry read: Looking to interview fun, energetic females who have a message to share with a female audience. In your response, answer this question, How do YOU define balance? Put your name in the subject line.

Ughh, I thought, she'll never have me on her Girls Night Out radio show. I mean, for sure, I'm mostly, usually fun and I think other people would describe me as energetic, although I try not to strain my delicate self. But I doubt very seriously that MY definition of balance will pass muster:

Balance in life occurs at that moment when I suck in hard as the teeter-totter teeters back in the other direction and for that split second before pounding the ground of the other extreme it is exactly, perfectly level; also defined as the ahhh moment before chaos is released like a pack of snarling foxhounds after a coyote, determined to rip it to shreds in a frenzy of barking and mayhem.

To me, the question is not how to define balance - we all know it when we see it - the question is how to achieve it on a more regular basis. How do we get our body to sit just right so that the teeter of the teeter-totter is delayed for more than a second? How do we keep the foxhounds penned and give the coyote more time to meander through fields of daisies.

Okay, coyotes in fields of daisies is a bit melodramatic, but you southern girls get my meaning.

Today's Assignment: 1) In your Book of Lists, define balance, using as many metaphors and similes for it as you can think up. 2) List your personal strategies for achieving it more often.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is That Lucy Adams on the Cover?

People keep asking who is on the cover of my book, Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. They want to know if that's my pantie-clad bottom peeking out from under that skirt. I decided it's time to give a definitive answer:

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Ball of Insanity

My neighbor's dog persistently, but unsuccessfully, tried to retrieve a tennis ball, from the interior of what I dubbed The Ball of Insanity, its snout shoved deeply into one of several holes through which the tennis ball would not fit, even if the dog could open its mouth wide enough to grasp the tennis ball, which it can't. The only way to get the tennis ball is to crack the plastic outer ball in which it is encased.

"Y'all must not love your dog," I joked. "That's pure torture. It'll be chasing its tail in a week."

That night I lay awake, my eyes wide open staring into the darkness, listening to the creak of the off-balance ceiling fan. I scrolled down my visual image of my to-do lists, paying particular attention to every item without a line drawn through it. I didn't pick up my husband's shirts from the dry cleaner (I was supposed to have done that on Monday), I still hadn't mended the hem of my daughter's dress, I blew off writing the thank you note to my sweet great-aunt (who I picture sitting at her mailbox night and day awaiting my correspondence), and I forgot to take the team drinks to my son's baseball practice. Plus there were three things from Sunday's to-do list, one from Friday's, and four from Monday's that I had moved over to today's and would again be moving to tomorrow's.

As my list grew to monstrous proportions within my sleepless head, my heart pounded like I was running from a dream-world faceless stranger. Suddenly, the voice of my father-in-law popped into my head, a remembrance of a frantic day when he asked me, "Exactly what will happen if you don't mark off those things on your list?"

Trying to cross off every item on my to-do list was like that dog trying to get that tennis ball out of the The Insanity Ball. It would never happen. But because I was so determined to draw lines through random projects like wash clothes, make grocery list, call dentist, clean off book shelf, wash out kitchen trash can . . . , I made myself a slave, I lost my courage to let things go.

I couldn't quit uselessly sticking my snout in that hole. The key to setting myself free from the Ball of Insanity, I decided, was to find a way to be glad that I had things to put on a list, and to focus on everything I accomplished, rather than the stuff I didn't. So, I grabbed the flashlight out of the basket on my bedside table, opened my Book of Lists, wrote Done List at the top of a blank page, and began recording everything I had completed.

It started with minor stuff like organized the medicine cabinet, sorted the dirty laundry, found my lost earring. As I got into it, I couldn't stop. I wrote and wrote and soon I acknowledged that I had sewn a kilt for my son, cleaned out the garage, spent a week at the beach with my kids, told my husband I love him, talked on the phone with an old friend, and visited with my mama and daddy on their screened porch on a cool summer evening while the crickets sang their hearts out.
Good stuff. Important stuff.
Measuring myself by what I have left to-do is not as effective as measuring myself by what I have done. The Ball of Insanity will never release that tennis ball, but I can live without it.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Do I have to say it? Girl, get out your Book of Lists and write that Done List. It will set you free.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Make Your World a Better Place

Wherever you are, make it better.

My chosen bathroom book is a little hardback by Donna Smallin titled, The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. I flip through looking for inspiration, even though most of the suggestions are things I will never, ever do, like taking pictures of my shoes and labeling my shoe boxes with them. But that doesn't mean I'm not serious about my quest for organization. It is my obsession despite its slipperiness. So I skim through Smallin's book periodically, in hopes of finding a tidbit I haven't yet considered.

Because I sometimes get rewarded with an "A-ha!" moment. One that changes the way I view not just my personal possessions or my home, but the way I view my life. For example, one of her suggestions for staying organized once you get there (as if that is a destination where anyone stays for very long) is to never pass through a space without making it better or improving it somehow.

I tried it. As I passed through the kitchen, I took a dish out of the sink and put it in the dishwasher. Walking up the stairs I grabbed a belt thrown over the rail and put it away. Resting for a moment on the den sofa, I plumped the pillows. I started to feel like I was making a difference, if not a remarkable dent, in my clutter. It was reward enough, since my family had failed to notice.

And it hit me, while wiping the top of the dryer with a rag, that this wasn't just a method for finding satisfaction in my immediate surroundings. This was a method for living - to make a small improvement where ever I am. To put a misplaced can on the correct shelf in the grocery store. To pick up a piece of trash on the sidewalk. To write a thank you note to the housekeeper who cleans my hotel room.

Isn't that how we picture ourselves, we southern belles, making grand entrances and exits, sweeping gracefully through rooms, changing the world as we go? And aren't we brave enough to do it, even if we have to actually sweep, even if we are not dressed in a flowing ball gown, and even if nobody notices?

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Stop where you are right now. Do one thing to make it a better place.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Shall I Spell it Out for You?

L - Look the part
I - Invent your future
V - Validate others
I - Identify your inner matriarch
N - Never quit (just change your mind)
G - Go until you get there (then keep going)

F- Find you passion
E - Evolve
A - Act the part
R - Roll with it
L - Live every day
E - Enlist your friends
S - Smile
S - Seek Adventure
L - Lose the clutter
Y - Yes, you can!

Friday, February 11, 2011

There's Empathy, Then There's Thievery

Our school librarian received an urgent phone call right around lunch time on a Thursday. "Your house is on fire," the voice on the other end exclaimed. With that, she slammed down the receiver, grabbed her purse, ran to the office to announce her immediate departure, and flew down the hall out the doors to the parking lot.

I work in an elementary school and by nature it is filled with estrogen. So of course, it is a grand incubator of female behavior patterns. News of the disaster traveled quickly up and down the corridors, in and out of classrooms, until every teacher buzzed about it in hallways, beyond closed classroom doors.

As soon as she caught wind of it, one teacher ran out, hot on the librarian's heels, saying, "I can't let her be all alone when she sees the damage."

Another teacher, in response to the news, remarked, "Oh that is just terrible. But thank goodness it didn't happen at night when she was asleep."

A third colleague, teary eyed and weeping, said, "My students keep asking me why I'm crying. I told them it's because I'm so sad. I just called my burglar alarm company and made sure my fire alarm is connected to their system so that if my house catches on fire the firemen will get there fast. It's just so scary when you think about it. And I left my cat in the laundry room this morning. If my house did catch on fire, I worry about what would happen to my cat. I should put a note on my door when I leave home to let firefighters know to try to save my cat." She shed more tears and blew her nose and went on and on.

There is empathy. There is sympathy. Then there is downright thievery.

It's funny how the very women who shun thrift store fashions, are the same ones who crave hand-me-down drama. They latch on to another person's crisis and make it their own tear-filled, fate changing, woe is them, life altering meltdown. In essence, out of fear that they will never have their own perfect storm of attention demanding drama, they steal another woman's crisis right out from under her.

How to spot 'em:
Sympathizers: They keep a distance, and are known to give a pat on the hand accompanied by a platitude such as, "Dahlin', everythin' will be fine. You all will be just fine." Casseroles and hams often come with the reassurance and are used as a barrier between the sympathizer and the scene.

Empathizers: These women come to your house, clean it without judgement, and sit in the bathroom with you while you cry until the well runs dry. No empty words cross their lips. They don't just bring a meal, they dish it up and serve it to you to make sure you eat. Empathizers never fear your pain.

Thieves: These ladies pat your hand, bring a casserole, and take your tissues. Before long, they've got themselves so worked up about all the what ifs and how they narrowly escaped such and such, that you're comforting them with, "Sugah, it'll be alright. You hang in there."

Which one are you?

Think about it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Match Day

Oh to be young and carefree and bolder than is warranted
by good common sense.

My brother-in-law and his wife, expecting their first baby, are celebrating Match Day today. After four years of medical school, he now has a residency to conquer. And med school seniors have a very special process for finding out where they will spend the next 2 years of their lives - Match Day. In a formal ceremony, after professors and other speakers have ceased speaking all their obligatory words of inspiration, they begin handing out white envelopes filled to the seal with destiny.

Each student, when his or her name is called, walks across the stage to retrieve the envelope designated as his or hers. Then the students makes what must seem like an even longer walk back across the stage, clutching mystery in a sweaty palm.

The Envelope Please.
The crisp, clean, white envelope contains the name of the city and hospital of each M.D. candidate's residency. With a rip and a tear, which they all swear is no reflection of their surgical precision, the mystery place is revealed, and life turns on a dime and shoots off in a different direction. And they find themselves free to lay down the burdens of one place to seek and find the thrills of another.

I want an envelope.
Frankly, I'm jealous. I want an envelope. I want that freedom to just go where someone told me to go, without ever having to make the decision myself. I want to go on an adventure that makes left turns and zig-zags to places I wouldn't have chosen for myself. I want to experience that emotion of change.

But, I'm a southern lady, and I well know the difference between foolish and fearless. It is foolish to believe that life would be any different somewhere else than it is right here. When the sport of it wore off, I'd have the same problems in a different place.

The quality of my life depends more on what I do with it than where I live it. (Although, admittedly, if I drew an envelope that took me from my southern home, I would probably try to rig my next draw to bring me back.)

Making my own Match Day.
That doesn't make my desire for venturesome behavior any less intense. So I stuffed some envelopes of my own. I put in slips of paper that say things like, "Go get ice cream," "Take the kids to a movie," "Have your nails done," "Take your husband on a date," "Day trip to the beach," etc. When I need a little fearless fun, I plan to pull an envelope and do whatever it says.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: In your Book of Lists, brainstorm a list of things you would like to do but rarely make time for or let yourself indulge in. Then write the ones you really like on slips of paper and seal them in envelopes. Keep your stack of stuffed envelopes in a safe place, and pull one whenever you feel like you're making too many right turns and you need a curve in your road. Commit yourself to going wherever the envelope sends you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Define Yourself

. . . failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was.
--J.K Rowling, June 5, 2008, Commencement Address to Harvard Graduating Class

I must have been about 12 years-old when my grandmother, Mama T, visiting us from Memphis, sat me down and said in her aristocratic drawl, "Lucy, I think it's time I told you about our heritage." A few years later, when she met one of my high school boyfriends, she calculatedly whispered loud enough for him to hear, "Tell me, who are his people?" She didn't want me shooting the fish at the bottom of the barrel, for certain.

My heritage includes American heroes, Civil War officers, powerful family matriarchs, n'er-do-wells, outlaws (by trade and by name), and some sorry SOBs, alike. My people are genteel, aristocratic, alcoholic, crazy, and proper as they come. Our background initiated Mama T and her female descendants into exclusive women's organizations like Junior League, Daughters of the American Revolution, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Colonial Dames, the local garden club, and the choice bridge group. She took exquisite pride in who we are and where we come from.

Like most southern ladies - like my grandmother - I learned to define myself by my name, my husband's occupation and income, who my daddy is, my home, my family history, my "stuff." Belles cling to these things like a lifeline and display them like neon letters on theater marquees, lest anyone mistake us for someone or something we are not.

Who are we, though, when these things fall apart, stripped away from us? Divorce, financial ruin, family scandal, downsizing - these things DON'T jive with our personal definitions. As J.K. Rowling told the Harvard graduates, ". . . we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it." And as we all know, the southern world, for all its sweetness and charm, gladly welcomes the drama of a failed Dixie diva. Front porch frequenters thrive on it.

But in these circumstances, we are forced to make a decision to drown in our sorrows or discover who we really are. We must, therefore, define ourselves, following three essential rules:

1. Let go of the need to rely on breeding, history, or husband to tell the world just who you are. Those things are all fine and well, but they aren't the complete depth and breadth of us.

2. NEVAH, NEVAH let other people decide for you.

3.Be flexible. Change your definition as needed.

My own personal definition:
•Lucy, n. - A woman of great talent who is always happy, but never content.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Follow the three rules and define yourself. Write it on a sticky note and put it on your monitor. Record it in your Book of Lists.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Who is Lucy Adams?

See for yourself:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Two Ways to Live Fearlessly in a Bad Economy

Things are bad, and according to Obama, they're going to get worse before they get better. Woe is us. Cash flow is low; job instability is high. Uncertainty prevails.

My husband and I have micro-analyzed our family budget, looking for even the smallest expenditures we can cut. At dinner the other night, we announced to our kids that we are having our cable turned off. They moaned. They griped. They groaned.

"Why?" they whined.

"Well y'all," I explained, "we've just got a bad economy right now."

"If you've got a bag of money," said the youngest, exasperatedly, "can't you use that to buy our TV shows?"

She understands what's happening about as well as the rest of us. And there truly is no use sitting around listening to pundits explain it or trying to decipher it ourselves. It is what it is, and somewhere in it is a fresh opportunity, a door waiting to be opened.

In the meantime, here's how I'm keeping up the fearless life in the face of darkening adversity:

1) I've decided to value making memories over purchasing products, substance over stuff, experiences over expenses. Instead of spending money, I'm spending time. A happy memory lasts a lot longer than the thrill over a new pair of shoes.

2) I'm being honest with myself about the things over which I have control and the things I don't. In the past, God has used the chaos or confusion of a difficult situation to build me into a better person. I have faith that those things I can't control are in His hands. He will take care of me.

And maybe, somehow, some way, on the other side of all this, the bad economy really will turn into a bag of money.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Living Fearlessly to Fight Breast Cancer

After reading Tuck Your Skirt In Your Panties and Run, Phyllis posted this on my FaceBook wall:

Lucy, just wanted to let you know I love your book, TUCK YOUR SKIRT IN YOUR PANTIES AND RUN! I have almost finished it and I want you to know the story on pages 47 & 48 really inspired me. In fact you inspired me so much that I shaved my head, but not for money, for support of my sister-in-law who has breast cancer. When I saw your picture and you looked so great, I knew I could do it too. Thank you so much for sharing your gift of writing, sense of humor and inspiration. Keep up the good work!!!
Love, Phyllis
Phyllis's is the face of fearlessness.


What will you do today to live a fearless life?

Find out more about joining the fight against breast cancer here and here.