For These Gifts, I Am Thankful

Raging storms
That shift minds
And open hearts
Snowflakes falling
Family texting
Simply saying
I’m safe, we’re fine
A lingering hug
A loving look
A soul shouting
A kindness
A touch

Drifting to sleep, unencumbered
Chasing fears back under the bed
Waking to whispers, uncharted
Wonder unfiltered, explorer of moments
Dreams forming, shaping futures
Grateful moments, amidst challenging times
Grasping, reaching, achieving, and growing 

In all ways, always growing

Joni Kovarik |

How to Overcome Feeling Stuck

Your transition into your retirement lifestyle can seem easy or hard, or a continuing Momentum in retirement transitioncombination of the two. Starting something new often feels challenging and your retirement may be uncharted territory for you. Even when you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and a solid action plan to meet your goals, you can encounter moments when you feel stuck and unable to move forward with your plans. Below are three tips that you can use to regain your momentum.


Stop your current pattern of thoughts and actions related to your retirement planning. You may have wound yourself up tight in self-defeating thoughts and actions. Ask yourself these three questions to gain a new perspective of where you are:

  • Are you trying to force an outcome?
  • Are you looking for yourself where you are not?
  • Are you allowing yourself to fully feel your emotions?

Be grateful

Feeling stuck can come from believing you lack something. The unfamiliarity of your new retirement lifestyle can trigger feelings of scarcity and unworthiness. Pause and make a list of all the things for which you are grateful in your current stage of retirement. Include your knowledge, your skills, and your resources. Then, determine how you can leverage them to move yourself forward.

Do the opposite

Another way to release feelings of being stuck during your retirement lifestyle transition is to do the opposite. You can try an experience that is entirely new to you. It can be an activity for a day – like visiting a new place. Or, it can be ongoing such as taking a class on an unfamiliar subject. This experience will bring about new perspectives and creativity from which you can view your retirement lifestyle transition.

My experience

I recently attended an afternoon retreat to learn how to paint with oils. Art was always a dreaded subject for me in school and I had never, ever done any oil painting. All aspects of the retreat were new experiences for me. I drove out into the countryside to meet new people who were teaching and participating in the retreat. It took place outdoors in the cool shade of the apple trees overlooking the vineyards of a winery. Then came the oil painting. The two expert instructors were very helpful and I was quite surprised and pleased with my results. As I drove home I noticed that I was looking at the scenery with a new perspective of light and colors. I knew that something within me had shifted.

What will you do to regain your momentum in your retirement lifestyle transition?

For some, Parkour Vision is a destiny, not a choice

A respected friend has a toddler who likes to climb. Of course she needs to keep him safe. This causes me to write the following reflection.

When our son (now almost 20 years old) was a toddler, he needed to climb. We tried to not say, “you need to come down.” We tried to simply find times, places, and ways for climbing to be safe. It was gut-wrenching for me, the mom, sometimes.

Our son’s need to climb is, and was, genetic. My husband grew up “rock hopping” in Billings Montana. My husband and son are coordinated, well-balanced, and sure-footed.

As a family, we always kept our eyes open, looking for places to do some rock hopping or a bit of recreational (not technical) climbing in the beautiful outdoors and even in developed settings.

When our son was in about ninth grade, he discovered the movement art of Parkour and it resonated with him in a way that was compelling. We are lucky to live in a time and place in which the people who lead the Parkour community approach it from the point of view of “Parkour Vision.” These young world-changing leaders practice and teach the Truth that Parkour causes you to move through any environment – physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual – by seeing the obstacles and devising a path through, over, under, and around them. It is a fully-embodied metaphor for what we want our young people to learn and develop into adult-world survival skills.

Because Parkour had such a strong natural call for our son, he wanted to “make the case” to mom and dad in a way that would invite us to say “yes.” And so he did. He wrote an essay with the right balance of informality, combined with some information and purpose. We said yes.

That was more than four years ago. The Parkour Visions folks have developed and grown a non-profit organization for the purpose of teaching the movement art and life skills of Parkour at an indoor gym. Along the way, they have developed curricula, methods and inventions to share with others. Our son has not had time in the past couple years to train at the gym regularly, as much as he would like to, and as much as we would like it for him. The rhythm of a rigorous academic life makes it challenging to work all the physical distances between home and school and gym, while working the school commitment with integrity.

But the movement art of Parkour is part of his life and his vision and his approach to life. Parkour, and the Parkour Visions people, have been formational to the independent-thinking young man who inherited his father’s balance, sure-footedness, and so on.

When our son was a toddler, we arranged our lives to look for safe places, ways, and times to honor his intrinsic need to climb. When he had reached “the age of reason,” we, as a family, decided that in Ireland, we would not visit the Cliffs of Moher, because, honestly, there could be no assurance that our son would stay far enough back from that dangerous edge. We visited an amazing set of caves, instead – rock hopping of a different kind.

It is better for our son if mom does not always see the movement life that he is comfortable with. That dynamic tension between any young man’s abilities, and any mother’s caution, is simply the way of the world. It is not a matter of right and wrong. It is right for our son to develop his own good judgment about how to develop use his movement skills, and it is right for a mother to find it a bit gut-wrenching.


We owe the homeless street people a debt of gratitude

In retrospect we owe them, big time.

I am one who doesn’t like to live with existential discomfort; I try to avoid disquietude as much as I possibly can.

I make an effort to avoid shoving issues under the rug, or spending more time in denial that I absolutely have to.

So I will, more often than is comfortable, choose to keep my eyes wide-open, feel what there is to feel. look, ponder, and reach for meaning I can live with, some meaning that allows me to live with myself for yet another day.

Case in point: The homeless and street people that publicly populate street corners. I listen to my inner monologs, my outer dialogs surrounding how I choose to respond, or not, to street people who strategically intrude into my flow of consciousness, who solicit my and our support, most often located at highway off-ramps or at traffic lights.

I am always and uncomfortably confronted by the following discourse: Do I choose to “see” them, acknowledge them, and offer them money or food? What does that make me, what does that make them if I do, or don’t? Am I still a good person if I speed on by? Have I dodged the bullet if the traffic light turns green just in time for me to slide on by? (Oops, sorry dude, I gotta go….) Should I slow down or stop traffic and risk irritating the drivers in the vehicles behind me?  Is a dollar too little; is a five, ten, or a twenty dollar bill too much? Are they really only looking for money to buy drugs? Am I being taken in, exposing myself as gullible if I succumb to giving them something? Couldn’t they find a job if they really wanted to?  Can I look good to myself, my neighbors, and my God in what I choose to do or don’t do? And so on and so forth.

And I attempt to empathize with and put myself, as much as one who has never been a street person, in their shoes.  I try to feel how hopeless and how powerless they must feel, to come to grips with what kind of person it takes to stand by the side of the road and subject themselves to the flow of human caring, or more often, human indifference, and do this for hours, days,and weeks?

It takes a clear need, an extraordinary need to take that step, breakthrough those invisible but iron social boundaries, and agree to subject oneself to that.

But is also takes courage to hold on to one’s self-worth, to be vulnerable, to give up all pretense of looking good, and a maintain fragile dignity in the face of all that.

It also requires significant faith in our common humanity.  These are people, our neighbors, who have decided that they will do what it takes to make it under intolerable conditions

And I begin to feel we may very well owe them our gratitude for heroism in the face of yuck. By their choice to stand out there, rain and shine, reminds us that “There but for the grace of God go I.” They are a vivid reminder to us, exposing our pretense, our struggle to feel safe and secure in uncertain times.

If we are honest to ourselves we will admit that one job lost, just one catastrophic and expensive health condition from now – and we are right there next to them, holding up a sign asking for a hand out.

They displace my complacency, remind me of our common humanity, and they offer me an opportunity to rise to and wrestle with my own humanity.

And so I offer the next street dweller I pass my gratitude, my acknowledgment: I catch their eye, bless them with good fortune, I make human-to- human contact, ask them to take good care of themselves; I reach for the packets of beef jerky I keep in my car and a dollar, or larger bill. Sometimes I double my order at a McDonald’s and give them half.

I haven’t made it to street person and middle class nirvana yet. I keep inquiring, reaching for that meaning that will break me and them through the boundaries that invisibly surround them and me, and us.

And I ask you who read this to share with me and us: What do you see, how do you cope with those boundaries, and how do you celebrate your humanity in the face of all that? Thank you.


Big dreams, little steps..Rotary makes dollars & sence.

Big dreams and little steps, has been on my mind lately. Rejuvenating the health and POWER of a Rotary club has it’s challenges, but it took big dreams and little steps….over a period of time to do it. ONE step at a time…one dream and goal at a time. Day after day after day…..after day…..until we had a winning combination of projects and an awesome fundraiser, the Coup de Cascades.

Just like the little engine that could, we kept chugging along to rebuild hopes, dreams and projects for others. It is with gratitude and determinations that I have been able to endure this kind of dedication for 3 years. All the people that have joined the club in the past 2-3 years have inspired me to continue to keep pushing forward. An we did, and we won awards along the way. I am immensely proud, just like a mom with A+ kids.

Opening hearts, making big sacrifices and being the underdog, is not foreign to this Redmond Rousers ROTARY club. We have always been the loud rowdy ones at meetings….It’s the comments like WOW, I thought you guys were a BIG club, not just 15, that makes us smile with pride for the many awards we possess. Our responses are always the same…”Small but Mighty”…. & “WE Make a Difference”.

Come see us…bring a friend, or bring your business cards…network with other business professionals….get your name and business out there to do SERVICE to others….SERVICE ABOVE SELF…that’s what Rotary is ALL about. Come see us at the next Redmond Derby Days on July 13th & 14th. We will be making money at our hot Buttered CORN booth, or sign up to ride in our Coup de Cascades cycling Rides and or the 425mile RACE at . You can find us walking in the local parade….at 10 Am on Saturday at Derby Days too…..  Join us in the FUN!!!!  Come see us any Tuesday, hear a great speaker, eat dinner, learn something new…make friends. Rotary…we have it all.

Our weekly TwD Writers’ Conference

Yesterday’s session opened with the ritual passing of Deborah’s Chinese porcelain mirror into which we looked and said, “Mirror mirror in my hand, who was the leader of The Band?”

No wait. That wasn’t the question. That was my timid humorist identity making an appearance alongside the usually-out-front sincere-ist identity. Our actual ritual was to look ourselves in the eye and say, “My name is Liz and I am a writer.” (Sometimes I write new words, such as “sincere-ist;” I’ll bet other readers of this blog also have fun inventing words.)

I once posted that claiming my identity as writer has helped to unblock and animate some of my other identities that need to work together toward the common good of various projects and responsibilities.

Deborah, as a writer, writing coach, teacher, leader, guide, and generous-hearted person offers at our Tuesdays with Deborah sessions a seemingly limitless supply of techniques, such as the suggestion that we free-write. Every weekly session results in practical, useful, do-able writing inspiration. As Deborah says, “Authentic writing provokes.” It certainly does.

The weekly sessions remind me of writers’ workshops I have attended.

I have attended the four annual “Search for Meaning” Book Festivals at Seattle University. This year, I attended sessions by two poets, by a writer in the field of ethical leadership, and by a writer of many genres including humor. The festival takes place each March.

Recalling the surprising benefit obtained by this non-poet in a workshop led by poet Frances McCue, I wondered if she has scheduled any local workshops in the near future that I might recommend to TwD peeps.  I came upon a two-day writers’ conference offered by Whatcom Community College.

Weaving many threads together in this post, I am grateful for the weekly writers’ conference that TwD is for me (and I think for others). I value the experience, the relationships, and the writing encouragement. I note that my next opportunity to attend a McCue workshop would be at a $259 two-day workshop.  Wow!  That is a little “less” accessible in the commitments of time, driving, and money than the weekly TwD sessions that happen just up the street from my home, every week, accompanied by a reluctant but practical invitation to help cover the cost of the space by contributing something less than the cost of a movie ticket.

I am eager now to read everything that has transpired in this community space during the month of April.

I Am Tired And Inspired

I am tired.  I am tired of the local conversation.  I am tired of talking with local businesses. I am tired of  sitting in newly forming local charities trying to do good work.

That may shock of few that know me, especially since I am a local advocate.  Let me tell you why.

It is not because I don’t believe, it’s not because I don’t want to be there or that I am going to stop. I am tired because I walk away from those conversations feeling inadequate and overwhelmed and inspired.

more inspiration

Dilemma in the Kitchen

When we bought this house the lighting in the kitchen was two large ceiling fluorescent lights.  My wife Kathy and I have very different ideas of how bright it should be in the kitchen.  When the florescent lights were on, it was very bright.  In fact it was so bright that Kathy’s eyes would hurt.  Henceforth, she was always turning the light off.  We have an over the sink light that she would turn on, but it was always to dim for me to see while I was cooking.  We would go round and round, turning the lights on then turning the lights off.  There just wasn’t a happy medium.

Entering the picture was none other than “Super Electrician”, an electrical design genius.  It was none other than my good friend, Steve Kenagy.  I was complaining about the situation in our kitchen and made the statement that it would be wonderful if the lights were on a dimmer switch.  Steve looked at the situation and informed me that it would be major work as my florescent lights were of an old style.  I was ready to give up the ghost when Steve said “let me think about it”.

Several days later, Steve called and said that he had a solution to the problem.  I was overjoyed, as this would bring peace to the kitchen once and for all.  Kathy and I were planning a vacation trip and I asked Steve if he could do the job while we were gone.  Steve informed me that he would be happy to get it done while we were gone and he ordered the parts.  When we returned from the trip the kitchen lights were now on a dimmer.  Kathy can have a lower light level when she’s cooking and I can have it bright when I’m cooking.  Everybody’s happy!

The moral of this story is if you have an electrical situation call the Super Electrician, my friend and savior Steve Kenagy.

Lighting the Way- A Season of Humanity

I was reading this tonight. I’ve read the stories before of course, but tonight it struck me as something to share. I have re-written most of it as it was longer and perhaps more spiritual in nature than is my own, but none the less I want to pass it on.

On Chanukah we light the Menorah and  each night add another flame – a new light. If you notice a house with candles burning in the window, chances are that it’s a Jewish family celebrating Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights. The Chanukah candles in the window shine their radiance into the street. This represents our task to bring the light of morality not only inside our own homes, but also outward into the world.

Many of todays issues and problems make us feel helpless. Certainly the economy has many of us on the brink. The impact we make feels inadequate to the sheer scale of these tragedies. War, terror, homelessness, poverty, illness, famine. There are six billion people on earth. We are but grains of sand on the surface of infinity. How then can we make a difference?

For me Chanukah has several messages. One I don’t think enough about is as follows:   We repair the world in small steps, light by light, act by act, day by day. Each act mends a fracture of the world.

A youth was picking up starfish stranded by the retreating tide and throwing them back into the sea to save them. A man went up to him and asked “This beach goes on for miles, and there are thousands of starfish. Your efforts are futile, it doesn’t make a difference!” The boy looked at the starfish in his hand and threw it into the water.

“To this one,” he said, “it makes all the difference.”

That story captures a fundamental idea. We can’t fix the world all at once. We do it one day at a time, one person at a time, one deed at a time. A single life, say our sages, is like a world. Save a life and you save a world. Change a life and you begin to change the world.

We call this Tikkun olam, perfecting the world. Judaism believes that it is no accident that we are here, at this time and place, with these gifts and capabilities, and the opportunity to make a difference. We are here because there is a task that only we can fulfill. We can never know the ripple of consequences set in motion by the slightest act.

Another famous story goes like this. This is actually a myth that has been perpetuated over the years and is not true. But we draw so much from telling stories like this. It is our way of illustrating to ourselves the impact a person can have. Even if it is just a story.

One day, so the story goes, a poor Scottish farmer named Fleming heard a cry for help from a nearby bog. There, caught up to his waist in black muck, screaming and struggling to free himself was a terrified boy. Farmer Fleming saved the youth from certain death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s modest home. A rich nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy. “I want to repay you,” said the nobleman. “You saved my son’s life.” “No, I can’t accept money for what I did,” the Scottish farmer replied. At that moment, the farmer’s own son came to the door. “Is that your son?” the nobleman asked. “Yes,” the farmer replied proudly. “Please let me provide him with my own son’s level of education. If the lad is anything like his father, he’ll surely grow to be a man we will both be proud of.”

Farmer Fleming’s son attended the best schools, graduated from Medical School in London, and became known as Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered Penicillin.

Years later, the nobleman’s son was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life? Penicillin. The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill. It reads like one of Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story”.

But true or not it shows us our own need for seeing that we can have a greater impact and often we may never even see the results of what we do. Our acts make a difference, sometimes all the difference in the world.

Maimonides, one of the great Jewish sages said “One act can change a life, and transform a world.” How so? Our acts trigger a chain of consequences – psychological, spiritual, and historical – that reverberate in incalculable ways. Could Farmer Fleming have known that this would change his son’s life, and that his discovery of penicillin would save so many others? Could Fleming have known the rescued child would one day stand to save the world from fascism?  Obviously not. He could not have known it because the human future is inherently unknowable.

We are here, now, in this place, with these people, in these circumstances, so that we can do the act or say the word that will light a candle of hope in a dark world. “A little light,” said the Jewish mystics, “drives away much darkness.” And when light is joined to light, mine to yours and yours to others, the dance of flames, each so small, yet so beautiful together, begins to bathe the world in the glow of the divine presence.

That, for me, is one the Chanukah messages I hold close.