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Time for a New Focus…a New Twist

Bell Tower Twist

WE SEE OUR CITY EVERY DAY.  We drive its streets.  We shop in its stores.  We live in its neighborhoods, but what are we focusing on?  What are we looking at?  What vision do we have for our community?

I RECENTLY ATTENDED a League of California Cities conference and had an “A-ha” moment.  It was presented that if we want, or need, something to change in our City, if we want to achieve something new, we need to get a new vision.  We need a new bold twist in our thoughts and actions.

IT WOULD BE SO EASY TO FOCUS ON OUR PROBLEMS. Yes, our streets are in terrible condition.  Our water/sewer rates are too high.  Our infrastructure is failing before our eyes.  Our shopping districts on Placerville Drive and Broadway have challenges. Our revenue stream is not sufficient to meet our needs.  Man, what a state we’re in!  But to continue to focus on our challenges will keep us in a defeated state of decline.

WHAT IF WE TWIST OUR PERCEPTION OF THESE CHALLENGES?  Would it change our attitude to think that these problems are coming to our attention to be corrected, once and for all?  Would we be more hopeful, more resolved to action, if we understand that it is in our power to fix them, rather than once again kick these problems down the road?  What would a new vision look like?  

IT WOULD LOOK LIKE…

  • Envisioning new possibilities without the fear of losing what is precious in our community.
  • Dreaming of amentities that add to our charm and character without changing it.
  • Boldly exploring options and then deciding what works for us.
  • Saying “YES” to solutions that make sense.
  • Saying “NO” to obstructionist tactics that breed fear to further a personal agenda.
  • Having the courage to trust, where trust is due.
  • Collaborating in different ways with local partners.
  • Advocating for positive change in some areas while protecting what makes us unique and special in others.
  • Acting on our priorities without getting sidetracked and derailed.
  • Being proactive rather than continually reactive.
  • Pursuing new revenue streams that will ensure our financial strength.
  • Investing in tools and/or resources that will make us money in the future.
  • Recognizing that time doesn’t have to stand still to preserve what we’ve got.
  • Understanding we CAN honor our history, protect our unique character while repurposing parts of our community that need help.

A NEW VISION WOULD LOOK LIKE A FORWARD FOCUS.  Our best days are not behind us, they are in front of us.  Our best days are, however, making new demands of us, and if we don’t accept them, we will continue to have the challenges we currently have.  And that’s not good enough for our incredible City.

Let’s see our way through these current problems as we invite in a new vibrant prosperity for Placerville.  That’s a focus and twist worth pursuing.

 

 

 

 

Keeping Your Torch Lit

Bamboo citronella torches to repell mosquitoes and other insects

In Ancient Greece, there was a relay race known as the Torch Race in which competitors were tasked with running the course with a lit flame. Time was a factor in that the first to cross the finish line won.  However, what was most important was keeping the fire burning throughout the race because only those who had a burning light were qualified to win.
I heard this competition referred to on the radio today, and I was inspired by its symbolism.  
In life, we often start something “all fired up”.  It might be a job that we are excited to embrace; it might be an idea we want to run with or a new relationship that is burning hot.  In this initial stage, it’s all too easy to be enthusiastic and feel like our actions are lit from within.  Then a little time passes.  Maybe we have a few setbacks; run into some roadblocks.  We settle into the routine of life and allow the early passion to be dulled by the mundane.  Perhaps our confidence is diminished by criticism and opposition and we squelch our shining exuberance because the heat makes us uncomfortable.
What hit me is that it is not enough to just run!  We must guard our flame, protect it and nourish the source of the light, because it’s not the race that is important, it’s the light and the heat.  That is what sets us apart.  I also loved the idea that the Torch Race took the competitors from one sacred place to another.  And haven’t we seen that in our own life? … Moments of growth where we let the fire within propel us to a place we have never been before.  And that elevated level is a sacred place.
I’m re-lighting my torch and I look forward to seeing you on the racetrack.

Roses in Bloom…Our El Dorado Rose

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Today, I had the distinct pleasure of being one of the judges for the El Dorado Rose Contest.  While I have always admired our El Dorado Roses, I have a whole new appreciation for them.  They are far more than gracious women enveloped in beautiful, often homemade gowns; they are remarkable people.

Among the 3 lovely candidates, there was a refreshing candor that brought you to your knees with raw honesty.  An unapologetic frankness that was bold enough to stare disadvantage in the face and wrestle it to the ground until it became a firm foundation on which to rise tall and be a blessing to others.

There was a commitment to service when no one was looking.  Not the kind of service that parades with good deed doer’s…not the kind of service that carries fancy titles and a wall of recognition plaques…not the kind of service that receives annual awards and doles out acceptance speeches flush with humility.  No, it was the kind of service who regularly paints a neighbor’s house because they aren’t able to do it.  The kind that just goes in and does yard maintenance because a community member isn’t able.  The kind of service that makes a difference one person at a time by helping young people write college essays and learn how to work.  The kind of service that goes into the senior center or apartments week after week to bring joy and relief from boredom through music and song.  The kind of service that sees beyond limitations and mistakes and breathes hope and opportunity to female inmates by teaching them to read, not only to themselves but to each other.

Today we also witnessed the charms of a lady, where graciousness is embraced, embodied and valued.  Where generosity is a way of life.  Where the school of life is an opportunity for growth and reflection and where those lessons are also a call to service. Where beauty flows from the deep wells of experience and wisdom within.

Now don’t worry, there’s no spoiler alert here…I have no idea yet who “won”.  You’ll have to attend the El Dorado County Fair on Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m. in the Imagination Theater to find out.  All I know is there are 3 incredible, beautiful women who will carry on a legacy of service in this County with distinction, whether they are selected or not.

So next time you see a “Rose”, admire her lovely gown.  Be amazed at the attention to detail, color, fabric, embellishment.  Then move past that and be embraced by her charm, her love for this County, her passion for her life’s work, her dedication to the pursuits which have called her and demanded her attention and time.  Most of all be captivated by her love of community and the people who are in it.

You don’t need to stop and smell the roses…that would be pretty weird.  Maybe just take the time to stop and say hello.  Our Roses are pretty remarkable.

With Gratitude for the People of Placerville

placerville-s-bell-tower[1]

It was an ordinary Friday afternoon which magically became extraordinary.

It was hot and visiting my Father-in-law, I got the idea that he might like a cool confection.  Suggesting I run and get him a milkshake from Baskin Robbins, I set out on my intended task.   Stepping into the store on Broadway, I recognized the man in front of me.  He was a customer from long ago, and we greeted each other with familiar warmth.  As the conversation progressed, he gave me an unexpected gift.  He recanted how he had watched City Council meetings and that he recognized that the atmosphere was sometimes hostile; that during those times he sent out thoughts of encouragement and blessing.  How amazing that someone would support us with such grace!  I felt strengthened…supported.

He then went on to tell me that when he frequented my former business, he had been treated with warmth and that it had made a difference to him. I was surprised and humbled as I couldn’t recall any herculean acts of kindness.  He mentioned that he had written a book that was at The Bookery on Main Street, and we had a lovely interaction and went on our way.  As we left, we both felt a sweet sense of gratitude.

The next day, I went down to the Bookery and bought Letters From A Woodland Hermit by Anonymous.

You need to get it.

It will humble you.  It will make you intensely grateful for this precious town in which we live.  It will make you fall in love all over again with our merchants, from Main Street to Broadway to Placerville Drive, that give of themselves in service to this city.  Most of all, it will make you keenly aware of the countless saints which bless our community everyday with their selfless acts of kindness.

Daily, there are people that support their neighbor…that look after them.  There are employees that make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. These are the heros of our town.  The ordinary, everyday heros that make time to listen to what is important to the people around them.  Who go out of their way to do someone a favor.  Who render small acts of kindness that can transform a day.

I am immensely grateful for this reminder that I am in service to you… to you who give of yourselves daily, without thought of recognition or gratitude.  Who care for your neighbor because it is the right thing to do.   You don’t wait for someone else to care.  You don’t wait for a government program to take care of the need.  You stand in the gap because you see your brother’s need and you make a difference in their life.

I salute you.  I respect you.  I admire you….thank you for loving our community.

(Above photo by Bill Robinson)

A Fresh Look

Interno di una cattedrale

I had an interesting insight recently…

 

Sitting in an intimate chapel for an afternoon concert, the sun streamed in as it danced through beveled glass, filling the space with fractured light.  The warmth of the sun’s rays beckoned to music lovers as seats started to fill.  As the concert progressed, so did the descent of the sun, and that inviting, warm light changed to an aggressive irritant.  To ward off the aggressor, two ladies in front held up their programs to shield their eyes, and they settled back in to hear the remainder of the concert.

Quickly, a kind soul in row 8 noticed the improvised protection and got up to lower the blinds.  As he shimmied the semi-opaque blind down, the strength of the sun faded, bringing relief to the ladies in front.  This Good Samaritan returned to his seat, satisfied by a kindness rendered.

The programs stayed up.  With a shrug to his wife beside him, the good-deed-doer rose again to lower the final opaque blind, completely releasing the sun’s grip on the auditorium.  He returned to his seat.

As the music swelled in the dimmed chapel, the ladies sat in their irritation, programs raised, completely oblivious to the kindness rendered…completely unaware of the efforts taken on their behalf.  Completely blind to the fact that their issue had been solved. They sat convinced that they still had a problem despite the evidence against it.  All they had to do was to take a fresh look at their circumstances to realize that what they assumed was wrong had been taken care of.

There’s a lesson in thatto be willing to look at our circumstances with fresh eyes…frequently.

Awareness can bring new perspective.  Suspending entrenched positions, if only for a moment, can bring new insight. How often do we sit and stew, convinced of a wrong, sure of a problem, certain of an enemy?  How often to we raise defenses and stand our ground to protect ourselves from a situation that had at once plagued us?

Is it still a problem?  Are you sure?

Take a fresh look.  You may be surprised at what you find.

Wishing and Embracing…and the Historic Courthouse

Courthouse Photo

Is a challenge looming over you?  There are two different ways to approach a problem, and I have found they are completely different and lead to two distinctly different courses of action…

You can WISH or you can EMBRACE.

WISHING involves hoping for something that probably won’t happen. It’s wanting something that is very hard, if not impossible, to have.  The problem with wishing is that we put blinders on and get so wrapped up in the desire that it almost becomes larger than life.  A reality can start to form around this hunger until it begins to consume us, and with this raging focus, we can run down the wrong path….a path that isn’t grounded in reality.  A path that will get us lost.  A path that will lead us away from our original goal.

EMBRACING is recognizing “what is”.  It’s planting our feet firmly in reality and having the courage to take a hard look at the situation in front of us, whether we like it or not.  Staring down the giant allows us to clearly see the pitfalls as well as the opportunities at hand.  Embracing “what is” enables us to then set a course of action that deals with the challenge head on, and the more we do that, the more we can see our way through to a productive and inspired solution.

So is this mumbo-jumbo mere musings or does it relate to anything at hand?  Glad you asked!  Let’s take the Historic Courthouse on Main Street…

We can wish that the functions of the Court won’t move to a new location in a few years.  We can wish that nothing on Main Street will change.  We can fight and fume and get riled up over this idea that the Court shouldn’t be anywhere else but Main Street.  We can imagine the despair, the distress, the wanton lack if what is there now is no more. We can get mad at the City and County and all the people in it for letting this happen, and in our rage, we can run around in circles preparing for battle.

Wishing will make us blind to the fact that the State decides where the Court goes. Wishing will cause us to rattle our sabers at an imagined enemy, and we will lose precious time.  Wishing will take us a few years down the road, and when the functions of the Court move to their new facilities in town, wishing will have gotten us an angry, divided community…and an empty, historic courthouse on Main Street with no plan or idea of how to proceed.

No thank you!  Here’s a better option…

We can embrace the fact that a new Justice Center will be build off of Placerville Drive in a few years.  (You don’t have to like it to embrace it). We can embrace the idea that this new location will lead to economic development on the western part of Placerville, opening up much needed new revenue streams for our City.  Most importantly, we can embrace the realization that in repurposing the Historic Courthouse, we have a unique opportunity to reinvent her in exciting new ways…ways that will allow us to preserve her beauty and history on the outside while cleaning her up on the inside, shoring her up, and making her functional, accessible and beautiful in her interiors.  We can embrace the concept that she is so grand, she is suited for more than one purpose in her lifetime…and as we open our thought to possibility, we can see her in a new light.  As we see her in a new light, we can find a use that restores an enlarged purpose and presence on Main Street, making her an increased blessing to our community.

And a few years down the road, we will have fabulous new Justice Center that cements Placerville as the county seat in all its functions; we will be on our way to having a restored, preserved and reinvented Historic Courthouse that is an increased beacon and draw for our City, our downtown district and our County; and we will have a community that has come together with the common goal of imagining possibility and laboring to make it a reality.  We will have a community who has come together to mine for the gold that is waiting to be discovered in our beautiful Historic Courthouse.  She’s worth that.

And that is something to embrace…

 

Swimming In Your Own Pond

Vortice in mare

I have to admit, lately I’ve been a bit stuck. 

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been wrapped up in the holidays, going round and round in the daily grind of being incredibly busy without going anywhere.  Looking back on this time, I can see I have been swimming in my own pond, doing mental laps in the same old thoughts that only gain energy from swirling around themselves.  Consequently,  I’ve felt sluggish.  Uninspired.  Uneffective.  I don’t like it.  I haven’t wanted to write.  I haven’t wanted to read. Worst of all, I haven’t tried to wrestle with challenging problems because solutions have felt so far out of reach…too difficult.  Too exhaustive.  Too hard to see my way through them.

This morning I woke a half hour before my alarm and was wide awake.  It wasn’t time to get ready and for once, I didn’t feel like rolling over for a few last minutes of blessed sleep.  I picked up the book on my nightstand…the one that has graced it for 3 months just begging to have it’s cover cracked.  The most amazing thing happened.

As I fell into the pages, insight engulfed me.  As I suspended my sluggish state, thought reached for more…more than the recent whirlpool of stale ideas had allowed.  And it felt good.  In those brief predawn moments, I actually felt empowered again.

As I jumped into the shower with a new lease on life, I realized how important it is to seek moments of inspiration, whatever form that takes for you.  Without that, we flutter in our reflections going round and round without any surge of influence to point us in a new direction.  This can happen so easily in life.  It can happen at work.  In relationships.  In families. In friends. It can show itself in leadership or even in advocacy, causing us to cling to positions outgrown.  Worst of all, it can close our eyes to intriguing developments or emerging potential.

Creativity and inspiration follow a distinct pattern and journey.  Insight lingers over doubt. Progress pushes through stagnation.  Fear dangles between what is now and what is to come until a love of potential empowers us to complete the work before us.  And then it’s time to begin again for creation is a continual process.

Unless of course, you’re still swimming in your own pond.

I wish you fresh inspirations and empowering insights.

A Gift for the New Year

Inspirational motivating quote on old paper background

Giving and ReceivingThis has been the season for both and it presents interesting opportunities.

I’ve been thinking about this because I have a birthday soon, and I have found myself uncomfortable…

It’s not that I’m another year older.  It’s not the number. It’s that my daughter, husband, parents and best friend are going to extraordinary effort to shower me with love in a special (and I’m sensing lovely) intimate, family celebration.  Family members are traveling.  They are booking hotel rooms.  Decorations and menus have been months in the planning, and details, no doubt, have been carefully crafted.

For me…

And that’s the rub.  As I’ve sat with this, I’ve realized it is much more comfortable to be the giver.  To be the planner.  To be the celebrator rather than the celebratee.  And isn’t that curious for throughout our life we have probably lamented, “I just want to be loved”.   We may fantasize about surprise parties, about people we love surrounding us with love, and yet, it is surprising uncomfortable.  Very strange.  Is it a case of feeling unworthy?…I don’t think so.  People are busy and I know I am loved. I find I just don’t want to be a bother.

As I’ve wrestled with this internally, insight came once again in a yoga practice.  We know the importance of giving, and yet it is equally vital to receive well.  To give and receive is an even exchange, and for one to be successful, you must have the other.

Think about a time you could hardly wait to bestow a special gift on someone.   You probably envisioned what that moment was going to be like.  Butterflies of excitement welled up inside you just imagining the joy at the moment of discovery. No doubt, some of those exchanges were just what you imagined and the experience was deeply satisfying and joyful for both of you.   There were also probably some times that were a disappointment, not because the gift or the occasion fell short, but because the receiver didn’t allow themselves to be loved.

To love and be lovedthat’s what it’s all about.  And it’s not just family, this extends to our community as well.  To love and be loved is to acknowledge and honor those relationships that are open to us.  It is to put energy, commitment and focus on the people in our lives that are dedicated to supporting each other, and this grounds us.  It heals us.  It centers us and makes us whole.  And when we are whole, we are more capable of reaching outside our inner circle in order to be a blessing to those who need us, in our family, in our community, and in our world.

To be lovedmay you allow yourself that gift in this new year.

I think I’ll start tomorrow:-)…

In the Middle…

Thanksgiving quote

The Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate today began with Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

1863.  In July that year, we experienced the largest and most devastating military conflict in North American history…Gettysburg.  September held the second bloodiest two day conflict at the Battle of Chickamauga.  November ushered in a host of battles including the bombardment of Fort Sumter that last several weeks.

In the middle of this utter destruction and cataclysmic loss…in the middle of shattering chaos and tragic conflict…smack dab in the middle of our most desperate hour as a Nation, President Lincoln declared thanks.

Let’s just stop right there He declared thanks. How often do we begin our Thanksgiving season by joyously recanting what is right in our world?  Our hearts swell with gratitude for what is good.  And rightfully so!   In the sunshine of our blessings, we would be remiss not to acknowledge them.  And yet, that’s easy, isn’t it?  It’s easy to give thanks when things are going well.  It’s easy to give thanks when we have a loving family and a beautiful home to gather in.  It’s easy to find gratitude when our blessings outnumber our challenges.  And it’s easy to be thankful when our life is progressing and expanding in an orderly fashion.  Would it have been that easy in 1863?

How easy would it have been for President Lincoln to be overwhelmed by the weight of a nation embroiled in hatred and mourning?  How easy would it have been to believe that at that moment, challenges were so great there was nothing to be grateful for?  How easy would it have been to feel that acknowledging blessings in the midst of such devastation was insensitive, almost inappropriate, politically incorrect?  How easy would it have been to envision proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving as a celebration after the war was over?

He did it in the middle.

There’s a lesson there.  Perhaps our challenge is to not look at thanksgiving as an annual occurrence but as a way of life.  When things are going wrong, even really wrong, there are blessings at hand.  When the battle rages and we can’t see our way through, we are held, prepared and led by the Providence of Good.  When we are in the middle of our darkest hour, our best gifts are often being arranged that will both bless us and cause us to be an increased blessing to others.

And so in the middle, we give thanks.

Whatever you are in the middle of, may you and yours be blessed.  Happy Thanksgiving.

“Nana, Phone Down”…

Jameson Popsicle

The words stabbed me in the heart…

“Nana, phone down”.  A simple message with a powerful lesson delivered by our 18 month old grandson.

Enjoying a crisp, fall day, we were rocking on our porch, watching for trucks to pass by, eating popsicles.  He likes to look for trucks, and we were having a nice day together. Busy with his frozen delight and with his eyes strained toward the road, I’d thought I’d check my email real quick; I was sure he wouldn’t notice.

“Nana, phone down.”  I was embarrassed then horrified. Embarrassed that I’d been caught, then horrified I couldn’t just be in the moment with this precious little guy.

In this age of technology, we are becoming increasingly disconnected from each other.  At any restaurant you’ll see couples and families sitting silently by each other, communicating with someone else on the other end of a plastic box.  In this frantic 24/7 world, it is almost expected that if a question, post or query is thrown into cyberspace, the answer will be immediately forthcoming.  We feel important, connected, and productive as we juggle our cyber world…what about the real world in front of us?

I suppose it would behoove us all to make an honest assessment of how we let technology invade our life.  It is something we choose, consciously or otherwise.  It’s easy to feel guilty and overwhelmed if we’re not prompt on email or Facebook replies.  There’s a sense that the world is swirling around us and that work is piling up exponentially if we’re away from our computer or phone.  If we’re not on Facebook, we feel disconnected…that there are lots of people doing wonderful things that we don’t know about.  If we’re not on Facebook, we don’t have the pleasure of that strange excitement and validation when posts are acknowledged and answered.

What about the people around us?

“Nana, phone down.”   As we approach this holiday season, wonderful and joyous as well as hectic and busy, this is a good reminder that technology can wait.  Work can be scheduled in appropriate time slots. We can take a deep breath. We can step back…slow down.  We can be present and enjoy the moment.  We can cherish the people in front of us. We can be truly connected.

Thank you Jameson.