Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

Gift Card

I’ve heard a lot of people comment that gift cards are “just so impersonal”! Last week I received one from the fourth grade class where I’m a ReadAloud volunteer on Thursday mornings.

It reminds me of when my grandma would slip five dollars into my birthday card. Mom urged me to buy “something special,” something that Grandma herself might buy if she lived closer. After the purchase, I wrote a thank-you note. (Remember those?) I not only said thank you, but I told Grandma specifically how I spent the money as well as the pleasure I received from my gift.

The first year I received a check for Christmas from my dad, I was a little disappointed. He had always been a thoughtful gift giver, and I enjoyed the presents he chose. As he slowed with age, though, it was easier for him to just send a check. He slipped in a note telling me to buy myself something special. So, I began a tradition of carefully choosing a gift I could imagine him buying. That year, I picked out a beautiful pair of gold earrings, and I placed the wrapped present under the tree with a tag that read, “To: Barb … From: Dad.”

On Christmas Eve, I “forgot” what the box contained and opened it with great anticipation. A few days later I sent a thank you note: “Dear Dad, I adore the beautiful gold hoop earrings you sent! I have been wearing them every day since I opened the gift. Thank you so much. I Love You! Barb.”

After his initial confusion over that first thank-you note, Dad came to look forward to finding out what he bought me for Christmas via the thank you notes. And, even now, more than 20 years later, when someone admires those earrings, I say, “Thank you. They were a Christmas gift from my dad.”

Yesterday I used the gift card from the students to buy two books. The thank-you note says, “Thank you so much for the Christmas gift card. Because I enjoy reading to you so much, I used it to buy two books for myself. One is a travel guide to the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m going there this summer, and I want to get the most from my trip by reading about it before I go. The second book is a journal I’m using to write all my ideas about–and wishes for–the trip. Please know I’ll be thinking of you all when I celebrate my 60th Birthday bicycling through Volcanoes National Park on August 14! Books help big dreams come true!! Thanks again for your magical gift. Keep Dreaming! Keep Reading! Love, Ms. Dallmann”

On the inside flap of the books, I have written: “Merry Christmas 2013 from Mrs. Burdette’s Fourth Grade Class at Overbrook Elementary.”

Impersonal? I think not!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas 2013

Making Memories



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Painting of Flowers

“Imaginary Flowers,” acrylic on tile by Barbie Dallmann

I’m reading a book, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, that is stimulating a lot of thought. In the book, imaginary friends are only capable of doing whatever their children imagine they can do. For example, the subject of the book is capable of walking through closed doors, but he cannot walk through walls. He doesn’t sleep because his child imagines him keeping an eye on things all night long. Each imaginary friend is limited by his child’s imagination, and it can be very frustrating for the friends at times.

I think in a sense we are all our own imaginary friends, limited in our abilities because of some default operating system dictating what we can and can’t do. If I “can’t imagine myself ever doing that!” then chances are, I never will. But through the magic of visioning, I can begin to open my awareness to new possibilities.

I have noticed, too, that often other people can more easily see our potential than we can. After all, they don’t have our fears blocking the view. What does it take to trust the vision of others? To step out on a limb, spread our wings, and fly because several other people imagine we can?

A couple of weeks ago, some friends told me that I should teach an art class. Quickly I responded, “Oh, I could NEVER do that! I can’t imagine ever being good enough to teach!” But even as I said those words, I realized that it wasn’t the first time I’d said them. At least twice before I had been urged by someone to create a class to help those who are afraid to paint. When prompting nudges me from three unrelated sources, I have a tendency to take a closer look. For me, that means meditating on the possibility. I create a vision, and walk around in it for a while, sort of like trying on a new pair of shoes. How does it feel? Is it a good fit? Could it work?

And the next thing I know, an opportunity presents itself. This one popped up the very next day. And guess what? This coming Saturday I’m leading a workshop in compassionate creativity for art-timid adults.

So, while it’s true we are limited by our own imaginations, it is also true that we can tap into the Collective Consciousness and download a new paradigm. Why not pay more attention to the possibilities that enter our awareness? Why not try on some new ways of being? Why not sign up for an art class?

Flier for art workshop

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"By the River" - Acrylic on canvas by Barbie Dallmann

“By the River” – Acrylic on canvas by Barbie Dallmann

I love taking my son’s dog with me in the mornings when I walk or run. She’s such a great companion, and I confess, I do love multitasking. It’s such a high when I’m getting a three-for-one bargain: exercising, walking the dog, and listening to a book on my iPod.

This morning, as I noticed Lucy wandering into a side yard, I yelled over my shoulder, “Hey! Lucy! It’s your job to keep of track of me … not the other way around!” As she quickly caught up, I found myself smiling, remembering how I used to say that same thing to Britain when he was a toddler. Wherever we went, I would always remind him: “It’s your job to keep track of me. So, pay attention, and try to keep up!” What a great memory!

The truth, of course, is that I always had an eye out for him, just like I’m always aware of what Lucy’s up to.

I wonder if it’s that way with the Divine. I can just hear God saying, “It’s your job to keep track of me!” And off I go, thinking I’m all independent and in charge of every last detail. My truth, though, is that there has always been a bigger picture, one I’ll never be able to totally comprehend. And those times when I’ve strayed off course, there were whispers urging me to “pay attention!” Sometimes, too, my resistance causes me to run in the opposite direction. I’m grateful that even during those times when I think I’ve lost track of the Divine, she never loses track of me.

I guess this morning’s outing was actually a FOUR-for one: exercise, dog walking, iPod, and a bit of spiritual insight. Now I really am feeling a powerful urge to smile!

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Acrylic painting of tree

Acrylic by Barbie Dallmann

I’ve been married a long, long, LONG time. This year will be our 37th Christmas since we met. Frankly, I ran out of good gift ideas several years ago. I’ll admit, Dannie’s not that hard to buy for. He’s happy with anything that displays the Nebraska Cornhuskers logo. So, what am I complaining about? I suppose I’m just bored. Cornhusker duct tape was the best I could do last year. Ugh! I just couldn’t go through it again. When you add in Dannie’s complaining about how hard I am to shop for, I suppose the time was ripe for change.

The idea began brewing about six weeks ago. It started as a whimsical fantasy. I turned it over in my imagination and giggled a little. When I began wondering if he would go for it, a smile started. Finally, as I seriously considered whether it could actually work, I broke out in a mischievous grin. I tentatively suggested that I might have a remedy for our annual gift-buying angst. He took the bait, and so here’s what’s up this year. Each of us is buying our own gift. Unoriginal, you say? What if I told you there were rules to this game? (Okay, if you know me well, that’s no surprise!)

Rule #1 – You must buy something you would NEVER buy for yourself.

Rule #2 – You must buy something that you dearly WISH the other person would be thoughtful enough to get for you.

Rule #3 – You must buy the gift with your own personal money.

Rule #4 – You must wrap the gift in a way you would appreciate and enjoy receiving.

Rule #5 – When we open the gifts on Christmas, the other person gets TOTAL credit for buying the gift. Each will express all the gratitude of his or her heart for the PERFECT gift … one you would never buy for yourself, one wrapped to perfection, and one you had always wished for. Gushing thanks is encouraged.

That’s it. Five simple rules to bring a little variety and challenge into our holiday this year.

So far, I’ve learned one very important thing. He has been right all along … I am REALLY hard to shop for!

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Watercolor painting by Barbie Dallmann

“Creation” a watercolor by Barbie Dallmann

November is Gratitude Month at Unity, and for the last several weeks, I have focused on things I appreciate about myself and my life. I surprised myself by how inspired I felt after making a list of things I was grateful for learning.

A couple of years ago, I found the courage to start art lessons. After half a century of believing I had no artistic talent whatsoever, I have learned to paint (see above).

I also learned to cook. Mom wasn’t very good at it. Dad was better, but he didn’t have the patience to teach me. So, over the years, I taught myself, watching friends, reading books, listening to TV shows. Heck, I even paid attention during seventh grade Home Ec. class! I like the fact that on most days I’d rather eat at home than go out. My home-cooked meals are better in every way (except for the cleaning-up part).

When I was in seventh grade, I learned to type on a manual typewriter with blank keys. I went to school an hour early most days to practice. After an entire year, my speed was barely 50 words per minute. I kept at it, though, thinking the skill would come in handy if I never made it to college. Come in handy, it did! Eventually averaging 120 wpm, I typed my own papers and made money typing for others. In 1984 I started my own secretarial service, which I’ve been successfully operating ever since. I’m so glad that my seventh grade self was willing to get up early to practice. What a great kid she was!

There’s another important skill I learned early in life, one I’ve taken for granted for a long, long time. As I was making this list, I remembered how much I struggled to learn to read, especially to read aloud. There were times I wanted to give up because I was bad at it, and I was embarrassed by my repeated failures. Thank you, six-year-old Barbie for sticking with it! My life is so incredibly rich because of all the billions of words I have read over the decades.

Of course, there are lots more things I’m grateful for learning, including how to take pictures, write blogs, and negotiate the Internet.

What about you? Are there things you’d like to thank yourself for right now? Where would you be without your own determination and tenacity? And where might you be tomorrow because today you took the time to be uplifted by your own, heartfelt acknowledgment and appreciation?

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Wide-angle shot of Bryce Canyon at Sunrise

Bryce Canyon at Sunrise – One of the many shots in vacation slide show I’m using for motivation

In just three and a half days my favorite “Twin Cousin” is coming to visit! Yea! The two of us and our husbands are going to take Amtrak to Washington, DC, and do the tourist thing. The train trip will take us through the Appalachian Mountains where we’re sure to see some beautiful fall colors. I adore anticipating a trip.

But for the next three days, I will be swamped with work. I worked 13 hours yesterday (bookkeeping, payroll, budgets, and desktop publishing), and there’s more of the same today … and tomorrow … and the next day. It happens every time I go away.

This morning I took a break at the cottage, and I asked myself, “What gives? What is this CRAZY BUSY thing you do before trips?”

As I wrote in my journal, the answer revealed itself: “Present-day me” is in the process of gifting “after-trip me” with a clean desk and completed chores when she returns to the office. My gift to her is easing the re-entry process. She will be relaxed, happy, and reveling in the afterglow of a lovely vacation. She will be smiling at the memory of hours of leisure time and the many adventures she had with those she loves the most. She won’t feel like working her ass off … not for a few days, at least.

And so, with the excitement and anticipation of that trip fueling me, I am happy to work my ass off NOW. I put a slide show on my second computer screen of scenes from a trip I took to Bryce Canyon. They are reminding me that the wonder of travel is always worth the effort, always worth the money, always worth this final push to get out the door.

This crazy busy thing … it’s just a way of taking care of my fragile, returning-from-vacation self. She will feel a little let down that it’s all over. She’ll be wondering how the time could go so fast. And she’ll be moving at a slower pace. So, my precious future self, I’m doing this for you.

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Creating Life

Life is About Creating Yourself

When I started blogging, I promised myself that it wouldn’t end up being another “have to” on my list of chores. I would only blog when I felt “inspired to do so.”
But I haven’t been inspired lately.
And then this morning in the shower, there it was! Inspiration! Pouring in  faster than I could register it all. I was getting ideas for writing, workshops, marketing, exercise routines, home decorating, and creative cooking! I was only in there for ten minutes. What happened?
Could it have something to do with the fact that this morning, I stepped out of my routine? It wasn’t a leap, mind you. I just rearranged things a little. I had breakfast before meditating. I exercised and then prayed. There were just a few small, mindful changes that resulted from an exploration of the role of structure in my life.
So many people resist structure. It’s a common trait among my life coaching clients: many don’t want to commit to goals and deadlines. Many don’t want to embrace discipline and accountability. And yet, without structures, important things are often postponed until the last possible moment, or worse, they don’t get done at all. I gladly embrace structure in my life as an incredibly useful tool that helps me get where I want to go, sort of like a bridge, reliably supporting me as I move from an outdated way of being over to a more productive one.
There are, however, restrictive structures, which are like jail cells. They keep us stuck in our thoughts and routines and quite often dull our creativity. Upon self-reflection, I realized that I had become like a robot in the mornings, doing exactly the same things in exactly the same order, morning after morning. I realized today that I had lost my sense of self in the process. My unchanging routine had caused a certain dullness to descend upon me. I’ve been on autopilot, simply following pre-determined steps, not even taking time to consider that I might prefer tea to coffee some mornings.
And so, at 5:30 this morning, I made a conscious decision to shake things up a bit, and look what happened! I’m inspired!
Over the next week, I plan to take a closer look at the structures, routines, and rules that govern my day-to-day life. I guarantee I’ll be making some changes. The real challenge for me is to not allow the changes to become new jail cells. And the only way to do that is to commit to living consciously as a full-time participant in my own life.
Now the coach in me is saying: “What structure can you put in place to make sure you remember that commitment?” (And you thought being a Life Coach was easy!)

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