Gratitude Challenge: Day 1

Vital Yoga Center is doing a 29 Day Challenge: Gratitude Garden:  The challenge is to show appreciation for at least 1 person (or 1 something) daily for 29 consecutive days. Each day, plant a seed of gratitude and watch it blossom. At the end of the month, you’ll be celebrating your flourishing garden of good karma.


I am thankful I don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock anymore. I just rise when my body’s had enough sleep. Yesterday, I rose after 4 hours; Today, I awoke after 7. And I feel great.

This reminds me of when I signed a guest book at my sorority sister’s vacation home in the Bahamas: “I ate when I was hungry, slept when I was tired, and peed when I had to.” 

At the time, I didn’t understand why Jen was Less-Than-Thrilled with my entry into her parents’ hand-crafted, leather-bound guest book…But with age, comes wisdom, and perhaps now I can see it…it was the grammar…one really shouldn’t end a phrase with a preposition…yeah, the grammar, that’s it 

Anyway, I’m starting to like this Gratitude Experiment already. It’s not even 8:10, and I’ve already taken a lovely trip down memory lane and am starting the day with a goofy grin on my face. Thank you Universe!

#29DayChallenge #GratitudeGarden

Communicate This! A Kinder, Fiercer Court

ImageI was warming up with my partner M, playing against N and S.  I was looking forward to catching up with N, since it had been a while since we’ve seen each other.  During our warm-up, M said “I’m afraid to play against N.”  This gave me pause.

I have always had warm feelings towards N.  When I attended my first clinic at Olde Providence, N was there.  I was standing in the middle of the baseline, when the Pro said that for the next drill we should “hit it down the line.”  I felt confused. Which line was he talking about?  There were several on the court.  N was standing behind me, so I turned around and asked her which line the Pro was referring to.  She didn’t know either – which made me feel better. United in our ignorance, we asked for clarification.

I think N’s originally from Russia.  I LOVE talking with people from other countries – partly because they often have such different and interesting experiences and viewpoints; partly because of the lilting accents.  You could cuss me out in French and I’d swoon.  I also enjoy the fact that when people are speaking in a language that’s not their Mother-tongue, they don’t waste time with fripperies.  They tend to say what they mean, which is refreshing.

N and I attended several clinics together that year.  The Pros used a lot of expressions we weren’t familiar with.  We’d check with each other first to clarify.  If one of us knew what the Pro meant, we’d share that with the other.  If neither of us knew, we’d ‘fess up and ask for help.  It felt like we were giggling co-conspirators on a quest to translate Tennis Talk to Kitchen English.

So, imagine my surprise when M expressed fear of N.  I looked at N through M’s eyes, and suddenly I became nervous too.  I’m 5’2”, so everybody seems tall to me.  However, N is really tall.  She looks about 6 feet tall, so it follows that she has a wide arm-span.  If she stood in the center of the court, and spread her arms while holding a racket in each hand NOTHING would get past her.

N also has legs that stretch for miles – and she uses them!  In the rare instance that a ball gets by her, she lopes across the courts like a gazelle.  In light of M’s comments, I became slightly cowed by the straight-talking, imported Russian Glamazon and started hitting goofy shots.  Did I really think I could lob someone who could see into the clouds?!

I believe Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”  In “32 Flavors,” the great Ani DiFranco sang “someday you’re going to get hungry and eat most of the words you just said.”

I’ve come to believe that you are who you surround yourself with.  For the first game or so, I was playing as if I had my partner’s fear of Natasha.  I let her comment override the years of fun and kindness I’d experienced with N, which was silly.  So, I had to change my focus and just think about N in a different way.  I still tried to hit some fierce shots – as I would with anybody.  However, letting go of somebody else’s notions made all the difference and I resumed enjoying the match.  No wonder they say tennis is mostly a mental sport!

Unleashing My Inner Serena: 31 Days of Tennis


Yesterday, marked the start of my new 31-day adventure:  31 days of tennis!

My wonderful husband taught me to play tennis about 10 years ago.  I advanced fairly quickly from 2.0 to 2.5 to 3.0.  Then I plateaued.  I’ve been playing the same game fairly consistently for more years than I’d care to admit.

This year, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to become a 3.5 tennis player – the same level as Hubby.  It would be nice to give him a good game.  Let’s be honest: I would not be sad to win a tennis match with him.  In fact, I think I’d REALLY enjoy that.  With OTHER folks, I try to be a gracious winner.  With Hubby, I would truly enjoy having my game match my level of Trash Talking, which is S-U-P-E-R-I-O-R!

The way a person plays tennis can be very revealing about his/her character.  We were dating when now-Hubby first started teaching me the game.  I learned he was a really good instructor – with excellent communication skills and an abundance of patience.  I ran him all over the courts – unintentionally.  I simply didn’t know how to aim or place my shots.  Our games ended up being a great workout- for him.

Hubby would gallantly return shots that would have been waaaaay out to keep the game going and to let me feel like I was building up momentum.  Hubby also learned that I’m a Trash-Talker.  He tried explaining that this is a gentleman’s sport, and that there’s no Trash Talking in Tennis.  I would have none of it.  I’m from Detroit after all, where cussin’ and Talking Smack are considered art forms.  My concession was not to swear on the courts, but Talking Trash was sacred.  Tennis is mostly a mental game, and Trash Talking is how I could get into his head and shake his rhythm.

I will never forget the day I first won a game against him.  You would have thought I had won a Grand Slam.  I did the Cabbage Patch – a most obnoxious Happy Dance – while loudly proclaiming my own greatness.  The people on the courts around us smiled bemusedly.  Then Hubby quickly won the next few games, the entire set and the match.  That’s when I realized how much he’d been holding back when we played.  He’s a 3.5 player with a 4.0 serve.

I resigned from Corporate America a while ago, and am now running my own business.  One of the great blessings of this is I now have the ability to set my own schedule, and I can play tennis during the day.  Last year, I joined the Interclub league for the first time, and really enjoyed myself.  We played on Thursdays and our team had clinics on Wednesdays.  We learned specific strategies, skills and drills in the clinics and then could immediately apply our learnings in Thursday’s matches.  Suddenly, I “got game.”

Mid-season, I played a match with Hubby.  He hadn’t played in several months, and I was really hoping I could beat him.  I didn’t – but I realized he wasn’t holding back any more.  While I took a couple of games from him, I made him earn his overall victory.

As much as I like to Talk Smack with Hubby, the truth is, I’d simply like to give him a competitive match.  He’s spent a decade playing non-competitively with me – which can’t be too much fun for him.  So, this Spring Season I’m going for it!

I believe in Immersion, so I’ve signed up for 4 tennis leagues and intend to play every day for the next 31 days.  My goal is for the game on day 31 to be with Hubby – and for me to win the entire match.  I haven’t yet determined whether or not I’ll be an obnoxious winner or not.  Only time will tell.

Digital Detox Wrap-Up: Who Do You Report the President To?

ImageAs I wrap up this 31-day Digital Detox adventure, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Digital Clutter is TIME-CONSUMING.  Once I extricated myself from receiving so many e-mails, I decreased my daily e-mail time by about 50%!  I’ve gone from spending 2 hours a day to just 1 hour a day on e-mail.  NICE!
  • Subcribing to Groupon, LivingSocial & Groupalicious is a daily consumerism assault.  If they could really customize the offerings to meet my wants and needs AND if they would allow me to select the day(s) I receive their e-mails, I’d probably stick around.  However, unsubscribing has saved me a lot of time and even more money.  After all, we can rarely get to all the restaurants before the coupon expires.  Sweet Freedom!
  • I am an Information Hoarder.  As a society, we have moved from the Agrarian age to the Industrial Age to the Age of Information and Knowledge Management.  Being naturally curious, I like to learn about a variety of topics, and my method of choice is Podcasts. I listen to them when I cook, do laundry, drive, and more.  However, it’s impossible to stay current. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with the daily shows (e.g. Terri Gross’ Fresh Air, Mike Collin’s Charlotte Talks, etc), the weekly shows (The Moth, This American Life, MarketPlace Money, President Obama’s weekly address), the periodic shows (e.g. Intelligence Squared), the hobby shows (singing), etc.  I finally gave myself permission to UNSUBSCRIBE from several podcasts, to DELETE shows with topics I’m not interested in, and to not listen to a complete show if I haven’t found it engaging within the first 5 minutes.  It turns out, I’m still conversationally versatile – and I’m more relaxed.  Each podcast had become a task on a constantly-updating and never-ending To Do list.   While I generally enjoy learning via podcasts, I hadn’t realized that trying to keep up with them had become a source of stress.
  • There are Cyber-police available to us.  If you get a phony e-mail designed to look like it’s from Bank of America, I can forward that to so their fraud team can investigate.  If you receive sketchy-looking e-mails from other sources, they can be forwarded to a couple of government agencies:  the FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) or the US Department of Justice. Who knew? (See links below.) The challenge I currently face is the onslaught of e-mails from Barack Obama.  I had subscribed to his e-mail list during the presidential election campaign, and now I need a break from politics, PACs, etc.  I’ve tried unsubscribing from his list, but still receive e-mails.  Which government agency do YOU think I should report the President to?

If you’ve had success with a Digital Detox, I’d love to hear about it!

Helpful Links:

Organization Link/E-mail
Bank of America
FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center
Federal Trade Commission
United States Department of Justice
United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT)


Digital Detox Tip #2: Ostracize Yourself for Digital Nirvana


Throughout the process of un-subscribing from various e-mails, I realized there were some common threads: Groups.  LinkedIn groups, MeetUp groups, tennis groups, etc.

Now, I LOVE playing tennis.  And as much as I don’t enjoy the way my tennis buddies abuse Reply to All, I’m afraid to ask them to remove me from their e-mail groups.  I’m afraid I’ll never get invited to play tennis – or their other social activities again.  So, I just try to follow Gandhi’s advice and “be the change I want to see in the world” and only reply to the e-mail sender.  Apparently, Gandhi’s maxim doesn’t work with e-mail.

However, I have free rein over the more formal groups I’ve subscribed to.  So, I looked at my memberships.  Did I really need to be a member of 54 LinkedIn groups?  No! I was quickly able to leave 10 groups that were no longer relevant to me.  And I adjusted the settings of some of the remaining groups so I no longer receive e-mails at all – or just receive them weekly.  I will look at the group information when I am ready – not when they want me to.  I pray for the day when LinkedIn – and other organizations – provide the setting that lets me select the weekday I’d like to receive e-mails.  (FAB does, and I look forward to shopping on Sundays with them!)

I also looked at the various MeetUp groups I had subscribed to, and got honest with myself.  I keep meaning to go to that Monday Meditation MeetUp, but I’ve only made it twice in 6 months.  So, clearly I’m not committed to it right now. I mean, do I really need to drive 20 minutes to go sit in silence with other people?!  I removed myself from the group and the accompanying e-mails.  Free of guilt at last!  My self-imposed ostracization felt so good, I removed myself from a few more MeetUp groups.  My road out of Digital Hell is no longer paved with the intention to Group-ify.

I’d also like to remove myself from GooglePlus, but, frankly, I can’t figure it out.  So, I updated my preferences to turn down the volume and frequency of my e-mails.

My efforts so far have taken me from about 50 e-mails per day to about 30.  It’s not yet Digital Nirvana but it’s a start!

What tips do you have for Digital Freedom?

Digital Detox Tip #1: Karma-lize Your e-mail.


Let’s face it.  We all receive way too many e-mails!  Managing e-mail effectively is a skill – and it takes up precious time in the day.  I have yet to meet anyone who has all the time they want.  Also, almost every e-mail represents a task that somebody wants you to do: read this article, give me advice, purchase this product, pick up the kids, etc. I can barely get through my self-assigned actions, let alone all the tasks other people want me to do.  Eliminating unnecessary e-mails can reduce your workload, your stress levels and free up time.

Let’s start with personal e-mails.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If you subscribe to an online newsletter, you’re going to receive an online newsletter to read.  If you register to receive alerts about cheap airline fares, you’re going to receive e-mails on that topic.  If you shop at multiple online stores, you’ve probably granted permission for each store to e-mail you their product announcements and sales notices.

Let’s pause and ask ourselves these questions:

  1. How much time do I spend each day managing e-mail (or letting e-mail manage me?)
  2. Which e-mails are adding immediate value to my life?
  3. Which e-mails do I discuss with other people?
  4. Which e-mails do I want to receive?
  5. Which e-mails do I need to receive?

If certain e-mails are not discussion-worthy and/or are not adding value, you may want to opt-out of receiving them.   Once you decide which e-mails you no longer need to receive, UNSUBSCRIBE.  The US Federal Anti-Spam law (CAN-SPAM) mandates that all marketing e-mails contain an Unsubscribe link and process.  They’re usually in small font at the bottom of the e-mail.  I now keep an Unsubscribe folder in my e-mail.  Once I unsubscribe, I move the e-mail into that folder so I have a record of the date I’ve opted out. If I continue to receive e-mails that I’ve opted out of, I then contact the organization a different way and inform them that if they don’t permanently remove me from their e-mail distribution lists, I will notify the Better Business Bureau.  It’s an effective technique.

The work front can be a bit trickier.  As much as you may want to opt-out of receiving e-mails from your manager or other “Higher Ups”, requesting to not receive their e-mails may not be wise politically.  You know the relationship you have with your manager, so you decide accordingly.

However, you may be able to extricate yourself from some colleagues’ group distribution lists.  Given the rampant “Reply to All” fever that seems to envelop most workplaces, you are probably receiving an inordinate amount of non-critical e-mails – just so folks can use the CYA stamp.  It took me receiving 300 e-mails a day to start taking action.

If you’re constantly being included on e-mails – and you don’t understand why – consider asking the sender. I suggest <gasp> talking to the person face-to-face – or picking up the phone if they’re a virtual colleague.  I also recommend sounding curious.  “Hi Sue.  I received this e-mail regarding _____ and I’m just curious why…Is there a particular action you need me to take?”  The Sender may or may not have a valid reason for including you.  This question should help him/her see that you should either be removed from the distribution list and/or that he/she should communicate more clearly why certain people are included on the list.

My last tip for not receiving so many e-mails is to stop sending so many yourself.  What goes around, comes around and nobody escapes their Karmic debts.