This article is a blog post

Just in time for PCS season, the Blue Star Museums program is back!

More than 2,000 museums across the nation want to make this summer a little less stressful for you. And, the cost is free.

The Blue Star Museums program is again offering free admission to more than 2,000 museums in all 50 states for military members and their families. The program runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Check the website https://www.arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums and click on the map for a user-friendly list of blue star museums in each state.

To get your free tickets, simply show up to the museum and present Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID.

The military ID holder plus five family members will be admitted for free. Family members include children, spouses, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

Also, the military member does not have to be present for the family to participate. The family can still gain entrance with a dependent family member ID card.

The program was created several years ago to show support for active duty military families who have faced multiple deployments and to give those families a chance to be together and explore these museums. The program recognizes that many of these families would otherwise not have the means, or the time together, to do so.

For all the details, go to: https://www.arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums/frequently-asked-questions

Applying for the Dream Job

By Amy Nielsen

I have been waiting for my dream job to post so I can apply for it. I heard about the position from someone who works in the same office a few weeks ago. Over the last weeks, the funding has been frozen as the fiscal year changed over.

I have been checking the postings every few days. Today the new openings went up finally. When I saw it, I nearly hyperventilated.

I have been working hard to put myself in the right places to find out what kinds of opportunities are going to be coming available over the next few months. I spent the late winter months learning everything I could about the agencies and organizations in our community who do similar work to what I want to do. I have been going to all sundry events that have anything to do with health and wellness. I have been trying to meet as many of the movers and shakers as I could.

 I am not in a rush to find a job. I have a lot of slices on my plate with family, teaching, and volunteer commitments. Rather, I am really interested in finding the right job. The research time I put in over the winter is beginning to pay off as I meet more people and am able to put faces to names.

I started this journey with the intention of opening my own business. I have determined over the last year that I am just too fundamentally lazy for that to work. Working by myself is like playing ping pong alone.  Coworkers fire me up and keep me motivated. I like to work as part of a team with independence to do my piece.

I have the luxury right now to not have to be employed immediately upon graduating from school. Being an adult student with a family, I have other sources of support. I’m not trying to pay the rent with this new career. I can take the time to work my way carefully into the community.

Finding the right fit will take time. I live in a rural area with limited opportunities. Those that do come up are fiercely fought for and hard earned when awarded. Ours is a small community in the corner of the state.  The big universities are far enough away that those students are not interested in applying for positions here unless they come from here to begin with.

Agencies and organizations don’t have a lot of turnover at the levels I am applying for. Those employees that do move on usually do so to other positions within the local area. It’s a small circle of passionate people who have been paying a lot of dues for a lot of years here. A hard circle to break into and hold one’s own. Some days it feels a bit like feeding my toes to the piranha.

So I applied. I sent in my resume and cover letter. Just to be sure I sent it correctly, as I am not the most savvy at filling in these online forms, I sent a note to the two women I have been most in contact with about this specific organization. Both are employees who have been encouraging me to keep my eyes open for just this opportunity. I know that as employees they cannot specifically direct my application, but I am hoping they can at least watch out for it.

The job posting reads like it was written for me. My credentials line up perfectly with the requested certifications. I am already very familiar with the materials I would be presenting on a daily basis. I enjoy teaching the kinds of students the program attracts. Even my extracurricular talents work in favor to make my presentations that much more valuable for the organization.

My biggest fear in this whole process is whether I filled out the online application correctly so the autobot that reads the algorithm doesn’t kick my resume out for being incorrectly categorized. I am sure that I have missed job opportunities because I haven’t filled out the online application correctly. There is often times no way to know if what I clicked is clear because the applicable answer to the question isn’t there.

For example, I hold a bachelors degree technical theater. When the form asks for higher education level, I click bachelors of arts. When it asks for the subject of my degree, there is no option for theater. I have to click arts/undefined. But this is not the same thing at all and doesn’t convey the same kind of training I have had. Rarely can I list my post graduate certificates in culinary arts, holistic nutrition, and herbalism as there are never spaces for them. Yet they are very relevant training to what I will be teaching in the jobs I am applying for.

Unless I can get myself in front of a human being and have a conversation about my wild and crazy ride, the autobot is not going put my resume in the hire pile. I just don’t fit in little boxes like that. That is part of the reason these kinds of organizations want to hire someone like me. If they can find us. If we can get in the door in the first place.

Now I wait and hope that the boxes were clicked properly and that I am in fact in the right place at the right time. I have seized my day. I have grabbed the tiger by the tail. I have applied for my dream job. I even wished on the candles on my birthday cake for this job. So now it has to happen. Right?

To Take Summer Break, Or Not

By Jenna Moede

Okay, let’s talk summer. If your social media looks anything like mine, you have seen college graduation photo after college graduation photo the past few weeks. This can only mean one thing, spring semester has finally ended.

Great! Except for everyone that hasn’t graduated yet. I remember this time of year always causing me a little confusion during my undergraduate studies.

I wanted to finish my degree quickly, but I also really, really, really needed a break.

I never took mine, and instead, I finished my degree on the fast track. It took me just a little over three years to finish my bachelors and my minor, and I didn’t take any breaks. Not one.

I worked every single summer, I took over full class loads every semester, and I kept pushing myself.

So of course I finished my degree pretty fast, but I also came dangerously close to burning myself out several times.

My point - you may need a break sometime during your college career, and I want to mention a few major pros and cons to taking one.

First, you may already be thinking about how much taking a summer vacation will slow down your ideal college timeline, and it might. Time really kept pushing me during my undergraduate studies.

You could also worry that taking a break will slow down the good momentum you have built up during the last semester. If it feels like the wrong time to take a break, you probably should keep moving on until you feel like you need one.

Just because you might work through this summer doesn’t mean that you can’t take the next summer off or take an extra week off somewhere else in your studies, but if you feel like stopping will cause your good roll to end, then you should work through this one, this time.

Lastly, I worried a lot that if I took the summer off, I would lose everything I learned in the previous semester. Repetition helps me remember information, and by always taking classes, I usually didn’t have time to forget the facts, theories and ideas that I had studied.  

During high school summer vacation, I swear science just fell out of my head, and I desperately didn’t want to repeat that happening during college.

If all of these drawbacks worry you, then you might need to press through the summer, but if only one concerns you, you might find that the benefits outweigh the cons.

So let’s examine those benefits.

First, a break will help you relax and rejuvenate. Classes demand a lot of our time, energy and positivity and it always seems so easy to put pressure on ourselves. Because of that, taking time off can help us let go of what has already happened in our educational career and move on with a brighter outlook.

It can also help jumpstart motivation. I think I’ve had senioritis at the end of every college semester, and a small break in the summer could have cured it. Going into a semester without motivation and excitement does not benefit any student.

Lastly, taking a small break gives you time to adjust your goals, reorganize your schedule and reprioritize your life. It can help shed light on some issues you’ve had with college in the past and can help you make positive changes that will affect you in the future.

If you can’t tell, I’m in favor of taking breaks over the summer, and I wish that I had during my studies.

Also remember that colleges typically schedule summer vacation into their school schedule.

Traditional 4-year campuses design their programs to take 4 years to complete with 2 semesters taken each year. Many students do take advantage of summer vacation and don’t view it as taking time off.

If you want to take a break over the summer, consider it a scheduled break and hit the ground running in the fall. 

If you feel that you have a good rhythm and don’t need a vacation, then keep chugging along and consider it next year, but if you fear you’re headed toward burning out, it can help you remember why you started and motivate you to keep pushing through each and every class.

Self-Employment – Who’s Doing What?

Want to determine your hours? Your own work load? Be your own boss?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released a list of occupations that in 2016, had a large number of self-employed workers. They are:

  • Animal trainers
  • Door-to-door sales, street vendors
  • Farmers and agriculture
  • Artists
  • Fishermen and hunters
  • Hairdressers and cosmetologists
  • Massage therapists
  • Musicians and singers
  • Photographers
  • Dressmakers and tailors
  • Writers and authors

Among these jobs, farm and agriculture rated the highest income at an annual average of $66,000. Animal trainers were at the bottom of the list with a mere $22,000 annually. Each of the other jobs fell between the two.

 What may appeal to many job seekers is that for these careers, on the job training is often more essential than professional schooling. Those that do require certification, such as hairdressers and massage therapists can finish school in a matter of months, rather than years.

The downside, you are responsible for everything – paying taxes, finding insurance, advertising your business and dealing with difficult customers.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has a webpage to introduce people to the world of self-employment and business ownership. Find it here:

https://www.sba.gov/starting-business/how-start-business/business-types/self-employed-independent-contractors

To learn more about salary and hiring outlook for specific industries, visit https://www.bls.gov/oes/

I Graduated! Now What?

By Amy Nielsen

I did it! I graduated! I am now a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach!

It was a bit surreal watching my graduation ceremony online on my laptop in my pj’s on the couch with the nightly news in the background and my kids shrieking in the tub. I suppose I could have made more of an occasion of it. Had a glass of wine, perhaps. But it was broadcast late after a long day. In fact, I almost missed it. I did get a selfie with my name on the screen though.

So, now what?

Last time I did this I had a gig lined up through my department chair. It was part of the perk of working with a faculty active in the business we were studying. They helped us network into our first post-graduation positions. Mine was a little summer stock theater in a tourist laden, seaside town in Massachusetts. I had the summer to figure out where I needed to be and what the next step to get there was.

Online school is very different. We have been practicing our mad skills for the last year on each other and honestly anyone who would sit still long enough. We have all of the tools to run out of the box programs; flyers, notes, handouts and all. I even have a fee schedule mapped out. I know how to present myself as a coach.

What I don’t have this time around is the personal introductions that carry the weight of another person’s sense of you. I have to figure out how to present myself, introduce myself. Cold call to a certain extent.

So, again, now what?

My dilemma is that I really don’t want to do one-on-one coaching. It’s the one thing I really learned about myself while I was working my way through this program. I like to teach. The curriculum didn’t really get into so much about how to present oneself as an educator.

I had fallen into the trap of believing that all teachers need to hold advanced degrees in order to be taken seriously. That if I were to be working with the public, I needed a Master’s degree of some sort. I have since come to the conclusion that my fear of success is speaking. That if I just get another degree, then I’ll be ready and credentialed enough to teach.

I am not going to get another degree. I don’t need one. What I need is a way to present my current certifications and credentials clearly and concisely in a way that makes sense. My degrees and certifications are in such wide ranging fields, I need a way to tie them all together.

So,now what?

I began reading every flyer posted in our library, community center, super market and fitness center to see who is offering what kinds of classes. What are they charging? Where are they hosting their classes? What kinds of classes are being held at what locations?

I spoke to the desk staff at the businesses, often times with flyer in had saying, “I’d like to offer my class in your location using this same kind of structure of days, times and fees. How do I go about setting that up with your organization?” The range of answers has been eye opening.

I asked what kinds of teachers and educators use the spaces that are available in our community. I was sure to ask what kinds of classes people have been asking for that are not currently being offered.

In my travels both around town and around the internet, I have been collecting flyers and trifolds that I like or not, so I have some examples to work with as I design my own informational materials. Some of the most interesting pieces of text on them are the short biographies the educators write.

You know, the blurb about the presenter, or blogger, or lecturer, at the bottom back cover of the trifold flyer. That little paragraph in the about me tab.  The best ones are part curriculum vitae, part life story, and part personal philosophy. I really feel like a good one gives me a sense of not only the person’s identity as they see themselves, but also of their voice. I have come to believe that a well written introductory biography is essential.

So, now what?

Since writing a short introductory biography is part of the assignments for the meditation certification I am almost finished with anyway, this seemed like a good place to start my search to condense and solidify what I do and who I am.

As I work my way through the few classes and workshops I have on the calendar already, I will also be honing this little, about me paragraph. I have so much that I like to teach, it is hard not to become overwhelming to a reader.

So, now, this is what.

Now, I take every opportunity to teach something to someone that falls in line with what I love. I will have flop days, I will have days where no one shows up. Every teaching opportunity will bring another chance to work out the right words to describe how I can touch your life and gift you with a new view of yourself.  I am not the sum of my certificates plus my degrees. I am an educator with lots of interesting ideas to bat around together.

Embrace the Monday

By Jenna Moede

I love Mondays.

Wait! Don’t quit reading just yet though. Stick with me.

I used to jump on the anti-Monday bandwagon, and I’ve seen the memes and heard my friends complain because, I know, I know, no one likes a Monday.

But, imagine enjoying a Monday, or two Mondays or EVERY Monday.

It worked for me. Let me explain.

I love Mondays now because they represent a new week. Monday feels like a do-over to me. I know Sunday really begins the next week, but honestly, Monday always feels like the first day of a new week to me.

Each new week, I know that I can’t change anything that happened the previous week so I don’t dwell on it. I let the past go and start with a clean slate.

I look at Monday as a wonderful opportunity to fix the mistakes I made the prior week, alter my routine to better fit my needs, and start fresh with the people I care about.

The feeling of starting over each week makes me feel so happy.

That leads me into another reason I love Mondays. I go into Mondays completely caught up on chores, work and school because I play catch-up on Sunday. That means that Monday brings an organized life and a stocked fridge.  

I dread grocery shopping so much that sometimes some eggs sit alone in fridge, so on the weekends, I usually, finally and desperately stock my shelves. Before I do, my meals at the end of the week look like something out of Willy Wonka. Chicken alfredo with a side of licorice anyone?  

But, I digress. At the end of the day, I know I can’t beat the feeling I have when I have organized and finished all the “to-dos.”

Lastly, I enjoy Mondays because a whole clean new week means a whole set of new opportunities. I know every week brings a new set of challenges, but I really enjoy a challenge.

Like the time I played BINGO in a college class without any chips for the O’s and had no idea until no one had BINGO for about 30 minutes.

But really I do enjoy pushing myself to achieve all that I can, try activities that scare me and go so far out of my comfort zone I can’t see it anymore.

I see Monday as the prime day to promise to do all of those things. I can forget any previous failures and start from the ground up again.

Likewise, I can continue building on success I’ve had previously too. 

Monday doesn’t always have to mean starting over. Every Monday, start thinking creatively about how to make a good project, assignment, business or routine better. Don’t hold back!

So if you want to really enjoy every Monday you wake up to, try to start with a good attitude. I know from experience that it’s awfully hard to come back from a cranky Monday attitude coupled with spilling coffee on your work clothes and forgetting it’s garbage day so don’t let it start out that way for you.

Let the bad roll of your back and embrace the good. Make someone else’s day better by your cheery mood. We all know a person who could use a laugh on a Monday or just a smile, so try to do that for someone you know. Not only will it help them, but you’ll feel happier too.

Never feel discouraged on Sunday night because you have to go back to the grindstone, push yourself to learn and accomplish all that you can, face your fears and set out confidently as the best version of yourself.

I’ve heard that if you can change your attitude, you can change your life. I think that even if you don’t dislike Monday’s, you can probably do something to make them even better. I challenge myself to that every single week, and I can honestly say my life has changed.

Overcome First Week Jitters

By Jenna Moede

Have you ever felt like a lost wanderer? Trust me, I’m waving my arms wildly over here. I totally felt that way not during the admission process but during the first overwhelming classes of my online college career. 

Finding a good groove in my online classes took a while for me, but through some trial and error, I figured out how to calm my jitters as each new semester started and feel prepared to take on my classes.

First, check your email. After you enroll in your classes check weekly, if not more often, to make sure you don’t miss any important deadlines, course material changes or tips and tricks from professors. 

I’ve had emails about each of those show up in my inbox, and after my trouble with financial check in, I learned my lesson about the importance of school email.

Once I even had a professor who sent us a list of helpful hints from prior students for mastering the class content, but a group member of mine had no idea until the end of the class because he never checked his email.

Learn from his mistake (and mine) and check for those types of little gems, and other important class information, regularly in your inbox. 

You should now have access to your class syllabus and course breakdown too. These could come via email or you may have to locate them on your class platform, but read them both.  

I barely glanced at a syllabus when I studied on campus but with classes online, the syllabus is non-optional.

You will discover so much valuable information including the expected class conduct, participation and policies like late submissions and missed deadlines.

The syllabus will likely contain the grading scale too. Your professors may use similar or university mandated scales, but starting the semester knowing the scale will help you set your goals.   

You should also locate your professor’s office hours. Knowing when he or she has time available comes in handy when you end up in a bind. It seems to happen to everyone at some point.

Next, you should take an in depth look at the course breakdown. My professors included major assignments and deadlines at the beginning of each semester along with the types of assignments to expect.

I always keep a personal planner so I copied the deadlines into my planner and wrote reminders a week early for each assignment. If I had more than one class, I typically color-coded in my planner so I could easily identify which class the assignment belonged to.

I had professors who added smaller assignments along the way but my coded planner made it a lot easier for me to recognize due dates quickly. I also could plan early for weeks that had important overlapping deadlines between classes.

After all of that, I usually put the course breakdown on the bulletin board near my desk so I could see assignments coming up at a glance.

You might think you’re set now, but don’t forget to check your equipment and materials before you barrel in. Make sure you have a strong internet connection, all the office supplies you will need, a notebook, and your required class materials.

Online classes depend completely on reliable equipment. 

I found out the first week of one semester that I had a keyboard that wouldn’t type the letter “A”, and it did not make me a happy student. I swear the keyboard had no problems the week before but I didn’t make sure. Hopefully save yourself the annoyance by checking.

As far as materials, double check on the syllabus that you have everything required, and remember the professor may add a new book or website login at the last second.

Okay now start your first week!

Complete any first week work like introduction posts and acknowledgements of the course conduct.

Check due dates carefully! The deadlines the can differ from standard weeks during the first and last weeks of a class!

If you fail to do one of the required items the first week, depending on school policy, the professor could drop you from the class. On the other hand, you could end up with a miserable grade at the end of the class too if you fail to submit a final project or exam.

I didn’t figure out the deadline issue until my second semester. At the end of my first online class, I surprisingly discovered that the last week of classes had an early deadline. I had a mess to clean up for one of my final projects.

To avoid any pitfalls or mistakes like that your first week, keep these steps in mind and start paving your way through the semester. Good luck!  

Transcripts, Books and AP Credits – Oh My!

By Jenna Moede

Can you believe this!? We have finally covered everything from applying to college to starting you first classes, but we have just a few more topics to chat about.

Prepare these final steps so you can press on into your real and exciting college career.

First, make sure you take the time to submit your transcripts. Likely, your university will not allow you to start classes without doing this.

Sometimes you will have to pay a small fee for transcripts, but you can have them sent to several schools, and they usually arrive at those schools quickly.

Remember that some colleges will want high school and college transcripts if you have some postsecondary education.

High school made it easy to send my transcripts because they sent out a letter with the steps and the website, but after high school you might have to track these items down.

If you know your transcripts exist out there somewhere, but could never begin to find them, try a few phone class or emails. I recently needed a copy of my husband’s high school transcripts. I called his high school and they happily told me the website and all the information I needed. Easy and quick!

When I transferred schools, I needed to send my college transcripts to my new university. If you find yourself in the same boat look on your current university’s website and it should have a place for you to request transcripts.

If you can’t find anything online, call the registrar’s office. They will walk you through the steps.

To avoid potential problems, request your transcripts as soon as possible. Ideally, right after you’ve committed to a school.

Next topic, books. Every university handles books in a unique way but don’t wait on this either. Books may take a while to ship to you, and you will fight an uphill battle if you start classes without them.

I had a class start with the book on backorder, and the first test required me to share a friend’s book. She, luckily, had bought the book off an upperclassman. Needless to say, I’ve experienced more ideal situations.

While studying on campus, I bought all my books at the bookstore. My online university shipped my books with a prepaid return label or offered an e-book.

You can sell your books back after each semester, but don’t expect a huge return. One semester I truly made more money returning cans at the local grocery store. I couldn’t believe it!

Even though some of my books cost a lot and I didn’t sell them back for the same amount I paid, I really couldn’t have made it through college without them. I even kept a couple!

Don’t let the prices intimidate you into thinking you can skate by without them.

Lastly, to all of my Advanced Placement (AP) class takers out there and everyone else who has earned college credits through testing, I didn’t forgot about you!

I had AP credits that I needed to apply to my education too, and I bebopped around online until I figured out what to do. Let me help save you the hassle and time of searching.

First, find out if your university accepts AP credits or whatever type of credits you may have. A quick website search should turn up that information for you.

From there try to locate a place online to submit the scores for review. If you can’t find a spot, contact the admission office. They will supply the necessary information or direct you to a better suited office to help you receive the credits you have earned on those tough high school classes.

So now, congratulations! You have finally finished, but make a big bold note that your university may have additional requirements so still check your email regularly!

Now, after all your hard work applying and registering, you can finally begin. Remember to start off right so you can ace your first semester.

Military Family Services May be Slow to Re-Hire After Freeze

Despite an end to the federal hiring freeze earlier this month, services for military families may remain in limbo, and even suspended.

When the federal government placed a freeze on all federal hiring in late January, the Department of Defense was allowed to hire only new military members to send to individual service boot camps.

Military family facilities such as MWR and on-post daycares were left with staffing shortages. At least eight bases around the world cut some child care services hours as a result. AAFES officials also said they have cut hours and closed some locations.

The freeze was lifted two weeks ago but change will not be swift.

Military officials said the process of hiring an individual, especially for child care positions, normal takes about 120 days. Applicants must undergo thorough background checks and that takes time. The hiring freeze didn’t necessarily cause the shortage, but delayed the process even longer, meaning unfilled positions remained, and still remain in many places

A report from military.com says some branches were able to apply, and receive hiring exemptions. The Army, for example the website reports, had approved 5,083 hiring exemptions for civilian positions in child care centers, fire and emergency services, police, security guards and air traffic control.

And a lift to the hiring freeze does not mean all positions will be filled.  White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney announced a hiring policy change last week.

NPR reported, "this does not mean agencies will be free to hire willy-nilly," Mulvaney said. The director said hiring will be done with a strategic plan. Some agencies will hire more employees and others will lose positions.

Want to know what jobs are open at your base? Visit www.usajobs.gov

Pancake Zen

Pancake Zen. Yes, it’s a thing. Or it is now because I am going to make it a thing. I am going to teach Pancake Zen. It is going to be my intro to meditation through food class. I just came up with it this morning, while making breakfast. This blog is going to touch on two seemingly different topics but I promise that they are really speaking to the same theme. Those two are meditation practice and creating the space in your business for creative process.

I am days away from graduation from my intensive year-long programs. I have been working really hard toward this goal of completing this step. I have been so focused on this date, this end, that I sort of lost sight of the fact that this end is also a beginning. I realized this last week when someone asked when my first real class opens because she wants to sign up for it. I didn’t have an answer.

Thus began a week of bouts of frantic research into what graduate school has a program that meets my state’s online accreditation requirements, peppered with moments of sheer panic at the possible necessity self-employment, altered with deep drops into the universal Pandora’s Box of entrepreneurial possibilities. Frankly, I was a mess.

In my research for follow-on graduate studies I discovered that the program I had intended on using to get my Masters doesn’t accept students from my state for distance learning conferred degrees. In English that means, New York’s Board of Education won’t certify the online degree from the school in Maryland. Which means that I have to either find a school in New York that will accept my certificate credits, or I have to figure out how to spend one weekend a month for the next eighteen months in Maryland.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Maryland. I have lots of terrific friends in Maryland who I would love to hang out with once a month. I even have an RV I could travel and live in for the weekends away. But that doesn’t solve the ten thousand other minor details about this plan.

I had three very interesting prospective jobs come up this week, two of which are not going to pan out for me right now. The one prospect that does want me isn’t really the best option for me either and I think I am going to have to rescind my application. It was a disappointment to be on the verge of something then to realize it wasn’t the right fit.

I had more success working on my long-term options over the week. I was able to connect in person again with a few people who work for the organizations I think I want to focus my efforts on. I discovered a few new opportunities I can volunteer with that will keep me active and in front of these folks doing what I want to be doing with them professionally. These meetings, though late in the day and often after a long day, already had me more energized than any of the paying job interviews I went on.

It was a hectic and emotional week. So when the last job called to cancel yesterday I took it as a sign that it was time to hang it up for a bit and let someone else steer. I let the kids stay up late to watch a silly show while I spent a bit of time journaling about disappointments and missed opportunities.

I spent a bit of time thinking hard about what it is that I really want to do. I thought, “Self, you teach meditation and flow and how to change your stars. So, it’s time you practice what you preach.” I went to bed with the intention to listen to what came up for me today.

I took the time to set my intention for space. I set up my mind to allow creativity to flow. I allowed myself the right to see grand possibilities in mundane things.

Now my work involves food, nutrition (not the same thing as food), and meditation. When I started to cook breakfast, I found myself in a state of zen meditation, while cooking pancakes. Who says you can’t meditate about pancakes. A very wise teacher told me recently if you can’t meditate, be meditative. What the what, you ask? If you are having a hard time focusing your mind on what you want it to meditate on, try focusing on what your mind wants to meditate on. Thus was born Pancake Zen.

Pancake Zen. Watch the bubbles, listen to the sizzle, smell the burn, feel the flame, taste the success. When cooking pancakes you have the opportunity to be aware of the sight of the bubbles rising in the batter, forming perfect little circular stream vents. The smell of the caramelizing batter as it cooks becomes a soothing aromatherapy. One can be mindful of the heat of the flame as it rushes energy into the pan. And of course there is the ultimate taste of success. There are layers of meaning to delve into here. Both on a culinary, and meditative level.

Your work may involve accounts payables. So how do you find space for creative zen practice in something as exacting as actuarial accounting? I can think of a myriad of ways. Do you find a rhythm for your fingers on the keys when adding long strings of numbers? Does the computer heat up and produce a specific smell when you really get crunching those ledgers? Perhaps those senses can lead you to find those missed keystrokes leading to the missing pennies. Use your five senses to help lead you to the solution. Allow that space in your subconscious to exist for long enough that you can get out of your own way. The solutions are there, they just need space and quiet to be sensed.

So in my space of peace and quiet, after allowing the chaos to be set aside, I found my class. I know what I can offer that will be fun, teach both meditation and basic culinary skills, and be easily accessible to a wide audience. Because who doesn’t like pancakes? So I challenge you – what is your Pancake Zen?

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