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Grandmothers swatting flies

I’m trying to get some work done here. Really I am.  And this damn fly just won’t leave me alone.  There’s a whole huge screened-in back porch here, and he just won’t stop flying next to me, literally, right in my face.

I don’t want to or have to kill him. I mean, I could.  It’s a skill that I learned from my father, how to kill flies by clapping your hands just above where they are going to fly, unsuspecting, upwards.  I can get them almost every time.

They get a little too friendly, these flies, late in the season. Their flight slows down, they get too close, a bit sluggish.  This one is just a small one, not too old, but geez louise, couldya find another place to land other than on the rim of my drink?

I realize, sitting here on the back porch of my lovely country house, how tolerant I used to be of these flies. On the farm I grew up on there were thousands of them.  We’d buy those sticky tapes up from the feed store, and then pull them slowly out of their casing, pristine in their stickiness in that moment, as they swirled out in completeness, a morbid imitation of curling ribbon.  The trick was to hang them without getting them close to your hands or clothing, where they would invariably grab on and suspend long, gross, hard-to-clean strings of stickiness between your fingers and the plastic coated ribbon.  We’d hang them up in the barn and flies would gravitate toward them, alighting into the syrupy ooze, buzzing and buzzing their wings in complete futility, stuck in place, until they became black dots of death.

One time we put one up in the kitchen, hung it from the chain that suspended the chandelier. There there weren’t as many flies in the house as in the barn but they were still an annoyance, landing on food we were preparing or plates we had put out for supper.  That curling mass of black dots stayed through the whole winter, no one willing or interested or noticing enough to climb up on the kitchen table or get the ladder to take it down.  After a while the traps lost their effectiveness, the stickiness drying to a solid clear caramel that flies or other insects could land on with indifference.  In our eyes it had blended with the brass color of the chandelier chain and the wire that snaked through it.  When it was finally removed, it left small dots of never-to-be-cleaned tacky dirt where it had touched the chain.

My Italian grandmother Rose (Nana to us) was a fastidious person who came often to visit us. She must have felt slightly out of place in that huge house that was never-completely-clean-nor-could-it-be.  She focused her presence and energy in the kitchen, where she would cook feasts that would be eaten around our round wooden table by my mother, sisters and myself, and anyone else – cousin, farm hand, friend, neighbor, father – who showed up.  I’m sure she went outside and maybe even to the barn but I never remember her anywhere else but in that kitchen, one hand on the counter next to the stove as she oversaw what was happening there.

The rest of us passed in and out of the kitchen in a flow of banging screen doors, coming in for reasons as varied as needing to use the one bathroom in the house, to getting a screwdriver, to yelling at someone to “come outside because we need you in the barn” to help with fill-in-the-blank. I often saw a fly swatter in Nana’s other hand, readied for a battle she could never completely win.  Bam! The swatter would come down decisively on the countertop, as certain and precise as the swat she would give you if you stepped out of line, no mercy, just this-is-the-way-it-is.  The dead fly would lie motionless and she would scoop it up with the swatter and dump it into the open lidded trash that stood next to the refrigerator, under the wall phone.  And then bam! again, then perhaps a soft under tone of irritation if she missed.  The supply of flies was never ending, of course.  Every swing of the screen door would invite more in, and draw forth words of admonition from her if you left it open too long.

At dinner one night I remember she particularly elicited notice from us for the job she’d done in reducing the number of flies in the kitchen. I experienced it as a moment of glory for her – she had conquered the unsurmountable challenge, and made our summer dinner into a magical moment of pest-free dining.  At least for one night she had brought our living experience into one which more closely matched what she wished for us.

It wasn’t just a fly-free life that she wished for us, of course. The flies just represented one aspect of the chaos that we faced on a daily basis.  It was just the one part she could impact in this moment, right now.  Sometimes it’s the small things in life that make the biggest difference to us.

Sitting here, in my screened-in back porch, remembering her, and my mother, and the farm, and those moments from the past never to be reclaimed, the fly buzzes around my head and irritates me. Finally it lands again on my drink and I slowly carry it to the door I have left open so that it could find freedom for itself.  I have to shake it off to get to moving, but move it does, flying away and then back again, stirring me to jump back inside and slam the screen door shut.  “Out, stay out!” I shout at it, as if that would make a difference. Luckily I have kept it at bay. Relieved, I sit down to begin my work again, just as another fly buzzes into the room.

Join Liz Wolfe at her upcoming live one-day event “Path to Prosperity LIVE!” on Oct. 27, 2016 to get clear on what will make the biggest difference for you on your journey to abundance, wealth, and good living. 

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Are there alligators in your way?

Last month I went to a stimulating business conference in Orlando.  Surprisingly, the most memorable learning experience for me came out of a nature walk I took on the hotel grounds.

I discovered the hotel had a nature trail on its extensive grounds when I first arrived.  Getting to the path seemed straightforward enough on the hotel’s map, so I decided to walk it the next morning as a way to start my day.  I imagined that I would get fresh air and exercise while enjoying nature and becoming grounded.  With this clear vision in mind, I ventured out into the chilly Florida morning.

Not quite sure where to go, I asked a man who worked there how to get to the trail.  I was taken aback when he said, “Well, we don’t recommend that you walk there, because there are alligators and snakes.”  Immediately doubt set in.  Should I still go?  I sure didn’t fancy meeting up with an alligator.  Suddenly the vision of my walk turned from being filled with peace and joy to fighting a losing battle with a creature whose jaw was longer than my body.

I decided to continue anyway, albeit with some trepidation.  Almost 45 minutes later, I still couldn’t find the entrance to the trail.  Completely frustrated, I returned to my room.

The next morning I was determined to try again.  At least I knew where the trail wasn’t.  After asking for more help, I finally found it. warning

The first thing I saw on the trail was a sign warning me about the alligators.  As I walked the wide grassy path I looked around me, doing my best to be present to the beauty that was there, but keeping my eye out for any suspicious movement.  Other fears crept into my thoughts.  I was the only one on the trail in a secluded area, and I felt vulnerable.  My critical mind chimed in too — the trail was too close to a highway; I wasn’t getting real “exercise”; the promised mile markers weren’t visible.

Suddenly I spotted something long and brown on the side of the path.  Aack!  Could it be?  Heart pounding, I started to back away, and then I realized it was just a pipe. That’s when I came to my senses, reasoning, “Hey, it’s 45 degrees out here.  No cold-blooded animal is moving around right now!”  I had totally overblown my fears about something that wasn’t even possible.

Thinking about this, I came to a beautiful body of water.  As I stood there trying to focus on being present to my current experience, I saw a huge bird fly up right in front of me.  I had been so engrossed in my thoughts that I hadn’t even seen it standing there.

New moment.  I took in a deep breath, and stretched out my arms in a gesture of receiving the beauty before me.  My very next thought was, “What if someone sees me?  This looks weird.”

As I went back to the hotel, I realized how this walk was a perfect metaphor for how many of us approach our goals:

  • We start with a clear vision of what we want.  Then someone comes along and plants fears into our head, which can stop us in our tracks.  While the intention of the man from the hotel was to keep me safe, if I had listened to him, I wouldn’t have gone on the walk at all.
  • Very often, our first (and second, and third) attempts do fail. We need to keep going, and, to ask for help. That first morning, I couldn’t find the trail.  I could easily have stayed inside the next morning and not tried again.  However, I did try again. And, my second attempt only succeeded because I asked for help.
  • We can misconstrue what’s really happening because of what we FEAR is happening. Along my journey, I was distracted from being present to the beauty around me because I was literally looking for those things that I feared.  When I spotted that brown pipe, my heart was pumping as hard as it would have if I had seen a real alligator, because I thought it WAS real.
  • The fear of judgment and rejection can alter our behavior.  I allowed my fear of judgment to sully my experience of abundance and beauty in the moment that I stretched out my arms.  The ironic part is that there wasn’t even anyone there to judge me!  Yet I acted exactly as though there was.

natureWhat started as a simple walk in nature turned into a rich opportunity to observe myself and see how easily I let minor obstacles deter me from creating an abundant life.

So here’s a question for you: Where in your life do you let those challenges — real and imagined — keep you from living your best and most joyous life?

Join me at my next Abundance and Prosperity workshop on March 11 – 13, 2016, a mind-blowing breakthrough experience where you will sever your deep-rooted connections to scarcity and emerge with freedom and passion to create the abundance that you dream of for yourself and the world.  We talk about how to create wealth, learn the most effective ways to ask for what you want, how giving wholeheartedly expands your experience of abundance, and why receiving is an important aspect of manifesting that is often overlooked.  Click here for more information and to register.

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3 tips for getting everything you want this holiday season (and in life)

My mother used to tell a story about a Christmas morning early in her marriage to my father.  She had her eye on a certain camelhair coat displayed at a department store.  Her anticipation grew as Christmas drew near because a box appeared under the tree that was exactly the right size for the coat.  She described how she reserved opening that particular present for last. Finally, she tore off the paper, opened the box, and… it was a toilet seat cover! Even telling the story decades later her face would contort in an expression of disappointment and resentment.  It was meant as a practical joke by my father, but it fell flat, and he still rues the day he bought it.

Tip #1 – Ask for what you want – specifically!
I can’t say for sure that my mom didn’t ask for that coat directly, but I do know that he didn’t buy it and it didn’t end up under the tree.  I’m guessing she had an assumption that he would know what she wanted, and get it for her.  The number one mistake we make when we want something is not asking for it specifically!  I get exactly what I want for my birthday and during the holidays.  Why?  I not only tell my husband what I want, but I find it online and then send a link to him with a note saying “This is what I want.”  We both end up happy – me because I got what I wanted, and him because there’s no pressure for him to figure it out on his own, risking disappointment.

Tip #2 – Ask for what you want, not what you don’t want
When I was younger, people often gave me clothes as gifts.  It was a perfectly reasonable gift to give, but it really rankled me.  I was very particular about what I wore, and I disliked feeling obligated to wear something I didn’t like.  I complained about it, saying things like, “I wish people wouldn’t get me clothes.” or “You can get me anything except I don’t want clothes!”  Guess what the universe heard over and over?  Clothes, clothes, clothes!  No wonder people were always getting them for me.  As the saying goes, what you resist, persists.  Instead, ask for what you DO want!

Tip #3 – To have what you want, want what you have
At a company holiday gift exchange, my husband once received a compact floor heater.  I thought that was just about the dopiest gift you could ever give at a company gift exchange.  Rather ungraciously, I remember poking fun of it at the time.  Guess who ended up using that heater more than anyone else?  Yep, me!  In fact, I used it so much that I literally burned it out.  Part of experiencing the abundance of having what you want is wanting what you have.  As Deepak Chopra said, “We never need to seek abundance.  We simply need to notice and open up to what’s already there and allow the bounty of the universe to flow through us.”  So be open to receiving what is coming your way.  It may not be exactly as you imagined it would be, but if you practice receiving it gratefully and graciously, you might be surprised at how the gift becomes exactly what you want.  And if it doesn’t, well, it’s perfectly OK to let it go.

The media bombards us with images of happy children gleefully opening presents on Christmas morning and men standing with blue Tiffany boxes behind their backs beside beautiful and unsuspecting women.  These images imply that the joy of giving and receiving is in the surprise.  Hogwash, I say.  The greatest joy in getting what you want, is getting what you want.

When you know how to ask powerfully, you can stop wasting your time and stop putting your energy into things that just don’t work.   Instead you can have the money, time, and resources to create what you want.  Download my free ebook, “The Power of Asking”, to learn more!


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Who cares if they don’t like my singing?

Recently I threw my husband a 50th birthday party and when it came time to sing Happy Birthday I was encouraged to say a few words. I laughed and said, “I’ll bet you never imagined growing up that the word “ukulele” would figure so prominently in your life!”

Then again, I never imagined that either, until three years ago when I picked it up for the first time. Now playing the ukulele has become an almost daily occurrence. I regularly go busking in Central Park as part of the duo Ukulicious and played at the Morgan Library last spring with my bluegrass group the Westside Irregulars (a paid gig!). And now I’m broadcasting “Your Guide to Love, Life, and the Ukulele” on Periscope, saying a few words on a theme of the day and singing a song for all the world to hear. (You can see some examples on this youtube playlist.)

At one time in my life, I wanted to be a singer and dancer like Madonna. Now, playing music is a way for me to create community and express myself joyfully. (And I love performing!) And yet, sometimes, playing on Periscope, I feel vulnerable in the face of judgment. People can be snarky, even hostile. I notice myself being more reluctant to share myself or stuttering as I watch the comments come in.

But what does that have to do with me? They’re just words on a screen. I read them, and make up my own story about them – about the person, or about myself. This is what we do as human beings. People open their mouths and sounds come out, we hear them and then we interpret them. “Uh-oh,” I think, “Am I not singing well enough? Are people bored? Do they not like this? How can I make it better?” instead of just saying, “Hey, if they want to listen, great, and if they don’t, that’s ok too. I’m doing the best I can in this moment. Who cares if they don’t like my singing?  I’m still going to sing and have fun.”

Whatever it is you are working towards – living the good life, creating wealth, having a successful relationship, enjoying a fulfilling career – ask yourself, how often in life do you avoid expressing yourself joyfully because of your fear of other people’s judgment?  Liz Wolfe is a breakthrough coach in New York City who has been helping people create a richer life for 20 years.  Sign up for a free 30-minute breakthrough coaching session with her here.

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Lambs in the basement: a winter flashback

A hot cup of coffee.   Crispy, almost burnt toast.  An uncomfortable sense that I’m already behind in my day.  The only thing missing in this flashback to my childhood is the sound of bleating lambs coming from the basement, awaiting their breakfast.  I half expect my mother to turn the corner into the room, berating me for still lingering at the table instead of mixing up their vanilla-smelling milk concoction, made from powered Real Imitation Milk. Continue reading

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The Anti-New Year’s Resolution: Systems, not Goals

I love that freshly-washed feeling of the turn of a new year.  It could just be the fact that I get more sleep in the 10 days between Christmas and New Year’s because the kids are off from school, but I seem to have more energy and impetus to clear away things I’ve been tolerating, and similar to many people take the opportunity to look ahead to what’s next. Continue reading

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A post-election-day-candy-bar conundrum

I woke up yesterday angry at America. Angry at the world! And angry at my kids. Someone ate the Reese’s peanut butter cup right off my dresser, the one that I’d been saving, the one, truth be told, I took without asking right out of my son’s Halloween candy stash. Found the wrappers in the trash can, right within view, no hiding that. When confronted, neither my son nor daughter admitted to having eaten it. Could my husband, who is out of town, have eaten it? Nope, he texts me. Back to the kids. My son did his “I’m lying but pretending not to be” shrug, twice, and I shrugged it right back at him. He also claimed to have completed all his homework on Election Day – back to that in a minute – on his day off. Nope. Lying again. I looked straight at him and said, “I don’t understand why saying you didn’t eat a candy bar that I know you ate is worth defending.” At no point, however, did I admit that I had taken it right from the stash strewn over his floor. So that technically it was his. I was waiting for him to admit it first. Which being 13 he was not likely to do. Continue reading