Hello, My Name is Marci Wise and I’m a Recovering Perfectionist. Are You?

Okay, I’ve finally admitted that I have a problem. For the last thirty-five years, this affliction has managed to call all the shots, suck a good portion of the joy out of my life, and attempt to halt my personal growth in its tracks. It’s the desire to be perfect – at everything.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t created this false exterior of flowing gowns, candlelight and pretty pictures.  Instead, I’ve just sort of played it safe.Pictograms of Olympic sports - Tennis

Recently, in a desire to shake the perfection monkey off my back, I’ve started taking tennis lessons. Tennis was something that I loved as a kid, but I never felt good enough to play with other people (you can never win playing against the wall) so I just let the hobby slide away into oblivion. No more.  I began lessons six weeks ago, and while I love it, I must admit that I’m a bit ashamed of my behavior. I’ve turned into the John McEnroe of the Rec Center. With each missed shot I growl and utter mumbled curse words with each sigh of exasperation. I’m overly competitive, with myself and everyone around me. What is it that makes me run in for the smash every chance I get? And I live in a retirement community!  I’m sending 90 mph rockets across the nets toward people who’ve just had a knee replacement!  And not in a game, in warm-up!  Yet, I just can’t seem to help myself.

If you’ll allow me to lie down on the couch here, I’ll tell you how I think all this started.  I was raised by a tough, no-nonsense Italian father. While he just wanted the best for us, God rest his soul in heaven, he imparted this wisdom by saying “Don’t be Stupid.” It was a loving refrain we kids heard quite a lot.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t harbor any resentment towards Tough Love?my dad for it – I know his attentions were good.  That’s just who he was.  He had a kind heart – but a rough delivery.  I remember the time he rescued small kitten that had become separated from its mother.  He called me, all warm and fuzzy feeling, to tell me about it.  “Oh you should see this cute little thing,” he said.  “It’s so small it didn’t even know how to drink – so I pushed its head into the milk until it got it.”  And so it was.  Although it was tough love – it was love just the same– and in a desire to please my dad, I guess I developed a phobia of looking stupid.  When you think about it, that’s a real growth killer.

But with age, comes wisdom – and now that I can see the pattern, I can change it, right? I recently heard a spiritual-type quote that really resonated with me, “You’re a human BE-ing, not a human DO-ing.” Hum, that’s deep.  It means that our identity and worth are not tied up in the things that we manage to accomplish each day, but instead simply by virtue of being human.  By that account, it’s okay to be “stupid” occasionally because imperfection enables the necessary steps toward mastery.  Without giving ourselves that luxury we’re trapped in the present – separated from all the great things we might become.

So here I am, with a new revelation at work in my life. Today I will allow myself to make mistakes – to be stupid. I just hope the old people will be able to get out of the way.

Copyright © 2012 marciwise.com. Material is copyrighted but free to repost as long as proper credit is listed, including our website address. Marci Wise is the author of Pain, Passion & Purpose. “Like” us on Facebook.

In Search of our Ancestors: Part Two – Tips for Tracing your Roots for FREE!

Who are you, really?  While I’m sure you can rattle off a long list of accomplishments in order to define yourself, I want you to dig just a little bit deeper. What traits and talents run through your blood-line?  What similarities do you share with your parents or grandparents? Height, weight and eye-color aren’t the only things you may have in common. Tracing your roots takes you on a wild ride to some unexpected places. Through my own search I’ve discovered the fascinating – one of my great grandfathers took part in the Underground Railroad; the weird – one stowed away on a ship to America hidden in a pickle barrel; and the unbelievable – both my father and my grandfather died on their 68th birthdays. Besides giving me some great stories to tell, researching my ancestry has added to my life in a variety of ways, and so far, it hasn’t cost me a penny! Here are some helpful hints to help you get started for free!

Create a Family Tree Online:

Ancestry.com (Photo credit: LollyKnit)

Begin by setting up a database on one of the online genealogy websites. This will help you keep track of the information you discover. Both ancestry.com and genealogy.com allow you to set-up a family tree at no cost.  Start by adding in the names and birth dates of all the family members you can remember. I set up my own tree just concentrating strictly on grandparents because it was too overwhelming to include aunts, uncles and cousins; but if you don’t mind swimming in a sea of information, then by all means, include everyone. The more people you have, the more interesting stories you’ll have to tell!

Become an Archeologist, of sorts:

Once you have the basic information down, it’s time to dig deeper. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers an amazing resource at familysearch.org. Put the names and birth dates of the family members you already know into their search engine and many times it will reveal their parent’s names and birth dates. Once you get on the right thread of information, you’ll be amazed at how far back you can go. I’ve been able to trace my mother’s family all the way back to the 1500’s!

Another good tool is rootsweb.com. It offers a multitude of resources. You can access databases from around the world, and if you live in the United States, you can even narrow your search down to the exact county your ancestors resided in! Birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, military, court and property records can all provide you with a wealth of information. You’ll be amazed at the treasures you’ll unearth.

Find Photos:

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and sometimes you can track down old family photos on the web. It’s a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack, but the payoff is big when you do find one. Photo sites like deadfred.com can be very helpful. There’s a strange satisfaction in looking at a photo of your great-grandmother only to realize that her eyes are the same as yours! The more prominent your ancestor, the more likely it will be that there’s a picture floating around out there somewhere.

Become a Prospector, of sorts:  

This is where the real gold can be found. While your ancestor may be long gone, many times the old stories about them are still alive and well. These accounts help you to gain insight into your ancestor’s own unique personalities and life histories. The best way to find this information is on the message boards. Remember, people all over the world are searching for their ancestors too, so the message boards offer you the chance collaborate, compare information, and make some new friends along the way. All the major genealogy sites have message boards, including ancestry.com and genealogy.com. Just be sure to try to verify the information you receive – double check that all the dates coincide with your own research and, if possible, confirm stories from several sources. This is my favorite part because it brings the names and dates from your database to life – and you realize that these were real people, with successes and failures, love and heartbreak – just like you.

Think Bigger

Finally, with more and more people creating their own websites, you can use a regular search engine to do a search of family name websites. Put in the “Smith Family” and see what pops up. Sometimes someone else has already done the leg-work for you and all you have to do is discover their tree! I recommend doing this only after you’ve already done your own research – then you can use the information in your own database to validate the connections and check for accuracy.

Genealogy is a fun and productive way to spend your time – but it’s also more than that.  It allows us to see the world in a larger perspective, reach outside of our own circumstances, and know ourselves in a deeper and more personal way. Our people have lived through wars, widespread disease and recessions – and they still managed to survive – and so can we.  It’s a strong message that empowers us.  And you can begin your own journey for free right now.  Check it out and then please come back to this post and share your findings! We can’t to find out what you’ve discovered!

Copyright © 2012 marciwise.com. Material is copyrighted but free to repost as long as proper credit is listed, including our website address. Marci Wise is the author of Pain, Passion & Purpose. “Like” us on Facebook.

In Search of our Ancestors: Part One

So there you are, randomly searching the internet, scanning the blogs and checking your Facebook page for the seventeenth time. The most exciting thing to happen to you this week was when the bug-man clued you in on the new species of Mediterranean Engraver Beetle that’s been striking fear into the hearts of your neighbors. Well, fear not my bored little friend, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting!

What if I told you that you come from a long line of rebels? What if you found out one of your ancestors escaped a death sentence for a revolution scheme gone wrong, or that another had been an indentured servant until the age of sixteen? Interesting stuff, huh? These are just a few of the surprising facts I found when researching my own family history. Somehow these amazing stories had fallen away with the sands of time. (How does that happen?!) On the bright side, rediscovering them is an adventure in the making. These stories are the equivalent of buried treasure and you are one of the only people to have a map. All you have to do is a little detective work and start digging. It’s easy and it’s fun! Here are some of the “jewels” you’re guaranteed to find once you begin your search:

You become a hero to your family

One of the biggest gifts genealogy has to offer is giving you a renewed sense of connection with those in your current family tree. It’s a wonderful feeling to return this lost information to its rightful heirs. When you tell your cousins, aunts and uncles the exciting stories that you’ve discovered about your common ancestors, they’ll be equally as intrigued as you are. With relatives spread out across the country it can sometimes be hard to find common ground, but with your newfound discoveries, voila, you’re all suddenly thrust back in the same boat and paddling for a common shoreline.

You realize you’re part of something bigger

I remember practically standing on my head to get my 3-month-old son to smile at me from his baby carrier. I made faces, spoke in a high squeak and did every humiliating action I could think of, but he just stared back at me intensely with those big, dark eyes…his father’s eyes. My son wasn’t old enough to have learned to be intense, yet there he was, all business with no time for silly shenanigans, just like his father – all at the tender age of 12-weeks. That intensity was obviously an inherited trait that was in his blood from day one, the same as height or hair color. Therefore, it stands to reason that we must share similar traits with our long-gone ancestors, as well. It’s an interesting notion. In my own search, I’ve found I come from a group of free-thinkers, who sometimes took great chances to stand for something worthwhile. I like knowing that their blood runs through my veins. My modern life may not offer me regular chances to fight in a revolution or rally for major societal change, but perhaps my desire for peace and harmony comes from a place far bigger than I’d previously imagined.

It puts your own problems in perspective

Life is a struggle, it’s true, but in reality it always has been. Today we’re worried about keeping up with the Jones’- in the old days we were standing out on our porch with a shotgun telling the Jones’ “to get off my land.” Today we’re resigned to emptying our wallets every time we fill up our gas tanks – back then, we just prayed ol’ Rosie was still tied to the hitching post when we got back. Struggle and hardship was, is, and always will be, a part of life.

Throughout time people have lived through wars, faced financial challenges and lost loved ones to Gen. Jones' "FORWARD"--suffragettes ...disease. Through our new discoveries we realize that these were real people with real pain, and yet they pushed on and lived their lives the best they could – and we can too. Suddenly our problems don’t seem so overwhelming or important anymore. Life’s not always fair, but when we can see that we’re not alone in our experienced it’s easier to tap into the inner strength that has enabled our people to survive throughout time.

You’re preserving something for future generations

We all want to do something meaningful with our lives that will touch others. Preserving your family history is sort of like writing the next great novel, except you don’t have to be a creative genius to do it. Truth really is stranger than fiction, and all you have to do to give these old stories new life is bring them into the present. If you do your job well, the admirers of your work will naturally carry them into the future. Upcoming generations will each be given the gift of their own story to tell.

It makes you a more interesting person

Everyone likes a good story-teller, a person who can captivate with a tale. These histories are every bit as interesting as anything you see on television or in the movies, and they’re uniquely your own. Who knows, people may even see YOU differently because of them. You may not be an African princess, but if your ancestor was and people know about it, you may just carry a regal air all your own! So grab the popcorn! You’ve got a front row seat to the best show in town, and as a VIP, you don’t even have to pay the price of admission!

Next week, I’ll share links and helpful information on how you can trace your own family history!

Copyright © 2012 marciwise.com. Material is copyrighted but free to repost as long as proper credit is listed, including our website address. Marci Wise is the author of Pain, Passion & Purpose.

The Fun Factor – Rediscovering Adventure and Good Times

When was the last time you had fun?  And I mean the let loose, throw caution to the wind and do something out-of-the-ordinary kind of fun.  If you’re like most of us, you’re conjuring up old high-school and college memories right about now.  In a world that prizes achievement, most of us get lulled into the almost hypnotic trance of the work day routine – but it’s important to know that we can break out of that mindset anytime we choose.  That’s what a couple of my girlfriends and I did this past weekend.  We very methodically scheduled in a little wild-time (okay, so it started out kind of tame – but hey, you have start somewhere!)  Although we’re by no means experts, the path to good times is a fairly easy road to find by following these simple steps:

Move fun up on the to-do list A little R & R isn’t frivolous – it’s necessary to achieve your highest state of functioning.  A clear mind, refreshed body and positive outlook will not only help you be more efficient – but also enable you to enjoy yourself along the way.  Since we always have way too many things screaming for our attention, grab your calendar and schedule in “good times” the same way you would a trip to the dentist.  It has to be done.  Period.

Do a buddy search – Take a good, hard look at the people in your life with an eye for those that always leave you feeling good.  If you can laugh and find topics of conversation easily – then you’ve found you adventure allies.  While you may have to tailor activities to suit your friend’s various budgets, no matter what you choose to do, the treasured memories and priceless tales told about your exploits will make everyone feel just a little bit richer.

Take a walk on the wild side – Make yourself do things that are just a bit outside of your comfort zone.  No, you don’t have to go sky-diving if you’re afraid of heights, but do push the boundaries by trying new things.  If it simultaneously scares you and thrills you at the same time – it’s perfect!  We chose to visit a Chippendale’s show.  While that might not be a big deal for some, it was just enough for three weary, workaholic women.  And I’ll admit that once I overcame my initial urge to run for it, I was actually pretty proud of myself for taking part in such a fun and free atmosphere (albeit from my obscure location in the back of the room!)

Silliness is the order of the day – Serious topics should be held for another time – this is all about fun! While guffawing in the office is discouraged, its job number one when having fun.  In fact, let’s make that our new mantra – repeat after me – “its job number one, when havin’ fun!”  See just how silly you can get.  You may be surprised to find that you will actually have to work at it. We forget how to be silly and carefree – and that’s a pretty high price to pay for worldly success.  Recapture your youthful vitality by setting aside pretense and getting a little crazy.

Start out slow and then kick-it-up a notch – Once you get with the program there’s no limit to the adventures you can have.  There are entire businesses that focus solely on adventure travel – outlining escapades across the globe! Imagine zip-lining through the rainforest of Brazil, kayaking in New Zealand or hiking the Inca Trail in Machu Picchu – all the while, restoring your mind and body, deepening your friendships, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Fun, it’s not just for kids anymore.  Give it a try!

Copyright © 2012 marciwise.com. Material is copyrighted but free to repost as long as proper credit is listed, including our website address. Marci Wise is the author of Pain, Passion & Purpose.

A Parents Payment: The Rewards of Having Children

If you’re a parent then you know that raising a family can be difficult.  No matter how hard you try, or how good your intentions’, making your vision of the ideal family come to life always stays just out of reach.  Yet, perhaps that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be – and there’s a method to all the madness.  With one child in college and the other an upperclassman in high school, I have a better vantage point of all the lessons that have been learned – and ironically, I’m finding that I was the student!  Yes, I’ve done my best to teach my children well – but I can clearly see how my own life has been transformed in the process.  Whether you have kids, or are just now considering starting a family, check out these ways that parenthood can affect your life in unexpected ways.

Your capacity to love increases – There really is nothing else like the love that a parent feels for a child. It is the deepest love of all. You can’t become divorced from it – and no one else could ever come along that could fill that special place your life.  It’s truly unconditional, even if we as parents sometime take a stand against something and create a little space for our own sanity, we can never be separated from our child in our hearts.  I remember when I was expecting my second child, telling my mother that I just couldn’t imagine loving the new baby as much as I loved my first one.  She wisely said, “Oh, somehow you’ll see that your heart will expand and grow in ways that you never knew it could.  There’s always room for more love.”  She was exactly right.  Just like The Grinch who Stole Christmas, I think my heart grew three times in size when my second child came along.

Being a parent makes you fierce and determined –The powerful love that we have for our children is also a pure love.  It comes equipped with a strong protective instinct that can make even the most demure person become a fighter.  Where you might give in and accept less in your own life, when it comes to the well-being of your child you’ll have no part of it.  Let someone try to hurt, limit or belittle your child and God help anyone who gets in the way!  Being a parent allows us to discover an inner strength and resolve that we never even knew existed.

It opens a world of possibilities – As a parent you can’t help but have dreams for your child.  You imagine all the ways that they’ll use their particular strengths and attributes to the delight of the world.  Of course, sometimes we go overboard in our minds and those grandiose things never happen – but if belief in another person has any power at all, then a parent’s love is the rocket fuel to help them shoot for the stars.  Looking at a life from this vantage point makes us see that really nothing is impossible.  I’m slightly ashamed to admit that watching my teenagers face their fears and push beyond their boundaries had made me realize how wimpy I’ve been in my own life.  I’m inspired to see things in a broader, more user-friendly way now, and shake my head sadly at all the missed opportunities that I let pass me by.  This wider world – full of hope and possibility is a great gift that my children have given me.  I know that as long as I have another breath to draw and another day to live – my story has not yet been written.  While I’m their parent, I’m also someone’s child – and I’m sure they wanted the same greatness for me.  My children’s example has empowered me personally.

You learn to find acceptance – In the end, despite the strong feelings and high expectations you have for your children, you realize that you’ve created an individual who has the right to blaze their own path – whatever that may be.  This is probably the hardest part of parenthood because that protective instinct never goes away – it’s still there – smoldering under the surface ready to make even an 85-year-old grab her handbag and start pummeling the person that’s threatening her child.  Whether we agree with our children’s chosen paths or not, we must come to terms with the fact that we did the best job we could do –and believe, hope and pray that it will be enough to lead them to their happiest and most successful lives.  Letting go is perhaps the truest form of faith in action – but its power is found in love – and I’ll place my bets on love every time.

Copyright © 2012 marciwise.com. Material is copyrighted but free to anyone who wants to use it as long as proper credit is listed, including our website address.