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Welcome to My Pleasant Places! Not sure where to get started? You might want to visit the About page to learn the premise of the blog and a little about the author. After that, you might enjoy the Start Here page to check out some of the most popular posts and get a feel for what is written about and valued at MPP. Finally, if you’re looking for help and encouragement in changing some aspect of your life, you’ll definitely want to read the posts on the 30-Day Challenge page.

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Again, welcome to My Pleasant Places. I’m glad you’re here! 🙂

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The End is Near. Now What?

The end is actually here. The end of another year, that is. Which raises certain questions…  Continue reading

Posted in Goals, Planning | Tagged | 2 Comments

Betrayal, Forgiveness, Empowerment

Years ago, I experienced a great betrayal. It could have been a devastating experience; indeed, it almost was. Were it not for the fact that I had a strong support network around me and that I had been “building” something in my life for many years before that betrayal, I believe it would have crushed me. Continue reading

Posted in Forgiveness, Wholeness | Tagged , | 18 Comments

Re-Assessing Your Goals

Can you believe the year is half over?

Those who read my blog know that I am a big on making goals. I get energized just thinking about goals (and more by reaching them!). Earlier this year I set some goals, and I wrote that they might “change the world.” (See My Plan for Transformation in 2015 to read the context of that ambitious statement.) Hmmm; in retrospect, that may have been a little over-stated, but at the time, I was sure it was going to change my world.

Just a couple of months into the year, it was clear Continue reading

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Races and Relationships

Relay&Cheer Teammates

My team and me

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, and I must say…I’ve missed you! Hopefully you all have missed me, too, and have been wondering where the heck I’ve been! I fell off the writing wagon a couple of months ago when I began working on a time-intensive project for the young people in my church. Even though I was not writing for the blog, I was writing a lot in that project, so hopefully, my writing skills have not disintegrated to the point of un-readable.

To get back in the swing of writing, I thought I would share a new running experience that—as usual—taught me something about life.

My Goals

Back in January, I wrote a detailed summation of my fitness goals for the year, explaining not only what my goals were, but also how I arrived at my numbers (see Increasing Your Fitness Level Without Killing Yourself). Continue reading

Posted in Relationships, Running | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Being Present

Wherever you are, be there.

Have you noticed the tendency to be somewhere else—in your mind? Our bodies may be present, but our minds are elsewhere—at home, at work, on vacation, out with friends—anywhere but where we actually are! For some reason, the human mind has a problem being the same place the body is.

I used to travel quite a lot, and invariably when I was away, my mind was back home. And not necessarily because I was homesick. Oftentimes, I was thinking about projects that I needed to get started on or work that needed to be done. And conversely, when I was home, my mind was often “at work.” Rather than enjoying and making the most of whatever environment I was in, my mind seemed to conspire against me to keep me from “being where I was.”

I have been thinking about this frustrating proclivity for our minds and bodies to not be quite in sync. Thus, when just such an experience occurred a few weeks ago, I was unusually aware of it.

I was privileged to be included in a two-day leadership seminar along with a handful of others who were traveling in from other states. The seminar began at 9 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday mornings and lasted all day. On the work front, I had a real estate deal that was getting ready to close the following week, and consequently, some of the final steps in the closing process were due to be taken care of that Friday. As I drove in to the seminar, I felt a moment or two of resentment that this seminar was taking my whole day. I mean, after all, I had important work to do.

I immediately felt reproved. I took a mental step back and reviewed the work that had to be taken care of that day, and it came into perspective. Everything could easily be attended to by phone and would probably not take more than a few minutes. And yet, somehow, my mind was blowing it out of proportion—to the point that I felt resentful about the opportunity that was immediately before me.

I suddenly recognized this beast for who he was: this tendency to miss the beauty of the moment due to being distracted by something else. I spoke to myself in my most authoritative voice (some might call it my “mother voice”) and ordered, “Diane, be present in these meetings! You can take care of business during the breaks, but during the meetings, be present! Don’t be thinking about what else you could be doing; this is what you’re doing today.”

I entered the meeting room, greeted my fellow seminar-attendees and I was present—physically and mentally. And it was amazing! The seminar, I mean. My focus was razor sharp. Though much of what I heard was review, it obviously had not penetrated my mind and my heart before, for it was as if I was hearing it for the first time. It was life-changing.

I dealt very little with a wandering mind, grogginess, or any other kinds of distractions. During the breaks, I answered a few work-related emails as quickly as possible so I could chat with the others. Just before the final session in late afternoon, I had to return a business phone call that was time-sensitive.

As it turned out, the call that I had to return was not only informational, there was also a problem to be resolved. It required me to make a couple of other phone calls and change and confirm a date with three separate parties. Unfortunately, I was unable to get in touch with one of the parties, and so the issue was still not completely resolved when I returned to the seminar, already 10 minutes into the last session. This was the acid test of my ability to stay focused, to be present in the meeting.

Would I be able to leave this issue—with its loose ends—at the door and focus?

As I returned to the meeting, I admonished myself once again to “be present.” And to my surprise—and pleasure—I immediately engaged with what was being taught. This was definitely a new personal level of focus.

The Seduction of Distraction

Distraction, and the consequent lack of focus, is a major issue of our times. We can’t have even a brief conversation with someone without sharing them with their cell phone—talking, surfing, texting and checking emails.

“Everyone else” is not the problem, though. In my private world, I deal with distractions when I am all alone. I can’t read a simple email without clicking a link to a “related article.” Once at the resulting website, I find myself enticed by yet another—and then another and another and another—cleverly-titled link, until I am left wondering what I was doing when I began this link-clicking frenzy. It takes me moments to retrace my steps and return to the original business at hand—but not without first losing momentum in my work and wasting time surfing needlessly around the web.

Even when I do manage to stay focused on what I am supposed to be doing, intrusive banners sneak onto my computer screen announcing that I have a new message on Facebook (important, no doubt) or a sound alerts me to a new incoming email.

This barrage of links and notifications and banners and alerts make it no surprise that we are losing the ability to concentrate for more than a few seconds at a time. It is no wonder that I had to have a “pep talk” with myself to be present.

And so it was that as I drove to the seminar that morning, I came to the realization that I resented a marvelous opportunity to attend an impacting seminar with quality people who had driven in from other states. And why? Because of a few measly calls I needed to make and maybe a minor problem to solve that would take but a few minutes of my time.

When I realized how out of sync my thinking was with that which is meaningful and important, I adjusted myself. I “set my mind” on being present in the meeting.

The Process to Discovery

The truth is, I didn’t just begin thinking about focus and concentration and distractions and “being present” during the drive to the seminar. Recognizing my propensity to distraction, and seeing its detrimental effect in various areas, I had been mulling it over for some time. I had no solutions, but for me, “epiphanies” usually begin as I consider the problem over a protracted period of time.

A couple of scriptures had crossed my mind. One of them was Romans 8:5 – “…those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Oh, how I love the idea of the “set mind.” I didn’t fully know how to go about it, but I knew that was what I needed in order to still my “flighty” mind.

It was after this realization (of how unfocused I was), rumination (thinking about it and considering solutions) and revelation (connecting the issue to some pertinent scriptures) that my epiphany came as I drove to the seminar that fateful morning.

Certainly I am not saying that I have arrived and that I no longer deal with distraction. Instead, I acknowledge that I experienced a level of success that one day by speaking to myself and commanding my mind to follow rather than lead. I have no doubt that as I continue to battle my flighty mind that I will discover other methods of bringing the mind into subjection to my spirit (see Running to Win for more on the dominant spirit).



“Awareness” is another term for “being present.” So many of our problems we accept without any resistance, chalking them up to “That’s just the way I am” or “That’s just the way life is.” When we begin to investigate for solutions, we are stepping into the realm of change/transformation.


I have long practiced the power of self-talk. Most people do, in fact, but too many use it in a negative way, flowing with any negative stream of thought that comes their way. The secret to transformative self-talk is to combat those negative streams with truth! And truth can be found in the word of God. In my example, for instance, the truth was that it is possible to “set my mind.” The journey that will follow is in the discovery of how to set my mind.


Follow-through is a “common sense” factor. While sitting in the seminar, I did not check my email except during the breaks, and even then only reading those that might be work-related and time-sensitive. I sat on the front row to eliminate the distractions of people around me. I muted my phone so I would not hear incoming texts.

For every issue that we deal with, there will also be some common-sense steps for addressing them. These common-sense steps will not be the answer in and of themselves, but they are a definite component of success.

Do you have other solutions for dealing with distractions and a “flighty mind”? Are you as frustrated with distractions and the inability to focus as I am? Please share in the comments.

Photo compliments of Rishi Bandopadhay via Flickr


Posted in Focus, Mindfulness | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Running to Win

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Cor 9:24-27, New international Version).

This has long been one of my favorite passages in the Bible because it inspires me to live purposefully. Also, since taking up running, I have come to appreciate it even more because it employs one of my favorite metaphors—running a race. It is very easy for me to make the connection between life and running a race (see My Running Story).

Following are some of my thoughts on what Paul has to say about running (living) to win.

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

The New Living Translation states this a little differently: “Run to win!” Clearly, this is not suggesting that we be competitive with one another, because that would be in violation of other directives (see Another Life Lesson From Running for more on this subject of competitiveness). Instead, “ running to win” is about being the best me that I can be. I am running to win my race. And winning my race is about finishing strong. 

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training…”

“The games” spoken of here are, no doubt, in reference to the ancient Olympics. “Strict training” is a mere hint of the effort and commitment required of elite athletes—then and now. Those who make it to the Olympics have spent years—most of their lives, in many cases—training hours a day in their sports. They get up early, train all morning, eat a very deliberate lunch, take a necessary “recovery nap,” then cross-train, stretch, and do focused exercises most of the afternoon. Somewhere in their schedules, they train mentally, as well, usually with a sports psychologist who helps them develop the skill of overcoming nerves, building confidence and mastering distractions and fears. They eat a deliberate dinner, and they hit the sack early so they can do it all over again the next day. And they maintain this type of schedule for years!

“They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever…”

Wuest’s translations reads: “Everyone who participates in the athletic games exercises constant self-control in all things, those, to be sure, in order that they may receive a perishable victor’s garland of wild olive leaves to be worn as a crown of victory, but as for us [we engage in Christian service, exercising constant self-control to obtain] a victor’s garland which is imperishable.”

I have always been struck by the mental picture painted in the Wuest’s translation of the futility of working so hard for something that fades so quickly. I mean, how long does it take for the olive leaves to wither? True, the “crowns” of today are not quite as perishable (the gold, silver and bronze medals), but in the end, it still remains that “you can’t take it with you.”

Thankfully, the prize that Christ’s followers run for does not perish! Still, to win our race and receive that prize, “strict training” is required. This speaks to me of sacrifice, of priorities, of excellence, of commitment, of a cause. It reminds me of Philippians 3:13-14 where Paul used phrases like  “pressing on” and “straining toward.” It definitely bespeaks of engaging resistance. It denotes the opposite of passivity, the necessity for work and a stretching beyond our comfort zones (Getting Comfortable Outside the “Comfort Zone”).

“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”

The word, “therefore” references the previous statements. We do not work/run/fight for a crown that fades. No; we are in this for the REAL DEAL! We will live with our prize (or lack of it) for all eternity! THEREFORE, our utmost commitment is required. Our utmost focus. Our utmost “strict training.” We mustn’t go through the motions (running with no destination in mind). We mustn’t play games (shadow boxing, boxing the air).  

“No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave…”

Paul belonged to no one (1 Corinthians 9:19), but he made his body his slave—that is, a slave to his spirit-man. His body did not call the shots. Nor did his feelings, his emotions, his moods. Paul’s spirit was dominant.

The phrase “strike a blow” is further defined in Strong’s Greek concordance as “to tease or annoy (into compliance), subdue (one’s passions).” Usually when I think of this verse and of “striking a blow” to my body, I most often default to the “subduing” definition. I certainly have plenty of opportunities to tell my body who’s the boss.

But the other definition—“to tease or annoy into compliance”—brings to light another means of empowering my spirit to dominate over my body and my emotions. For me, the word “tease” sparks the idea of building habits that get the body (and mind and emotions) to do what is right, what is best. I’m sure there were times that Paul subdued his body to get it to do the right thing rather than to take the path of least resistance, but just as surely, Paul also deliberately built habits which “teased forth” correct actions.

I used to think of habits only in a negative context—that is, habits to break, such as overeating or smoking or hitting the snooze button. However, after some enlightenment on the subject, I have come to see habits in a more friendly light.

For instance, I don’t think twice before brushing my teeth first thing after waking in the morning. I don’t have to “subdue” my body and remind it who’s boss and tell it to submit, that whether it likes it or not, I will brush my teeth because it’s the right thing to do. My body doesn’t even argue the subject; it actually cooperates!

Maybe you and your body have reached a truce on the subject of teeth-brushing, too. If so, then you have incorporated a good habit into your life that makes doing the right thing a “given,” a near-mindless act. Any of you who have children know this was not always the case. We aren’t born with that bent to brush our teeth; it is a habit that is developed.

Along those same lines, wouldn’t it be nice if we could build other good, meaningful habits that are not only good for our physical well-being, but habits that are good for us spiritually and relationally, as well? Guess, what? We can!

I think that’s one of the shades of meaning behind Paul’s words: “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave…” He could just as easily have said, “I train my body to do the right thing by teasing out the actions that are necessary to win the prize.”

As an example, not only do I not think twice about brushing my teeth in the morning, but I also don’t have to negotiate and cajole my body to start the day reading the word of God. Over the years, I have trained my body that after getting up, brushing my teeth, starting the coffee, etc., it is time to sit down and spend some quality time with my Father. This activity, this habit, sets the course for my day, and it attunes my spirit to better hear His voice when He speaks to me.

The same goes for exercise. Though I may feel pulled in several directions early in my day, I subdued my body a few years back into prioritizing exercise, knowing that the time and effort invested would return to me many times over in energy and feel-good endorphins. After a few weeks of subduing (also known as “striking a blow”), my body wasn’t putting up as much of a fight. In fact, without thinking about it, I would get dressed for running as soon as I got out of bed. It’s as if my body had been trained to prepare for exercise as soon as awake. Getting out of bed was a “trigger” that teased out a string of actions that eventually resulted in me being outside running.

“…so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

This is very sobering. It appears that it is entirely possible to do the right things and then not win your prize. “The prize” demands consistency, perseverance, and FINISHING! There can’t be starts and stops. You can’t start strong, then like the lazy hare take a break from the race. This is the context for the opening verses of chapter 10 (which indicate that you can be in the right place, with the right people, doing the right things, but somewhere along the way, still miss the prize).

Food for Thought

  • Do you live purposefully? Or are you shadow-boxing, playing games?
  • Are you in “strict training”? Are you running for the prize?
  • Have you weighed life’s “temporary crowns” against the prize that will last?
  • Is your spirit dominant? Or do your body and emotions determine your actions?
  • Have you deliberately built habits in your life that facilitate (tease out) your most meaningful goals?
  • Are you pressing on in your race? Will you finish strong?

I would love to read your thoughts on any of these questions in the comments below.

Also, for more insight on the subject of habits and triggers and strategies for both, check out these links:
Transform Your Habits (give your email address for a free download of this 45-page ebook)
The 5 Triggers That Make New Habits Stick
Ditch Your Bad Habits In 5 Simple Steps

And just so you know, I post these kinds of links and my brief thoughts about them on MyPleasantPlaces Facebook page on a regular basis. If you do not follow my Facebook page, consider doing so and joining my Facebook “community.” Click this link and then click the “Like” button (the “thumbs up” symbol).

Picture is of my grandson, Hudson—straining for the prize!
Posted in Bible, Spirituality | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

A Couple of New Additions to My Morning Routine

I’ve stumbled upon a couple of pleasant discoveries in these cold, pent-up days of winter that have added some quality to my life—wintertime or otherwise. Making new discoveries—no matter how small—adds a little zing to life, and we could all use a little more zing! A key to experiencing more zing is being able to actually recognize a “discovery.”

Maybe you will benefit from my two new discoveries. Or maybe you will benefit from realizing that you, too, have small zing-producing discoveries going on, too, but just didn’t appreciate their full impact.

Coconut Oil

My interest in coconut oil began after reading the book, Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter. Have you heard about the health benefits of coconut oil? My primary attraction to it was for its benefits for the brain. It helps energize the brain, providing fuel for cell repair, but also for stimulating growth of new brain cells. (On a side note, I must add that realizing these benefits requires not only adding coconut oil to your diet, but also subtracting refined carbs such as sugar and white flour. Sorry.)

I do cook with coconut oil, but the “discovery” that has brought a special pleasure to my days was in adding it to my first cup of coffee in the morning. The idea of adding oil to coffee may sound repulsive to you, as it did to me when I first heard of it. However, because the positive benefits of coconut oil were so appealing, I wanted to be sure to get it into my diet the most efficient way possible. Drinking coffee is something I do every day, so that seemed a very likely opportunity. I did a little web research on the subject, and found testimonials in which some people swear that it enhances their alertness in the morning. I won’t disagree, I just can’t say that I have particularly noticed that effect. For me, it is all about pleasure.

I bought a tiny little “bullet” blender for the sole purpose of creating my morning concoction. I simply add a tablespoon of the oil (more or less) to a fairly large mug a coffee, a half-tablespoon or so of cream (I generally drink my coffee black, so this is a pleasant addition, too) and then blend it for a few seconds (less than 10). The blending not only mixes it up really well, but it also creates a nice thick froth on top. It’s like a warm blanket on cold winter’s morning, the very essence of “comfort food.”

I must make one quick disclaimer. I have learned through experience that I must forego this treat on my running days—until after the run, that is. The coconut oil seems to act as a laxative, and when you’re out jostling about (as in a run) this effect can make for some serious discomfort. It took me a few “seriously discomfortable” experiences before I eventually made the connection between the coconut oil and my gastrointestinal distress. Since then, I wait till after my run before enjoying my newly-discovered treat.

Foam Rolling

I was inspired to try foam rolling on a daily basis after reading this article: Feel 10 Years Younger With These 5 Foam-Rolling Exercises.  I’ll admit; the title sucked me right in. 10 years younger? Count me in!

Foam rolling, as the article explains, is an inexpensive substitute for deep-tissue massage. It makes sense that if you start your day with a quick, targeted “massage,” loosening up your muscles first thing, why yes, you should feel a little younger.

I read the article and watched each of the brief videos included in it. The next morning, I got up, turned on my coffee maker, and while the coffee brewed, I went through the routine. It was pretty interesting how I could tell which muscles needed the quick massage (by the “knots” that I could feel as I rolled) and which didn’t really appreciate it (no noticeable effect). Nevertheless, shooting for all ten years younger, I continued with the full routine for about a month. After that month, however, I dropped all but a couple of the exercises and I added one that I kind of created myself by focusing on the areas that needed it.

I actually felt that this process made a difference from that first day. Granted, I had no aches and pains that I was dealing with, I just wanted to feel less “tight.” And I also wanted what the title promised—to feel 10 years younger. This has become an easy routine to stick with because of the fact that I do it the first thing every day—even on weekends. It takes no more than 10 minutes, and it is a nice, soothing way to wake up: not too much of a contrast from the sleep state that I have just come out of (you’re supposed to roll nice and slow), but enough activity to not lull me back to sleep, either.

I think this practice would probably be especially beneficial for people in their mid-thirties and up and/or younger people who are experiencing muscular pain somewhere in their body.

Be Your Own Guinea Pig

These two new additions to my routine are a by-product of my appeal towards experimenting with new ideas for the purpose of becoming more efficient, more productive, or just enjoying life more. I read a lot of stuff, and I’m attune to concepts that might help me be a better me.

By the same token, I might quit some practice just as readily as I begin a new one if I think it will improve my life in some way. For instance, around the same time that I read the foam-rolling article, I also read that the oft-recommended “aspirin a day” advice is not necessarily beneficial for women under 65 (Low-dose Aspirin and Women Under 65). This information was on a reputable site with research to back it up, so I promptly quit taking my aspirin a day. Not as dramatic as my nice frothy cup of coffee in the morning or my foam-rolling discovery, but if it saves me some pain and suffering later on in my life, well, who needs the dramatic? Right?

Have you made any fresh discoveries lately? Please tell me about them in the comments. I would love to hear what simple “discoveries” are impacting your lives!

Here’s some additional reading if you would like to check out the health benefits of coconut oil:
The Diet Which Postpones Brain Aging 
Exercise Halts ‘dementia gene’ from being expressed, keeps your brain healthy
10 Proven Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers, David Perlmutter, M.D.

Photo compliments of Selena N.B.H. via Flickr

Posted in Anti-aging, Health | Tagged , , | 4 Comments