Unleash Your Creativity!

Today’s post is by guest blogger, Tom Bonow.  Tom was inspired by an earlier post, Jury Duty:  The Musical. This, of course, was born out of my experience as a juror and my nearly constant exposure to the Bee Gees throughout my formative years and now on the seventies channel on Siriux XM.

I’m sure you have many projects in need of attention throughout the Labor Day weekend, but if you’d prefer to labor over something you love, try this. Pick your favorite musical group or artist, create your own musical, and submit it here.  (Prizes could be involved.)

There are so many great groups and infinite individual musicians to chose from as well as any number of genres covering any era. From Elvis to Adele, from country to a cappella, there is no limit nor judgment as to who might ignite your imagination.

Before you begin to tell me you are not that creative, I beg to differ.  Everything you do is creative from what you put in your mouth to the clothes you have on your body, considering you are wearing them.

What I’m suggesting is that you have a little fun and unleash your creativity.  Even if you don’t write down a single line, just imagine you get to direct one episode of Glee.  What artist(s) would you choose to honor? What songs would you choose to tell your story?  How you would you make that music come to life?

Then, just to make this exercise more interesting, pay attention to how often you hear these songs in the next week.  I swear after Jury Duty:  The Musical everyone was reporting an unusually high occurrence of hearing Bee Gees songs on the radio.  

Maybe after reading Tom’s post, it will be The Beatles.

Enjoy!  And don’t forget to share your musical, if you dare, below.


Beatles at the Prom 

George:  You guys goin’ to the prom this year?

John:     Probably not, I’m so tired, it feels like Maxwell’s silver hammer came down on my head.

Paul:      That’s no excuse – I’ve had a hard day’s night, too, but now I feel fine.  What about you, Ringo, you got a date?

Ringo:    Nah, too busy – it’s helter skelter  in my life  right now, and I’m nowhere, man.  What about you?

Paul:      Not yet, but I’m thinking of asking sexy Sadie. There’s something in the way she looks.

George: She’s a woman alright, but you’re going to lose that girl ’cause she’s leaving home. What’s your Plan B?

Paul:      I’m thinking Michelle.  I’d like to give her all my lovin’, but she loves you, John, doesn’t she?

John:    Yeah, yeah, yeah… no sweat – it’s only love.  But maybe I’ll go if the band’s decent – who’s playing?

Ringo:   The Strawberry Fields Revolution –  but I hear their rock & roll music is just a bunch of silly love songs

John:   Think for yourself, fool On the hill where I live, they rock 8 days a week !

Ringo:   Ob la di, ob la da – your mother should know.

John:    Don’t be talking that way about me mum, or I’ll knock you across the universe!

Brian Epstein:  Calm down, boys – let it be.  Let’s figure how we can work it out so you all go to prom.  And Paul still needs a date.

George: Wait just a minute – what about lovely Rita, the meter maid ?  I hear she’s no Lady Madonna.

Ringo:   True – when I took her out, she actually asked me, “Why don’t we do it in the road?”

John:    Yeah, she came in through the bathroom window last week at my place

George: My sweet Lord, Paul !! You better run for your life !

Paul:      I should have known better… maybe Eleanor Rigby is more my speed…


Flash forward one week…


George:  Prom’s next Saturday.  Anyone still need help finding a date?

Paul:       Finally got one Yesterday .  It was a long and winding road, but I found me a day tripper

Ringo:     Did you use one of your old lines of B.S. , like “I got to get you into my life.” or “I want to hold your hand.”?

Paul:       Nope – I saw her standing there and simply said. “Oh Darling, please please me.”

John:     How ’bout you, Ringo?  If you’re in, we can all come together.

Ringo:    Can’t afford it, dude – damn taxman !  Guess I’m a loser, but I just need a little help from my friends.

John:     Imagine that – Ringo’s broke! But I don’t care too much for money.  It can’t but me love.

Ringo:    Get back – you trying to tell me all you need is love ?

Brian Epstein:  Do you want to know a secret ?  You’ve got to hide your love away – when will you figure that out?

Ringo:    When I’m 64, dudeIf you’re the expert, then I am the walrus I’m looking through you, and you’re full of crap!  

John:     No need to twist & shout, Ringo.  Boys, let’s each of us lend Ringo a few quid for a tux – don’t let me down.

Paul:      OK, I’m in – then things should be getting better, and we’ll all shine onBut how will we get there?

George: We don’t need a ticket to ride  – just say the word, and we can all drive my car

John:     Tell me why you think that old junker will carry that weight. 

Ringo:    Sounds lake a veritable magical mystery tour !  Paul, you never did say who you’re bringing.

Paul:      Why, that prolific paperback writerPenny Lane, of course!,

It Starts With Food

If we are open to learning, we can learn something new every day.  Or every time we click on a new link.

Some of these lessons we may quickly forget and therefore need to repeat. Others rock our worlds for as long as we can sustain the enthusiasm they generated. And others change life as we know it. There is simply no going back to the time when we didn’t know what we now know.

This has been a year of big change for me. It started off with the blogging blitz that forced me to be accountable as a writer and prompted me to attend the Blogher conference that allowed me to run with the big blogs. This shifted my priorities to making time to write, which matters a great deal to me.

Then came the marriage proposal. At this point in life, many people have been married as long as they’ve been single. I’ve been single half a century. You understand how this requires a slight adjustment in my thinking?  Sort of like teaching an old dog a new trick.  But it can be done!

Next came B-school and the immersion into all things related to launching and sustaining an online presence and business. At the same time I attended a workshop at a neighboring college that helped me set up my physical office so I could be more physically active and engaged with students.

But probably the most life altering adventure I have undertaken this year began with an innocent inquiry into how I might feel better and have the energy to evolve at an ever increasing rate.

Surprisingly the answer lead me to something I had not really given a lot of consideration. I had to start with food.  

I had spent a great deal of time, energy, and resources carefully selecting what I fed my mind on a regular basis but I had essentially ignored how I was feeding my body. 

Having a career in the fitness/nutrition business, I was aware of the rules, I was just not interested in how they applied to me.  If I could exercise my way out of of cupcake craze, I was fine. Besides, I had neither the time nor the incentive to plan meals for one.

But midlife had a way of making me realize I could no longer exercise my way out of carb or sugar induced brain fog followed by a hot flash followed by something else I couldn’t remember or didn’t want to experience.  Having a partner to share meals with also required some forethought.

So I found a functional medicine practitioner who said the words that changed life as I knew it. No sugar. No wheat. No pasta. No kidding.

It’s been three months since I’ve attempted this new way of eating. It’s been one of the most difficult changes I’ve attempted to make. Every day, at least three times a day I have to choose the foods that  fuel and nourish my body instead of satisfy my sugar or carb cravings.  And let me just tell you, they can be very insistent.

It takes a great deal of planning and many trips to a grocery store to get it right.  Like any adventure, there are as many mishaps as successes. 

The good news is I feel better than I have in a long time.  My system is running cleaner, my energy is consistent, my brain is working better, and I finally feel like I’m eating like an adult with all kinds of new colorful foods in my house.

 This way of eating has revolutionized the way I approach life.  Consequently, I will be writing extensively about it on this site because I believe midlife can be the best time of our lives if we feel good enough to make the most of it.  

That means hormones, weight, emotions, relationships, finances, spiritual practices, life work, and creative pursuits have to be examined and aligned (note I did not say mastered!) in order to really get our groove back.

The types of stories I’ve normally posted here will now be moved to www.pennyplautz.com.  If you’d rather read those, hop on over to www.pennyplautz.com and sign up now.  

Midlife MacGyver will become more of an educational site where I’ll post resources as well as personal experiences.  I hope you’ll be a part of both communities.

Thanks so much for reading.   As always, share if you dare below.  I’d love to know your tips and tricks for making the most of midlife.


My Fair Lady

Nothing completes the summer experience quite like the county fair. Or so I’ve been told by those who relish the sights, smells, and screams of farms animals, fried foods, and carnival rides.
I, for one, was traumatized early on when I took my horses to the two-day show and discovered those were the two days my horses were in heat.
While I was too young to fully grasp what had turned my normally mild mannered horses into wild things, the damage was done.  The event scarred me in the same way being offered cold coffee to quench my thirst turned me off of drinking coffee for life.
Unfortunately the fellow who was in my life before Bob loved the fair.  I warned him early on I would never be his fair lady.  I would never willingly use vacation time to attend the fair from sunup to sundown.  Sadly he clung to the hope I might change my perspective once I experienced the fair from his.  No dice.
Although Bob was under no assumption that I would want to accompany him to the fair, his company  fed many of the animals shown there.  Consequently, he knew I’d cave when it came to showing support for his business and even be a judge for the greased pig contest, which naturally scarred me – and the pigs – all over again.
So last year I switched from watching kids show pigs to watching kids show chickens.  Although the chickens seemed to be very hot and very thirsty,  they did not appear to be in heat and I did not see anyone serve them cold coffee.
I repeated several calming mantras to reassure myself that no animals were harmed in preparation for the fair.  Sadly, I cannot say the same for what happened after the fair and therefore will redirect this post to discuss the entertainment.
Bob’s business was one of the sponsors so we had backstage passes to the big name entertainment and the appreciation dinner beforehand.  Since Bob knows everyone in town and I basically only know their kids, I did what anyone would do and called in my parents for reinforcement.
They thought the whole experience was fantastic and it upped Bob’s approval rating in their eyes, if that’s even  possible.  He’s already above me.  I take my parents to places like Bombfire Pizza, which tends to make them wonder if I ever recovered from the psychedelics of the 60s.  (Not that I was old enough to do psychedelics.  I still assert it was the cold coffee that fractured my reality.)
In any case, this year I thought I was off the hook because our local fair took place while I was in San Jose. The timing of the Blogher Conference couldn’t have been better if I’d planned it myself.
There are certain people who can ask me things and I will agree to go or do or say whatever simply because they ask.  My sister is one of those people.  Imagine my surprise when on her latest visit home she said she’d like to go to the Whiteside County Fair, the very place “the incident” happened with my horses oh so long ago.
I learned at the Blogher conference that people love to take selfies.  One thing that I’ve always known about myself is that I don’t.  But here is proof that I can face my past and live to blog about it.
Here I am (standing in the very ring where I rode my horses) at the fair with my sister.  Our parents are as well there but they sat in the grandstand and pretended not to know us once we rushed the stage to see Home Free.

Below is my favorite photo.  I like to call it Peek-a-Boo.  I’m subtly trying to take my sister’s picture with the acapella boy band but I did neither her nor the boys justice.  We did, however, laugh our heads off and declared her the photographer in the family.  I’ll stick to writing.

As it turns out, these guys could really rock the place.  Of course my sister knew that which is why she insisted we see them live at the fair.  Despite the fact that we could be the mother of any one of them, they were so adorable and so talented we couldn’t help but argue over who we thought was the sexiest of the bunch.  There was definitely a reason they won The Sing Off last year and why I follow them now on Facebook.
This may just complete my summer series of concerts and fairs and other things that allow me feel like school should be starting again despite my inability to account for any lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.
I will leave you with this amazing video of Home Free’s Ring of Fire.  It somehow seems fitting…. stepping into a burning ring of fire and all.   It just so happens there is a musician at Bombfire Pizza who sings this very song but with slightly different lyrics.  “And it burns, burns, burns…. my car’s on fire, my car’s on fire.”  
Maybe it does have something to do with psychedelics?
Share your fair experiences if you dare below.  Or just share what you’ve been up to this summer.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

After my latest adventure to Silicon Valley and becoming a proud member of the girl geek club, Blogher, I can say without hesitation that although our mission is serious – to save the world, right wrongs, expose injustice, encourage compassion, and give voice to those who have none – when we congregate, our goal is to have serious fun as well.

Our conference concluded last Saturday with a block party sponsored by McDonalds with guest DJ Rev Run of Run DMC.  Let me just say, it certainly raised the bar on summer block parties for me.  I have a new respect for McDonalds as they were an amazing host and went above and beyond to make it a memorable event.
Maybe it was the intoxicating mix of new friendships, invaluable information, and the realization that the ocean was within an easy driving distance that made this event so spectacular.
It required considerable planning, budgeting, and researching to know the way to San Jose using American Advantage miles and an unfaltering belief in my future to get me to this conference in particular.
When I started blogging in 2011 I considered attending the Bogher conference in San Diego.  Alas, it was August, and in the world of education, no one leaves town amidst the rush to enroll students at the eleventh hour.  Had I gone then, things might look different today.
But we get to the party when we get there.  Or as the Zen saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
In the safety of my daily routine, I forget that I truly come alive when I dare to venture out beyond the confines of my comfort zone.  My senses are heightened, my energy level spikes, my curiosity goes into overdrive, foods take on a new quality, smells bring back memories and incite new associations, and I just see things differently.  I imagine my life in completely new ways.
Like the contents in my luggage, my world expands.  Getting my bags and myself on the plane home is always a challenge.  And while there is no place like home and the relative safety that implies, I can’t help but feel deflated as the air escapes from the protective bubble that buoys my spirits while traveling.  Even my voice takes on that high pitched alien quality that comes from swallowing helium as I excitedly attempt to convey the sights I’ve seen.
The contraction required to curb my new found enthusiasm or redirect it into my regularly scheduled life takes some discipline.  It is in direct opposition to the newly unleashed expansion and about as comfortable as squeezing into skinny jeans after a substantial brunch.
There are many lessons learned on this trip that can translate to other areas of my life.  From ideas I picked up from the vendors at the trade show to something I saw at a surf shop, there are universal themes of connection that transcend industries and cultures.  Like the humpback whales that emerged from the calm waters near our whale watching boat in Monterey, amazing experiences often swim just below the surface of our awareness.  We just have to look closely to recognize them.
This is where the real work begins.  We’re all a complicated conundrum of sights, sounds, experiences, preferences, memories, music, visuals, and wisdom born of all kinds of connections.  Bringing this unique world view into play each day is a choice.
We can be pigeon-holed into playing a part, acting within the confines of our job title, family position, or self-appointed role.  Or we can dare to bring all of who we are to the table.
I keep this Hallmark card in my office as a reminder that although the work I do is important and hopefully makes a difference to those I serve, elevating that importance and pretending to be something or someone I am not will surely be the death of me.
It reads,  “Adding to my misery, no one here thinks I’m funny.”  Naturally, I identify with the sheep in the bow tie.  I happen to think I’m hilarious.  Bob, however, has a different opinion.  So do the students.  They just think I’m old as evidenced by their frequent use of the word “ma’am” when they refer to me.  If we were in the South, I’d take it as a sign of respect.  In Iowa, it translates to dinosaur.
lamb bow tie
No matter how old we may happen to be, we only start to feel old when we lose our sense of wonder.
This week I encourage you to rekindle that sense of wonder in whatever way feels meaningful, if not downright thrilling, to you.  Maybe it’s simply taking some time out to lounge on your deck with a good book.  Or maybe you take a chance and go on a blind date (if you’re single), take in a ball game, or hop in your car for an impromptu road trip.
Friday night Bob and I went with some friends to Mooney Hollow Reception Hall and Saloon for a benefit for the Bellevue Fire Department.  (A healthier choice than pancake breakfasts for me.)   We were delighted to discover the amazingly talented John Stone and the Trailor Park All-Stars performing at an incredibly cozy barn venue.
Once again I was transported to a place where summer memories are made and Bob and I found ourselves dancing in the moonlight for the second time in a week.  And Bob says he can’t dance!
So, Girls…Guys…. Ladies and Gentlemen…. do me a favor and have some fun before the summer sneaks away.  And then, please come back and tell me all about it!
PS –  If you live in Iowa, be sure to check out Cod Fish Hollow, another music venue housed within a barn that is great fun and hosts some fantastic bands.