Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Fresh Start

It's a new year; a time for planning, hoping, and maybe a little strategizing. At the end of the year we don't just pack away the holiday decorations to make the room look clear and organized again, we also put up a fresh calendar. We like starting with a clean slate; at least I do. New year ... new hopes ... new ideas ... new plans of attack on how to hopefully accomplish them.

We all have our share of challenges, anxieties, pressures, and responsibilities. Many of us will probably look back at 2019 and think, 'Wow! How did I get through that?' But guess what? If you're reading this, then you did. Don't be so surprised; you're stronger than you give yourself credit for. I know that 2019 was pretty rough for a lot of people; illnesses, finances, relationships ... you name it and I probably know someone who's been dealing with it (or for that fact, still is).

The thing is is that the challenges and the pressures won't always change or go away or even get temporarily resolved, but HOW we choose to deal with them can. We can decide to not let 'it' consume us, whatever IT is. We have the choice to make a change or take a different approach. We get to start fresh if we want to. Every month or every day if necessary.

Who doesn't like the occasional fresh start?
  • a new house
  • a new job
  • an improved body or mindset
  • a new haircut
  • a new hobby
  • a new challenge
  • a new goal

Pick the one that speaks to you and choose to start fresh. Start small and test the waters or be bold and jump in with both feet and arms flailing. What have you got to lose? Absolutely nothing.

How am I starting fresh this year? I'm trying to be more diligent with my blogging. I hope somewhere, someday someone reads one of my posts and is impacted and shares it or shares a positive comment. But if they don't that's okay too. I'm blogging for myself and some days that's more than enough. It's my voice, my thoughts, and I can actually hear myself think as I type. That's worth it in itself.

What does your fresh start look like?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Moving Into 2020

Well, I'm back; although it has been a few weeks again. In my last post I pondered over what direction my 2020 would take. I decided, after much reflection, that more than a resolution or a specific goal I needed to focus on a word that would help keep me on track for the new year. I chose the word BALANCE. Why? Mostly because I am the first to admit that I can easily get overwhelmed or off track or out of sync if I let obligations and responsibilities take over my life. I have a difficult time saying no to anyone when they ask for help; heck sometimes I don't even wait for them to ask for my help - I just offer it up like it has instantly become my sole responsibility to help them, make things easier for them, or help them to stay on track. 

But should I be doing that? If I do, am I helping them or enabling them? By me helping am I giving them the easy way out? Shouldn't they own up to the responsibilities that are solely theirs? It's usually at this point that my life gets out of balance. I become stressed and consumed over things and situations that affect other people more than myself. Why do I do this to myself? That's the million dollar question. I don't think I do it on purpose, but I've grown up my entire life playing the self-imposed role of the mediator, the organizer, the task master, the list maker, the worrier, and the sleep-deprived person. I look at what I think the result should be in the end and I do what I can to help it get there. I don't settle for good enough; that's always been unacceptable to me. I tend to care too much sometimes; but that's on me. Can you see why my word for 2020 is BALANCE? I clearly need more of it in my life.

I need to know that I can help, assist, care for, worry about, and be concerned for other people in my life without letting it become all-consuming. At some point the scales with the ME side of the equation will be out-weighed by the magnitude of everything else. That's unfortunate, but also unhealthy. It's when I can make this clear observation and own it that I hope to be able to learn something beneficial from it.

I want to move into 2020 like there are no set limits. I want to feel unstoppable. I want to feel deserving of my successes. I want to hear the sound of my own voice and know that it matters (not just to me, but to others as well). So how do I go about accomplishing this?

If I need a space where I can clear my head, then I need to make it or at least clean up the one that I have. If I don't have the tools I need to be the kind of success that I want, then I need to get what I need in order to do that. I need to make the effort because I care as much about me and my needs as I do about everyone else's. I need to be my own best advocate and stop being my own worst enemy. I need to convince myself that looking out for what's best for me doesn't have to make me a selfish person. There will always be those voices in your head that say, 'Now isn't a good time.' 'Maybe next year would be better for everyone else.' But that's the thing, there will always be other reasons and more excuses. Maybe it's the fear of failure. Maybe it's the fear of commitment. Maybe it's the fear of insecurity or being judged. There will always be fears that can talk you out of anything. That's when the hopes need to take the forefront and outsize the fears. Listen to the hope in your heart; the hope that tells you that you have what it takes to succeed, that you deserve to be happy, and that you have what it takes to make a bigger difference in the world.

How are you doing so far with choosing your word for 2020?

Are you getting on track with your goals and dreams or do you feel stalled?

Let us know what's going on ... we are all here for you.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Are You Ready For 2020?

First, let me re-introduce myself. My name is Jennifer and I haven't written a blog post in more than a month. Why? Because LIFE took over. There was a fractured bone in my right arm at my wrist joint which resulted in 6 weeks in a brace (and yes I am right handed). There's been 5 weeks of PT twice a week. There was 4 weeks of Advent preparation at the church where I work (my full time day job). There was a lot of prepping for Christmas (writing out cards, shopping, wrapping, cleaning my house, and prepping for a Christmas holiday hosting my kids and three granddaughters). Needless to say, it didn't leave much time left over for me or my blogging.

Today is a new day. Christmas Day has come and gone. Presents were unwrapped. Meals were prepped and eaten. Conversations and laughter abounded. Memories were made. Now it is December 28th. I am sitting on my cozy couch with my laptop and watching the Survivor Finale on TV that I missed prior to Christmas. I think my husband and I were hosting our small group dinner at our house the night the finale was on. Better late than never - although I did sneak a peek on social media a week ago and already know who won (oops). But that's okay - sometimes it's not so much about the end result, but more about the experience and what took you to the end.

2019 had a lot of ups and downs for a lot of people that I know. There have been health concerns for many, relationship issues, job insecurities, and enough layers of stress to fill an offsite storage container to the brim (isn't that where many people stash either their unwanted stuff or the stuff they can't find time to deal with?). There have been positives as well though; a beautiful third granddaughter in my family, answers to questions and doubts that have been haunting friends for months, and for some a certain degree of growing clarity that should help propel them into a positive 2020.

New Year's Day is only a few days away; a time when many people will start throwing out resolutions and goals for the upcoming new year. But first, it's a time for reflection. What did your 2019 look like? Was it everything you thought it would be? Did you accomplish everything you pushed for? Did you set yourself up to continue your efforts in 2020 and finish what you may have started?

If you had to sum up your dreams, your hopes, and your aspirations for the new year in just one word, what would that one word be? What word will keep you focused and driven for the next twelve months? My word is going to be BALANCE; something I tend to lack from time to time (and not just when I am in my Zumba class and stumble and fall on my wrist, leaving myself with a directive to slow down). I am truly seeking that sense of balance in my own life; a balance where I can separate my work, my hobbies, my friends, and my home life. There will always be times when all the elements of our lives intertwine. But if you find yourself staying awake most nights dwelling and overthinking different aspects of your life, you will come to the realization that you are off balance in some way. Trust me, I don't need to fall again (physically or metaphorically), so for me 2020 is about finding the BALANCE that works best for me. It will be about re-determining what my priorities are and what parts of my life have been on hold on the shelf for way too long and need some attention.

I'd love to know where you are at. 
What is your ONE WORD for 2020?

Friday, November 22, 2019

Random Acts of Kindness

The other day I watched a new Christmas movie on one of my cable channels. I look forward to these holiday movies because they are warm and fuzzy, kind-hearted, have no bad language or suggestive topics, usually have a moral, and almost always have a happy ending. Of course you can't get to the predictable happy ending without a few communication miscues about half way through that the main characters need to overcome, a little fake snow on the sidewalks, everyone almost always leaving their house with their indoor Christmas tree lights still on, and a roaring fire in the fireplace. My family and I usually make a light-hearted game of finding the things that we think are a little off; like when we see the main house decorated for Christmas and can name the other Christmas movie that used the same set a few years ago, or when someone pretends they're watering the gorgeous red and pink poinsettias only when the camera hits them just right you know that they are 'fake' plants. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing these movies ... the fact is that my husband and I LOVE them and start watching them in October just as soon as they hit our screen. They're the perfect answer to a long stressful day.

I love that each season the different stations share their holiday line up early on of this season's new movies. There's always the reruns of our favorites, but there's also the new ones. Last week I watched one of this year's new movies (please don't ask me which station it was on, I've been flipping a lot between Hallmark and Lifetime). This particular movie focused on a rich gentleman who was trying to change the way people were thinking during the busy holiday season; he was trying to remind them to slow down and enjoy the moment. He left calling cards that said 'Secret Santa' at the pop up food distribution center, the make-shift toboggan hill at the family center, and with the little boxes of candy that descended from the starry sky with attached iridescent parachutes. All just subtle reminders that someone could provide a nice gesture to a stranger.

The movie got me thinking though (which is probably what the director was hoping for) that not everyone has a spare bank account to fund these big gestures on such a grand scale. But that doesn't mean that we can't spread the same heartfelt holiday cheer on a smaller one-on-one scale. The smaller stuff can often feel more heartfelt and personal. Thanksgiving is coming up this next week and we all have so much to be grateful for; don't think so ... look around you ... things can always be worse. Maybe you're upset that your roof has a small leak; but think about the homeless person that is living in their car. You feel achy from the physical therapy you're going to, be grateful that you still have a hand that is giving you a problem (that would be me ... after a recent arm fracture and 6 weeks in a brace I've started my PT this week ... having the therapist start the process of forcing my wrist to bend once again hurt as bad as the day I fell on my arm, but in the end I am super grateful I did not need surgery).

Start now. Allow yourself to start feeling the holiday spirit; not the stress of going into debt for expensive presents people don't really need. It's okay to smile when you hear a Christmas song playing. Here in my town in Michigan, we got 9.5" of snow in one day in the middle of November (a freak occurrence for sure). The day after I read memes on social media blaming the sudden snowfall on the people that were listening to the Christmas music that was now playing on a few of the radio stations. Really? Can you say Grinch? If you don't want to listen to it, then don't. But don't begrudge the happiness it brings to those that do.

Well guess what? Not only were my husband and I thrilled the day they started playing the festive music, but we've been watching the holiday movies right along. Don't hate me, but we also put up and decorated our Christmas tree last weekend. I like to pace myself (especially since I'm still kind of working with one good hand). We still need to prep our winter village scene and get the outside lights up this weekend, but we'll get there. In the meantime though I don't anticipate our cheeriness causing anyone else any undue harm, lol.

So what can you do as a random act of kindness? Share your happiness with others by smiling and making conversation when you're standing in line at the department or grocery store. Buying yourself a fancy coffee? Extend your good wishes and pay for the person's order behind you. Hold the door open for the elderly gentleman using the walker or the young mother that is having difficulty maneuvering her massive stroller through the front doors of the mall. Move the abandoned shopping cart away from someone's car so they can easily back out (or pull in). Entertain the tired toddler in the shopping cart in front of you while the mother tries to unload her cart and pay for her order. Do whatever you need to do, but follow it up by wishing them a 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays' or just wish them a 'good day'.

Small heartfelt gestures can have just as much impact as a box of free candy falling from the sky.

What have you done lately to make someone's day? 

Or better yet, what has a stranger done for you?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Re-envisioning Your Goals

We all have hopes and dreams; things we've thought about maybe since we were little kids ... getting married, becoming a doctor or an astronaut or an artist or a musician. But how many of us have seen those goals become realities? Some accomplishments are easier to achieve; others require a lengthy journey. When the process takes longer we sometimes need to remind ourselves over and over exactly what we are working towards. Our reasons for wanting to accomplish a certain goal will probably evolve over time and that's okay. The want or need may still be in our heart, but the desire and importance will change as we grow and reset our priorities. When we finally achieve our goal it will be all the sweeter.

Are you still working toward winning the marathon or having your photos displayed in a gallery? Are you still dreaming of finding the 'one' that makes you feel whole? Are you painstakingly working toward getting your own place or establishing your business? Do you continue to strive to raise a family? Do you still desire to write or paint or sing, reaching total strangers with your talents?

Don't give up. Goals don't have deadlines or expiration dates (unless we put them there). If you hope to lose weight before you turn a certain age, that's a good start ... but don't give up if you are 3# short. Re-envision your goal, celebrate what you have accomplished so far and set a new goal. Keep pushing forward. Keep being creative; finding new ways to get there. Hold on to the hopes and dreams you have on your heart. They belong to you and no one can take them away from you.

Life will surely throw us curve balls and try to steer us off course, but it's up to us alone to get back on the horse or the bicycle or the track (whatever works for you). So what if our goals get temporarily postponed? The important thing is to NOT give up on them. Sure, we can make excuses and convince ourselves 'it's just not the right time' or 'some day I will make it happen'. But we can also tell ourselves 'maybe today is the day I take the big step' 'maybe today is the day I have faith in myself and make it happen'.

What is the goal you won't let go of?

What is holding you back from completing it?

Friday, October 11, 2019

When You Take Things For Granted

The world is a busy place. Just look at the traffic, the long lines at the gas station and grocery store, or my daily To Do list. Often we find ourselves tackling our lives and our schedules as if we were on autopilot. Sometimes we don't even think about what we are doing or how we are doing it ... we just do what needs to be done. It's very easy to take things for granted; a computer or car that works when we turn them on, the lights turning on when we flip the switch, or the fridge having food in it when we go to make our lunch.

This week I have been sorely reminded of something I clearly took for granted; having two hands that work. My life is usually pretty busy - sometimes too busy. I've trained my body to get by on little sleep. Sometimes (actually more often than we'd like to admit) we find ourselves not having as much control as we would prefer. 

For about a year I have been attending a weekly Zumba class at my local parks and recreation facility. At first I was leery about joining. I am in my middle 50s and am pretty mobile and active (if working and running errands count). I like to garden, take walks, and do sidewalk chalk drawings with my granddaughters when I can. But would I be up for the challenge of a weekly fitness class? Would I be able to keep up and learn the routines? Not to pat myself on the back, but I think I've done pretty well and been able to hold my own. I look forward to the weekly class, not just for the exercise, but also because it allows me to take one whole hour a week for myself. I actually turn my cell phone off and leave it in my locker.

This week at class, I had a less than graceful moment. My foot stayed in one spot and chose not to follow when the rest of my body went forward with a step in the routine. In a matter of seconds I found myself going down ... HARD ... and landed with an awkward thud on the floor on my arm. But being the trooper that I am, I got up and tried to shake it off (I'll admit I was partially motivated by embarrassment). I managed another 10 minutes and only gave in to the idea of an ice pack at the 'unofficial' water break.

Fast forward to a quick trip to urgent care and a temporary soft cast for an acute intra-articular fracture of the distal radius. Of course as Murphy's Law would have it, it's my right arm and I am right-handed. Next week I will get a new hard cast and I'm not sure yet for how many weeks. Since it's my first cast in 56 years I am hoping I at least get to pick a pretty color.

I can openly say that I never knew how much I needed two hands until I temporarily lost the use of one. Performing my full time job will be slow and frustrating since I work on a computer most of the day. Going grocery shopping and cooking one-handed will be a challenge. Blow drying and styling my hair ... can you say hat? Today I am giving myself permission to wallow in my self-proclaimed pity party. I will get over it. I tackled and beat cancer, so I know that I can conquer this too. I do have perspective - I know there are people dealing with far worse things than my 4-6 week inconvenience. I understand that. Sometimes we need to take the time to show ourselves a little grace.

Was this life's way of giving me a reality check?
Is this God's way of telling me to slow down?

Friday, September 27, 2019

When A Little White Lie Is Not So Little

How many times as a kid did you tell a 'little white lie'? Maybe it was about something as trivial as whether or not you had hopped the fence to get the ball out of your neighbor's back yard or whether or not you had spent as much time on your homework as you claimed you did. You may have thought the topics weren't all that important and you weren't hurting anyone, so why did it matter?

But little white lies aren't always so little. They matter more than you may think. Whether you are a child or a teenager or a young adult or a supervisor at work ... guess what? Lies are still lies. And the more you tell them without thinking about them, the easier it becomes for you to do. 

To me when you tell a little white lie it says you're being lazy and taking the easy way out. Maybe you don't have the answer and don't want to admit it, so you lie about it and convince yourself it's okay. Maybe you don't want to put in the needed time or discipline for something so you lie about it because you don't want to be judged (like if you cheated on your diet). Maybe you come up with excuses for why you don't get some things done. When a professional misses a deadline and makes excuses for why they weren't prepared for the meeting, they're telling a lie. Big or small, they create inconveniences for the other people who were counting on them. They make other people wait needlessly and put them in a position to have to pick up the slack to cover for them. Not very professional, for sure.

I think what some people tend to forget is that little white lies are as transparent as saran wrap. People can usually see right through them. You are basically being rude to the other person and not fooling anyone, except maybe yourself. Never a good thing. Not only are you being rude, but you're being disrespectful which only makes you look bad. Reputations can be tarnished quickly and your integrity will be questioned.

I'm not trying to be the judgmental one here and say who's right and who's wrong or when it's okay to tell a lie and when it's not. I suppose if you have to choose, think about whether your lie will hurt someone's feelings needlessly or whether your little white lie will come at a cost to someone else (especially business related). If someone asks you, 'What do you think of my new haircut?' Think about it; if you don't find it super flattering, don't be blunt and hurtful, maybe soften the blow with a more generic answer of 'Wow, what a change!'. You aren't telling a lie, you're just being considerate.

The next time you find yourself about to tell a needless fib (and we ALL do occasionally), stop and ask yourself 'Why?' Why do you need to? Do you really think you're fooling anyone? Will it be worth it?

Just remember, one small change can move mountains. If you change how you think about yourself and show yourself the respect you deserve, others will surely follow suit.

When was the last time you felt hurt or disappointed because someone lied to you and you knew it as soon as the words left their lips?