Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When Negativity Feels Like Quick Sand

DNA is an interesting thing. Our DNA makeup is unique to us alone. It defines the color of our hair and eyes, our height, the basic foundation of our health, and much of our personality. But even having the firm foundation that we each do, we also have a lot of areas in our life where our minds get to help us define who we are. We can choose how much we exercise, what foods we put in to our bodies, the words that come out of our mouths, how we choose to treat those around us, and what our daily outlook will be.
Everyone has 'things' thrown at them (unwelcome things) that can alter their mood and outlook in the blink of an eye. That's unfortunate, but a reality nonetheless. Many people are what I would term a 'Pollyanna'; they see everything with a positive set of eyes. They first look for the good. Others will be just the opposite. They will have an negative outlook ... about everything. They won't want you to lift their spirits or share a better approach with them. As sad as it is some people view negativity like quick sand. It's all they are exposed too and they can literally feel it pulling them in and under. Some will try to hold on to something positive, but it can be difficult.
Some people are a little of both; they'll have their good and bad days ... but holding on to the positive by the tips of their fingers is to be commended, because they have not given up and they are still willing to look for the light.
If you or someone you know experiences their life this way, as hard as it is some days, don't give up on them. Continue to try and help them focus on the good, on the possibilities, and on ways things could get better. The reality is YOU can never do it for them. You can't tell them how to feel or what to accept, but just because they are leaning toward giving up does NOT mean that they get to drag you down with them. Don't be sucked into a negativity that isn't yours.
Stay positive!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How Strong Is Your Passion?

I've been extremely busy with 'life' the past few weeks, but today I am attempting to take a well-deserved break. So what's on my personal agenda? Of course, some time at the library where it's quiet and the phone won't ring; although there is a tired three year old somewhere nearby letting us all know that he's done for the morning and would rather be somewhere else ... but hey, we ALL have moments like that. Then I'll be off for Taco Tuesday with my daughter for a quick lunch break and then perhaps a trip to the cider mill this afternoon with my husband (because I know if we don't go today another season will have gone by and we will have missed out on our chance once again). Sometimes we just need to put the 'lists' aside and savor the moment; I know, that's ironic coming from someone like me who always has a list with them. I guess you could say I am attempting to live on the edge today.

So what's been going on in my world lately? A lot. A fundraising project that included a dance performance recently wrapped up this past weekend, a few loose ends that still need tightening up regarding elder care for my mother, and then there's the ongoing election (something no one can seem to avoid).

Just last Sunday in church my pastor said something in his sermon about how 'you can't avoid the bad things, but you can prepare for them.' Unfortunately that is how many are categorizing this year's election. Good or bad, it will be one for the history books; the year a woman became the first female president or the year a non-politician did. There has been more mud-slinging in this campaign than with the pigs at an over-crowded 4H fair exhibit. Candidates aside, there are many voters who are disgruntled, many have become antagonistic, many have lied, many have shown their true character (or lack of it, depending on who you ask), and that probably goes double for anyone in the media or who is part of a campaign team. There has been more 'dirt' dug up on both sides that leaves many voters feeling they are left in a position of having to vote for the 'lesser of two evils'; which again will vary depending on your point of view.

Now, some may choose to comment to this blog in defense of their candidate of choice which would be ironic since I never said WHO I plan to support; so if you do make that type of comment know that I may choose how far I will allow it to go (keep it clean, keep it appropriate, and keep it relative to THIS blog post). I don't support conversations taken out of context. Social media has been flooded with personal attacks against candidates, as well as anyone who states an opinion that may differ from their own. We are all empowered to have our own opinions, I fully support that, but even one politician must concede at the conclusion of an election and for the good of our nation at least claim that they will come together and support the country going forward (for the most part). It's sad, but I've come to expect politicians, campaign managers, and the media to choose sides, wage verbal battles against the opposing side, and try to sway us to their side. I suppose that goes with the territory, but when I start reading personal Facebook, Instagram posts, etc that have strangers slamming each other down for having a different belief I am even more saddened. Why are we allowing others to dictate to us whether our personal opinion is better or worse than theirs? People will always be passionate about their families, their causes, their religions, their political points of view, etc. But when people spew off their words without thinking first they can become something they can't take back. True ... you can make a media post and sometimes delete it if you rethink things, but once you've sent an email ... it's gone. Once you've mailed a letter ... you can't get it back. Once you've said or done something ugly there's no going back for a re-do; you can apologize later, but you can't undo it, and you can't change it. Seems logical that a little more thought put into ANYTHING beforehand could be beneficial. Choosing to gain your few seconds of fame at other people's expense will never be something I can support. You may have a few people say, 'hey, way to go!' and you'll be feeling popular and important (for a moment) and you may not even care about those you insulted or stepped over for your few seconds of notoriety, but it will be your sleepless nights and conscience that you'll have to deal with ... maybe not today, but some day. We've all been there; done or said something we've regretted. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Words do have the power to build people up, as well as tear them down.

Passion can be a beautiful thing. It means you care enough about something to not keep it to yourself. That's never a bad thing; it's how you choose to act on it that becomes important. Sometimes, though, when passion comes into play, logic and common sense can fly right out the window. Relationships will be damaged, jobs and reputations can be jeopardized, and opinions will be formed. Of course, opinions and what others think of you may or may not matter to you, but if you ever plan to do something in your life where you hope people will support you  -  you may want to be careful.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Why Didn't I Hear Back From You?

Communication is a funny thing. It takes a commitment from both sides. If you ask someone a question whether in person, by text, by email, or in a letter you hope for a response. That's seems pretty natural and not asking too much. Some people see the effort you put in to the question or conversation and respond accordingly; others will almost always leave you hanging. Why do you suppose that is?
I'll admit, by nature, I am a detail oriented person. Whether it's a personal email or a work-related one, if I make an inquiry or extend an invitation or even just start a conversation I hope for a timely response (I suppose it would be too pushy of me to expect it?). Some people I know see the effort that goes into things and they respond, others for whatever reason don't bother. I certainly understand the demands of busy schedules; my calendars and To Do lists would be mind-boggling to some.
To say that how people respond (or don't) could be correlated to being a generational thing, to me, is just an excuse. Some people (young or old) are quick to ask a question, but when you reply, they leave it at that. They don't comment, they don't respond; basically they leave you wondering if they even received your response or if they did are they upset or just being nonchalant about it. If you follow through on it you may eventually get caddy responses like: 'Sorry, I'm just so busy, you wouldn't understand' or 'I thought you'd know.' Really? Are we suddenly expected to be mind readers? I don't know about you, but my crystal ball is a bit cloudy. Perhaps we didn't give them the response they were hoping for so they've simply moved on.
Should we have to ask people to be courteous? Must we include disclaimers in our messages like, 'Please respond so I can get a proper head count for the event', 'Please respond so I know whether to keep time open in my afternoon for you', 'RSVP', or 'Please confirm that you received my response'? I can see some of those being appropriate if it's work-related or you're trying to meet a deadline, but on a personal basis it would seem petty. But then, if we're being honest, many of us wish we could be more blatant and say what we are really thinking. Of course, lol, if you're a blogger you've created a platform for yourself to be able to say things without really saying them. Kind of like a subliminal message that works IF the right people take the time to read it.
So what has been your experience? Are you good about responding to people in a timely fashion? Do you consider the value of the other person's feelings or schedule? Do you experience people not responding to you? How does that make you feel?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It's About More Than Chicken

This past week my husband and I celebrated 34 years of marriage. Our children are either married or away at college so we are still adjusting to the empty nest syndrome. We threw caution to the wind and left for one night away at Frankenmuth, MI (Little Bavaria as it's commonly referred to). If you've never visited Frankenmuth you really need to Google it and then go for a visit. There's the traditional homemade chicken dinners with yummy sides of buttered noodles, mashed potatoes with the occasional lump just so you know it's real, stuffing, veggies, soup, assorted salads and breads, and then finally you top off the meal with a small dish of soft serve ice cream, but always topped with a plastic camel, mermaid, or figurine rather than a cherry. It's a time-honored tradition.

On this visit we had a terrific waitress named Jan. She was strong (especially when she lifted the heavy trays), but a real people person. We were one of her final tables for the night so we weren't in any sort of hurry. We started chatting about life, people, problems with the world, and ways the world could be a better place. Jan is not just a waitress at the world famous Zehnder's restaurant, Jan is also an 8th grade U.S. History teacher at an inner-city school. She is passionate about her job and really wants to make a difference; one student at a time. As we chatted we discovered she'd had one student who was 15 years old and was being tried as an adult for murder. She also had a student who was finding his way out of his predetermined life and was receiving a full scholarship to MSU. Jan had seen the full scope of possibilities and downturns in this school district, yet she is still driven and passionate about making a difference; one student at a time. Along the way she teaches life lessons; what is acceptable and what's not, manners, and respect. You need to take pride in whatever you do and give it your all. You will never be given respect if you don't first respect yourself.

We couldn't help but ask why, after a long stressful day at school, she was moonlighting at a very busy restaurant in the evenings. The answer was clear; one that we hear way too often in today's society. The teachers in her school district had taken a 9% pay cut to help with a budget deficit. There are often many misconceptions about teachers. Sure there are some who've been in the system long enough that they are making decent money, but many teachers today (with both bachelor and master degrees) are not making a fraction of what they should. Of course, people will say it's an EASY job and you get summers off. Sure an average teacher has 6-8 weeks off during the summer, but many teach summer classes, continue to tutor, take on outside summer jobs, coach sport teams, teach driver's education, etc.
In Jan's case she took on the 2nd job year round as a waitress so she could still keep up with her mortgage. My son and daughter-in-law are also teachers. I know MANY teachers that attend my church. Teaching is a job that demands respect; they have a great deal of responsibility in helping to raise our children. We've been blessed to have had some amazingly devoted teachers pass through our children's lives over the years; teachers that made a HUGE impact.
So how did we leave the evening? We'd gained some insights into a common problem, we listened to someone else's perspective that we didn't know, and we left a sizable tip as a thank you (that sparred a whole new conversation). Jan didn't take anything for granted and was extremely thankful.
Not every blog post will have the promise of a hidden gem of intuition that is priceless, but that's life ... no guarantees. I write about real life ... my life. I write about what I know and what I observe and hope that others can connect to it. The moral of this post? When you take pride in yourself and your work, the respect will come. Do the right things first and foremost for yourself and hope that others recognize your diligence.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Autumn Is Upon us

It is that time of year when the yellow busses are out making the rounds in the early morning hours, some of the nights are getting a little cooler, holiday decorations are changing in the department stores, and football is underway.
So what are your favorite parts of autumn? The trips to the cider mills? The 'pumpkin' everything at Starbucks and Tim Horton's? The thrill of a touchdown and hopefully the marching band playing a high school halftime show? What about the change of tree colors that will arrive in the next 30 days or so? There are A LOT of great things about the upcoming season. I actually look forward to putting on a light sweater. I think I am just about done with wearing my shorts and showcasing my 'extremely white legs'.
Every season has it's downfalls though. For many the summers can be too hot, the winters are too cold and snowy, and the springtime causes too much coughing and sneezing. But what about autumn? I LOVE the fall! I love having the windows open again. I love the splendor of the tree colors. I love going for walks and hearing the crackling leaves under my feet. What do I not care for? Hmm ...
While I do enjoy college and professional football and having a game on in the background while I do something else I don't care for the attitudes and showboating of many professionals. Players get paid A LOT of money, most of them anyway, but when some score a touchdown they showboat with a ridiculous little sidestep or salsa and (in my mind) look completely ridiculous. Okay, so they got a touchdown ... isn't that in their job description? Isn't that what they're being paid to do? I understand being caught up in the moment and being excited; that's the sport, that's adrenaline. Showboating with a rehearsed dance, to me, makes them look immature, cocky, and kind of dumb. Now there's a roll model, huh?
Maybe when the cement worker finishes laying a seamless new driveway he should break out into a waltz or a gliding side step to show everyone how 'smooth' his moves are. Maybe when a college student aces a midterm they should start a line dance down the hallway. We don't see baseball players choreographing their celebrations when they hit a homerun. A basketball player will execute a slam dunk and maybe high five his teammates. So why do football players (guys who will mostly only play 16 actual games in a season) feel the need for the hype? Why do they need to capture the attention of the nearby cameraman? Is it because they only play once a week? Is it because their seasons are so much shorter compared to other professional sports? Does it give them less time to attract sponsorships and fans?
I may be a suburban housewife who works full time, writes a blog, has raised her children, adores her granddaughter, does a great deal of fundraising, and takes dance classes on the side but I do know that I find it annoying to watch a grown man prance around like a peacock displaying his colorful feathers. Will it ever change? Most likely, not. Most likely neither will my opinion.
What do you think? Does it bother you? Do you enjoy watching it and learning a few new dance steps? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Going Back To School

Flipping the calendar from August to September represents more than just the start of a new school year for kids, their teachers, and bus drivers. It's also the start of a new season for parents; funny thing is it doesn't matter if you're the parent of a 2nd grader or a college student. My youngest packed up last week and headed back to college for her senior year. As the parents of a last child going through the process there are a lot of things that will change; some we're glad for, others not so much.

My husband and I were thrilled that we did not have to tote a mini-fridge or microwave this year; especially since her campus apartment does not have an elevator and she's on the 3rd floor (that's 35 steps up and 35 steps back down, but who's counting). We're certainly not saddened that we'll never have to complete another FAFSA form. There has been a realization this past week, though, that while the routine has seemed extremely familiar it also seems a bit nostalgic. It's a big year; for her and for us. She has a lot on her plate this year with musical performances, classes, internships, a pep band job, and being the president of a new school club ... oh and just to add more into the mix she's hosting her own radio show once a week. 

For my husband and I, we have another 2 semesters to help prepare us for our empty nest (good thing we really like each other). Of course, she's more than welcome to come back home after graduation (at least til she's ready to start the next phase of her life). So what did we do this past week? We helped our daughter move back to school. Once in her room I did, once again, what I've done for her and her brother on move-in day each and every year at college ... I unpacked the linens and made the bed, then took her to the grocery store and bought her a bag of groceries. For the first week, at least, I have complete peace of mind that she has a comfy, clean bed and food to eat for breakfast. From here on out it's her responsibility to remember to eat and make her bed (fortunately she is a neat freak and always keeps her room organized and clean ... proud mom moment).

I remember when my son had his first move-in day at college (back in 2004). We pulled the car up to the curb and were given 10 minutes to unpack EVERYTHING onto the lawn, then move the car. We could take as long as we needed then to transfer everything to his room. I stood in awe and watched some parents unpack their car, hug their child (young adult), then drive away and leave them standing there alone with all their stuff in a giant pile on the lawn. I can't tell you how many 'piles' I supervised for kids I didn't know just so they could start making trips to their room. It was their first clear moment of panic. I always believed that the responsibilities of being a parent didn't end when the child turned 18 or you dropped them off at their college, but maybe I am old-fashioned.

Next spring when our daughter graduates she will walk across the stage and receive her diploma and afterwards we'll hug and look at each other and say, 'We did it!' Okay, maybe 95% of the credit will be hers, but the other 5% will go to my husband and I (for the packing, the unpacking, the carrying of mini-fridges and microwaves, the financial assistance, the pep talks, the Sunday dinner leftovers packed in Tupperware containers, the mailed cards with encouraging words, and the homemade treats - enough for her AND all the roommates.)

So here's to another year. May it be an exciting one full of good challenges and lots of memories.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What do you do when you're disappointed?

What disappoints you?
The weather? The ending of a movie or book? Your finish in a race? A meal at a restaurant? Politicians; or just people's behavior in general?
How do you react when you're disappointed? If you're like most people you run through a whole mix of emotions. You may feel sadness, regret, anger or bitterness, or even a bit of guilt. The first reactions are to be expected, but why do we sometimes feel guilty? We may wonder if the person or situation that has disappointed us could have been avoided. Was it because of something we did or perhaps didn't do? Is the situation or outcome potentially any fault of ours? We'd be na├»ve to think that we're completely blameless in some situations. Choosing to eat that heavy dessert after dinner may not have been the wisest decision, so we need to accept some of the blame when we don't feel well later. But people are different, they definitely aren't a dessert that we chose to over-indulge in.
People are complex, and YES, people can make choices. If you feel disappointed by the behavior of someone step back and take an objective look before you start blaming yourself. It's fine to accept some of the blame at times, but I don't think we should automatically think their behavior had anything to do with us. Everyone has the ability to make a choice, but in doing so we should also accept responsibility for any outcomes related. If someone behaves poorly or out of character, maybe there's something else going on. Before we automatically think, 'Oh, I'm sorry. Did I do something to provoke their behavior?' perhaps we should take a deep breath and ask ourselves, 'I wonder what THAT was all about?'
It's normal to be disappointed; in others' behavior as well as our own. Maybe it would be more constructive and beneficial to find out the 'WHY something happened' rather than the 'WHAT happened'. We cannot change the choices people make, only our own. We may never uncover, or even understand the 'why'. We need to cut ourselves some slack. I know, easier said than done. It's hard not to want things to go smoothly or even nicely. It's disappointing when we witness people behaving in selfish or vicious ways. People will always do and say things they regret, but actions AND words have the ability to be hurtful and cannot be taken back. Someone can acknowledge what they've said or done or sometimes what they haven't (but should have). That moment can be crucial and life changing, but it's their moment to take ownership of - not ours.
Be supportive, be a good listener, but never allow yourself to be a doormat.