Friday, September 22, 2017

A Love-Hate Relationship

According to the calendar today is the official first day of autumn. Some people would say it's already been here for weeks since we've seen fall and Halloween decorations in the stores already; pumpkins, corn stalks, mums, and spooky spider webs. The coffee shops have already introduced their pumpkin spice flavors. The local cider mills are bustling with cider and donuts, petting zoos for the kids, and corn mazes. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE autumn. I love the color changes on the trees, the crisp mornings, and the fun of getting out my thick and cozy sweaters. But somehow it just doesn't quite seem like autumn this week. The temperatures here in the mitten have been above 80 all week, closing in on 90 today and tomorrow.

My flowers and plants are a bit confused; the leaves are turning brown but the flowers are blooming for a third time. The calendar and previous years tell me that towards the end of September it's time for me to deadhead my flowers, trim back my perennials, and start to prep my gardens for their dormant season. But this morning I had to work outside well before 7:30 a.m. in order to get my work done before it got too hot. That's right, it was already over 70 degrees when I woke up.

There is a part of me that is ready for summer to be over. I am tired of being too warm. I am looking forward to the cool breezes and the sweaters when I take an evening walk, but then it seems like autumn flies right by and we move straight into the winter months. While I may whine about the warm temperatures, I will whine even more when I have to drive on icy roads. I guess I just like to whine a lot, lol.

For all the people who love the cold or the warm temperatures year round, I take my hat off to you. I, on the other hand, look forward to the variety. Here in the mitten we have four seasons and for that I am thankful. I am not sure how I would do if EVERY month was the same. Just like shoes and a good haircut, change is a good thing.

What's your favorite thing to do in the fall?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Make The Time

How often does something happen and you wish you had more time? You or someone you care about gets sick. Your kids have grown up in what seems like the blink of an eye. There's a hurricane or a tornado. Time moves by so fast and yet we find ourselves wishing that we not only had more time, but that we had better used our time.

It is my nature to be a planner. I'm ALWAYS planning ahead; trying to be responsible and be prepared. I was a Girl Scout for many years when I was growing up, perhaps that is when the characteristic rooted. From an early age I became dependent on myself. If I wanted something done, I needed to make it happen. I learned not to depend on other people, but rather be in charge of my own destiny. Somewhere along the line though I became TOO good at being a planner. I can admit I often forget to make time for myself or the people I care most about. I tend to get caught up more in what will be happening next week and next month, so much so that I often forget to enjoy today. 

I need to learn that while it is important (and responsible) to be an organizer and an efficient planner, it is also important to learn to create a better life balance. I need to smell the roses more. I need to hold hands with my husband when we're taking a walk. I need to laugh more at witty puns and jokes until my sides ache. I need to embrace today more. If I manage to do that then I believe I will have the stronger stamina I need to tackle the responsibilities and obstacles that life will undoubtedly throw at me.

But how do I make that happen? I suppose being aware and acknowledging the problem is the first step. The next step? Great question. If you have the answer, I am all ears. I could remind myself over and over again to not worry as much about tomorrow and next week, but embrace the here and now. And if I can't remember I can only hope that my family and friends will be there to remind me, stick post it notes on my windshield, write me messages in the steam on my bathroom mirror, send me texts and emails ... whatever it takes for the proverbial 2x4 to hit me square between the eyes.

How balanced is your life? Can you relate or am I experiencing this dilemma all by myself? What helps you to keep an open perspective and to live more in the moment?

Monday, September 4, 2017

It's An Educational Anniversary

Milestones are important. They signify something monumental; the length of time you've been at the same job, the number of years you've been married, or how long you've been cancer-free. We tend to celebrate the big numbers ... five years, ten years, twenty years, fifty years. Any time you've been at something for a long time you deserve a proverbial pat on the back. Why? Because it signifies loyalty, commitment, accomplishments, and focus.

This month my husband and I are celebrating two big milestones. We will have been married for thirty-five years, which seems impossible to us (I suppose because we try to stay young at heart). We have two adult children, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and two precious granddaughters. I'd celebrate them all every day if I could. But this month we are also celebrating something else. For the first time in twenty-five years we are not driving someone to school, purchasing school supplies, attending a school musical concert or a Science Olympiad tournament. We didn't send anyone off to band camp, we didn't move someone into their college dorm, and we didn't help relocate a child off to another state. I didn't need to watch the advertisements for Bed, Bath, & Beyond or Target and I didn't make an extra trip to Sam's Club to buy granola bars or mac n' cheese in bulk. 

Yes, this is a monumental milestone for us; an educational anniversary of sorts. We've watched two children blossom into smart, talented, and God-loving adults. We'll continue to watch them find their way and their nitch in today's demanding world. We'll continue to give them both our love and our support. We'll always be just a phone call away and will always be willing to be a sounding board as they make their decisions and tough choices.

To all the parents out there who are buying new sneakers and a backpack for their elementary-aged child, we wish you luck as you and your child adjust to this week's new sleep schedule and routine. To the parents of the middle school aged kids ... brace yourselves ... they will go to school happy and come home feeling defeated because their best friend didn't say hello and someone else wore the same blouse to English class. To the parents of the high school students; pay attention to 'who' your child hangs out with, follow them on social media, and always remember that they already have enough 'friends', what they really need is for you to be a parent. For the parents that are carrying the mini-fridge up to the second or third floor of the dorm ... remember, lift with your knees! It will be easier at the end of the semester when it comes down. 

As our children hit their late teen years and even their early twenties, we always told them we would be there for them; as a sounding board, to help them study for an exam, to meet up for a burger when they were tired of cafeteria food, or to be their 'way out' of an uncomfortable situation. Trust me, when your daughter (or son) goes off to that one college party where no one was supposed to drink, but suddenly everyone was and they're worried about getting home we want them to know they can call home at any hour and we can help them work out a solution that will keep them safe and help them still be cool with their peers (which is important to them at that age).

So, here's to all the parents out there who are celebrating any sort of an anniversary or a milestone. Congrats to you for a job well done.

What life stage are you currently in and how's it going for you? Any words of wisdom for the rest of us?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Look For The Goodness

As usual, the news is full of negative things; shootings, politics, racism, controversies of all kinds, and life-threatening hurricanes. The media, and people in general, are too quick to point out the bad stuff, but if you have your eyes (and your heart) open you will also see some positive things.

Skimming through the Internet headlines and photos yesterday I saw a lot of hardship and sadness caused by Hurricane Harvey. Streets were flooded, people were forced to evacuate their homes, and the weather channels were forecasting even more rain. But I also saw strangers coming together to help strangers. I watched one video of a group of people carrying a 91 year old man down a flight of stairs in his home to place him in an inflated canoe in his living room so they could pull it out the front door and to safety. The road in front of his house, as well as his entire first floor were under water. These people were gentle, they talked to him every step of the way, and they were compassionate. This man was only one of literally thousands who needed to be rescued, but in times of crazy uncontrollable events people still manage to put their differences aside to do the right thing. It's stories like this one that give me hope; hope that there is still decency left in the world, hope that there are still times when people react from the goodness of their heart rather than being reactionary to negativity.

In the midst of tragic times, good things still happen. Babies are still born in the most dire of circumstances reminding us that there is still a tomorrow. People forget about their personal financial stresses, their dysfunctional families, their job searches, and their relationship problems and they simply put everything personal aside and pull together to help strangers in need.

I prefer to think that God doesn't cause the bad things to happen in people's lives, but rather is there giving us the strength, patience, understanding, and compassion we need to make a positive difference as we deal with all the uncertainties we are dealt. There are many, many things we cannot control in today's world, but we will always have the ability to choose how we will react. Will we allow the negativity to suck us in and hold us under or will we fight back with everything we have and overcome the obstacles? I prefer to think that everyone has an unbelievable strength hidden deep down inside. Unfortunately, sometimes it just takes the big, unpleasant stuff to push us into digging deeper.

Join me today as I pray for everyone dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. May God watch over everyone dealing with the high waters, the many uncertainties, and help to keep everyone safe.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Have A Little Fun

Most things in today's world seem to involve stress; gas prices, politics, the weather, your health, your employment, the economy ... you name it. Yesterday, however, was ALL about the eclipse. People traveled for miles to see the best darkness. Hotels were built in smaller towns to accommodate the extra people. Traffic was backed up on some interstates for miles and miles. But people had an opportunity to witness something they might never have another chance to experience. People took advantage of the opportunity and made memories.

Amidst all the daily stresses it is important to try to create a healthy balance. Yes, we all have important choices and decisions to make, but we also need to learn to lighten up once in a while. We need to have a little fun.

There is a car commercial where a man is belting out a song in his car (with his windows down), he pulls up to an intersection where the lady in the car next to him decides to join in and belt out the chorus. Makes me smile every time. Why? Because it's something I would do. I've been known to dance around the house while dusting because a Backstreet Boys song came on the radio.

We all need to be able to say, 'What the heck' and dance around the house or sing in the car or laugh in public so hard that we have tears rolling down our face. Just last weekend I was eating dinner in a restaurant with my family and I noticed a roaring laughter coming from another table. At first I thought they were being a bit rude and rather loud and distracting, but then I noticed how much fun they were having and then all I wanted to do was find out 'what' they were talking about so that I could laugh too.

Laughter is a cure all for just about anything. Last night my adult daughter and I sat on the couch and decided to create a Bitmoji for me. We laughed as we downloaded the program to my phone and then proceeded to pick out the perfect auburn colored hairstyle for my character, the snazziest clothes, the right makeup, the freckles, the eye color ... we got REAL specific, lol. Then before I could stop her, my daughter sent messages to my husband's phone (of course he was only one room away). She laughed. I laughed. My husband laughed. Bottom line? We had a little fun at the end of an otherwise stressful Monday.

How do you have a little fun? What makes you laugh and temporarily forget your stresses?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What Should I Write About?

What should I write about? Some days that is a really big question. I like to try to keep my posts as motivational, uplifting, and inspiring as possible. But, like you, I am human. There are times I have A LOT on my mind and would love to tell everyone exactly what I was thinking, but those posts would ultimately be considered a rant. Rants are never healthy; for the writer or the reader. I always talk about the power of words. Even the simplest of words have enormous power; to build people up or tear them down. You can give people hope with kind and generous words, just as you can break someone's heart or belittle them with harsh ones.

Every time we open our mouths we should consider the responsibility that we have. We should choose to use our words for good; to better ourselves and those around us. Whenever we spew ugliness for the sake of trying to get our viewpoint across or to make ourselves feel better at the risk of making someone else feel worse, we are making a bad choice ... a sad choice.

Words, whether spoken or written, carry consequences. In today's world we see and hear it every day. For every good word spoken there are bound to be five that are not. I've said it before and I will say it again ... words, once they are out, cannot be taken back. You can say you're sorry to someone. You can tell them you didn't mean to say the ugly things you did, but the truth of the matter is all you can do is continue to try to win someone back over and hope for forgiveness. You'll never be Harry Potter or a magician. You will never be able to fully take back the ugly things you've said. It just doesn't work that way.

There is the saying that 'actions speak louder than words'. That is often true, but whether we are speaking aloud or sharing our words on social media or acting out what is in our hearts we ALL need to take a step back and ask ourselves, 'Is this worth it?' 'Is this going to help or make things worse?'

I listen to the news, I read the online headlines, I observe people, and I feel sickened; by the things I hear, by the things I read, and by the things I witness. I am not one to judge what is right and what is wrong. I have to hold on to my faith that a higher power will make that judgement. I read some online comments and am disheartned by some of the things that I read. People will respond to a story or a Facebook post in the ugliest of ways. They will quickly get off topic and try to throw in their own agenda. They will suggest they are smarter and wiser and better than everyone else and therefore entitled to their disruptive opinion. That's the beauty of America. Everyone IS entitled to their own opinion, but too many people hide behind Amendments and use them as a shield to do or say irresponsible and disruptive things. That is the really sad part. People fought for the rights that others choose to take for granted.

Do I have all the answers of how to make the world a better place? Absolutely not, but I sure wish I did. I'll bet we all wish we did. So what can you and I do? We can start with us. We can't make decisions and choices for other people, but we can choose what our reaction will be and how we will deal with the unpleasantness. We have the ability to choose not to make things worse by adding fuel to the fire. We can think twice before we speak.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How long does it take you to relax?

This week I am conducting a study of sorts and putting myself at the center of the study. Like MANY other people I work full time, I have a family, and I have a lot of responsibilities. Who doesn't, right? I am certainly not centering in just on my habits, but my habits are what I know best.

I am a people pleaser, we've already established that. I never want to inconvenience anyone or add any responsibilities to their already crazy days. In order for me to feel I can go away on vacation I feel I must get all my ducks in a row; at home and at my job. Don't get me wrong, no one expects it of me other than myself. Definitely self-imposed, but that is how I roll.

This week I am on vacation with my sister; a first for us. The first night I slept pretty darn good; the bed and pillows were super comfy, the sunset was amazing, and the skies have been nothing but blue. The second night ... not a lot of sleep. My heart and my body were saying, 'Go for it, relax'. My brain? Active as usual. So how long does it take YOU to relax? Do you leave home and sleep like a baby? Do you never feel the need to check your email or phone? Can you leave the stresses and worries of everyday life back at home? If you can do all of these things, PLEASE message me with your suggestions of success.

Our goals for this week are simple; reconnect as adult sisters, not set a morning alarm, read our books until we are cross-eyed and can't read anymore, and try to just enjoy the moment. So far we seem to be doing pretty well (I think). No one has hurt anyone, lol. We've talked, we've reminisced, and we've given each other space when we need it. Like right now ... I am blogging and she is reading on the balcony. All is good.

My sister recently went camping for five days and said it took her four nights before she got a good night's sleep. I am hoping that since today is day three of five for us I am holding out for the every-other-night routine and am hoping for some serious ZZZ's tonight.

So how do you approach your vacations? With expectations and schedules or more of a 'go with the flow and see what happens' approach? I'd love to know what you look for in a vacation and whether or not you are successful. Are they more about the destination or the company? About the activities or the down time?

Stay tuned. My next post will share some of our highlights so far.