Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Try Changing Your Perspective

We can always remind ourselves to try to think positively, to view the glass as half full, and that we have enough to worry about today without thinking about tomorrow. For many, these can just be words; words that we tell ourselves over and over again, but unless we start believing them will mean absolutely nothing.
 
I am certainly not one to give advice; my life isn't perfect and I can openly admit that I rank up there among the best of worriers. It's my nature. It's in my genes. It's what I can do with my eyes closed while multi-tasking on six other things. Of all the things I think I do pretty well, this isn't one that I am proud of.
 
So I won't give advice. I won't pretend that I know more than you. I certainly won't try to convince you that I have all the answers. What can I do? I can keep trying. I can keep listening to my pastor's sermons on Sunday mornings. I can listen objectively to conversations and see what little nugget of wisdom I can learn and try to apply to my own life. I can see what works and what doesn't and NOT give up.
 
I have a great life! I have a loving and devoted husband, I have awesome kids, an amazing daughter-in-law, the most beautiful granddaughter in the world (and I don't think I'm biased at all, lol), and a second granddaughter due to arrive in a month. I have my health, people tell me I look younger than my age, and I have a job I like and think I'm pretty good at. I have a lot going for me, but I'm human. I still worry ... a lot, about many different things. But at the end of the day I can either worry myself sick (which isn't good for me or anyone else) or I can try to change my perspective; every day and every other hour, if needed.
 
When I am stressed or find myself frustrated about something I have to do, rather than tell myself 'I HAVE to do (insert blah, blah, blah)', I need to learn to rephrase my action and say 'I GET to do (blah, blah, blah)'. Will this work every time? Perhaps not, but it might help me regain my perspective. Yes, lately I find myself inundated with paperwork and responsibilities for me, my immediate family, my extended family, and my job. BUT I need to remind myself; I HAVE a job. I HAVE a family to worry about. I HAVE a roof over my head; so what if the wind took down three big trees in my yard last week ... they didn't fall on my house or anyone else's. I can worry about my son's health or my daughter finding a job after graduation, but guess what? I can't wish my son's discomfort away and I can't send in a resume' for my super-talented and qualified daughter (but if anyone wants to hire a soon-to-be-graduate with a lot of knowledge and great people skills, please give me a call).
 
In the end, I can continue to try to make each day better than my last. I can try to create a better balance for myself (whatever that looks like). I can remind myself daily to change my perspective and make my shoulders lighter.
 
Maybe you have a nugget of wisdom for me? How do you keep a healthy and positive perspective these days?

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Battle Of The What Ifs

With everything that is going on in today's society; competitive job markets, political unrests, health scares, economic statuses ... it is no wonder that the average person is left to deal with worry and anxiety. Stress isn't a new word, by any means. People, young and old, have been dealing with it for generations. People worry about their their incomes, they worry about the rising costs of a college education for their children, they worry about the price of health insurance, utilities, about the strength of relationships, and about practically everything else.

It was only a week ago that my pastor targeted his sermon about worries. How by worrying about tomorrow today, we were basically wasting our time because God had a plan and there was enough worry for today without worrying about the future too (I'm paraphrasing, of course). I find comfort in knowing that God has a plan for my life and those I care about, but He also made me the way that I am. He gave me a set of gifts and talents, which I attempt to use as wisely as I can. But I am also a natural born worrier, a mediator, a wanna-be Wonder Woman who seems to think it is expected for me to have answers and solutions to everyone's questions and problems at any given time. With that self-imposed responsibility, though, comes tension headaches, stiff shoulders, countless sleepless nights, worry lines around my eyes, and bouts of unexplained tears. I want to convince myself that I am strong and can deal with anything (and most times I can), but sometimes I am humbled and reminded of my humanness. No one else expects me to have it ALL together ALL of the time, well some may, but I am only one person.

I have a tattered small piece of paper taped to the rim of my computer screen at work that says '...God will never give me more to handle than he knows my shoulders can bear.' I read it several times a day to try and help me keep an even perspective.

Most days I am a 'glass is half full' kind of gal, but we all have our moments of doubt when the WHAT IFS start creeping their gloomy heads in to our days and dreams at night. What if our friend loses their job? What if the college students we know don't get jobs after graduation? What if we don't meet our deadlines and quotas at work? What if the price of health insurance continues to rise more than it already has, HOW will be be able to pay for it? Worse, what if someone gets sick and we actually need to USE the insurance, how will be afford to pay the deductibles?

Trying to keep the glass half full is a lot of work; it is no wonder we have sleepless nights, nauseous stomachs, and headaches. Study after study has shown that anxiety can give us physical symptoms; being 'sick' of the stress and the worry is more real than you know.

So, what's the perfect answer? I wish I knew. Continue to take life one day at a time, I suppose. Continue to do the best that we can using the tools we presently have. We'll never be able to get 30 hours in a day or 8 days in a week. We need to be able to slow down long enough to hear ourselves think; to temporarily block out all the things that may be overwhelming us. We need to set boundaries for ourselves and pray that people will respect them for what they are. We need to find an inner peace that allows us to take the 'being perfect' pressure off of ourselves. We need to trust God more that He really won't give us more to handle than He knows we can deal with.

What if we could say NO once in a while when we were asked to add something to our already overflowing plate? What if we forced ourselves to take 20 minutes out of our already busy day to focus on us? What if  we learned, a little at a time, to trust that everything could turn out okay? What if we packed the Wonder Woman lasso and golden cuffs back into the Halloween dress up box and stopped thinking that we needed to wear them every day?

Personally, I'd love to try focusing on these WHAT IFS instead. 

*Disclaimer ... this blog post is my twenty minutes of ME time for today. Trying to use my own advice. 😉

Saturday, February 25, 2017

If You Dream It Will It Happen?

What are the meaning of dreams? I'm sure there are scientists and physicians who have studied the topic extensively and would most definitely have an opinion. There might be those who believe in the more spiritual side of dreams and believe them to be a connection with our inner soul; perhaps trying to tell us something. Sometimes dreams are memories. Sometimes they are fantasies. Sometimes, depending on what we had for dinner, they could be REALLY out there and confusing (just ask my daughter; she once had a dream that involved dancing green beans).

Often, my dreams are a reflection and continuation of whatever I was thinking about before I dozed off. That could be good or bad, depending on the kind of day I'd had. If I'm working on a creative project and over thinking something, my dreams can take me in a direction of the different possibilities. That can be a good thing IF it helps me come to a conclusion.

Some dreams can be nightmares; they can be scary and overwhelming, often caused by fear, stress or doubt. When we're worried we find that our dreams take us down paths of distractions and gloom. We imagine the what ifs and the worse case scenarios; kind of the 'glass is half empty' type of dream. There's always that dream where you feel like you are falling and jerk yourself awake right before you hit the bottom.

So ... do you think dreams are real? Do they have any major significance other than helping us pass the time when we're sleeping? I am neither a psychologist nor a scientist, so I wouldn't presume to know for sure. However, I can say that last week when I woke up in the morning with a stiff shoulder and a tight neck, it may have had something to do with the yellow piece of paper I had accidentally knocked over and behind my desk and the 2 hours during the night I spent contorting my body trying again and again to reach, BUT I could be wrong.

When was the last time you had a dream that you thought was real or insightful? Was it helpful? Do you dream about accomplishing a personal goal? Do you dream about finding that someone special you've been looking for? Personally, I constantly have dreams where I am playing with some of the most adorable, furry little puppies, but sadly so far I haven't gotten one. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cookie Cutters Are Best Left In The Kitchen

Cookie cutters are a great invention. Anyone can express their creativity in the kitchen with a cut out for any shape. You can honor every holiday, a birthday, a graduation, a new house, or tell someone you love them simply by pressing that special cookie cutter into some dough and then decorating it so that it is just the way YOU want it to be. But cookie cutters are best left in the kitchen.
 
People are not cookie dough, although their personalities can be sticky at times and things can get messy. Employees can not be duplicated to perform the same. Students will not all learn in similar ways. A lot of 'things' can be mass produced in a factory on a conveyor belt and they will appear to be the same, but people are different. People are unique. We look different, we behave and react different, and we process everything differently. A factory can create a product where the outcome will basically be the same because there are NO variations, but service-related industries will never have the same result. Why? Because people are directly involved. Sure, a company can have a goal of how their customer service should perform, but there are too many unknown factors. The customer may have had a bad experience with the company. The customer service rep may not be fully knowledgeable of the company's product or service and unknowingly give the customer the wrong information.
 
This week I attended a college lecture given by Henry Winkler (actor, writer, producer, etc., but best known to many as 'The Fonz' from the TV show 'Happy Days'). It was an interesting lecture with many great insights. He talked about his career, about his family, about his struggles with dyslexia, and his personal experiences with learning. Everyone has issues and things they must overcome in their lives, but he didn't discover his dyslexia til he was in his early 30s. Until then he was told constantly that he was dumb, he was stupid, he was lazy, and he would never amount to anything. His teachers couldn't (or didn't) help him; neither did his parents. But he didn't give up. He had dreams and goals and was determined to find a way to achieve them. He talked about today's education and the need and importance to try and reach each student where they are.
 
We've all known that student (perhaps we were that student) who tried and tried and tried to get through a particular subject at school, but found themselves struggling. I am certainly not going to blame the teachers, but believe it or not even teachers are human. As with any profession, some teachers are great and some are not. Today's schools have limitations though, as do many areas of life (businesses included). It is easy to understand why in a classroom of 30+ students some will be at the top of the learning curve and some will be at the bottom AND some will get lost in the middle. It is frustrating for any human being though, whether they are a young student in the classroom or an adult working at their job, to feel overwhelmed because they are yearning to learn and do a great job, but the system seems to be fighting them.
 
People cannot be treated like a product created by a shiny silver cookie cutter. We will never be perfect, nor will we be identical. We will all have our flaws, but if given some personal attention we will thrive. My advice? Leave the cookie cutters in the kitchen and save them for when you're feeling creative and want to impress someone. For everything else, stop and listen to what people are REALLY trying to say and perhaps assist them in getting to where they are trying to go.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What are your six words?

Last week I was meeting with a group of women. We were given the task of describing our life in just six words. The six words could be random, descriptive words OR they could be placed strategically together to summarize your life.

Could you do it? What six words would you use?
 
Sometimes I think too much, too hard, and definitely for too long (lol, now you know a little more about me). When I was given the opportunity, six words instantly swirled around in my head and formed an idea ... drum roll, please ... A NEVER ENDING JOURNEY OF CHANGE. Yep, those were my six words.
 
In an ideal world I would always have a plan, a To Do list with a place for neat little check marks, and I would always feel like I was doing my best, being super-productive, and always, always getting the job done. Ha! Then reality hits my ideal little corner; my protected bubble of space where I imagine nothing bad, or inconvenient, or uninvited will ever work its way in. Indeed, my illusions are shattered almost daily.
 
Life happens. People get sick and require your help. Co-workers leave their positions and your assistance is needed during the transition. Outside obstacles get dumped directly in your path of things YOU want to accomplish. It doesn't mean your dreams and goals always get squashed, but it's not unheard of that they will temporarily get delayed or even postponed for a little while.
 
When this happens, what can you do to not lose sight of your plans? How do you be what everyone else needs you to be and still remain true to yourself? That would be the million dollar question; one that if I had the answer to it I could help A LOT of people. There are some simple things we can do, like make an idea board. Create something visual so that every time you look at it you can't help but be reminded of what your goal is. Perhaps keep a journal; remembering what you are working towards, what is getting in your way, and what you can do to still move forward (if even in baby steps). Moving forward is always better than moving backward. It's not about the size of step, it's more about the direction that you are going.
 
I've had more than my share of CHANGE in my lifetime. I've had dysfunctional family relationships to overcome, I've battled a disease, I've invested my heart and soul into a solid marriage, I've raised two great kids (with my better half), I've been on financial roller coasters over the years thanks to the economy and change, and the list goes on ... but I am here now and I'd like to think that I am strong enough to overcome whatever life deals me. What are my goals and dreams? That's a funny thing. I have them now, but they look a lot different than they did 10 or even 20 years ago. Most likely they will look even more different in another 10 years, but I will keep facing forward trying not to worry so much about the slow pace.
 
I'd love to know ... what would your six words be?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Do you have a Secret Angel?

Ever feel like you have that someone special in your corner who's praying for you, encouraging you, or watching over you? I've known many people who feel like they have that special connection with a family member or friend who has passed away; a guardian angel of sorts. Knowing that they loved us when they were here on earth helps us feel connected even after they are gone. 

This morning I was getting ready to attend a ladies' luncheon sponsored by my church. As I was getting dressed I reached in my jewelry box and was deciding on a pair of earrings. I went with the red ones, lol; they matched the blouse I was wearing. I went to grab a necklace and was drawn to a special one that I have. My grandmother's wedding rings on a silver chain. I put my glasses on to read the engraving on the inside of the band again ... her wedding date back in 1927. Wow, here we are in 2017, meaning that the rings are now 90 years old. Whenever I wear the necklace I feel closer to my grandmother. I feel connected. I feel like she is watching over me.

The luncheon, today, was for a ministry called 'Secret Angels'. At the beginning of the year every woman in the church had an opportunity to participate for the upcoming year by filling out a questionnaire with some of their likes, their hobbies, their interests, their favorite colors, their birthday, and any prayer requests they had for stuff that was going on in their life. 28 women chose to participate this year. Each lady was 'secretly' assigned to another lady. We would send anonymous cards of inspiration, letters of encouragement, and occasional gifts to brighten their day. I knew who I would be praying for during the upcoming year, but didn't know who I would be receiving items from. It's been joyous, it's been uplifting, and it's been fun. We spend most of our days focusing on the things we need to do; working at our jobs, building our relationships, and taking care of our responsibilities. It's nice to be able to spend some time focusing solely on someone else; someone who appreciates and looks forward to what we have to offer and expects absolutely nothing in return. They don't even know WHO we are.

I was blessed with a Secret Angel this past year who didn't really know me in the beginning, but became inspirational to me. The little gifts were appreciated; they were nice surprises that made me feel special ... but it was the notes, the prayers, and the poems that arrived in the mail at JUST the right time. The words gave me the encouragement I was craving and made me feel special. I only hope that I had as much of an impact on the lady I focused on during the year. Today was all about revealing our identities. There were moments of surprise, there was laughter, and even a few tears.

If you ever have an opportunity to be part of something special like this you really should. Yes, it is a commitment and yes, you'll have to finish what you start ... but, it'll be well worth it. You'll make a friendship, you'll learn life lessons, and you'll want to sign up for another year. 

Having a guardian angel is something very special, but sometimes our angels are right here nearby and we don't even know it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Voice In Your Head


Everyone has that one voice in their head. The voice that tells them whether something is a good idea or a bad one. The voice that tells them they're not too old to tackle a difficult challenge. The voice that tells them it is okay to eat the second dessert, lol. The voice that tells them that if they stay up late tonight they won't have any problem getting up early for work tomorrow.

That is the trouble with the 'voice' in our heads. Sometimes it is the voice of wisdom and experience trying to give us sound advice and sometimes it is our inner-child trying to convince us we are invincible and nothing could possibly go wrong.

Sometimes the voice tells us something different. Sometimes it tries to convince us that we aren't enough and that if we try to succeed we will most definitely fail. The sad part is that we often find ourselves listening to that uninvited voice. The voice that shouldn't have any merit, yet often does.

Sometimes the voice is in our head and sounds a lot like our own voice. Yet, other times the voice can be heard in line at the grocery store, during a meeting at work, or when we're walking among strangers at the mall. The voice can often be difficult to hear clearly; even more difficult to fully understand. There will be times when we hear it wrong or we completely misunderstand the message. There will be times when we misinterpret the words. There will even be times when we base our actions and choices on what we think we hear. 

We all know people, or at least that one person, who we allow to get under our skin and into our head. We start to listen to their voice and we begin to believe it and doubt our own. No one has that much power over us, unless we let them. Yes, they will try and may succeed at first ... until we realize that OUR voice is the one we should be listening to. We are the ones who know ourselves better than anyone else. We will never be enough for everyone else, but we will always be enough for the one person that truly matters ... ourself.

When the 'voice' in your head begins to sound unfamiliar, don't listen. If you can't help but listen, then try to do it objectively. Listen first and react second, only after you've evaluated the content. That voice is usually like the uninvited guest at the party. Sometimes you just need to show it the way to the door. When the voice that is most familiar to you sounds loyal and supportive and encouraging, then that is the voice you should take stock in.

When was the last time you listened to the wrong voice? What was it telling you? How did you figure out it was the wrong one?