Sunday, January 15, 2017

Trust Your Instinct

When ideas, opinions, and remedies are being thrown at you like multi-colored splatter paint the best thing you can do is stop, breathe, and evaluate. IF you are part of a creative team then you are accustomed to professional brainstorming sessions. Your boss might tell you they want 3 brand new ideas before the meeting is over, but verbal demands won't always guarantee that the creative juices will instantly flow. IF you view any sort of social media you know people in various positions will saturate the airwaves, Internet, and TVs with opinions (mostly their own). The thing about an opinion is that it is just that ... it is a personal perspective; there is no guarantee that it is right or wrong. IF you are suffering from something as minor as a physical discomfort or as major as an illness, there will undoubtedly be someone who will step forward, ready and willing to save you with their version of a remedy (perhaps medical and proven - perhaps not).

So what do you do when the ideas, opinions, or remedies are not only unsolicited, but unwelcome? First, you consider the source (Is there any real experience there? Any first hand knowledge?). You should consider the intent of sharing the information (Is it for your benefit or the one sharing the information?). Will this new information sway you in any way from your own morals, values, and personal foundation in which you base your daily mindset and more importantly; how you live your life?

If an idea doesn't sit well with you, it is probably best to sit on it for a while. That's where the stop, breathe, and evaluate advice would come in. Stop what you are doing, don't just react. It's been my experience that immediate reactions usually come from the heart, not from the brain. If you then breathe and take the time needed to evaluate the situation you may come to a completely different consensus. Your reaction will then come from your head. Trust yourself and trust your instincts. Do your research and then do what you can. There is most likely always going to be 'something' you can control about any given situation; if nothing else ... you can control your first reaction, how you will deal with the results and long term effects, or what you will take away from the situation as a future lesson.

Not all ideas are bad. Not all remedies are useless. Opinion? That can be the trickiest of the three. Not many people share their opinions just so they can hear themselves talk, yet it does happen. Someone might think I am being hypocritical because I blog. A conversational  blog, such as this one, is mostly opinion. The difference with my point is that I don't blog with the intent of changing anyone's behavior or opinion. I may ask questions, but only because I hope it will make my readers stop and think about something; whether that be how they look at a situation, how they may react when having to deal with a dilemma, or even to suggest another possible solution. In the end whatever they choose to say or do is strictly them.

As of late, we have had our share of politicians, actors and actresses, professional people, young adults, etc share their opinions in many forms for the sole purpose of trying to convince others to step over to their side, because it is different than ours. My suggestion (and again, this is strictly my opinion, lol) ... do your OWN research and form your OWN opinion and reaction. Take opinions for what they are, just that ... an opinion.

Do you find it difficult or easy to trust your instincts? Initially, do you usually react to a person or situation with your heart or with your head?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tradition or A Pastime?

I was recently part of a good conversation with some ladies; we talked about the 'oldest' things in our houses. The general consensus was that we have keepsakes from our parents, our grandparents, and even great-grandparents. We have old dishes (mostly fine china ... that didn't come from China), old furniture, heirloom jewelry, and numerous nostalgic black and white photos. Why do we hold on to the older items? Because of the memories? Because of the traditions? Because we like old, dusty stuff and we are secret-hoarders, lol? All good questions.

The funny thing is as we sat in a circle discussing the items we had and who we acquired them from, some of us had a shared conclusion that 'none of our kids seem to want OUR saved stuff'. We hold on to these items because they are part of our history and shared legacies with our families, yet we are under the delusion that we are saving all these items to pass on and share with our own children and grandchildren. We have hopes that they will appreciate what we appreciate, but seemingly many of them do not and we must accept that. Many of the items we hold on to were part of a different time. A time when most material things were made well, not to be replaced in a few years with a newer model. To acquire these 'things' families scrimped and saved. The items were built to last, were appreciated, and used ... a lot ...and for many years. Families sat at their tables 'together' for meals. Families listened to old turntables together and sang out loud. Grandmothers passed their pearls on to their daughters and granddaughters to wear on their wedding days. One lady suggested that the current generation is more minimalistic. I get that and would agree with it more if I didn't know first hand all of the matchbox cars, building kits, beanie babies, and instruments that have been saved in my house over the years. But as one of the ladies questioned, 'Why wouldn't they want our stuff? We have GOOD stuff!' Yet, times have changed. Most everything today seems to be about replacing it in a year or two with a newer, fancier, or just repackaged version.

Traditions are seemingly learned practices that are passed on from generation to generation. Pastimes are things we do as a hobby or for enjoyment. Some people would say they are able to honor both; they appreciate the quality and the history of the old. Some of us will come across something in our basement and offer it to our children and they'll say, 'No thanks', but they'll go to vintage stores and antique shops to look for something old. Seriously, they could save a lot of money if they'd just take some of our stuff, lol. At least then the history behind the item would be in the form of a family story, rather than a mystery as told by a sales clerk. On the other hand if we gave them something that was meaningful to us and they cut it half or painted over it, there would probably be a little part of our heart that would cry (but then hopefully we would be open-minded and get over it).

I pride myself on having readers from various demographics, so here are some questions for you. IF you are 'more mature in age' (I hope that is politically correct so I haven't offended anyone, lol), what kinds of things are you holding on to and why? More importantly, are you displaying or using the items or are they being stored in a box on a shelf in the back corner of your storage room? IF you are on the younger side is there anything you hope to have handed down to you some day? What would it be and who would it be from? What is the special memory attached to it.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Year Is Winding Down

Tomorrow is the LAST day of the year. 2016 will soon be nothing more than another chapter in our life book. Surely, there were high and low points; no one's life stays on a constant horizontal balance 100% of the time. As New Year's Eve draws nearer it would be customary for people to talk about resolutions and goals; some undoubtedly will revolve around diets, relationships, jobs, and finances (they always do). Maybe what is better to think about is how did you do with your resolutions and goals from one year ago? Did you pick a goal that was repetitive? Have you been setting yourself up to fail? 

A year ago I got the news that my cholesterol was higher than I would have liked. My weight wasn't exactly where I wanted it to be. My overall attitude needed some adjustments. I sincerely needed to find better ways of dealing with anxiety and stress. So, here I am one year later and it is time for a progress report. My cholesterol has gone down and is still improving. I made some lifestyle changes and without any dieting I am down 22#. My attitude, like anyone else's, remains a constant work in progress. But on some days, I am proud to report, I feel like I am doing a little better.

I don't like picking resolutions on demand at the end of year with a party horn in my hand, they feel too forced for me. Goals can be a good thing, as long as they are reasonably attainable. For me, I would rather reflect on where I am today, think about what is working and what is not, and think about whether or not I can do anything at all to improve it.

If you check dictionary.com synonyms for the word 'resolution' include determination, perseverance, strength, and fortitude. I sincerely like the sounds of these words. They all suggest positive images and success. Rather than saying you want to lose 20#, tell yourself that when the end of the year comes you want to be a healthier you (whatever that looks like). Rather than saying 'I want a new job', pray for a sense of commitment, respect, and accomplishment in whatever you are doing. Rather than saying you want to be in a certain place in a relationship, work toward being in a healthier and stronger mindset - the rest will come when it is the right time.

I had a lot of highs and some lows in 2016. I stepped out of my comfort zone, tackled ballroom dancing and raised a lot of money for a great cause. I played with my granddaughter whenever I could. I added some flowers to my garden. I bought my first-ever pair of straight leg skinny jeans (and wasn't embarrassed to wear them outside of my house). On the downside, our family lost someone special, I have learned more about elder care and being a power of attorney than I ever wanted to know, and I still have moments when I deal with anxiety and insecurities (but who doesn't?).

So, what has been great for you in 2016? 
What's been not so good? 
Where do you see yourself one year from today?
How do plan to get there?

Monday, December 26, 2016

It Takes Time For A Change To Transition Into A New Norm

Right now we are in full swing of the holidays. We've shopped, we've wrapped, we've stood in lines, we've baked and cooked, and we've socialized. We've made it through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and now it is the morning after. We're relaxing, we've attempted to tidy up our houses to regain a little bit of order. We will undoubtedly eat leftovers for the next few days until the time comes when someone cries out, 'I need a hamburger; no more ham, PLEASE.'

During the holidays, including up through New Years, we try to catch up with friends and neighbors, and have family gatherings. For some, the holidays have looked a little different this year. I know it has in our house. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner, if I do say so myself, but it was still different. In years past we played host to a larger extended family or close friends, but this year it was just 3 of us. We prepared the same dishes, decorated the house, went to a candlelight worship service, and watched Christmas movies on the couch. We missed having our whole immediate family here with us, but we understand that life changes; kids get married, start families of their own, and start new traditions (that perhaps do not mesh with ours). A family member passed this year and wasn't part of our holiday routine, and another family member is now in a nursing care facility which created yet another change.

The 3 of us slept in on Christmas morning and went through the rest of our day at a slower, more meandering sort of speed. Now it is Monday and we are all feeling a little lost. We have a couple of days off and want to make the most of them, but also aren't sure what to do. I do not have the desire, nor the energy yet today, to go shopping. I may do a little bit of Internet research for the best way to spend a gift card and perhaps venture out on Wednesday, lol.

The thing is, there is A LOT of hype that gets us up to the holiday (holiday music on the radio for one), but nothing that tells us what to do the 'morning after'. This morning my husband told me he saw one of our neighbors already taking their outdoor lights down. What? Seriously? I'm not ready to go that far. We have an entire year in between the holidays; meaning that a lot of change can take place during those 12 months. Relationships can change, for good or bad. Families can become bigger; we may have added spouses or new babies. As our small corner of the world changes, so do our traditions and the way we do things to make life special. Changes can happen literally overnight, just ask someone who has lost someone unexpectedly. In order for changes to become the new normal, though, we will need time. Thankfully, there is no time limit for a change to transition into a new norm. It won't happen over night. We'll have old memories to consider and new memories to create.

So, first off, how was your Christmas? What made it special? What was new about it? What, if anything, changed for you?

What are you doing today on this 'day after'? What does the rest of your week look like? Anyone that knows me well knows that I am a planner, a scheduler extraordinaire. I worked at a frenzied pace the entire week before Christmas and now I have a little time off. I could be curling up with a book, watching a movie, or sitting in my retreat room facing my laptop (oh wait, that's exactly what I'm doing right now). The point is I still feel a bit lost. When you're always used to your calendar being full you suddenly aren't sure what to do with an open slot; sorry if that sounds as pathetic as it presently looks on my laptop screen.

What is my big point today? Only that if you've experienced a big change this year (or even a small one) that has you feeling a little out of sorts and a little lost, that's okay. Take as much time as you need to face those changes head on, to try to understand them better, to appreciate and digest them, and to learn to accept them for what they are (or aren't). Given the right amount of time, your changes will transition into your new norm. Your holiday, this year or next, can be whatever you want it to be.

Friday, December 9, 2016

When It's Okay To Let Go Of A Friendship

Generally at this time of year I find myself blogging about the holiday season; the twinkling lights, the decorations, the hustle and bustle, and the real reason for the season. I try to keep my topics positive and uplifting; there's enough sadness and chaos in the world as it is. 

I recently asked my readers online for some topic ideas. I wanted to get a feel for what people were dealing with, besides the obvious holiday things. I inquired about traditions and things they looked forward to this time of year. My sister replied that each year she tackles a 1,000 piece puzzle. She starts it at Thanksgiving and tries to finish it by New Year's. It's a goal she finds relaxing.

By December 1st I try to have my Christmas cards written and in the mail. People joke that I am usually ahead of the pack; but, truth be told, no matter what day I send mine out on I will always get one from a previous co-worker first. Darlene beats me every year! That's become our tradition.

For me, writing out my Christmas cards can be both good and bad. The good part is I enjoy it; at least the part that involves reconnecting with family and friends with pretty and festive cards. The bad part comes when I look at my last year's list. I review it and add in the change of addresses, changes in names because someone has gotten married or worse someone has died, and then there is the issue that presents itself ... friendships that have changed.

Friendships can be tricky, because they can often be seasonable. The thing about friendships is while we hope that they will be honest and true and last forever, they can also be outgrown. For friendships to work in a healthy way, there needs be some give and take. They need to be 2-sided and there needs to be growth. I've experienced friendships that were great for literally years. We were there for each other, we supported each other, we cried together, and we talked ... a lot. Then one day out of the blue something ugly and unsuspecting happened with one. It hit me like a 2x4 between the eyes. My first response was, 'What did I do wrong?' All communication came to an abrupt halt only to leave behind unanswered questions and 'what ifs'. Years later this friend approached me out of the blue and asked to meet. We did and we talked. Turns out they had had personal issues they were dealing with that they had never been able to share. They apologized and proceeded to fill in all the blanks. We don't talk much now, but at least we have clarity and they know that I am here for them IF and when they are ready.

I had another friend, who was a very dear friend for more than 20 years. One day, their life changed, and apparently they no longer had room in it for me. Unfortunately, there hasn't been the clarity of an explanation; I believe they just outgrew our friendship. Perhaps we just didn't have things in common anymore. Perhaps it was a work in progress and I missed the signs. Clarity gives us closure. Without it we tend to speculate and place blame, sometimes in the wrong spots. A true friendship takes work, genuine effort, communication, and honesty. When even one piece is missing the friendship can take a serious hit.

I may be a little older and a bit wiser now as I sit here and reflect, but I'm not too old to not still wonder what happened? or what might have been? I am aware enough that I can see many people struggling with friendships; from the young ones all the way up to aging parents.

Yes, friendships can be great, but they can also be stressful and hurtful. They can be the cause of some serious reflection. Do we want to put in the work to fix the broken friendship? Do we want it so bad that we're willing to let ourselves be manipulated? The truth of the matter is, in my humble opinion, that people change. Sometimes they grow, they mature, their wants and needs change, and often times they're just looking for convenience or something new. Sometimes the novelty of the friendship wears off. If it never truly meant much to them to begin with then they won't feel the need for remorse or any pain. But while they may not feel it, the other half of the friendship may. You may be the one who is left asking the questions of what changed or who? When did you no longer become important enough in their life to matter? When did your feelings no longer count? At what point did they think it was okay to treat people with such little respect?

It's been said that time reveals all truths and time heals all wounds, but that doesn't make broken friendships any less hurtful or disappointing; especially during the holidays.

People change ... every where ... every day, you and I included. Sometimes friendships will be lost. It may be difficult, but it also may be necessary. In the long run it is probably better for us to see people for who they really are.

So, as you send out your Christmas cards this year or birthday cards or anniversary cards, know that it's always okay to try one more time. Sometimes we're lucky enough to know what is going on in people's lives, but more often than not we don't and can only speculate. Go with the spirit of the Christmas season; try again, be forgiving if you can, show grace when you can, but know that you deserve two-sided friendships. You are a strong individual. You get back what you give. If you put effort and honesty in, you can hope to have it returned, but if it isn't then it's okay to accept it for what it was and allow yourself to move forward toward something better and deserving.

That is my Christmas wish for you.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Let The Season Begin

This time of year can be difficult for many; for a lot of reasons. Some people will be dealing with their first holidays after the loss of a loved one. Some people will be financially stressed. Some people will be battling an illness. Some people will be working on troubled relationships. Most everyone is dealing with 'something', but most people will try to keep their troubles and stresses covered and to themselves.

It should be the season of hope, of families, of good will, and of miracles. Yet, many will be overcome by the commercialism of the season, the self-imposed stress of wanting to buy and give too much, some sleepless nights, and the To Do lists that require writing on the back side of the paper. Many people will have long overdue lunches with friends they haven't seen, many will rush in traffic, and many will become short-tempered for no good reason. Some will treat the wait staff  and the department store cashiers well and others unfortunately will not.

Before you accuse a seasonal worker of not being 'fast enough' or 'friendly enough', stop for a moment and put yourself in their shoes. They may be taking on extra seasonal work to help make ends meet. They may have already put in a 10 hour day on their feet trying to help crabby customers. The transmission on their car may have gone out that morning. They MAY be doing a great job and the attitude adjustment needed isn't theirs, but YOURS

Someone read a devotion in a staff meeting the other day about how 'hurt people hurt'. This analogy works all year long, not just during the busy holiday times. If you run across a cashier or waiter or mechanic or postman (or whatever profession) who seems to be having a frazzled day, stop yourself before you react with judgment or a criticism. Stop and find out their story. Ask them about their day. Tell them you appreciate their work and their effort. You have the ability with a few words to turn their day around. Sometimes it is even the other way around. YOU could be the one having the bad day and some one's kind words and a smile turn you around.

Grace is a beautiful thing. It can be life-changing AND it costs you nothing. Often times, it is easier to show kindness and grace to a stranger, rather than a family member or friend. I'm not sure why that is, other than perhaps we are too connected to the situation to be as objective.

As the holiday season gets further underway, make the most of it. Be the one who holds the door open for a stranger, the one that says thank you, the one who lets the person with only one item in front of you at the check out line, or gives the tired waitress an extra $5 in her tip. You have the ability to make this holiday season one filled with positiveness, kindness, generosity, and good cheer.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is It Too Early?

You'd have to be living in an isolated cave somewhere to not notice that Santa is already in some shopping malls, lights are being hung, ornaments are festively being put on display, and sales are already happening. Is it too soon? This is and always has been a controversial subject for many this time of year. There are valid arguments on both sides. Some don't want to feel rushed and quickly feel stressed that they won't be ready in time. They will argue that they don't want to hear Christmas music on the radio before Thanksgiving; very valid points. Others LOVE the Christmas season and simply cannot wait for it to get started. I would venture to say that I am some where in the middle, but leaning more toward the tinsel side.

While I do enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday; a wonderful meal, football, and time with family and friends ... I am a multi-tasker and can enjoy Thanksgiving Day and still get a little pumped about the Christmas season. I look forward to the decorations, the lights, the Hallmark movies (which I am already watching), the store displays, shopping for those special well thought-out gifts, wrapping, and even sending out Christmas cards. The month of December goes by so quickly as it is that I don't mind stretching it out a little longer. My theory is that if I get started earlier in November then hopefully I won't spend my December feeling as anxious. The sooner I check things off my proverbial 'list', the more time I will have to take walks in downtown Rochester to see the light show, meet a friend for hot chocolate, or curl up with a cozy blanket to watch a Christmas movie.

During the last 10 days our country has endured a controversial presidential election, Facebook has served as a sounding board for hatred and meanness, and my family suffered the loss of a great woman. Needless to say my emotions (as well as many other people's) have been on an unpleasant roller coaster ride. Next week we will gather once again for Thanksgiving and be thankful indeed ... for family, for good health, for having food on our tables, a roof over over our heads, and abundant love in our hearts. At the same time I will look forward to the future with hope and anticipation; a hope for a more peaceful world and anticipation that people can learn to unite for the common good.

For many, Christmas is a season filled with hope and love and goodness. That is something I can wrap my head and my heart around. If I could start celebrating it in July or September or any other month I probably would. It's not about the gifts or the material things (my shopping list actually gets smaller every year), it is about the spirit and the hope.

So is it too early to be decorating, or looking at lights, or buying Christmas cards, or listening to holiday music that makes you smile? I say no, but that's just me. Sure, I will have my days when I feel a bit overwhelmed and anxious, but truth be told that also happens in February and April too, lol. 

The holidays (any of them) are what we choose to make of them. Yes, department stores will continue to set up displays earlier and earlier ... but so what. If it bothers you, then do your best to avoid it or simply don't let it get to you. But don't be a scrooge to those who look forward to it. Many people are lonely or sad or simply looking for more positiveness in their world. If they can find it in a store display or by looking at the twinkling lights on the trees, let them. It doesn't mean you have to hang a wreath on your door or a stocking on your mantle just yet. You can wait til the time is right for you.

I hope that all of us can embrace the goodness of the Christmas season, as well as be thankful for our blessings (but we can be thankful EVERY day - not just on the fourth Thursday of November).