Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Not Sweating The Small Stuff

I read a book once (actually I've read many) called 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff ... and It's All Small Stuff' by Richard Carlson, PH.D. It was about learning simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life. There's a lot of wisdom in that little nugget itself. Simplifying things down to their basic core can help you gain (or regain) perspective. The trouble though is that not everything is small stuff and a lot of it isn't even 'your' stuff. That's when things get tricky.

I'll bet if someone did a scientific study on my DNA they would find that besides me being Irish and having more freckles than I can count, I am also a habitual worrier, a planner, a master organizer, one who stresses easily, a born mediator, someone who LOVES a good pizza, etc. The human mind is a very unique thing. Everyone's is different. People behave and react to things differently. What sets one person off and makes them feel anxious sometimes wouldn't bother the person standing next to them in the least. Some of us are detail oriented (to a fault), so much so that we don't miss much. We see how we think things should be and know how we think people should behave, but when things don't fall into our plans in a neat and orderly fashion ... we stress, we worry, and ultimately we try to fix things. Truth is that some things aren't meant to be changed and many aren't even our problems to fix. 

In a perfect world, we could be more objective, be patient, stand back and wait for people to tell us if they needed our help. But I haven't found that perfect balance yet, have you? I see someone else stressing or worrying and I am compelled to be empathetic and feel their stress. Unhealthy for me, I'm sure. Yes, I am one of those people who can watch a Hallmark movie or a Mother's Day commercial and cry before it's even over. 

What am I saying here? That I can admit my strengths, as well as my faults. I care a lot for those in my circle (my family, my friends, my acquaintances, my co-workers, and sometimes even people I've never met). I want to help people. I want to understand what makes them do what they do. I want to fix things. I don't want to stand by and see people hurt (mentally or physically). Those I suppose would be strengths. My weaknesses? Yes, I can be honest - I have those too. I will get hung up on things I shouldn't be stressing over, sometimes little things (like people's behaviors and lack of respect) and sometimes big things (life changing situations). I will admit that when I get hung up on something and can't seem to get past it I've been known to rant about it ... for a while ... probably for way too long. I am not naive enough to think that some of my closest friends don't have moments where they think to themselves, 'Wow, is she still going off about that? Get over it already!' To those friends, I say, 'Thank you for being patient with me. You're the best!' I appreciate them not giving up on me.

What small stuff are you able to put aside and easily get over?

What things do you have a harder time with?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Focus on the Ordinary

Ever notice how there are always those people who seem to be able to accomplish amazing things? We read about them on the Internet and follow their statuses on Instagram. Maybe they are a performer, a well-known chef, an Olympic athlete, an artist, an established author, or a gardener. Maybe they do amazing things or say profound words; regardless you sit and wait with bated breath to see what they will do next. Guess what? They really aren't any different than you or I. Sure, maybe they can sing better or paint better or write better or make us laugh or cry more, but they are still just other human beings. We all have our own insecurities and our own strengths. 

Sometimes it's nice to have the things we do get noticed, but that isn't always why we do what we do. We write or garden or sculpt or run because it makes us happy. We may not be the best at it, but we put our best into what we are doing. If someone else likes it or feels encouraged by it, that is great ... that is a bonus.

Simplicity is about being authentic. Do what you like to do; what makes you feel good about yourself, and just do your best. Often times the ordinary is just one small step away from becoming extraordinary. Everything you do matters; to you and to those around you. We don't always realize it when we're singing that special song or planting the colorful garden for others to admire or creating that one-of-a-kind art piece that will make someone look at it with awe ... that we've turned our gift or talent into something someone else thinks is amazing. Any God-given talent we have should never be wasted. We need to honor the gift and share it.

So, focus on the things you do that you think are ordinary ...believe in them and in yourself and you may be surprised by the end result. You may start to notice all of the amazing things you've already been doing.

Who do you admire and why?

What do they do or say that affects you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Unsolicited Optimism

We all have those days when we are feeling a bit stressed or overwhelmed. We try to deal with everything we are dealt with on our own. We often convince ourselves that if we can't keep up we must be weak, but realistically we all need a little help. Okay ... sometimes a lot of help. It's not always easy to keep up with the unpredictable curve balls that life seems to throw at us.

Sometimes to get through things we need a hug, or an encouraging cup of tea with a friend, or even a big bowl of ice cream (sea salt caramel usually works). Often though we just need a momentary distraction to help us regain perspective and strength. Surprisingly what helps the most is a dose of unsolicited optimism. Optimism and positivity are free and can be just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes it can even come from the most unexpected source; that's when it can feel like a successful intervention.

I had one of those days earlier this week; I had to take care of some unexpected family matters and was worn out (both mentally and physically from not sleeping). I had an opportunity to attend a BUNCO night for the ladies of my church. I planned to go and then almost talked myself out of it. I wasn't feeling social or upbeat and really didn't feel like talking, but decided to go anyway. One of the ladies that I occasionally talk to gave me an unsolicited giant dose of optimism and positivity. I certainly wasn't expecting it which made it all the nicer of a gesture. She was genuine and sincere and told me she liked my newest hairstyle. Crazy right? After a rough couple of days, how my hair looked was pretty far down on my list of priorities, but her compliment made me feel good. Then she told her sister about the pictures she'd seen of my summer flowers and how pretty and inviting my back patio looked. Wow! All these unexpected compliments from someone who didn't know I was feeling overwhelmed or down and could use a mental boost. 

Once again it goes to show the power of words. I know I say it all the time; that words have the power to build someone up or just as easily to tear them down, but it's so true. Saying something nice to someone may be just what they need at that moment. You don't need to know what they're dealing with. You don't need to have the answers they are looking for. You don't need to be able to fix anything. By just being upbeat and nice you are doing something special, you are giving them something they don't have at that particular moment. It doesn't take ANY planning on your part, not even extra effort. Just be nice. Keep it real. Open a door for someone at the grocery store. Tell a parent that they should be proud of their child because their child just picked up and returned a $5.00 bill to the elderly man who dropped it. It will let the child know that good deeds don't go unnoticed and it will let the parent know that they are doing a good job raising their child. Maybe that parent is feeling overwhelmed and raising the child all on their own. Maybe your sincere compliment is the reinforcement they needed that day.

As usual I have no answers on how to fix the world's problems, merely observations and experiences to share.

When was the last time someone caught you off guard with a nice comment or gesture? 
How did it make you feel?

Monday, July 9, 2018

It's Okay To Push Yourself

Sometimes our lists of things to do can be daunting. There's always outdoor work that needs to be done at home. There's an  'IN' box at work that is almost always full. Even the magnetic notepad on the side of the fridge for the next trip to the grocery store ALWAYS seems to have something written on it. There are days when you might want to just collapse when you get home and say 'enough is enough', but then you push yourself to do one or two more chores before you call it a night.

Why do we always have something to do? Great question; probably because we write our own To Do lists (at least that's been my problem). I am a glorified, semi-professional list-maker! I always have things to tend to (but who doesn't?). My problem is that I need to trust myself to keep track of it all and hopefully not let anything slip through the cracks of a busy day. I trust myself to do my best to get everything done (in a reasonable amount of time), but I can admit that I am human. On a busy day my memory isn't going to be fool proof ... so I make lists. If I don't get something done today I will revise my list this evening and it will be there tomorrow as a reminder that it hasn't gotten done yet. And that's okay. 

We all have busy lives; whether we are young parents juggling jobs and chauffeuring little ones or whether we are older and juggling jobs, a home, and caring for aging parents ... we ALL have things that require our attention. But the truth remains the same; there are still only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. We will still only accomplish as much as time and ability (and sleep) allows for. My husband and I have been in the midst of a month-long backyard landscape overhaul. Out with the old and in the new; twenty years in a house will do that. We looked at the next step in our project and realized we had a small window of non-90 degree weather for a 48 hour period, so we tackled planting 19 shrubs! Trust me there were moments when we looked at each other's sunburned faces and dirty knees and thought, 'We're done! We can't do any more today.', but then we pushed ourselves and got it done and guess what? Today the temperature is back to 90 degrees and this stage of our project is complete.

It's okay to push ourselves when we're close to giving up; when it's the last two miles of a marathon, when three out of four walls are freshly painted, when we only have one more store to go in to finish up the Christmas shopping, or when you only have a week left of a medical treatment. When you set your goal and you see the finish line on the horizon, dig deep and just go for it. You are almost there! You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

When is the last time you pushed yourself to accomplish something big? 

What was it and how did it go?


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Appreciating the Fourth of July

Here we are ... the morning of the Fourth of July. Many of you will have the day off of work, but many will not. There will be retail stores open with BIG sales taking place and restaurants serving a variety of BBQ'd meats. There will be police officers, firefighters, EMTs, doctors and nurses working on our behalf and for that we should all be thankful.

How will you celebrate your Fourth of July holiday? It's already sunny and warm and we have another heat advisory in place. If you're outside today will you slather on some double digit sunscreen or perhaps grill something tasty on the BBQ? Will you ride your bike around the block, take a dip in the pool, or take a ride on a boat and watch the sun glint off of the waves? Did you put an American flag of some size (large or small) out in the front of your house to show your patriotism? Did you venture the traffic and head up north or decide to keep things simple and quiet and stay at home?

Aah ... so many choices. However you choose to spend your day I hope that you relax a bit. Try not to do chores today, but rather take the day to unwind and reflect. At some point today many of you will hear the Lee Greenwood version of 'God Bless the USA' on the radio. If you're like me you will still get chills when you listen to the lyrics.

Don't get so caught up in the firework displays, the family gatherings, or the commercial hoopla that you forget about the true meaning of the 4th of July holiday. Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Many brave people gave sacrifices and paved the way for our freedoms, many of which we take for granted. Whether it is today or any other day, say thank you to a veteran for all they have done for our country and for us. Let them know they are not forgotten and that they are appreciated.

How will you celebrate the day?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Stress Of A Vacation

Earlier this week I needed to prepare a devotion for a meeting. Being that most kids are in their last week of school, I searched devotions on 'summer vacations', 'getting out of school', 'heading to the cottage', and 'summer'. I found quite a bit of inspiring stuff, but nothing that reached out and grabbed my attention. Maybe because my youngest child is now a college grad and has a full time job, I just wasn't relating to anything. Then I found one. It talked about the trouble with stopping what you are used to doing.

I certainly don't want to quote another author word for word, but there was some really relate-able stuff in the devotion that I could connect to. I felt parts were well worth sharing, even if in my own words.

It's the time of year when many people start to plan summer vacations. Most of us will admit that even if we don't often travel we still like to fantasize about it to some extent; whether you're a beach going, mountain climbing, or road trip kind of person just the thought of 'getting away and doing something different than the norm' can be recharging.

But how many of you have a difficult time once you get to your destination - sometimes it takes a day or two to just unwind and start to think about what is in front of you more than what you left behind (a job, family, responsibilities, To Do lists, etc.). Turning our brains off and allowing our bodies and minds to enjoy the moment we are in can be hard. We are more used to being on auto-pilot. When you're at the beach you may listen to the sound of the water and the crashing waves and the seagulls. How often do you pay attention and actually smell the smells and hear the sounds that are at home? We rarely give them a passing thought, other than the sounds of the neighbor's dog barking or someone cutting their lawn. Occasionally we might take a deep breath and realize that someone not too far away is barbecuing something tasty.

Sometimes we take the time away to recharge and try to temporarily turn our brains off. Sometimes we find ourselves orchestrating what we will need to do once we get back; that's not necessarily a bad thing if you're contemplating a big life change. Often we need to go some place different and quiet just so we can actually hear ourselves think.

If you are about to embark on a getaway, that's great. If you'll be at home, try to still take some personal time. As the original devotion author said, 'We have the ability to make a choice to enjoy life (on vacation or at our desk).' They also suggested that we need to focus on today and leave tomorrow until tomorrow comes. Planning and preparing is always a good idea, but worrying is a waste.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."   Matthew 6:34

I have a mini mother-daughter getaway coming up. I was allowing myself to become absorbed in the the pressures of today and tomorrow that for a moment I actually thought about and tried to reschedule our getaway for another time when I naively thought things would be less busy. I took it as a sign when the innkeeper had no other dates that would work. My husband said, 'Just go!' There will always be STUFF that tries to get in the way. Crossing my fingers (as is my daughter) that nothing does get in our way. Three nights on Mackinac Island ... here we come. Lots of walking, fresh air, conversation, reconnecting, sight-seeing, and a day dedicated just to food trolling (as my daughter uniquely calls it). Tasting a little from every restaurant we can.

I hope to come back without a headache, having rested, maybe with a little sun on my face and shoulders. I hope you have something (big or small) on your horizon as well.

Any plans? Or do I have you thinking and planning now?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Dilemmas Come In All Shapes And Sizes

Dilemmas can be overwhelming - and sometimes full of drama. A dictionary defines a dilemma as a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially equally desirable ones. Although in my opinion not all choices are desirable.

When you have to make a tough decision, how do you choose? Do you make a list of the pros and cons? Do you toss a coin? Do you ask someone you trust for advise? Do you put on a blindfold and throw a dart haphazardly at the choices pinned to a board?

Sometimes we simply have to make choices of what we are going to do next or how we are going to handle a situation ... it's not always as easy as picking between 2 new blouses to decide which one we will wear the next day. Sometimes we may be choosing between 2 job offers. We may be deciding if we're going to accept a marriage proposal or worse, get a divorce. We may need to decide if we are going to move and if so, where. So many decisions that need to be made are bigger than we are. The choice we make may not only affect us, but others as well. Wow, if that doesn't add another layer of pressure I don't know what does.

If you are like me (and I hope you aren't, lol) you play through all the possibilities and scenarios in your head ... over and over ... in 3D ... and in living color ... sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. Because who needs sleep anyway? Right?

I often wish I was more laid back like some other people I know. I wish I could ease up on the self-induced pressure and say, 'whatever happens will happen, we'll just wait and see'. Sadly, it's not in my DNA makeup to do that. No, instead I will analyze and play out all the 'what ifs' and then weigh the options and hopefully make a sound choice.

The process in itself can prove to be a dilemma. Dilemmas come in all shapes and sizes. Some we bring on ourselves; and others are dumped in our laps.

What's been your experience with getting through or over a stressful dilemma?
Any successful approaches you would like to share?