Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How do you relieve stress?

The world (both locally and globally) can seem pretty overwhelming at times and this can cause that nasty '6 letter word' to rear its ugly head ... I'm talking about stress. People can stress out about a lot of things these days, many of which have been around for generations.

Women (and men) stress about their weight. Men (and women) stress about finances. Young adults (and older) stress about college and getting a job. Many causes of stress are not age exclusive. Some people stress when driving in rush hour traffic, especially when there's construction detours on top of it. People stress about politics and wars. 'Anything' can become stressful, no matter how big or how small .. it just depends on your reaction to it.

Stress is inevitable. The bigger question (the one we have some control over) is how do we choose to deal with stress?

What relieves your stress? Do you curl up on the couch with a hot cup of herbal tea? Do you pop a yoga dvd in and start stretching? Do you go for a run or go to the gym and punch one of those weighted bags that hang from the ceiling? Do you call a friend on the phone, vent for 5 minutes and then talk the situation through? There's no right or wrong answer. It's obviously an individual choice, but one that everyone should address.

Stress, in whatever form, will always be there. If you've found a way to avoid it all together, I'm sure we'd all like to hear about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do you read ahead?

Do you tend to read ahead? Are you an overachiever? Do you wait til the last minute to do something or are you always prepared? Do you arrive at your appointments early or late? These are all good questions. I'm sure if we were to be totally honest with ourselves we'd discover that the answers to these questions and others would probably paint a great picture of what our personalities are really like.

So why am I asking about whether or not you read ahead? My husband and I meet once a month with members of our small group at church. There were times in the beginning of our group when one member would always read ahead in their bible. That was great for them, but when it came time to participate in our discussion she'd forget whether the comment she had was based on something we had all read or something she'd discovered when she had read ahead. It confused her and us alike. It became an ongoing chuckle. Now our group is reading a book called 'Heaven is for Real'. It's not a long book and it's a really easy read. As a group we decided to break the book down into 4 sections of 7 chapters each. Our group only gets together once a month and we begin our nights with dinner and socializing. We have plenty of those 'ooh squirrel' moments where we get sidetracked talking about other topics ... we always have great discussion, but it often takes a concentrated effort to get us back on track and back to the book discussion. The problem with the current book is that it is a good book, it's well written, and very easy to get ahead of yourself and read right past your bookmark. Some might say, 'Then why not just read the whole book at once and then discuss it?' Excellent question ... one that we've asked ourselves on more than one occasion. I guess we just get so sidetracked with socializing and catching up on everything from the previous month, that if we actually discussed the whole book on one night ... well we'd probably close down the restaurant or miss our bedtime or 'well I just don't know what would happen'. Guess it's just too complex of a question for us to answer.

So I'll just end things with 'Do you read ahead?' and if you do 'How do you deal with it?'

Friday, September 16, 2011

What's On Your Mind?

What's on your mind? That's a great question, but don't ask it of someone if you're not willing to be quiet and listen to what they have to say.

My daughter turned 16 last week and I found myself reflecting ... reflecting on the early years of both of my children. I thought about the special things that I did with each of them. My son is now 25 and out on his own. He's smart, he's strong, he's handsome (I can say that unbiasly, of course, since I'm his mother), and as much as I don't care to admit it ... he's an adult. I remember when he was little (maybe around 2 or 3 years old). I would take him to a local mall. We weren't really shopping for anything, I'd just walk and let him ride along in his stroller. We always seemed to end up at the Little Caesar's in the food court. We'd share a slice of pizza and just 'people watch'. It wasn't anything fancy, just some quality time spent with each other.

When my daughter was born her brother was in 5th grade, so while he was in school she and I would run errands. I remember how she would smile and be happy and win over anyone we came across. When we'd go to the grocery store near the house, the deli clerk would always ask if she wanted a slice of cheese. Sometimes she would get one, but she usually always had her eye on the grapes. The produce manager would be putting fruit and veggies out and I would bag a bunch of grapes. He'd always see her eyeing them, so he would offer to go wash some off for her. It got to the point where some days he'd be watching for her. As soon as we'd get to the deli, the deli clerk would offer her cheese and he would pop up out of no where and say 'She doesn't want your cheese! My grapes are better!' He'd already have a little bunch of grapes washed for her. Her face would light up (and so would his).

Now years later I watch my daughter as she's growing into a beautiful young woman. She's witty, she's caring, and she has a natural beauty where she can go without makeup and jewelry (her choice) and wear anything and look like she ought to be on the pages of a catalog. She's very strong mentally (probably stronger than she gives herself credit for) and has formed some definate opinions. I'm so proud that both of our kids have managed to form solid morals and values (certainly not for a lack of effort from my husband and I).

Over the summer she had to read 2 books for her Honors English class. When school started last week she said they were having a discussion in her English class about the books they'd read. One of the books that she read was 'Into The Wild' (I think that was the name). It was a true story about a young man who chose to leave his high paced materialistic life behind and head out into the wilderness. The ending wasn't the greatest because he died, but she expressed to her teacher and the class that she could relate with some of the things that he felt. She doesn't like the sterotypes in today's society. She doesn't like the sense of people feeling pressured or feeling the need to conform with what everyone else is doing. And (having nothing to do with the book) she told the class she didn't like some of the college representatives that have come into her junior and senior high schools. In the 8th grade she had a college representative come in and ask her what her interests were. She told her she was more of an artsy person ... that she likes writing and music. She plays SEVERAL instruments and has both ability and a passion for her music. The college representative said 'That's great, I'm sure we've got some great classes that would really help you. First I'd suggest an extra math class and perhaps getting on the science fast track.' With an astonished look, my daughter asked, 'But what does that have to do with music?' The lady replied, 'Nothing, but math and science are where the future is.'

Obviously the college representative had very strong opinions on the matter (or perhaps those of her school). The sad thing was she didn't hear a single word my daughter said when she asked her what her interests were. It goes back to the original question. 'What's on your mind?' Never, never asked a question if you don't fully intend to listen to the answer. It doesn't mean that you have to agree, it just means that you should make the honest and sincere effort to truly listen to what is being said.

The unfortunate thing is that so many people, adults and children alike, have opinions, but for whatever reason give up sharing their opinions because somewhere along the way someone told them that their opinion didn't matter. That couldn't be further from the truth. Everyone has something to say and everyone should be heard. Of course there is always a time and a place for everything, there's the matter of being respectful towards others, and there's the concept that if you can't say anything nice perhaps you should keep your opinion to yourself. So the next time someone asks you what you think, think about your response first, think it through (ALL the way through) and if you think you can share it without hurting anyone, then share it.

So what is on your mind today?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Nighty Night

Have you heard all of those different opinions about how much sleep the average person requires each night? There are so many opinions out there, it's unbelievable (and exhausting). I've heard of studies that suggest the average adult should get 8 hours of sleep each night. Come on ... seriously? On what planet? And do they have a nanny, a home chef, and a personal assistant? In the 'REAL' world or at least mine I'm lucky to average 5-6 hours a night (and that might be only a few nights out of the average week).

Over the years I've listened to people talk about how much sleep a baby needs during their first few months - how they seem to be asleep more than they are awake. Then you move on to toddlers ... once they start becoming mobile they play hard for awhile and then literally crash for a few hours of satisfying zzz's (satisfying to both of the parents as well as themselves). When my children were little so many people would tell me to take a nap when my children were napping. That is something I never could do ... while they napped I did the laundry, the cleaning, opened the mail, started dinner and usually vacummed. The vacuuming part went against a lot of their suggestions, but my husband and I figured that if they could sleep happily while the vacuum was being run under their crib then 'no one' would ever have to tip toe and whisper while they were sleeping.

I worry a little about burning the candle at both ends and letting myself get run down, but somehow I always convince myself that I'll get as much sleep as I need and that my body will let me know when I need more. This morning was that kind of morning. I've been tired lately, but then who isn't? It's been a long first week of school for my high schooler and my husband and I. We've all worked or been in school all day and then had some place to be or something to do each night. Even as I sit here in the library typing this blog I am watching the clock, because I know I only have an hour until my husband and I need to leave for the high school football game to watch our daughter in the marching band. I work longer hours Mondays through Thursdays so that I can have Fridays off. Fridays are usually filled with errands and appointments. Today has been no different. I woke up this morning and drove my daughter to the bus stop at 6:45 a.m., then indulged in some well deserved personal time (30 minutes of uninterupted 'Curious George' on PBS). Nothing clears my head after a long week and gives me fresh perspective like that quirky little curious monkey. Then guess what happened? My body suddenly said 'TIME OUT'. My head dropped to the pillow on the couch like a sack of potatoes and 90 minutes later I rolled over, looked up at the wall clock and thought 'WHOA'. Guess my body knows when enough is enough.

So how much sleep do we really need? And is there really such a thing as burning the candle at both ends? I guess the bigger question besides asking 'Is it time for a nap?' is whether it's ok for a 40something year old wife and mother to admit to her readers that she watched Curious George for 30 minutes ... lol.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's Back To School Time

Today marks the second successful day of school around my home (for K-12). Most of the college students already headed back last week. I had to laugh today when my boss (the church's pastor) said that the Sunday School parent meeting had only 5 people attend last night. He sounded a little discouraged until his wife (who is an elementary teacher) reminded him that yesterday was the first day of school.

As parents, we know what that can mean ... emergency forms needed to be filled out and signed, school supplies needed to be purchased, lunches had to be made, bedtimes had to be enforced and if you're like me ... a headache needed to be treated. My daughter is a high school junior this year and all I can say is 'boy was she wired last night'. My husband and I sat at the dinner table and listened patiently to the full blown details of every class she has, every teacher she has, the sophomore/junior/senior ratio of every class, who said what to whom, what instrument she would be playing in the orchestra this year (switching it up and playing bass instead of the viola ... a fun challenge), and to top it off when I asked her if she had found any of her friends to eat 'A' lunch with she smiled and informed her father that she did and is eating lunch with some of the guys on the boys' swim team. Statements like that will make the hairs on the back of her dad's neck stand out every time. Fortunately we know who one of the boys is and dad approves. It's funny though. When her older brother was in school he had more friends that were girls than boys and now I see the same similarity with my daughter. While she has A LOT of girlfriends she also has a lot of boys who are friends who stand in as brothers, which is not a bad thing.

So, whether you are responsible for running your kids to soccer practice, making the lunches, carpooling to girl scouts or chaperoning the marching band at the weekend football game ... I tip my hat to you in respect. School schedules can be just as busy for parents as they are for the students, but years from now we'll all hopefully look back and smile. Time flies by too quickly as it is. Enjoy this time with your kids. There is no other time like it and you can't get it back later. Makes sense to enjoy it while it's here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day ~ A Day For Reflection

I just spent a fun afternoon today with friends at a local parade. Some friends I already knew and others were ones I just hadn't met yet. My daughter is a high school junior this year and while she's an active viola player in her school's orchestra, this year she decided to join the color guard as well to be part of the high school marching band. Today they marched in the Romeo Peach Festival Parade. The weather left a little to be desired. Just two days ago we had a high temperature for the day of 95 degrees. Today it hovered right around 59 degrees, with plenty of low grey clouds in the sky, a light wind that made it feel much cooler and an occasional light drizzle thrown in just to keep things interesting.

I was amazed by several things today. The camaraderie of the band booster families that were there to support their children could not have been more evident. Everyone brought a dish or snack to share. There was a lot of food and no one went hungry. They even grilled hot dogs for the band students so they'd have food once they found their way back to our make-shift camp following the parade.

The parade brought the usual sights of clowns riding bicycles, Shriners driving small cars, policemen riding well groomed horses, marching bands playing their school songs, cheerleaders cheering, firetrucks sounding their horns, and several local dignitaries walking along to smile and shake hands. But what tugged at my heart the most was seeing the veterans march by. Young ones and old ones. There were veterans from WWII and there were mothers marching along holding pictures of their sons who are currently serving. The beautiful part was the cheering, clapping, and people getting up and out of their chairs to wave and salute the veterans. There was one man (who I know from my church who is the father of two teenagers) sitting nearest to the curb with his family. He had obviously served in the military at some point. He wore a polo shirt with the American flag on it and a hat that had several military patches on it. When the WWII veterans went by he stood proudly and saluted them. One of the veterans stopped and walked over to him, looked him straight in the eye and saluted back at him. They exchanged a few private words and the older veteran placed some sort of a makeshift medal on a red, white and blue ribbon around the man's neck. The crowd grew extremely quiet and just observed. I don't know what words they shared and it really wasn't any of my business, but at the same time I felt extremely honored to be witnessing such a solemn moment. When it was all done, one woman seated a few feet away said 'Wow, I didn't know I was going to cry today. That was beautiful.'

In the midst of letting the small children experience the laughing clowns and the moments of scrambling for the candy that was being thrown to the curbs, they got to see people young and old showing respect to perfect strangers. What a wonderful act to share with them.

There is so much busyness in the world today, so many agendas, so much turmoil, so much loss of hope for so many. Be sure to keep your eyes and your hearts open and ready. A 'respectful' moment can occur at any given time. It'd be shame to miss it. They can mean so much to everyone involved.