Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Finish 2013 With Grace

2013 is drawing to a close. I have to believe that we've all had some high points and low points this past year. Every year is similar in that way. It's how we handle the highs and lows that changes. 2013 has been another memorable year in an ongoing list of many. My youngest graduated from high school and went off to college and my oldest relocated back to Michigan for a teaching position, not to mention recently getting engaged. I'm thankful my children are doing so well in the changes life has presented them with. I'm proud to have another cancer-free year under my belt and happy to be married 30+ years. Yes, life has its ups and downs, but luckily more ups than downs.

There will always be the BIG things in life that occur, those monumental moments that create memories for a lifetime. Then there are those stresses that sometimes press our nerves and test us on a daily basis. Some are BIG, legitimate stresses like health and finances and some just gain momentum and seem bigger than they really are. A few days ago I drove out of my way on my day off to pick up some flowers for work. It was after Christmas and there was a lot of traffic. I got there only find the lights off and the front door to the florist locked. Bummer. I called and left a message for them. They called me back about an hour later with plenty of apologies. I went a second time the next day. The store owner offered me more apologies and a free bouquet of flowers (which I politely turned down). I know she felt bad for the mix up and my second trip, but the flowers were beautiful. She kept saying, 'What can I do? I feel so bad.' I told her, 'You've already done it, you apologized. Don't worry about it.' Things happen. That's life. It's how we handle it that matters. It was a minor inconvenience.

Two weeks ago my debit card was 'compromised' thanks to a certain merchant. My bank called me a few days before Christmas to give me the news. Talk about bad timing and a major inconvenience. Unfortunately for me my bank (unlike my daughter's credit union) canceled my debit card and issued me a new one ... that part was fine, but the part that included a new lost card and nearly a 2-week delay was the inconvenient part. Today I got my new card (woohoo) and my independence back. So what did I get with my new card? A few more apologies and a really nice 2014 calendar. Things happen. That's life. Again, it's how we handle it that matters. Inconveniences are just that ... inconvenient AND the past. The best way to handle them is with grace. Accept them for what they are and move on.
 
So, as we flip the calendar to a new year let's close out 2013 and begin 2014 the same way - with grace. It can make everything a lot easier to handle. Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Importance Of A Name

Today's blog isn't going to change the world or cure cancer or solve the national debt ... it's merely an observation on my part. But on the other hand, observations are what help us to keep our eyes open and perhaps look beyond our own 4 walls. There's a big world out there and believe it or not it doesn't always revolve solely around us.

So what's my earth-shattering observation? I've observed that we NAME the things we care about. We generally put lots of thought into the process or at least I hope we do. A name is something that once given should stay with you the rest of your life. It should have depth and meaning and be special. We name our children based on family traditions, different spellings, or sometimes just weird trends (just ask Kim Kardashian and Kanye West why they named their daughter 'North'). I have to wonder ... was she conceived on an airplane?

Names help us create our identities. They let the world know who we are and what we're all about. We create personalized license plates for our cars to promote our businesses or tell people what our passions or hobbies are. We paint names on boats that explain in less than 3 words what matters to us. We think long and hard before we name our pets. Their names have to be perfect and display their personalities.

There are probably many other things that we name that I'm not even considering. I know my daughter always named her stuffed animals when she was little, and now that she's older she continues the tradition - BUT now it's with her musical instruments. The names are carefully selected and chosen for very specific reasons. When she performs her music she is one with her instruments. They have a special bond. I think that's reason enough to deserve a special name.

Have you ever named something special? A cabin in the woods? A song? A painting or sculpture? A book or a poem? A mascot?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

There Is Hope ... A Rebuttal

A few days ago I wrote a blog entry about people hiding their identities. Some could say the entry was a rant about people taking a negative approach to life and gaining unwanted attention ... and they would be right. I was feeling a bit discouraged that day and in spite of my otherwise 'holiday spirit' I was feeling saddened. Then I heard a true story during a conversation with someone that renewed my hope in mankind.

It's the Christmas season and for many that means shopping and buying gifts for others. Presents are always nice, but some of the nicest presents you'll ever receive aren't shiny, technological, or even expensive. They're the gifts that come from the heart, the ones that are handmade, and the ones that are sacrificial. For many people the shopping season can bring a lot of stress; not to mention unwanted debt. The story I'm about to share may or may not have been a Christmas present, but it easily could have been.

I know a woman who is retired, but still gives piano lessons. At any given time she has 8-10 students. She doesn't have a lot of extra income, so her gift of music gives her both pleasure and extra money. Students come and go, their interests change, they grow up and move on, and often times their circumstances change. This piano teacher spoke of one of her students that was very talented. The student's mother had a good job with good benefits, but like a lot of other people lost her position when the company she worked for was down-sized. For a while she couldn't afford her daughter's lessons. The teacher explained that if the circumstances are there she always allows for one 'pro bono' student. The student had talent and she didn't want her to lose her lessons. The teacher gave the student lessons for free. Some time went by and the student's mother was hired by a competitive company. One day the teacher received a check in the mail covering the cost of every single 'free' lesson the student had received. The teacher never asked for the money. Repayment was never discussed.

There's a saying that says 'what goes around comes around'. That saying can apply when someone does something bad or something good, but what a wonderful gift it was that was given. The gift of music was a true gift from her heart. It wasn't just a gift that was free, it was a gift that was sincere and one that offered hope (both to the student and her mother).
 
Unfortunately there will always be those people who just don't get 'it', those that are selfish, and those that are rude to strangers. For them I am truly sorry, BUT it's the heartfelt stories of people who sacrifice for others that continue to give me hope. I hope you'll use this true story as an inspiration to give of yourself to others. The gifts and talents that you alone have been blessed with are like no other. Whoever is on the receiving end of one of your heartfelt gifts is really the lucky one.
 
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why Do People Hide Their Identities?

In the midst of all the positiveness of the Christmas season it saddens me to first hear of a story of someone's untimely passing and second to read some people's reactions. I came across an Internet article today that shared the sad news of a young military man who died from a parachuting accident while on vacation with his wife in Australia. I have the utmost respect for veterans and the sacrifices they make for the sake of others. This young veteran had served on tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He deserved a vacation full of adventures and quality time with his wife. The part of the article that seemed to be a bigger deal than it should have been was the fact that the wife had won the vacation from the Ellen show. The fact that she'd won the vacation didn't change the fact that she'd just become a widow, nor did it cause the unfortunate accident.

Many of the readers showed sympathy and empathy for the new widow, while some of the readers (complete strangers) used the opportunity to make completely ignorant comments. Comments like, 'Will the widow sue the Ellen show? Because that's what everyone does these days.' and 'Well, that's what happens when you have a gay person with a TV show.' Seriously? That's the first thing that comes to their mind when someone they never even met dies? I didn't read through the balance of the comments because to be honest - they made me sick!

I made an observation though regarding the 10-12 comments I did read. The comments that seemed sincere with sympathy had actual photo IDs with what looked like legit names. The ignorant comments ALL came from people with cartoon IDs and made-up fictitious character names. So why do some people feel they can hide behind their cartoon IDs, their made-up names, and the freedom of speech amendment? Why do some people try to get their 5 minutes of fame by showing their ignorance?

When I blog I prefer to share uplifting and inspiring thoughts, but sometimes I suppose we need to point out the obvious in the hopes that it'll make us all a little more aware of the things we say and the things we do. Everyone's actions, including our own, have consequences. We can't always change other people's behavior, but we can choose to be responsible for ourselves. I realize I am human (as we all are) and by no means perfect, but if I ever do that PLEASE let me know so I can smack myself upside my head.

In the true spirit of Christmas, may we be more thoughtful of others, be plentiful with our good intentions, and more importantly with our follow-through.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Angels Of The Season

December can be a very busy (and overwhelming) month for a lot of reasons. Many people embrace the Christmas holiday that falls in December ... many will thrive on the true meaning of Christmas, rejuvenate their spirits with the lights and decorations, rekindle relationships with family and friends, and dig deep into their inner soul to focus on what REALLY matters. But don't be fooled... for many December is just another month on the calendar, a month that brings an earlier darkness to our days, colder temperatures, occasional snowy roads, and often a lot of sadness and feelings of being alone.

The last week I've been busy with work, bringing my daughter home from college, a little Christmas shopping and gift wrapping, a staff Christmas party, playing cards with friends, hearing the news of my son's engagement, and regaining some physical strength after battling a cold for 2 weeks. Needless to say, blogging got bumped down a few notches on my list of goals.
 
I've had a lot on my mind and have felt the urge to blog several times this week, but choosing the right topic isn't always easy. I need to write from my heart. I can't force the words, if I do they won't be real and you'll know the difference. So what did I do? I asked my readers for suggestions. I got 3 responses. A) Weddings and about being a MOG (mother of the groom), B) How to stay calm during the holiday prep season, and C) Write about the angels of the season. I thought about each of the recommendations. I haven't fully come to the realization yet that I'll be a mother of a groom, so I'm going to take that one slowly. I'm certainly not one to guide others about how to stay calm, because truth be told that's a strength of mine that comes and goes with the seasons. So I opted to tap into the wonderfulness of the angels of the season.
 
Angels come in all shapes and sizes. They don't usually announce themselves and say, 'Hey, here I am! Look at me and what I can do!' No, they do the opposite. They do nice things for strangers, they don't want any attention, and they show up when they're least expected. They could be the stranger  that shovels your driveway for you without being asked, the friend that made you a pot of chicken soup when you were sick, or the neighbor you hardly know that invites to attend a holiday church service just when you're feeling alone and the pressures of the season. Yes, angels can be strangers or friends or even family. They're angels because they don't think of themselves, they think of the moment and what can they do to make someone else's day just a little brighter. Angels help us rebuild our strength, they brighten our spirits, and they warm our hearts. You can thank an angel when you meet them, but even better you can take what you've learned from them and pay it forward by being there for someone else. I had an angel once and her name was Laura. She was my Chemo Angel. She was special, an inspiration to me, thoughtful beyond a doubt, and an all-around nice person. I like to think I took some of what I learned from her and paid it forward. That's the BEST and most honest 'thank you' I think you can give someone.
 
Who has been your angel this season?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sometimes we need to slow down ...

I'm a creature of habit, a master of the 'list', a person who generally has a hard time sitting down, but sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to slow down and take a breather. It's the month of December ... a month long celebration of Christmas spirit, get-togethers with families and friends, a time for shopping and baking, Hallmark movies, and festive Christmas trees and lights. Many of us will 'go go go' for the entire month, but with the holidays comes crowds and unfortunately 'germs'. There's nothing like an old-fashioned battle with a cold to help me gain some perspective. My mind may be saying 'get up and go', but my body is saying 'I don't think so'.

Are my presents all wrapped? Nope. But my house is decorated and looks festive. I'll pick my battles for now. My advice to you ... take care of yourself now so you can enjoy the rest of the season. We can push ourselves all we want ... do more ... be more ... etc. But for what? For who? I've convinced myself that what's important will still get done. So, for today ... for right now I'm giving myself permission to put the list on hold. That's my gift for myself and the best part is it doesn't need wrapping.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Is it really all about the sale?

I like to shop, really I do. BUT I shop for the bargain, for the something different, and for that special gift that will make someone smile with pure joy. I don't like to shop just because there's a mega sale. If I don't need something specific it's rare for me to shop just to look. I rarely get sucked into the shopping mode because of a creative commercial or a colorful website ad. Sorry ... that's just not me. No one is going to convince me that I 'can't live without something.'

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving. We were thankful to sit at a table with family, to have a day or two off of work to relax, and time to kick off our Christmas season. Retailers, advertisers, and those in marketing might have forgetten about the true meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday, but it's not entirely their fault ... it's their job ... to boost sales and rack up holiday sales. I'm sure the cashiers were a bit disappointed with my purchases on Black Friday, since I didn't spend more than $20 in any store. I will admit that I did stand in line at Kohl's (from start to finish) for a total of 26 minutes, but they had toys on sale for 50% off, and I had a coupon besides. I was willing to stand in line to purchase the items that I did because they were for my children's gift bag for Lighthouse Outreach. I felt good about my purchase.

I wonder, though, what is next. I was very disappointed to see some of the retailers open early on Thanksgiving night ... some at 8:00, some at 9:00 p.m. I felt bad for the workers who had to leave early or skip their family dinners all together. I have to believe that the money the retailers made on Thanksgiving night would have been added to their Black Friday sales if they'd chosen to wait til early morning. I heard a report just this morning that overall Black Friday sales were down from last year, but Thanksgiving night sales were up. Duh ... even I can do the math.

So we've started with Thanksgiving Thursday sales, followed by Black Friday sales, followed by Small Business Saturday, not to forget Cyber Monday, which of course is followed by Cyber Week. Which means what? Next week will be 'Post Cyber Week', followed by the 'Week Before Christmas Sales', concluding with last minute 'Christmas Eve' sales?
 
In all the hype of sales, sales, and more sales how many people will remember that today is 'Giving Tuesday'? The day set aside to follow Cyber Monday where we can perhaps count up what we've saved and perhaps give to a needy charity. This is a tough time of year for all of those organizations who do such great service to our own communities. It's hard to compete with stuff that is new and shiny and popular. Here's my challenge for you today ... give a little something extra to your favorite charity today, buy that cup of coffee for the person behind you in line, leave some spare change in the red bucket at the exit door, or better yet ... just be extra nice to people today. Let that extra car out of the parking lot, if you have 2 good legs park your car in the further spot leaving the closer one for someone who may need it, or hold the door open for someone. It's really not all about the money ... small considerate gestures can be priceless!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Traditions: What's Yours?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have many things to be thankful for ... my husband, my children, my job, a roof over my head, my health, and my faith. Sure, we all have days that we're stressed or overwhelmed, but all in all things are good.
 
I'm looking forward to a Thanksgiving holiday weekend, good food, spending time with family, and permission to turn our outside Christmas lights on. With Thanksgiving comes special family traditions. Some people will cook their favorite dishes. Some will sit at the dinner table and each person will take a moment to share what they're thankful for. Many will watch football, others will engage in the annual kids vs. the dads ping pong match, while some make peruse the Black Friday advertisements.
 
What's special for me and my family? Many of the above items for sure, but we'll definitely have to throw in an episode of  'Extreme Pumpkin Chuckers'. It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.
 
How about you? Any special Thanksgiving traditions you can share?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Will You Do This Christmas?

I realize Thanksgiving is still a week away, but I've found myself beginning to listen to Christmas music (and yes, I know there are a lot of people against this idea).  I began shopping for items to go in a child's gift bag for a local outreach center. I went out on a limb and decorated my basement Christmas tree this morning, and this afternoon I went looking for Christmas cards (which was a challenge in itself to find some that actually had the words MERRY CHRISTMAS on them - I'm just not a HAPPY HOLIDAYS kind of gal). I'm absolutely NOT trying to rush through or skip over Thanksgiving, not by a long shot, but grasping onto a little 'early' Christmas spirit makes me feel good ... and for that I am THANKFUL.

I work at a local church and the last few days I've been actively working on an Advent newspaper of sorts. I won't give away the content, but it has some really good ideas about how to put Christ back into Christmas. Two of the things it suggests is to 'spend less', but 'give more'. I know what you're thinking, "How can that be?" "Isn't that like an oxymoron?" Not really. It suggests that perhaps we spend less financially, and what we do buy as gifts has more meaning. With all of the sales and promotions and intensive advertising being thrown at us it's difficult not to get sucked in, so the suggestion is to take baby steps. Buy one less gift this year. Don't buy the gift that you think you have to buy, the one that has no meaning behind it other than you feel obligated not to go somewhere empty-handed. To me that kind of gift has no heart and is completely unnecessary. More often than not, that gift ends up getting 're-gifted'.

To give more means giving more of yourself. You can't put a price on your time. Spending time with someone, making something for someone, baking your special cookies ... these are all things that come from your heart. They're special and have meaning.

I know a lot of people are anxious to get their new big screen TV, the latest technological gadget, or something that has a lot of sparkle ... but stop and ask yourself, "Will those THINGS make you happy?" A year from now or even 2 months from now will you still be as excited about them? Will those THINGS change or improve your life? I'm really not trying to get up on my soapbox and I'm really not trying to slow down any sales. Christmas sales can put a real boost in the economy. I just know, that for myself, I really feel the need to take a step back and gain some perspective. I'll admit that I enjoy shopping, especially during the holidays, BUT I also will look for the best deals and find a way to get the most thought out gifts. I'm hoping that the gifts I do purchase will have some special meaning and the person who gets them will be as excited about receiving them as I am in giving them.
 
So what does Christmas mean to you? Is it a special feeling you get when you stand under the mistletoe with that special someone, a renewed perspective you gain about what is really important in life, a second chance to regain direction and focus, a festive time with family and friends, or a traditional candlelit service in your church? Perhaps it's the best combination of all these things and more.
 
What will you do this Christmas to make it special and memorable?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dreams Can Change

Often when we're younger we plan out our goals, our dreams, and in essence our futures. When we're kids we have big ideas about growing up to be a ballerina, a firefighter, a teacher, a lawyer, an astronaut, a doctor, and a musician ... among many others. We progress along over the years ... sometimes managing a career in our chosen path, fulfilling our goals and dreams. Other times we get to a fork in the road and make a choice going in a different direction. It doesn't mean we went the wrong way, just a different way - often the 'better' way.

I studied journalism while in college and always said that some day I would be a writer. But define 'writer' ... not all writers have books on the national best seller's list. Some writers create books, some write for magazines and newspapers, some write amazing business letters and newsletter articles, and then there are those of us that blog. Being a writer just means you've poured your heart and soul down on to paper (or a website) and someone out there has read it and been affected by your words. Whether their response is good or bad, you still made a difference.

For years I dreamed about writing a children's series based on my two children. Trust me there is A LOT of story content there. I even toyed with the idea of doing the illustrations myself. Years have gone by and each year I tell myself that after the kids are graduated and in college and life settles down I'll finally have the time to devote to the project. But in the process of waiting ... life happens. You meet different people, situations arise, your perspectives and even dreams can change. I still love to write, but following different life experiences I feel compelled to write about something bigger and deeper and life-changing. It doesn't mean I won't ever write that children's series, it just means the timing doesn't feel right. And that's o.k.
 
With time dreams can be further defined and goals can change. When I was in college taking creative writing and Shakespearean literature blogs and websites didn't exist. That doesn't make me a dinosaur it just means that while life, technology and even the world changes, our goals can also change. When everything around you progresses you have two choices. You can hold on to your set plan, dig your heals in and hope you're able to achieve it OR you can take whatever life throws at you and alter your plans as you go. New options may present themselves that you never even considered.
 
Did you ever have a dream or goal that you didn't achieve? If so, do you still have a desire to achieve it? What's stopping you? Sometimes we just have to go for it. Nothing ventured, nothing lost ... right?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thanks for Listening (Again)

Sometimes I try to think of something new and fresh to share with you. Sometimes I'm inspired and often I like to go back into my archives and see what I may have shared before. Many of you have been devoted readers for quite some time and I'm happy to say many of you are new to my blog. Below is an entry I wrote back in October 2009 when the idea of blogging was VERY new to me. Sometimes 'new' isn't always better, sometimes it's just new. I thought this entry was worth sharing again.

Thanks for Listening

‘Turn your ear to listen to me …

Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe.’
~ Psalm 31:2

Autumn is officially here. The trees are slowly displaying their brilliant shades of oranges, reds and yellows; and yes … I think it may be nearing the time to turn our furnaces on (if you haven’t already). Autumn is a good example of the changing seasons, but it can also be a reminder for us of how our lives (like the weather) also change throughout the year.

It used to be that there were lots of people who were older than me and who knew so much more than I did. Nowadays, it seems like there are so many more people younger than I am. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I have near as much wisdom as my elders seemed to have had when I was 10, 20, 30 or even 40. There is a small group of people that I do go to for advice – my husband, my sister, a co-worker, and a few select friends who will always remind me that they are merely ‘a phone call away’. In my current season (or this stage in my life) I often find myself just wanting to say what’s on my mind. I’ll convince myself that I’ve thought the situation through and the possible solutions. I’ll even convince myself that I have all the answers and don’t need anyone’s advice. The results, however, never seem to be what I thought they would. I find that what I really needed was the opportunity to talk with someone else … or better yet ‘VENT’. I’ve learned that most people will be willing to listen to your problems or concerns for a while, but eventually when your problems become repetitive they’ll unintentionally tune you out. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve known people in my life who when I saw them coming I would try to avoid them or discourage their conversations, because I either felt uncomfortable listening or just didn’t have the time or desire to listen to their newest variation of their woes. They are good reminders to me about keeping my own attitude and conversations positive.

But while it may be important to try and keep a positive outlook, it can also be just as important to have that safe opportunity to talk to someone you trust and be able to vent (without the fear of being judged over how you might be feeling). Venting, however, should NEVER be used as a ploy to try to persuade your ‘listener’ to go along with your argument or way of thinking. There should always be mutual respect. My favorite listeners are my husband and a few special friends. If God gave out gold stars for good deeds, these people would have plenty.

I came across a health website this week where a woman’s blog was being featured. She was a fibromyalgia patient who talked about the need to be able to vent when she wasn't feeling well. She needed to be able to openly admit that she hurt and was in constant pain, without someone telling her that she was complaining.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that this past year has been a rough one for many people. We all know someone (if not ourselves) who has had to deal with something big this year. For some it’s been their health, losing or trying to hold on to their job, personal family struggles, finances, or yes … even their faith.

Each of us needs to be able to vent when we need it. More importantly we all need to have someone who is willing to listen; someone who won’t judge us, try to tell us what is right or wrong, how we should be feeling, how we should act or what we should say. A good listener won’t give you preachy advice. They won’t say ‘I know how you feel’. Mostly they will just listen, really listen. They will ask you just enough questions to get you to open up about what’s really on your mind, and then they’ll let you do all the talking. In return, when they really need to talk, we can try to do a good job in the reversed role and be just as good and patient at listening, always remembering the mutual respect.

My advice to you … find a few good listeners with whom you can feel safe to let things out. Have a private conversation. Then, return the favor. I certainly don’t mean to sound like Pollyanna, but if I've learned one thing as I've gotten older it’s how to be a better listener. When you really stop to think about it, isn't that what every human being wants … to be listened to and affirmed?

Thanks for listening.

‘Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.’
~ Proverbs 12:15

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Christmas Music: Sooner or Later?

Today if you listen to the radio, watch the TV news, or read the latest Facebook posts you'll undoubtedly hear opinions about radio stations starting to play Christmas music. A certain local radio station kicked things off this morning by flipping the switch and pledging to play Christmas music from now through the holidays. A reporter asked the DJ what the public's response had been. He laughed and said (don't quote me, I'm going on memory), "People have been the calling the radio station every day for a few weeks now asking when we're going to start playing the Christmas tunes. Most people have been excited and can't wait. Of course, some have been down right mean and nasty."

I've read Facebook comments where people have been thrilled and said, 'they love the season' and 'the music makes them happy.' Others have suggested that 'stations should wait til after Thanksgiving' as if by playing music now we're skipping Thanksgiving. Of course these are the same people who have the majority of their online Christmas shopping done BEFORE they sit down for their turkey and stuffing. I'm not sure I see the difference.
 
Here's a thought (my thought) ... radio stations playing Christmas music now don't sell a product or a service. They don't force you to go spend money. They aren't holding a 24 hour sale. They aren't making you put lights up on your house before the end of November. They're not even forcing you to listen. The only thing they're offering you is a chance to extend your holiday. I hear so many people complain year after year that the holiday season just flies by. What's so wrong about listening to happy music that reduces your stress levels and makes you smile? If listening to Christmas music now stresses you out ... then don't listen. Some of us enjoy it and actually find it uplifting and relaxing. Those of us that listen now aren't trying to rush things. Actually it's the opposite - we enjoy the season and are trying to prolong it and enjoy it longer. I can do that and still enjoy Thanksgiving with my family. Guess that's my multi-tasking side coming out.

If you want to suggest some holiday guidelines here's one for you ... how about if retail stores agreed NOT to make their employees work on Thanksgiving day. What if there was an agreed upon start time for the 'official' Christmas shopping season? Let's say 12:01 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving Or even 5:00 a.m.? Whether you shop at 9:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving or 10:00 a.m. the day after doesn't really matter. I guarantee that whatever you choose to purchase this holiday season you'll still buy it before December 25th.
 
I went to a local retailer today and they had some great sales going on so I purchased a few gifts. I know they were great prices and won't be any better in 3, 4 or even 5 weeks.
 
Just to throw you off the track and totally change the subject in case it's getting too controversial I'll suggest a deadline that has absolutely nothing to do with shopping or the holidays. Let's suggest that politicians shouldn't be able to campaign in any way, shape, or form until 6 months before their election. Now, there's a good idea!
 
OK ... so let me have your opinion about the Christmas music. You know you have an opinion. Go ahead ... I can take it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What Are You Afraid Of?

FEAR. It can be an extremely intimidating word for having just 4 letters. Fear can slow you down or speed you up. It can also stop you in your tracks and make you feel completely helpless. Everyone is afraid of something (if they're being honest).
 
Maybe you're afraid of heights or afraid of the water or afraid of riding in an airplane or afraid of clowns (that seems to be a popular one). What's my biggest fear? Well, snakes and spiders are pretty high up on my list. I also consider myself to be borderline claustrophobic. I get extremely anxious if I'm in close quarters and feel trapped and can't move - it doesn't make for a pleasant experience when I go for a MRI. I have to really try the mind-over-matter techniques and take my mind to a happier, calmer place (where I usually try to imagine there's a lot of room).
 
Most of us are afraid of something, but then there are those situations that we can be intimidated by too. Some people are afraid to try new things because they're afraid of failure. Afraid of not measuring up to other people's expectations and afraid of disappointing the people we care about.
 
Some people are afraid of change in general; anything that rocks their boat or messes with their comfort zone. Some people work REALLY hard to control (or regain control of) certain aspects in their life where they feel they may have a bit more authority. There are so many times in our lives when we feel we have little say in what is happening that we worry, we lose sleep, and we often feel lost. Yet other people's lives are so dictated and regimented (often by other people) that they may experience the opposite ... they may be afraid that things will never change.
 
Fear is a BIG deal and it can have a lot of power over us if we allow it to. My daughter used to be afraid of roller coasters that went upside down. So what did she do? She faced her fear. She took baby steps and rode a few rides that took her upside down and rolled her over ... and over ... and over again. Of course she was wise enough to do it before she ate lunch. But the point is that she did it. For that one day at Cedar Point with her new college friends she chose not to let her fear run her life. I say 'good for her'. It was a valuable lesson and a major accomplishment.
 
Pick your battles and be smart about them. Start small with self-challenges you think are attainable. Put one success under your belt and then pick another. We won't be able to battle them all, but that's o.k. We'll have the satisfaction of knowing we conquered some of them. So ... what frightens you? What takes your breath away or makes your knees go weak?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We Talk About What We Know

Lately I've been a bit self-conscience. I sometimes think that when someone asks me a question I keep coming up with the same answers or referring to the same things. I worry that people may think I'm self-centered, that I have tunnel vision, or that I can only talk about certain things. I've been participating in an adult study group at church. We'll watch a video, then attempt to answer questions as a group from a corresponding workbook. We'll discuss questions about the video we watched or related scriptures that we read or then try to answer the really tough questions. The ones that ask you about 'what specific situations can you relate from your own life'. That's when it gets hard. No one wants to be the first one to answer. No one wants to be transparent or vulnerable by putting themselves out there, but after a long awkward moment of silence someone steps up to the plate and gets things rolling.

When the question is 'what has been a tough experience in your life when you felt you persevered?' it's only natural for me to talk about beating cancer. But then I wonder if everyone is tired of hearing about my past situation. If my 'thing' was beating cancer or coming from a divorced family then that is my story and my life. Someone else's may be dealing with grief or coming out of an abusive relationship or beating an addiction. Should we be quiet and not share our stories? I don't think so.

I learn so much about other people by listening to their stories, therefore learning more about myself. There are situations and relationships I can't talk about because they're not my life. I can't pretend to be something or someone I'm not, that's not God's plan for me. He made me who I am, He sent challenges my way so I could become stronger, He has put people in my life so I could learn, and He continues to help me find my way. I'm still unsure about things. I'm still impatient. I still have a difficult time not giving myself down time (but I'm working on it). But in the end I've come to the conclusion that we talk about what we know. That's when we'll be the most honest and real. Anything less than that is a waste and being phony. Not something any of us want to be. I'm thinking it's all about creating a balance. It's one thing to share what we know, but it's entirely another to stop and listen to someone else. That's when we really learn.

What do you think? Do you have a hard time opening up with people and being totally and completely vulnerable and honest?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Remember When ...

In a time when the world is constantly changing and evolving I think it's clearly time for a game of 'Remember When?'

  • Remember when you actually walked across the room to change the channel on the TV (or better yet your parents made you do it because you were youngest and thus had the lowest seniority)?
  • Remember when we used to play vinyl records? Before cassette tapes and CDs? Before IPods?
  • Remember when rather than emailing or texting someone you actually picked up a phone with a cord that was attached to the wall and called them AND if the line was busy there wasn't any call-waiting so you waited 5 minutes and tried again?
  • Remember when you were a kid and walked to a friend's house, knocked on the door and said 'Can so-n-so come out and play?'
  • Remember when it was safe to let your kids go out and play in the neighborhood and come home a few hours later in time for lunch?
  • Remember when it was acceptable to correct any of the kids in the neighborhood for cutting through your yard, driving too fast down the street, or saying something inappropriate where other people could hear it?
  • Remember when you wrote your homework and reports out BY HAND? If you couldn't spell a word you actually had to look it up yourself in a paper dictionary? When you researched your book reports and term papers you went to the library and used encyclopedias?
  • Remember when you ate dinner as a family every night of the week at a specific time AND you actually talked?
  • Remember when the best Halloween costumes were handmade not bought at Halloween City for $19.99?
  • Remember when you had a pen pal? You wrote letters (by hand no less) on stationary you received from your grandma for Christmas and mailed it?
  • Remember when writing in cursive was a required part of your education?
These are just a few of the things that come to mind for me. What about you? What do you remember doing when you were younger that's different from today? Some would say changes are all about improvement, others would suggest some things were simpler and clearer before change. Some changes make life more efficient and easier, but other changes seem to promote laziness. I've seen the handwriting of some high school and college students and let me tell you ... it's disgraceful. It used to be a joke that if a man's handwriting was bad he must be a doctor. My doctor has much better handwriting than a lot of last year's graduating class.
 
Tell me a favorite memory of yours. Did you used to do something that while it may have taken more time you felt by doing it you gained character?

Monday, October 21, 2013

CHANGE: Friend or Foe?

'CHANGE' ... Are you the kind of person who gets bored with things and is always seeking a 'change'? I don't just mean wanting a new hair style or new clothes for the next season. I mean bigger, more daunting life changes. Some people welcome change with open arms and actually go looking for it. Then there are others who work really hard to create a comfort zone; a place they can count on where they know what to expect, a place with few surprises. Life is always presenting us with challenges and change; sometimes good and sometimes not so good.

I guess I'm a middle of the fence kind of gal. Some times I welcome change, it can keep things interesting and fresh. Then there are those times when someone else decides to make a change for us because for whatever reason they get to dictate what is supposedly good for us (not that they always ask us). It's those times when many of us suddenly find ourselves on the defensive (like when the government starts to dictate our health plan choices, the economy forces us to make decisions we shouldn't have to make, or a school or job suddenly changes their expectations).

There are many things in our lives we can plan or try to oversee, but there are even more things in our lives that we have absolutely no control over whatsoever. That power is often just out of our reach and ultimately in God's hands. That in itself can be comforting, but since we're still human many of us are going to continue to struggle. We try to gain a better understanding of the 'whys' and 'why nots', but that can sometimes be really difficult.

So the question remains 'is change a friend or a foe?' Some change is healthy and some not so much. If a change has a solid purpose perhaps it stands a chance, BUT if someone presents you with a change just because they're bored or have their own agenda is that reason enough to force the change on you? I don't think so. I'm still of the mindset that God gave me a mind and voice. He didn't bless me with it so that someone else could choose how and when they would speak for me. Do I still want to hear the Pledge of Allegiance said in schools? -  you bet I do. Do I still want to hear people mention God in prayers in public places? - absolutely! There are a lot of 'changes' I see everyday that make me want to curl up and cry in disappointment, while fortunately others give me a glimmer of hope that there is still good out there in the world.

It's a Monday, what can I say? I blog, I vent,  I get to say what's on MY mind. Today, right now at this exact moment no one gets to speak for me, make a choice for me, or CHANGE what's in my heart. It's a good day.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Reliable Is The Internet?

There are some people who think technology and the Internet are the best inventions since Swiss Cheese; which is a good comparison if you like Swiss Cheese, but then again Swiss Cheese is full of holes. I'm all for progress and improvement but sometimes I wonder how far is too far. Technology is a growing concept with a lot of great things going for it; research, inventions, progress, and sometimes making life easier. Then again ... sometimes it makes me want to beat my head against the wall (or at least my computer screen).

I've known some people who have taken the Internet way too seriously and believed in absolutely everything it says. I've heard of people not going to the doctor because they self-diagnosed themselves through Web MD (often times incorrectly because while they did have certain similar symptoms their cause turned out to be something entirely different). Although I once got a 2nd degree steam burn on my wrist on Christmas Eve and was able to give myself some immediate attention because of the Internet.

Just about any time I use Map Quest it either gives me incorrect directions to my destination or takes me in such a roundabout way I may as well add an extra 30 minutes to my travel time. Just ask my family about the time we drove 4 hours to meet some friends at a brand new Cheesecake Factory in Dayton, Ohio and ended up in downtown Dayton at a field. We were definitely on the right street, but definitely no Cheesecake Factory. It finally took a mailman who knew the area to give us reliable directions to the new outdoor mall a few exits further down the freeway. Fortunately our friends were still waiting for us.

There's a certain State Farm Insurance commercial that I've seen on TV where the young lady insists the scraggly looking guy with the polo shirt and fanny pack is a French model only because 'she saw it on the Internet so it must be true'. It's a funny commercial but also makes a great point. That perhaps people should learn to better use the tools the Internet has to offer, rather than become dependent on them. And certainly to realize that behind every computer screen there was a real live human being entering in the initial information. Guess what? Last time I checked humans still make mistakes and that's o.k., but for some reason there's a part of us that still expects a man made machine to somehow be perfect and flawless. Imagine that.

So ... how reliable do you think the Internet is?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Battle Over Pink

October isn't just the 10th month on the calendar, it's also the month where amidst all the orange, yellow & reds of autumn you'll see a sea of pink. October is designated as Breast Cancer Awareness month. You'll hear about a number of fundraising walks being sponsored, like the one I was in last weekend. You'll see an endless variety of 'pink' items on the shelves that supposedly donate a portion of sales to breast cancer research. I'd like to think it's true that funds are being raised that support ground breaking research, create community awareness, and support programs that directly assist current cancer patients going through treatments. But there are times I wonder just how much of the profits of the commercial items ranging from water bottles & mugs to socks and t-shirts actually go where they're supposed to and what that actual percentage is. Just how much money are all of these companies making at the expense of breast cancer or any other cause for that fact? I would hope that some companies aren't just jumping on the pink band wagon knowing that if they donate even the smallest percentage to the cause that they'll be able to rake in some big profits during the highly publicized month. Don't get me wrong, as a 7 year breast cancer survivor I am truly grateful for every single dollar that gets raised in hopes that a cure can be discovered before my daughter or anyone else's daughter is affected.
 
If you have $25 to donate and want your $25 to have the most impact then you need to ask yourself an important question. Where exactly do you want to make a difference? Has there been a specific program you've seen in action that touched your heart? Do you have a relative or a friend who benefited from Meals on Wheels? If so, why not donate directly to their program? Do you know someone who received immediate care and support at a shelter? Then why not make a direct donation to them? There are so many great organizations out there that do exactly what they say they're going to do that I think it's great when they can get some support.
 
I chose to walk in a recent Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk because it's organized by the American Cancer Society and I've personally benefited from programs that they continue to offer. I knew where my donation and those of my supporters was going. I'll admit that I've purchased a pink ribbon t-shirt or two during the last 7 years and that's o.k. I just think that in a day and age when commercialism and making a profit are as predictable as the sun rising and setting each day, we need to all be responsible and be careful. 
 
Do you have a charity you feel strongly about? If you do and ever have an upcoming event you'd like to get the word out for - let me know. I have no problem sharing good information with my readers.

Friday, October 4, 2013

How do you use your time?

This has been an unusually busy week for me. I've spent time at work, I was video taped for a public service announcement for the American Cancer Society, I've trained for a Making Strides walk this weekend, I took my daughter to dinner last night, I've cleaned house, I've run errands, I'm at the library blogging, and I almost forgot ... earlier today I mended an injured decorative pillow for my couch.
 
Time is something that flies by too quickly, as well as being a commodity that I seem to run short on. If I could only figure out how to add an extra hour or two to my day or better yet, make time stand still or at least slow down I'd be a happy camper. Somehow I don't think any of these options are likely.
 
How do you fill your time? Time isn't just the hours and seconds that fill up our days - it's the area of our lives where we try to fit in as much as we can. On any given day we'll try to carve out some 'work time', some 'play time', some 'family time', some 'quiet time', perhaps some 'nap  time', a 'meal time', some 'relaxation time', some 'exercise time', a little 'me time', some 'God time', and hopefully some 'quality time'.
 
No matter what you're doing it's important to be on time and hopefully not a waste of time. It's also important to create a balance. No matter how we attempt to allocate our time we're always going to run short. So, what do we do to get the most out of our time? We set priorities and we make choices. Sometimes we may need to give up a little time in one area of our lives to make room for something else we feel is more important. The priorities and choices will undoubtedly change on a daily basis and that's o.k. We can't possibly do it all. For me it's hard to give up my lists. Sometimes I'm so busy I find out that I'm human ... imagine that. I find out that I don't have a flashy red & blue super hero costume in my closet with a shiny golden belt. Guess my bubble has now burst. I'm not Wonder Woman. Some days I look around and see what's been put on my plate for the day and I realize something is going to have give. The house may not get cleaned for a few days or I may not have time to run for groceries after work so we change our priorities and I pick up a carryout pizza. Guess what? When that happens the world does not stop rotating and lightning does not strike. The only thing that changes is my priorities. Isn't it amazing that while we don't have the ability to stop or slow down time, we do have the power to make of it what we choose.
 
How do you manage to budget your time? Better yet, if you had an extra hour in your day or even your week ... what would you do with it?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Etiquette: A Lost Art Form?

Just the other day I took my mom to a local hospital for some routine blood work. I was pushing her in a wheelchair to eliminate a lengthy walk to the lab. When leaving the admittance desk I pushed her wheelchair away from the desk and immediately put the guest chairs back in their proper place. The admittance clerk responded with, 'That's so nice of you to put the chairs back. Most people don't even bother.' I replied, 'My mom taught me when I was growing up to always put things back the way I found them.' I guess it always stuck with me. I laughed and told my mom, 'Ha! And you thought I didn't listen to you.' It made her smile.

Growing up, my mom always insisted we learn and practice the most common forms of etiquette. We should say 'please' and 'thank you', never leave the dinner table until we'd either finished our meal or at least asked permission, and always try to write a hand written thank you note whenever possible. She used to say that if someone went to the trouble to pick out and give you a special gift for your birthday, then you should always acknowledge their effort with a proper thank you, otherwise she would say you were acting as though you thought it was owed to you.

More often than not I look around now and wonder if proper etiquette has become a lost art form. On a daily basis I witness people speeding through my subdivision at unbelievable speeds, people swearing in public, people zipping from lane to lane on the freeway without ever bothering to use a turn signal (as if we should all just get out of their way and read their minds about where they're going to choose to go next), and people vandalizing other people's personal property with graffiti. Don't even get me started about young guys wearing their pants down so low it's a miracle they don't trip themselves ... seriously I REALLY don't want to know or care about what boxers you're wearing.

Today my husband and I went for a leisurely lunch at a restaurant after church to watch the Lions football game. It was to be our hour to unwind, eat some lunch, and watch some football. Unfortunately the 2 ladies in the next booth carried on a conversation with voices so loud we could no longer hear the TV, much less concentrate on the game. My husband and I just looked at each other in disbelief. At one point one of the ladies was talking about something and saying, 'I just can't remember the name of the place. Gosh that bothers me. WHAT IS the name of that place?' It took every ounce of restraint for us not to get up and walk over to their booth to tell them the name of THAT place. There should be some proper level of volume that's considered acceptable in a public place, don't you think?

All is not lost though. Just when I think no one remembers what proper etiquette is I'll walk through a door that is being held open by a 10 year old boy with freckles on his face. I'll say, 'Thank you very much.' and he'll say, 'My pleasure.'
 
What do you think? Is etiquette a thing of the past or can it be salvaged for future generations to come?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Autumn: Enjoy The Reason For The Season

There's something to be said for having 4 seasons. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter ... they are all unique and each bring a splendor all their own. With spring you have the hope of bright colors; green grasses, leaves on the trees, and flowers in the gardens. Then comes summer; no longer a need for sweaters and jackets - just the warmth of the sun on your face. Next comes autumn (probably my favorite season of all); orange, red, and yellow leaves ... the trees resemble a midday fireworks display. Winter, for all the dreariness it can bring with slush and slippery driving, it can also bring pristine sparkling snowy days - a moment when everything is pure, clean, and untouched by mankind.
 
Today it was in the low 70s, blue skies with lots of sunshine, and just a hint of color change on the trees. A perfect day to play hooky and make a run by the cider mill; enjoy some cinnamon-sugar donuts hot out of the oven and some tasty cider, followed by a nice walk on the nature trail. It doesn't get any better than this.
 
Usually my days off are spent running errands and tackling mile long TO DO lists, but then a day like today comes along and you just have to throw caution to the wind and go for it. Just like the different seasons change our weather patterns, our lives also need change from time to time. There is a reason for every season, a time for snow and rain and wind and sun. Our lives are no different. We have seasons too. We have our youth, our young adult transitions with college and work, our married lives and careers, our parenting seasons, and then comes the season that I'm entering ... the one where you're still married, you're still working, you're still a parent, but suddenly you have a little more free time. That's the season when you give yourself permission to take up a new hobby, register for a class, spend an afternoon off working at the library, or taking a mid morning walk at the cider mill with your husband before you both head back to your real world of responsibilities. Like autumn, I think this is going to be a good season for me ... brightly colored and full of creative opportunities.
 
Embrace the seasons outside, as well as the seasons in your life. They all have purpose. What's your favorite season outside and why? What season do your see your life in right now?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What Do You Make Of Your Challenges?

Life throws us many challenges, and as we all know, some can be difficult. Some challenges are tough, but when we achieve what we set out to do, we can be all the stronger for it. Some challenges are of our own making and choice, while others are dealt to us. Those are the toughest ones. Those challenges could be the loss of an income, the death of a loved one, a new job, or bad health. Some challenges are short term and others unfortunately are not.

Yesterday was my anniversary (30+ years). My son called me in the morning to wish my husband and I well. In the afternoon our daughter called from college. Her anniversary well wishes surprised me, to say the least. She said, "Thank you for staying together all these years. It means a lot to me." I suppose it surprised me because we'd NEVER toyed with the idea of a divorce or separation. I reiterated this to my daughter and she responded with, "I know, but so many of my friends and kids I meet ... well, their parents aren't together anymore."

Marriages and relationships take work. I'm not one to judge whether couples should stay together or not. I came from a divorced family, so I understand that sometimes it's the right thing to do. But marriages and relationships (with spouses or children or friends or co-workers) take work. Like life, they can be challenging. I'm glad I've learned to take the good with the bad, and the lucky with the unlucky. It's all part of life. While we don't always have a choice with regards to the challenges we face, we do have choices everyday as to how we will respond, what we will make of the journey, and what we will learn from the experience.

What have been some of your toughest challenges?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Social Media: Is It For You?

Today I attended a workshop at the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab in Clinton Twp., MI, hosted by the Macomb Daily. Sometimes, no matter your age, it can be overwhelming and nerve wracking to go back to school; whether you're in high school, starting college, or attending a media workshop at the age of 50. Today's topic of discussion was 'Contributing Community Content'. The first 20 minutes or so focused on preparing press releases for businesses, non-profits, fundraisers, events, etc. I do this all the time in my job as a church administrative associate. We constantly host community events like vacation bible school, CARE parenting series', and health and wellness workshops - which I've promoted for nearly 12 years. For a moment I listened, got some great ideas on how to better convey my messages AND thought I was pretty tech savvy. That feeling of confidence quickly diminished as they moved on to the next topic of social media.

Yes, I am active on Facebook; I actually have two Facebook pages - one personal and one for this blog. I may not use Twitter or You Tube, but I do know that when you 'tweet' your followers are called 'tweeps' and there are various kinds of videos you can post like Vines that run for 6 seconds. Then my head began to swim as they started dropping big words like RebelMouse, Tout, Hoot Suite, and bit.ly. RebelMouse is a site that allows you to bring all your social network feeds together in one place. I don't think I'm ready for that since I only use Facebook and have my blog. Tout, on the other hand, fascinates me. Tout lets you create 15 second videos; great for giving a shout out to a reader, introducing a new blog entry, or sharing a quick review of a product you just tried. The good part is I can create Tout videos right on my laptop using the web cam (since I don't have an IPhone). Hoot Suite is another site that allows you to schedule your posts to your social sites, kind of time saving if you're only available to work on your sites in the morning but would prefer that your posts showed up at various times throughout the day. Then there's bit.ly. It's a site that lets you shorten your URL addresses so that when you post a link to articles and photos your URL is more direct and catchy.

For me, the great thing about the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab is its convenience and the free professional instruction it makes available to the community. What a great concept. They offer one-on-one sessions, as well as a variety of workshops. They've been a life savor to me as I've been learning about the different options that are available. When you consider using social media you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. How much time do I want to invest in my social networking? What do I hope to gain by using the various sites? 

There's a old saying that talks about 'picking your battles', for me social media is about 'choosing my challenges'. My plan is to attend as many workshops and one-on-one sessions as possible and take away at least one goal from each session. It's important to keep growing, no matter what your age is.

What's your favorite source of social media and why? I'd love to know. Is it You Tube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat? Perhaps you use something I haven't even mentioned.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What A Difference A Year Makes

Today I had one of those 'light bulb' moments, the kind that make you sit back and say, "Wow, I never thought of that before." I was speaking with a parent who was trying to make a difficult decision about which youth group at church to enroll her child in. Her child is the right age for one group, but has friends that are in a younger group. Her child was nervous and thought they might feel more comfortable in the one where they already knew some people. I told her I understood how difficult of a decision it was. I shared a situation with her that I'd experienced 13 years ago.

My daughter was then in preschool. Her teacher was required to give all of the students the Giselle test. I'm not sure if that is something that is still used today or not. Basically the test helped the teacher evaluate the student's skills and readiness to move up into kindergarten. I remember her telling me that my daughter placed high in every single category except for one. She had a high level of separation issues (she never wanted me out of her sight ...lol). The teacher was concerned with her moving up into kindergarten because she was on the very young end of the age scale. So I did what every concerned parent would do - I asked questions like 'how many days a week would pre-kindergarten meet if I were to hold her back' and 'how many hours would she be gone in a day'. The teacher said, "Well, actually it's not any different. She'd go to school 3 hours a day, Monday through Friday." I stopped and thought about it and had a sort of light bulb moment. Wait ... let me get this straight. Her teacher was worried that my daughter couldn't handle being away from me 5 days a week, 3 hours a day for kindergarten BUT would be better placed if she went to pre-kindergarten 5 days a week, 3 hours a day? I went with my gut instinct and placed my daughter in kindergarten. Either way she was going to have to get used to me not being there. The parent laughed and said she'd think some more about her decision.

After I hung up the phone I had today's light bulb moment. My daughter is currently a new college freshman studying music education and pursuing her passions and dreams. But what would have happened if I'd held her back one year? Her entire plan for her future might have been different. My daughter started playing a musical instrument through her school when she was in the 4th grade. Ironically the year after she left her elementary school the district cut the strings program. She was in the LAST class to have it offered to them. In junior high she was in the LAST orchestra class before it was cut. In high school she was in the LAST orchestra class before it too was cut. It finally happened. There is no more orchestra or strings program of any kind in any grade in our school district. What a difference one year could have made for her. What would her college major look like now if things had happened differently? I have to believe she was meant to be in the LAST class. She was meant to withstand the challenges that faced her. She was meant to persevere. So now that she's living in her college dorm and attending all her music classes and playing in the university's chamber orchestra, who's having to adjust to the separation issues? Not her ... lol, but don't worry ... I'm doing much better this week than last week.

What was the last big decision you had to make? How did things turn out in the long run?

Friday, September 6, 2013

When Do You Get Involved?

Today I encountered a situation that made me stop and question myself. I was walking through a Kroger parking lot back to my car when I observed something that made me feel uncomfortable. There was an SUV parked about 4 spaces past me. There was a young boy (age 10 or 11) standing on the back bumper waiting as his mother conversed with a toddler in the back seat. The toddler appeared to not be too happy by the sounds of the screaming and crying coming from the vehicle. I put my bags into the back of my car and yet found myself drawn to the situation just a few yards away. As I rolled my cart to the cart coral the mother and young boy walked past me toward the store. The toddler could still be heard crying from the SUV because the windows were half way down. As the mother walked by she told the boy, "If they're going to scream and carry on like that they can just stay in the car."

My heart was suddenly in my throat. Did she just leave her toddler alone in the SUV? Should I confront her or mind my own business? I walked back to my own car, all the while listening to the child's cries. I started my own car, but couldn't leave. I drove down the four short spaces and pulled in to the empty space next to the SUV. I was so relieved to see a young girl (maybe 11 or 12) sitting in the front passenger seat. The toddler was not alone!

Did I have a right to judge the mother without speaking to her or knowing fully what was happening? Should I have left and simply minded my own business? Did I do the right thing by discreetly checking on the toddler? There may not be any right or wrong answers, but I knew (as a mother) what 'I' needed to do. Just a few days ago a 2 year old boy died in my area because he was left in a car with the windows rolled up. I have to wonder if anyone knew he was there before it was too late. What if someone had seen him and thought not to get involved? What if his death could have been prevented?

By me sharing this story you, as the reader, have every right to judge me and my actions. I'm fine with that, because my conscience will be clear tonight and I'll be able to look at myself in the mirror. When was the last time you were in a situation when you questioned whether or not you should get involved?

Monday, September 2, 2013

It's A New Day ...

Today is a new day that in essence begins a new chapter. I've always thought our lives were like the seasons; they seem to be changing constantly. Once you're getting comfortable with one, it changes right before your eyes. Just like the seasons when we get used to the summer sun on our faces, we switch over to the autumn colors of red, yellow and orange and the cool crispness in the air. Sometimes it sneaks up on us and seems almost as though it's happened overnight. Our lives as parents are very similar. One day we're making our kids lunches for school and buying their new sneakers and the next day we helping them set up their dorm rooms and trying to help them (by phone and Facebook) to be ready for their first day of college.

It's hard, perhaps harder for some than others, to stand back and give your children their space. You've helped them their entire lives; you've guided them, you've supported them, and you've loved them. Most of that will never change. We'll still love them and support them, we'll even try to guide them as much as we can and share our experiences and our wisdom; but now we need to stand back and let them venture out on their own. They'll succeed, they'll flounder, they'll have great personal accomplishments, and they'll undoubtedly make mistakes. Why'll in my head I know all of these things are perfectly normal, in my heart I still want to protect my daughter from any unnecessary hardships or frustrations. She'll make mistakes, but she'll also find her way and grow and mature.

Perhaps there should be a class for us parents, lol, that teaches us how to handle these moments. My son is now 27. Three college degrees later, he's doing great. He survived the process and so did we, as parents. So why am I stressing now with my daughter starting her first days of college? I know she is smart and capable and talented and full of passion. I know, by nature, she's an organized person. But I also know she is in a new surrounding, with new people, new expectations, and new distractions.

She'll focus and perhaps at times wish that her well-intended mom didn't hover so much, but I know she'll find her way and end up on top. In the meanwhile, I'll get back to blogging, I'll try to not meddle, and perhaps I'll take up Yoga to de-stress. lol
 
How did you handle it when your kids went off to college? I'd love some help here from my friends. I welcome your wisdom.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Exactly Is A Deadline?

What exactly is a deadline? Obviously it's a given date or time when something is due or when a task should be accomplished. But it's more than that. It's a acknowledgeable statement of respect. It says 'Your time means something and I respect that.' It's a sign of values and integrity.

When I get a bill in the mail it tells me the amount I owe for a product or a service and tells me the deadline (when the bill is due). I acknowledge that, but why is it when the shoe is on the other foot and a credit needs to be issued to my account it can take days - even weeks. Suddenly my time isn't valued as much as theirs. Hmmm ... a double standard? Or is it 'just business'?

When you're given a deadline, whether it's a bill to be paid or a task that needs completing, do you try to meet the deadline? Sure ... things happen (to everyone) and sometimes deadlines get delayed, but do you try to meet your deadline? If you can't meet it, do you let someone know things will be delayed? Or do you just go on about your business and say 'Oh well'?

I think that when you give your word, shake a hand, or make a promise - you commit yourself. It should mean something. So why am I frustrated? Because I see people not use turn signals, not stop at stop lights, text when driving ... as if laws are an inconvenience for them, like they're too busy and too important to follow the same rules the rest of us are expected to follow.

I deal with paying a bill on time, check my bank records to see when the company cashed my check and then get a letter in the mail two weeks later saying I'm behind. Then I take the time to call to have them tell me, 'We show we received your check and your account is paid in full, so what's the problem?' 'What's the problem?' I reply. The problem is one department doesn't know what the other is doing and you act as if it's my fault for meeting my deadline! That's the problem.

So where do we go from here? I understand we're all human beings and we all make mistakes and miss deadlines. Do I lower my standards to meet others, so I don't get disappointed when people fall short? Or do I continue to care about what I do and how I act and just lower my expectations that respect should be a two-way street but the respect won't always be returned? Good question.

When was the last time you were disappointed in human nature and how did you handle it?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It Really Is A Small World

This has been a crazy busy week so far and it's only Wednesday. There've been stressful moments, chaotic moments, fun moments, and some entertaining ones too. There have been some late nights and some early mornings. My TO DO list seems to need a second page. Yesterday and today, though, I broke up the usual routine by adding in some fun things.

Last night I attended the Launch Party for the Macomb Regional Community Media Lab hosted by the Macomb Daily among others. They had a great turnout of nearly 140. I felt honored to be on the invitation list. There was a ribbon cutting ceremony, a display of local art, and several conversations with local journalists. The Media Lab is a wonderful new addition to our community and provides a variety of technological and journalistic support to area residents. No need to be a professional journalist, they are there to provide instruction and support to us all (which is great to hear for us novices). While meandering my way through the buffet line I met a woman and we chatted. She read about the opening in the newspaper and thought it would be a great opportunity to see what they had to offer. Throughout the course of our conversation we talked about her desire to possibly start a blog, about my existing blog, and about her passion as a master gardener. By the end of conversation we'd discovered that she belonged to a garden club run by a lady from my church whom I had written an article about in our church newsletter. We then talked about gardening and slowing down as we get older. She mentioned that one of the ladies in the garden club had recently hired a young college student to help her out in her garden. Ironically that young student is my daughter, Emily. It really is a small world.

Tonight we all attended a garden walk at the home of the lady from my church. She met my daughter and I met her husband. We were each introduced as the 'woman I met last night at the Launch Party'. Pretty ironic that out of the 140+ people in attendance last night we would meet each other.
 
The whole experience was just another reminder that even though the world is big, it really is small. When was the last time you had a chance meeting like this?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Embrace Your Inner Child

This week has been all about the youth; my church hosted VBS (Vacation Bible School) and today was our last day. There's been laughter, Band-aids for scrapes so small you'd need a magnifying glass, excited voices, penny wars between the boys and the girls for charity, and even a few tears. Tears because they missed mom and tears because they didn't want to leave when it was time to go. I've seen just about everything this week. I've seen the 'crazy hair day' with hair that stood a foot above their head, heads that had at least 12 pony tails, and the hair that was spray painted in many colors. We've had the 'wear the best hat you have day' and in honor of our Kingdom Rock theme we had a day when the kids could dress up as princesses and knights. One boy melted my heart when he walked in with homemade armor (he covered every inch of his football helmet in tinfoil, as well as the large box we wore as a shield.) He had to of been up all night creating his costume. He really did a great job.

Finishing up a week with kids is exhausting and definitely can make one yearn for a little quiet time on the back patio with a tall iced tea, but it can also make you smile. This week has been busy and noisy in my office, but it was also a welcome reprieve that I look forward to each and every year. It's a time when I can embrace my inner child, create superhero invisible Band-aids for the little ones, occasionally hold a baby or two while the moms are busy with the older siblings, and recharge. It's a week that when we watch the TV news and see all the bad stuff going on the world  - gives me a glimmer of hope for the future. It's weeks like this that get kids away from their video games, has them making new friends, and has them learning life lessons that can help shape their lives.

It really has been a GREAT week!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Is It Worth It To Worry?

The last week has been overwhelming, to say the least. My brain feels like it's been pulled in about 18 different directions. A lot has been going on; some good, some not so good. Today I came home from work with my annual 'first day of vacation bible school' headache. Don't get me wrong ... I love VBS week. The kids are full of energy, the festive decorations are amazing, the kids are mostly all happy (although there's usually at least 1 crier in the bunch), but what I'm not used to is the number of people that come through my office during the 3 hour span. I finish Day One and recap with the fact that no one got stung by a bee, no one got lost, no one got sick in my office, there were no parental issues to be concerned with, and I didn't get as much done as I normally would on a Monday. All par for the course and all expected.
 
But personally my past week has been exhausting. My daughter is busy preparing for music auditions and to go off to college at the end of the month. My son (the teacher) has been travelling across state lines for multiple job interviews (but I'm glad to report that just this afternoon he accepted an offer). I know people who are dealing with illnesses and surgeries; as well as relationship woes. What can I say, other than it's my nature to be a worrier. I've always been that way. I worry not because I'm expecting doom and gloom, but I worry because I can't shut my brain down. I think and think and then think some more. I think about the possible scenarios, the what ifs, and the potential changes. I suppose in some strange way I think that if I worry, it'll take some of the stress away from other people. Not sure where I came up with that justification. Doesn't really make much sense. Realistically it just means that we ALL worry. Pretty senseless on my part, but it must be part of my DNA because the trait has never gone away and has never gotten any better.
 
I worry about the timing for people, their deadlines, and their options. I don't mean to sound like I'm a meddler. I try not to get involved in other people's dilemmas and situations, but when it's family or friends you can't always help yourself. In the midst of everything life has thrown at us lately I do try to carve out a few quiet moments here and there to read, to escape, and to simply distract myself. It's common knowledge that I often renew my library books 2 or 3 times, because I can't find the time to finish a book, but am stubborn enough to still want to. Ironically I came across a passage in my current book where a mother commented when asked how she liked her new freedom now that her daughter was grown. She responded in part with, "I don't know yet. So far, I still miss making sure she's okay. I miss talking to her several times a day. I still worry that she's going to do something and I won't be there to see, and that she'll need me but I won't be there. Once a mother, et cetera."
 
Hmmm, so maybe it's not so much about being a worrier, maybe it's more about being a mother and a parent. How do you handle the worries, the stress, and the endless 'what ifs'? I'd love to take up yoga, but who am I kidding ... I can't even finish my library books in time. In another month my daughter will be at college and my son will be relocated and teaching high school. My gardens won't need watering or as much pruning. Perhaps things will slow down just a bit. Trust me ... I do have hobbies and plans including my 5K Breast Cancer walk in October. I do have blogging workshops to attend. I'll have sleep to catch up on. And who knows I may even finish a book without having to renew it.