Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Let's Start Again

New Year's Eve is a great day to reflect; about what has been and what can be. Sometimes I like to look back at my blog one year ago (to the day) to see where I was and see what I've been able to accomplish since or better yet - what I've learned. Below is my blog post from December 31, 2013. Most likely I will write a new one later today for this year, but looking back in retrospect can be enlightening. Where were you one year ago?

December 31, 2013

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 28, 2014

What Makes You Stronger?

We all wish we were as strong as Superman, as charismatic at Batman, as swift as Spiderman, and as stylish as Wonder Woman; but truth be told ... they're not real. They're just made up characters in comic books and on the big screen. We are human beings who deal with everyday realities. Sure, we wish we could do it all on our own and never need anything or anyone's help, but that is never the case. We all need to find an inner strength that will help get us over the unexpected hurdles or sometimes just through the day, but it won't always come in the source of kryptonite or a golden lasso.

Finding strength isn't easy. The source may be different for everyone. Just last night my laptop needed to perform 3+ hours of updates to gain it's strength. (BTW ... it's running much better today.) People, though, aren't as predictable, don't come with an instruction book, and certainly can't be compared to machines. 

So, what makes YOU stronger? Is it reviving your faith? Your family gathering in moral support? Or physical exercise making your body stronger? I suppose the first step is to get to the core of the issue. It could be mental, physical or even spiritual. We need to understand that wanting to be stronger doesn't mean that we are weak. It just means we want to be stronger, more solid, and more stable. We can do and be our best when we feel our best. When we feel strong, we feel confident. When we feel confident, we feel capable of more. We should never limit ourselves and should never settle for 'good enough'. We should always strive for more. We deserve to be strong. We deserve to feel invincible. We deserve to feel like a super hero.

When was the last time you felt your strongest? What was your source of strength?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Mystery of the White Elephant

Tis the season for social gatherings, catching up with old friends, and even making new ones. It's a time for office parties, family events, and a one-on-one lunch with a bestie. Dare I say which element is my favorite? Hands down it has to be the traditional 'white elephant' gift exchange. No money can be spent, but the 'treasure' must be wrapped to entice its sometimes unwilling recipient. It's the once-a-year opportunity to discard of the something you have at home, that perhaps embarrasses you, or the thing you received as a gift but really aren't quite sure why.

This weekend I attended 2 of these functions with my husband which gave me the golden opportunity to choose 4 such beauties. One of my gifts was a no brainer ... I'd been waiting an entire year to wrap it. I won't say what it was for fear the original giver might be reading, but we'll just say it was out of left field and I'm really not sure why the giver thought it was the perfect gift for me.

The white elephant gift exchange isn't really a mystery ... it's a time honored tradition in some circles. The mystery lies in the thought process that goes into it. There will be the dust-collecting trinkets that won't embarrass anyone when unwrapped, but there will also be the singing bass, the farting pig, or the poo play-dough. And there will ALWAYS be that one gift that is of a questionable nature that NO ONE will ever admit to bringing. Yes, the mystery lies in the giver and their thought process. It's kind of like the person that wears a character suit at a theme park or a mascot costume out on the football field. Their identity remains a mystery. No words are ever spoken. The quiet, shy person can be the life of the party without ever uttering a word.

Some people will be intimidated by the gift exchange and others will go with the flow. It's generally all in good fun and just meant to be the ice-breaker of all ice-breakers. Have fun with it. Take the social process for what's intended: laughter and lowering of blood pressure brought on by holiday stresses.

What's the wackiest white elephant gift you ever received? Better yet, if you'll admit to it, what's the craziest gift you ever gave away?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hold Tight To HOPE

It's the Christmas season; a time for family and friends, making memories, laughing, and buying someone that one special gift that will make them tear up with joy. For many though it is also a time of stress, family chaos, and often mourning and loneliness.

In a time when carols are playing on the radio and outdoor lights are twinkling in the neighborhoods, there's also a lot of tragedy in the world. Just this week I've heard stories of unthinkable situations; shootings of innocent children, beatings, robberies, and hostage taking. So how do we hold on to HOPE when so many destructive obstacles are being thrust into our paths? If I had the absolute answer I could relieve a lot of anxieties, but unfortunately many things are out of our control.

In the midst of all the bad, we must push ourselves to search for and hold on to the good. Still embracing Christmas and all it stands for doesn't mean that we are careless about the tragedies. We should still plan our holidays, bake our cookies, and enjoy our family gatherings. BUT we should also take a step back and consider what is most important; it's not about how much we spend on the gifts or how much food we pile on the table for the Christmas meal. It should be about embracing the blessings that we have and praying for those that have been less fortunate. We should pray for peace and mornings where children around the world can wake up with smiles. We should pray for an end to senseless violence. We should pray for safety for our military troops. We should pray for a growing consciousness and sense of morality. 

In the end I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year. My prayer for you this holiday season is one of love, joy, peace, and HOPE.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What is it about this time of year?

What is it about this time of year that has our emotions on a roller coaster? One minute we're up and excited and the next we're crashing down out of control.

The season is undoubtedly busy; it has it's share of hustle and bustle and pressures. There are the highs that we've grown to expect ... festivities with friends, twinkling lights, decorations, tasty and fattening foods, and Christmas tunes. But then there are the lows; the ones that have people spiraling at times from stress and overwhelming moments.

I'm sure there are many explanations; different for everyone. There are those who are feeling blue because the Christmas season will be different this year due to a divorce or separation, the loss of a loved one, or even not having all your children home for the holidays. It's understandable that many, given their current situations, will find it harder to feel merry and bright. There are the many college students who are anxious and overwhelmed with getting through their final exams and scrambling to pack to come home for a few weeks in between their semesters. And then there are the pressures at work to try to fit 60 hours worth of work into 40 so that your To Do list will be manageable and allow you to take that much-needed time off over the holidays.

It goes without saying that there are those unmentioned expectations during the season; whether to send out Christmas cards, bake cookies, host a holiday gathering, shop for those special gifts, and 'yes' ... even whether or not to decorate a tree. You may think it's the 'other' people in your life that are applying the pressure when it reality it's probably you. We all tend to push ourselves too hard and expect too much; whether it's to please us or the other people in our lives is a question that only we can answer.

The bottom line is that we get get choose what is most important to us; it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks. Our lives all have different seasons. My Christmas this year will be different than it was last year AND probably different than it will be next year. I decorated my tree and I chose to send out cards, but I'm going to support a local cookie walk this weekend allowing myself to bake only one batch myself. That's right, 'I' get to choose what's most important to me. Once we give ourselves permission to do that we can start to lesson some of the pressure and perhaps enjoy more of the 'highs' of the roller coaster.

What are some of your priorities this year?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

And So I Ate A Donut

Have you ever had one of those weeks (or even a day) when things just did not go as planned? I get them all the time. Last night I knew I needed to be up early this morning so I was sincerely hoping for a good night's sleep. Seems like my body (or most likely my busy mind) had other plans because I've been awake since 3 a.m.

Life gets busy and chaotic, especially during the holiday season with so much on our plates, that even the slightest change of plans can throw off our schedule. Today I was bringing my vehicle into a dealership for the 3rd time to fix a warranty issue. Knowing that I plan A LOT on my day off the dealership offered to provide me with a free rental, for which I was grateful. Unfortunately the rental car company on site only had 'one' vehicle and as Murphy's Law would have it - the driver seat could not be raised and I could not see over the dashboard. Dumb luck I suppose or perhaps just my 'vertically challenged' genes giving me a hard time. I waited for more than an hour for another vehicle to be sent over.

So how did I handle this minor inconvenience? I wandered around the showroom, I watched an old rerun on the Game Show Network, and I found the complimentary box of donuts. Eating a donut isn't something I often do, but when I opened the box out of curiosity the chocolate covered donut was practically calling out to me, 'Pick me! Pick me! I'll make your day better.' Well, I caved and that little delicious calorie-filled donut was right. I was able to regain my perspective and get on with my day.

We will all have days that throw us unexpected curve balls and we will all end up with To Do lists that carry over to the next day, but in the grand scheme of things we must remember to not sweat the small stuff.

When's the last time your plans didn't go as planned? What helped you to regain your perspective?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Will Your Holidays Look Like?

Holidays come at the same time every year, just like seasons. You can pretty much predict when they will arrive and what they will look like, but often things like 'life' get in the way and change things for us. 

Just like the weather can be unpredictable, things can happen in our lives that will change the flow from what always was to what will be now. Some events are glorious and what we've always dreamed of and others are unexpected and unfortunate.

We remember holidays as being times when families get together; there is tradition and laughter and food and card games ... times to make memories that we will always be able to hold on to. My holidays this year and for some people I know are changing. I know people whose adult children have married or relocated; the scenario of every other holiday will now begin. It's not a bad thing, just a new thing. Then I know families who have lost a loved one this year and their holidays have unwelcome adjustments. Their days will be different; they might be lonely or quiet. For some it will be hard to get into the festive spirit. Things will get better with time, but it will be a process - one that will require patience and optimism.

What will your holiday season look like this year? Will you have additional guests at your table? Will you have the sounds of new little feet running through your house? Will you have a quietness that is deafening? Remember that Christmas is the season of giving. Give of your heart. Give of your time. Give extra hugs whenever needed. Whatever your holidays look like make the most of them. Create new traditions for yourself and your loved ones and you will have a multitude of memories for years to come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Give Like You Would Hope To Get

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A day when we hope to be with family, share fellowship, good food, and football. For many, though, it is just another day; a day to go to work, a day to be without family, and a day to do nothing special. For everyone I would hope it is a day to reflect and be thankful; for what we have been blessed with. But, also as the Christmas holidays draw nearer it is a time to consider how we can give.

At this time of year you will see bell ringers with the red Salvation Army buckets, boxes in banks and businesses set up for canned food drives and Toys For Tots, and many 'giving trees' in schools and churches. Take tomorrow to be thankful for what you have and think of how you can pay it forward, BUT give like you would hope to get.

Over the years my family and I have packaged food, filled gift bags for children, visited nursing homes, and sorted pallets of canned food items to check the expiration dates. I cannot begin to tell you how many giving and thoughtful people there are in my neighboring communities. Sadly I can also tell you that people will donate used winter coats that are stained and torn and drop off boxes of canned food with dates that are grossly expired. I kindly pointed out an expired date to a person once who dropped off a case of soup only to have them tell me, 'That's o.k. Whoever gets it is poor and they'll be grateful for whatever they get." OMG, really? How sad and selfish is that?

My point is that if you, yourself, would no longer wear a blouse or a coat or a pair of pants because they are stained or torn then WHY would you expect someone else to? Perhaps the recipient is in need and has had a run of bad luck, but that's no reason to strip them of their dignity as well. If YOU would not eat a can of beans or soup with a date that was 10+ months past its expiration date then WHY would you expect someone else to?

Yes, take tomorrow (and every other day) to be thankful for what you have and when you ponder the idea of giving during the holidays remember to give like you would hope to get.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Embrace Your Talents

If you are like me you sometimes compare yourself to others, at least from time to time. Even the most confident person can occasionally have doubts. Maybe you think someone is smarter or skinnier or they sing or speak better than you. That's o.k. and I would even venture to say that it's normal. It's easy to feel a little intimidated when you sense that someone does something better than you. Mostly I don't let it bother me, except when it's something I've been striving to improve upon. But then I remember that God didn't give all of us the same gifts and talents. You won't have the same gifts as your brother or your spouse, or your neighbor or even yourself from 10 years ago.

I continue to work with my own gifts and talents and remember that 'I can do all things through him who strengthens me.' (Philippians 4:13)
  • I TRY not to compare myself to others.
  • I TRY not to put larger-than-life expectations on myself.
  • I TRY not to knowingly set myself up for disappointment.
  • BUT I do TRY to work with what I've been given and not waste it.
  • I do TRY to use my gifts for good.
  • I do TRY to make a difference.
  • And I do TRY to bring joy to others whenever I can.
The key word, for better or worse, is TRY. That's really all any of us can do. When we quit TRYING the battle is already lost.

We all need to be lifted up at times and we all need reassurances. In Psalm 139:14 it says, 'I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.' This verse reminds me that I am not alone, that the gifts and talents I possess were given only to me by someone much bigger than me. Who am I to argue with the One who created me? If we keep this in mind perhaps we will embrace our gifts and talents more than we do. We will embrace who we were created to be and use these gifts for the Glory of God. Sometimes we need to pause and take a long look on the mirror and accept the things we are, yet improve upon the characteristics that need some work.
  • I can accept that I am a stickler for details.
  • I can accept that I would sometimes prefer to write rather than speak.
  • I can accept that I am creative, that I will skip through a pile of autumn leaves whenever I can, and that I would eat pizza 5 days a week if given the chance.
  • I can accept that I have an inner child that still likes to color with crayons.
  • I can accept that I will always dot my 'i's' and cross my 't's' and find the grammatical errors in published books.
  • And I can accept that my faith journey is a work in progress.
Here is one verse to leave you with and remember ... Your talent is God's gift to you - what you do with it is your gift back to God.

Romans 12:4-8 (NIV)
For just as each of us has one body with many members,
and these members do not all have the same function,
so in Christ we, though many, form one body,
and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
if it is serving, then serve;
if it is teaching, then teach;
if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;
if it is giving, then give generously;
if it is to lead, do it diligently;
if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Make A Difference

It's that tricky time of year. There are still some golden leaves left on the trees, the weather is giving us a taste of what winter temperatures will be like, at least one radio station is playing Christmas music, the Hallmark movies are in full swing, and some of Santa's helpers can already be seen in the mall. So what does that mean for you and me?

Christmas is a very special holiday for me; as well, so is Thanksgiving. Christmas is a time for family. For me it is more about celebrating the birth of Jesus, but 'YES' I will admit I also like the season. The twinkling lights, the smell of cinnamon and evergreen, the laughter of children, and most of the decorations (still not sure I understand what the flying pig with a Santa hat is supposed to represent). There are those who will cringe and protest and say that it is all happening too soon. There are those who will say Christmas has gone completely commercial ... and they'd probably be right. BUT ... the season is what you choose to make of it. If you don't want to shop now, then don't. If you don't want to send out Christmas cards this year, then don't. If you don't believe in shopping on Thanksgiving day, then don't (I know I won't). BUT, don't be mad that the season is starting early. 

My suggestion: Set a budget that YOU are comfortable with (don't go overboard and don't go in debt over it), make your list of what you'd like to buy or how you want to celebrate the season, and start now ... slowly and at your own pace. I have my short list and will be shopping early. There are bargains and sales out there NOW. My goal is finish before Thanksgiving. Then I have the month of December to truly enjoy the Christmas season. I will write out some Christmas cards, I will bake a few cookies, I will try to gather with friends and be social, we will put our tree up and decorate, and my family and I will try to make a difference.

On Thanksgiving (and every other day) we will pause and remember all of the things we have to be thankful for; a roof over our heads, food to eat, family that we love, good health, our faith, and our values and priorities. We will think of ways we can give back during what can be a busy, chaotic, and lonely season for many. How can you be there for someone else? The list is endless.

  • You can bake some cookies and visit a home bound friend or neighbor.
  • You can buy an extra winter coat and donate it to a coat drive.
  • You can take a tag or two from the many giving trees you'll find at your school or church.
  • You can pay it forward and buy lunch for the table next to you or the person behind you in line.
  • Or, since it's not all about money you can simply call someone you haven't talked to in a while and not only talk, but listen.
Combine your holidays ... Thanksgiving AND Christmas. Be thankful for what you have and what you have to offer and MAKE A DIFFERENCE this season. And more importantly, don't be embarrassed to say 'Merry Christmas' in public.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's Good Not To Be Alone

If I sit back and read through some of my own past blog posts even I can notice some common themes ... doing what's right, honoring values, helping your fellow neighbor, and holding on to traditions and what some would call 'old-fashioned' ideas. Last night I tuned in for a portion of the CMA Awards on TV. I don't tend to listen to country music all the time, but when channel flipping in my car I have been known to stop on the occasional country song because it has a good beat, great harmonizing, and some amazing musicality. I like to think that my music tastes are varied.
I listened to a few of the acceptance speeches from various artists; some have won the awards repeatedly and for others this was their first time. It's not always why we do what we do in life, but truth be told I think we'd all like a little validation at times just to let us know that we're not alone and that we're on the right track.
We all know that I have no problem sharing my opinion, when asked. I've often written in my blog about technology being both a blessing and an opportunity to make us lazy. I've written about today's society having an 'instant gratification' mentality. Whether you, as the reader, agree with my viewpoints or not isn't the point. We all have opinions and they may all be different, but how refreshing it was to turn on my radio this morning while driving to work and hear a recap of last night's award show followed by the playing of a Miranda Lambert song called 'Automatic'. For me it was an epiphany. I always try to listen carefully to the lyrics; after all I love words and how they're used and the impact they can have. This song (that I'd never really heard before this morning) validated my views and let me know that 'I AM NOT ALONE'. That's a nice feeling to have.
Listen for yourself. Miranda may or may not have been the songwriter (I don't actually know so I wouldn't want to say), but for me the words are absolutely perfect.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Polls Are Now Closed ...

Today was election day. The absentee ballots have been turned in, the in-person votes have been cast, and the predictions will now roll in as the votes are tabulated. For me, election day has always had its pros and cons. Pros being that we can witness democracy in action; people voting and hoping that their voices are heard, and the campaigning drawing to a close. Cons being the manipulation of the campaign circuits and the sometimes disrespect of many voters.

Today on Facebook I saw graphic after graphic posted to people's pages saying that they had voted ... which was great. What I also saw was various TV media stations making early predictions based on exit polls in attempts to influence one party or the other that one side was winning over the other and they needed to get out and vote. I guarantee you that anyone could poll any targeted group about a pre-selected topic and come away with the result they were looking for. Ironically the early exit polls all start coming out in the middle of the day ... seriously? I've been voting now for over 30 years and I have not once been asked who I voted for as I left a poll; which is probably good because if asked I would have to tell them that it was none of their business. It's all manipulation no matter how you look at it. As if the last several weeks haven't had enough TV & radio commercials with content that did nothing more than bash the opponent, we now get to observe Facebook and Internet 'comments' from people who hide behind cartoon and fictitious profile names. I always seem to quit reading after about the 8th or 9th ignorant comment because my stomach starts to roll. It continues to amaze me how freely the disrespectful and ignorant words can flow from one stranger toward another stranger.

I am all for exercising our right to vote. I am all for fighting for our freedoms and our rights; freedom of speech being one of them. But with every right and freedom comes responsibility ... or at least it should. 

Late tonight or tomorrow morning there will be both acceptance and concession speeches. As with any competition there will be winners and losers. At this point all I can hope for is a brighter, more positive tomorrow for ALL of us.

How did you fare during today's election?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's All About Change

Today has been a day about change. Last night we changed the clocks back an hour. I, for one, appreciated the extra hour this morning to get ready. 30 minutes of extra sleep and 30 minutes extra to get ready for church without rushing. 

Sometimes change can be good; other times not so much. Some people will say that if you do the same thing day in and day out you'll find yourself in a rut. Others might say that changing up the routine will keep things fresh and exciting. I guess that depends on whether you're a 'glass is half empty or half full' kind of person.

There are the changes that we choose for ourselves like which job will we take, which house will we live in, which outfit we will wear, and which person will we choose to marry. Then there are also the changes that we have no control over ... Daylight Savings Time (lol), having to pay taxes, being diagnosed with a disease, or having someone run a red light and come into our lane.

Some changes we will embrace and grow from, others will be be thrown right at us and we will do nothing more than try to cope with them. Those are the tricky ones. Trying to make important decisions that we don't want to make and keeping our heads above water. It can be tiring and heartbreaking at the same time.

This morning, though, the church I attend began a new chapter. We have a new pastor which is a change in itself. I was glad to see a worship center that was full once again. There was a definite sense of community and a high level of energy. It was good. I pray that people will embrace this change as a positive one.

What kind of changes are you presently dealing with? Are they good changes or bad? Do you feel like you're adjusting to them or are you hanging on by your finger tips?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Can Technology Make Us Lazy?

Are you one of those people who avoid technology like it's the plague (or should I say Ebola)? Do you embrace all the newest and fastest gadgets the stores have to offer? Or are you a fence sitter?

Here are a few observations and perhaps you can help me determine if there is a common denominator.

  • Do you call someone and leave them a message only to have them call you back and say, "Hi, I saw that you called." To which you reply, "O.k., did you listen to my message?" And then their frustrating response is, "No, but I saw that you called. What did you want?"
Does technology tend to make some people lazy? Do they take the easy way out, check the caller ID - but not bother to actually listen to the message?

  • Do you find yourself emailing someone and asking them 3 or 4 questions in the content of the email, yet when they respond they haven't actually read the 'whole' email? They respond to 1 out of 4 questions and disregard the other 3. That becomes a gross waste of time because if you still need your answers now you have to email them back again.
  • Then there are those people who will give you their email address but claim they never check it. So ... why do they have one?
Do you think technology overwhelms some people? Do they feel obligated by society to participate, but they don't really want to?
Technology, in its many forms, certainly has great purpose, but I also think it can create a sense of disconnect. Yes, computers and emails and Facebook and cell phones are convenient, but they also make it easy to lose touch. When was the last time you wrote a letter (you know, that thing with pen and paper and an envelope and a stamp)? I know many elderly people and college students who would much rather check their 'mailbox' instead of their 'inbox'.
Which side of the technology fence do you sit on? Does it help you or hinder you? Does it make you more social or more of a loner? What's your favorite forms of technology and why? For example, maybe you like a Kindle because you don't have the space to store actual books ... on the other hand maybe you prefer the smell of a good bound book and enjoy turning a page and using a bookmark.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What's Your Mountain?

Everyone has something they're trying to overcome; a mountain they're trying to conquer. Some may have an addiction or what seems like an insurmountable fear. Many may deal with loneliness, depression, or loss of faith. Some have a goal they're trying to reach. For some, stepping out of their comfort zone may just feel too big for them. What do we do when that happens? How do we conquer our mountains?

For me, I've always found that I get a bad case of nerves when I need to speak in public. It goes back to high school and being paired up with the smartest kid in school on the debate team. Now I know what you're thinking ... if I had a case of nerves why was I on the debate team? Good question. I suppose I like to face my fears head on and try to overcome them. Doesn't always work of course, but at least I'll get an A for effort. I thought, somehow, that I'd start out slow ... observe the other students and learn from them. Boy, did that backfire. We ended up going to the State tournament. I thought I'd never survive, but somehow I did.

To this day I still find myself purposely putting myself in situations that I hope will help me overcome my fears. People will tell me I do well, but of course I never believe them. Why? Because I'm my own worst critic. Someone will say my hair looks good and I suddenly doubt and think, 'Are you sure?' I don't know why I think people will always say nice things just to try and boost me up. Maybe they were right ... maybe my hair really did look good that day. (lol) At some point our confidence has to grow and we need to learn to believe in ourselves and be able to stand sturdily on our own two feet.

What's my current mountain? Still the same old thing; speaking in public. So what am I doing about it? Same old thing; putting myself in a position to speak. This time it's BIG (at least for me). Saturday I will be one of 2 guest speakers at the opening ceremonies of a local Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. More than 600 people will be listening to what I have to say. What's my goal  - besides getting through it? To inspire 'one' person. If I can do that then all the rest is just icing on the cake.

What mountain are you currently trying to conquer and how can I help?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's All About Choices

According to a recent TV commercial there's a theory that people always make bad choices in horror movies. 

> They make their getaway by running through the cemetery at night.

> Instead of choosing someplace safe they hide in the barn where all the shiny, sharp objects are hanging from the rafters.

I will even go one further and say they usually answer the door ... when it's dark, they're alone, and the phones aren't working. Seriously? Don't forget the ominous music and the creaky door. We all know it's that time of year ... Halloween is just around the corner ... time for the fright movies and even the Halloween Wars on the Food Network channel.

So, Halloween aside, how confident are you with the real-life choices you make?
  • Do you text & drive or even drink & drive?
  • Do you honor your marriage vows and stay faithful to your spouse?
  • Do you lie to get ahead at work?
  • Do you cheat on your income taxes?
  • Do you gossip with your friends ... OR about your friends?
  • If your restaurant bill is lower than it should be, do you let your waitress know or consider it a gift?
There are endless choices that we are forced to make every day. It can be daunting when you stop and think about it, but think about the fact that every single choice you make today is a puzzle piece to your future. You may not think it'll matter, but in the end it will.

Take the time today to think your choices through. Think of the possible outcomes or consequences. It could be worth the extra few minutes or even seconds to determine if your choice will get you into proverbial trouble like those in the seasonal horror movies.

    Friday, October 10, 2014

    What does your perfect world look like?

    The world today is a tricky place. There are a lot of positives, as well as negatives. They are things we have absolutely no control over and things we can have an impact on if we try hard enough. In a perfect world I'm sure we'd all like to believe there could be world peace, no war, no poverty, no hunger, and no disease. These items all seem to be bigger than the average person though. While I think we all know I have a very serious side and am full of compassion, I also like to try to lighten the mood and the stress level whenever I can. It doesn't mean I don't still think about how to change what many believe to be the unchangeable, but it means I try to lesson the pressure and start small in hopes of gaining momentum and someday tackling the bigger issues.

    So, in the spirit of keeping things light ... 'What would your perfect world look like?

    • We'd be able to eat ice cream EVERY day and lose weight.
    • The ratio of colorful marshmallows to grained cereal would be higher in a bowl of Lucky Charms.
    • In my husband's perfect world he would be allowed to keep the Christmas tree up 12 months out of the year.
    • For me, I would be able to overcome my anxiety of going to the dentist.
    • There would be a 20 minute recess for adults if they had a work day that was longer than 8 hours.
    • In an efficient world, people would be on time and respect each other's time.
    • In a respectful world, people would keep their word. Deals used to be made with a handshake; today even a signed contract isn't always worth the paper it's written on.
    If the bigger and more important issues were all taken care of what would it take for your little corner of the world to be a little more perfect? What would make you smile in anticipation?

    Sunday, October 5, 2014

    New & Improved? Can It Fix Everything?

    Everything these days seems to come with a tag that says 'New & Improved'. Even salesmen will tell you when you make an electronic purchase that your item is practically obsolete as soon as you walk out of the store. But will 'new & improved' change your values or your faith or your sense of worth? I doubt it.

    There are things that will have a definite positive effect if tried. For example ... getting a new hair style or a new outfit won't actually make you younger, BUT they can make you FEEL younger. Getting WiFi in your house can't make you more creative, BUT it will speed things up for you so that you don't lose your momentum. Even going to church won't get you a free pass to heaven, BUT it could help to restore your faith and perhaps clarify your values and priorities.

    There are people who will say that money can't buy happiness, BUT at the same it can bring financial stability and possibly less stress and that could lead to a greater sense of happiness. I suppose there is always a thing called perspective. Stop and ask yourself what you hope to achieve in your life and what your priorities are. Think about what you need to do, or more importantly NOT DO to get where you want to be. Make those choices for yourself and go after them. Don't look for a quick fix to get you what you want. Important things are achievable, but they usually come with a price of hard work and dedication and persistence. Getting the latest this or that might fix or replace things for you that are no longer good, but they can't fix YOU. If you're feeling obsolete or broken or lost don't fill your time and space with things. Get back to the root of why you feel off kilter and fix that. Perhaps it's a relationship or your faith or your physical being. Start by trying to work on you. You can always reward yourself later with something 'new & improved' ... when you're feeling 'new & improved'.

    What are you currently working on to get you where you want to be?

    Sunday, September 28, 2014

    You're Never 'JUST' Anything

    Depending on the source you use it could easily be tabulated that there are over 1 million words in the English language. Amazingly many can be used differently and have multiple meanings. For example, the word 'JUST'. It can be used as an adjective or an adverb; as well there are related synonyms (upright, accurate, exact, honest) and antonyms (biased, untrue, unjustified).

    How many times have you heard some one's confidence or self-esteem questioned when they or someone else refers to them as being 'just this' or 'just that'? I've often heard young people say, 'I can't make a difference, I'm just a kid.' Someone at the office might say, 'The boss doesn't want to hear my opinion, I'm just an employee.' Guess what? As long as you're a living, breathing human being YOU have a voice. You have insights, experiences to share, and opinions. Don't ever let anyone, especially yourself, claim that you're just anything.

    Never believe that you're just a student, just a mom, just a brother or sister, or just an employee. Give 100% to whatever you choose to do and you'll be more than you think you are. If you're a student then you're the future of our world as we know it. If you're a mom you're one of the most nurturing people a child will ever know. If you're a brother or a sister you have a unique opportunity to be a mentor. If you're an employee you have the ability to be part of something bigger than yourself.

    Don't limit yourself by being just something. As well, don't limit those around you. Challenge yourself to be part of the solution rather than a contributor to the problem. Take the time to better know yourself, your hopes and dreams, and your gifts and talents. Choose not to limit yourself to stereotypes. For years the Army has used the slogan, 'Be all you can be.' Give it a try. What have you got to lose? Step out of your box and your self-imposed comfort zone. I know it's scary and intimidating, but anything worth fighting for is going to be.

    What's something you're striving for? More importantly how can we help you achieve it?

    Monday, September 22, 2014

    Doing The Right Thing Because It's The Right Thing

    How many times do you find yourself observing mankind's behavior and then thinking, "Seriously, has everybody gotten lazy?" For me that happens at least a few times a week. There's the usual scenarios: the people who speed up on your left side when the flashing arrows to merge to the right have been seen for more than a block. Is their time somehow more precious than yours? The people who take clothing into the fitting rooms only to discard their unwanted leftovers in a pile on the floor waiting for someone else to magically pick up after them? That seems to happen A LOT at JCPenneys and Kohls. I feel sorry for their employees having to constantly clean up the mess. The people who will throw their cigarette butts and trash out their car windows as if the rest of us don't mind living in their littered world.

    OK, so now you're probably thinking that I'm on my soapbox and beginning a well-executed rant. Perhaps you would be right. We are ALL busy, but that doesn't give any of us the right to be lazy or disrespectful to those around us. I constantly find myself straightening a pile of clothes on a display table or putting that falling shirt correctly back onto it's hangar. Why? I'm not sure. I've never worked in clothing retail so I don't have old habits. Perhaps I'm OCD. Perhaps I just don't mind taking the extra second or two to make things nicer for the next person that comes along.

    However, I do smile when I see a person actually slow down and open a door for someone else or see a person offer to get something off a high shelf. In reality it doesn't take any longer to be respectful and do something nice than it does to be lazy and have disregard for others.

    In the words of Clint Eastwood, "Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that's real power."  

    So ... my suggestion for you today is to take the time to observe; the behavior of those around you as well as your own. Don't like what you see? Make a change. Now that can be empowering!

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    Who Sets Your Priorities?

    Everyday we live our lives with a TO DO list a mile long. We have things we have to get done, things we should get done, and things we'd like to get done. Every night we look at our lists again and say, "There just aren't enough hours in the day." Realistically we'll never get every thing done so we do the only thing we can. We prioritize our list. The thing about priorities, though, is they are always personal and we always have a choice.

    Priorities are different for everyone. Every one of us gets to choose what we feel is important and what isn't ... well, most of the time anyway. We can't always choose the number of hours we work for our jobs or the deadlines that we're given, those are given to us. We can't choose how many hours in a day our children attend school. But we do get to choose, to some extent, how busy our lives get. WE get to choose whether or not we go to church, whether or not we play sports, how often our kids go to dance class, whether or not to create time for our family, and when and if we carve out time to socialize with friends.

    We can complain all we want that we don't have enough time for things, but would that be accurate? Only WE can decide what is most important to us. For example, family meals have always been a priority in my family. We choose to make that happen as often as possible. Our schedules may get crazy, but my husband and I have always felt that family dinners were important. It's when we can all talk and catch up for a few minutes before we run off to our next scheduled event. Sometimes it's a home-cooked meal, sometimes it's carry-out, and sometimes we meet at a local Little Caesars for a $5 Hot-n-Ready. What we eat doesn't matter, it's the sitting down and talking part that does.
    I never pretend to have everything figured out, but I think the key is that we remember not to judge other people and their priorities. What I think is important for my family may not be a priority for someone else. Never confuse someone else's choices with your own. I make my own choices and I have to live the consequences that they some times bring. Never set priorities for someone else, that isn't your right. You aren't in a position to judge or critique anyone else's life. Take a good look at your own and put your energy and focus on that. Think long and hard about what is important to you. Don't see enough time in your day for it? Maybe something in your schedule needs to be tweaked. That's the beauty of it. It's your life and you get to make those choices.
    What's something you feel is so important to you that it remains at the top of your priority list? What do you choose to give up so that it can stay there?

    Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Getting A Free Pass

    Remember when you played Monopoly and you got a 'Get Out Of Jail Free' card? It allowed you a 'pass'; meaning you didn't have to go to jail and wait three throws of the dice or you didn't have to pay the dreaded $50 fee (I think that was the amount). What if you could do or say whatever you wanted in real life and not have to pay any consequences for it? Unfortunately if we watch the evening news we'll see that it happens just about every day. Yet we can hope  that we won't have to deal with any serious issues or crimes. I'll bet we all know that one special someone in our lives though who acts as if they're above reproach. That one person who thinks they can be rude and inconsiderate and never have to apologize or consider any one else's feelings.

    How does that person make you feel? When they say rude things or try to be manipulative do you feel bullied? Bullies come in all shapes and sizes and ages. They can be found on the elementary school bus, in the high school locker room, in the office, in your own home, or in rush hour traffic. They're those people who, for whatever reason, feel better when they're putting someone else down; whether it's about your appearance, your values, your goals, or your accomplishments. For decades there have been those people who will tear others down in order to build themselves up. It's always at someone else's expense.

    Do they realize how they're behaving? Do they even want to change? Deep down are they sorry, but feel trapped in their own behavior? I'm sure every case is different. I know some people who are able to get a snide remark into just about every conversation; for some I think it's on purpose. Sadly, for some I think it's become a normal way of life.

    So what do we do when we encounter these people? Do we try to avoid them? Do we grow thicker skin? Do we let their rudeness just roll off like water? We can try these approaches, but they won't always work. We'll feel vulnerable at times and hurt and other times we'll remain strong and be able to tell ourselves to 'consider the source'. 

    How do handle your 'special someone'? What would your advice be to someone in those shoes?

    Monday, September 8, 2014

    That One Recurring Dream

    Do you have that 'one' recurring dream that you've dreamed for years? It may vary a bit each time, but it's always so similar and familiar. My dream involves me being a waitress. I can visualize the customers sitting down at the table. I can tell you their exact orders, and I can picture myself walking to the kitchen to turn the orders in, fixing their salads, and filling their drink order. Then the dining room usually gets busy and things get chaotic. My heart starts to race and my hands get clammy and I have to start telling myself, 'You've had nights like this before. You've got this.' Eventually I start trying to convince myself that it's just a dream and it's not real. 

    I can go months or even years without the dream and then when I least expect it - it comes back in full force and vivid color. Why do you suppose it happens? I usually try to attribute the stressful dream to something I ate for dinner or the fact that I've probably got too much on my mind. 

    You do need to realize that I'm not just pulling this scenario out of my overactive imagination. I actually worked in a restaurant all through high school and into college. Perhaps that time in my life was busy and a bit chaotic and a little stressful, but truth be told I WAS A REALLY GOOD WAITRESS. I actually liked serving people and enjoyed the job. Here's a secret (which I guess is no longer a secret if I share it), I actually met my husband when I was a waitress in college. It was near the end of my shift, he came in, I waited on him, we talked, he asked for my number, I gave it to him (o.k. ... I actually already had it written out just in case he asked for it or I was feeling exceptionally assertive). My point is that not ALL of my waitress memories are bad. We were actually married nine months later and we'll soon be celebrating our anniversary of 30+ years.

    So what's your recurring dream? What do you find brings it on? More importantly, how are you able to turn it off?

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

    How Do You Measure Success?

    The world seems to be full of competition and personal drive. How do you measure your successes? As an artist do you measure your achievements by the number of paintings being displayed in a gallery or by the number of music CDs you’ve already sold? As an employee do you define your success by how far you’ve been able to climb the corporate ladder? As a gardener do you only feel accomplished once you’ve been invited to participate in a garden walk and received formal recognition for the fruits of your labor?

    Do you ultimately measure your success by how YOU see yourself or by how others see you?

    Do you consider yourself a good parent if your children are healthy, happy and well-adjusted? I watched a Hallmark channel movie just last night and heard a wonderful line. It went something like this, “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.” I considered it a sort of epiphany. If you are a parent, like me, who is very tuned in with her children (whether they are still at home or grown and on their own), then this is probably pretty accurate for how your emotions can be weighed in with those of your children.

    This is my 200th blog post for A New Season of Insights. Who would have thought just a few short years ago that I would have THAT much to say or share? I know I wouldn’t have thought so. I wanted this 200th post to be special and monumental and significant and whole lot of other important things. Wow, talk about putting a lot of pressure on yourself, but then I stopped and asked myself, “What’s your blog all about anyway?” I consider it to be conversational and real and relative. Nothing more, nothing less. So we’ll get back to measuring successes. How do I measure my success as a writer? I have a little more than 100 Facebook followers. Have I reached 500 or 1,000 readers yet? No. Will I get to that point? I can’t say (my crystal ball is still in the shop). At last count my Admin. page says I've had 9,667 page views of my blog. That seems impressive; at least to me. I’ve written 199 posts (before today that is). I’ve had some GREAT feedback from readers; some amazing questions and some heartfelt comments. The fact that I still get to wake up every day and think about what I will write continues to bring me great joy. So with that in mind, I guess that makes me a success.

    How about you? How are you measuring your success?

    Saturday, August 23, 2014

    Walking A Mile

    There's a saying that says to truly understand what a person is dealing with you would need to walk a mile in their shoes. There's been a lot of attention lately to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It has created a phenomenal amount of awareness, as well as funds for research. From what I understand the icy cold water is supposed to simulate the sensation of the affected nerves that an ALS patient feels. I've seen the Facebook videos and received my challenge yesterday. Like any challenge though, I had a choice to make. I chose to make the donation; not because I was afraid of appearing vulnerable on camera or afraid of a little cold water. No, my choice was for personal reasons. I completely respect each person who has accepted the challenge, made a donation to the cause, or obtained a greater understanding of a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain. My decision comes from a different place.

    Have you ever asked the abused spouse or the child of an alcoholic parent how they would feel if you were to apply some fake bruises and go out in public so that people could judge you? Would it help you to relate? Would a cancer patient feel any better if you were to shave your head as a sign of support? My son did that once. He was at college and the captain of a Relay For Life team. I appreciated that he wanted to feel connected and wanted to show his support to me while I was going through my chemo treatments, so as a fundraiser he let the college students in his dorm shave his head. BUT he never asked me how 'I' felt about it. When I saw him I literally broke down and cried. I understood his need to feel connected but all I could see was a mirror image of myself and I saw him as being ill and damaged. It broke my heart. Fortunately his hair grew back much faster than mine. We talked about it and I made him promise that he would never intentionally do that again.

    I will ALWAYS support various causes and for a lot of reasons; because I know someone dealing with the issue, or I see the awareness and knowledge being created, or I see breakthroughs being made. Sure, I haven't won the lotto (yet) and I can't support every cause, but I will continue to make donations when I can, walk in fundraisers, and learn when I can.

    Walking a mile in someone's shoes isn't always a reality, sometimes you can learn just as much by opening your mind and your heart. To all those who took the Ice Bucket Challenge - I applaud you! To all those who donated instead - I applaud you as well! To all those who endure or care for someone who has ALS or diabetes or cancer or heart disease or suffers from abuse or weight issues or depression, etc. - I applaud ALL of your efforts and your determination. 

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    Considerations: They're Worth Thinking About

    According to ‘considerations’ are defined as thoughtful or sympathetic regard or respect; a thoughtfulness for others. Do you find yourself having days where you look around at the world and just scratch your head; perhaps wonder where the common decency and respect for others has gone? The past week was filled with ample opportunities to witness BOTH the good and the bad in people. We had devastating flood waters in local areas that either weren’t accustomed to or prepared for the amount of rain that they got. Many people lost power and/or belongings. We saw reports on TV of people rummaging through other people’s water-sodden personal belongings in front of houses, but we also saw people reaching out to help their fellow neighbors.

    This past week I heard about people getting out of their cars and running to the aid of a stranded driver on a busy road, yet I personally witnessed a bout of potential road rage between the drivers of 2 large SUVs. I heard stories of hope from some mission trip youth and I kept tabs on people who were walking 60 miles in hopes of helping to find a cure for breast cancer.
    It’s easy to get caught up in the little everyday scenarios where someone has inconvenienced us, or been rude to us, or made us feel a little taken for granted. When that happens I try to regroup. I try to shrug it off as someone being a little too busy and or maybe just inconsiderate and hope that they weren’t intentional in their actions. I try to look at the bigger picture and be thankful for all of the good that is around me. At the end of the day I hope that there was a balance and assure myself that tomorrow will be a new day.

    The next time someone assumes things on your behalf or someone cuts you off in traffic try to stay in the moment … get through it with as few emotional scars as possible and move on. The less baggage you carry with you into tomorrow the better you will feel. Bottom line – we‘ll never be able to control the actions of others so we need to worry less about what THEY should or should not have done and instead focus more on what we CAN control … our own actions. Just something to think about.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    Choices Matter

    Every day we are faced with choices and decisions that need to be made. What should you order for breakfast? Should you wear the red tie or the blue tie to the meeting? Should you give your mother a call today or wait until tomorrow?

    You may not realize it at the time but ANY one choice can ultimately change your path. Good decisions OR bad; they all make a difference. You may ask yourself … ‘What would my life look like today if I had accepted that other job right out of college? What if I’d said yes in high school when that one person asked me to the prom? What if I’d accepted that job that wanted me to relocate my family?’

    None of us have a crystal ball. We can’t predict our futures; only God knows what is in store for us. If you did know now what your life would OR could look like in 5 years or even 10 would you do anything differently today? Do you make your decisions in the ‘here and now’ or do you tend to look ahead at the big picture?

    I suppose there’s not really a right or wrong approach other than knowing that all of your actions and behaviors and choices and decisions all matter and all carry a great deal of weight. You are probably the best person to decide what is right for you, but know that your choices all have consequences. Will you wake up tomorrow or even next month and be happy with the decisions you made today? Something to think about.

    Have you made any choices that you maybe regretted later; just as well have you made any choices that you were absolutely content with and wouldn’t have changed for anything?

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    Where Is Your Faith?

    Do you ever find yourself facing one of those ‘frustrating’ days. The kind that make you feel overwhelmed, antsy, and agitated? You’re not alone. Many people feel this way at some point. It doesn’t mean it’s entirely your fault or often can’t even be avoided. Sometimes you just have days when you feel like the stars aren’t aligned. Your day can start out by spilling coffee on your blouse or having someone cut you off in traffic. You may get a deadline unexpectedly moved up at work or have an unpleasant confrontation with a stranger. Sometimes these things just happen, but hopefully not too often.
    When you find yourself facing a day like that what’s your first response? To become defensive? To become angry? To try to fix everything (which I find can be the most exhausting)?

    Every once in a while I face a day like this. I guess that just makes me normal. I’m fortunate though to have some great people around me for support; my family, my friends, and my co-workers. I’ll be honest and say that sometimes the little things can frustrate me as much as the big things. It’s my nature to play the peacekeeper, to want be able to re-align the stars, and to get everything and everyone back to running smoothly. Truth be told if I could really manage to accomplish all that I’d be giving myself WAY too much credit.

    I need to accept that there are things out of my control (ok … MANY things). Everything is in God’s hands. Maybe He is presenting me with a frustrating day now and then to teach me something. To teach me to be more understanding, or to have more patience, or to turn some of my stress over to Him. I’ve always had a hard time doing that. It’s not that I don’t have faith, because I do. I think it’s because I was raised to try to be self-sufficient and independent. For me to stand back and ‘turn it over to God’, in my mind, makes me think I’m taking the easy way out – that I’m not doing my share and am standing back waiting for Him to take care of my life for me. In my heart I know that isn’t the case; I should be asking God for support and accomplish my tasks and tackle my stresses with Him by my side, BUT my head tells me to keep trying to handle everything myself. Absurd, I know.  So right after I master re-aligning the stars I’ll get started on figuring out how to align my heart and my mind.

    Any suggestions? How do you handle your frustrating days?

    Thursday, July 31, 2014

    Take Time To Make The Memories

    Recently when my son got married I had an epiphany; that my children were growing up. I held back the tears as my son walked me to my seat and we later shared a mother-son dance. My little boy had grown up into a handsome, smart, and faith-filled man. It goes without saying that I felt an extreme sense of pride that day, but at the same time I had to ask myself, "When did that happen?" Only yesterday I was watching him ride his Little Tikes bike down the street to watch for his daddy to come home from work.

    Then I watched his sister come down the aisle as a bridesmaid; stunningly wholesome and beautiful, confident, and adoring of her older brother. She is now in college. The long rainy afternoons filled with tea parties and Disney movies have been replaced with trips to Starbucks and a weekend at a Bed & Breakfast.

    I've realized just how quickly the time goes by and how precious each moment is. My epiphany has given me the valuable insight that I need to take time to make the memories. She and I recently had our mother-daughter weekend, after which we stopped off for a wonderful lunch with my son and his new bride. Last night it was my husband's turn. He had his memory-making night together with his daughter at a Peter Frampton concert.

    Time goes by fast enough as it is. In a month she'll be back at her college and her dad and I will be anxiously awaiting the next time we'll get to have dinner with her or have her home for a holiday or when we'll get to take the weekend drive to visit our son and his wife. My TO DO lists will always be there, but I'm learning to set them aside when an opportunity arises to make a memory. Try not to miss them - they aren't always easy to spot or subtle. Sometimes they're the spontaneous phone call filled with laughter and conversation.
    What's the last special memory you made with someone dear to you? 

    Saturday, July 26, 2014

    #1: Cross 'Itinerary' Off The List

    This weekend I am stepping out of my comfort zone. My daughter and I opted to take a mother-daughter weekend and 'get away' from the routines, the traffic, and the orange barrels that we both know so well. Of course, being the organized mom that I am I spent a good amount of time on the Internet trying to plan the perfect mini vacation. We only have 3 days so I wanted it to be perfect. Yet when I asked my daughter, "What would you like to do when we get there? Where do you want to go? What do you what to see?" In her getting-wiser-by-the-year way (at almost 19) she kindly responded with, "Let's just go with the flow. There will be plenty to see and plenty to do, so let's just be spontaneous." It's pretty bad when the daughter knows what's best for the mother.

    I planned our weekend at a quaint Bed & Breakfast in the Amish countryside of Northern Indiana. The B&B is wonderful, the innkeepers are amazing, AND my daughter is currently taking a nap while I blog (I guess all of our spontaneity has worn her out). None of our trip so far has been planned. She's teaching me to go with the flow, which I'm sure is no easy task. We've walked in the antique shops for her and have taken photos of the outdoor quilt gardens and horses for me. We stopped at a roadside stand by a dairy farm and ate a freshly made grilled cheese sandwich on garlic cheddar bread with thick co-jack cheese. We sat and admired the country roads, the green hills, the horses and the Amish buggies. We've taken long walks and done whatever we've wanted whenever we've wanted.

    We're almost half way through our weekend now and my shoulders are just beginning to relax. Funny thing ... I haven't seen an orange construction barrel in more than 24 hours AND I certainly don't miss it. Instead I've driven through the country, met new people, been in awe of all the quiet and beauty God blessed this area with, and seen more horses than I have in the last 10 years. 

    It's been a great trip so far and I can safely say I've crossed the word 'Itinerary' off my list. I guess there is hope for me yet.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014

    Integrity: It's Not Just a Word

    To some ‘Integrity’ is just a word, to others it’s a creed to how they live their lives; how they think and choose to behave. The dictionary defines ‘Integrity’ as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; a consistency of actions, values, methods, expectations … Regardless, ‘Integrity’ is a BIG word with BIG implications.

    I’ve noticed that the word is thrown around, sometimes carelessly, when naming companies or often when used by politicians and other professionals. It can be a big part of advertising to make you think the company (or individual) has morals above reproach, that they’re honest, reliable and trustworthy. Search the Internet and you’ll see companies using the word to name their operating systems, banks, staffing companies, and even office supplies stores.
    We all know that using specific adjectives in marketing and advertising is all part of the business. They’ll use certain words, certain colors, certain music scores to target certain demographics. That’s common, but don’t be swayed. Don’t fall for the bells and whistles, the glitz and the confetti. Think for yourself and let people (professionals and businesses alike) know that if they’re going to market themselves using ‘Integrity’ as a ploy, they’d better be able to back it up. If you’re like me you’re probably starting to see a lot of political signs on the roads and getting assorted handouts in the mail on an almost daily basis. It’s as good a time as any to sharpen your skills and stay alert.
    Hang in there; we're in this together!

    Thursday, July 17, 2014

    What Do You See?

    Do you see things one way while someone else in the same room sees the situation differently? It always amazes me when that happens. The intent or purpose of a situation or a plan could seem crystal clear, when in actuality it isn't at all. There are often a lot of grey areas.

    The other day someone said in a meeting that 'perception=reality'. Those simple words got me thinking, which I do way too much of. There are always 2 sides to every coin and every story, but some situations could leave so many more impressions. People won't always agree on what the right and wrong are in a situation, that would involve values and we all know that everyone has different viewpoints and values. We can fight for our causes until we're blue in the face but that won't bring total agreement. Sometimes we need to agree to disagree and let the chips fall where they may. I'll be the first one to admit that I have firm beliefs and core values. Do I try to impose them on those around me? Not knowingly, but if asked my opinion I will not hesitate to share it.

    Many times disagreements involve family members, co-workers, or even your children's teachers. People will always hold on to their opinions, their ideas, their purposes, and their goals. They won't want to be swayed about how to go after them or for that fact, how to hold on to them. When that happens and you sense some stress and tension on your horizon perhaps you should consider a change of perspective. Try looking at things differently; maybe from someone else's view. You may end up with your same original conclusion, but at least you attempted to see the whole picture. It is important to not only open your eyes to see, but also your mind.

    When is the last time you saw something in a different way than someone else? We won't talk politics or religion here because those are topics that I can almost guarantee no one will ever agree on. What do you do when you are faced with perspectives that are different than your own? Do you become defensive or do you hold it in and stay quiet?

    Friday, July 11, 2014

    Go BIG or Go Home

    I've always been a firm believer of going after challenges. Some I succeed at and others not so much, but I keep trying. Some challenges we choose ourselves for a variety of reasons, others are thrown at us. Those are usually the ones we'd rather skip right over ... a broken relationship, a lost job, or getting sick. So let's focus on the ones we can choose for ourselves.
    First off, what makes a challenge a challenge? You need to pick a challenge that's bigger than yourself - bigger than your everyday routine. Your challenge could be something daring; climbing a mountain, running a race, or facing a fear. It could be something fun, but risky; going after a dream job, being proactive about meeting that someone special, or perhaps making the decision to start a family. If it's easy then it's probably not a challenge.
    • If your challenge doesn't scare you (even a little), it's not a challenge.
    • If it doesn't make you lose sleep, it's not a challenge.
    • If it doesn't make you skeptical or worry at some point, it's not a challenge.

    Challenges come in all shapes and sizes. Conquering them will bring you a sense of independence and strength, pride, and a superhuman feeling that you can do anything you set your mind to. Those are the challenges that will give you solid memories to share with your family and friends. Those are the challenges that will give you the strength to tackle the ones you don't choose.

    Will you fail? Possibly, but NOT all the time and when that happens you try again (and again if necessary). Eventually you will conquer your challenge.

    Currently my self-chosen challenge is public speaking. That one definitely puts me out of my comfort zone, but maybe that's what intrigues me about it.

    What's your current challenge?