Sunday, April 27, 2014

Keep Track of The Good Days

In the hustle and bustle and chaos of being a parent, we need to always remember to keep track of the good days ... and there are plenty. We make it through the sleepless nights when they're infants and teething, as well as the sleepless nights as they grow up and are out late with the family car. We go through their hurts of scraped knees, sadness of broken friendships, and anxieties with college life and relocations. It's what we signed up for but that doesn't always make it easy. We never want to see our children stressed or anxious or unhappy. Their feelings and our own often merge together as one, but if we've done our job right as parents they'll be o.k. as will we.

Then a week or a day goes by and we get to watch them walk across a stage as they graduate and  begin the next chapter in their lives. We get to watch them perform on a stage at Orchestra Hall or attend  their wedding. We can stand back and watch them push themselves in a bike race and smile and laugh as they play the guitar in the pep band at a college basketball game. Will we always worry? You bet we will. Will we miss them when they've gone off to pursue a new job or adventure? Absolutely. But we will always make sure they still have a key to the house and a bed to sleep in whenever they choose to visit and we will visit them as well.

For me this weekend was a good one. I had my family nearby; we laughed, we sang John Denver tunes in the car, we ate WAY too much bacon during breakfast, and we all hugged before our cars drove off in different directions.

Keep track of the good days and make plans for the many to come. It's what gives us, as parents, the foundation and strength to get through the days when they're not around. What happened during your most recent 'good day'?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Who Do You Want To Impress?

There's a saying when someone has a new TV box out at the curb that says they may be 'trying to keep up with the Jones'. When one neighbor has a great looking lawn we could find ourselves inspired to spruce our own up a bit. Call it inspiration or our competitive sides showing up, either way it can be just the motivation some of need to get us moving.
Do you find yourself wanting to get a new car because your friend got one last week or wanting to grab a girlfriend and go shopping because you saw someone at the grocery store with a great new spring outfit? My question for you is who do you want to impress (if anyone)? Do you do what you do for yourself or to impress those around you? Do you care what others think about your style, your language, your behavior? Sometimes I wonder what people think and why they do the things they do. Tonight I was in a parking lot when two young ladies (19ish) walked to their car - laughing, smiling, talking loudly, and swearing up a storm. I get the whole 'freedom of speech' thing and 'being in public places and wanting to express yourself', but when it came down to it I really had to wonder if there was even room for me in 'their bubble' OR if they even knew (or cared) HOW they were being perceived by those they were passing by. I decided they clearly must not have.
When you're at work or volunteering are you giving your responsibilities a 100% because you're proud of what you're doing or do wish deep down someone would notice and say 'hey, nice job'? Whatever you do, whatever you say ... keep it pure, keep it respectable, keep it worthy of notice by the only One that really matters.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Game of Highs & Lows

Last week I went to church for Palm Sunday and in the context of the sermon the childhood game of 'sharing your high and low for the week' was mentioned. It may have started out as a kid's game and progressed into a traditional ice breaker game for adult meetings and small groups, but it's also a great way for us to keep our perspective (at any age). At the end of every day or even just once at the end of a busy week stop and ask yourself what your 'high' and 'low' point of the week was. We may have weeks when everything seems like a 'high'; as well as there are times when we feel like our lives have hit rock bottom. It's important to find a balance. There's always a high of some sort; a child's laughter, a blue sky, or your favorite athletic team winning a game. Find a high and use it as a foundation. Consider it a seed, acknowledge it and watch it grow and bloom. Embrace your highs when you have them, but at the same time learn from your lows.
I was lucky to have had plenty of highs this week ... my health is good, I have a roof over my head, plenty of food to eat, a family that loves me, faithful friends, and I went to an impressive concert last night. My lows? I really need to learn how to deal with my stresses; computers that don't work, dealing with minor inconveniences (because that's all they are), handling my nerves, and trying to find more hours in a week. I admit it and I know I'm a work in progress, but I AM working on it.
What's been your high and low so far for the week?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Challenges: How Can We Help and Should We?

In my last post, I talked about the different forms of challenges; the ones we take on ourselves vs. the ones that are dumped on us. Dealing with any kind of challenge can be stressful, whether it’s a good challenge or a bad one. Some people prefer to wear their superhero cape and put the weight of the world on their shoulders, without getting any help from anyone; others not so much. Some people tend to think that any kind of a challenge or change they’re dealing with is theirs and theirs alone. Often they withdraw away from friends, family or any support that is available. We can’t force people to let us help them.
For the times when people are willing to let us in what can we do to help? How can we help them lessen their anxieties? I don't think anyone enjoys seeing other people suffer. I am certainly not an expert or a doctor; I’m merely someone who is observant. What works for some won’t always work for others. These are simply my observations.
1 – Lending support and positive encouragement is a good thing, but don’t constantly put the person on a pedestal. They’re human and they will occasionally fall (we all do) – building them up so high could result in an unsuspecting fall.
2 – Give people the space they need to process whatever it is they’re dealing with. Don’t try to solve their situation or overcome the challenge for them. For it to work they need to accomplish that themselves.
3 - Be a good listener – follow their cue and hope that when they’re ready to talk they’ll let you listen. Sometimes people can answer their own questions in time. Often they just need to talk it through out loud.
4 – It’s o.k. if it’s not you that can help them through whatever they’re dealing with. Don’t be afraid to suggest someone else you think may connect better and be able to give them what they need.
5 – Know when to walk away. If someone is dealing with a challenge that doesn’t involve you and you cannot help them, it’s o.k. to back off. Hopefully when the time is right and you can help, they will let you.
What has your experience been? When have you been able to help someone through a challenge they were facing? Or if the shoe were on the other foot, how did someone help you?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Do You Rise To A Challenge?

We all face challenges every day. They come in many shapes and sizes, often disguising themselves as opportunities. Somehow an opportunity sounds much more positive than a challenge; an opportunity sounds doable. A challenge sounds mysterious, dark and full of obstacles; it suggests that it may be harder to achieve. No matter what we call them or how we perceive them, it’s how we rise to a challenge that defines us.

Challenges can be things we take on by ourselves and others are handed to us unwillingly on a platter; they may come in the form of an illness, grief, an abusive relationship, or a career change. Challenges have no guaranteed outcomes, but I for one would rather attempt and fail than not try and never know if I could have succeeded. I could fail, but so what? I’ll still get up tomorrow and I’ll probably try again. Failing doesn’t make me a loser or a quitter – it makes me persistent. Sure, some will attempt a given challenge and fail and decide they’ve had enough and ultimately not try again, but that just means that ‘they’ve’ made a decision. Never let someone else dictate the outcome for you. Always make sure your voice is heard.

I’ve had challenges in my life when people have told me ‘don’t bother’ or ‘you won’t make a difference.’ I suppose I was stubborn and pig-headed because I never listened. I can’t stand the thought of someone else defining my future. Have you ever faced a challenge and come out on the other side stronger for having endured it?
‘You may not realize it when it happens, 
but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.’  
 ~ Walt Disney
Challenges are very real and can be life-changing ...  they can also be a really big topic – too big for just one blog post. Stay tuned and next time we’ll dive in to how we might support each other with our challenges so that we never have to feel alone when we tackle them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Living in a World of 'What If?'

Do you ever play out scenarios in your mind? Some might call it day dreaming. Perhaps you’ve played out a scene from your favorite movie while you were sleeping or dreamt that you played through a hockey game where you scored the winning goal? We’ve all done it at one point or another. My husband once had a dream so vivid that he literally kicked me in the leg; when I asked him about it the next morning he claimed that he was ‘doing karate’. Dreams are generally make believe, but what if they were real?
Analyzing the ‘what if’ of every situation could drive a person crazy. What if you knew right away whether or not you were going to get the job you just interviewed for? What if you knew that the driver of the oncoming car was going to run the red light and hit you? What if you knew when a deer was going to run haphazardly out into oncoming traffic? What if you knew you were going to have a heart attack next Tuesday? What if you were gossiping about someone and didn’t know they were standing right behind you and could hear every word you were saying?
If you could answer all the ‘what ifs’ ahead of time would you live your life differently? Would you eat healthier and exercise more to avoid next week’s heart attack? Would you be a more cautious driver and try to anticipate the behavior of the other drivers? Would you stop and ask yourself if you should really gossip about someone before you said anything?
We may never know the answers to the ‘what ifs’, but maybe we should try living our lives as if we could. What do you think? Would you do anything different? Have you ever had a pivotal moment in your life when you wished you would have know the answer to the ‘what if’ first?