Monday, December 28, 2015

Stepping Back in Time

Every once in a while I like to go back into the archives and see what I was thinking a month ago, a year ago, or even longer. Sometimes, I'll reread something I wrote and have a completely different perspective, perhaps because I'm in a different season now.

Below is a a post I wrote on January 2014 (wow, close to 2 years ago). A lot has happened and a lot has changed in 2 years, yet somethings are still the same. What do you think?


Keeping It 'Old School'
January 13, 2014

I'm all for improvement and change ... when it's needed, but sometimes I think 'old school' is still best. So, what do I mean by 'old school'? Well, let's see. There are classic cars, simpler and quieter times, less technology, better made products, and even manners and etiquette. I'll admit that I sometimes get a bit frustrated with all of the rush and chaos of today's world. Everyone seems to be in a hurry and often times it seems people act as though they're in their own little bubble where nothing can touch them.

Every day I witness people cutting others off in traffic, honking their car horns because other people choose to obey the speed limits, and then not using their turn signals (as if the rest of us are just supposed to guess that they planned to suddenly turn left).

With time comes progress and technology, and yes even change. We see change everywhere ... in our schools, in our jobs, and in our grocery stores. It seems just about everything these days comes with an 'app'. Everything is supposedly made easier, where with the click of a few buttons you can order your dinner, renew your license plate tabs, pay a bill, or do your Christmas shopping. But I have to wonder ... with 'progress' supposedly making our lives easier do we sometimes forget the things that really matter?

I think some students learn better by actually taking notes in class with a pen and paper rather than just recording a lecture. I think some children are able to show their creativity better by coloring in books with old-fashioned Crayola crayons rather than using Paintbrush on a computer screen. I think some people retain more of what they read by turning the paper pages of a book. I'm not suggesting that all technology is bad. As much as I love the feel and smell of an actual book I would still like to someday have a Kindle - they're small and efficient and save A LOT of space. I imagine they would be wonderful for traveling.

Then there's my memories of 'old school' manners, the kind I grew up with. When I was young I learned the importance of writing thank you notes. My mother always said, "If someone takes the time to buy you a gift, you should take the time to properly acknowledge them." The progress in that today could easily be sending a thank you 'text' or 'email', which is fine. It's the acknowledgement that matters, but many times people just seem to expect gifts they're given (which I think is sad).

To me there's something to be said for still having a landline phone, or playing records on a record player, or being respectful and polite. It's so refreshing when a young person actually takes the time to hold a door open for a stranger. To call any of this 'old school' isn't progress - it just means the world has gotten too busy. If we could all take some time to remember the things and behavior that made us who we are and pass on those good qualities ... that would be progress.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When CHANGE Gets In Your Face

When life throws you unexpected changes, get even by accepting the daunting ones and then creating some of your own. The holidays can be overwhelming enough; baking cookie trays, purchasing gifts for friends and family, writing out Christmas cards to those you don't often see or hear from, and trying to meet up with friends to 'catch up' on what's been happening in your life (as if one meeting could cover it all). Just the schedule alone can become overwhelming. Our days are already packed with cooking, shopping, cleaning, working, and caring for our kids (and for many of us ... our parents). Yes, life throws us lots of changes and generally without much warning. Grandma breaks a hip, you drop everything and rush to the hospital. Your child forgot to tell you they needed 3 dozen cupcakes for tomorrow afternoon's class party, you roll up your sleeves and grab the hand mixer. The toilet suddenly decides to start losing water, you grab a bucket and towels and some tools - quickly.

We like to have our ducks in a row and our schedules and demands under control (well, I know I do), but if we're going to stop ourselves from going under the current we have to learn that 'life happens' and accept that we need to be flexible and learn to go with the flow.

Tomorrow is a new day, but today is here right now. It's the NOW that takes priority and needs to be dealt with. There are bound to be days or even weeks when we feel like we're getting through life by taking one step forward and being rewarded with two steps back, but feel confident in knowing that not every day or week is going to be like that. Deal with the here and now, then don't look back. Be strong. Be confident. Be in as much control of your life as is humanly possible. You'll get through today and tomorrow and the rest of the week. You'll battle and conquer the unwanted changes that are thrown at you because, truth be told, not all change will be bad. 

When CHANGE is first thrown in our faces I think it's normal to feel anxiety, frustration, and sometimes even anger. But once we've gotten used to the change and given ourselves a moment or two to catch our breath we may realize that not all is bad. Changes are like the seasons; they constantly evolve into the next one. They have a very specific purpose at their time, but then morph into something different that is welcomed and embraced. In the end you'll discover just what you're made of and perhaps even walk a little taller.

What change have you been dealing with lately? Understandably at this time of the year, not all changes are based around the demands of the holidays. If anything the changes are just magnified because of everything else we are dealing with.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dealing With Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a time of joy for many, yet a time of stress for others. Christmas time comes but once a year and with it comes expectations, many of which we tend to impose on ourselves. We say we want to remember the true reason for the season, that we want to make it less about expensive presents and more about traditions, creating new memories, and helping others ... and yet, we still find ourselves standing in long lines at the stores, planning menus that Martha Stewart and the Pioneer Woman could be proud of, and decorating our houses and shrubs with yet one more strand of blinking lights. Somehow many people feel they have to top what they did last year. But why? Why should we stress ourselves out to the point that we have headaches, sleepless nights, mile-long To Do lists, and wrapping tape stuck to our slippers? What's the point? Will all that make this Christmas better than the last? I doubt it.

I heard a quote on the radio the other day that said, 'The best way to eliminate holiday stress is to lower our expectations.' It made me think a couple of things. The first being how sad it sounded and the second being that it had a lot of validity to it. We are the ones who expect more from ourselves than most others expect of us. I'm the one who writes my endless lists. I'm the one (with some requests from my family) who picks my Christmas menu. I'm the one that wraps one last gift and then says, 'That's it for tonight. Tomorrow is a new day.'
 
So if you're like me and you get to make some of those choices, then why do we still reach our levels of feeling overwhelmed? Sure, there are many outside elements that we don't control; the amount of work we need to do for our job, the traffic we'll need to be patient in to get from point A to point B, the lines we'll have to stand in at the grocery store, the number of hours in the day, the number of days in a week ... and so on.
 
My point? If you find yourself starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed or tired or even just plain cranky ... take a break. Take a deep breath, take a walk, have a snack, fix some tea, or call a friend. Sometimes just stepping away from the stress for a few minutes is all it will take to refocus and regain your holiday momentum. But don't get so busy or so stressed that you forget to enjoy the season, the holiday, and your family and friends. It should never be about baking the cookies that you won't eat, buying one more needless gift, or sending a Christmas card to someone that never talks to you.
 
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Are You A TRADITIONal Person?

It's the time of year when we see Christmas displays in the store windows, twinkling lights on the trees in the front yards, hear old favorites on the radio, bake for a cookie exchange, and gather with friends and family around the fireplace. A lot of these elements are traditions; some having been passed down for generations, some being new this year.
 
Traditions aren't just exclusive to the holidays. Sure, most of us have grown up with memories of chopping down a Christmas tree, being allowed to open just one gift on Christmas Eve, eating the big family meal in the dining room with your grandmother's favorite china, or going to a church service with the WHOLE family. But truth be told traditions can be experienced any time; blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, that adorable photo of every kid  with a new outfit on and wearing a backpack on the first day of kindergarten, or maybe even that special week up at the cabin on the lake in the summer.
 
Yes, traditions are important. They're part of our heritage ... part of our memories of the things we love most. When we were little we may not have realized that having to leave our newly unwrapped toys around the Christmas tree to load up the car and go to visit the grandparents was a tradition; but it was. Now as we grow up a couple of things happen (besides becoming wiser, lol). We now have our own families and we try to start some of our own traditions, but at the same time honor as many of the older ones as we can. Yes, many traditions do seem to surface around the holidays, but I think that's just because that's when most have a little time off of work or have family gatherings. It's when we tend to take the time for the special stuff.
 
Three years ago after my daughter started college I suddenly realized that she was growing up and would be out and on her own before I knew it. So what did we do? We started our own tradition of having a mother-daughter getaway for one weekend in the summer. The first summer we went to an Amish area B&B and loved it. Last summer we went to Mackinac Island and stayed on the island, biked for 2 days, walked for hours, and ate an AWESOME Whitefish dinner looking out over the water. More importantly, we created memories and plans for next summer.
 
What are some of your traditions? What has made them special to you?
Are there any traditions from when you were younger that you still participate in?
 
 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Blogging Is Cheaper Than Therapy

I am sitting at my laptop for the first time in more than 2 weeks. Why, you ask? Because to blog I want to be creative. To be creative means I have to be able to successfully organize my thoughts into something meaningful. To organize my thoughts means I've got to clear out a whole lot of junk swirling around in my head to make room for the creative parts to cultivate. And to do ALL of that sometimes takes the right moment, not being too tired, not being too distracted, not being too overwhelmed or overwrought, and perhaps even the right lighting or music playing in the background. Setting the stage for success can be mind boggling.

We all have dreams of how we WISH our lives could be; dreams of being retired and traveling, dreams of pursuing a goal, dreams of being able to spend more time with family and friends, dreams of being financially independent, or dreams of thinking that we're making some small difference in the world. The thing about dreams though, is that we get to define exactly what they mean for us and how we're going to try to achieve them.

I've worked my whole life planning for the future and even planning for just tomorrow; trying to make sure everyone else's lives are running as smoothly as possible and always doing whatever I can to help them attain their dreams. There's nothing wrong with that unless, in the process, I lose sight of myself and my own dreams. As a spouse and a parent you do whatever you can for your family, whether that's your children, grandchildren, or your parents. You give up a lot so that they can have a little more. That's all part of the cycle of life. We do for others because we can and we sometimes settle for whatever is leftover for ourselves. While it can be looked upon as leading a very charitable life, it can also be disheartening at times. When we give and give and give and suddenly wonder one day why it seems like things are no longer appreciated, but rather expected we have to wonder exactly when we let ourselves become so consumed with living through other people's lives. At what point did we allow ourselves to feel guilty for doing something or looking after ourselves?

I am sorry to say that I may never know the answer to that one, but I can say that recognizing the issue and identifying it is the first step. While I will continue to be there for my husband, my family, my friends, my co-workers, my church family, and any stranger I come across that I might be able to help ... it is also well past the time that I begin to pay more attention to taking better care of myself (physically, emotionally, and spiritually). Will that mean that others may get a little less 'me'? Perhaps, and if so, they may need to adjust (and I'm sure they will). For now I will strive to sit down at my laptop more than once every two weeks; after all blogging is way cheaper than therapy.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Letting Go of Fear

Fear is an overwhelming emotion. It can slow us down. It can completely immobilize us. It can make us lose sleep. It can stress us out to levels we never knew existed. But what constitutes fear? Who gets to define what scares us and what doesn't?
 
According to dictionary.com ...
FEAR (noun) a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
 
Well, the definition alone is intimidating. Some people have medical phobias. A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no real danger. There are many specific phobias. Acrophobia is a fear of heights. Agoraphobia is a fear of public places, and claustrophobia is a fear of closed-in places. Some people are afraid of spiders (that would be me), some are afraid of failure, and some are afraid of commitment. The list is endless. But there are fears of things imagined or non-existent and then there are fears of more realistic things; losing a job and not being able to provide for your family, battling an incurable disease, and terrorists.
 
Every day we read headlines in the newspaper and online about physical attacks, road rage, and robberies. Then the BIG stuff hits like 9/11 and the Paris attacks. Devastating things that bring today's realities front and center. So, how do we cope? What can 'we' do to prevent something from happening to us or our loved ones? Unfortunately, the answers are probably limited as much of our lives is out of our control, BUT we can try to stay positive. We can be aware of our surroundings and not do stupid things that purposely put us in harm's way. We can be knowledgeable and not live our lives in ignorance. Sticking our heads in the sand and thinking that we are untouchable is ignorant to the 10th degree.
 
Will I live my life in fear? Some days; but most days I will try to do good and live my life with good morals and values, continue to live in God's word and help others, and hope to set an example for my children and future generations. Will I be successful? I can't say. I can hope and have faith and for today that will have to be enough.
 
What fears keep you up at night?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Snow Ball Effect

The quickest way to alienate a friend or put people on the defensive is to spread an unfounded rumor. Some would refer to it as 'stirring the pot', others might suggest that the instigator is merely trying to build themselves up (for whatever reason) perhaps justify some choice that they'd made. Regardless of the motive, it's never perceived as nice (or even of good taste).

Rumors generally stem from insecurities; most of which are ignorant exaggerations of some sort. They often appear to be of the snowball variety; like the small snowball that starts to roll down the hill when pushed gaining much momentum as it rolls along. Rumors are often started when someone eavesdrops or makes an assumption. The rule of thumb is ... if you're going to eavesdrop, you'd better be prepared to listen in on the 'whole' conversation. You might find that you didn't really hear what you thought you did. Many rumors could easily be avoided if people would just ask their questions directly, rather than choose to stand in the shadows and see how havoc unfolds.

Generally I try to share an upbeat thought in my blog posts, but every once in a while I choose to just share an observation or two. We all watch as the world continues to spin, sometimes we're just too busy or blind to notice all that is in front of us.

I suppose there is still something positive to find in this post; the thought that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We'll never  be able to control the behavior and actions of other people, but we will ALWAYS have the power and the choice to behave well ourselves and be a beacon of light for ourselves and others. When you see a situation that could easily get out of hand (especially if you're in any way a part of it), stand back and stop. Breath. Listen to the whole conversation. Look at the whole picture; the big picture. You might be surprised by what you actually see.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Choice Is Up To You

Making choices is tough business. It doesn't matter if you're 12 years old and trying to choose between a sleepover at Suzie's house or going to the movies with Debbie. Someone will undoubtedly have their feelings hurt. Then you get a little older and perhaps you're dating that special someone or you're newly married. The holidays roll around and you're torn whether to be with your family or your new extended family. Perhaps you're from a divorced family and now you have even more families thrown into the equation. You want to please everyone, but that's nearly impossible. Maybe you're an adult and trying to choose a career path; do you stay with the steady and reliable or do you go out on a limb with nothing but faith and a gut instinct to try something new? If you're in high school or college you may be faced with social choices every day. Do you follow what everyone else is doing or do you hold on to your values?
 
There are so many choices these days. Sure, there are the less stressful choices like what to have for breakfast and which clothes to wear to work. You probably won't lose any sleep making those decisions, but with other choices you will. A lot of us, these days, have to make the BIG decisions. There are relationship choices, financial decisions, care options for our parents, etc. No one ever said life would be easy, but it's still worth it. Just remember, while YOU ultimately need to make your own choices - that doesn't mean you can't bounce ideas off of other people. Sometimes just hearing yourself talk through the different scenarios will help you come to your own conclusion.
 
Good luck! And if you need a good ear to listen, you know where to find me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Don't Hide Behind Your Words

I am a blogger. I consider myself a writer; perhaps not a published author, but a writer nonetheless. I always think about the words I use very carefully. I'll write. I'll edit. I'll write some more and occasionally I will scrap the whole post and start over. If I'm not comfortable speaking the words to your face (which is WAY different than speaking them behind your back), then I certainly will not write them. I choose not to hide behind my words, although many will. Just read a 'Dear Editor' letter some time. Many writers (but not all, I'm sure) will write to vent, with nothing more than a personal agenda. Read an online article and if you have the stomach for it venture to the end and read some of the viewer comments. It constantly amazes me how many people write from ignorance. Whether it's the person writing the article or those commenting on it; BOTH need to get their facts in order first before they write anything. Writing in a public forum gives you a responsibility; one that should not be taken lightly.

Sure there are things called 'Freedom of Speech' and 'Freedom of the Press', but I believe those were put in place to protect people NOT to give them a free platform to hide behind. There's a big difference.
 
If you have an opinion ... great, good for you. If you can choose your words carefully it's important to share your view with those you think would benefit from hearing it. It works both ways. I've read well-put-together articles only to have readers bash the content and the writer then go off on completely unrelated tangents of their own (I suppose because they now think they have a platform). It's crazy. At the same time I've read articles where someone chooses to hurl unfounded insults and accusations only to put people on the defense. What gives someone the right to force people to have to defend themselves from pure nonsense? It's a waste of everyone's time and energy and for what? Because someone had a personal vendetta or agenda or bad day?
 
My suggestion to you (and you can take it with a grain of salt if you like) is to think twice and speak or write once. Once the words are written or spoken, they are gone. You can back pedal all you want, but the damage is already out there for all to see.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

'You Tube' To The Rescue

We like to feel that we 'know it all'. Just observe anyone who refuses to stop and ask for directions, lol. OK, maybe that's not fair, but I remember when I was a kid (in the dark ages before computers and cell phones) when my dad would rather drive around in circles for an hour instead of stopping and asking for directions. For some reason it was if to ask for directions he had to turn in his 'man card'. Who knew that egos could be so fragile?

Life is so much easier these days. We have cell phones with GPS, we have onscreen navigation built right in to our vehicle's dashboard, and we have portable Garmin systems. We really don't have any excuse to get lost; leaving our pride intact.

If we don't know how to do something, the answer lies only a few clicks away. Here's my 'case & point' examples. Recently I stayed with my son and daughter-in-law to care for my new granddaughter for a week. The night I got there I asked for the basic 411 tutorial; where are the diapers, changes of clothing, bottles, burp cloths, the house phone, the TV remote control, the WiFi password, and the spare house key. Just the basic necessities to get me started - in time I would find the food, the dishes, and the silverware drawer.

My son informed me as he headed off to work the next morning that they left the car seat base in the garage just in case I wanted to go somewhere with my granddaughter. Unless it was an emergency I didn't have any reason to leave. I was enjoying the 1-on-1 cuddle time with her. However, by midweek the weather had improved and the sun had come out. A perfect afternoon for a stroll around the neighborhood with the baby stroller. One big problem. I studied the stroller in the garage from every angle, tried every latch, and every handle ... I could NOT figure out how to open the stroller. Seriously, it couldn't be that hard. I'd seen moms do it in the parking lot one-handed. Google to the rescue!! I checked the make and model, grabbed my cell phone, and typed in 'How do you open a 'blah-blah-blah' stroller.' Instantly I was connected with a handy dandy You Tube video and discovered the 'hidden' handle that released the stroller. We were on our way! Woohoo!

Two days later I thought I would help them out and tidy up the house and empty the trash. The diaper pail was full! Oh no! Here we go again. How do I open the lid? Answer ... grab my cell phone and ask Google for help. I felt like such a hip grandma. So accomplished. Later my daughter-in-law informed me that it took her 3 tries before she finally emptied the diaper pail as well. 

So much had changed in the 20 years since I cared for an infant. Technology had made some great improvements; the car seat, the stroller, the diaper pail, and 'yes' ... even the You Tube videos that explain how to use them.

Life is good! Life is about progress! Life is about protecting your pride!

When is the last time Google and a You Tube video came to your rescue?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Challenge Accepted

For those of you who know me well, you know I live by my To Do lists. I like to think that I control the list, but often I think the list controls me. I don't think that the list necessarily defines me, but it does carry a certain amount of power in what my stress level and attitude will be for any given day. Ironically, it is me who writes the list - so wouldn't that mean that 'I' have the power to alter the list? Wouldn't I have the power to lessen how long the list is if it begins to overwhelm me? Wouldn't I have the power to decide if something is actually important enough to be list-worthy?
 
So why do I (or anyone else for that fact) feel the need to write lists?
  • Is it because I'm forgetful? Not too often.
  • Is it because I want the satisfaction of seeing things crossed off the list in order to feel accomplished? Maybe.
  • Is it because I'm OCD? Not really, although I suppose that depends on who you ask.
  • Is it because I like things done a certain way or by a certain deadline? Most definitely!
Bottom line ... I suppose I create the issue that sometimes stresses me out. The world is a busy, busy place. We all have LOTS of responsibilities and just not enough hours in the day. Often we write our lists in the morning in order to better schedule our day and our time. In the morning the list may seem very doable and very realistic. I think I'm doing myself a favor to help keep myself on track and away from stress, but then 'life' happens. A child gets sick, your car gets a flat tire, you get stuck in traffic getting from point A to point B. Suddenly your well-defined list gets put on the back burner because you have enough sense to know that sudden life obstacles come first. My priorities are clear, but my willingness to let go of the list sometimes becomes a separate issue.
 
So here is my challenge for me (and for you); let go of the list for 1 whole day. See what happens. I'll bet the world will not self-destruct. Worse case scenario is that tomorrow's list is a bit longer and needs a little tweaking. Perhaps on that 2nd day we need to take just a moment and see what can actually come off of the list.
 
I'll accept the challenge. Will you?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

It's Ok To Step Out Of Your Box

People talk about wanting to stay within their comfort zones. Yet, pastors will talk about trying to get us out of our comfort zones. Pro or con; everyone has an opinion. I think it's a natural tendency to want to stay where we're comfortable, do the things we know we're already good at, and not try to rock the boat. But, truth be told, sometimes rocking the boat or even stepping out over the line (even if by one small step) can be good. It can be enlightening, it can be scary, and it can also be rewarding.

We do the things we're comfortable with because we already know what to do and how to do it. There are generally no surprises. That's the way many people prefer it. We face enough uncertainties in our lives without purposely stirring the pot to make unnecessary waves. We want things to be stable and safe (and perhaps even predictable). But if we always protect ourselves from the unknown possibilities we could totally miss out on some pretty awesome and amazing stuff.

Many of you may know by now (since I haven't been shy about sharing) that I recently entered a new chapter in my life; the life of grandma-hood. It's a wonderful place; a place 9 years ago when I was fighting cancer I didn't know I'd ever get to - BUT I did. This week I'm spending some one-on-one time with my granddaughter. I'll admit I was a little nervous; being solely responsible once again for a dependent infant. I have 2 adult children that survived my care, but was I ready, equipped, and prepared for this? One look into my granddaughter's eyes and feeling her smooth skin and listening to her soft breaths told me 'I could do this'. It's amazing how you can fall in love for 9 months with someone you've never met and then instantly feel a connection once you meet.

What if I hadn't been willing to cross that line or rock the boat or make those waves? Imagine what I would have missed out on this week. I know in my heart and in my head that God will not let me down. He never gives me more to handle than He knows I can. I hold on to that whenever I have a case of the nerves, or the butterflies in my stomach, the fear that I might let someone down, or that I may fail at something and look awkward and embarrassed. Whether it's a relationship issue, a parenting issue, or a work issue ... I will take that chance if I'm striving for something I believe in and feel is worth the effort and time and sometimes even stress.

Where are the walls of your comfort zone? Were you the one that put them there? What's keeping you from wanting to climb over them?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Lesson In Trust

Many of you may have heard that I'm out of town this week watching my granddaughter. Watching a 6 1/2 week old for a week is something I haven't done in 20 years. People say it's like 'riding a bike'. That may be true. Riding a bike reminds me of my mini vacation just a few months ago with my daughter to Mackinac Island. The island of fudge, seagulls, walkers, horses, and LOTS of bikes. We saw people of all ages, sizes, athletic ability, and energy riding bikes around the island. There were single speed bikes, 3 speed, 7 speed, kid's bikes, and tandem bikes; but all had the option of having a fashionable (but practical) basket on the front. My daughter, being the witty one that she is, said that riding on the back of a tandem bike was a real lesson in trust. It teaches you real quick how to be part of a team, how to listen to your co-rider, and how not to make the world all about you.

So, with that in mind, me spending time with my granddaughter this week is not only a lesson of trust for me, but also for her parents. I commend them for knowing I will take excellent care of her while they're at work and for being able to trust me with their most worthy and newest family member. I think we've all done well so far this week. There have been a few tears and a few moments of anxiety, BUT there have also been smiles, giggles, hugs, and 3 nights in row of a little princess sleeping through the night. Yes, all is good on the western side of the mitten this week.

Here's to another 3 great days. I've already learned not to look at the calendar, not to answer the phone as 'King of kings Lutheran Church', and how to change a diaper in under 15 seconds! Like I said, 'We're all learning here.'

I hope your week is going good and you've learned something new as well; or at least been reminded of something you'd forgotten about. Let's face it, we can all use a little reminding from time to time.

Monday, September 28, 2015

It's A Badge of Honor

Today I officially begin a new chapter in my life. I've been a student, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, an employee, a cancer survivor and now ... a grandmother. Six weeks ago my son and his wife brought a beautiful baby girl named Jane into the world, into our family, and into our hearts. Today I am on Day 1 of 'grandma duty'. I took a week's vacation to come and stay with the family and watch over little Jane while her mom went back to her job as a teacher today. She has students who depend on her, but I know her heart was home here with Jane. Jane and I are doing just fine and will be glad to see them when they get home. Although I was given strict instruction that if she conquered any milestones while they were gone to not tell them.

With my new found grandparenthood has come 2 major comments/questions from the people I see. I've either been told I look too young to be a grandma; which could be highly flattering. The other question is 'What do you want to be called?' That one threw me off balance at first, because my first response has always been 'Call me GRANDMA'. I guess I just didn't realize that there were so many choices; there's actually a website with 120 top grandparent nicknames. We could go with Grammy, Gram, Nana, Mee-maa, G-ma, Mimsy, Nanny, or Oma. But let's not leave the men out of the equation, they have options too; Gramps, Grandad, Papa, Grandpapy, and Pop.

Whatever Jane decides to call me when the time comes will be music to my ears, but the traditional 'Grandma' suits me just fine. I consider it to be a badge of honor; a badge that I will proudly wear.

What did you call your grandparents when you were growing up and why? I remember my kids refer to my mom as 'Grandma with the piano'.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

You Can't Always Take It Back

There's been a lot of controversy and ill feelings in the news lately; as if it isn't usually that way. Sure there are politics, but that could be a topic for a blog post in itself. We've had reports of teenage drivers being killed on the road because someone crossed over the line and hit them head on in their lane. And we've had sad reports of a firefighter being intentionally run down on the road while collecting donations for a charity. These were both serious, life-altering incidents that can't be taken back.

While I'm certainly not trying to compare useless words to the accidents I mentioned, words are one thing that we DO have control over. Nowadays people seem to hide behind their freedom of speech amendments in order to say whatever they want, as if it somehow gives them a pass to behave carelessly. Case and point; recently 2 co-hosts of the TV show 'The View' made careless comments about a Miss America contestant who wore her scrubs and gave a monologue for her talent portion of the competition. Needless to say the co-hosts' comments were misinformed, needless, and completely uncalled for. Nurses and viewers across the U.S. responded unfavorably resulting in the 2 co-hosts giving an on-air apology. The thing about apologies is that when they're only given once someone is confronted (and most likely pre-written by someone else) they don't tend to come across as believable. Many media reps have said before that even 'bad publicity is better than no publicity'.

Words are final; once they're spoken you can't always take them back. Everyone, especially those in front of a camera or on a platform, should be knowledgeable of what they say. Bashing or belittling others has always been the tact of a bully in order to make themselves feel better. While I do write a blog I understand that with the words that I choose to write comes a certain level of responsibility. My only hope is to share my viewpoint in a respectable way, nudge readers to think about consequences and choices, and slowly edge my little corner of the world into a more peaceful state.

My prayers go out to the families of those involved in the deadly car accidents; those whose lives were forever changed because of the avoidable actions of others. I cannot change what happened to them, as I cannot change a lot of things in this world. However, I (and you) CAN make a difference with our own words and actions. I am always reminded of the quote, 'Think twice, speak once.' If I still get it wrong, shame on me for missing the opportunity.

Monday, September 7, 2015

When You Find The Tables Have Turned

There's a saying about not judging someone until you've walked in their shoes for a day. There's a lot of wisdom there. It's easy for all of us to say, 'They could lose the weight if they really wanted to.' 'They could quit smoking if they had more will power.' 'They should be more positive, they're always so grumpy.' 

If life were only that simple then anyone could do IT, right? That's what we like to think until we're the one who's struggling to lose the 10# or trying to kick the bad habit. We're only human. It's natural for us to get frustrated with other people when we don't know or understand the 'why' or the 'why not' of a situation. It's when we actually take the time to ask and then listen that we'll have a chance of understanding what is behind the problem or the disappointment.

I understand that it's difficult and frustrating to stand by and watch someone move backwards or self-destruct, but disappointment and frustration are REAL emotions so I'm guessing that it's o.k. to feel and experience them. We want to help people help themselves. Nobody wants to stand by and watch someone falter, but sometimes people have situations that are beyond their control because of health, age, etc. In most situations our attitude is about the only thing we do have some input in. If given the right opportunities most of us can find a positive in any negative. We lose someone, but we're thankful for time we did have with them. We watch someone deteriorate from who they used to be, but we're thankful for the times when we see a light in their eyes and they remember our name. We stand by and watch someone abuse themselves, but are optimistic when they finally find their rock bottom because only then will they be able to fight their way back.

There will always be negatives in the world; that's practically a given. BUT there's always the hope for a positive. The other night I was feeling stressed as I sat with someone in the ER. I texted a friend and she reminded me that someone she works with is always looking for the positives in a situation. It's tough when they're referring to you and you realize you need to focus and look a little harder. I guess sometimes it comes back to the basics and it's about nothing more than perception. Is the glass half full or half empty? Personally, I like to think I'm more of a half full kind of gal.

The next time you find yourself unknowingly starting to judge someone - TURN THE TABLES. Stop and watch, then ask questions and stick around long enough to hear the answers. You might be surprised to hear the answers are different from what you thought.

Have you been looking for the positives lately?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Turning The Negative Into A Positive

Everyone has experienced a negative person at some point in their lives. Some people don't mean to be negative in their attitude, they just can't seem to help themselves. Other people come across as having a negative outlook because of something they've experienced. Perhaps they're lonely, or insecure, or even scared.

If you're a parent your child at some point was afraid of not having any friends, being bullied at school, or worried about missing you when you went out to dinner and left them with a babysitter for the first time. They might have been afraid and tearful the first time you left them at the doorway to preschool or sent them to camp. They may have been overwhelmed their first year of college staying in the dorm and having to do their laundry on their own. Our children grow up and will undoubtedly learn from their experiences and mature along the way. They will have their moments of feeling like they can't do it without you, but they will. They'll surprise you and they'll surprise themselves. They'll learn to notice the positive things in life. They'll learn to discard the negatives that can pull them back.

Then there are the people who can have you reaching into your cupboard for the biggest bottle of Tylenol you can find to try and curb your mounting headache. Some people (no age requirement) can be just plain cranky. Some can be exhausting. You have to dig extra deep at times to try to turn their negatives into positives, but it's worth it to keep trying. Don't let them rain on your parade or dim your light. Show them (over and over if needed) that there are positives in every situation. Sometimes, depending where a person is at, it's hard for them to find a bright spot. Help them find it; point it out. Doesn't matter if it's big or small; they all count.

With perseverance and a strong will you can help others find their positives. Your light will shine a little brighter and they'll start to notice. Your positive attitude might even rub off. Consider it a life experiment.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Are Good Manners A Lost Cause?

Whenever writers blog, at least speaking for myself, we tend to have certain topics that we're passionate about (good or bad) and ironically we find ourselves talking about topics we've already written about before. Not sure exactly what that conveys about the topic or even myself as a writer. I've written about etiquette, my views on morals and values, and about choices having lasting effects.

I feel that one of the necessary qualities for anyone hoping to be a good writer is to be a good observer. If you are a good people-watcher and a good listener it could make for better real-life observations and add more truth to your writing.

Case and point; this weekend I went to a local eatery with my husband. We were there for approximately 45 minutes. During that time I watched and I listened. I observed some strangers being polite and personable. I also observed people discarding trash from their car doors into the parking lot. I saw people drive into the parking lot going way too fast and park diagonally across 2 parking spots. And upon my exit I had a young man walk directly in front of me, open the door and let it go in my face only for him to exit the 2nd outer door and thank the stranger who held it open for him. Both the stranger and I looked at each other and said, 'Seriously?'

I am not naive enough to think that our world is perfect, nor do I believe that everyone has the same ideas about morals. So what do we do when we see common manners falling by the wayside like a lost art form? Do we judge? Do we put blame on the parents who raised them? The people I observed were mostly early 20 somethings. They weren't 12 or 15 or even 18. These were young adults; our future.

I'm certainly not suggesting that everyone in their 20s is rude, because that would not be true at all. But I am wondering what future generations will look like, because if we lead by example and we teach what we know is there a point where it becomes too late for some to learn?

What do you think? The media is generally all too quick to point out the negative stories. What have you observed to be some positive situations where you think our young generation has hope?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Getting Back On The Bike

It's as easy as 'getting back on the bike' can be a metaphor for life; meaning if we get back in the practice of doing something we've been used to doing then everything will fall back into place. What do you think? Is it as easy as that?

A few weeks ago my daughter and I went to Mackinac Island. What goes with being on Mackinac Island? Walking, horses, fudge ... and yes, riding bikes. No cars are allowed so if you want to get anywhere on the island you either walk, take a horse & carriage ride, or ride a bike. I hadn't ridden my bike at home all of last summer and this summer I'd only been on it twice, but guess what? On the island I got back on the bike and I rode ... and rode ... and rode some more. Once on the seat with my backpack and water bottle in the front basket and the wind in my hair it was as if I'd been riding all my life. It was familiar and it felt right.

So what other areas in our lives would we like to get back to? For me it's blogging and working in my flower beds. The last few weeks have been busy; lots to do and just not even time or energy to do it all. Tomorrow I hope to tidy up the flowers, but tonight I will blog. Tonight I will get back to putting my emotions and my life moments into words and hopefully paint a picture on my computer screen, but with words rather than with brushes and colors.

I've had a blessed week with the arrival of my first grandchild; a beautiful baby girl named Jane. What better motivation to get back on the bike? Stay tuned ...

But first, what would you like to get back to?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Are Your Dreams Vivid?

I've heard some people say that they dream dreams SO clearly they are sure they have a special gift; that they are able to 'see' things other people can't. I'm not saying they're right and I'm not saying they're wrong. Sometimes I think I dream pretty vividly and with LOTS of detail. Sometimes I'll remember even the tiniest of details and other times not so much. Some nights I'll wake up swinging my arms around and not have a clue of what I was dreaming about.

Dreams can be fascinating and they can also be terrifying. We can dream happy dreams that motivate us and give us the courage we need to 'GO FOR IT' (whatever IT is). As well, we can have nightmares that scare us so badly they make us a bit more cautious and less willing to take needless risks. Maybe you were driving last week and had a close call with another driver. Maybe you considered texting when you knew you should pay more attention to your driving, then you had a dream that you crashed your car into another car. Perhaps your dream (or your subconscious) was giving you some insight into the possible consequences of your actions and maybe giving you a second chance.

Dreams can sometimes help us sort out things we're contemplating or stressing over. Sometimes we just need to hear ourselves talk or role play. Given the right scenario and some quiet time without distractions we can take a walk through our own subconscious and get things back on track. If it works, it works - no one has to know but us.

Then there are the insomnia nights when we find ourselves thinking too hard and too long and about too much, that we force ourselves to lay awake with our minds going a million miles a minute. I have nights like those occasionally and trust me, they are exhausting. They usually have me begging for sleep (with dreams or without).

What are your dreams like? Do you dream often? Do you dream in black & white or in color? One-dimensional or 3D? Do you solve things when you sleep? Have you ever had a premonition when you slept?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Stop, Watch and Listen

We all know that schedules can get crazy, overwhelming, and a bit out of hand at times. The truth of the matter is that we tend to create most of our own stress. We take on more projects than we know we can handle, because we don't want to say 'No'. We try to play superhero and do it all. We work, we parent, we take care of aging parents, we take care of our homes, and we try to reach out and volunteer. If you're like me, you feel guilty at times about taking a couple of days off for yourself (o.k. - I hope I'm not the only one that struggles with that.)
 
Last week I took one day off of work and managed 3 days away with my daughter for some R&R, some mother-daughter conversation, some grueling exercise, a lot of fresh air, and a good deal of people-watching. It was good to get away, to have a change of scenery, to do something different, to not watch the clock, to not answer the phone, and to not hear honking horns (at least while we were on Mackinac Island).
 
So what did we do? We walked A LOT. We rode bikes A LOT. We talked A LOT. We ate good food (but not too much). We people watched; that can be a sport in itself. And we talked to people ... total strangers. While waiting for dinner at an outdoor pick up window we talked to a retired Army guy from Kentucky. We learned a bulk of his life story (at least the part since 2002) in under 3 minutes. He talked about his desire to tour around the U.S. with his wife and about many of the places he'd been. He talked about wanting to DO as much as they could now that he was retired.
 
We talked with a young woman working on the island in the Biddle House (built in the early 1800s). She wore a dress from the period and talked about the origins of the house, the family that lived there, and what a typical day would have been like for them. Then we talked with 'her'; about her summers, her job, and about the quilt she was working on (the pattern, the size, how long it would take them to complete one, etc.).
 
Asking people 'How are you?' and getting the automated reply, 'I'm fine' is easy. It takes more effort to have a REAL conversation; to ask real questions and give real answers. It's interesting, it's fun, and it's educational. We already know most everything about ourselves. It's more fun to actually stop, watch, and listen to other people. We can learn so much, and not just about them. We can learn things about ourselves; the level of our compassion, our interests, and our level of creativity.
 
Embrace the moment. Take the vacation. Hug your kids. Have a real conversation. Give it a chance. I guarantee you it'll be worth the effort.
 
What was the last thing you learned from a conversation with a stranger? Was it something about them OR you?
 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Everything Has A Cycle

Have you ever tried to run an annual program or event and noticed that some years you had more success than others? This can be true on a larger business or school scale, but also on the smaller family scale. Maybe you've always had a summer BBQ for the employees or carnival for the kids or big fundraising event. Maybe you've tried devotedly to plan a family reunion. Some years the logistics will fall into place and seem effortless. Perhaps it's the weather or the season or maybe it's just the cycle of life. For every good year, though, there's undoubtedly going to be a down year. But don't give up.
 
When your children are younger it's easier to just pack them into the car along with the blanket and cooler and make it to the family picnic, but then something happens. They grow up. They get married and have new family responsibilities. They get jobs and have schedules. Not too worry. I have faith that everything happens for a reason and every life has its seasons. But like seasons ... they will return. We just need to be patient and wait. Yes, it can be frustrating when you believe you're the only one who thinks an event is important enough to pursue, but often it's just about the timing. People will say how busy they are, but then you need to remind them that 'everyone gets busy'.
 
I think it's more about reminding ourselves of what's really important. We can plan all we want for the future and be busy, busy, busy right now. But what if something unforeseen happens? What if someone gets sick? What if someone loses a job? What if someone gets a new job and their schedule gets busier? We ALL get busy. We ALL have responsibilities. None of us are any busier than someone else. No one person's time is any more valuable. I think we all need to give a little, be a little more flexible, and make some choices.
 
Go ahead and plan that event. Plan the vacation. Plan the reunion. Set the date to get together for lunch with friends. Not everyone will be able to make it to everything, but be thankful for the ones who make the effort and feel it's important enough to be there. Sure, some obstacles are unavoidable and understandable, but sometimes we just need to make the big choices and decide what's important. Remember though ... just because something is important to you doesn't mean it'll be equally  important to someone else. That's o.k. Everything has a cycle and if meant to be everything will come back around in time.
 
What have you had trouble planning lately? What have your biggest obstacles been?
 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cow vs. Pig

Recently I heard a story about a conversation between a cow and a pig. The pig was complaining that everyone made negative remarks about him; about his cleanliness, his attitude, his manners, etc. Yet he pointed out to the cow that everyone seemed to like the cow. The cow tried to encourage the pig about his worth and told him to think of all the positive things he had to offer. The cow claimed that he gave milk and cream. The pig replied, 'OK, but I give ham and bacon!' But the cow pointed out, 'BUT I give milk and cream while I'm alive. You can't give your good things until AFTER you're gone.'

Ouch! Guess the cow was wise beyond his years. He made a good point though. We need to ask ourselves whether it's better to give all our worth as a legacy or be able to share our goodness while we're living.

In Matthew 6:19-21 it says 'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.' 
 
Give of yourself the way God would want you too while you're able to and while your heart can be part of the giving. God will embrace your goodness and your selfless behavior. Whether you choose to give by helping someone financially who needs assistance, by helping your neighbor fix his flat tire, or by providing some childcare time - you should give to others because it is right. We shouldn't hold tight to everything (our finances, our talents, or our time); saving it for a rainy day or saving it all for ourselves. We should be open and willing to give where and when we can.
 
So, while I know 'bacon' is an awesome thing ... let's try to live a bit more in the present. What have you given lately?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Taking A Mental Break

Does your daily routine and lack of a good sleep pattern have you concerned? Do you currently have a lot on your plate? Today's world keeps us more than busy with jobs, responsibilities as  a parent, and the stresses of caring for our homes, our spouses, our children, and for many - our aging parents.

Do you take the time to notice the signs that you need a break? Perhaps you're feeling overworked. Perhaps you have a difficult time turning your brain off at night to go to sleep. Perhaps your eating patterns are off. If you're like me you know you have too much going on when you're using a Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. to clean your house and catch up on paying bills. You might ask yourself, 'Where did the rest of my week go?'

I don't always mean to fill up my days with 28 hours of 'stuff', but LIFE happens and as a result best intentions for a calm and peaceful week can get postponed.

Here's what I think (for what it's worth) ...
  • We need to notice the signs that we're overworked or overwhelmed.
  • We need to be willing to acknowledge that we need a break; at least a mental break.
  • We need to grab the opportunities that present themselves to us to take that needed break.
The opportunities are there and they can be pretty simple, but at the same time pack a great punch.
  • Take a 20 minute walk in the park.
  • Stop for a cup of coffee or iced tea and don't drink it at your desk or in your car.
  • Play hooky and eat lunch someplace other than your desk; although many forget to even eat lunch.
  • Give yourself permission to go see a 2-hour movie. Seriously ... it's just 2 hours, but will allow your brain an opportunity to think about something different for a change.
A mental break is not just important, but it's beneficial. It recharges your spirit. It can lower the height of your shoulders by an inch (if you're like me and tend to keep them raised up around your ears most of the time). It can help you sleep, help you think more clearly, and perhaps even make you laugh or smile.

What do you do for a good mental break? Do you find that it helps? Do you find yourself feeling guilty (like I do) when you finally take it?

Monday, July 6, 2015

How's Your Navigation?

Life can be a lot like a road map. It's easier to get to our destination or goals with clear and precise directions. I doubt anyone likes the unexpected twists and turns that cause our travel time to take longer. Most people prefer to be direct. Our time is limited. If we have a goal in life, we most likely want to get there and feel accomplished sooner, rather than later. Detours make us change our path and often delay us. Sometimes, if we don't know exactly where we are going, we can easily get off track or even lost.

When driving some place new do you check your GPS for directions? Last week the map portion of my car's navigation system stopped working. In spite of the fact that prior to my current car I'd never had a navigation system, I suddenly felt vulnerable. What if I needed to know if a side street went through to a main street? What if I wanted to know how much further I needed to drive to get to where I was going? What if there was an accident and I needed to come up with an alternate route?
 
Cars and traveling aside, have you ever felt this kind of vulnerability in your life? Are you more productive going after your goals if you have a well-planned outline to follow? Do you think better on the fly with the twists and turns that come with unplanned detours? Are you good at tweaking your approach on any given day if needed? Basically ... do you function well without your life maps?
 
Have you found yourself getting off course lately?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Don't Jump On The Band Wagon

The news over the last week has had sadness, madness, and mixed emotions for many. The recent massacre in a Charleston church left many feeling bitter, afraid, and anxious; not to mention confused. Confused about how they should try to practice what is preached, forgive what seems unforgivable, and find the ability to return to their house of worship and hold tightly to their faith.

In the midst of a chaotic moment such as that there was the news of the Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriages. The media, including Facebook, was riddled with rainbow-infused photos to show support for the ruling;  as well as bitter statements made for both sides. I read what I thought were well-thought out comments and I read ignorant ones (on BOTH sides).

How I feel about the topic is basically nobody's business but my own. If asked I will share my opinion (one-on-one), but I will never purposely try to persuade you or force my opinions down your throat. I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I do NOT believe that it gives people the right to be disrespectful. How some people can cry about others mistreating them and being disrespectful when they readily bash anyone who doesn't agree with them is beyond me. Tearing others down in order to build them self up does nothing; at least nothing productive.

Everyone can find a source to quote, a study, or even a scripture verse to back up their way of logic if they look hard enough. Why? Because every written word is left open to interpretation. Trust me ... I was assigned to the 'negative' side on my high school debate team. I found it difficult to be persuasive of things I didn't personally believe in. I would never make a good defense attorney (no offense), I just don't have it in me to defend something my heart and beliefs aren't into just because someone tells me to.

So what is my point? Only to be careful with your words and your actions. Don't be too quick to jump on the proverbial band wagon because it's easy and it has momentum. It takes much more courage and character to hold strong to your own beliefs. Don't be misled and don't be part of the problem; that's too easy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Is It About Change?

For every person who talks about change being a 'good' thing there will be someone standing right next to them who claims that change is 'bad'. So we ask ourselves, 'What is it about CHANGE that intimidates us? Or excites us? Or scares us? Or invigorates us?'

Change and transitions could be considered the same. We all have different seasons in our lives. Nothing is ever the same forever, and I'm not sure that I'd want it to be. There are those changes that we can predict and count on; growing up and growing older, growing wiser through experience, perhaps getting married, or even becoming a parent or a grandparent. These are all good changes. But you can take any good change and either embrace it or run from it. Most changes will come with choices. We always have some level of choice; how we want to interpret things and how we want to handle them.
 
I read a devotional the other day on the topic of change and it mentioned there being changes that make you want to shout for joy and other changes that make you want to run and hide. So, yes, I suppose some change can be good and some can be bad, BUT even the bad can contain some good. Ask anyone who has battled an illness or a breakup or has a lost a job. It may have been a devastatingly bad change at a particular time in their life, but time heals many wounds. Over time people may have become smarter or wiser or stronger because of what they went through. Life teaches us lessons if we are willing to be the student.
 
Whatever you do, don't let someone else define what change is for you. Only you can decide if it'll be good or bad. Only you get to decide how it will shape you and what you will take away from it.
 
What's been a recent change in your life? Did you get engaged? Did you become a parent? Did you become an empty nester? Did you change careers?
 
How's it going?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

You Shouldn't Keep Score

There are plenty of times to keep score; in baseball, in Monopoly, when bowling, and when playing cards. Basically anytime you find yourself in a competition where there's meant to be a winner. But there are other times in life when we should NEVER keep score; in relationships and real life situations. For example, I know people who have kept a log; a list of every gift they've ever given. If they gave a relative's child a certain monetary amount for their wedding, they expect them to give the same amount back to their child when they get married. The only problem is (actually there are many problems with this) that if an aunt brought her 3 kids to your wedding in 1982 it's unrealistic to expect to give the same amount 15+ years later to one of their kids. There is a thing called 'inflation'. Goodness knows the catering halls have heard of it. The current price per person for dinner is wayyy higher than it was even a decade ago.

Generosity is something that should always come from the heart. It should be genuine. You should never give a gift because you are expecting something in return. Some people never keep track. Others always keep track. I suppose it's whatever works for you (and your conscience). It's natural to want to reciprocate the best you can, but once in a while you'll get a gift that is out of the blue and completely unexpected. A generous gift can sometimes overwhelm the recipient. Not everyone is going to be in the same place; financially or even with the level they are organized.

Reciprocate when you can, if you can and if you want - but NEVER feel pressured. Often the key is simply to set guidelines; especially when it comes to family birthdays, holidays, and graduations. Families grow and so do responsibilities. If it bothers you that everything should be even, then sit down with people and create guidelines that everyone can agree on. There's no reason for anyone to feel uncomfortable or awkward. Being on the same page and having open communication can easily eliminate stressful situations.

How do you handle your scorecard? Are you into keeping score?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Making the BIG Decisions

Every day we are faced with decisions; what time do we need to get up, how much travel time should we allow to get to our job, what should wear, or should we plan a vacation? But these are all routine, not necessarily life changing decisions. The BIG decisions are the ones that will change ours or someone else's lives; have you had too much to drink to get behind the wheel of a car, is it really ok for you to be texting while driving, should you stay in a harmful relationship, or how do you help a troubled child or an aging parent?

The BIG decisions are the ones that you will lose sleep over; the ones that will make you second guess your every thought. So how do we make those decisions? How do we know when our decision is right? Those are tricky questions and won't always have a definitive answer. We may not know that our choice or decision is right, but we do the best we can. We think the situation through, we ponder the endless possibilities and solutions, and then we pray. We pray for strength. We pray for clarity. We pray for hope. And we pray for patience and understanding; for ourselves and everyone else involved.
 
As usual, I don't pretend to have all the answers. When I see people struggling with having to make an important decision all I can is be supportive and be a sounding board. Sometimes just having someone listen can be helpful.
 
What was the last BIG decision you had to make? How did you manage?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Don't Miss The Laughter

Life is constantly changing; often faster than we'd like. Many of us are consumed with what's next on our agenda. We're busy planning events that are a month or more away; weddings, graduation parties, baby showers, and birthday celebrations. I'll be honest; I sometimes find it extremely difficult to live in the moment. I'm always thinking, planning, and analyzing ... it can literally be exhausting. I am a list maker - there, I said it. I've heard that the first step to changing is acknowledging who and where you are in your life. Of course, then I analyze things a bit more ... What am I unhappy with? What should I change? How should I change it? When should I change it (whatever IT is)?

I try not to get too far ahead of myself, but it's hard not to. We plan vacations for next season. We plan household projects for when we think we'll have some spare time. We plan get-togethers with friends according to any empty spaces we may have left on our calendar.

The fact of the matter is that we can be as disciplined and as organized as we can, but we have no guarantees. Life doesn't work that way, it gets messy. Things happen; unexpected things. People get sick. Accidents happen. Situations change.

So how do we create a better balance in our lives? How do we plan responsibly for our futures, but still allow ourselves to appreciate the present? If we're always looking forward with an undistracted focus, we could easily miss the magnificent sunset from last night or miss hearing the laughter of an innocent child tomorrow. These are things we may never get another chance to see or hear. How sad would that be?

As usual, I don't pretend to have all the answers or even the best advice, but I can speak for myself and say that I don't want to miss the sunsets or the laughter. I can't promise that I'll be here forever; none of us can. Lately I've been reminded that God has his unique plan for us and it may not mesh with the ones we think we have for ourselves. I've been reminded just how little control we actually have in our own lives. If it were anyone else overseeing my life I'd probably be scared or at least a little nervous, but this is God we're talking about. The greatest blessings He ever gave us was life and having a vision. Don't be afraid to live or pursue your vision. He'll be with you and give you the strength and courage you need to face anything.

Having that kind of courage helps me to live for today just a little more. I may just need the rest of you though to remind me to slow down and appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

God Will Give You The Faith You Need

Life can be joyous, stressful, overwhelming, exciting, exhilarating, sad, whimsical ... and the list of adjectives can go on and on. That's A LOT to deal with on any day. Such a wide range of emotions and responsibilities. So how do you grasp the courage and the patience to accomplish the things you think you're not strong enough or big enough for? You have faith.

Don't get me wrong, it's not always easy to have faith. Sometimes we need to dig really deep to boost our confidence. We may need to hear other people reinforce us; telling us 'we have what it takes' and that 'we can do it' (whatever IT is). We're human. We all have doubts.

For a teenager you might be trying to convince yourself that it's worth trying one more time to go to school; that maybe today will be the day the bullies leave you alone.

For a young mother you might be thinking that you'll never get any sleep or be the size 8 you used to be before you had your baby.

For the person with an addiction you may be wondering 'what is your rock bottom'? How low will you have to go before you realize you need to change your choices and your life? And will there be anybody left in your corner to help you once you finally make that choice?
 
We all have daily hurdles; time restraints, traffic, parenting, our jobs, etc. We all have life hurdles; will we find the one special person to spend the rest of our lives with, will we ever lose the 10-15 pounds that will undoubtedly make us healthier, will we ever achieve basic financial security, or will we ever accomplish our hopes and dreams?
 
I don't pretend to have all the answers or claim that I have my life completely figured out and exactly the way I want it, but I do have faith. Faith that I fought cancer and can live another day. Faith that my husband is loyal and loves me. Faith that while I may not be a perfect parent, I am the best parent that I know how to be right now. And I have faith that God knows my needs better than I do and He will give me the strength, courage, and patience I need to get through whatever life throws at me.
 
How about you? Could you use an extra dose of faith today? What hurdle are you currently trying to get over?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Value of Sweat Equity

When we talk about equity we're often referring to something we have an investment in; our home, our car, or our finances. Those are things. We also have sweat equity invested in other areas of our lives; our relationships, projects we're working on, or maybe programs we're involved in.

Here's an example. Youth today have plenty of ways to fill their time. Your kids could be part of a dance or cheer team, a school band, an athletic team, a boy or girl scout troop, or even a youth group at their church.

When I was young I never received anything I didn't work hard for. I earned a small allowance when I was younger, I took babysitting jobs, and I got my first real after school job when I was 15. I paid for my first car. I bought my own clothes in high school. I paid for myself to go to the movies. I invested sweat equity into everything I did. Guess what? It felt good to work for and earn what I had. It also made me more aware of how I spent my time and my money.

Many youth today (and sadly some adults too) seem to want everything handed to them. Of course, I'm not trying to lump everyone into one category; that wouldn't be fair. But many have an attitude that comes across as 'I deserve it. I want the best and I want it now.' There's a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from working for something and earning it.

I met a young girl at church last year who came in to help me with a project in order to earn 'volunteer' hours. I asked her if it was for school, perhaps the National Honor Society. She replied, 'No, it's for my dance troop. My teacher does a lot for us so we can go to competitions. She requires us to perform service hours in our community to give back.' How awesome it that? And what a great lesson to be taught. 

It bothers me when I see groups of people (youth or adults) asking for support so 'they' can do something, but then not being willing to give back to the same people who have so generously supported them. I suppose it would be a more perfect world if those people would offer to give back all on their own without having to be asked, or coaxed, or begged. It seems like they should be willing, appreciative and eager to give back, but so often that just isn't the case. It makes me wonder when everything changed and more importantly ... can we, as a society, change it back?

What do you think?