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?