Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What Is Your Purpose?

 
Life is full of transitions. We grow up. We grow older. Hopefully in the midst of it all, we even grow a little wiser. We face challenges and battles; some expected and some not. I often wish I had a crystal ball that could clue me in on what I am supposed to be doing, when I should be doing it, and what the ultimate goal and outcome will be. It's mind-boggling when I think of the time and effort I put in to projects, never knowing if I am ultimately making a difference or even on the right path.
 
I know many people who have struggled after a divorce or the death of a loved one. They felt lost for a long time and tried to figure out what their new identity looked like now that they were 'one' instead of  'two'. I've seen some college graduates wander aimlessly after graduation, with their diploma in hand, trying to discern what they would do next and where they would go. Life is full of questions.
 
We look around. We assume we know what direction we are heading. We hope we know what our future holds. Sometimes, though, what we are meant to do finds us when we aren't looking for it. We're so busy focusing on the bigger picture that sometimes we don't see what is right in front of us.
 
We should ask ourselves WHY we think we want something. Is it our head or our heart leading us? Maybe we should be more open to the possibilities. Life is full of them. The right job, relationship, and project will come along. By nature, we are impatient. We want to know the WHO, the WHAT, the WHERE, the WHY, and the WHEN. We don't like to wait and we certainly don't like to guess what is coming next. How can we be expected to be ready or do our best if we are surprised?
 
So what do we do? We hold on to hope and faith. The hope is something that gives our mind reassurance. The faith is something that reassures our heart and soul. Ultimately God knows the plan and will clue us in on the details when the time is right. Knowing that we are never alone is reassurance of the biggest kind, that's where we'll find our drive and our strength to face the uncertainties.
 
How do you stay focused and on track with your goals and clarifying what your purpose is?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Some Things Run Their Course

Canned foods have a shelf life. Fresh fruit and meat will spoil after a certain number of days. Plants and flowers have certain seasons of growth. Some things in life run their course, and that's okay. Not everything lasts forever. Relationships will mature and change, they won't always be exactly the same as they used to be. Even friendships will go through cycles, some will last and some will not.
 
I've noticed through my job and various volunteer organizations that even some projects have life spans. I've been part of different service and outreach groups over the years that had a lot of momentum for a long time, then things changed. Life changes. Your core group of volunteers move through different phases of their lives. The economy changes, ultimately limiting the funding that the projects need. Sometimes the passion or interest just isn't there anymore. When that happens, it is okay. It doesn't mean that the project is no longer good or isn't serving a purpose. It can be compared to pruning a plant. Sometimes you need to trim back the stagnant growth in order to make way for new and better growth.
 
Projects need to be backed by people who have the right motivation and passion. We are all human. Our responsibilities, our goals, and the amount of time we have to offer changes (sometimes all in the same day). When this happens we need to know that it's okay for us to step back and make way for someone new to jump in. It doesn't mean we don't believe in the project or the relationship any more, it just means that our perspective and what we feel we can offer has changed. Often when I've done something for a long time I feel like I am somehow abandoning it when I have to step back, when in reality I am not. If the project is meant to continue, it will. If the friendship is meant to stay strong, it will. I can only accept responsibility for my own actions. Projects and relationships involve more than just me. They require commitment and involvement from others as well. Those other people will take responsibility for their choices, as I have for my own.
 
Things will work out in the end. If you ever feel overwhelmed, overloaded, or over-extended  ... know that it is okay to step back and take a breather. Perhaps your heart is leading you towards a new project, something that you feel a renewed sense of passion for. It is okay to put yourself and your needs first. You can't give more of yourself than you have to offer. It's better to feel that you've done something well and with excitement than continue to do something your heart is no longer in to.
 
Volunteering is something I have always felt passionate about, but what I have accomplished and where I have done it does change with time. Volunteering is part of my core being. Volunteers should never be overlooked or underappreciated. Without us, a lot of things would never get done. Some volunteer opportunities will run their course, and that is okay. New opportunities will present themselves at the right time. Something you have moved on from may be the exact starting point that someone else is looking for.
 
When is the last time you gave in to the urge to step back from a volunteer role?
 
Did things still move forward without you?
 
Did you find something new that you could feel excited about?
 
 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Blind Faith

We are often faced with situations and circumstances that we weren't planning for; the loss of a loved one, a traffic accident, an unwanted diagnosis, a pregnancy we were hoping for, a surprise visit from a friend. Not all situations or circumstances are bad, or even unwanted. Yet, they can still catch us by surprise. The question is ... how do we react when we come face to face with them? Do we welcome the situations with open arms or do we question everything about them? WHY is something happening? WHO will it affect? WHEN will we have the answers we feel we need to go forward? HOW will we handle it? WILL it be a good thing?
 
We go on Blind Faith. Blind, not just because we can't see the answers in front of us in a clear black and white, but because we believe that God will walk alongside of us and give us the tools we need to deal with it; whether that be patience, knowledge, or strength.
 
Faith is something that is bigger than we are, stronger than we are, goes deeper into our hearts than what can sometimes make us feel comfortable, and yet, has an unending supply. Faith is what we choose to make of it. It's free. It doesn't have to cost us a thing, other than being humble and perhaps vulnerable when we don't want to be. The cost is up to us. How much do we want to invest in our faith? Faith isn't something someone else can give us, rather we need to accept it on our own. Others can certainly share theirs with us and show us the possibilities, but ultimately faith will always be our own personal choice.
 
How is your faith these days? Does is keep you strong and steady? Does it waiver in its stability on certain days? More importantly, what can you do to strengthen it?
 
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understandings; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.'

Monday, May 29, 2017

Things To Be Afraid Of

We live in a frightening world. There are things that everyone should be scared of, or at least feel a little uneasy around; snakes, spiders, creepy dolls, dark deserted streets at night, clowns, MRI machines, taxes, and sometimes even commitments. Everyone is different, which is a good thing. It would be boring if we were all alike, so it only stands to reason that everyone would have different fears as well.

What should we do? Should we avoid the things we are afraid of at all costs? Some things ... absolutely. A fear can take us deep down to our inner core and bring us to our knees. But if a fear is just a discomfort, perhaps it is something we need to overcome for our own sake in order to build stamina and our confidence level.

If you are afraid of heights for a certain reason, maybe it's not a good idea to jump out of a plane (with a parachute, of course). But if you're afraid because you've never tried it or because you've piggy backed on to someone else's fear, that isn't good either. That fear now holds you captive.

If you cannot swim, then you should never consider cliff diving. But riding in a canoe while wearing a life jacket on a lazy river with someone who is experienced on the water might be worth considering.

What things should we never be afraid of? To try something new. Failure. Falling off the horse and getting back on (metaphorically speaking). We will never be able to control certain aspects of our lives, but whoever said that we would? The world has lots of unknowns; some good, some not so much. We have to deal with whatever cards we are dealt and learn to not only find a way to cope, but hopefully bring something good out of it as well. 

I've known people who have dealt with sickness, with grief, and with overcoming unthinkable odds. But they didn't let their situations define who they were or who they wanted to be. Through the process they learned things about themselves they never knew. They discovered their inner strength, they discovered their courage, and they discovered their voice.

It's okay to be afraid, when needed, but don't let it stop you from reaching for the stars, from attaining your dreams, or from letting your voice be heard.

What are you afraid of? How do you handle it? Have you been able to get past it?

Friday, May 19, 2017

The BIG Question

Every day we face hardships, unwanted circumstances, and health scares. We often find ourselves asking the BIG question of 'Why?'. WHY did a friend have to die so young? WHY did your spouse lose the job they loved? WHY didn't you get the job you were more than qualified for? When we start asking this question it is usually because something has happened that we had no control over. We all like to know what our future holds and how we can be better prepared for the hurdles, but then 'things' happen that we simply don't understand. Then we feel a little lost. We feel insecure.
 
But what if we tried not to focus on the WHY? What if, instead, we focused on the bigger question of 'What should I do now?' There will always be things we have no control over; things that are out of our hands.
 
Any one that knows me well, knows that I love words. I love to write, but more importantly I love to hear what people have to say. Words can tell a story. Words have the power to lift us up and tear us down. When words are good I like to remind myself of them. I have a tattered piece of paper taped to the top left corner of my computer at work that says this ...
 
'To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.' When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Remember that 'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.'
 
We can't always stopped the unpleasant things in life from happening, but we can control our attitudes and how we handle the circumstances. We can let them define us and dictate what direction we will let them take us in OR we can take a deep breath, take it all in, and decide what we want to take with us from the situation. My pastor recently said on Mother's Day that some women are mothers who choose to stay home with their kids, there are mothers who try to balance work both inside and outside the home, and there are mothers who had a lousy example of what a mom was when they were growing up. He also said that those last mothers don't have to let their upbringing define them. They have the choice of breaking the cycle and changing what the next generation looks like.
 
We will always ask WHY? But we can also ask 'What should I do now?' The choice is still ours.
 
When was the last time you asked WHY? What happened next?

Monday, May 8, 2017

When Time Stands Still

When I was a kid, time could never move fast enough. It seemed to take forever for holidays, birthdays, and even Saturday mornings to come. It was like the sand in the hour glass was stuck. But, as a kid, I was never very patient. Ironically, not much has changed as I've grown up. I'm still impatient, but now it's because I'm busy with responsibilities, To Do lists, and busy schedules.

As a parent, time had different issues; there was never enough of it. By the time we worked, did the laundry, cleaned the house, helped the kids with their homework, got them to their functions, etc. we often didn't have any time leftover for ourselves, much less ... a full night's sleep.

But amidst this crazy journey called 'life' I have discovered something AMAZING. I've moved into my next phase; that of being a grandparent. It's proving to be one of my favorite phases, truth be told. Why? Not because I get to spoil my granddaughters and then give them back to their parents, but because when I get to spend time with them ... time seems to stand still. I can't explain how or why it happens, but just last week I played 'stickers' with one granddaughter and rocked the other and realized that over the course of an hour I NEVER looked at the clock. So, in my mind, time did stand still. It was fascinating, truly scientific (I'm sure), and completely beautiful.

If this is part of what happens as a grandparent, I am THRILLED. It may take some creative scheduling to carve out the time needed to make a trip to the west side of the mitten, but it is definitely worth it. Today I drove to my son and daughter-in-law's house to stay for a couple of days and I had time to read to the 'little ones', rock the baby for few hours, giggle with the toddler, and for a change; live in the moment. 

What am I learning? That obviously I shouldn't look at the clock quite as much as I do, but some habits are harder to break than others. Like everyone else I am a constant work in progress. I learn as I go. The good news, though, is that I keep learning.

Monday, May 1, 2017

It's Time For A Break

Time can be pretty complex. It's more than just a four letter word. Wikipedia defines time as the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. That may sound pretty specific and scientific, but it's more than just a combination of seconds, minutes, and hours. Time is something that can linger for days and also something that once it slips by we cannot get back.

Time has been referred to in so many ways :
  • Time heals all wounds.
  • Take life one day at a time.
  • We all wish we had more time.
  • Time is precious.
  • Time is of the essence.
  • Don't waste your time.
  • Time flies by.
  • Memories can be frozen in time.
For me, lately, time seems to be going by faster than the blink of an eye. Seems like only yesterday my children were little; were seeing and experiencing things for the first time ... and now they're grown up. My youngest just graduated from college and my oldest came home to support his sister and brought his family (a wonderful wife and my two wonderful granddaughters). When did they grow up? When did my life move ahead on fast forward?

There's no way to slow it down or stop the inevitable. There's no way to make it last any longer. So what can we do? We can try to get off the fast track of life; the track that has us always looking at what is to come and what we need to finish and what we need to prepare for. Instead we need to appreciate the 'now', the part that creates the memories for later.

As a parent I've spent much of my energy focusing on supporting my children, their talents, and their goals, helping them get where they wanted to be. Now it's my turn, lol, to stand back and watch; to see who they've become and what they've accomplished. Yes, I am a proud mother. I try to tell my kids as often as I can and hope that they know how much I mean it. I am a proud grandmother. This past weekend I got to rock my youngest granddaughter and watch her look up at my face and listen to my voice. Then I would sit and watch the toddler play and giggle and talk and say 'bless you' when someone sneezed (including herself). For a moment I allowed myself to not look too far forward, but rather just enjoy the moment for what it was; both beautiful and amazing.

I am human. I will still have my moments of planning too far ahead and trying to squeeze 28 hours into a 24 hour day, but that's okay as long as I can find a balance. A balance of being in control when I can, being a responsible multi-tasker when I need to be, and being a happy grandma who can forget about literally everything else when one of my granddaughters is in the room ... at that point nothing else could possibly be a priority.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Hamster Wheel

Often, in life, we make comparisons. It helps us to visualize an outcome or a process. Life goes by pretty fast as it is and often we can feel overwhelmed. Think of a hamster on a wheel. He gets a lot of exercise and generally has a clear view of where he is going without any obstructions; yet most likely he will get tired trying to get there.

Ironically, I see a lot of similarities between the hamster and myself. I have goals. I have dreams. I think I know what it will take for me to get there. I try to get things accomplished at a frantic pace, but often feel like I am going and going and going and never quite reaching my destination.

Like the hamster, I know where I want to be, yet will find myself getting tired and never quite get there.

So what is the answer? Great question. Continue to get the daily exercise of running on the wheel that never ends? Perhaps good for my calf muscles, but not so much for my brain. There are days when I swear my mind works faster than the hamster's little feet. The hamster, though, does have one characteristic I lack. He is forever focused and driven. If I weren't afraid of falling off of the wheel I would probably wander off after one distraction or another.

Okay, so this blog post probably contains too many metaphors, but that's the irony of it. Our lives can be just like the hamster's. We have self-proclaimed routines. We know there's always a chance we'll be rewarded for our efforts, so we keep trying. The hamster never hits a brick wall; the shiny silver wire wheel always provides a clear view and an open road. It always has the hope of possibilities. Maybe some day the wheel will stop. Maybe we will wear it down. Maybe we will see something beyond the wheel. Maybe we will discover why we aren't reaching our goal and we'll get off the wheel and choose a different path, one with a more direct route. It is possible. 

With hope, all things are possible.

Do you see yourself as the hamster? Where are you trying to go and, more importantly, what is stopping you from getting there?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Embrace Your Gifts

Have you ever noticed how different you are from other people? Have you ever wished you were more like them? Perhaps you wish you could sing like they do, or speak in public as easily as they do, or had relationships as relaxed as theirs? It is absolutely okay to observe other people and notice what you like about them, as long as you don't expect everything to be exactly the same in your own life.
 
You are a unique individual. Believe it or not, God made you exactly the way you are ... for a reason. We all have different skills and characteristics: some good, some maybe not. I am known for be organized and detail-oriented (sometimes to a fault). I see others who are able to 'go with the flow' and I often envy that. At times I wish I could be more easy going and learn to just accept things and let other things go, but that isn't always me. It's easy to feel a little judged when people tell you, 'Don't stress. Don't worry so much. Just let it go and hand it over to God.' Gosh, how I wish I could do that more. But guess what? God made me just the way I am. Maybe he wants me to over-think sometimes so that I don't miss the little details. Maybe he has a reason for giving me the skill set that he did. I may not always understand it, but I can hope that all my worrying and reasoning isn't all for nothing; that positive results will come in the end.
 
Rather than focusing on what we are not, we should focus more on what we are. We should acknowledge our gifts more; they have purpose and we shouldn't try to sweep them under the rug just because others don't agree or understand us. We should feel confident enough to be genuine, be true to ourselves, be proud of our gifts and talents, and OWN them.
 
The next time I see someone who is able to 'go with the flow' more than me, I should applaud them for being able to do that, but at the same time applaud myself for noticing the details in my own life. That's what makes it easier for people to work together. If everyone was all about the details, we would probably drive each other crazy. At the same time, if everyone just went with the flow some things might get missed. BUT if we all work together more and appreciate our differences and support each other, we will undoubtedly accomplish more.
 
Some people have the ability to dream the dream, but don't see all that it will take to get it done. Other people might not be equipped to imagine the vision, but are more than willing to help make it happen.
 
Which way do you see yourself? Do you embrace your gifts for what they are and run with them or do you stand by waiting for someone to give you permission? If we are being totally honest, I can admit that I've been on both sides of this scenario. If I am confident enough in a situation I will move forward with a vengeance. If I allow myself to be unsure then I am going to wait for someone to push me in a direction (often, their direction - not mine).
 
Just something to think about.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Technological Chain Letter

When I was a young girl, maybe age 11 or 12, my friends and I would get chain letters. Ours were handwritten and sent through the mail with a postage stamp. We generally only got mail on our birthdays from out of town relatives, so getting something in the mail was a big deal. I did write to a pen pal during the 5th grade, a student from another school in another state (a class project of sorts), but that was the only mail I would get. It's exciting when you're 11 to walk out to the mailbox and come back with something with your name on it.
 
My, how things have changed. We didn't have cell phones or computers when I was younger, so we communicated by writing letters, talking on the phone (the kind with a cord attached to the wall in the kitchen with absolutely NO privacy), or we knocked on someone's door and then sat on the front porch.
 
Today is very different. On any given day I can get a 'forwarded' email with an inspirational story that I am invited (or gently coerced) into sharing with my friends. There's usually the promise of good fortune or prayers sent my way, but ONLY if I share. Then there is the subtle hints toward guilt if I don't; 'I know which of my friends will share this and which ones won't' or 'If you're not ashamed to share this ...'.  Really? I lead a very busy life, like most everyone. I may have time, at some point, to read through your email, but it may take a week and then what? I've missed my deadline, so now I am doomed to live the next 10 years with bad luck?
 
On most days I love my Facebook account; I get to read what my family and friends are up to, celebrate their happy moments and accomplishments, and feel connected. What I don't like is the political rants, the way technology has made it too easy for people to be bullies and say whatever mean things they want to people they know and people they don't know and hide behind cartoon photos and fake names. But, if I'm being totally honest, I also do not care for the posts that generally have a sincere message, but then attach that good message with a double dose of guilt; 'copy and paste this to your timeline for 1 hour' or 'I know which of my friends will read all the way through this message and then care enough to share'. I would much rather read your thoughts, applaud your efforts for sharing, and then form my own opinion; but the second an ultimatum is attached I will lose interest. Hopefully this doesn't make me a bad person. I will still read your message, consider your beliefs, and most likely support your cause if I agree, but most times I will not share it to my timeline or forward it to my contact list. That is my opinion and my choice, as it is yours for posting in the format that you do.
 
Will you still consider me your 'Facebook' friend if I don't? I hope so. I would hate to think that our friendship was structured around ultimatums and guilt.
 
How do you feel? Do you tend to share posts and emails that you receive, and if so why? Do you tend to send the posts asking for support? I understand that exposure means everything when you are trying to share news or support a cause. What topics are you most likely to share?
 
In a respectful and productive way, please help me understand.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Try Changing Your Perspective

We can always remind ourselves to try to think positively, to view the glass as half full, and that we have enough to worry about today without thinking about tomorrow. For many, these can just be words; words that we tell ourselves over and over again, but unless we start believing them will mean absolutely nothing.
 
I am certainly not one to give advice; my life isn't perfect and I can openly admit that I rank up there among the best of worriers. It's my nature. It's in my genes. It's what I can do with my eyes closed while multi-tasking on six other things. Of all the things I think I do pretty well, this isn't one that I am proud of.
 
So I won't give advice. I won't pretend that I know more than you. I certainly won't try to convince you that I have all the answers. What can I do? I can keep trying. I can keep listening to my pastor's sermons on Sunday mornings. I can listen objectively to conversations and see what little nugget of wisdom I can learn and try to apply to my own life. I can see what works and what doesn't and NOT give up.
 
I have a great life! I have a loving and devoted husband, I have awesome kids, an amazing daughter-in-law, the most beautiful granddaughter in the world (and I don't think I'm biased at all, lol), and a second granddaughter due to arrive in a month. I have my health, people tell me I look younger than my age, and I have a job I like and think I'm pretty good at. I have a lot going for me, but I'm human. I still worry ... a lot, about many different things. But at the end of the day I can either worry myself sick (which isn't good for me or anyone else) or I can try to change my perspective; every day and every other hour, if needed.
 
When I am stressed or find myself frustrated about something I have to do, rather than tell myself 'I HAVE to do (insert blah, blah, blah)', I need to learn to rephrase my action and say 'I GET to do (blah, blah, blah)'. Will this work every time? Perhaps not, but it might help me regain my perspective. Yes, lately I find myself inundated with paperwork and responsibilities for me, my immediate family, my extended family, and my job. BUT I need to remind myself; I HAVE a job. I HAVE a family to worry about. I HAVE a roof over my head; so what if the wind took down three big trees in my yard last week ... they didn't fall on my house or anyone else's. I can worry about my son's health or my daughter finding a job after graduation, but guess what? I can't wish my son's discomfort away and I can't send in a resume' for my super-talented and qualified daughter (but if anyone wants to hire a soon-to-be-graduate with a lot of knowledge and great people skills, please give me a call).
 
In the end, I can continue to try to make each day better than my last. I can try to create a better balance for myself (whatever that looks like). I can remind myself daily to change my perspective and make my shoulders lighter.
 
Maybe you have a nugget of wisdom for me? How do you keep a healthy and positive perspective these days?

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Battle Of The What Ifs

With everything that is going on in today's society; competitive job markets, political unrests, health scares, economic statuses ... it is no wonder that the average person is left to deal with worry and anxiety. Stress isn't a new word, by any means. People, young and old, have been dealing with it for generations. People worry about their their incomes, they worry about the rising costs of a college education for their children, they worry about the price of health insurance, utilities, about the strength of relationships, and about practically everything else.

It was only a week ago that my pastor targeted his sermon about worries. How by worrying about tomorrow today, we were basically wasting our time because God had a plan and there was enough worry for today without worrying about the future too (I'm paraphrasing, of course). I find comfort in knowing that God has a plan for my life and those I care about, but He also made me the way that I am. He gave me a set of gifts and talents, which I attempt to use as wisely as I can. But I am also a natural born worrier, a mediator, a wanna-be Wonder Woman who seems to think it is expected for me to have answers and solutions to everyone's questions and problems at any given time. With that self-imposed responsibility, though, comes tension headaches, stiff shoulders, countless sleepless nights, worry lines around my eyes, and bouts of unexplained tears. I want to convince myself that I am strong and can deal with anything (and most times I can), but sometimes I am humbled and reminded of my humanness. No one else expects me to have it ALL together ALL of the time, well some may, but I am only one person.

I have a tattered small piece of paper taped to the rim of my computer screen at work that says '...God will never give me more to handle than he knows my shoulders can bear.' I read it several times a day to try and help me keep an even perspective.

Most days I am a 'glass is half full' kind of gal, but we all have our moments of doubt when the WHAT IFS start creeping their gloomy heads in to our days and dreams at night. What if our friend loses their job? What if the college students we know don't get jobs after graduation? What if we don't meet our deadlines and quotas at work? What if the price of health insurance continues to rise more than it already has, HOW will be be able to pay for it? Worse, what if someone gets sick and we actually need to USE the insurance, how will be afford to pay the deductibles?

Trying to keep the glass half full is a lot of work; it is no wonder we have sleepless nights, nauseous stomachs, and headaches. Study after study has shown that anxiety can give us physical symptoms; being 'sick' of the stress and the worry is more real than you know.

So, what's the perfect answer? I wish I knew. Continue to take life one day at a time, I suppose. Continue to do the best that we can using the tools we presently have. We'll never be able to get 30 hours in a day or 8 days in a week. We need to be able to slow down long enough to hear ourselves think; to temporarily block out all the things that may be overwhelming us. We need to set boundaries for ourselves and pray that people will respect them for what they are. We need to find an inner peace that allows us to take the 'being perfect' pressure off of ourselves. We need to trust God more that He really won't give us more to handle than He knows we can deal with.

What if we could say NO once in a while when we were asked to add something to our already overflowing plate? What if we forced ourselves to take 20 minutes out of our already busy day to focus on us? What if  we learned, a little at a time, to trust that everything could turn out okay? What if we packed the Wonder Woman lasso and golden cuffs back into the Halloween dress up box and stopped thinking that we needed to wear them every day?

Personally, I'd love to try focusing on these WHAT IFS instead. 

*Disclaimer ... this blog post is my twenty minutes of ME time for today. Trying to use my own advice. 😉

Saturday, February 25, 2017

If You Dream It Will It Happen?

What are the meaning of dreams? I'm sure there are scientists and physicians who have studied the topic extensively and would most definitely have an opinion. There might be those who believe in the more spiritual side of dreams and believe them to be a connection with our inner soul; perhaps trying to tell us something. Sometimes dreams are memories. Sometimes they are fantasies. Sometimes, depending on what we had for dinner, they could be REALLY out there and confusing (just ask my daughter; she once had a dream that involved dancing green beans).

Often, my dreams are a reflection and continuation of whatever I was thinking about before I dozed off. That could be good or bad, depending on the kind of day I'd had. If I'm working on a creative project and over thinking something, my dreams can take me in a direction of the different possibilities. That can be a good thing IF it helps me come to a conclusion.

Some dreams can be nightmares; they can be scary and overwhelming, often caused by fear, stress or doubt. When we're worried we find that our dreams take us down paths of distractions and gloom. We imagine the what ifs and the worse case scenarios; kind of the 'glass is half empty' type of dream. There's always that dream where you feel like you are falling and jerk yourself awake right before you hit the bottom.

So ... do you think dreams are real? Do they have any major significance other than helping us pass the time when we're sleeping? I am neither a psychologist nor a scientist, so I wouldn't presume to know for sure. However, I can say that last week when I woke up in the morning with a stiff shoulder and a tight neck, it may have had something to do with the yellow piece of paper I had accidentally knocked over and behind my desk and the 2 hours during the night I spent contorting my body trying again and again to reach, BUT I could be wrong.

When was the last time you had a dream that you thought was real or insightful? Was it helpful? Do you dream about accomplishing a personal goal? Do you dream about finding that someone special you've been looking for? Personally, I constantly have dreams where I am playing with some of the most adorable, furry little puppies, but sadly so far I haven't gotten one. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cookie Cutters Are Best Left In The Kitchen

Cookie cutters are a great invention. Anyone can express their creativity in the kitchen with a cut out for any shape. You can honor every holiday, a birthday, a graduation, a new house, or tell someone you love them simply by pressing that special cookie cutter into some dough and then decorating it so that it is just the way YOU want it to be. But cookie cutters are best left in the kitchen.
 
People are not cookie dough, although their personalities can be sticky at times and things can get messy. Employees can not be duplicated to perform the same. Students will not all learn in similar ways. A lot of 'things' can be mass produced in a factory on a conveyor belt and they will appear to be the same, but people are different. People are unique. We look different, we behave and react different, and we process everything differently. A factory can create a product where the outcome will basically be the same because there are NO variations, but service-related industries will never have the same result. Why? Because people are directly involved. Sure, a company can have a goal of how their customer service should perform, but there are too many unknown factors. The customer may have had a bad experience with the company. The customer service rep may not be fully knowledgeable of the company's product or service and unknowingly give the customer the wrong information.
 
This week I attended a college lecture given by Henry Winkler (actor, writer, producer, etc., but best known to many as 'The Fonz' from the TV show 'Happy Days'). It was an interesting lecture with many great insights. He talked about his career, about his family, about his struggles with dyslexia, and his personal experiences with learning. Everyone has issues and things they must overcome in their lives, but he didn't discover his dyslexia til he was in his early 30s. Until then he was told constantly that he was dumb, he was stupid, he was lazy, and he would never amount to anything. His teachers couldn't (or didn't) help him; neither did his parents. But he didn't give up. He had dreams and goals and was determined to find a way to achieve them. He talked about today's education and the need and importance to try and reach each student where they are.
 
We've all known that student (perhaps we were that student) who tried and tried and tried to get through a particular subject at school, but found themselves struggling. I am certainly not going to blame the teachers, but believe it or not even teachers are human. As with any profession, some teachers are great and some are not. Today's schools have limitations though, as do many areas of life (businesses included). It is easy to understand why in a classroom of 30+ students some will be at the top of the learning curve and some will be at the bottom AND some will get lost in the middle. It is frustrating for any human being though, whether they are a young student in the classroom or an adult working at their job, to feel overwhelmed because they are yearning to learn and do a great job, but the system seems to be fighting them.
 
People cannot be treated like a product created by a shiny silver cookie cutter. We will never be perfect, nor will we be identical. We will all have our flaws, but if given some personal attention we will thrive. My advice? Leave the cookie cutters in the kitchen and save them for when you're feeling creative and want to impress someone. For everything else, stop and listen to what people are REALLY trying to say and perhaps assist them in getting to where they are trying to go.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What are your six words?

Last week I was meeting with a group of women. We were given the task of describing our life in just six words. The six words could be random, descriptive words OR they could be placed strategically together to summarize your life.

Could you do it? What six words would you use?
 
Sometimes I think too much, too hard, and definitely for too long (lol, now you know a little more about me). When I was given the opportunity, six words instantly swirled around in my head and formed an idea ... drum roll, please ... A NEVER ENDING JOURNEY OF CHANGE. Yep, those were my six words.
 
In an ideal world I would always have a plan, a To Do list with a place for neat little check marks, and I would always feel like I was doing my best, being super-productive, and always, always getting the job done. Ha! Then reality hits my ideal little corner; my protected bubble of space where I imagine nothing bad, or inconvenient, or uninvited will ever work its way in. Indeed, my illusions are shattered almost daily.
 
Life happens. People get sick and require your help. Co-workers leave their positions and your assistance is needed during the transition. Outside obstacles get dumped directly in your path of things YOU want to accomplish. It doesn't mean your dreams and goals always get squashed, but it's not unheard of that they will temporarily get delayed or even postponed for a little while.
 
When this happens, what can you do to not lose sight of your plans? How do you be what everyone else needs you to be and still remain true to yourself? That would be the million dollar question; one that if I had the answer to it I could help A LOT of people. There are some simple things we can do, like make an idea board. Create something visual so that every time you look at it you can't help but be reminded of what your goal is. Perhaps keep a journal; remembering what you are working towards, what is getting in your way, and what you can do to still move forward (if even in baby steps). Moving forward is always better than moving backward. It's not about the size of step, it's more about the direction that you are going.
 
I've had more than my share of CHANGE in my lifetime. I've had dysfunctional family relationships to overcome, I've battled a disease, I've invested my heart and soul into a solid marriage, I've raised two great kids (with my better half), I've been on financial roller coasters over the years thanks to the economy and change, and the list goes on ... but I am here now and I'd like to think that I am strong enough to overcome whatever life deals me. What are my goals and dreams? That's a funny thing. I have them now, but they look a lot different than they did 10 or even 20 years ago. Most likely they will look even more different in another 10 years, but I will keep facing forward trying not to worry so much about the slow pace.
 
I'd love to know ... what would your six words be?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Do you have a Secret Angel?

Ever feel like you have that someone special in your corner who's praying for you, encouraging you, or watching over you? I've known many people who feel like they have that special connection with a family member or friend who has passed away; a guardian angel of sorts. Knowing that they loved us when they were here on earth helps us feel connected even after they are gone. 

This morning I was getting ready to attend a ladies' luncheon sponsored by my church. As I was getting dressed I reached in my jewelry box and was deciding on a pair of earrings. I went with the red ones, lol; they matched the blouse I was wearing. I went to grab a necklace and was drawn to a special one that I have. My grandmother's wedding rings on a silver chain. I put my glasses on to read the engraving on the inside of the band again ... her wedding date back in 1927. Wow, here we are in 2017, meaning that the rings are now 90 years old. Whenever I wear the necklace I feel closer to my grandmother. I feel connected. I feel like she is watching over me.

The luncheon, today, was for a ministry called 'Secret Angels'. At the beginning of the year every woman in the church had an opportunity to participate for the upcoming year by filling out a questionnaire with some of their likes, their hobbies, their interests, their favorite colors, their birthday, and any prayer requests they had for stuff that was going on in their life. 28 women chose to participate this year. Each lady was 'secretly' assigned to another lady. We would send anonymous cards of inspiration, letters of encouragement, and occasional gifts to brighten their day. I knew who I would be praying for during the upcoming year, but didn't know who I would be receiving items from. It's been joyous, it's been uplifting, and it's been fun. We spend most of our days focusing on the things we need to do; working at our jobs, building our relationships, and taking care of our responsibilities. It's nice to be able to spend some time focusing solely on someone else; someone who appreciates and looks forward to what we have to offer and expects absolutely nothing in return. They don't even know WHO we are.

I was blessed with a Secret Angel this past year who didn't really know me in the beginning, but became inspirational to me. The little gifts were appreciated; they were nice surprises that made me feel special ... but it was the notes, the prayers, and the poems that arrived in the mail at JUST the right time. The words gave me the encouragement I was craving and made me feel special. I only hope that I had as much of an impact on the lady I focused on during the year. Today was all about revealing our identities. There were moments of surprise, there was laughter, and even a few tears.

If you ever have an opportunity to be part of something special like this you really should. Yes, it is a commitment and yes, you'll have to finish what you start ... but, it'll be well worth it. You'll make a friendship, you'll learn life lessons, and you'll want to sign up for another year. 

Having a guardian angel is something very special, but sometimes our angels are right here nearby and we don't even know it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Voice In Your Head


Everyone has that one voice in their head. The voice that tells them whether something is a good idea or a bad one. The voice that tells them they're not too old to tackle a difficult challenge. The voice that tells them it is okay to eat the second dessert, lol. The voice that tells them that if they stay up late tonight they won't have any problem getting up early for work tomorrow.

That is the trouble with the 'voice' in our heads. Sometimes it is the voice of wisdom and experience trying to give us sound advice and sometimes it is our inner-child trying to convince us we are invincible and nothing could possibly go wrong.

Sometimes the voice tells us something different. Sometimes it tries to convince us that we aren't enough and that if we try to succeed we will most definitely fail. The sad part is that we often find ourselves listening to that uninvited voice. The voice that shouldn't have any merit, yet often does.

Sometimes the voice is in our head and sounds a lot like our own voice. Yet, other times the voice can be heard in line at the grocery store, during a meeting at work, or when we're walking among strangers at the mall. The voice can often be difficult to hear clearly; even more difficult to fully understand. There will be times when we hear it wrong or we completely misunderstand the message. There will be times when we misinterpret the words. There will even be times when we base our actions and choices on what we think we hear. 

We all know people, or at least that one person, who we allow to get under our skin and into our head. We start to listen to their voice and we begin to believe it and doubt our own. No one has that much power over us, unless we let them. Yes, they will try and may succeed at first ... until we realize that OUR voice is the one we should be listening to. We are the ones who know ourselves better than anyone else. We will never be enough for everyone else, but we will always be enough for the one person that truly matters ... ourself.

When the 'voice' in your head begins to sound unfamiliar, don't listen. If you can't help but listen, then try to do it objectively. Listen first and react second, only after you've evaluated the content. That voice is usually like the uninvited guest at the party. Sometimes you just need to show it the way to the door. When the voice that is most familiar to you sounds loyal and supportive and encouraging, then that is the voice you should take stock in.

When was the last time you listened to the wrong voice? What was it telling you? How did you figure out it was the wrong one?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Trust Your Instinct

When ideas, opinions, and remedies are being thrown at you like multi-colored splatter paint the best thing you can do is stop, breathe, and evaluate. IF you are part of a creative team then you are accustomed to professional brainstorming sessions. Your boss might tell you they want 3 brand new ideas before the meeting is over, but verbal demands won't always guarantee that the creative juices will instantly flow. IF you view any sort of social media you know people in various positions will saturate the airwaves, Internet, and TVs with opinions (mostly their own). The thing about an opinion is that it is just that ... it is a personal perspective; there is no guarantee that it is right or wrong. IF you are suffering from something as minor as a physical discomfort or as major as an illness, there will undoubtedly be someone who will step forward, ready and willing to save you with their version of a remedy (perhaps medical and proven - perhaps not).

So what do you do when the ideas, opinions, or remedies are not only unsolicited, but unwelcome? First, you consider the source (Is there any real experience there? Any first hand knowledge?). You should consider the intent of sharing the information (Is it for your benefit or the one sharing the information?). Will this new information sway you in any way from your own morals, values, and personal foundation in which you base your daily mindset and more importantly; how you live your life?

If an idea doesn't sit well with you, it is probably best to sit on it for a while. That's where the stop, breathe, and evaluate advice would come in. Stop what you are doing, don't just react. It's been my experience that immediate reactions usually come from the heart, not from the brain. If you then breathe and take the time needed to evaluate the situation you may come to a completely different consensus. Your reaction will then come from your head. Trust yourself and trust your instincts. Do your research and then do what you can. There is most likely always going to be 'something' you can control about any given situation; if nothing else ... you can control your first reaction, how you will deal with the results and long term effects, or what you will take away from the situation as a future lesson.

Not all ideas are bad. Not all remedies are useless. Opinion? That can be the trickiest of the three. Not many people share their opinions just so they can hear themselves talk, yet it does happen. Someone might think I am being hypocritical because I blog. A conversational  blog, such as this one, is mostly opinion. The difference with my point is that I don't blog with the intent of changing anyone's behavior or opinion. I may ask questions, but only because I hope it will make my readers stop and think about something; whether that be how they look at a situation, how they may react when having to deal with a dilemma, or even to suggest another possible solution. In the end whatever they choose to say or do is strictly them.

As of late, we have had our share of politicians, actors and actresses, professional people, young adults, etc share their opinions in many forms for the sole purpose of trying to convince others to step over to their side, because it is different than ours. My suggestion (and again, this is strictly my opinion, lol) ... do your OWN research and form your OWN opinion and reaction. Take opinions for what they are, just that ... an opinion.

Do you find it difficult or easy to trust your instincts? Initially, do you usually react to a person or situation with your heart or with your head?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tradition or A Pastime?

I was recently part of a good conversation with some ladies; we talked about the 'oldest' things in our houses. The general consensus was that we have keepsakes from our parents, our grandparents, and even great-grandparents. We have old dishes (mostly fine china ... that didn't come from China), old furniture, heirloom jewelry, and numerous nostalgic black and white photos. Why do we hold on to the older items? Because of the memories? Because of the traditions? Because we like old, dusty stuff and we are secret-hoarders, lol? All good questions.

The funny thing is as we sat in a circle discussing the items we had and who we acquired them from, some of us had a shared conclusion that 'none of our kids seem to want OUR saved stuff'. We hold on to these items because they are part of our history and shared legacies with our families, yet we are under the delusion that we are saving all these items to pass on and share with our own children and grandchildren. We have hopes that they will appreciate what we appreciate, but seemingly many of them do not and we must accept that. Many of the items we hold on to were part of a different time. A time when most material things were made well, not to be replaced in a few years with a newer model. To acquire these 'things' families scrimped and saved. The items were built to last, were appreciated, and used ... a lot ...and for many years. Families sat at their tables 'together' for meals. Families listened to old turntables together and sang out loud. Grandmothers passed their pearls on to their daughters and granddaughters to wear on their wedding days. One lady suggested that the current generation is more minimalistic. I get that and would agree with it more if I didn't know first hand all of the matchbox cars, building kits, beanie babies, and instruments that have been saved in my house over the years. But as one of the ladies questioned, 'Why wouldn't they want our stuff? We have GOOD stuff!' Yet, times have changed. Most everything today seems to be about replacing it in a year or two with a newer, fancier, or just repackaged version.

Traditions are seemingly learned practices that are passed on from generation to generation. Pastimes are things we do as a hobby or for enjoyment. Some people would say they are able to honor both; they appreciate the quality and the history of the old. Some of us will come across something in our basement and offer it to our children and they'll say, 'No thanks', but they'll go to vintage stores and antique shops to look for something old. Seriously, they could save a lot of money if they'd just take some of our stuff, lol. At least then the history behind the item would be in the form of a family story, rather than a mystery as told by a sales clerk. On the other hand if we gave them something that was meaningful to us and they cut it half or painted over it, there would probably be a little part of our heart that would cry (but then hopefully we would be open-minded and get over it).

I pride myself on having readers from various demographics, so here are some questions for you. IF you are 'more mature in age' (I hope that is politically correct so I haven't offended anyone, lol), what kinds of things are you holding on to and why? More importantly, are you displaying or using the items or are they being stored in a box on a shelf in the back corner of your storage room? IF you are on the younger side is there anything you hope to have handed down to you some day? What would it be and who would it be from? What is the special memory attached to it.