Category Archives: Advice

The Connection Project – Seek to Understand

Have you ever had one of those conversations where you know the other person is not listening to what you are actually saying? It makes me think of the “discussions” I had with my parents when I was trying to convince them my plan was a good one. The whole while they are talking I’m thinking about another angle to my argument, another way I can state my case. For all I know they were agreeing with me. I have no idea because I’m completely engrossed in my argument and how to best present it.

I’m much better at listening in a passionate conversation than when I was a teenager. But I still have plenty of room to grow. I’m more likely to catch myself now than I was then. My hope is someday I don’t have to catch myself. That listening to rebut is a thing of the past for me. It’s good to have goals right?

Being passionate about an event, a topic or an issue is a good thing! We need people who are passionate and willing to put themselves out there. It’s how almost all change happens. Passion is good. There has been an abundance of passion this past week alone. People are excited and scared, anxious and fearful, hopeful and relieved. It is all over the board with such intensity and emotion.

Listening is also good. Actually focusing on what someone is saying; their words their body language and their heart. (As an aside, remember, we aren’t all perfectly eloquent and certainly not all the time. Some times things come out all wrong. We phrase things in a way that can be interpreted differently. Considering the heart of the speaker helps avoid focusing on one phrase; getting stuck on semantics of a sentence.) Try really listening to understand what they are expressing. Hear what they are saying, not the clichés, not what you think they will say based on how you have categorized them, but what they are really sharing.

Stephen Covey’s 5th habit of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is seek first to understand, then to be understood. It makes sense. If you want to connect with someone, you need to understand where they’re coming from. What motivates them, what drives their passion, how did they come to the view they have? All important details in really connecting. You can assume all day or you can really try to understand. You may find you can actually relate to and empathize with how they landed where they did.

There are some great resources out there about active listening. You can find tools and tips to help you focus. In fact the Department of State website is a good place to start.

This week’s assignment: Focus on understanding the person who disagrees with you. Spend time in conversation, real conversation, with someone with whom you disagree. Listen to their words, their body language, their heart. Remember they may not be the most eloquent. Try really listening to understand what they are expressing.

From last week: There were certainly plenty of opportunities over the past week to look at how we categorize people. From political party to marches and even some football! How many times did you categorize someone else and make assumptions about them? Be honest. Did you catch yourself at all? It’s hard when you feel very passionate. We are all a work in progress. I’ve read a lot of comments on a lot of posts. Many of them are truly awful. Things people would never (or certainly should never) say to each other. On the other hand, there are a few of my friends who are very skilled at discussing issues without attacking individuals. I am learning from them.

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Filed under Advice, Goals, Intention, Lifestyle

Not a Dreamer After All

I used to fancy myself a dreamer. A possibility thinker. I remember the ambitions I had as a teen. I was going to move away, to bigger and better things. Blaze my own trail and leave a lasting mark on the world. Maybe international business? Live abroad? The skies were wide open and the possibilities were endless.
Somewhere along the way, my world shrunk. The ideal became a little less lofty and I started to think more about what is attainable. I began thinking in terms of what was reasonable and realistic. Sort of the “Let’s face it you’re never going to…” mentality.
Somewhere along the way between the world-is-your-oyster high school years and the middle-aged, near-empty-nester year, I became a realist.
Maybe it was becoming a parent, or buying a house or some other step of adulthood that changed me. But it’s ok. For me. It’s ok to think practically, to be realistic about the future.
However, I think it does my kids a disservice when I can’t embrace their dreams. When I burst their bubbles with my “realistic” views on life. It limits them. It squelches their creativity and instills doubt.
In my effort to paint an honest picture of life, to give them a realistic perspective on what the grown up world is like, I take away the option to dream. The freedom to dream the big, hairy, audacious dreams. The ones that scare the bejeebers out of you and excite you at the same time.
I have only recently come to realize this about myself. I have a dear friend who lets her kids dream. In fact she supports their dreams. And prays for their dreams. Even the big, unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky dreams! I admire that. And yet I don’t do it.
It’s hard to shut off the logical, ordered, down-to-earth, focus-on-what-is-realistic part of my brain and engage the dreamer again.
We all need to dream! Especially young people. There is a great, big, world out there and the ability to envision yourself changing it is priceless. Without the belief that you can make your dreams come true, what do you have? What pushes you, drives you and makes you revise that idea/paper/design one more time? What makes you reach a tiny bit farther, try that move one more time, reach out to one more person?
We must be able to dream.
We must be able to create and nurture our own dreams without doubt standing behind us whispering in our ear.
I don’t want to be the doubt for my kids. I want to be the voice in their head that says, “If this is what I really want, I’m going to make it happen!”
So go, my sons, dream really big dreams! Imagine, what if…! Put your heart into your dreams, work your 10,000 hours! Become the expert you want to be!
I believe in you!

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Filed under Advice, Family, Goals, Legacy, Parenting

When it Rains it Pours

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen all at once? Why trouble comes in threes? Or why-  when it rains it pours?

Does it really?

I must say I’m sure feeling like it right now. Between sending the kid off to college, soccer tryouts, an aging dog, a big event at work – I feel like it’s definitely pouring. It just builds to the point where I just want to run away…just for a little while to catch my breath.

But I have to wonder. Do bad things really all happen at once? Or do I just see everything through a negative filter when something goes wrong? Have we simply conditioned ourselves to look for similar things? When one thing happens we are anxiously anticipating the next and make things worse than they really are? Is it all in how we frame what we see? Isn’t there an equal amount of good happening at the same time? We are so focused on the problem that we don’t notice the good.

Knowing that, how could I re-frame all these separate situations to find the rainbow? How do I go about shifting my perspective or changing the filter?

I think it requires being very intentional. That’s good for me since my word for the year is intention:)!

For me, it’s about…

  • stopping myself when I’m about to run down the list of all the bad things that have happened.
  • trying to step out of the situation and gain some perspective.
  • adapting to the challenge presented and embracing the chance to find the not-so-obvious positive.
  • talking it through with a friend to gain perspective.
  • praying for peace with whatever is happening.
  • remembering that in 48 hours this will feel very different!
  • and if all that fails…..having a good cry so I can move on!

This time of year seems to be hard for so many of my friends. Lots of Moms struggling with separation, worried about what their kids are going through, new jobs and routines. It can be a bit overwhelming. I think it’s fair to acknowledge sometimes it’s just hard. Give yourself some grace, try some of these tactics. This too shall pass, but if we can shift our perspective we might get through it a little more quickly.

Hope your week is filled with a shower of positive 🙂 !

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Filed under Advice, Family, Intention, Parenting, Positive

How Did I Get Here?

It’s not a literal question. I do remember driving here. It’s more of a philosophical question.

I’m sitting in the lobby of Oldest Son’s dorm. Feeling totally comfortable, but thinking I may look out-of-place. Like a non-traditional student as they called them back in my day. I brought Youngest Son to the college for a one-day drumline camp. And of course that means it’s the perfect opportunity to spend some time with Oldest Son! I didn’t factor in the whole college schedule thing though. He doesn’t usually function until noon on Saturday. Which brings us to me sitting in the lobby of his dorm while he gets breakfast, showers and dresses.

As I look around I’m reminded of my own college experience. In some ways it feels so fresh. There are so many things I remember distinctly. The freedom and total control of your life. I’m sure I didn’t see it quite like that when I was in college. But looking back through the prism of parenting, full-time career, home ownership and the like – well those were definitely days of freedom and total control. I think the biggest contrast between my life then and now; no one else was counting on me for anything other than succeeding. I wasn’t responsible for anyone but myself. Not complaining, or aching to go back. I do remember the stress! The pressure and the anxiety of making the grade. Ugh, don’t miss that! College is also where I met Hubby. We met sophomore year and started dating that winter {that’s a whole other, very long story for another day}. He is a huge part of my college experience! We kind of grew up together there.

But as I look around the room and think about where I am, I have to wonder how I got here. How did I become the parent of a college student? The boys were just 5, 7 & 9 and now they are 15, 17 and 19. It’s surreal. Oldest Son is finishing his freshman year of college, Middle Son is about to be a SENIOR and my baby will be a high school sophomore. Life has changed so much. The days of being carefree were replaced with total responsibility for all of those three little people’s daily needs. Everything they needed had to come from us. It was exhausting and daunting. And then, slowly, they became more self-sufficient and counted on us less and less for their physical needs. So many years spent shaping their hearts and character. Never in my life have I done anything else so important and elusive. As a parent each day you are faced with training, guiding and directing them knowing it will be years before you know if you did things “right.” And when they make what I consider great choices or good moves, I still have to wonder if they are doing it for the right reasons; if they really understood all the ramifications. I think maybe it is just natural for parents to question themselves and wonder if they did enough of the right things.

And now, as they continue to grow, my parenting role will evolve again to one more like a guidance counselor or mentor. Offering advice, when asked, making suggestions, pointing out pros and cons. It is about giving them the chance to use the skills they have gained to try to shape their own future. Letting them make mistakes; the kind they can recover from while they still have a soft spot to land. A really challenging task for someone who likes to be in control. {Not that I’m like that or anything.}

We say it so often, but time really does fly. The changes come so quickly; new experiences piling on each other. As I sit here in the lobby of the dorm I have to wonder what the next phase will be like. How will Hubby and I shape our future as empty nesters? It takes my breath away to think about how quickly we will find out. I’m sure we will stumble our way though that as well.

What advice do you have for us as we prepare for the next step?

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Giving in to Peer Pressure…or How I Decided to Take My Family to Disney

I’m old enough I should be immune. And in most respects I am. But not completely. So, when the opportunity finally arose we decided to take our kids to Disney. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And lucky me, I won’t be doing any Princess breakfasts or Character meet and greets! After all, my baby is 15! Maybe this timing isn’t so bad after all?

But as the vacation grows closer I get more and more anxious. Actually, annoyed might be a better word. You see, I’m thinking Disney is a racket! Yes, I said it. What every parent has thought at one time or another. I’m having a really hard time moving past the fact that I’m going to spend $500 to walk in the gate! For 1 day! Just one day for my family of 5. For 500 dollars! You know what else I could do for $500?

  • put 4 new tires on the old mini van
  • Pay 1/8 of a semester’s college tuition
  • buy groceries to last 2 1/2 weeks
  • buy a really nice new pair of shoes for every member of my family
  • Replace a couple of windows in my house
  • expand my wardrobe exponentially

I could go on, but you are getting bored and you get the idea. And that is just for 1 day! No one goes to Disney for just one day. That just wouldn’t be right.

So eventually, I may come to terms with that. But then they will want to eat while we are there. Cha-ching! $75 please, if you only want a lunch counter snack. Park? You want to park your car at Disney? Cha-ching! $25 please! You get the idea. And if you’ve been, you are painfully aware of how it all adds up.

As if that isn’t depressing enough, I can’t tell you how many people have warned me that going in March will mean the parks are all packed! Based on the warnings I’ve received, we will wait in line to get in the gate, wait for hours to ride the “best” rides, nearly starve to death waiting to pay an exorbitant price for lunch and need steel toed shoes for all the strollers that will roll obliviously over our feet. Paints quite the picture doesn’t it?

How could a parent not dream of providing this amazing experience for their dear offspring?

It’s all worth it though. Because everyone I talk to assures me that we will make memories that last a lifetime! (Do they realize they are just telling me what the brochure says? – Marketing genius Disney!) This may be one of our last vacations as a family so it is totally worth it! (Do they know something I don’t?)

I’m beside myself with anticipation and excitement! Or, I’m working on it at least. I have got to find my happy place soon! I refuse to spend this ridiculous amount of money and not enjoy absolutely every puking ride, every smashed toe, every hour spent waiting in a line! It will be awesome! I’m actually having a flashback to National Lampoon’s Vacation. I hope there is no moose out front to tell me the park’s closed. I might break into a Chevy Chase inspired rant about the fun we are going to have even if it kills us all!

So why are we going? Well, I’m pretty sure it was in the parenting handbook somewhere. I think we have to or they take away our parenting card. Right? Or did someone make that up?

So, to get into the parent-of-the-month club, I’m taking my kids to Disney. And I am sure we will make memories to last a lifetime just like we have on every family vacation so far. We will talk about it for years, good or bad. This trip really was my idea. (Is this what buyers remorse feels like?) If you have suggestions on how to survive this racket enhance this awesome family vacation, please share! I would be ever so grateful for the tips:).

P.S. I really do appreciate all the advice and “warnings” friends have given me. I’m hoping this has made me prepare for the worst so I’m pleasantly surprised when I get there:)!

P.P.S. Maybe the US Government should take over Disney! That would solve all the budget problems since that is apparently where the wealth of our country is being spent. Oops! Didn’t mean to go political – just a thought:).

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Filed under Advice, Family, Legacy, Lifestyle, Money, Parenting, Travel

Shop Intentionally

There is a lot of buzz lately about shopping locally. People are getting passionate about supporting locally owned and operated businesses; run by people they know. I love the idea of supporting entrepreneurs! I think knowing the person you buy products from, the people you do business with is so much more comforting. It feels good and right.

But I have a couple of issues with the way this is sometimes portrayed and the lengths it is taken to. Here’s why.

First, nationally or regionally owned businesses do employ your neighbor! The ad touting that when you buy local you are helping pay for a kids music lessons or buy their soccer uniform. True. And that’s good. But guess what? When you buy from a national conglomerate you are doing the same thing. The people who work in that store depend on their wages and often profit-sharing to pay for their kid’s school supplies, baseball fees and their own retirement! Gosh, when you buy bread from the regional grocery chain, you are helping me pay my son’s college tuition! When those sales go away, so do staff. When sales are down, so is my husband’s profit-sharing. That hits a little close to home for me.

Second, many national chains are franchised meaning the local store is owned and operated by your neighbor. This is especially true in the food industry. By eating at the national pizza chain you are paying for a kid’s braces! Our world is much smaller and more connected than this movement reflects. I heard an ad on the radio encouraging people to buy their car at the dealership that is locally owned so your money stays right here in your community. Well duh! The wages for the sales people, the support staff, the mechanics all stay local. But if you really want to be local, you better only buy a car manufactured in your community or the money is leaving!

Just to be clear, I love the idea of supporting great businesses! I like promoting good behavior with my dollars. I would like to propose a different spin to the Shop Local movement though. How about we encourage others to shop intentionally. Know the business you buy from and what kind of corporate citizen they are. Know what they do to support the community and their employees. Learn about their environmental practices, their manufacturing sources, their employee benefits. Yes, it’s more work. Sounds like a first world problem to me.

Take the time to get to know the companies you patronize. Learn where they stand and make choices about how to spend your dollar. Make an impact in your community and our small, interconnected world by how you spend your dollars. That’s a powerful way to make a difference every single day.

And that’s a movement I can get behind!

Shop Intentionally!

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Losing My Voice

It’s not from being sick. Or maybe it is. But I definitely lost my voice.

I haven’t written in weeks. Several. And it doesn’t feel right.

So bear with me while I try to find it again.

This fall brought such change to our lives. I know you empty nesters are thinking – you have no idea! But it was a big change for us. For me really. Not that I’m not coping with things. Just that life has seemed to take an incredible amount of energy. It has taken my all to manage all of the things going on for our family. I’m not complaining, anything but! We are very blessed and this transition is as it should be. I couldn’t ask for a better start to the school year for all three boys. Life is really good. But it is definitely a full-time commitment!

In all the hustle and bustle of the fall, I haven’t really had time to write. Or I haven’t taken time to write. Actually, I think it’s that I haven’t had any complete thoughts since sometime in August. Ya, its sad. But true.

I have two ways of writing on my blog. Either I formulate the post in my head, usually while I’m driving or showering. {I sure wish someone would develop a way for me to capture the brilliant ideas that come to me in the shower!} Sometimes,  can remember enough of my thoughts to actually get them on paper {or screen} before they are gone forever. Or, I sit down at the computer and spew out whatever is on my mind. Both of these methods require some amount of thought. {I know, that’s shocking considering some of my posts:)} So I think that’s the key. I haven’t completed any thoughts.

But the last thing I want is to stop writing! I get so much out of putting words to my feelings and experiences. I love to tell the stories of our family’s ridiculous life! So I’m taking some of the advice I give my kids quite often.

  1. If something matters to you, you will make time for it. This blog and my writing matter, so I’m re-committing to spending time on both.
  2. Sometimes you have to go through the motions until your heart follows. When I sat down to write today there was nothing in my head – Be Nice! So its time to free flow the words and see what comes.
  3. Just start. Things can seem big, way big and they can overwhelm you if you think too much about them. You can plan and analyze things to death. But at some point, unless you start, you will never accomplish anything. So, you have to just start.

There you have it. My attempt at getting back in the game. Picking up the proverbial pen and putting it to paper. It ain’t pretty, but it’s a start.

And I think I’ll file it under Randomness!

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