Category Archives: Intention

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

The Connection Project

I thought it was about time to dust off the old blog and once again share my thoughts on everything, or at least on some things. When I started this blog nearly 7 years ago I was looking for an outlet. A way to share my thoughts and ideas. It became a bit of a journal of parenting. And then the kids got older, life got crazier (I didn’t think it could) and I embarked on a new role with a new organization. I decided to put the blog in storage for a while. I have been hesitant to put much out there knowing that, whether I intend it to or not, what I write becomes a reflection on the organization I work for. And I believe the world, and specifically the internet, has changed a lot in the last three years. It is a more divisive, angry place.

I also know that writing is cathartic for me. It allows me to process what is happening around me and helps me to clarify my views. I could write and keep it to myself. Or I could share it and hope it helps someone else to process the world as well. Not to come to the same conclusions or opinions, but to think things through in a slightly different way. The title of the blog Considering the Options reflects my view on life, we always have options. Choices in how we react, respond or behave. So today, I am launching a series I hope will make an impact. I hope this will help those who know me or follow my blog to process the world around them. As I mentioned, these are my thoughts, my opinions. They are not the views of the people I work with or for, or the organizations of which I am a part. They are mine.

The Connection Project – Why?

I am lucky enough to have friends who see the world through very different filters than I. And I have very passionate friends. I have young friends, those the same age as my kids and friends who are enjoying the proverbial golden years. Friends from small towns and big cities, those who live close to where they grew up and those who live (or have lived) halfway around the world. I have friends who have chosen not to have children, and who are not able to have kids. Those who have adopted and fostered to adopt. Friends who gave birth to one and to many. Friends with children who look just like them and with children who are a different ethnicity.

I have friends who have been married 50 plus years and who are newlyweds. And I have friends who never went down that path. I have gay friends and straight friends and some who are bisexual. I have friends who are doctors and lawyers and such (did you just sing that in your head like I did?). And I have friends who dropped out of school. I have friends who are farmers and railroaders, teachers and clergy.

What’s my point?

When you try to, you can categorize people in a million different ways. You can label them, assign them a trait. You can put them in a box based on that thing, that one piece of them you’ve chosen to identify.

Many of these friends have expressed a desire to live in a more civil and compassionate world. Friends are concerned to varying degrees – from genuinely concerned to obsessively frightened. People are fearful of “what the world is coming to.” What kind of world our children and grandchildren will grow up in. People are certain the world is going to hell in a handbasket so to speak. I think every generation has had that feeling to some degree, but I do believe it is different today.

So what can we do about it? How do we fix this world that’s falling apart? I am just one person and the problem is so big.

I think the answer lies in connection. It lies in individual relationships. People connecting, one by one, with those around them. So today I am beginning a journey. A journey to share ideas for making this world a more palatable place. A place I will be excited to have my grandchildren live.

I would love company on this journey! If you are brave enough to take a hard look at your role in this handbasket headed for hell:).

This week’s assignment: Spend time thinking about all the ways you categorized the people around you. Be cognizant of when you put someone in a box; make assumptions about them based on one aspect of their life or personality. Recognize when you dismiss someone’s thoughts, opinions or views because of who you believe they are.

Feel free to comment here and share your experience. I would love to hear how it goes this week!

 

 

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On the Precipice

There are times in your life when you realize, you are at a junction, a turning point. When life is about to change in big and irreversible ways. There is a certain sense that washes over you and makes you take pause and think deeply.

The first time I remember this happening was when I got engaged. I was so excited, and yet realized life would never be the same. It was a good change and I was most definitely happy. But the truth was, life would change. That in between time of anticipation is rather daunting.

The same thing happened as we neared the end of our first pregnancy. And our second. And our third. Life was about to change drastically. All joyous and happy changes, but yet a touch of mourning for the life that you are leaving behind. The freedom you had before children giving way to the joy of watching all their firsts. Wondering how you could possibly love another child as much as you do the first. (It is possible!) Never regret, but reflection, and a bit of sadness.

Like the time between getting a contract on a house and closing. The in between can be brutal. The anticipation of what’s to come, the hint of second guessing choices, the excitement of the change.

Then there is taking the last kid to college. All the same emotions, the fears, the anticipation, the reminiscing, the hope, the guilt, the confidence. As one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker would say, “we have all the feels here” and then some. I find it interesting that an event can be so contradictory, so emotion filled. But it seems to be a theme in life and growth.

There is much to look forward to – I have started my Empty Nest Year 1 Bucket List. I can’t wait to do all the things on that list. (I might even add -Get back to blogging – to that list!) Things we have put off doing for years or just weren’t an option when the kids were home. We have plans to attend lots of College marching band performances (aka football games). We have a trip planned and are working on a girls weekend, and couples weekend away with friends. It is exciting and freeing and going to be so much fun! We’ve put in a lot of hard work to get here. We did our parenting job and so far it appears we did a decent job. (The proof of good parenting is not immediate- it’s really a bit of a crap shoot. You do what you think is right and years later get glimpses of what worked and what missed the mark or was completely forgotten.) This is our time. Our chance to remember who we were as a couple. Way back in the day. And figure out who we are together today, sans kids. It is good!

And yet there is the hint of melancholy, the tear just about to fall. It has been 22 years since we have lived alone together. By far, most of our adult lives we have had these men in our home. We loved the noise, the chaos, the tension and laughter. We were good as a family, together, every day. I’m going to miss those interactions. I will miss hearing about their day, knowing their schedules and daily activities. Hearing about who they are spending their days with. It is right and good. They are supposed to leave home. I get that. They will be fine. We will be fine. I will be fine. But this is another one of those moments when I stand on the precipice of change. Change I asked for (‘cause who wants their kids to live at home forever?!), but change none the less.

Tomorrow will be a sad day. And a happy day. I will cry. Maybe a lot. And I will laugh, definitely  a lot. I think it is the right thing to do to honor all those feelings. To embrace the sadness and let the tears roll. To laugh together and make our own plans to fill the free time we are about to have. And hey, we have kittens so that’s almost the same, right?

Post Script: After I wrote this, I got to thinking about when Oldest Son left for college. I remember sobbing as I wrote. It was so hard. I went back and read the post. Made me tear up again and laugh too. Second Son’s departure was indeed as painful or more so than Oldest. I just couldn’t write during that time. I can tell you in a couple of days if Youngest Son’s truly was easier or not.
What I hadn’t even contemplated when writing that post, was having Oldest Son get married! A whole other range of emotions! (And, yes, I like her a lot:)!)
Yes, I deserve some kind of grace for having this much change in less than a month! And wine. I deserve wine!

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Filed under Family, Goals, Intention, Legacy, mom, Parenting, Senior Year

Ramblings on Refugees

I’m challenged by the Syrian refugee issue. I don’t know the right answer. On one hand, I feel compassionate to people who live in a horrible place, made that way by war. I don’t believe people deserve to live that way and I don’t believe the majority of them have the power or capacity to change their country/region. As a human and a person of faith, I am called to help, to be compassionate and caring.

On the other hand, as a thinking person living in a free country with a culture vastly different from where this war is taking place, I feel cautious. We have seen many examples of the hate manifested in attacks on innocent people. People who did nothing to deserve it. I feel the need to protect my family, my home and my way of life. I think that’s fair on my part.

How then do I reconcile the two? How does one show compassion for hurting people and at the same time provide safety and security for their own family? I really would like to hear how others have resolved this conflict personally.

My thoughts – First, I think you have to identify if it’s a real threat. Is it the kind of “perceived threat” we feel when we see someone who looks different from us? Or the real threat of someone who likely intends to do harm? I think in this case it’s both. There are desperate people who need help. They need the basics of food, shelter and safety. And among them there are people who are evil. People who will use our compassion against us. People who will give up their own lives to hurt us. Both are real.

It seems this issue is like every other; there are only extremes. My feed is filled with calls to reject all refugees or risk death, to close the borders quickly. And with claims of willingness to open their own homes to refugees, to let them all come. Either you believe the refugees are a threat which makes you a heartless, cruel Christian who picks and chooses when to follow your faith. Or you think we should open the doors wide and welcome everyone in which makes you naïve and willing to risk the freedoms our forefathers fought to gain. People who are against bringing refugees to this country forget what our ancestors went through to get here. People willing to bring refugees to this country forget the danger and evil that exist in the world. There is no in between.

Is bringing refugees to our home, our country the only way to help them? Is there another solution that is somewhere in between? It seems like if we take a breath, step back a moment, we can come up with a solution that cares for those in need and maintains some level of security for this country. (Ya, I know, I’m living in a fantasy world to think anywhere is safe!) At the very least is there a place for conversation without name calling? Is there a place for an intelligent, thoughtful conversation without resorting to hyperbole and extremism? Can we articulate our ideas and opinions with our own words rather than an exaggerated meme? Is it possible to hear someone else’s thoughts and opinions and validate their concerns? Is it so risky to acknowledge that you can understand where someone else is coming from? Or must we shut down and label those who might see the world differently? Is there a place for a real conversation?

I don’t know if that exists anymore.

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Filed under Faith, Intention, Legacy, The State of Affairs

Losing It Together

I shared in my last couple posts about my healthy lifestyle changes. I told you my Hubby joined the gym with me. He has been using the same journaling app that I have and has been just as committed as me at making changes. I thought it might be fun to share some of the ups and downs of losing weight as a couple – good bad and sometimes ugly.

I can’t imagine trying to do this without the support of my spouse. I hear of people who prepare separate meals for their family while they are “dieting” or trying to lose weight. I have to ask myself, why isn’t what you are eating appropriate for your family? I just couldn’t do that so I’m thankful I don’t have to.

Having someone to workout with really helped me get started and be consistent! I really felt like that first month was critical to long-term success. For me, creating that “habit” of daily workout was so important. We started during Christmas break when I wasn’t working. This made it easy to fit in and I could be super flexible. This meant there was no reason not to go every day. And then when I did go back to work after that first week, we didn’t have much in the way of evening activities. That meant I worked out 27 days in January. Definitely set a precedent for myself. I don’t know if I would have pulled that off without him!

I also have friends who belong to the same gym and love meeting up with them to mix up my workout. It’s great to try a new class with a buddy or teach each other new strength techniques.

We do hold each other accountable…in a good way. After 20+ years we have a pretty good idea of when to push and when to get out of the way:). We both have the expectation of working out 5-6 times a week, it’s just a matter of when. Sometimes together and sometimes not.

But there is a downside as well. Hubby is 6′ tall. I am 5’5″. When we started, he weighed .6 pound more than me. Hard pill for me to swallow.

Then there’s the part where men seem to lose weight more quickly than women. Or as I describe it, “He can look at a salad and lose 5 pounds! Not gonna lie, this was really frustrating in the beginning. By my dear Hubby knew that. He didn’t talk much about where he is or what he has lost. When I was struggling to bump past a plateau at 12 pounds, Youngest Son asked if I knew how much Hubby has lost. I had no idea. He was at 16 pounds down and didn’t share it with me because he knew I was struggling. Isn’t that kind?! I thought so. Right after a punched him a little:).

There’s a bit of healthy competition as well. How many minutes on the elliptical? What incline on the treadmill? How many reps? I think it all keeps us pushing ourselves to give it our all.

We also approach the results of our weight loss differently. He hasn’t bought one new piece of clothing. When he was down 21 pounds he was still wearing the same clothes. Can you say baggy pants?! I, on the other hand, am enjoying trying on new sizes. And I’ve pulled a couple of items out of my doesn’t-fit-me-anymore bin. I have given myself incentives/rewards at 10 and 15 pounds lost, then just started buying clothes…a lot. That doesn’t motivate him.

Over the last 2 months some things have become more challenging. End of school year activities have ramped up making it harder to fit in exercise. We’ve had more celebrations with food that require planning ahead and making good choices. We have realized that choosing to be healthy and incorporate regular exercise requires being a bit selfish. I have to make time to go to the gym when I can and sometimes that means not going to an event or not being home for dinner until later. You really have to choose to make time for it and that means not using that time for something else.

We are exercising separately much more often not. It’s been rare for us to go to the gym together lately. Middle Son is home from college and goes with one of us part of the time. It helps having someone else there.

Hubby is still ahead of me on the weight loss. He still hasn’t bought clothes (I’ve bought him a few things and he’s pulled some out of the old doesn’t fit anymore boxes.) I’m a little more OK with it than I was in the beginning. I know I’m in this for the long haul. I have a lot more weight to lose, but feel good about the permanent changes I’ve made.

Recently, I had about a 2 week hiatus from recording what I ate. Between travel and busy schedules, I just chose to take a break. I exercised less, but tried to make sure I snuck in a little more activity when I could. It resulted in a 1.6 lb loss. That tells me I’ve made some permanent lifestyle changes! I’m back in the swing and mixing things up a bit – some running, more core work and trying hard to get my arms ready for sleeveless shirts:).

Here is a 5 month pic comparison of us. When I saw these two together – wow! I can see the difference. Feels good!

5 month progress

5 month progress

As it says, I am down 29.4 (there is another massage waiting for me at 30- come on 30!!) and he is down 37! My BMI is down 4.4 (still in the obese category). I’ve lost 7.5″ off my bust, 6.25″ off my waist, 5″ off my hips, 1.5″ off my neck and 3″ off my quads. Making progress.

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Healthy – Part 2

December 29, 2014 is the day I decided to make changes. And just to clarify, that means it was not a New Year’s Resolution! Cause we all know how often those stick. That’s just the day the switch flipped. I don’t know why. Nothing traumatic happened, no revelations, no holy crap moments. I just decided I was ready. And fortunately, Hubby decided to join me on the journey.

We joined a gym and I started logging or journaling food. I’m burning more calories than I’m eating (nearly) every day. I workout about 5 times a week and I log everything I eat. No food is off-limits. I just have to work that much harder if I want something high calorie that day. It’s a balancing act.

There have been some weird and random side effects to this approach.

  • I actually enjoy going to the gym. I feel strong. I feel powerful and in control.
  • The trainer actually suggested I take a day off. Words I never thought I’d hear anyone have to say to me. When we started I was going to the gym 6-7 days a week. Now I go 4-5.
  • I feel strange and out of sorts if I don’t get in a good workout. Like I’m missing something.
  • I’m craving healthier foods. (Except Bates french fries. I will always love Bates fries! They are my kryptonite.)

I have stuck with this simple plan for 3 months. And I haven’t felt the frustration I have in past attempts. That point where you want to say, “Screw it, I’m going to Krispy Kreme!” Maybe because Krispy Kreme isn’t off-limits, it just means I have to spend 13 minutes on the elliptical per donut.

Balance. I think I’m finding balance.

I feel healthy. Am I at my destination? Not by a long shot. But I feel good about my body. I feel strong.

When it comes to my weight, I still have a really long ways to go. Really long. But I’m choosing (most days) to focus on the good steps I’ve taken and the changes I’ve made. A good friend pointed out, I’ve really changed my habits. Hopefully a change that will last. It’s about baby steps, incremental changes, moderation, intention and balance.

I’ve only lost 21 pounds in 3 months. It should be more (I know, I know, muscle weighs more than fat!) and that part it frustrating.It’s not glamorous having sexy arteries!

But there are some fun numbers too!

I’ve lost 8.8% of my body weight. It’s not a Biggest Loser sized number, but I’ll take it!

I’ve dropped my BMI by 3.53. For whatever that’s worth. I’m not even sure what it means other than I’m obese, but it’s going down and I know that is supposed to be a good thing.

I’ve lost 4 1/2 inches off my hips and 5 1/2 off my waist. Plus 1 1/2 off my neck and 2 1/2 off each quad.

And I’ve rewarded myself with some new clothes. Not a lot, since I have a really long way to go, but a girl needs a reward! And I don’t mean food! I’m seeing some new sizes and clothes are fitting differently. That’s all good.

I know people like to see before and after (or during) photos when people blog about weight loss, I do anyway. But I don’t think the changes are that noticeable. I hesitate to include them because my focus is really on changing my lifestyle and feeling good. Essentially, doing the right things. It’s for me, not for the drama. (However, I can’t tell you how excited I was to buy a top this week that was just a plain old XL, not a plus size 1X. There’s a difference, believe me. I look forward to shopping in a department other than plus size. It’s just limiting.) And, I didn’t really take before pictures. I have very few full length pictures of myself. I’m usually hiding behind something. That’s what I do. Don’t put me in front. I used to hold my kids in front of me. That doesn’t work so well when they are all taller than you:(. Oh well, here’s what I could come up with. Be gentle.

Temp

So what’s my point? I’m not sure. I don’t know why I felt the need to put this in words. Maybe it’s seeking affirmation, maybe it’s going “public” for accountability, maybe it will motivate someone else who is waiting for the switch to flip. I don’t really know, just felt the need to write.

Thanks for listening.

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Filed under Health, Intention

Time to Speak Up

I was at the Kansas Capital on Monday advocating for individuals with MS. I was there with others who care about issues that impact those living with a chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis. There were lots of appointments scheduled with Senators and Representatives. I knew the “religious freedom” bill was up for discussion that day, but honestly didn’t think much of it. However as the program portion of the day wrapped up and we got ready to make visits, we received word that many of them would be cancelled because the House was still in session discussing the “religious freedom” bill.

I have a twitter account, but I don’t tweet. And honestly, I only use it to check up on my kids. But someone more hip than me showed me how to follow the action in the house on twitter. I was truly riveted to the feed. It was shocking to hear the 140 character descriptions of what was happening. {As an aside, I think we just figured out why I don’t tweet…140 characters?} Just as I was considering going into the gallery to hear the discussion live, I saw they had voted. And it passed.

I will be the first to admit, I don’t totally understand our legislative process. And yes, I’m embarrassed that I don’t know exactly how things work. It has kept me from speaking out when I probably should have. I like to know the facts, know and understand what I’m talking about before I run my mouth. Not completely understanding the process or the legal verbiage used in bills keeps me from talking. I know enough to know, that I don’t know a lot.

But what I did realize, is that I do know enough to have an opinion. I probably understand the issues as well as the next guy. Maybe better on some topics and undoubtedly less so on others. I also realized from participating in advocacy days…our Senators and Representatives are just like me and the next guy. They know enough to be dangerous on some topics too.

In the interest of not sounding like a fool when I express my opinion, I try to be a diligent consumer of information. I watch sources; look at who wrote a piece, where it came from, how well it is cited. Essentially is it worth reading? I try to go to the source. I have read more bills lately than I ever imagined I would, in the interest of knowing what I’m talking about. {I tried but didn’t make it through the Affordable Care Act, but then neither did those who passed it:)!} I try. I try to understand where they were coming from and more importantly, what injustice or wrong is being corrected. What travesty avoided, what problem solved by any legislation that comes to my attention.

So when I read this bill had passed the House, I felt the need to read the text for myself. Now I’m not a lawyer, but what I read is concerning at best. Down right frightening the longer I sit with it. By my read, in my understanding of English, it sounds to me like this bill gives every person the right, based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs” to not only refuse to serve someone, but refuse to recognize them in very basic ways. And then it goes further to say that the individual being refused does not have the right to claim they have been discriminated against. Huh?

Let’s play that out a little bit. So my “sincerely held religious beliefs” call me to polygamy. I believe with all my heart this is the way God intended us to live. I also happen to be the clerk in the county office that issues marriage licenses. I have the right to refuse to issue a license to someone who is choosing a monogamous marriage. The idea of marrying just one person goes against the way I was raised, the faith I follow and my personal beliefs so I will not issue a marriage license to someone who believes differently than me. And don’t think you can sue me for this, because this law makes it perfectly acceptable for me to refuse to serve you. It even adds adoption, foster care, social services and employment to the mix. And I cannot be fired for refusing to do my job.

Sit with that for a moment.

Government employees, private businesses, big corporations, small mom & pop shops. They all have the right to refuse to serve someone who goes against their “sincerely held religious beliefs”. Every employee of every agency, business or organization. That’s a lot of sincerely held religious beliefs.

Certainly there must be a horrible injustice being corrected by this legislation. Well…So if…Maybe…Nope, I got nothing. I cannot figure out the problem. I can’t figure out the horrible oppression religious people in our state are experiencing to precipitate this law. I don’t get it.

It doesn’t pass muster.

The reality is, it is a thinly veiled attempt to take a preemptive strike against the inevitable ruling of the Supreme Court rendering gay marriage bans unconstitutional. It is a blatant attempt to single out a group of Kansans as less than. Less worthy of the pursuit of happiness we are all promised by our Declaration of Independence. It is glaring discrimination! Yet they have said it is not and just in case you don’t believe them, they will prove it by declaring you cannot claim it is. This legislation is dangerous. I don’t care where you stand on gay marriage, homosexuality or polygamy for that matter, this is scary legislation. And it is a giant leap back in time to a day when it was normal to fear those who are different from us. A time when our world views were so narrow, we would rather hate than learn about someone else.

On our vacation last spring break we drove through Montgomery, Alabama. We made a quick stop at the Greyhound bus station to read about the Freedom rides. One of the things that struck me as I stood there was how certain the whites were that they were doing the right thing. And how easy it was today to see how wrong they were.

If you live in Kansas, please get involved in the legislative process. Make your opinions known to your Senator and our Governor before it’s too late. This link will take you to the bill so you can read it for yourself. Go to openkansas.org to find your legislators.

If you don’t live in Kansas, please know that many of us are feeling like our state has been hijacked by a few with beliefs that I simply can’t understand; a real fear of those they don’t know. I am a conservative Christian and these people do not speak for me.

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Filed under Faith, Intention, The State of Affairs