Category Archives: Lifestyle

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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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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Filed under Goals, Health, Intention, Lifestyle

Switching it Up

Hubby and I are switching it up! Doing a little role reversal. It’s exciting and scary.

For the last 16 years he has done inventory the end/beginning of every month. Let that soak in a moment. And think about what happens the end/beginning of each month…New Years, Super Bowl Sunday, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving. Yup. He works every one of them. And not just works, but stressful work. So today, he is doing his inventory for the last time! I am beyond excited!

16 years ago this month we made the move to the Kansas City area. It was a crazy time for us. Oldest Son was 4, Middle Son was 2 and I was 8 months pregnant with Youngest Son when Hubby made the move – 4 hours away from us. It really sucked, but it’s what we needed to do at the time. He took a job as Bakery Manager with his company and it was a great career move. I stayed behind and continued working my full-time job. I was overwhelmed with my job, being Mommy and growing that third son. Hubby was overwhelmed with his new role, being away from family and adjusting to a much bigger community. It was hard. Right after Christmas Youngest Son arrived in speedy fashion and we were finally able to move to KC and have the family all together again. We moved when he was one week old and I knew exactly 2 people in this new town; Hubby and his boss. We were 5 hours from family and way stressed out. To add to the stress we made the decision for me to quit my full-time job to focus on our boys.

In all honesty, I think we were pretty ignorant about the cost of raising three kids in the area we live. The cost of living is high and the affluence abounds. I don’t think we had any clue how hard it would be. But we made the decision and didn’t look back. I worked part-time jobs and short-term gigs to supplement our income. We made it work. Hubby soon learned he didn’t love retail management. Finding people willing to work tough hours and do physical work is hard in this community. And the hours required to be successful were brutal. This isn’t earth shattering news, but I think it needs to be acknowledged. He did a lot of things he didn’t enjoy for a lot of years. He has always loved to bake, but management often means getting further from those things you love and spending more time crunching numbers. It means the stress of turning a profit, monthly inventory and managing difficult personalities.

All those part-time jobs and short-term gigs I worked led me to a full-time job a few years ago. I’ve learned so much along the way by having the flexibility to do things that didn’t necessarily pay big wages, but paid big in experience and connections. That all led me to where I am today. I took a new job this month as executive director of a small non-profit. It is exciting work! I love the challenge.

Hubby took a new job beginning next month as a baker. He’s going back to what he loves. As a result he will have more flexibility, less stress and a chance to explore some hobbies. It’s about time. Working the job he did, gave me the freedom to stay home with our boys- something that was important to us.

So we are switching it up. Now it’s my turn to feel the pressure of making payroll. I’m the one who will be stressing over the numbers on a regular basis; worrying about funding and outcomes. He will be picking up the slack at home, making sure one of us is at the kids activities and keeping food in the cupboard. It will be different, but good.

I hope what our sons get from all this is the understanding that when you love someone you make sacrifices for them. In a relationship it’s give and take. It’s about compromising, doing things you may not love for the good of the family. It means talking things through, working together and being willing to be a little (or a lot) uncomfortable for a while. Life is full of seasons; some you love, some you work through. That’s part of living in relationship. And I hope, actually I know, they see the sacrifices we have each made for them and for each other.

Wish us luck. And if you are the praying type, maybe you could say one for us. I didn’t say change is easy! This will be a good change for us, but it won’t come without growing pains.

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3 Awesome Things

I’m in a bit of a funk. Feeling unsettled, out of sync, just kind of ughish. (Ya, I just made that word up.) It happens. And I’m working my way out of it. It may have to do with the end of the summer being here. Or the anticipation of sending Oldest Son back to college. Maybe it is the valley after some mountaintop experiences. Whatever the cause, I’m ready to move beyond it!

As I was thinking about it (something my Middle Brother says I do way too much of) I was reminded of the need to fill my head with positive thoughts. I am a big believer in mind over matter. I know we control much of what happens in our lives by the way we think about, respond to and remember events. It is really easy to take yourself down a dreary path of self-doubt or second guessing.

My solution:

Awesome Things!

I’m starting a new weekly post called Three Awesome Things! I’ll pick a topic each week and share Three Awesome Things! Maybe you even have some suggestions for me?! Let me hear them! I’ll do my best:). Let’s fill our heads with awesomeness!

But you’ll have to wait for tomorrow for this week’s Three Awesome Things! Oh, the anticipation!!!

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On Being Still

I’ve been visiting my parents in my home town for the last week. I try to make it up for at least a few days every summer. It was easier when I wasn’t working full time, but I can usually make it happen. This time, with the July 4th holiday I was able to make it work to stay 9 days! I’ve had different parts of my family here at different times. It has been relaxing and has fed my soul.

There has been much time to reflect.

I’ve spent time just being still. That’s something I never do! I have this deep-seeded need to accomplish. All. the. time! I must be doing something, finishing something, planning something. But here, I’ve spent lots of time just being.

I also just finished reading the book 7, by Jen Hatmaker. I highly recommend it! It has left me thinking. About so many things. I feel a bit uncomfortable. In a good way. Like I need to make some changes. I need to make some intentional changes. I need to make space for the very most important in my life. I’ve had this sense of a simpler life that I’ve seen here. But simpler isn’t the right word. It’s not that its easy, or it isn’t work. I think its that it is streamlined. Cleaner. Focused. I think have so many interests and lots of things I enjoy doing. It can be easy to jump in to everything. I enjoy it all, so I say yes to so much.

The simple fact that I can do, should not automatically lead to I will do.

And yet there are things I have wanted to do for years – like grow a garden – that I don’t do. Supposedly because I don’t have time. But really, how lame? I have bare dirt all around my patio that I can’t decide what to do with. And yet, I haven’t planted the garden I want. It’s a simple or silly example, but it demonstrates the disparity I’m feeling between what I think I want and my actions.

There is an in-congruence between what I think I want and how I am living my life. I have a yearning for a simpler, more focused, intentional life. And yet when I am home, in my own environment, I get caught up in the stuff. The activities and projects, the committees and commitments. And I lose sight of me. It might just be the pressure to keep up with the Jones. I’m not sure. I just know that the way I spend my time feels out of sync some how.

I don’t leave space in my life to be.

I’ve heard more birds this week than I have in the last 5 years. It’s almost deafening…when I take the time to listen. To shut out all the chaos of life. To ignore the clutter that fills my mind and life. I hear it so clearly. I think it is a metaphor for what I need to do with my life. To clear out the clutter that clouds my physical, mental and emotional space.

I know that one day my body will quit doing what I want it to do. We only have a limited time on this earth. I want (like everyone else) to look back on my life and know that I used it well. That I filled my heart and hands with things that matter. That I made a difference in a profound way. Even if that difference is only on the few people I come in contact with. I’m not talking about going out and transforming the world. I’m talking about changing my world. Transforming the way I live, interact, influence and impact the people around me.

I’m not sure yet what it will look like or how long it will take. I’m not selling all my possessions and moving to Africa to care for orphan children (God bless those who do!). And my hoarder-like garage probably won’t be emptied tomorrow. But I’m feeling the need to change my life in my little corner of the world.

I have learned that when I get that urge, that intuition in my gut, things turn out best if I don’t ignore it.

He moves in mysterious ways.

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Talking with My Teens about the Birds and the Bees

It’s time to have the talk. The birds and bees talk, with my teenage sons. I’ve actually put it off too long. It’s just hard to do, awkward you know?

But the time has come, things could get even more awkward. I’m going to have to sit them down.

And tell them.

Hubby and I need more time for sex.

When they were little and went to bed by 8:30, life was grand! Plenty of time for adult fun. But now, they stay up really late! Way later than we can stay awake. And they come home in the middle of the night. Being the good boys that they are, they always come in our room to tell us they are home.

So, it’s only a matter of time until we have an incredibly awkward moment. I mean, we all know our parents did it, at least once. Or, in my case, FOUR times! But really, no one wants to know they ever did it for anything but procreation. Definitely not recreation. They don’t want to know and frankly, I don’t want them to interrupt! This leads to a real challenge.

How do we set aside time for a healthy sex life without telling them, “Hey, don’t bother us for the next hour (ok, 10 minutes). And maybe you want to turn the TV up for a bit.”

I think just saying that, would put a damper on everyone’s evening.

We have a lock on the door. But really, “Hey, what’s the door locked for? Oh wait…eewww NO!”

And again, a damper on everyone’s evening.

Maybe we could do the old sock on the doorknob thing. But then they would know, and they don’t want to know!

So, its time to have a talk that no one wants to have. After 22 years of marriage, we still like each other. Sex is part of a healthy relationship, and frankly we enjoy it. Maybe when they have been married 20 years, they will understand why Mom and Dad forced them into that awkward conversation.

Or maybe, I’ll just send them a link to my blog and see if they suddenly make themselves scarce from oh, maybe 9-10 pm a few nights a week and get in the habit of texting me when they are headed home:).

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Filed under Family, Lifestyle, Parenting, Randomness