Like it? Then share it. *please*

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mandatory Merriment

So if you read my post from yesterday, you know I was just recovering from a little pity party. One of the traits I'm most proud of is my ability to see what sucks and decide to move away from it or to stop causing it.  So yesterday after I wrote that post I decided, "Dammit, we're going to have some merriment in this house, RIGHT  NOW!" 

So I made this.....

I texted the hubs with a grocery list consisting of just chocolate in various morsel sizes and nuts  .......merriment mix.

The thing about change is, it takes awhile for the rest of your loved ones to buy it.  When they've become accustomed to your crankiness, and even taken some of it on for themselves, they don't always like it when Polly Perky Positive moves back in.  And Mandatory Merriment can seem a little well .... forced.

I didn't care.

I was hell bent on merriment and merriment we would have. 

I sat at my desk awaiting the girl's arrival and her reaction to the invite. 

It wasn't quite ready for the Hallmark Channel.

"NO!  I do not want to put my clothes away and do homework right now!  I want to watch some tv first I'm tired!"

*clears throat*  *musters patience*  *align to merriment*

Yes, change can be hard.

Me: "Okay, you've got several hours before 6pm, watch some tv while you do your homework" 

Pretty good, huh?  I've got this change thing down!

What really crossed my mind was, "Fine, you're no longer allowed to participate in the merriment, you ungrateful ............ "   2 points for not speaking my mind.

I tag Hubs and Dude in the Facebook post with the picture of the "invite" since they're  not home yet.  Hoping to build anticipation and excitement.

Then I find myself sitting at my desk feverishly working to complete two proposals to clients before the 6pm merriment, more than a couple of times I thought, "Crap, why couldn't I have said 7pm" 
It's always hard to break through the clouds of work demands to work in the merriment.  Old habits clinging.

Dude comes in and doesn't really mention the invite, I take it as "no news is good news".  

At 5:45 I push myself away and make note of the things that I didn't get done that will haunt me again at sunrise and take the stairs down to the kitchen.

I shout down the cavern-ness  tunnel into Dude's world (the basement).  "Hey, come on up, it's time to get our evening started"  not using too much "sing song" in my voice because I know that scares  him away.

"Are you kidding me?  I don't want to do that Christmas crap, you know I hate that stuff.  I just downloaded a game I've been wanting to play, I don't want to!"

*deep sigh*   *talk myself off the cliff from storming the steps and ripping his arm off and beating him with it while singing carols*

Instead: "Dude, that is NOT merriment, so leave your nastiness in the basement and get your merriment up here before I beat you."

Change is hard. 

Still mumbling under his breath he comes to the kitchen where he complains about the fajitas his father has made and continues to groan about my merriment. 

I quickly hand him bags of chocolate merriment morsels and tell him to shut up and pour this into the pan.

After several minutes of Dude and the girl bickering and jabbing at each other, the merriment starts to creep in.  Very Slowly.

Finally, we're wrapping presents, assembling gifts, and talking about their creative pursuits.  *sigh*   *finally*

We finish the night with mounds of everything chocolate and nuts and caramel while we watch our sister family the Heck's from The Middle and let our new kittens terrorize our furniture.  *bliss*  

Baby steps.  I'm slowly returning to the me I'm supposed to be.

Tonight's agenda.  Eat popcorn, watch Christmas movies, and let it snow.

I'm hoping for volunteer participation. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's Much Harder to Be Someone You're Not

I've been living in a state of unrest for some time now.  Not the flu, no broken bones, and nothing specific to point to as the cause.  I tolerated it for awhile, swallowed it down, ignored it, bullied it into the corner, and drowned it with a few glasses of red.  It kept coming back, like the stench of rotting food you cannot locate in your teen's room.  You can spray the air freshener and close the door but lurking inside is still the source and the stench.

So I decided rather than mask it or ignore it, I'd stare it down, try and get to know it and seek to understand it. 

I spent some time really looking at my feelings and my frustrations, my wants and my regrets.  I dug deep into those things that I'm willing to share and those things that I would never. 

I started with my job because, honestly, that's where I'm spending most of my time these days.  I uncovered a few bits of evidence for my case.  While I still loved so much of my company and my role, there have been some clients and some changes that have me "ruffled".  My over exaggerated personality had me thinking, "I'll just sell some stock, sell everything and move into a shack and be done with this corporate life."  Extreme yes.  How I think?  Yes.  Luckily over the years I've learned to use my passion for good and not evil pursuits and so before I called a realtor, I decided just to let this be some evidence in my case file and continue to explore.

I found myself looking and reading books about running.  I was craving that feeling of accomplishment and the infamous runners high.  I was craving that "stuff your face after a long run" no guilt high carb breakfast with friends.  I was reading  posts on Facebook from friends about their running and feeling real jealousy. I however, hadn't run in almost two weeks. More evidence.

I then heard myself giving updates on the book I'm writing and felt like I was talking about someone else.  I hadn't written in at least two weeks.  The writing ideas spinning in my head as I drove from place to place always in a hurry, always feeling frantic but never putting  those words on a screen.

More evidence the day I pulled the tubs of Christmas decor from the attic and simply "cherry picked" the few items to place around the house.  Good enough, ringing in my head.

I found myself strained and short with my key relationships, sometimes even bitter and angry.  I told myself I was just tired.  Which has been true.  A lot.

There's more evidence in my file, some too personal to share even for me.

Over the last few days, I've sat with my file of evidence and explored it like C.S.I. -I've organized it, looked at it under my microscope, sent it to the lab for testing.  After really allowing myself to hear the truth, it bubbled up and slapped me in the face.

The truth is, I'm exhausted from trying to be someone I'm not.

I'm a consultant and partner, who is paid well to sell solutions with high value and return on investment that transform people and organizations.  I am not a sales person that sells things for a commission.

I'm a writer.  I'm a writer who hasn't been writing. 

I'm an artist.  I'm an artist who didn't really do much creating this holiday season, I logistically placed a few decorations around the room. No crafting, no glue gun, no multiple trips to Hobby Lobby to make what's in my head.

I'm an introspective soul who needs time of quiet reflection coupled with laughing and bouts of joy.  I'm not a person who tip toes around conflict trying not to trip the triggers that cause pain and angst.

There it was ...... there's no real crime here.  Just a case of mistaken identity.  Too much time trying to live in a life that isn't meant for me, isn't really me. It's someone else.  Someone I don't really recognize.........or like.


Now what?

Now comes the really difficult part.  Something has to change.  And *gulp* it's me. 

Yes, I can give you a laundry list of the people that have been a part of this investigation. People I would have liked to pin for this crime with a jury and a trial.  I can easily give you a list of their sins and indiscretions and I can tell you how incredibly stupid and off center their actions are.  And ...... it's entirely possible that none of them will change.  So, the only chance I've got, is reclaiming the me I'm meant to be, and that means change me.

I want to write, and run, and create amazing solutions for my clients and I want to find an antique store and lose myself for hours. I want to turn off the TV and turn on the music.  I want my kids in the kitchen covered in chocolate and flour.

I want presents to be wrapped and tucked lovingly under the tree.  I want a shopping list a mile long for amazing Christmas meals and treats.  I want to smile and know that I'm the me that God created me to be, not the version of myself that others expect.  I want to be the me that sees the hurt in others and doesn't take it on but continues to emit the Light that I have inside.  I want to stay up late sitting quietly by the tree and feel the unbelievable enormity of this season.

Just imagining it, brings me closer. Closer to the me He wants me to be. 

Because a runner must run, a writer must write, and an artist must create.  A soul that craves optimism and connection and solitude and joy must enjoy the fruit of that spirit.  The music must play and the people must laugh and all will be right in their hearts.  None of this is given as a pass for the day or a ticket to ride, there is no token to cash. We must choose.  We must choose to live the life that is uniquely ours.  We must choose the path that will let us truly be.

Whatever that takes. 

Sometimes we've stumbled onto a path that is not our own and we must find our way back to where we belong.  We must pick up a few we've left behind and leave..... a few behind.  Choices.  Choosing.  Believing we're on track.  Until we can again be the me we've been created to be. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Holiday Trinity

So here we are just days past step 1 of the holiday trilogy, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year.  It's funny, the older I get, the more they just seem to all run together as I'm busy trying to clean up from one and prepare for the next. 

For the first time ever, we went to cut down our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  That's what got me thinking about this trinity.  Maybe we should find significance in the way these holidays are ordered.

1. Thanksgiving. 

Take inventory.  What are you thankful for?  What is your life really made up of?  Who did you want to experience "carb overload" with?  Are you thankful enough?  Is Thanksgiving really the only time you consider going around the table and saying what you're grateful for?

A great place to start.

In fact, our pastor last Sunday made this statement:

True gratitude is a barometer of trust in God.  Gratefulness is inseparably linked with surrender to Jesus.

Hmmm, as you ponder that we creep up on Christmas.

2. Christmas

Christ    mas.   Everything in our life isn't really ours, it's on loan from our Lord and Savior.  If we were struggling on the first stop with gratitude, then maybe this is a good time to revisit our real roots.  And for us not to forget,

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. 
Psalm 118:20 

And if I'm really going out on a limb I'd say that Black Friday was Satan's work to distract us from the real reason for the season.  At least he saw the crack in the door and kicked it wide open with scenes like those in  a Tennessee Wal-Mart of people trampling each other for a video game system.  

I hope this Christmas that you and I take some time alone with God. Time to just truly be still and be aware and be in His presence.   Yes, you can deck the halls and all that jazz but let's not do it at the expense of everyone's sanity.  (This one will come back to bite me as I've been known to do this on occasion, okay, lots of occasions.) 

Feel the warmth of the season fully by walking with Him, not just warming your feet by the fire.

And then you'll be ready for your final stop on this holiday trinity tour.....

3. The New Year. 

A time to make changes, a time for a fresh start.   Invite the Lord into your resolutions this coming year and see what kind of things come to mind.  And if weight loss really is on the list then maybe Rick Warren's book should be on your Christmas list.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Are We Afraid of Thanksgiving?

It's November 10th and the Christmas music and decorations were abound today in the shops. Starbucks launched their red cups almost two weeks ago and I was told today they would only carry Thanksgiving Blend coffee until Tuesday. Thanksgiving isn't until the 28th.  That would take some major pre-planning for me to buy coffee for Thanksgiving 18 days early.

Look, I know that the Christmas push for retail stores is about revenue, making them more money.  I'm okay with that.  That's good for our economy and it helps create jobs and all that stuff.  For us as individuals, I think it's more than that.  I believe we're eager to jump into the glitz and the glamour and the commercial aspect of Christmas because that's another way we dull our pain. We are afraid of Thanksgiving.

Brene Brown teaches beautifully about the numbing we do for ourselves with food, shopping, fill in your vice of choice here __________.   We numb our painful emotions and therefore we numb the joy and vulnerability that should be present in our lives. When we are invited with sparkly decorations and holiday sales, why wouldn't we advance our numbing techniques to an all time high.

We're afraid of the quiet of Thanksgiving.  It's not glitzy enough for our tastes. 

Let's consider the origin of Thanksgiving paraphrased from from

Thanksgiving at Plymouth

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer.

So why do we still celebrate Thanksgiving?

On November 1, 1777, by order of Congress, the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation was proclaimed, and signed by Henry Laurens, President of Continental Congress.
"…for solemn thanksgiving and praise. That with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor;……"
 Then again, on January 1, 1795, our first United States President, George Washington, wrote his famed National Thanksgiving Proclamation, in which he says that it is…
"…our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue is… our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced…"
Thursday, the 19th day of February, 1795 was thus set aside by George Washington as a National Day of Thanksgiving.

Many years later, on October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, by Act of Congress, an annual National Day of Thanksgiving "on the last Thursday of November.

So what does this mean today?

If we really wanted to give Thanksgiving its due we'd recognize some key pieces of this celebration.

1. We all need to give and receive help
Those pilgrims would have all perished had they not accepted help from the Native Americans.   Isn't this a message that we all need to acknowledge and reinforce?

2. Our kids need to know where food comes from. 
An astonishing amount of kids do not know where real food comes from.  Our fast food, fake food culture thinks food comes from a factory, all packaged and at the ready in the grocery store.   This is a travesty.  Our kids need to learn the real law of the harvest.  Those pilgrims could only reap what they were able to sow.  A huge life lesson that doesn't see much air time in any American homes today.

3. Gratitude has huge benefits. 
Gratitude helps our health, our soul, our relationships, just about every aspect of our lives is positively impacted by the act of practicing gratitude.
Even the smarties at Harvard say this:
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
 The term thanksgiving actually comes from the English translation of the Bible where it means, "giving thanks to God"

 The pilgrims were giving thanks for the help that Squanto gave them, their food, and their new way of living.

So yes, I took a stand on the red cups at Starbucks until after Thanksgiving.  But it's much more than that.  Are we too afraid to take the time we need to stop and be vulnerable, to ask for help, extend some help, and just be still in our own gratitude.  Is the oooh shiny of Christmas too big of a draw pushing us to gloss over a holiday that could give us more peace, better relationships, and all in all better health?

So this year, I encourage you; buy a decent turkey and pick up some real food.  Don't complain that it's too much work to fix the whole meal.  Those pilgrims had a rough year to bring that food to their table, you just need to get in your car and get to the market. 

Bring your kids together for some quality time.  Do that really uncomfortable thing of going around the table and asking everyone what they're grateful for this year.  And then ask them every week, maybe every day until it's no longer an awkward yearly tradition. Learn to practice gratitude on days with less sugar and carbs.  Let Thanksgiving be the culmination of 365 days of gratitude.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Key to an Awesome Life ..... and they don't teach it in school

I've written about the C word before.   C is for Courage. I've been watching for the evidence of this being a secret weapon.  The evidence is everywhere and it is getting overlooked time and time again.  It's not the one with the highest IQ, the best fashion, the flattest abs, the most Facebook friends, it's the one with the most courage that wins this game of being fulfilled.

Courage doesn't have to be mountain climbing, or sky diving, or trying out for The Voice.  Courage can be starting a business, leaving a job with a bad boss, not marrying the man that everyone thinks you should, not going after the career that your parents wanted you to do, sticking it out for a great cause that has you working night and day to raise the money, sticking up for the friend that no one else really understands.  Courage.  It all takes courage.

We have to remind our kids of this.  Daily.   We have to show them and tell them and high five them when they show the early signs of courage.  School doesn't want them to stand out, school wants them to line up and comply.  Our role as parents is to nurture this important skill.

So after you've finished watching your kids at piano lessons or in the big game, don't spend time calling out their improvement needs, they already know those.  Intimately.  Call out the acts of courage that you saw. 

My son plays guitar.  He's not the best 15 year old guitar player that ever walked the earth but he's got guts.  He's stood up to play in front of a crowd of people with a band he had never ever practiced with.  Was it perfect, no.  He could tell you the parts that didn't go well, note by note.  But he loves to play and he seizes every moment to do so.  The day after this tiny gig, I started to talk to him about how he could work on his rhythm.  I saw him go pale.  He already knew all the flaws, so I stopped and said, "You know what Dude.  I can tell you know what you want to work on to be better but you know what you've already got that so many guitar players and 15 year old kids don't?  Guts."  He smiled back at me.  Guts matter.

I just finished Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath.  A book about the advantage of being an underdog.  I highly recommend it.  What my son has from battling school and challenges dealing with his ADHD, is the ability to overcome.  He's got guts.   My girl, however, steeped in every honors class that her 6th grade has to offer, struggles with courage and confidence.  I worry more about her than I do about him.  I work tirelessly to help her overcome the need to be the best and to fit in.  I don't want a kid that works so hard to fit in, I want a kid that's not afraid to stand out. 

When people step out and take on an act of courage, it inspires others around them.  Watch how the crowd reacts to this act of courage. 

This guy isn't the best dressed, the best dancer, and probably doesn't have the highest algebra score on his SAT.  But he's got guts and he's having fun and inspiring others around him to have fun. 

If you and your kids are busting tail to be the best, just make sure after they acquire all of that skill and intelligence, they've got the guts to use it. 

I highly recommend Gladwell's book - you can get it here and I'll get a couple cents that helps me buy coffee to write more.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Thursday, October 24, 2013

RestFest 2013 #fallbreak

It's fall break, which for those on the balanced school calendar has become the new spring break and beach trip extravaganza.  I must admit the first few days of Facebook posts from friends as they loaded up and headed to the beach had my jealously juices flowing pretty good.  I love the beach.  Really really love the beach. 

But the beach wasn't in my work calendar or our budget so I had to just let that one go.  I decided to really think about what I've been feeling since re-reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  This idea of your production and production capability really hits home.  If  we're the engine that drives our effectiveness, we're all running a little low on oil, gas and tire pressure around the Hession House.  Pond season is finally slowing down for Pond Life Consulting, The girl has two whole weeks that she doesn't have to be up before the farmers, and Dude was gettng a few days off too.  It was officially time for some rest.  So, like all good sales and marketing professionals we needed a good campaign and so RestFest2013 #fallbreak was born!

The girl and I went to the grocery store and bought her favorite lunch and snack foods and she went into the business of resting.  She slept till noon on more than one occasion and cleared the pantry in a matter of days.  I started to see my sweet wonderful girl emerge.  She laughs more, her emotional stability almost returning to a normal pre-teen and she just looks healthier.   Ahhh, rest, glorious glorious rest.  We need it, our kids need it, our families need it, our employees need it.  Yes, we should travel and explore and see the world, I'm sure come April I'll be ready to post a beach adventure, but for now, the final days of RestFest2013 #fallbreak are a sweet reminder of simpler times and a slower pace and more time to love and be loved. 

My girl said yesterday she'll be ready to go back to school on Monday.  Mission accomplished. Tank refilled.  Thanks Dr. Covey for the reminder "again" that sometimes the best thing we can do is just to lay down for a bit and charge that battery back up.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pissed Off Catfish Review

Some things are so good you can't help but share your excitement.  Last Saturday night we hosted our 3rd Annual Fall Party.  We do this for customers of my husband's business, Pond Life Consulting. We invite customers, friends and family and for the last two years have had a live band.

In our backyard. 

Which is just as crazy as it sounds but that's kinda how we roll around here. 

In an act of God Given Marketing Perfection, this year's band was called Pissed Off Catfish. Almost too good to be true for a party to honor Pond Life Consulting.  This band was so much fun I had to write to tell you about them.  Their vibe was perfect for this event which was attended by everyone from under 6 to over 60.  Everyone loved them.  

They recently played as an opening act for Blake Shelton at Klipsch Music Center in case you needed some additional validation that they really are a cool band that has some street cred.   

Just a few comments during the evening:

These guys are amazing. 
Why aren't they living and recording in Nashville?
How did you ever find them? (this one hurt because it was said like we weren't cool enough to know a band like them. ouch.)
Where can I hear them play again? 
How do I get their music, do they have an album?
No, seriously, how do you know these guys?  (again slamming our cool factor) 

 I got so many texts and Facebook messages on Sunday, I totally didn't get my post party nap, which I desperately needed.  Thanks guys for that.  Which probably explains my lack of cool factor since I so desperately needed a Sunday nap after the party.  Aging sucks.

Not only are these great musicians, they are really great guys; both talented and humble.  So.... I wanted to share them with all of you.  Go to iTunes and grab some of their music and then tell whoever you know that's booking a wedding or a party to grab them quick.

iTunes link

Website Booking Link

Facebook Page

And for the record, I don't get anything for this reference other than huge satisfaction from sharing something really cool.  A desperate attempt to up my cool factor. 

Here are a few pics, one from their website, from our party and my personal favorite, Finn on drums.  Finn is the son of Colin Clark from the band. As you all know, I love those parents that support their kids toward musical greatness! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Don't Buy Into That Stuff You Hear About Gravity - The 7 Habits - Principles

We continue our journey through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I hope you've been inspired to dust off your copy of the book.  We will be releasing an anniversary copy of The 7 Habits for the 25th anniversary next year.  The new forward is written by Jim Collins.  We at FranklinCovey, are honored to have such a well respected and influential man participate in our celebration with you.

Last post we covered paradigms, the way you see the world.  Today we look at principles.  There are so many things we read today and I often wonder if I should believe any or all of it.  The media rarely wants to just cover the facts, they want to influence how you feel.  It seems nearly impossible to know what's real and what isn't.  Except when it comes to principles.

A principle is a natural law.  It governs no matter who writes about it, no matter how much you believe it when you read it, even if the government tells you it's not real.  It just is.   Gravity is a principle.  If you were told as a small child that gravity was just something made up by the government to convince you not to jump off of buildings and you took on this paradigm, what would happen if you jumped off a building?  Yes, you'd still fall to the ground.  How's that for a paradigm shift.  Gravity is a natural law.  It governs in any state, any country, any decade.  It just is.

There are other natural laws.  The law of thermodynamics, this from the online free dictionary:
law of thermodynamics

1. (Physics / General Physics) any of three principles governing the relationships between different forms of energy. The first law of thermodynamics (law of conservation of energy) states that the change in the internal energy of a system is equal to the sum of the heat added to the system and the work done on it. The second law of thermodynamics states that heat cannot be transferred from a colder to a hotter body within a system without net changes occurring in other bodies within that system; in any irreversible process, entropy always increases. The third law of thermodynamics (Nernst heat theorem) states that it is impossible to reduce the temperature of a system to absolute zero in a finite number of steps. 
 There is the Law of Diminishing Returns, Law of Effect, Newtons Laws of Motion, I could keep going but I have to keep doing Google Searches because we've reached the end of my science knowledge. Natural laws, no matter what you believe about them, they are truth.

There are also natural laws of human effectiveness.  Each of the 7 Habits is based on a natural law of human effectiveness.  Dr. Covey didn't just get his smart friends in a room and brain storm what they thought the 7 Habits should be.  In every single talk I ever saw Stephen do, he always made the point very clear, "I didn't create these habits."   What Stephen did was do the hard work and the research to bring these natural laws to us in a user friendly format that we could follow.  Face it, we wouldn't have gone to that trouble.  Right?

So here's the big point, the grand plan, the way to make this work for you.....

(insert drum roll)

If you want to realize true effectiveness, align your paradigms with natural laws of human effectiveness.  

Page 36:
We know and accept this fact or principle of process in the area of physical things, but to understand it in the emotional areas, in human relations, and even in the area of personal character is less common and more difficult.  And even if we understand it, to accept it and to live in harmony with it are even less common and more difficult.  Consequently, we sometimes look for a shortcut, expecting to be able to skip some of these vital steps in order to save time and effort and still reap the desired results.

There are lots of books about the shortcuts and those don't stand the test of time.  In the words of another Dr., "How's that working for ya?" as Dr. Phil would say.

This means you will have to do the important but sometimes difficult work  to challenge old beliefs and paradigms that you may have held for many years, and maybe things that you thought to be true but are no longer serving you well.  Be willing and able to let go of those old paradigms.  This also means that The 7 Habits is not a quick and easy fix.  It's a life long journey to effectiveness.  As your life changes, your paradigms change and sometimes you have to revisit The 7 Habits to see how you're lining up.  That's why this book has endured with great success for 25 years.

Just yesterday someone said to me, "Do you think the 7 Habits are still relevant?"  These habits are more important than ever before.  In this time of mis-trust, and in this fast paced world, we desperately need to revisit the natural laws and work on ourselves and our relationships.  And we need to do it for ourselves, not wait for someone else to fix things. 

If we think the problem is out there, our very thinking is the problem.  

Dr. Stephen R. Covey.

Next up in our journey ......... habits.   Be thinking about those that are serving you well and those that aren't serving you so well.

It would be great if you'd post your experience with The 7 Habits in the comments!  We can learn from each other.  Stephen would've liked that.  He loved a rich discussion.

In this TED talk Dan Cobley shows the connection between physics and marketing

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Want to Join our Book Club? The 7 Habits, 25 Years Later.

Last month I attended my annual work conference.  I work for FranklinCovey, a company firmly focused on enabling greatness in people and organizations everywhere.  Yes, that's our mission and unlike most companies, we mean it.  We work diligently to live it out with each and every employee across the world.  Sometimes it's a daunting task burdened by sales goals that keep investors investing because as the late great teacher, Dr. Stephen R. Covey taught us, "No margin, No mission". And sometimes the task of enabling greatness isn't really a task at all, it's pure joy and satisfaction rolled up into a career that I love.

Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Twenty Five Years.  The most influential business book of all time according to The Wall Street Journal. Still in the top 10 of business books on  Read by Kings, CEO's, Oprah and Jim Collins and also read by millions of every day people like you and me.

We at FranklinCovey were asked to each re-read our copy of The 7 Habits and some of us were assigned to lead book clubs to talk and share our experiences revisiting our roots.  I thought maybe you'd like to be a part of our club so I'll be sharing some insights here as we move through one of the classics and continue to see things differently so we can do them differently and ultimately lead a more effective life.

Part One: Paradigms and Principles

Inside Out
In my twenty years of studying The 7 Habits this is the "secret sauce".  This is what makes this book and this approach so special.  Dr. Covey took us away from just looking at our personality and asked us to look in the mirror and really look at our character.

A quote from Emerson, "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears, I cannot hear what you say."

And one of the most profound, "Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or evil - the silent, unconscious, unseen influence in his life.  This is simply the radiation of what man really is, not what he pretends to be."

We have a lens through which we see the world.  Our lens was shaped by our upbringing, our experiences with parents, teachers, coaches, peers.  Every experience shaping the lens that we now use to see the world.  This lens is called our paradigm.  A paradigm is our map, our lens, our perspective.  We each have many maps of the way we think things should be.  These maps become the source of our attitudes and behaviors.

When attempting to make changes in our lives, people want the "to do" list, the "how to" book. Dr. Covey reminds us, "To try to change our outward attitudes and behaviors does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigms from which those attitudes and behaviors flow."

My personal favorite about paradigms:  We see the world, not as it is, but as we are-or, as we are conditioned to see it.

In order to create real change in ourselves, we must understand that not all of our paradigms are accurate.  Luckily we have this great power as humans that allows us to step back and examine our paradigms and remove those that are not really accurate.  Some of us were raised that the world was out to get us, that we must constantly protect ourselves from our boss, our teachers, or our neighbors.  Over time we may struggle with relationships and opportunities.  We can stand apart from our current perspective and say, "Is this really serving me well?" and if the answer is no, then we can go about the hard work of changing how we see the world.

The opposite can also be true, we could have been raised to believe that the world is a place of infinite opportunity, ours for the taking.  And when troubles and challenges arise, we cower under their weight because we hadn't prepared or believed that the challenges would come to us.  We can believe our inaccurate paradigms or we can change them.

Here are a couple of videos that illustrate the power of our paradigms.  Next time we'll explore principles.  Not the head of school kind, the gravity kind.

So what do you need to see differently?  Your husband, your teenager, your weight, your challenging project at work?  

I would absolutely love to hear your comments and stories about The 7 Habits.  Please place them in the comments.  And if you're so inspired, dust off your copy of the book, or put it on your Kindle and join the book club.  I promise that the habits are more important today than when Stephen wrote the book 25 years ago.  Yes, that's Stephen with a ph, not a v. : )

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

School Stole Our Summer

It's July 31st and I just made the last batch of chocolate chip pancakes for my girl.  Her new backpack and school supplies are spread across the kitchen table and she's plotting the right outfit for tomorrow's first day of school. August 1st, first day of school.

Yes, we have adopted the "balanced calendar" which is a really nice spin on the reality which is -  year   round   school. 

Here's how it works:

June and July off for summer
October - two weeks off
December - two weeks off 
April - two weeks off

Apparently the schools think if they have more time with our kids more consistently they will retain what they have learned. 

Let's be clear.  The only reason this matters to them is because they are trying to up the test scores.  Which I don't give a rats behind about.

Summer is meant to be long and lazy and relaxing.  A detox from stress and deadlines and papers and early mornings and fights about homework and lunch money and all of the things that make our life just a little bit harder. 

Summer is meant for sleeping in, hanging out at the lake, eating pancakes at 10am or 11 or noon.  Summer is for families to relax and enjoy each other without the demands of school and all that school brings.

Even though I work a full time year round job, I have also latched on to the summer time vibe. My shoulders drop two inches to where they are supposed to be.  I knock off a little early on Friday to hang with my kids, we hang around outside until 10pm and then rush in to have a PB&J and call it dinner.  Life is better in the summer.  Laundry doesn't really need to stay caught up because no one cares about the perfect outfit or that it's gym day.  Groceries largely come from the farmers market and the ice cream stand with little to no regard for a schedule. For the kids, bed time is whatever time your eyes finally can't stay open and the alarm is when you finally have to pee so bad you have to get up.  Our kids need that easy breezy summer time vibe.

And because our kids have their own "island time" we parents don't stress about bed times and dinner times and getting to school on time and paperwork to sign and skinny jeans to buy.  So we relax too.  And when we relax, we see how beautiful our kids are with their summery skin and perfect dive and we see that lightening bugs are one of God's most amazingly magical creatures and we too become more aware of the love and the gifts and the joy.

With just two months of summer we had to hurry through it and check off the camps and the vacation.  Not enough time for the lazy beautiful joys of summer.  Not enough pool time, not enough fireflies, not enough pancakes at 10am.

So when October comes around and my kids have two weeks off, I might take a week or a long weekend to travel but then I'll be hurrying off to work and they'll be laying on the couch watching tv and the fireflies will be gone and the pool will be closed and the frantic will barely subside.

Our kids grow up quickly enough. Give me more time to relax and enjoy them. I'll sacrifice their algebra grade for that any day.

Two weeks isn't three months.  It's a blink. The long and lazy days of summer, school has taken them away.

A system that isn't serving any of us very well, has now also taken our summer. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Prayers- Start Anywhere...

  I've been in a couple of conversations about prayers this week. They got me thinking about my prayer journey. I'm no Biblical Scholar, but I am in constant conversation with The Big Guy. Here's how this goes down with me. 

1. Believing. This one is pretty loose in it's interpretation. You don't have to wear your Jesus Freak t-shirt or know all the words to The Lord's Prayer to start with this one. This is important because some Christians can be pretty intimidating. That threw me for awhile. Believing can start anywhere and go everywhere. Sometimes it starts as a child with an invitation to Bible School from a friend, or in a hospital room in desperation. Or just that lost feeling life throws you when you know you need a better compass than the one you can buy at REI. There are no rules about when or where the believing starts. Sometimes it comes in all crackly like a radio signal too far in the distance and gradually gets clearer as you get closer. Sometimes you turn back and lose the signal all together for awhile but you can always go back and pick it up again. 

2. Just talk to Him. No rules, no pretense, no filter. The one conversation you can have like that. Geez, use it. You can have this conversation anywhere, anytime. Silently, out loud. Really loud. Going down the freeway, putting the laundry away, in the weekly staff meeting. A n y w h e r e. He's your +1, He goes everywhere with you. To give you some examples, here are some of my conversations, otherwise known as prayers.

* Seriously? This is what we're doing today? And what do you want me to do with this?
* Thank You for this ( fill in the blank). Could be a new client, found my sunglasses, best Sea Bass I've ever tasted, kids not fighting during dinner, husband home safely from a trip, kids and husband leaving me alone for the evening for some quiet time, paying the mortgage when I didn't know how or where it would come from, finding my keys before I'm late for a meeting, it's your blank, just fill it in.

 Now, this is the advanced version that took me some time to get to but if you can, get there quicker. Thank Him for the challenges too. I know, I know. It's a tough one but it's a game changer. I've finally embraced that my biggest transformation comes from the tough stuff, not always the good stuff. *sigh*  So, then you start to Thank Him for the challenges too, because you know He's preparing you, building you up, strengthening you. 

3. Now, hand it all over. Yep, release. He's not your genie in a bottle ready to make all your dreams come true. He's your Father, teaching you, rewarding you, watching over you. I'm a parent and sometimes I've been known to let my kids have ice cream for dinner, but I don't give them everything they want, because that's not what is good for them. It's not what they need. Same goes for you and your prayers. I still tell Him what I want,  but I usually follow it up with, "but You already know that". What he really wants to know is if you trust Him. I have so many examples of things in my life that were bigger than I knew to dream or ask for. His plan is always better. The road to get there might not be a familiar path. Trust Him. So when you feel ready, plant that seed of trust and faith. Water it. Feed it. Give it space to feel the sun and grow. You might try a prayer like this......

Dear Lord, wow, this life is a little whacky these days. I'm kinda tired of driving. I'm going to ask you to take over. I'm going to try really hard not to hand You my map for this trip but to trust You'll get us where You want us to go. I'll try not to backseat drive or complain about the snacks in your cooler. Maybe I'll just kick off my shoes, put my feet up on the dash, like I did when I was a kid and enjoy the ride. 

This works really well with your worries, He's really clear in His Book that He's not a fan of worrying. So I actually visualize handing it over. I wish I was a cartoonist because they'd make some good ones. Me crying like a toddler, clinging to my worry and Him standing next to me tapping His foot with His Hand out. The caption would read, "That's enough, young lady, hand it over."

Or the one where I run in the room breathless from carrying this heavy burden and I burst into His room and say, "Here, take it, I just can't carry it anymore!"

Or the one I've been doing more often, where the worry comes in like a game of hot potato and I immediately pass it over to Him and He pats me on the shoulder like I've done a really good job. 

Prayer used to intimidate me, like something I needed to get just right. Yes, I think you can improve upon your praying when you learn more and understand more but there are no rules on how to start. My path was to start anywhere, then to take Him everywhere, and then let Him take the lead.  

4. Ask others to pray for you and with you. He digs that. 

Write me about your path, I'd love to hear it. Teach me something that's been helpful to you. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Early Riser Gift

We come to the beach, packed with sunscreen and family in tow. Two days, 14 hours of windshield time.  We trudge mile by mile.

Finally, we build castles in the sand, eat shrimp by the pound and let the surf pound at our bodies and feet.

And each morning, long before another eye has fluttered to life, I rise without alarm and tiptoe to my beach.

Yes, it's the same sand and the same salty sea, yet it brings a whole new purpose in these first minutes of daylight. This is the gift to the early riser. This sea reminds us and promises us of a power greater than ourselves. It washes over us, puts us in our place. It's a small crowd, a gathering really. Each honoring our beach and holding tight the reasons we come; the reasons we seek and gladly accept the early invitation.

The fisherman, the gatherer of shells, the pondered and the runner. We join together in solitude and quiet reverence to this sea and this beach. Soon the toddlers, kites and coolers will trickle in and invade. We won't put up a fight as an invasion to our space. We'll shift, into the rest of the day of vacation celebration, secretly waiting in anticipation for tomorrow's quiet start. Waiting to again unwrap our precious gift.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

New Machine Makes Time!

No, not really but wouldn't that be newsworthy.

 I saw a sign the other day that made me laugh and then made me a little sad.  The sign was asking people to come in and donate blood, an important request for sure.  The sign said, "Please make time to come in and donate".  Now, you can make a lot of things, you can make a cake, you can make a sign, you can make a rug, you can make a mess.  Lots of things can be made, except time. 

You can't sneak into the kitchen late at night and cook up some time like a late night snack.  You can't buy special equipment that will manufacture time.  It is one of the few things in our life that is absolutely finite. Fixed. Complete. It is what it is.  Time: 24 hours available each day, use it or lose it.  The same amount is available today as was available on the wagon trail or the roaring twenties, the colorful 80's or last week.

I think it's a pretty safe bet to say no matter how far advanced we become in technology or neuroscience, we will not create the ability to make more time.

So, now what?

If we can't make more time, now we have to figure out how to use what we have.  Ugh.  That's harder. That requires the awareness that we aren't getting more and even more important and difficult, is becoming aware of how we spend the 24 that we have.

And, I don't know how many more of those sets of 24 we're each going to get.  So maybe you really just have one, or two, or ten.  Or hopefully thousands. 

If I was the sign maker, I might have created this:

Please choose one of your 24 hours today to come and donate blood. 
 Your one hour might allow someone else to get lots more hours.

And if you have, in fact, created a means to make more time, call me, this is big news. I'd like to report it first. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Play the Part You Are Given - and play it really well

Today is Dude's, my 15 year old son, last day of School of Rock practice before he plays his gig tonight.  He's a true artist.  Loves to get up on stage and jam, no fear, just joy.  The set this year is 90's so there aren't a lot of screaming guitar solos like last year's 80's set. 

There is, however, one amazing minute long epic guitar solo.  And he isn't playing it.

I think because he's been playing longer than some of the kids and he is the oldest one there at a very manly and mature 15, he made some assumptions.  Like, "Surely I'll get the great parts".   And his favorite Smashing Pumpkins song was cut from the playlist. This happens sometimes.  You've got a week to put a group of kids together and play a set of 6-8 songs and sometimes you just have to let one or two go to focus on the rest. So the combination of these two realities had him a little bummed out.

His disappointment started to escalate into, "how dare they" this morning.  I saw his mood shift and he was no longer the joyful artist.  He mentioned going to the director and asking to have part of the solo.  I simply said, "let's talk about it in the car."  He bristled for the lecture.  I instead kept it light and said this.

Dude, do you know what good sportsmanship is?  Of course he did.  Well, this is your sport.  And ultimately, you are old enough to decide how you will handle this today but I'm just asking you to look at all sides.  I'm a huge fan of standing up for what you want and being brave, however, I'm also a huge fan of the lesser known traits of humility and gratitude.

I reminded him that the Lord wants us to give our very best with the part we are given, digging ditches or rocking a screaming guitar solo. Maybe this is a different lesson than bravery but he'd need to decide.  I am really blessed that my son is willing to listen and discuss things like this.  We had a bit of banter.  He's a pretty good negotiator, he tried the, "but you paid big money for this camp" approach.  He tried to suck me in and get me worked up that my money should  buy him a guitar solo.  No go, Dude, that's not my game.

After a few minutes he started to tell me about some of the other songs and how much fun they were to play.  His joy returned.  I smiled and said, "it's a lot more fun to focus on the good stuff isn't it?"  He gave me the eye roll and said, "I know I know, I'm sorry I got worked up about it." 

Life has a lot of disappointments, far more than those times you shine in the spotlight.  Best to prepare them to handle those with grace and humility.  And most of our life is playing a sound rhythm guitar, keeping everything together, on beat, in sync.  Best to prepare them well for that too.

And once he focused back on what he loved about the parts he does have, his joy returned.  Gratitude is amazing and transformational.  Find friends and family that focus you back on what you do have. So many people want to focus on what they don't have or when they were "wronged" or what sucks and well, that really sucks.  Those relationships are exhausting.  And you have complete control over your ability to practice gratitude.  Try it, you'll be surprised how the joy returns.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


The last guest has gone home and the sun is setting on another holiday weekend here at The Hession House. I'm soaking up those last tender moments of daylight before the mosquitos come back to lay claim. Surrounded by fish jumping, birds chirping, bees buzzing and the pant of a stinky dog at my feet.  I'm selfishly lapping up every last ounce of joy and gratitude this weekend has to give.

The dishes are done and the last of the life jackets and fishing tackle put away.  Tired, happy, full, and satisfied. The last 5 years we have put our heart and soul and every paycheck into creating a home for us, for our family, for our friends, and for friends of friends. As much as I love my solitude, this lake life is a life better when shared. 

I think of the grueling hours clearing thistles and brush and poison ivy and weeds with sweat dripping from our brow. Back then I don't think we knew to dream this big. We just pushed on each year with a new excitement and new ideas for how to love and live and share this place. And when hard times came and yes they did come, we held onto this place and a dream that just kept growing through God's grace.

I can tell you every flea market and roadside find that has been brought home, scraped, painted and placed lovingly. I can point to the plants that were given to us by guests and family when we didn't have anything but the beautiful bloom of a thistle to call a garden.

Thank you Lord for letting us rent this place from you.  We plan to leave it better than we found it with enough memories, joy and stories to pass long after we've gone. For now we laugh, we fish, we float, we toast marshmallows and wine, and we gather.  We gather together to enjoy each other in our beautifully feathered nest. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Look, Dreams Really Do Come True

I was surfing through some Vintage Random Thoughts circa 2010 and I came across this little gem that totally and completely validates my previous post

Other than the fact that I gave up most things wheat including those damn Cheez Its that I still miss, I've had a few days that are pretty special like this one.  Proving that dreams really do come true.

I Have a Dream -

 This week has been dark and cloudy with a chance of temper tantrum and tears. Not sure if it's the full moon or my overly full schedule but geez.
Monday was the first day of school for the girl so that alone requires days of planning and prep. I took her to school to get my healthy dose of "stupid practices that waste money" early because I'd missed it all summer.

On Tuesday morning I found the girl's favorite cat dead on the porch just as I was getting her ready for school. I hid that from her until she got home from school. Then we spent the evening painting tombstone rocks.

On Wednesday, Mother Hubbard's cupboard was so bare the girl was seen eating an ice cream cone with no ice cream for an after school snack. She also told me at 6:29 that the parent night at school was starting in one minute. I poured a glass of wine and toasted to those great parents that probably read the flyer on Monday and were neatly perched in their metal folding chairs.

At 8pm the girl stubbed her toe so bad while getting into the shower, she'll likely lose that toe nail. Of course when I told her that, she began sobbing wrapped in a towel in the living room which sent her into an hysterical fit of nakedness on the family room floor.  I did what every good mother does, I started to cry too and told her to just get in the damned shower and we'd deal with it later.

Thursday morning was a frantic dash to get haircuts for Dude and I. Of course, I was on a conference call until 10 minutes past the time we were supposed to leave. We jump in the car and half way there I run down the list of what I told Dude to do before we left. Brush teeth, eat breakfast, take your medicine. He was 0 for 3. So I took the green toothed kid talking 400 mph to get his mullet cut. At least he was wearing pants and shoes.

The girl comes home from school today and says, "The teacher sent home about 40 pages for you to fill out since you missed the meeting." Nice. (Insert what I'm thinking here ^&*^##)

Here it is Thursday night so I decided to live out of my imagination instead of my reality.  That's the kind of stuff I get paid to teach, by the way.

In my imagination, I have a dream....

I dream of a day that I wake up alone, in a house with clean sheets, where outside it is 65 degrees with low humidity. I pull on my running shoes and a cute little running outfit and head out to meet the girls for a nice long run.

I celebrate my running greatness with a frothy little number from 'fourbucks' where I head out with my trendy green logo wrapped in cardboard. I go in search of a little Asian girl that has a perfect chair that vibrates my cares away while I read the latest about JLo and Heidi Montag's surgical woes and hope not to get gang green from my bargain pedicure.

I stop at the grocery and pick up all the necessities for the night, Cheez Its, wine, and anything and everything else that catches my eye and can be wrapped in bread or dipped in sauce.

I arrive at my Pet Hair Palace to find that the Pet Hair Fairy has come and swept away all the Pet Hair to knit sweaters for the homeless.

I take a long bubble bath with wine and more mags and then migrate to the couch for dining and entertainment. I crack open the Cheez Its and flip on the tube to watch David Bromsted's biceps color Miami, and to realize that Sarah actually is coming to my House to do the guest bath downstairs. (All HGTV references BTW)

With the wine half gone, I turn the channel to find that I miraculously have been blessed by the satellite gods to have every channel known to surfing. I even have those channels with Project Runway and Real Housewives with fake boobs and fake hair and BOTH are marathons for the next 10 hours. I scoop the ice cream to celebrate this greatness and tweet it to my tribe.

I watch three hours past the time I have to hold my eyelids open because I don't want this moment to end.

I wake up to find my family back at home, messing up the house and complaining that I ate all the Cheez Its. I smile ready to face the day, rested and rejuvenated and ready to love all of their unlovableness.

Ahh, what a beautiful dream. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Letter to Mom's of Kids age 4 to 9

It gets better.

Yea yea yea, we love our kids, they are our Gifts from God.  They are our sun and moon and stars.  I agree. 

Maybe I'm the only one, but I found the ages of 4 to 9 really challenging.  They were no longer cute little curly haired toddlers but still carried the defiance and dependence of the wee ones.  And they whined.  A lot. They still needed turkey sandwiches made and cleaned up and spent very little time entertaining themselves.

My kids are now 11 and 15 and I'm loving this little stage.  No one can drive yet so there's no underlying current of fear and increased insurance rates.  They make their own food, clean their own rooms (occasionally).  We have interesting conversations, when they have friends over I'm not the party planner.  We can watch PG13 movies, they'll eat more than chicken nuggets, they still like me most of the time, they put away their own laundry, we like some of the same music, we like some of the same tv shows.  Seriously, they're pretty amazing little humans. 

I'm working really hard this summer to enjoy this stage. 

So if you are one whine from homicide and one bad play date from throwing in the towel.  Hang on.  It gets better. 

In fact, while writing this little post my baby girl brought me this.  And she made it herself.  And if I ask her to take my empty bowl back to the kitchen when I finish, she actually might do it.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

5 Reasons you Should "Check Out" While on Vacation

So, what did you think of yesterday's post? Does completely checking out of work on vacation scare you?  Or does the idea thrill you?

Let's look at why you should "check out" on vacation. I want to encourage you to try. 

1. It's very likely you're exhausted, or at best, just plain tired.  Trying to do work and do vacation isn't at all restful. It's more juggling.  You won't return to work feeling rested.  You'll return feeling disappointed and still tired.

2. Your family could use some time with you.  Just you.  Not you and your phone, not you and your iPad.  Not looking at the top of your head, but seeing the whites of your eyes.  Your family needs to feel important. That will require you to choose them.  They need you to actively and purposefully choose to spend time with them and not juggle them with your colleagues and clients. That just makes them one of your "many".  They want to be "the ones you chose".

3. You aren't that great of a multi-tasker anyway.  No one really is.  So you try to do work on vacation and you don't do your best for your job and you don't do your best for your family.  That's a lose-lose idea.  By dropping the work for a week, you get to win with your family. Because you will return rested, you can go back and win at work too.  That's a win-win idea.

4. When your brain is buried in stuff, your creativity is choked out.  When you are constantly looking at emails and tasks, you're not tapping into your best creativity.  I'm not saying you need to take a vacation and do finger painting.   Although that sounds pretty darned fabulous to me.  I'm talking about clearing the clutter to think creatively about anything.  To generate new ideas, new projects, new passion for your work.

5. Let's start looking at your legacy.  When you are old and gray, you won't remember the project you finished for Mr. Client while on your balcony pretending to watch your kids play in the pool.  You will remember seeing your daughter finally master the handstand in the pool and to see her beam with pride knowing you were actually watching.......the whole time.  Time is a tricky little bugger.  You think you have mountains of it.  Until you don't and it's like sand slipping through your fingers and you're begging to get some back.  They love you.  They need you.  Build the kind of memories that will make you both proud.  It's just a week or two.  You all deserve it, crave it, need it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Oh What a Flurry a Vacation Can Bring - 12 Inbox Strategies for the Soon to Depart

It's summer vacation season.  I see it everywhere.  A little more out of town traffic on the highway, and lots of out of office messages from my clients and colleagues.  And mostly what I recognize is the flurry in the voices of those both preparing to leave and just returning.  Some are frantic. 

Now, I'm no rocket scientist but let's revisit for a moment.  Isn't the intent of a vacation to relax? 

Yea, I thought so.

It's not working all that well for most of us.

My vacation isn't until later this month but I can already feel it creeping in, the flurry and the frantic.  There's this sick need inside of us, especially those with an email account, that we'll be caught up before we leave.   Now, the sad reality is the only reason we want to get caught up is we're preparing for the "big dump" into our inbox that will happen while we're away.

Some will actually haul their laptops into the beach bag just to clean it out each day and not suffer under the weight of it when we return. 

Some of you have to do this because you work for the antichrist of a boss. For those I say, skip the rest of this post and go straight here: 

Seriously, it's time.

For the rest of us, let me suggest that we've created this flurry of expectation and it's not helping us or our companies or our customers. 

Here are a few strategies I've used to work against the psycho in me that always wants to be caught up.

  1. Relinquish to the fact that you will never ever ever ever be truly caught up. It's a figment of your imagination. 
  2. Put on your out of office message a few days to a week early.  This gives people early warning.  They'll look for other solutions and other answers to their questions. 
  3. Set your out of office message to reflect an extra day.  For example, your flight lands home on Sunday, have your out of office reflect you're not back until Tuesday.  Then on Monday work offline cleaning up your inbox.  At the end of the day hit connect.  If you don't work offline, the minute you send one email out, 50 will come in, they will bombard you.  Best case scenario, work from home that Monday.  Catch up on laundry and email the same day.  Or take the extra day as an actual vacation day if you have to.  It will be worth it. 
  4. Hire someone to manage your email while you are away.  I had a great colleague that had just left my company to run his own consulting company.  I paid him a fee for the week to manage my email.  He reviewed it, sorted it and took care of what he could and then gave me a list of the top priority items when I returned. 
  5. Do your packing a full week before you leave to prepare for the last minute projects that you know folks will dump your way.  Running through Target buying flip flops and goggles while you are on a client call takes up too much stress.  Get all that packing done early. 
  6. Two days before you leave, go through and sort the inbox.  Create a folder called, When I Get Back.  Then go through your list and be realistic.  Anything that can wait until you return,  immediately drag into that folder.  You might want to shoot them a quick note that you'll get to them when you return.  That will reduce your stress by dealing with a smaller list of  'to-do's before you head out.
  7. If you are directing your incoming messages through your out of office to a colleague, Go online and buy them a Starbucks gift card with a thank you note before you leave.  A few bucks in lattes goes a long way in how well and eager they are to take on your stuff.
  8. Send those managing your out of office spillover a note with instructions on any big projects or clients that might contact them while you are away so they are well prepared and ready to handle as much as they can while you are out.
  9. Don't set the expectation on your out of office that you will check messages once in awhile.  Just don't.  Once you crack that door open they'll bust through like the FBI.  
  10. Turn off your office email to your phone.  Just delete that inbox.  You can put it back on when you get back.  That allows you to leave your personal email in case you want to use it.  If you don't rid yourself of that work inbox it will mock you while the number of unread messages grows by the minute.  
  11. Don't pack the laptop.  Just don't.  Take your phone or a tablet to search the best place for oysters in the area but do not take the laptop.  It's a pain at the airport and it gives you far too much access to work stuff.
  12. And my favorite and most used strategy of all.  Schedule your vacation at a remote lake in Kentucky or an International Island with absolutely no cell or wireless signal. 
 Now, if you are hyperventilating at the thought of being untethered for a week, get it grip.  I'm sorry to say, you're just not that important. 

Let those tips soak in.  I'll hit you with some additional insight tomorrow. 

Just breathe.  And go buy some sunscreen.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Paula Dean WWJD

I posted a comment on my Facebook page that went like this.......

In less than 24 hours more than 50 people had made comments or likes. And the opinions were purely divided.

Now, when I posted the comment, my heart was thinking this .......

Wow, it must be really tough to be in the public eye where comments you make years and years ago follow you and can even have the power to destroy you.  That's a lot of pressure.  I can't even remember some of the things I said or who I said them about or who I said them to or even what my strong opinions or beliefs were back then.

 My heart hurt for her under that kind of scrutiny.

I wasn't thinking about my opinions on race, religion, politics, gray hair or butter.  But I understand the passion in some of the comments.

My friends that have adopted an African American boy that they are loving and raising with every amount of love in their hearts.  I understand that they never ever ever want their beautiful boy to feel the sting of racism.  They are protecting their son. I understand their passion.

Another comment that 27 years ago I was just a child at 20 but Paula is 66 and 27 years ago she was almost 40 years old and should know better.  A fact I hadn't considered.

Another saying these comments weren't 27 years ago but that had been the media spin.  More info I hadn't bothered to gather.

I love my Facebook friends because they are the most diverse group of people you can imagine.  They are every shape, size, color, political view, full religious spectrum, US and International crowd around.  I love them and their crazy differences.  I appreciate the unique perspectives that this crowd brings to me.  I learn from them because they see almost everything differently.

But just as I was appreciating the differences, I felt their surge of anger and judgement and the comment about white Christian views stung a little because, uh, well, I am one.  And the idea of lumping all of us white Christians together seemed just as hurtful.  There are some bad Christians out there, there are bad African Americans out there, there are bad Chinese acrobats out there, there are bad middle aged Italians, there are bad Polish atheist out there, there are bad right winged chicken farmers and bad left winged brick layers.  And there are just as many good ones too. Each and every one of them is a race.  The human race.  And every single one of them sins and stumbles and does things that no one would want the newspapers to pick up and run even if it was the last page, let alone the front page.

But what really got me was we are so easily divided.   Our country is more politically divided than I can remember in my 47 years.  The conversations of race still plague us today.  Women like Sheryl Sandberg are still writing books about women's rights in 2012.  We so easily divide. We pick our side ready to fight it out like the Crips and the Bloods in the streets.

It makes me wonder..... WWJD.  No really, what would Jesus do?  Now I'm no Biblical Scholar, I'm grateful for a Bible app so I can easily search and not be embarrassed that I still get my New Testament and Old Testament books mixed up, but one thing I do know is, Jesus didn't hang out with the "in" crowd in the safe places.  He hung with the beggars and the prostitutes on the street.  Doling out compassion like candy from a parade float.

No, I don't think he would have condoned racist behavior from anyone, but I'd like to think his interaction with Paula might go something like this....

"Oh Paula, my daughter, thank you for these delicious muffins and the side of bacon.  You sure have used the gifts I've given you well.  You've touched the lives of many and for that I am proud of you.  But honey, we need to talk, things have turned dark now haven't they?"  As Paula lets tears stream from her beautiful blue eyes and lays her head on Jesus' shoulder and sobs.  She sobs because she feels His compassion and she feels her regret.  The regret of any racist past and the regret that fame and fortune had become a burden to bear and she cries because she is completely overwhelmed and maybe embarrassed and ashamed.  

And through that compassion she sees no need to defend or deny or lie.  She just wants to be better and do better and rise up to meet the kind of pure love that has been bestowed upon her. 

And then I see Jesus saying, "You know dear Paula, we are all one race and one people under one God and you must do better. You must extend the grace and compassion I have shown you today, but first let me listen, let me hear you, let me take your burden." 
 Because really none of us know the truth but Paula and God.  And I have some healthy skepticism that says most of those companies aren't dropping her because of their strong values.  They're dropping her because they're afraid that you'll stop buying their stuff.

I have felt the sting of hurtful comments to my writing and to my speaking.  Some times my intentions were misunderstood but sometimes I was attacked simply for having a different opinion.

I'm not voting for or against Paula Dean and her choices. I honestly don't know enough to have a vote.  I'm just noticing that we have enough that divides us.  We are divided in our churches, in Washington DC, in our homes, on our Facebook feed and our Twitter stream.  Let's really buck the system. Let's do it with love and compassion and grace.    I know we'd learn so much.

I wish my Caucasian friends with their beautiful African American boy could sit down and break bread with Paula and say, "Paula, please help us understand.  We've been so hurt by what we've read and we want to understand." I  know these people would take that meeting and handle it with grace. And then to have Paula feel safe to hear them and to feel their hearts without the fear of media or marketshare.  Now that's a special news report I'd actually tune in to.

That's actually what Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick Fil A, did with Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of Campus Pride LGBT leader during the anti gay bandwagon the media happily stirred up a few years ago.
 Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A

 Sadly, the media wasn't clambering to tell the follow up story.  I hope you'll take the time to read it in the link above.  It's an article by Shane about his experience with Dan Cathy.  And for the record, Dan is a white Christian guy.  Thankfully there are some good ones out there.

The good stuff doesn't get much news coverage.  Have you noticed that?  So, before we jump on another bandwagon.  Just remember, a circus clown started that movement from a parade float.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

90 Perfect Minutes

Every few weeks my day starts out with 90 perfect minutes.  Today was one of those days.  It usually happens on a Saturday.  Not just any 'ole Saturday, even though Saturdays in and of themselves are pretty fabulous.  I'm talking about the Saturday with   no    plans.   Yes, the perfectly beautifully white canvas ready for you to create your own version of fabulousness. 

It starts early enough that I tip toe quietly out to the deck with my yoga mat, a device with my Bible app and some cool clear fresh water.  My deck looks over the lake that my husband built.  It still takes my breath away and we've lived here more than 5 years. 

It's summer but it's early and the air is crisp and the birds are so happy.  I feel that same giddy feeling I used to get on Christmas morning.  The anticipation of these moments fills me with joy.  Real joy. 

I can't describe it as quiet.  It's anything but that.  Birds and bugs and bees and hummingbirds.  It's a symphony really.  And for someone with a healthy dose of sarcasm for those trite descriptions of nature, seriously, it's like a symphony.  I feel like they let me hang out with them on these precious mornings.

I lay out my mat and go through whatever routine seems to fit the morning.  Sometimes begging the fat cat to get off of my mat.  He rolls around and begs for attention and purrs so loud I'm afraid he'll wake the others. 

I move and breathe, not with Olympic yoga aspirations, but with gratitude and joy and release.  All the while, the house is still dirty, the laundry still piled, the groceries still absent from the pantry.  And I am happy. 

I pull out my reading for the morning and let it steep into every fiber of my being.  Not just read it, I feel it. Then, the best part.  I am still.  I am quiet.  I am listening.  And in that quiet space, I am filled with a sense of strength and comfort and calm, so powerful, it sometimes takes my breath away.  And I am happy.  Truly happy.

Then I bring the rest of the world back in. I rub that fat cat's belly, tell him he needs more yoga.  I consider all of the options for the day.  Not that I'll do them all.  In fact, I smile knowing I can do absolutely nothing if that's what I choose.  I could clean, I could create, I could read, I could cook.  It's my canvas. 

Then slowly, one by one, the rest of the family rises from their slumber and the day gets more noisy and their expectations start to seep onto my canvas.   That's okay.  Because I've already had 90 perfect minutes. 


How do you spend your perfect moments?

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Miss the Old Days - When I Was Hungry and I Just Ate

I think it must have started shortly after the Y2K scare.  Eating was no longer just eating.  It was a therapy appointment and a science fair project.

It started with vanity.  Jeans that that rocked my butt, bikini ready, little black dress for Saturday night. 

Then it was less vanity more training.  Carb up for a long run, junk food weighs you down, be healthy, drink more water.

Now it's flat out fear.  I always thought reading and studying would help me be better.  Now I think reading and studying has made me a paranoid food schizo.  I evolved into this state.  In the spirit of full disclosure when my girl was a toddler and we would go through the pharmacy drive thru she would start screaming "fry fry" from her car seat.  It sometimes took miles for her to get over it.  Pavlov's dog wanted the treat after the bell!  The girl wanted fries out of that sack, not Amoxicillian!

But over the years, especially when learning to treat my son's ADHD, I started to pay more attention to food.  I didn't buy it completely at first.  Then I did some toxin cleansing myself and was shocked at the difference after an 11 day cleanse.  Shocked!  I had never felt better in my life.  I had my eyes completely opened. 

Now I'm wide eyed paranoid. 

Then this New York Times Article sealed the deal.  We've all been a part of their big scam. Read This:The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food

Yes ladies and gentleman, if you buy food from the grocery store then you are a pawn in their little game.  You are spoken of in terms like "share of stomach".  You are being duped.  Over and over and over again. 

Then I uncover another character in this scary movie, Frankenwheat. Yes, those are not your grandfather's Wheat Thins.  In fact, your attempt at health through whole grains might be making you fat and miserable.  Yep, hit my link above or google, Wheat Belly.  But wait until I'm done here or you'll be there for hours.

So maybe you'll just sit down and have a Diet Coke and let this all sink in.  Remember those jars of pig parts from the lab in science class?  You know the ones filled with formaldehyde?  Maybe just pour one of those over ice.  Yep, because those diet drinks and sugar substitutes are hurting you too.  That's here: Top 4 Most Dangerous Artificial Sweeteners

Now that we've all had a taste of their crack, they're counting on us coming back for more and more. Your health is last on the list of their concerns. L A S T. 

So now that I know.  I can't "un-know".  Which makes it really hard to go back to the carefree days of eating.  And it pisses me off.  Not only for me, but for the responsibility I have for my kids.  I want to teach them good health choices without being the psycho parent that won't allow any fun snacks.  You know what they do right?  They ask to stay over with their friends so they can stand in their friend's pantry dripping in Lucky Charms.

I think of people like my husband that loves to banter about politics and never wants to be controlled by "the system" I want to scream, screw the President, it's freaking Pillsbury you should be afraid of! 

Then there's the working mom convenience/inconvenience factor.  Buying fresh can't happen once a month, it happens three times a week.  And fresh isn't always fresh so organic cuts into my budget pretty deep.  I love to cook but not every freakin' night.  So I don't.  Then I cave to the drive thru once in awhile and not only am I weighed down by trans fats, my guilt makes me wretch. 

Every time someone in my house says, "what do we have to eat?" I curl up in the fetal position and scream, "Just eat an apple or a banana and leave me alone!"

Don't get me wrong, I'm still driven by vanity. Today I had the completely unreasonable thought, my friend invited me to go to the pool on Friday, I wonder if I can lose this gut in 4 days.

I just want to be 13 again when a trip to Burger Chef brought joy to me and to my parents. 


Image from GenXtinct