friendship, giving

Listen Up!

I often talk about active listening skills in professional settings. I often challenge many participants (especially males) in those environments to engage in activities that test their ability to actively listen.

It may not be every male who can’t listen but it is definitely a higher number than women by far. I often think about the why of this…

Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human. Anyone can give quick advice when somebody has a problem but those who are actively listening can hear your emotion, feel your pain and generally connect with you. Listening takes time. Listening requires one to be patient.

When I think of my own life and frustrations, I think of how my spouse doesn’t listen a lot of time. Doesn’t engage or empathize with anyone who has an issue or struggle. This makes me think back to something my mom taught me at a young age. Never pass judgment on somebody until you have walked a day in their shoes.

In order to be supportive or helpful one has to be willing to set their own feelings to the side, get down on your level, listen and really relate to your issues or struggles. This doesn’t even have to occur face to face!

If you are struggling and you text your life partner, one would hope they could read your words and really listen to your hurt. Unfortunately, I have seen first hand that many close to me are grossly incapable of doing this. 

I think this honestly comes down to their inability to get down on your level. Feel the hurt. It’s a lack of genuineness. Ask yourself, who do your reach out to when you need to talk? Is it your mom? Your best friend? Your sibling? Your spouse? Who?

Then ask yourself who will listen to you when you feel troubled? Is it the same person? Maybe it’s more than one person. The point is you are never going to reach out to the person who lectures you, passes judgment on you, or just brushes you off.

In order to be a better listener you need to give of yourself. You need to put the phone down and listen to the person in front of you. Maybe you need to stop playing a video game to read the words of a loved one.

Today more than ever our words are powerful. In today’s digital world words are a big way of communicating. Sending a note of praise. Sending a text of good will. Even sending an emoji with a smile is positive communication. We are all capable but not everyone does it.
Positive communication opens the door for building trust. One day somebody may need you. They may need you to hear or read their words. They may need you when they are struggling.

If you are not capable of using your active listening skills you may never hear or read those words. It’s unfortunate that many I know struggle in this area. This why I am opting to write this post.

If one person can make a change based on this blog, I feel like I have made an impact. Listen up. Turn on your antennas. Today’s world is hectic and crazy. We are all busy. We are all trapped in a digital world. But we are all capable of listening to words spoken or words written or even emailed / texted if we just slow down, pause and think about what another is saying. 

Remember “tell me more” offers the one person with words hope that somebody is there to listen to them. Offering hope is free.

I know I am making it a point to listen more listen to all around me and I encourage you to do the same. It’s a new year. Why not make it a goal to be a better listener?

Listen up!

family, friendship

Hello Sunshine

Hello sunshine was on my mind this Christmas. Why? Because that’s what my dad would have said to me on Christmas. Unfortunately this is the first of many Christmases without my dad. 

Instead of being down in the dumps about missing him, I’m opting for spreading sunshine around. A little joking means laughter. Some games mean smiles. New memories and adventures mean giggles and excitement. A new way to honor his memory while making memories each and every year. 

Today I awoke to a dusting of snow. I immediately captured the spirit of the season on my camera as it doesn’t snow often in my area. For today I’ll call it an angel dusting from above. Later in the day I got a pack of gum as a random gift. You are My Sunshine it was called. No big deal to some but a universe whisper to me. A heavenly smile from above. Even when skies are grey from the snowy mist, sunshine is around. The warmth of the rays.

There were many heavenly winks this holiday season. Blessings of new friends to celebrate with. New firsts with my mom. New places to enjoy the festivities. Adapting to the change that has been lingering in 2020, all with a smile as best we can. Different was good this year.

Family meals that had everyone busting at the seams to erecting the most crazy looking gingerbread house covered in sweet treats. Each sugary piece placed on that gingerbread house by my tribe. Whether in spirit or in person. It was named Nana’s house. The crazy year was summed up with an array of sugary treats. A hot mess of sorts like the year of 2020.

To the unexpected text I received on Christmas morning from a new friend I met in 2020:

Merry Christmas! Thank You for making me laugh every morning you are a special person and thanks for your friendship

The text above was an unexpected blessing but one that made me smile ear to ear. As I live my life to the fullest I want to spread joy to others. Laughing, smiling, joking and having a fun spirit is one of my ways I like to spread sunshine each day.

Hello sunshine. A good morning of sorts or just a peppy greeting while I working on a special holiday gift for my mom. Hello sunshine from a new friend in a message. He would never have known those were the words my dad spoke to me often. He made my day. Was it a heavenly wink or an angel kiss from above? Either way I got the message. I felt the message.

My dad is with me in spirit. Now it’s up to me to spread joy to others one smile, one giggle, one joke at a time. Somebody is watching. Somebody is listening. Somebody might just need that joyful pick me up.

If you need a pick me up today, I hope the rays of sunshine are coming through this blog. You deserve to be the sunshine in the day today.

Hello sunshine!

friendship, giving

Longest Night

When became an adult, got married, moved into a house and had kids (not necessarily in that order), I joined a Methodist church. I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school, so this was a big change. One of the first new traditions I embraced was the Longest Night. Each year, on Winter Solstice, the Methodist church had a service that focused on the darker times of the past year. People came who had experienced loss, depression. grief.

At that point, I had recently lost my mother. I had a new baby, a new home, and was overwhelmed and heavy-hearted. I joined the bell choir and played for that service. That first year, I remember just crying through the whole thing.

As you can imagine, the service is not just about loss. Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Once Solstice is over, brighter days are literally ahead. So the service is also about finding hope. About persistence. About the triumph of good and light.

I love symbolism so this service always meant a lot to me. I like the idea of things getting better. Of marking time. The cycle of increasing light. And it always comes just before Christmas, a time of frantic preparation. It is a moment to just be still and reflect.

I don’t attend that church these days, but I still take time to reflect every Solstice and remind myself that lighter days are ahead.

This year the Solstice seemed both especially poignant and especially necessary. COVID has wreaked havoc on many lives. So many in my circle have lost loved ones this year. Some due to COVID, others for other natural reasons, but COVID took away our ability to gather and mourn in the way we all want and need to. Still others are hunkered down at home to protect themselves and loved ones, which brings all the pain and challenge of isolation, disruption of routine, and more.

It has just been a heavy year.

I started hearing about the “Christmas Star” (or Great Conjunction) a few weeks before Solstice. Again, the symbolism of Solstice, this unique astronomical happening, and the stars were literally aligned.

I also had it in my mind to go caroling this year. I say every year I want to sing for people more (and not just the poor people at the gym who have to hear me sing along to the soundtrack when I’m squatting). I don’t know why I expect opportunities to be a backup singer for Yacht Rock Revue to fall out of the sky. This Solstice I see I need to create those opportunities.

Who could I bring some light to? We decided to visit two special Moms who have had challenging years, each in their own ways.

I loaded my car and started the night by going out to see the Christmas Star. I went to a parking lot in a remote park about 15 minutes from my house. I was surprised to find about 25 other cars in the lot, all there to view this planetary wonder. I just took some time to quietly look and think about this year and its gifts.

Then, it was over the river and through the woods to the first grandmother’s house. A couple of friends and family members joined in. We dressed silly, I brought my sleigh bells and song books, and off we set to spread some cheer. Our living room concerts brought laughter and tears, smiles and singing along. We took requests. We flubbed the lyrics and stumbled over melodies. We jingled our bells, giggled, swayed and twinkled. In the end, we brought cheer and good tidings and light. On the way to grandmother two’s house we saw lights and so many other holiday sights.

Both these women have lived through this challenging year. They’ve made the most of it. I hope we brought some light and hope to their lives this December. I know their smiles and delight lifted me up. As one of them put it, when we said our goodbyes, “same time next year!”

It’s a date.

friendship

Sunrise Yoga

I am so excited for sunrise yoga! I got an invite for a new kind of gathering this holiday season.

An invite from a beautiful and kind soul. The invite said:

This is a time to breathe together, pray together, meditate together, move together, laugh together and just be grateful to be together. As an added plus mimosas will be served!

Such a great idea to host such a special event around the holidays that will literally wipe away the woes of 2020. Ready, set, yoga!

After the stretching, an added bonus was relaxing in the hot tub. She really thought of all this details to make the group gathering special and relaxing.

News flash: And just like that the fun snatcher has arrived. The one and only Rona. Yep, that’s right Rona arrived the night before. Not even 12 hours to sunrise. Corona that is. The poor yoga instructor got COVID contact traced. Yup. Pop. Bam. Boom. Fizzle. Flap. Floop. Damn Corona just hanging out like flies on shit.

It’s really okay. We are tech savvy. Those not on quarantine will do makeshift yoga on the big screen and wash our woes away with mimosas and swap yet another shitty Rona story from 2020. Masks + mimosas + Internet + good friends = good times despite the Rona party crasher!

Rona just needs to go far away and stay there! Is 2021 here yet?

challenges, friendship

Garage Games Part Two

It’s the Garage Games Competition time. Master’s division/scaled for this girl this weekend. I wrote about the preparation for this comp a few weeks back but so much has happened in between that post and the actual competition itself.

Corona waves hit some of the competitors I knew, making their prep come to a halt. The recovery for COVID and its impact on one’s lungs will make competing extra grueling for these folks. They will get it done at their best level for that day. I will be cheering for them between rounds as I can.

The comp itself changed some setup rules to accommodate for more social distancing due to waves hitting the area. Only active athletes competing can be inside the gym for their heat. No fans cheering. No warm ups in the gym. No watching the heat before yours. So many changes. These workouts are non-forgiving so that extra cheer will make a difference for some who want to give up in the moment.

Warmups are outside but it’s freezing out. So very cold at 6am, 7am and so on. The bars are cold. The chill is in the air. So that’s a whole different element of warming up your body and then performing in a different temperature inside. 

Talk about added stress for me. It’s also stressful to know I will immediately be shuffled outside as a sweaty mess to cool down in the elements. That’s a recipe to get sick as in a cold. Not COVID but a cold. Unfortunately, now days a cold is like COVID where you have to be locked up if you have the slightest cough or sniffle. So yeah I’m not thrilled.

The reality is also hard to think about visualizing how you compare to others on that big board outside of your home gym when you might feel like a big fish in your pond but when you go in the ocean you seem so much smaller. 

The leaderboard is part of the experience. The measuring stick. How you measure up to others who are CrossFit junkies in your age band of 5 years. There is no asterisk next to your name that says competed under duress. For me the comp is a challenge of myself. The will to push through and thrive as a party of one in hard times. In today’s crazy climate which is a shit show on most days. The temperature elements in the environment. The COVID restrictions. The lack of cheering. It all dials back to just me. Which ironically has been what a lot of 2020 has been for me.

Self discovery. Finding hope inside of oneself. Pushing through individually. A party of one it literally is. My daughter and friends are coming to cheer me on through the windows. Thanks to COVID they have to stay outside in the cold for the safety of the athletes participating. I get it but that’s part of the competition. The crowd. The cheers. The roars. As a competitor I feed off that. There will only be silence and the silence will kill your performance if you let it!

This is a battle I wasn’t expecting when I signed up. I guess I could just celebrate that’s it’s not canceled but I can’t. The reason for this is I did a few virtual races already this year and I again missed the chaos of the crowd, the cheers and the small touches that make those events fun.

When will the world stop snatching all the fun things from us? How long will the madness of isolation, separation, and masked life and more go on? My pals improvised. They made signs and yelled through doorways. I loved their efforts.

My mini group will have fun in our outdoor parking space of solidarity. Socially distanced. Bundled up in warm onesies and blankets. No hot cocoa. No fire barrel but maybe we will have a makeshift heater. Here’s to parking lot madness on a Saturday with good people getting their fitness grind on. This is what masters do. They master adversity. It’s a sign of grit.

(drum roll please) Comp results:

I completed all three taxing workouts.

I didn’t die although I was exhausted.

I changed outfits three times so I wouldn’t be sitting in sweaty clothes in the elements.

I wore a hat during a comp for the first time ever!

I met a cool competitor today and we took a ton of pics together.

I had fun with all the parking lot shenanigans.

I munched on comp snacks from the darkness of the morning through the day.

I put up my best efforts given the environmental challenges.

Now I get to see where I fall on the leaderboard. Took the gold for the local comp. Let’s see if I make to the big board.

It’s time to move on. A new day. A new week. A new month. A new year is on the horizon. On to bigger and better things as this event is now history.

The next event on the chopping block is sunrise yoga with the girls for a fun holiday gathering since we can do this distanced. How are you ringing in the holidays this year?