awareness

Listen Again

Sometimes KT writes a line that really sticks with me. To be clear, many of her posts make me think differently and many prompt me to make a change in how I approach life or how I act. This is a little different…here’s my take on her recent post about listening and what a gift it is.

Here’s the line (and I encourage you to read the whole post): Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human.

Being a more intentional listener found its way into my goals this year. A series of conversations made me realize that I don’t sincerely listen to people as often as I should. I reflected on the fact that although people ask me all the time “how are you?” and I answer, I don’t often ask them how they are. I’m often so caught up in what I’m doing I don’t even look up. I may make a brief comment but not much else.

What am I telling people as I just let them walk by? I don’t look them in the eye. Sometimes I don’t look up from what I am doing. Sometimes I probably seem annoyed at the interruption.

I’ve been trying to reverse since since it caught my attention. When I think about it, I take the time to put down what I am doing and ask the person how they are. And then follow up with another question.

What I have noticed is that more people than I realized are hungry to share. Excited to connect. They want to tell me a bit about how they are.

I thought I was a decent listener. Now I see that I need work. The invitations to listen are everywhere. How many have I blown off because I didn’t make time or was just too into what I was doing to notice them? From my friends, my co-workers, members of my family?

Among the other unfolding lessons, the pandemic has taught me that people matter more than pretty much anything else. We can’t replace people or the opportunities we have to share with them. I have missed many, but I am committed to doing better moving forward.

I’m also on the lookout for the people who are dropping out of sight. Who haven’t I heard from in a while? Different schedules and limited opportunities to be out and about make those happenstance meetings less frequent. Who is telling me through their silence that they may need a friend? Who can I text to check in with? Who can I lift up with a funny post, a quote, a kind word? Who can I (re)start a conversation with? As KT often says, hope is free.

The motto of the StoryCorps podcast is: listening is an act of love. Who can I love today by listening to them? Who can you?

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!

mental health

Kindness

In the past week I have seen kindness in many shapes and forms. Each instance was in plain sight. Could everyone see the kindness? Would anyone react and create their own kindness towards others?

Some interesting questions I asked myself. Instead of wondering about the potential domino effect of kindness that could happen, I decided I should write a blog about kindness hoping kindness would be multiplied around the world.

Today some friends went caroling for the holidays. They visited a few sweet elderly ladies. One was struggling after the loss of a spouse of a lifetime. The other battles dementia. The music lifted their spirits. No matter if it was lifted for seconds, minutes or hours. The kindness lifted spirits of those who needed it most. Examples like this show me that hope is still alive today. 

Last week I witnessed an elementary-age school girl who wanted to raise money to buy kids toys for Christmas who were less fortunate. She drew hundreds of pictures and her parents helped her sell a digital copy of her art to buy the toys. So many toys were bought. This little girl’s kindness will make the holidays extra special for so many children. In addition she restored hope in many via the internet of goodness in the air. What an amazing story to share. 

Then there is the kindness in friendships. I am so lucky to have friends who are always there to support you when you need them most. The friends who help you in tough times but also celebrate with you in good times. Kindness and friendship work together in unison. 

In a world of chaos why not be kind? Kindness matters. Please read this short post and think of how you can offer kindness in your area. How can you support the elderly? How can you volunteer at a food pantry? How can you help guide somebody who is struggling? Think kindness today. Set a resolution for kindness in 2021 and every year thereafter.  

Be purposeful. Be intentional. Spread kindness like you would spread butter on bread. Offering kindness is free!

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?

healthy hacks

Same But Different

I was on a podcast kick for a while. Then, as it happens with many things, I got burnt out on it. Many of them started to get repetitive. Still, I do a lot of driving and sometimes music doesn’t cut it. If there isn’t anyone to talk to, a podcast is worth a try.

I thought I would try to freshen up my podcast listening library. I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health lately…my own mental health as well as the mental health of my friends, my students, my family, even society at large. So Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast seemed worth a shot by name alone.

I don’t know about you, but my attention span is shorter these days than it used to be…or at least it feels that way. Maybe it’s covid fatigue. Who knows. So short little tips are much more useful to me than long drawn-out explanations.

The happiness tip / healthy hack she gave at the beginning of the podcast was to do something familiar in a new way. Novelty amuses the human brain. We like to do new things. So doing something we already enjoy and adding a twist can light up the happiness spots in our brain. The hosts mention doing familiar activities at different times of day or with different people (or alone.) So go on a hike in the afternoon instead of the morning. Or go to a restaurant by yourself instead of with family. Change it up.

This seems both more challenging and more necessary during the pandemic. So many of us are very closed in, even locked down, to routines and schedules. I feel the doldrums of routines at work and even at home to some extent. For me, it might be riding my bike outside in the afternoon instead of the stationary bike at the gym in the early morning. Maybe have a hot drink in the afternoon instead of just the morning. A different scent of candle of lotion? Extra walk in the evening? Breakfast for dinner? Who knows. Take a new trail. I’ve often heard that changing up our routines can keep our brains nimble. Maybe this is a related perk.

What are some things you can do that are the same but different? What happiness hacks do you use in these challenging times? Share in the comments.