author moments

New Year New Fun

As the new year is upon us, I like to review. For me I took a random look at my blog content for 2020. I reached out and pulled up 3 random postings. Now I will reflect on my review of this in a snapshot since so much change was upon the world in 2020.

Daydreaming 8/26/20

Ah the day dream post. I admire Sara Blakely from afar. If I happen to be on LinkedIn I may catch a daily dose of her sass and awesomeness. I may catch a photo of the vibe in her office from the acquaintance I know who works there. It’s a great glimpse into the dynamic work / life balance of a positive woman in business. Not to mention she has amazing coffee cup poses. Details matter. Not only is she thriving during the pandemic she is still inspiring through her Red Backpack Grant program. Amazing work!

This reflection reminds me to always dream. Always be looking to what’s possible on the horizon. How to be fresh when all else seems ordinary.

This year I drifted to daydream about growth. It’s a widely casted net but it has thus far provided amazing opportunities. Just dream it. Just keep dreaming!

Gift of Words 12/23/20

I read this post and reread it several times. A different view or vantage point as this task pulled random posts.

My two cents is what an amazing post. Just what many needed to read about. However, I thought about words in written form vs. words spoken. How much are people missing that spoken connection?

I used to think we needed to have the verbal interaction however since the world has been digital I see how some deal without those words everyday. Those who are deaf can’t hear the word but they rely on sign language and reading lips. If they already weren’t dealt a raw hand with being deaf, now they have to deal with masks. That may take communication away for those people. Or does it?

We have text. Generally speaking before the pandemic I thought texting was lazy. A way to hide and not face people in person. I never considered the shy person or the person with anxiety who struggles in speaking publicly. Texting is a communication outlet. It’s an option for those who can’t read lips now. 

What about the slow thinkers? They can craft their words in written form until they see perfection vs. having diarrhea of the mouth. These things never carried much weight for me before the pandemic. I thought about you can’t hear emotion. You can’t hear tone. Too much room for misinterpretation. How I missed the big picture.

The gift of words can be spoken, written by hand, texted and any other form some may use of other digital form such as photos, Bitmoji, or icons. Just another slant on the gift of words as I reflect.

One can be capable of reading emotion, intention, pain if they listen to the words in a text vs. focus on the written word in isolation. 

Oops I Did It 9/19/20

Well this is such a funny recap today of all days. It’s about my shoe fetish and my special edition Nike metcons I bought this year. 

I love them to this day. One of my favorite shoe purchases to date. They always get a second look. Some think I have on two different shoes. Nope, but I have done that before. Others think they are custom. Nope. They are a mashups of the year’s hits.

Complex, colorful and just badass. Not made for the basic person. Made for those bold enough to strut around in them. I just love them.

But the real irony is earlier today I was on the nike.com website designing a new pair of custom shoes. I wanted a new pair to launch the new year and nothing on the shelf jumped out at me. That meant I needed to design a bold pair. I have an upcoming competition and definitely need some new shoes to celebrate my competition.

There they are. Check out the colors and the bold design. Dr. Seuss said why fit in when you were born to stand out? I’m choosing to ring in the new year with some flair on my feet. I probably need them to run, jump, bounce and leap around all the obstacles. They will still be lurking as I try to launch an amazing year.

This little reflection exercise was fun and spontaneous. I think I’ll make it an annual project. I hope you can find something fun in your life to do like I just did. 

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!

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!

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.

mental health, Uncategorized

Gift of Words

I’ve mentioned the challenges of working in an elementary school during this time of COVID. Telling the kids to spread out. Masks all the time. So. Much. Sanitizer. Constant changes. One of the reasons I wanted to work in an elementary school is honestly because it seemed playful and fun. That hasn’t always proven true, and this fall has been even less fun than usual.

In typical years, the time between Thanksgiving and Winter break at an elementary school is equal parts festive and frantic. We have 15 days to cram in two month’s worth of learning and celebrating. The schools I’ve been in go all out with decorations, which means trees, menorahs, stockings, and so on. It’s also the wrapup of the first half of the year, so we pile tons of tests in there just to add to the excitement (and panic).

This year was different. Widespread testing is postponed or canceled for the most part in elementary schools where I live. And when I got back from Thanksgiving break there were no trees going up, no stockings… maybe just a handful of stars and tinsel in the hallways. The lights and energy of the holidays are usually palpable when you walk through the front door. This year no one would have known it was December.

My job has changed so I am not telling stories to kids anymore right now, so no Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Christmas tales. Last year I made a tree out of ancient textbooks. I also have a little sliver tree with international ornaments. The kids love these touches. This year I didn’t find time with all my other shifting responsibilities.

Every year has also brought a dress up countdown for teachers, 12 Days of Christmas style. We all wear red one day, silver the next, silly socks on Tuesday, crazy hats Thursday. I wore my tacky Christmas sweater on the right day and I was the only one who did! Most of us are so tired and beat up we are just lucky to be dressed and physically present. December, such a special, silly time of celebration and connection, was just more show-up-and-get-it-done days.

The twelve days also bring treats at times. Hot cocoa after school. Cookies in the mailroom. Pancakes from the local breakfast place. I generally skip all that since too much sugar makes me sleepy. But one morning, when I returned from my morning outdoor duty all dressed up in my tacky garb, a piece of paper caught my eye. It was a paper, to me, thanking me for my gift of flexibility. A quote from Picasso about finding your purpose and sharing it. A short explanation of how I have adapted to every role and challenge this year. An appreciation.

It was a simple thing. A word. An acknowledgement. A recognition that in this crazy time, I have played my role as best I can. And what I do matters. Then I noticed that every teacher’s door in the school had a similar paper.

I made excuses the rest of the day to walk around the building, dropping off items or doing other errands. But what I really wanted to do was see other colleague’s notes – what gifts did our administration identify in them? Kindheartedness. Generosity. Passion. Good humor. Creativity. I nodded my head at each one. Maybe not what I would have said is most important about that person, but each one still rang true. Some of them made me laugh since they were gifts I often struggle with. Efficiency. Patience. Productivity. Focus. Again I nodded, but understood why those weren’t top of mind for me.

This has been a year of challenges. My job has changed at least weekly, sometimes daily. Stress levels have brought patience muscles to their breaking point for many, even me. While the cookies and chocolate are sweet, the gift that meant the most to me was just some words and the knowledge that what I am doing is seen.

Who around you needs to be seen? Who can you lift up with a word or two? Who brings a gift to your life just by being in it? I hope you’ll take a minute to let them know this week. Words are precious gifts.