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Showing posts from August, 2017

Triumph and Disaster

This morning I read, “Don’t be thin-skinned.  Take criticism as well as praise with equal grace.”  This was in a book of short sayings by H. Jackson Brown called The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book.  It is a cute little book and filled with truly wise advice, given by someone who appears to have learned some of these lessons firsthand!
This quote reminded me of one of my all-time favorite poems.  I remember the first time I ever heard someone recite “If” by Rudyard Kipling.  When she got to the line, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two imposters just the same” I felt something resonate deeply.  Every line of that poem inspired me!
They say feedback is a gift, and if that’s true, then Christmas comes fairly often to me!  I have always been the recipient of a lot of feedback.  Whether it is the quality or style of my work, my hairstyles, or my mannerisms, people seem pretty comfortable just telling me whatever they think.
On the one hand, I take it so…

Backhanded Compliments

This is a subject that always makes me laugh and makes me think people aren’t listening to themselves when they speak.
As my sister says, “’Actually’ makes it worse!”
Take any compliment and insert “actually.”
“You actually look really good today.”
“This dinner you made actually tastes really good.”
“Wow!  You actually did a really good job!”
I can’t think of a situation where the word “actually” improves a compliment.  It makes the person speaking seem dumbfounded that something was good.
These are backhanded compliments – a genuine compliment but with a slap in the face attached.  Dinner was good, and I thought it was going to suck, so now I am extra delighted that you aren’t as incompetent as I expected!
Another awkward compliment that I learned well last year is the, “you have lost a ton of weight!” A ton?  Really?!  How flattering! 
How about, “You look great!  I hardly recognized you!”  Well, I am glad I no longer look like a forest troll!
They are funny, and I always have a g…

Social Grace in Modern Times

I am not a sensitive person, and I don’t offend easily.  Even when others are less than polite, I am pretty "go with the flow" and don’t take too much exception to it.  However, I have been reading a lot about etiquette lately just out of curiosity.
I remember one of the course books I had in school while homeschooling was a book about very basic etiquette for a young lady.  It was sort of outdated, but it taught young people some useful skills, such as how to appropriately introduce people to one another, how to send a thank you card and what the appropriate time frames were to send it depending on the occasion, and how to send RSVPs and knowing how to bring gifts to the hostess of a party.
I have never been much for standing on ceremony, but I think it’s unfortunate that we have lost some of the basic rules of etiquette.  I know a few people with social anxiety, and I think if we all knew the rules of etiquette and practiced them it would actually alleviate some of that a…

The Kindness of Strangers

Back in July, a coworker of mine was seriously injured in an accident.  He has been in the hospital or in a rehab facility ever since.  It was a terrible situation to hear about, but these types of things always seem to bring out the very best in people.
His wife started a GoFundMe campaign and within a day of it circulating, over $1000 was raised.  So, a few of us at work decided to hold a bake sale, hoping not only to raise a few bucks for him but to also demonstrate that he is still in our thoughts, that we haven’t forgotten him even though we haven’t seen him in almost two months.
Part one of the bake sale lasted 90 minutes, and we raised $1240.  While the baked goods were delicious and the bakers who provided them were very generous, it was not the baked goods themselves that put the money in the collection bucket.
It was the extraordinary generosity and kindness of the people who work here, which is a reflection of both this community and this nation.  When tragedy strikes, pe…

Living Well and Empowerment

Back in an early season of Frasier, Frasier Crane says, “You know the expression, “Living well is the best revenge.”  Niles replies, “It’s a wonderful expression.  I just don’t know how true it is.  You don’t see it turning up in a lot of opera plots.”
This cracks me up every time.  While most of our entertainment is geared around seeking more exciting revenge, living well is a far better option.  Perhaps our focus shouldn’t be on the revenge itself, but rather on living well.
Revenge is a petty thing and a dangerous thing.  Living with an aim for revenge is self –destructive in the same way as choosing not to forgive.  Biblical wisdom warns us against seeking revenge as well.  I believe that the willful attempt to seek revenge is personally damaging.  You aim to damage another person, but you only damage yourself.
Revenge is not empowering.  Revenge is a small minded concept.  It keeps your focus on something negative and ties your actions back to satisfy something that went wrong i…

The Power of Appreciation

“Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
This quote really ties into one that I have often repeated to myself as a leader, and that is that people who feel appreciated will always do more than what is expected.  Managers always ask what they can do to motivate the employees to do more.  But the first question we ask should be, what are we not doing already that we should be?
Small recognitions, like words of appreciation, are intrinsic motivators.  Motivators like this help build a positive culture, not based on monetary rewards but rather on a sense of each person feeling valued.  Strong contributors should be told they are appreciated.  Even when the work they are doing falls within their scope if they do it timely and with excellence (and above all, with a positive attitude) it needs to be recognized with words of appreciation.
I received one of these this week from someone on my team.  It made my day and put a spring in my…

Every Life Story

I remember reading somewhere that everyone has a story to tell; some people just want to tell it more than others.  I am often reminded of this when I talk to a lady I know.  She dearly loves to talk about her life story.  In her eyes, her life has been a fairy tale adventure filled with romance, good lessons and the best fun times you can imagine.
I am so pleased for her that her life has been so rewarding for her.  She doesn’t think anything could compete with the life she has had or the way she’s raised her children or the world she has built around herself.  I personally have not found even one story she has told me even marginally interesting, but I let her tell me a story now and then because it makes her happy to do so and it’s a small thing to do for someone else to make their day.
But it makes me think of all of the people I see every day, and how every one of them has a story, and some of them very interesting.  Most people, regardless of their age, have a good tale to tell…

Choosing Our Best Attitudes

I have Charles Swindoll’s “Attitude” hanging at my desk at work.  It hangs above my certifications because it is more important than any degree or certification could be.  I am not even sure where I got it from; it has just always hung in my cubicle.
People with a bad attitude tend to look at everything through a self-defeatist lens.  They just know they are going to fail, or be criticized or be unhappy, so no matter what happens, that is what happens. 
We all have bad days, and we all have people that dislike us and we all suffer some type of pain, disappointment or loss.  But it is how we respond to these things that make a difference.  I am sure we can all think of someone we know who, no matter when times of adversity hit, they react to it with a positive attitude.
They always say that athletes or public speakers or anyone about to give a performance practice visualizing themselves succeeding at whatever it is that they are attempting to do.  This is used because it boosts attit…

The Eclipse

Today millions of Americans will witness a total eclipse if they live in the right areas, and the rest of us will witness a partial eclipse.  This is a historic occasion, as it has been a very long time since a total eclipse occurred over North America.

As a current events junkie and a partaker in all fun and historical events, I am looking forward to participating in this.  Not only the eclipse itself but also in witnessing the reactions of other people to it.  Nothing amuses me more than observing other people when they are unguarded.

But while this event will no doubt be a spectacular reminder of the workings of the universe, these events are not the things that people will talk about over dinner on Sunday night.  There was an eclipse when I was in elementary school, and I cannot remember if I have ever discussed that over family dinner.

The things I discuss are less cosmic but more personal.  Sunday dinners often consist of the funny stories that occurred at my wedding or the wed…

Overcoming Disappointment

I was recently faced with a couple disappointments and rejections.  In the face of something I wanted very much, I was told no (twice!).  And yet in the same moment, I also felt incredibly encouraged!
Sometimes, we take a step forward only to have to step back because it’s not our time.  I believe that is when we grow.  In one case, it was a career move I had hoped to make and was given tremendously positive feedback, but it was not my time.  In the other, a side gig freelance job that I was pursuing hit a dead end - again, not my time.  Yet, this is my time to exercise my best character, my patience, and my perseverance. 
I have found in my life that in times of disappointment I uncover these little morsels of hope, in myself, in my family, and in my friends.  Rather than feeling knocked down, I feel motivated and inspired, ready to carry on and wait for my right moment.  Rather than feeling rejected, I feel like there is a purpose for me yet, and that my patience will absolutely p…

Lincoln: A Review

I think the best part of studying history is the details. Sometimes we look at historical figures and we see only their monument or portrait and we visualize their greatest or most notorious achievements. We forget that these were people with personal lives, goals, insecurities, and fears, people who lived and died like anyone else and had no idea how the future would view them. You think about people like Henry VIII but you don't always think about his paranoia, or Elizabeth I and her incredible indecisiveness, or the personal frivolity of Thomas Jefferson.
I have recently finished listening to the audio book of Lincoln by David Herbert Donald, which is a look at the man behind the monuments. Abraham Lincoln's name immediately conjures up an image of a grandfatherly man in his enormous splendor presiding over the National Mall in Washington, DC. You think about his life and it is highlighted by stories of civil war, slavery, and an assassination.
Donald takes us far beyond a…

My Educational Journey

My educational journey has been an interesting one, but not because anything about my family was especially unique in that way.  My parents were not teachers, they were not rich; they were just two people invested in the future of their children.  In my grade school years, 5 were homeschooled, 4 were in private school and 3 were in public school.  I feel like maybe these different journeys led me to who I am today – a curious and perpetual learner!
As I have mentioned before, in my young childhood my parents embarked on a Great Adventure, where we traveled via motor home across western North America for 18 months.  We left when I was 4 and I returned back home just before I turned 6.  During this period of time, other kids my age were in Kindergarten, learning how to…do whatever it is kids do in kindergarten.  I have no idea what that might be.  I was learning to read while the scenery of the many beautiful landscapes passed by our window.  I was learning that not everyone lives the …

Why I Am a Libertarian

I honestly cannot remember a time when I wasn’t interested in politics.  Even before I was a teenager, I was a current events junkie and was distinctly interested in politics.  I was raised in a home where political opinions were not only expressed, but my parents were both very politically active and astute.
My mom and dad were both registered members of a political party and my mom got involved in a very grassroots way.  She attended speeches and meetings, was there for the voting of leadership and so on.  So it is no real surprise that I have ended up doing the same!
I was not always a libertarian but started realizing I leaned more in that direction five or six years ago.  People balk at being part of unlikely or widely unknown political campaigns, often choosing the “lesser of two evils” or believing that nothing can ever change.
I refuse to be that negative.
Austin Powers says freedom with responsibility is groovy, and I agree!  Freedom is a huge thing.  It is a powerful, empow…

Living with PCOS and Hypothyroidism

Back in 2009, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and in 2010 I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  Both were sort of a shock to me, even though I was highly symptomatic of both conditions.  In fact, it was only during an annual wellness screening through my work that my high TSH levels prompted me to see my physician, and then it was confirmed I did indeed have an underactive thyroid.
I had a lot of fairly typical hypothyroid symptoms, such as being inclined to weight gain, my hair was falling out and my nails were peeling off and I was cold all of the time.  Even in the heat of summer, I wore a sweater.  None of this was probably helped by the fact that I had a secondary issue going on with PCOS, which included many of the common symptoms as well.
I looked at the diagnosis of these things as an answer, and as an opportunity.  I had been a housewife for a two year period when my husband and I had to relocate and during that time, I was incredibly active.  I easi…

The Anniversary of the Day I Changed My Life

Today is one year since I made an active decision to change my life.
On August 12, 2016, I went to the doctor for a short visit to get prescriptions renewed and when I stepped on the scale I almost had a heart attack!
I have never been skinny, but I also didn’t consider myself fat.  I am active and my physical exams and lab tests all indicate I am in good health.  I never really worried about it.  I had felt like maybe my pants were getting a bit snug, but I had also just started grad school and felt like maybe I had put on a stress pound or two….or twenty!
In fact, I was the heaviest I had ever been.  In my mind, trying to convince myself this was somehow not my fault, I wondered if maybe I had a giant tumor.  But a quick survey of the last 8 months of data on my Fitbit showed me that I had been less active than ever.  I had slid right into a sedentary lifestyle.  It happened without me even realizing it and I gained weight in a very short period of time.
I committed, then and there…

Becoming a Better Communicator

I cannot think of one thing in life that couldn’t be improved upon by better communication.  Our work lives, our friendships, our marriages, any aspect of life that entails social interaction can always be improved upon by being good communicators.  And there is no reason to let being a good communicator stop you from becoming better.
I have been a communicator since I was a toddler.  My mom tells me that I spoke full sentences with perfect clarity at 18 months old and I haven’t shut up since then!  I love to write, and I love to read, and I love written communication with someone who is articulate and interesting!  I think of the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in their retirement and the letters they exchanged and I just love how ideal that sounds!  What a fascinating correspondence!
I got my Bachelor of Science in Business Management with specializations in organizational leadership and yes…strategic communication.  Throughout both my undergraduate and graduat…

Employee Engagement

One of my favorite aspects of leadership is employee engagement.  It is one of those aspects of leadership that makes people feel good and is a bit fun sometimes.  Unfortunately, I think in a lot of organizations it kind of takes a back burner to other things that could be deemed more important.  Whether we are leaders within our organizations or not, we can all recognize the importance of employee engagement and reap the benefit of it.
It is hard to argue that employee engagement isn’t as equally as important as any other priority.  Employee engagement directly impacts corporate culture, and as the phrase supposedly originated by Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  We can have the best training program, the best ideas, the best innovation, but if the culture sucks then it is all for nothing.
Successful employee engagement strategies lower employee turnover and increase employee satisfaction.  This makes for more productive employees, which in turn positively …

Writing with a Purpose

We all have things that we turn to in order to cope with the stresses of the world.  It’s no wonder, with all of the noise in our lives and all of the things that can knock us down, that we need ways to heal ourselves and healthy ways to release the stress.
For me, I know exercise has always been very helpful at coping with high levels of stress.  I enjoy taking out my aggression on my treadmill or weight bench; moreover, I find regular use of these things actually keeps the stress level from piling up in the first place. 
But what I use to heal myself is writing.  I have always loved to write.  Even when the odds have seemed against me that I was any good at it.  Back in college when I was 18 and seeking a Professional Writing degree, I had a professor who thought I was a total dunce.  Looking at me now with my 3.9GPA it is a funny thing to wonder how I got a D in one of his writing classes.  It didn’t deter me, though.  I kept writing, kept pushing.
My father passed away, and of c…

Learning to Juggle Life

Learning to juggle is one of the things I included on my Day Zero Project list.  I had read an article about how learning to juggle expands brain capacity, and whether or not it is true, I thought I would give it a try.  So far, no success, but I have over two years left to figure it out.
However, in a metaphorical way, I juggle very proficiently every day.  I work full time, go to school part time, manage a household and maintain a fitness regime and a daily 15,000 step commitment.  I do all of these things while sticking to a 7 hour-per-night sleep schedule, and having plenty of time for goofing around.
So, I started to ask myself what allows me to juggle.  I know many other people who are also able to accomplish this, and some of them have children as well!  And yet, others struggle with the basic tasks of getting to work and getting home to make dinner.  What makes the difference?
I am not a plan B type of person, and more over, I am hardly a plan A type of person.  I have truly …

Texting and Driving

It’s funny to me how we can get behind the wheel of a 3000-4000 pound vehicle on roadways that separate us by nothing more than a painted line, and assume this is a good time to multitask!
It is troubling to look over and see someone shaving or putting on makeup.  Worst of all, watching people engrossed in their cell phones, and not just at stop lights but while driving 45mph down the road.
I think it’s fair to take some offense to this.  Whatever they are reading or replying to takes priority over the condition of my car, their car, and both of our lives.  It must, or they would put the phone down and deal with it later. 
How many ads do we have to see about the fatal car accident that was immediately preceded by a text message?  How much common sense do people lack as a whole that they even have to be told not to let this happen to them?
As a Libertarian, I am opposed to any legislation to fix this.  Moreover, legislation does not work.  I drive through several municipalities each…

Friendship Day

Ordinarily, I don’t post on Sunday, but because today is Friendship Day, I wanted to make an exception.
I am literally on the borderline of the Myers Briggs personality assessment between an introvert and an extrovert.  I am not a social butterfly, but I am not a total recluse either.  And I have been fortunate to have maintained some very long standing friendships over several decades, as well as find some kindred spirits more recently along the way.
I would have to say that above all else, my sisters are my best friends.  I am unusually close to both of my sisters; we see each other very regularly and share many of the same interests.  I can usually count on at least one of them to be enthusiastic to try something new with me. 
In addition, I have been blessed to have several friendships grow and blossom from our pre-teen years until now, and despite growing apart in some ways, we share a certain bond that keeps us together.  This is helped by the fact that these girls are hilario…

The Impractical Jokers

I always seem to catch on to my new favorite shows when they are already well-established and have a few seasons going.  It was this way for me with Frasier back in the nineties, which I probably started watching in season 3 or 4, and even with Downton Abbey, which got my attention in season 3.  So it also was with one of my other favorite addictions, the Impractical Jokers!
I can only blame the fact that I am not much of a TV person in general for the reason I didn’t catch onto the Impractical Jokers until last season.  Currently in its 6th season, I am now the proud owner of every season and Friday is my favorite day when the new episode from the night before releases to me on Amazon!
I love the whole premise of the show.  There is something so authentic about it.  They are four guys who are currently 40 years old but have been friends since high school.  They had a history of pranking each other (and the public) and this new take on a hidden camera show allows viewers to watch the…

Choosing Love and Thankfulness

Marrying for love is an interesting concept.  At least love in terms of the way we understand it nowadays.  Because love is a choice, we sometimes forget that the euphoria of falling into love is different than the Biblical command to “love one another.”
My great grandparents came here from Germany in the early thirties, escaping both the difficult conditions that the nation was left in after WWI and the ominous stirrings that would lead to WWII.  It was an arranged marriage, and they didn’t even meet one another in Germany, but instead met and were married only when they had reached North America, far away from their homes and their families.
To think I am only two generations away from that arranged marriage is a strange thing.  My great grandmother had grown up in relative wealth, was a university educated woman, an unusual thing at the time, and had never done hard labor in her life.  However, on the western prairies, she learned to respect her husband, raise her children, milk t…

CNN Original Series: The Eighties

I have completed the CNN Original Series: The Eighties and now I eagerly await for The Nineties to hit Netflix!  I marched around my living room for most of it, trying to hit my step goal while watching – two birds, as they say!
I was a child during the eighties, so it was pretty appalling to me and my husband how little I knew about any of the music or TV!  I loved the segment on M*A*S*H, which is easily in my top three favorite TV series of all time.  M*A*S*H ended in the early part of the decade and was one of the first long running series to end – especially as emotionally as it did.  Many of the other TV shows I had never heard of, so it was quite educational to me!
The music segment was similar.  My husband is a big fan of 80s music, so he was getting excited, “remember that song?!”  No, I don’t.  I have no idea what I was doing in the eighties, but it clearly wasn’t sitting in front of the TV!
They touched on the early careers of many huge celebrities that are now gone: Michael Ja…

My First Royalty Payment

Last week I got the first royalty payment for the Kindle version of my poetry book.  Even though the amount was small, it was a thrilling experience to me to be paid for my own creative work.
I bought my first book of poetry when I was maybe 11 years old.  I bought it from a small used book store that had just opened up at the end of my street.  It was calledFive Courtier Poets of the English Renaissance and it was pretty heavy stuff for a child.  The book store owner tried to talk me out of buying it, but I fell in love with it.  And I went back there and told him so!
Between reading poetry and growing up listening to music like Neil Diamond, Gordon Lightfoot and Simon & Garfunkle, I became drawn to the poetic form.  I started scribbling lines of poetry and then by the age of 12 was diligently writing them and keeping them in a Word document.
My dad was always my biggest fan when it came to writing.  He always supported me, and was so straightforward about believing I had a gift…