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Showing posts from September, 2017

Balancing Work and Life

Even though we are constantly told the importance of a work-life balance many people still openly struggle with this.  I work in a diverse environment and some of my colleagues set good examples of a positive work-life balance while others are dismal at it.  How many times have I come into work in the morning to see emails that were sent to me at 11pm the night before?  Or 2am?
The hardest part of this for many people is that some leaders have an expectation that you are always “on” – that is, you are always receiving and responding to requests.  I have encountered many leaders who, misunderstanding their lack of balance as a healthy work ethic, have disdain for anyone who isn’t constantly plugged in and answering email.  This can be challenging because where I am trying to maintain a work-life balance I feel like I am not measuring up to expectations.  I do not even work in an exempt position, and yet even then there are times I feel the weight of the expectation.
Good leaders are t…

Celebrating Another Year!

This week I will celebrate my eleven year anniversary with my husband!
We met nearly eighteen years ago online (when that was still a weird and somewhat creepy thing to do!), and in the years between then we have dated, been friends, had long distance communication, and after our marriage, many adventures as a couple.  We have had some wonderful times, and we have been with each other through our worst times, through illness, grief, and disappointment, and no one on this earth could possibly love me more than he does.
I am pretty sure when we first got married we had a different vision of what we expected life to be in our mid-thirties, but in every way that it has been unexpectedly different, I am so glad to have had him by my side.
He is a strong but compassionate person, someone who truly understands love.  He is thoughtful, funny and kind.  I have never met anyone that was more universally likable while at the same time holding firm to his convictions.  He is a positive leader, a…

Leading Effective Giving and Charity

Recently, between work and my personal life, I have seen different groups of people putting together charitable efforts in order to help hurricane victims. While I admire and support anyone who wants to help someone in need, many people go about this in a very disorganized and unsuccessful way. I hate to see someone's efforts fail to be successful, especially when their motives are so good!

For a couple years, I was the chairman of a corporate outreach committee and we had very successful years running events. I credit this to my amazing team of people who were totally enthusiastic and organized. We had great ideas, but even a merely good idea can be successful if it is executed correctly.
I wanted to share some of the strategies we used when organizing events (some of which we learned through observing others and asking questions!). We supported all sorts of organizations, from veterans groups to women's shelters to children's hospitals, and each and every event turned o…

My Mission Statement as a Writer

I believe strongly in mission statements. Good organizations have them, and productive people have them, too. Mission statements keep people on track. I remember a sermon I listened to recently where the pastor talked about someone who was so fired up with great ideas, but because he lacked a mission or focus on what specifically he was trying to do, he was totally unproductive. He had the passion and the brain power, but without a focal point, he achieved nothing.
Even in my quest for health and fitness, I have a mission: to incrementally and continuously improve my health. It is not to get six-pack abs, or to run an 8-minute mile, or to have the perfect body. It is to be healthy. Taking my family history into account and the genetic conditions I am predisposed to, coupled with my inherent enjoyment of being active and fit, I aim to be healthy. If in the process I become faster or someday end up buff, that's awesome. But it is not my goal. And because I stick to trying to be hea…

Being a Writer

I have always loved to write.  I started writing short stories and poetry as a kid, then longer stories and I have even tried my hand at writing songs.  As a young college student, I used to write pretend speeches for a politician or leader, trying to exercise the things I was learning in school.  As a student now, I am constantly writing.  I can easily write a couple thousand words a week for school alone.
But there are definitely days when I can sit there and stare out the window and feel like I have nothing to say.
Those moments don’t come along very often, but they always frighten me when they do.  I begin to wonder, “Am I done?”  The last time, I texted my sisters and told them I’d sprung a leak – a writer’s leak!  My creativity well was empty!
But I think the one thing I have realized is that people with passion always have something to say.  If you asked me to list the things I am passionate about, I would probably hesitate, because I don’t know which to name first.  But then …

Starting My Day Right

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” – Henry David Thoreau
This sounds simplistic, but I believe that it is true.  Seven or eight years ago, I woke up every morning one hour before I had to and biked for sixty minutes before getting ready for work.  I know I didn’t always love getting up early, but I definitely loved knowing I started my day off right.
Since moving my step goal on my Fitbit up to 15,000 steps a day, I have often spent my evenings playing catch up on my steps.  It’s a race between steps and bedtime, and I don’t love it.
I decided to try going back to getting up an extra hour early, and today I did.  I did 30 minutes on my treadmill before getting ready for work, which then also allowed time for breakfast and to play with my dogs before I had to leave. 
As always, I arrived to work early and went for a little stroll before clocking in (the mornings are too beautiful not to enjoy them!), and by the time I got to my desk for work, I had over 6,000 st…

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Seven years ago – though it doesn’t seem like that long – my sisters and mom and I all got memberships to a gym where we began regularly attending a cardio dance class.  It was a hip hop style class, very upbeat with lots of current music.
I am not shy exactly, but I always find going into situations like that a bit intimidating.  Especially because the group in the class appeared unusually close knit.  However, I look back on the years we took classes there with such fondness!
I quickly learned that I thrive on the energy of group classes.  Whether it was a dance class or a group weight lifting class, I found my energy levels and enthusiasm sky rocket when in the midst of others who are also pursuing their fitness goals.  When I struggled, their energy gave me a second wind.  It was also just incredibly fun!
It was also a great way to meet people.  We soon became friends with several of the people in the class, and then we’d be attending each other’s birthday parties and going to sh…

Birds of a Feather

My oldest sister is not a sports fan of any kind, but if they are on, she always cheers for the bird teams.  Interestingly, she actually dislikes birds a lot, so it is funny that she always cheers for them.
She and I also share a love for Disney birds; Iago, Scuttle and the four vultures from the Jungle Book are some of our favorite characters.  I was once chased by a turkey vulture and I didn’t find it amusing, but perhaps it is because he didn’t sing to me in a charming British accent.
When it comes to my sisters, the saying is true: birds of a feather flock together.  My oldest sister and I are only a few years apart and have been inseparable since the day she was born.  As adults, I am still especially close with all of my siblings, and even with their spouses, who are like siblings to me as well!
My youngest sister and I share a slightly larger age gap, but we are still very close.  She was the one who mentioned to me the other day about the importance of a buddy system, and I h…

Prevention and Empowerment in Healthcare

From great thinkers such as Erasmus to Benjamin Franklin, we have been advised that prevention is better than a cure.  This is usually true about most things, but especially our health.
This weekend, I will participate in the annual wellness program available through my workplace.  It offers comprehensive blood testing and physical screenings to detect health issues in the hope that they can be addressed before they become a huge problem.
This is obviously best for the patient, but in the end, it’s best for everyone else, too.  The cost of chronic disease is a price we all pay, as it increases taxes and insurance premiums and increases utilization of expensive services.
It was through my very first annual wellness screening that my hypothyroidism was discovered and diagnosed.  Thankfully, it was not bad at the time and I began treatment early.  I have read stories of others who discovered abnormalities in their testing that led to the very early discovery of other diseases and were …

Day Zero Project Update

When I first started my Day Zero Project list for 101 Things in 1001 Days, I never thought I would come up with 101 things.  Then, I ended up with 110 things!  As I have said before, some are smaller goals, and others are more like bigger overall dreams or visions for my life.  I like that it keeps me moving forward, and trying new things and keeps me from getting stuck in a rut of routine.
Last night, I checked another thing off the list as completed, which means I have completed 28 things now, for a total of 25%.  I am in progress on another 12.  I am excited to see how many I complete!
Last night, we tried another new restaurant.  It was a local pizza place and it was pretty good, and it completed the “try 10 new restaurants” item off of my list.  Between this and the “learn 10 new recipes” it will keep us from falling into eating the same things over and over again – which, honestly, I don’t really mind.  But it is nice to add new things into the rotation.
I love connecting with …

National Day of Encouragement

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am a driven person, and my internal need to do things and do them well is inherent to me and not impacted (usually) by my surroundings or circumstances.  Even in a totally un-motivating environment, I like to work hard, and even when the teaching is lackluster, I love to learn!
But there are two external factors that do assist in driving me forward and make that forward progress more pleasant.  Those things are encouragement and appreciation.  I have written about appreciation before, and I think it is a powerful intrinsic motivator.  On my team, I have a couple of high performers who are very motivated by appreciation. They light up at being recognized for their work.  And it is a far longer lasting and more productive source of motivation than extrinsic factors.
I think encouragement is equally important, and especially for someone like me, I am like a flower blooming in the spr…

Being Told No

Sometimes being told “no” is all it takes to set me on a course determined toward success.  I am a fairly cheerful and compliant person, but being told I can’t do something is all it takes to drive me to do it.
I am in agreement with the quote, “When someone tells me “no,” it doesn’t mean I can’t do it do it, it simply means I can’t do it with them.”
I’ve written it before, but my parents always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be, and that made me a bit of a dreamer.  I had dreams of moving away, writing, getting educated, marrying a southern gentleman, and many other things, and many of them I have achieved in some way or another!  I have many others that I am nowhere near yet but I keep dreaming. 
The problem for dreamers is that there are plenty of other people who want to give you a dose of reality.  And I have only one word for those people when they try to shoot down my dreams: rude!  Whether I am foolish or not, I am not sure why anyone feels the need to ruin the ple…

Learning from the Bad Examples

Sometimes we learn our best lessons from the bad examples we see around us.  It can teach us compassion and motivate us to not only learn from the tough situations but make an effort to change those situations for others.
A few years ago, I moved into my first leadership role and my immediate supervisor was a classic example of everything not to do.  One of the first observations I made was that when employees would speak to her, she wouldn’t move her eyes from her computer screen.  Then they’d stop to wait for her to finish and she’d say, “No, go on, I’m listening.”  Sometimes, in her less cheerful moods, she would snap, “Do you want help or do you want me to finish this so you can get paid this week?”  The shrinking look of response was awful to see!
I had a supervisor right after her that had a different and yet equally bad take on leadership.  Many of us had to come in and start very early in the day, so by the time she walked in at 9:30 am, we were well into our days already.  S…

Cooking with Wild Abandon

In H. Jackson Brown's Life's Complete Instruction Book he suggests that we cook and love with wild abandon!
Well, anyone who knows me knows I'm no chef. My mother, who in fact did go to 4 years of culinary school and HAS worked in that capacity, made certain her daughters did not leave home as incompetent cooks. However, she never could get me to be passionate about it.
However, I'm passionate about eating and tire very quickly on eating out at restaurants. So, as part of my Day Zero Project list of goals, I included "try ten brand new recipes."
For many people, this is a small deal.  Not me.  Let's just say I was able to check off "walk a full marathon" before I checked this one off. In fact, I'm only half way done. For me stuff like this is, as Niles Crane would say, boring yet difficult!
I will admit that the recipes I've tried so far have been very meat and potato. Literally. I love meat and potatoes. I made a fantastic Mexican skil…

Pre-Ordered: My New Fitbit Ionic

Last week, I pre-ordered the upcoming Fitbit Ionic, Fitbit’s first official take on a smart watch.  I am very excited!
I am not hung up on the smart watch thing, it is not crucial to me that a watch be able to do everything my phone can do.  For all of that, I still prefer using my laptop over my phone.  The new onboard features of the Fitbit Ionic seem very cool.  You can load your music to it, and sync your Bluetooth headphones to the Fitbit itself.  With its onboard GPS, these combined features will allow for not needing a phone at all during a fitness event and that is exciting!
The coolest thing about the Ionic, at least based on what we have been able to see so far, are the new sensors that more accurately help detect not only heart rate but blood oxygen levels.  I love that Fitbit is still mostly focused on improving health and fitness rather than being just a smart watch.  As I have written about before, Fitbit has empowered me to change my life in significant and positive wa…

The Time Will Pass Anyway

“Never give up on a dream just because of the length of time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” - H. Jackson Brown
I was sitting here tonight flipping through my Life's Little Instruction Book, smiling about all of the good advice in it, and then I read this. It reminded me of my husband.
I finished my bachelor's degree – finally – in 2015 after many, many years of waiting for the time and money to be able to do it. When I was done, I started speculating about getting my master's degree, but kept saying, “but I'll be over 35 before I ever finally get out of school!”
My husband said, “You'll be 35 with or without a master's degree. So what do you want?”
I love how much sense he makes!
So here I am, more than half way done my master's degree, and very grateful that I took his advice. While I am sick to death of being in school, as I have been a student now for 6 years in a row, I can see the end and once I am done, it will be over and…

My Online Retail Addiction

Back when I was in high school economics, I remember our teacher asking us one day if any of us had ever purchased anything online. When one student raised her hand, I had the inner monologue of Kevin on the Wonder Years in my head: “What an idiot!”
It was only a few years later that I took the plunge and ordered something online, and from eBay of all places! My first ever online purchase was a Willie Nelson doll! When it arrived safely and my transaction completed without any problems, I began to feel more confident.
I have always hated shopping. Clothes shopping, Christmas shopping, grocery shopping and worst of all, shoe shopping. But over the years, online retailers have solved all of these problems for me!
I first began with buying all my clothes online. Most places offer deals with free shipping and good return policies, so this simplified my life greatly!
Shoes were next, and nowadays since I mostly wear Dr. Scholl's shoes (and yes, they are actually cute), I have a one st…

The Influence of Reading

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R. R. Martin
My mom always encouraged us to read when we were kids.  She didn’t even care what it was, she just wanted us to grow up with an appreciation for reading.  She didn’t just do this by telling us to read, but by setting an example.  My mom was a voracious reader when I was growing up, and she would retell stories she had read and it captivated us.  We wanted to read stories, too!
I didn’t like reading at first.  I suspect it was partly due to the fact that I have a degree of dyslexia.  Even to this day, I am a very slow reader, and often have to reread something to truly appreciate or understand it.  As a small kid, I found this frustrating.  However, I got a set of books for Christmas when I was maybe 8 years old.  Little Women, The Secret Garden, Gulliver’s Travels and others, all books that told stories that brought out the best in my imagination.  I decided then that I want…