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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Crock-pot Italian Chicken for a Rainy, Rainy Day

The forecast has scattered thunderstorms for twelve days.  Some days it rains a wee bit and is sunny or party cloudy the rest of the day.  Some days it's just overcast and threatening rain.  Today is not that day.  It is POURING!  Today is the day to go back to bed.  Seriously.  Today I avoid doing all the things I should do ... which winds me up on Pinterest.  I find a picture of Italian Crock-pot Chicken.  Looks yummy and easy - but I don't have all the ingredients.  By that, I mean I don't have Cream of Chicken Soup or Dry Italian Dressing mix. I have chicken (frozen).

Enter Google.  Search on "Cream of Chicken Soup Substitute," and "Dry Italian Dressing Recipe."  I have tons of spices and plenty of staples in the house and was able to accomplish the recipe.  I mixed up some Dry Italian Dressing mix - which has lots of awesome spices in it and I'll keep that on hand for other cooking.  And Cream of Chicken Soup substitute is just butter, flour, milk, chicken stock.  

I dumped everything into the crock-pot   Let me be clear - I dumped it in.  I did not "mix up" the cream of chicken soup substitute over low heat on the stove.  That's an extra step and I'm praying I can skip that step.  I'm really hoping the crock-pot will do it's thing and everything will bubble together beautifully and create the texture and taste I'm hoping for by three o'clock today.  I'll let you know how it turns out.  Stay tuned!

The recipe:
  • 4-6 Chicken breasts
  • 1 packet Italian Seasoning (I used three tablespoons of my mixture)
  • 1 pkg cream cheese
  • 2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup (mine looks yummier already - no gloppy goo)
  • Serve over rice or pasta.  I bet this would be great over a baked potato, too!
  • I turned my crock-pot on high and will give it four hours.  The chicken is even frozen ... fingers crossed! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Responsibility Equals Restoration

Successfully winding up difficult conversations restores relationships.  Restoration is a gift refilling each party with renewal.  Accomplishing Restoration means seasoning your words with salt and love rather than blame and indignation.  However, it does call for positive involvement from all involved.   

Restoration requires you to accept responsibility for your own actions or inactions in any given situation.  It means knowing you were a jerk and not excusing your behavior away.  It means accepting you could've done things better or differently and taking the proper steps towards correction.  It also means letting others make necessary amends without making it more unseemly for them to do so.  It means hearing someone out or saying, “thank you” to an apology. 

If you’re blaming someone else for any given situation, restoration cannot happen.  Finding a scapegoat or reasoning away failure frustrates Restoration.  Your response, not reaction, leads towards healthy growing relationships.  In short:
Responsibility = Restoration; Blame = Frustration.  

Series Highlights

Monday, June 3, 2013

Doormat or Helpmate?

“Do you shoot first and ask questions later?” was how we began this series.  We've been exploring many ways to communicate well in the midst of confrontation.  The inspiration behind this series was this:  I ask you to do something.  You do not do it (for whatever reason, valid or not, it really doesn't matter).   Further discussion has occurred about the lack of action.  Agreement may or may not have been reached.  The lack of action results in a complication.

Do you shoot first?  Do you explode, “Look!  I asked you to do this and NOW look what’s happened?!!”  You can imagine the conversation that ensues.  Is there more to it?  Of course: feelings, interpretations, the way I see it vs. the way you see it.  But, it’s all expository.  The basic message remains: conflict happened.

Do you react or do you respond?  Do not react!  Respond thoughtfully.  Reacting is impulsive.  Take some time and cool off.  Go for a walk.  Leave it overnight.  PressPause.  There are very, very, very few things that must be handled NOW.  In the light of eternity, does this said offense really matter?   

We live in an instant messaging,
instant information, 
instant gratification world –
it’s time we get over ourselves.  

This is where Grace enters in.  Those who've been extended much grace have much grace to extend.  Meaning, those who've screwed up the most give others the most leeway (or they should).  

Are you a doormat by extending Grace?  By not saying why feelings are hurt are you allowing this to happen again?  Only you know the answer to that.  There isn't a logic flow chart for relationships that fits every scenario and mindset.  I would wager if you’re having the same negative experiences over and over again, it’s time to discuss it and make some changes.  Not all changes are fair for each party; and mostly they involve your changing your own behavior - yikes!

Was it a major conflict?  It depends on how it’s handled.  Period.  You could be talking about large sums of money and debt; a child’s safety; or not turning in your homework.  It’s all about how you have the conversation that follows.  Conflict requires “fixing” a problem.  It is possible to fix a problem without getting at the heart of the matter right away.  Let’s get the homework done, turned in, create a system empowering the student toward success.  You can do this without investigating the why behind the action (the heart of the matter).  You can create checks and balances for your child's safety to meet your needs without addressing why you are so concerned.  You can reallocate funds, borrow money, sell assets to build a stronger financial picture without discussion the why behind each answer that lead to the situation.  However ...

Restoring balance is foremost.  Having the emotional conversation behind the situation might best occur once the circumstance is stable.  As you talk, remember the basics of connection and listening.  

Successfully winding up difficult conversations can restore relationships, make them healthier and stronger for the long run.  We’ll talk about assigning blame/fault as we wrap up this series.  

Series Highlights

Friday, May 31, 2013

Part 5: Hiding Behind Your Computer

Have you ever received an email, a post, a tweet with a zinger?  Not necessarily something someone would say to you “in person,” but feel perfectly comfortable saying it virtually.  After speaking with various professionals spanning occupations, I've concluded this hiding is a virus sweeping the nation.  People feel empowered through their computer (look at this blog, for instance), and feel free to fire off unseemly correspondence without great contemplation.  Whereas if they had to stand toe-to-toe with a living, breathing human being, most of their words would not be uttered.  

I have a few firm rules when posting online or in using email: 
  1. If you need to see my face to truly appreciate my comment, don’t type it.  We discussed the importance of body language earlier in the series.  Tone of voice is another biggie.  People read tone into messages that are intended to have a completely different tone than the sender proposed.  I could forward you a message from a third party and ask you, “What do you think of this?”  You could read it as inflammatory, curious, or sarcastic.  I could forward you the same message and TELL you what I think of it and wonder what your thoughts are – this comes across slightly different.  It's all about tone.  I've already stated my position and am asking for your feedback.  Tone of voice and body language go a long way in communicating.  Don't forget it.
  2. If it’s confrontational in any sense, don’t type it.  If you need to file a complaint with a company, by all means, bone up on your vocabulary and sound professional.  If you have a beef with a neighbor, friend or colleague, by all means, state your position and go to them directly.  One on one!  “I really don’t like it when you leave your old coffee cups on my desk.”  Hey, your co-worker may be less than enthused with your comment, but they don’t have to wade through a tirade on desk clutter, bacteria, and the attributes of recycling.  Be forthright, direct, and kind and end the quiet seething you're doing.
  3. If it’s implying any sort of contrary behavior, don’t type it.  If you think someone is acting in a way that is contrary to what you believe is appropriate, tell them.  Or let them learn through natural consequences – it’s the best teacher, anyway.  Do you really think your explaining poor behavior in an email will somehow be less offensive than having the conversation?  Look at it from the outside in and think twice.
  4. If you wouldn't say it directly to the person the message is intended for, don’t type it.  Often taking the time to craft your message could be spent in dialogue ending the issue.  When you receive lengthy correspondence (often condemning), the absolute BEST response to this is no response at all.  Why bother?  They don’t really want your reply.  They want you to apologize for some unforgivable sin and promise to never, ever do it again – all the while praising them for glorious insight and saving the world.  Okay, that may be a bit dramatic – but I’m right, and we both know it.  Also, know full well when someone goes ahead and does whatever the said unforgivable offense is anyway, that if you've sent that long message, you've gone a long way toward alienating them versus finding a workable solution.  
  5. If it’s longer than five sentences, just pick up the phone.  How many of you have even made it to the end of this article?  In a Twitter world, I need a soundbite not a diatribe.  Unfortunate, but true.  If it’s too long we don’t read it.  We scan, we pick out highlighted, bold, important words/phrases.  When it’s longer than five sentences (I cut myself off at three .... and a bulleted list is even better), so much gets lost in translation and you wind up with more questions than answers.  Maybe you need the obligatory email, “sounds like we should talk.  I have time this evening.  Schedule it and avoid phone tag.  Usually, the actual conversation is much better than how you've built it up in your mind.

Remember, people don’t really 
want conflict –
they desire resolution.  

Conversations go much better than email rants.  Is having the conversation hard?  Maybe.  So’s life.  So put on your big girl panties and develop a new skill!

I said it before and it bears repeating: in all correspondence and conversation, assume the best until proven otherwise.  Begin with the end in mind.  Be truthful, kind, and gentle.  Both parties should leave the conversation better for having the discussion.

Series Highlights

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Part 4: Listening Well Helps Get Your Message Across

Has someone said to you, "Thank you so much! You've been a big help," when you said next to nothing during the conversation?  Most of us have experienced this phenomenon.  It's the art of listening well.  Sometimes it happens because you can't get a word in edgewise.  Sometimes you realize in the midst of the other person talking, this conversation isn't about you and your offering to it, but to listen and let the other person tell their story and become unburdened.  Either way, listening well is a developed skill that will serve you well as you move through life.

What if I told you, by listening well, your children would never tell you, "You don't understand!" or "You never listen to me!" When I learned this to be the case, I grabbed hold with both ears and started living this out from inside my home outward.  There are two mother/child listening exchanges at the bottom of this post that use the techniques outlined below.

We've talked about Reflective Listening.  This is where you repeat back exactly what has been said to you.  You don't paraphrase, you use the exact same words.  This is especially important in the youngest of children and the most heated of exchanges.  Using the exact same language lets the other person know they have been heard.  I know, you're thinking it's great they feel heard, but I haven't gotten in my two cents, yet.  Hang tight, your time will come.  

When someone feels heard they feel better.  They feel as though you understand - whether or not you wind up in agreement is another matter entirely. Once your conversation partner(s) feel heard and can relax that they've gotten their point across, you can do the same.  Seize the moment!  "I completely understand where you're coming from.  Let me explain my perspective so we fully understand one another."  It would be rude for them to say no.  Not that that would stop anyone, but mostly, you'll get to have your say.

Making the Most of Reflective Listening

Use Their Words.  When it's time to make your point - use their words.  Are there "guidelines" being referenced? Is it a "special circumstance?"  Use their words in your reply and they'll make the connection.  

Don't Rush.  Don't rush your thoughts into words!  Speak thoughtfully and hold up your hand as a non-verbal cue to let the other person know you're not done talking and they shouldn't interrupt.  When you hold up your hand, do it like you're saying "one minute."  Don't shove your hand out in front between you both.  Be sensitive, but firm.  Don't be afraid to say, "I listened fully to you, I'd like for you to do the same."  It's at this point you'll be able to assess whether or not they are invested in conversation that will take you to the next level or if they are solely interested in winning you over to their perspective.  Are they willing to concede they see your point of view?  This doesn't mean they agree with you, but that they understand.  This is a very mature stance to take and not everyone has the ability to do it.

More on Listening Well
The best way to listen is to NOT TALK.  Close your mouth.  Shut up.  Nod in agreement to keep them talking.  Remember, the more you hear, the more you understand - so that your message can be fully grasped when you guide them through it by way of their talking and their own words.  

Remain Focused
Do not think on your response.  Do not wait for your turn to talk.  When you do this, you stop listening.  How do you remain focused?  Two things to listen for:  connections and curiosity.  Listen for connections not so you can share your story, but so you can remember the conversation better.  Curiosity - listen for what you don't know so you can ask good questions.  Questions are the absolute best way to keep someone talking and learn even more.  When you listen well, you'll have fodder for specific questions - but you'll also be able to ask more probing questions: how did you figure that out? what did you learn from it?  would you do it again? would you recommend it? how could you know if that were about to happen again? how could you avoid it in the future? 

Five Levels Of Intimacy
If listening well means keeping your mouth shut and using reflective listening, what occurs from it?  Intimacy.  You won't necessarily achieve this with colleagues or neighbors (although you could), but you can easily foster this connection in close friendships and family.  If you interrupt, if you start talking and challenge any part of the exchange, you won't get to heart of the issue.  

  • Level 1: Safe Communication.  Grocery line chit-chat.  "This is great pizza."  "Thank goodness it's Friday."  "Can you believe all this rain we're having?"  
  • Level 2: Others' Opinions/Beliefs.  "Mom always said ...."  "My first boss used to say ...."  This is where you share someone else's statement, but can easily abandon it if challenged.
  • Level 3: Personal Opinions/Beliefs. We begin to offer small truths, but like Level 2, can back-peddle and say we've changed our minds if we wind up feeling too vulnerable. "Seinfeld is hilarious."  
  • Level 4: My Own Feelings/Experiences.  This is a risk and you cannot change your feelings or experiences. We are vulnerable.  If challenged, the only thing we can do is convince others these events no longer impact us.  "I felt like I wasn't good enough when my parents split up."
  • Level 5: My Own Needs/Emotions/Desires.  This is it.  There is no escape from this level.  And our greatest fear is that someone will use this information against us.  That we aren't worthy.  "I'm hurt when you don't call." 

Real Life Listening Well Examples

Mom holding a toddler at the mall.  Toddler sees a fountain far away.  Toddler reaches his hand outward toward the fountain, opens his palm and says, "Water down there," then closes his hand into a fist.  Mom says, "There's a fountain!  I see the fountain!"
Toddler repeats with the same hand motions, "Water down there."
Mom responds, "Do you want to see the fountain?"
Toddler repeats with the same hand motions, "Water down there."
Mom says, "Do you want to see the water and the fountain?"
Toddler repeats with the same hand motions, "Water down there."
Mom says, "Water down there."
Toddler puts arms down and relaxes into Mom's shoulder.  

Mom and Uncle Pat are getting ready to head home with the kids from Grandma's house who lives closeby.  There is a playground around the corner.  Ten year old son comes up to Mom and asks, "Can we go play at the playground?"  Mom replies, "We're just about to leave."
Boy says, "I want to go to the playground."
Mom says, "We really don't have time."
Boy says, "I want to go to the playground."
Mom finally says, "You want to go to the playground."*
Boy says, "Yes."
Mom says, "Can we go to the playground the next time we're at Grandma's?"**
Boy says, "Yes," and runs off.
Uncle Pat says, "What just happened?"  Mom explains reflective listening.  
*Reflective Listening employed
** Uses his words and seizes moment to get her own point across

Husband comes home from work and says, "I don't want to go on vacation this summer."  (L1) Wife is thinking about the beach vacation they always have.  Instead of asking "why," she responds with reflective listening.
"You don't want to go on vacation this summer?"
"No, I'm not sure I'll have enough vacation time," says husband. (L2)
"Oh, you're not sure about how much vacation time you'll have. Hmmmm," she replies nodding.
"Well, we're moving contracts and the positions are all up in the air," he says. (L3)
"Huh.  The positions are all up in the air because the contract is moving," nodding the whole way through.
"Yeah, I'm not sure I'll have a job come summertime."  (L4)
"Oh.  You're not sure about your job by the time summer gets here" she replies.
"I may not have a job or money for us," he says.  (L5)
Encouragement follows.

The exchange between the husband and wife could NOT take place if the wife cuts him off at any point.  It could also not take place if this were the first kind of intimate conversation they'd had.  This relationship has established intimacy where the husband feels safe going through each level.  Sometimes our spouse or someone very close to us will start with level one or two and jump emotionally to level five.  We need to fill in the blanks between 1 and 5 to uncover how they are linking thoughts and possible outcomes in order to listen well.

Read more about the five levels of intimacy.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend 2013

In a world peppered with the three-day weekend, please take at least a moment to remember WHY and WHAT we celebrate this weekend.  It's not a barbecue or a trip to the beach.  It's to celebrate the vast sacrifices made by men and women through the course of our nation's history to provide the very freedom with usually take for granted every day.  Some spent time too much time away from family, whether at home or abroad.  Some gave the ultimate sacrifice.    

My son's school has WWII day in June where veterans from all over our area come in and share stories of their service experience.  The middle schoolers are old enough to really take advantage of this day.  They listen intently, ask questions, and it's a memorable experience for all involved.  Thank someone this weekend for their service to our country.  Lord knows, they deserve it!

Blog series continues on Wednesday on Listening Well.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Part 3: How to Connect So Your Message is Received

Connecting so your message received is really a two-part answer.  We'll address the first part today; the second part is listening well, which we'll tackle in the next segment.

Emails laced with undertones and between the lines commentary do not offer the reader an open line of communication.  Someone conversing with you being vague enough to not answer questions fully makes you wonder what else you don’t know.  No doubt you've experienced some of this. 

It’s tragically pathetic - people not valuing others enough to have candid conversations.  Yes, conversations!  A verbal exchange of ideas filled with awkward pauses, eye to eye contact, fumbling through sentences, and losing your train of thought.  It's perfectly acceptable to admit during a conversation, "I don't know," or "I'm really not comfortable talking about that right now."  Not everything is up for grabs during a conversation - but there's no need for secrecy, just discretion.  
Conversation is a lost art and must be revived.  It is not tawdry or reliant on sarcasm – it leaves both parties feeling better (not necessarily resolved) about any given topic.  
Be fully present.  Don’t think about what you’re going to say next, focus completely on what’s being said now.  Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood.  Beginning with a diatribe, written or oral, does not make your message more worthy.  If anything, it puts your listener on the defensive.  If you want discord, you’re on the right track.  If you desire open communication – thoughtful, shorter replies and insightful questions win you bonus points every single time.

Body language.  Mimic their stance - this isn't new.  If they are leaning in, lean in.  If they lean back, do likewise.  Shift your weight accordingly.  Your conversation partner may see what you’re doing, but it still puts them at ease.  Be aware when someone else has become uncomfortable or you've struck an unknowing chord (crossed arms, step backwards, looking away or at their watch).   
Consider for a moment, when you walk up to someone to speak with them, when you join a group already talking, as you approach all your communication that’s happening before you open your mouth, is non-verbal.  
Meaning the other person uses all five senses in the interaction: 83% sight, 11% hearing, 3% smell, 2% touch and 1% taste.  How does your approach come off?  Have you set the right tone before you've uttered a word?  Or have you shot yourself in the foot?  Do not underestimate the importance of non-verbal communication in connection.  Love stories have stood the test of time by romantics who didn't speak the same language!  So smile and nod the whole way through. 

Agree as much as possible.  Yes, it’s possible to agree with someone else’s perspective and still hold your own differing stance.  Yes, you can still be friendly and agree to disagree.  How boring the world would be if we all agreed on every point all the time.  I’m glad all the books written and movies produced don’t have the same storyline.  Variety is Godly!  

Having your message received 
does not equal getting what you want.  

Having your message received means knowing you've been heard and understood.  I can receive your message and disagree with it, but I've heard it and understand its importance to you.  The reverse is also true.  As you’re smiling and nodding along, speak truthfully, yet with gentleness and reverence.  

When you've been diligent enough to understand someone else, I don’t think it’s too much to ask the question, “Do you understand my point of view?”  It’s a yes/no question, not in need of a “but.”  “Yes, but …”  If you've heard them and they've heard you, it’s perfectly okay to disagree knowing you fully understand one another.  A better response is “I do see your point of view.  And I’m so glad you've taken the time to understand mine.”  

What about the last word?  Hmmmm … we all know someone who needs to have the last word in a conversation, be it verbally or electronically.  And if you don’t know who it is, it’s you!  Be comfortable in your own right.  Those in need of the last word, need the perceived power the last word holds.  Let them have it and excuse yourself gracefully thanking them for the time to talk.  Let your last words be gracious.

Series Highlights

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Part 2: Choosing the Right Time to Talk (Talking When There Isn't a Problem)

When we were engaged, our priest didn't write down our wedding in the church calendar.  I had started making arrangements for flowers, photographers and reception sites.  I had called the church to find out who else was getting marred that day to share the cost of flowers on the altar and the secretary thought I was another bride.  I was incensed!  I wanted to fire the priest!  
My father, with great wisdom said, “Don’t do anything now, you’ll be perceived as impetuous and emotionally irrational.  Wait and speak with him directly at your meeting next month and ask for someone new.”  
He was right!  In the meantime, I had the church properly scheduled and when it came time for the meeting, I came across much more forthright than extreme. 

My father’s life experience and proffered advice speaks to two issues: choosing the right time to talk and speaking directly with someone.  We will talk about "speaking directly" later in the series.  As said in Part One, expressing each emotion you have the moment you have it is less than ideal.  Taking time to assess your dilemma is a gift you must choose to take.  The right time to talk depends on several factors: who you’re connecting with, how volatile the situation, how much delay you’re considering, if time is really all that’s needed for resolution, and how you’ll be able to assess when your subject is in an optimal place to hear your message. 

For instance, when your husband comes home from work is probably not an ideal time to chat about the ever-growing honey-do list, how much couple-time you've been able to carve out, that he never scoops the dog doo, or that his socks never hit the hamper (but land right beside it).  When is the best time to connect with your man?  Think about it.  When is he in a good place mentally?  During or after dinner?  Laying in bed before you both drift off?  After the kids go to sleep?  Do you talk better about details on the phone?  

As a general rule, men connect best side-by-side engrossed in activity:  take a walk with him (side by side), watch SportsCenter with him (on the couch, side by side), shoot baskets with him, watch him tackle a task.  Find his center of “respect,” meet him there and find his sweet spot so you can make the most of your conversation.  And remember, this is a conversation – not a monologue.  There’s give and take.  You must listen well as much as you speak to make sure you've understood one another.  But, we’ll tackle listening another day.

Neighbors, other parents, and co-workers are trickier.  You may or may not know them well enough to find the sweet spot for connection.  Being forthright works best here.  “I’d like to chat with you about the parking situation at the bus stop.  What might work best for your schedule this week?”  Be specific about your topic and make certain your wording doesn't sound accusatory but curious - this gives them time to let the idea roll around in their head.  Pose a time-frame instead of “what’s good for you?” to garner better results for a completed conversation.  Lastly, and most importantly: 
Assume the absolute best intentions of others until proven otherwise - this will go a long way in before during and after your conversation.  
If you've heard something inflammatory, assume it’s been taken out of context or misunderstood in some way.  Next up in the series: HOW TO CONNECT TO MAKE SURE YOUR MESSAGE IS RECEIVED.

Series Highlights:
  • Press Pause
  • How to Connect So Your Message is Received
  • Listening Well Helps your Get Your Message Across
  • Hiding Behind Your Computer
  • Doormat or Helpmate?
  • Response, Wrapped in Love, Equals Restoration

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Part One: Press Pause

Do you shoot first and ask questions later? 
Reacting vs. Responding is dangerous. 

Start your training now: will this matter next week? in a month? next year? in the light of eternity does this make the cut? I can let go of a LOT of things "in the light of eternity." Training is a journey - this is a mindset shift; a perspective overhaul. Come along!

Seven Day Blog series begins today!

PART ONE: Press Pause

We get the most practice on Responding to a situation instead of Reacting to a situation with those we are closest with – our family!  Is the offense scream-worthy?  Are my feelings hurt?  Who has wounded me?  Is it a perceived injury or a real one?  Am I lashing out at someone close because I cannot or don’t want to lash out at the true offender?  A slew of questions can run through your mind – and they should.

Sally said to Harry not to "express every emotion you have the moment you have it."  Press Pause.  Don’t “stuff it” and not deal with it – but give yourself time for proper assessment.  Press Pause.  Years ago, my husband and I attended a marriage retreat which gave us time to connect over pieces of our lives that might trouble us when they weren’t troubling us.  Let me say that plainly: we talked about the problems when there wasn’t a problem.  

When there’s something truly bothering you, it’s going to bother you later that day, week, or month.  Often, the thing that bothers you is a symptom of a larger issue and doesn’t truly hit the heart of the matter.  
Blowing up over the situation (reacting), put simply, doesn’t help.  It often hurts, alienates, and creates a rift in relationships to mend.
When you choose to pause, to “hold onto” that emotion for later, you give yourself and those you love most, the gift of time (this does not mean to stew in discontent).  Time is a precious commodity.  Time offers you the chance to be curious about the situation, interrogate yourself, look at it from another perspective, resolve it internally without others' involvement, or formulate questions to gain better understanding. Time lets you calmly and rationally verbalize your emotions and feelings in a way that another will properly receive them.  

How do you choose the right time and make sure I'm heard?  Stay tuned for the rest of the series.

Series Highlights:

  • Choosing the Right Time to Talk
  • How to Connect So Your Message is Received
  • Listening Well Helps your Get Your Message Across
  • Hiding Behind Your Computer
  • Doormat or Helpmate?
  • Response, Wrapped in Love, Equals Restoration

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mom's Yelling Again

"If you don't stop yelling at your kids now," she said, "they won't even hear you when they're older." Some of the best advice I ever got from a dear friend when my kiddos were small. She didn't even know I had *fury* issues. And it was a fury.  When you fly into a tantrum screaming at your kiddos, them scared to death and crying up a storm.  Yet, you can't reel it in.  

She was definitely right about the "not hearing you when they're older" part, too.  My mom was a screamer.  She'd yell and yell and yell.  Sometimes she was angry, sometimes not - but she yelled.  A lot.  And all us kids did get to the point where we just tuned her out.  "Mom's yellin' again."  La la la la la .... as we went about our business.  Oh, we'd do whatever she was fussing over ....  

When someone has lost their temper, the fury or tantrum that ensues is only a symptom of the real issue.  Like a cough could indicate many other issues - allergies, sore throat, pneumonia, plain ol' cold, etc, etc.  The anger masks a bevy of emotions: sadness, embarrassment, frustration, grief, shame, the list goes on and on.  

I vowed to make a change.  It took about a year, really.  But it did happen.  A slew of things changed in my life to accomplish this modification to my behavior: increased activity, weight loss, friendships, spiritual growth, more children, better communication, accepting help, and more.  In the midst of it all, I faithfully prayed for God to supernaturally grow patience and self-control in me.  He did.  I had three children age three and under, I had plenty of reason to be completely undone pretty much all the time.  

The video camera was my accountability partner.  I wouldn't lose my cool on tape!  I was the patient, loving mom I wanted to be.  I wasn't faking it.  I was training myself.  I would invite people over.  I also wouldn't lose it in front of others.  Let's face it, we're nicer to our children and our spouse when there's an audience.  It wasn't long before I could let go of those safety-nets.  I was a quick learner.  

Now, don't get me wrong, I still lose it - I'm human.  Today, I'm in better control of my emotions and take steps to stop the anger spiral.  I would love to share my story with you.

I speak regularly on Anger Management.  Connect with me - I'd love to meet your group.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

48 Hours Later

Can you believe that after just two days of stretching and light exercise that my back doesn't hurt anymore?  Seriously!  I woke up this morning without pain.  It didn't take much to get moving in the right direction, but I had to start.  

Today's another day that's been filled with meetings and chores and errands.  I need to carve out the time to exercise.  Today, my time is "tonight."  During a lacrosse practice, I'll walk laps at the field.  

Okay, so I'm not doing backbends ... yet ... maybe next week!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Time's Running Out

I'm on Day 2 of exercise and I feel like the day is getting away from me and I won't have time to exercise.  
Not having time for exercise
means I haven't made it a priority.  
It's not like I've frittered the day away.  I spent the morning on the phone with team members, had my annual evaluation, took my son to the orthodontist, went grocery shopping, got home and finally ate (for the first time today), unloaded the car, scheduled service on my Frigidaire refrigerator (don't buy this brand) for the FIFTH time since we purchased it 18 months ago, made a hair appointment, connected with my team for scheduling their evals, and talked with a friend about starting a YouTube channel.  I clearly have not been idle ... but still need to make time.  I won't find any extra time lying around anywhere.  I need to carve out the time.  

Right now, I can get it thirty minutes before the giggle twins come home.  And I can get a little more time in tonight while the kids are all at the lacrosse fields.  I'm going to seize the moment.  I have chosen well today by enjoying a POWER drink.  

My hubby calls it Kryptonite.  

Come join me on the journey towards AWESOME!

Monday, April 1, 2013

From Atrophy to Awesome - Who's With Me?

I just shared on FB how I hadn't exercised since Halloween.  We went on a cruise at the beginning of November - where I didn't gain any weight (yeah me!), but I also didn't exercise.  Unless you call weaving through walkers "exercise."  That's another story.  Upon our return, my mom's health failed and I spent the remainder of the year caring for her.  Everything else was put aside.  Life and death happened in between and now, three months later, I think I might be ready to try again.  Why now?

My body hurts 

when I'm not doing anything.  
My body hurts pretty much all the time.  Inactivity has done me in.  My lower back aches sitting, standing, walking, and everything in between.  I've lost all range of motion.  To say I'm not flexible is probably an understatement.  Everything is tight.  It's just not good.  And I'm tired of telling my husband how much my back hurts or my neck hurts ... waa, waa, waa!

Upon recommendations of my FB friends, I simply need to start.  One friend suggested to do the beginning of any workout and add a few minutes each week.  Another suggested the couch to 5k program (which sounds great, but I avoid running unless being chased by someone with a weapon - no weapon, I'll take my chances).  Some have suggested restorative yoga - I think I need to look into that - I've not enjoyed yoga in the past.  Swimming is a winner with no "impact" and a great way to stretch out my muscles.  Long and lean, is what I envision.

I don't want a reason not to exercise, 

so I think I'll wait on swimming so I don't use it as an excuse.  Walking is good.  I've started walking with friends a couple times a week - and my legs are so sore for days afterward.
Today, I have started.  I took the "beginning of a workout" idea and found a couple of EIGHT minute routines.  That way, I can finish - I need to finish.  I found an eight minute stretch from head to toe and realized how little I can really move.  I finished another eight minute workout for the legs.  I did most of it.  On top of my sixteen minute routine, so far, I added some ridiculously silly "Jamaican Me Move" aerobics for eight minutes.  Hilariously funny fashions from the eighties. 

Another FB friend suggested an "accountability partner."  Oh!  And to be active for 30 minutes every single day.  YIKES!  This is it.  I'm going to try to share my workout successes and failures with you along the way.  I'd love to tell you I'll post every day, but let's be real ... that probably won't happen :)  Come with me and tell me what you're doing.  You can inspire me while I encourage you.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Last Week vs. Last Year - A Man's Perspective

I've been told I should
make this into a button.
(read the fine print)

If ever there were a ministry your husband
could support, this is it!

Happy Friday!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Roll from the Center

As I attempted my first pie for my own family, the dough wasn't stretching out the way I remembered.  My mind’s voice echoed up gently, “Roll from the center.”  It was my Mom’s voice and I was transported to the kitchen of my youth standing at the butcher block counter.  “Roll from the center, turn the dough, and keep rolling so it’s even.  Keep some flour on the pin so it doesn't stick.”  I formed the dough into a ball, re-rolled the crust, and voila – perfection!

My mom’s words come back to me over and over again with my own children whether it’s instruction or guidance.  Pouring truths into them now will yield great results for years to come.  “No toys at the table.” “Yes, ma’am.” “No, sir.” “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”  “God is in this, too.”  I envision one day, my kids sitting at the table with their kids saying, “No toys at the table,” then having the same debate they had with me over what is considered a toy.
What was poured into you shapes you.  I was always listening – and so are my children.  I pray my words will come back to my children as they grow, whether in relationships, at work, or in the kitchen with a pie crust. 
What will you pour into your children?  What will the melody of your voice float up from their memory to say?  Will it be a word of encouragement, warning, instruction?  Whatever it might be, it should be truthful – so they might rely upon it and pass it on.  I can think of no better tribute than for your words to be handed down for generations.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crockpot Meal Makeover

There's nothing like coming into a home with the wonderful aroma of dinner wafting through the house from the crockpot.  While I love my crockpot, I'm not always thinking ahead.  Enter the Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker that is like a crockpot for your microwave.

"Gasp!" you say.  "Fear Not!" I say.  What do I like about this product?  The fact that I can put dinner on the table in LESS THAN 15 minutes.  I can put my pork tenderloin, chicken thighs, chicken breasts, hamburger, chops, even pasta, in the Deep Covered Baker, put in it the microwave for anywhere from 9-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, I pull the rest of my dinner together on the stove top, set the table, pour the drinks, and VOILA, dinner is served.  "The chicken doesn't brown," you say.  "Try it," I say.  The most tender, moist stuff you've ever had.  Throw a marinade on it if you absolute must color the chicken.  "It doesn't brown in the crockpot, either," I add.

As an added bonus, for those of you with crazy sports schedules like me - I set out plates and all the accouterments for the meal and let family members serve themselves as they come in throughout the evening.  The baker keeps food warm for several hours.  SCORE one for mom!


I've revamped several quick, throw together in the crockpot meals into a Deep Covered Baker meal.  Here's what we're having tonight.

Chicken Teriyaki
1lb chicken (sliced, cubed or however)
1c chicken broth*
1/2c Teriyaki or soy sauce
1/3c brown sugar
3minced garlic cloves

*Today I am out of chicken broth, so I substitute 1/2 wine and 1/2 water. After all, the chicken broth is just to boost the flavor.  The wine will do quite nicely.  

Directions:  Place chicken in bottom of crock pot (or Deep Covered Baker) then in separate bowl whisk together remaining ingredients then pour over chicken.  Cook on high  for 4 to 6 hours  or low 6 to 8 hours: OR  Cook on high in microwave in Deep Covered Baker for 12 minutes.  Serve over rice (I like Japanese Sweet Rice, my favorite).

Monday, January 7, 2013

She's in My Everyday

Today was the first semi-normal day I’ve had since October.  I slept 16 hours in the last 24 and realized how exhausted I was.  My mom recently passed away.  I’d been taking her to doctor’s appointments since mid-November, but she wasn’t really much better.  The day after Thanksgiving, she dialed 911 and I accompanied her to the hospital.  Since then, it’s been a whirlwind, filled with procedures and tests and diagnoses and medicines. 

There have been no two days 
that were the same.

Caring for my mom for five weeks was a blessing.  I was able to do for her in a short period of time what she did for me for a lifetime. She was my safety-net I didn’t know existed. Now, I was hers. She tucked me in at night, prayed over me and for me. She intervened for me in every circumstance – now it was my turn. Praise God for this blessing!

It went by so fast. 
Like a freight train but you 
didn’t know where the caboose was.

We had mom’s funeral mass and life celebration on Saturday – and then I slept. I slept like never before. This morning, I felt like a new woman. I began to put my own sadly neglected house back in order.  I changed sheets that hadn’t been changed in three weeks – with countless guests sleeping on them. I laundered towels. I started to pack away all that is Christmas. 

It wasn’t until I began to make dinner for my children that I felt it. I got new pots and pans for Christmas – a gift I asked for J  As I took the pot out of the drawer, I looked up and said, “Hey Mom, I’m using my new stuff.  It works great.” And I started to weep.  Two months ago, I’d have called her to tell her about it.  And then we’d have talked for a half hour about this and that (all while she half listened while playing solitaire on the computer).

She’s in everything I do. She’s in the way I load the dishwasher and fold sheets and make chili.  She’s in the way I raise my children, set priorities, and love my neighbor. She crafted me into the woman and mother I’ve become.  I miss her.  I miss the everyday of her.

I know she’s in a better place. I know she can breathe easily.  I know she can sing – she loved to sing.  I envision her singing When Irish Eyes are Smiling.  I love you, Momma.