Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sticks and Stones

Who remembers chanting these words (or a variation thereof) when called a name?   "Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."   I wonder if we ever really believed it - or it was just what it was.  A handy comeback.

And even as we get older (and realize how much words matter...and hurt), we still tell others (even our kids) to "buck up"; "what they call you says more about them then you"... and so it goes.  And the words still hurt. 

Many people hide behind the statement "I am just stating a fact."  MANY years ago, I started telling my kids "just because something is true, doesn't mean it needs to be said."   Given the explosion of false news and "facts", now I say "just because something is said, doesn't make it true"!  Both can apply.

When I think of all the subjective words we use (and represent as gospel), I am embarrassed.  And it seems that now, more than ever, if we use a word to describe someone, that is all they become.  And we all are so much more than just a word.  Yet the more we focus on a word, the more that is only what we see.

Word(s) can be so heavy.
An example that I have witnessed (and certainly been guilty of myself) is how we describe our kids or grand kids, to others.  I have noticed over the years, the word(s) we apply, become the personalities we accept. (expect?)  So now words become labels and anything "less than" could be cause of disappointment.  If you have a (grand)child that you always label as smart, when they confront something that they might not do as well in, are they now stupid?  Lazy?  Irresponsible? 

What about your child/friend/spouse with a sunny disposition?  Are they never allowed to have a bad day? 

Of course not.  Yet our minds tend to quickly arrive at the conclusion "what you see is all there is." 

The other day Terry and I were having a conversation with another couple about the City of Austin.  Someone mentioned a negative (subjective) about the city which started the discussion.  It would have been easy to focus on that one aspect but that day, I felt compelled to list all the things we LOVE about Austin.   The entire conversation ended on a more positive note.

What if we explored all aspects...of people, of situations......OF EVERYTHING, before we reached a conclusion?   And once we reach a conclusion, what if we allowed a reassessment from time to time?  And were open to change?

Am I crazy?  (or so much more)

Until next time,

your pal,


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

We do this everyday!

What do we do everyday - no matter our age, our gender, our station in get the drift?  HINT:  I did this many times today already.  And will continue to do this all day long.

No, it's not breathe (although that is a necessity of our being).  It's about decisions.  Decisions take many forms and begin either when we wake up or shortly thereafter.  Some of our decisions effect the future and some determine how we view the past.

Decisions can be automatic, bad, good, easy, indifferent, life changing (and so much more).  Yet it seems there are times when we pay no more attention to our decisions than we do to our breathing.  Why do you think that is?

It is your decision,  Make the best one!
I believe if I were asked, I would state that my intention is to make the BEST decision, every time.  And I suspect y'all would feel the same way.  If that is our intention, then why don't we do it?

Example:  Yesterday, after minimal deliberation, I decided to set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. this morning.  Since I needed to be ready to go by 7:00 a.m., this seemed like a good decision.  What I did not factor in was the number of times I would feel compelled to hit the "snooze" button before actually getting up.  While this wasn't a life changing factor, it did have me "picking up the pace" because I didn't actually get up until 6:20 a.m.  Then, when I was looking at breakfast options, I made the BEST decision since I went for the oatmeal versus all the high carb, high calorie options that were also available.  Two decisions that would impact my day before 7:30 a.m.  And I didn't even talk about the decisions on what to wear, how to respond to emails, etc.

Unfortunately, I don't always make the BEST decisions on eating choices (or life).  And when this happens, there are always consequences, some of which can be life changing.

It seems when confronted with a decision, we (speaking generally here-don't put this shoe on unless it fits) tend to think in terms of black and white, right or wrong, this or that.  Yet MANY times, we have the opportunity to think of different alternatives, we just don't.  We also fail to factor the bias inherent in all of us regarding any particular decision.  I like to say we all arrive at a situation wearing our own pair of shoes, and we change shoes all the time. 

At times, we (still general) tend to judge our decisions based on outcome.  This is giving our 20-20 hindsight full credit and we all know it contains information we might not have had when the decision was being made.  If we decide to ignore the speed limit and don't get a ticket, does that now make speeding a good decision?  Of course not.  All it makes us is lucky.  The next time the outcome may be different.

Right now our world is divided on many fronts.  And when I read about all the things where we differ, it seems each side is all or nothing.  And as we arrive at our decision, we arrive with the shoes WE are wearing at that point in time.

I don't know about you, but I have always preferred options.  This will not change for me.

Starting tomorrow, I will set my alarm for 5:30 am,  to allow for my snoozing.  It doesn't have to be get up or be late.  We need to look for options.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Don't cry because it's over

One myth I believed when I was younger (and not really that much younger) was this.  As you age, the only thing that changes is your appearance.  BAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA.

For the days when I still had a filter, I am thankful!
If you don't laugh, you might cry.  I have found that there are many opportunities for modification as we get older. Now, please understand, I still believe that getting older is a blessing, I am just now able to more accurately identify what is first to go.

Contrary to popular belief, hearing is NOT the first thing. At least not for me.  Recently, I have noticed that in quick succession, I have lost both tolerance and my filter. Whoops.

Tolerance is a much used word these days, and something many people strive to develop.  So how can it be that I have lost it?  Let's look at the definition.

Tolerance can be the capacity to endure pain or hardship.  I still solidly support that definition.  How about "the sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practises differing from or conflicting with one;s own"?    I am very tolerant of those difference from me - whatever the difference may be.  We are all different.  Finally, tolerance can be the act of allowing something  - and herein lies the rub.

The act of allowing something...I have some specific areas of concern.  My fuse is considerably shorter as it applies to stupidity (always struggled with that one), complaining (in the big picture of things, we have so much, and seriously, what does it change?), rudeness (I will call you out), the "gimme gimme" attitude (there is always something we can do), lying (again, now that I am missing my filter....), habitual tardiness (disrespectful), being disrespectful, (wow) and this list is not all inclusive.

Some days, aggressive drivers might make the list (depends on how many of the above were experienced prior to my driving experience).  Did I mention people who just talk to hear their own voice?  And it's generally those same people who ask for information, only to follow up with their own experience (bigger, better, greater, faster, more expensive,.....)

Wait, what about those who think nothing is good enough (until it is their own idea?)  I am on a roll now.

I just remembered how I have no tolerance for ungratefulness, for entitlement, for greediness of all things.

Yet, I would not consider myself an "intolerant" person.  Maybe up to this point, I have allowed those things to happen, considered them "noise" in the background.  So instead of losing my hearing, I am really listening now.  Maybe I am still very tolerant (big picture).  I am just now more sensitive to how it can be applied.

But the filter....GONE!

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

There is always something to be done.

Next in my Dr. Seuss series
When I was first promoted to a leadership role, I really began to appreciate the nuances in every day language.  The difference between "You can't do that, can you?" versus "Tell me what you can do" invite entirely different responses....all driven by attitude.

When I replaced the word "challenge" with "opportunity", my view of whatever was before me became possible.  Too often we start with negative words or connotations at the beginning of a task.  And don't get me wrong, it's so easy to do.  But a person can become a prisoner if they focus on "I can't do _____."

Right now in Texas, the effects of Hurricane Harvey are being felt by over 30 counties (already being declared a state of disaster) with over 30,000 individuals and displaced families being housed in shelters.  That number will continue to grow as more rain moves into the affected areas, causing additional flooding, levees giving way and failing infrastructure.  It seems overwhelming.

And that is where we all come in.  All of us!  While we may be sitting "high and dry", we cannot remain unaffected by the plight that has struck our friends, our neighbors, our family of man.

The Red Cross is in full swing, committing 100% of all donations to these victims.  Whether it is $10 or $100, every dollar will be needed.  While churches and community centers in the affected areas are opening their doors to house those in need, churches and communities around the country are gathering socks, diapers, clothing, water....everything.  Because everything is needed.

Many businesses are donating a percentage of profits for a product, or on a given day, to support the relief efforts.  You can be a part of that by ordering a t-shirt or going to a restaurant on that specific day.

Can you give blood?  The supply situation is critical.  Now is the time.  Look for local drives being held in your area.

I have had many conversations about this dire situation, and the feeling of helplessness by so many of us is pervasive.

But there is always something you can do.  And always something to be done.

I will start with prayer.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How did we get to where we are?

Fair question.  How did any of us get to where we are?  The devil is in the details - right?  The other day, someone said to me "you are so lucky (to be where I am at in life)  What is my secret?  For me, the simple answer is "choices" but in detail, this is what "my luck" looks like.

Since I was 10 years old, I have had an unwavering faith in God.  My faith has lifted me during some low times and also paved the path I am on.  Not all my choices have been the right ones, yet God's Grace bought me back.

Thank you, Dr. Seuss
I have worked since I was 14 years old.  That was the summer I had my first babysitting job (that I got paid for - siblings don't count).  This job was 7:00 am to 5:30ish and it was for three children, ages 10 (girl) 8 (boy) and 6 (boy who was deaf).  No, I did not know sign language.  Every weekday I walked about 1.5 miles to their house. The expectations were to make sure they were fed breakfast and lunch, have the house straightened before mom/dad got home, and to make sure that the children didn't do serious bodily harm to each other while all this was going on.  For that, I was paid $20 per week.  At the time, I thought I had "made bank".

By the time I was starting high school, my working had evolved year-round; still part-time but easily 15-25 hours per week.  I made less than one dollar per hour initially but by the time I graduated high school, I was up to $2.25 per hour.  Once I (and all my siblings) began high school, we paid for our clothes, fast food, gas money (after paying off the loan for first car) and shenanigans.  This wasn't anything less than expectations.  Thankfully, we weren't burdened by the now perceived necessity of pagers - then cell phones, and now basically handheld mini computers that are seldom used for calls.

I have worked full-time (and then some) for most of my adult life.  I have a couple gaps in time that never exceeded 8 months.  Those were more than made up for when I found myself working at times 2 jobs, sometimes 3 - during my adult life.  My mom also worked two jobs during that expensive time when she had five kids entering their teen years.  Again, this was the expectation if one needed a little more income to make ends meet.

I was able to stop working multiple jobs when I finally went back to school.  I took advantage of an educational incentive benefit offered by my employer, which allowed me to return to college and receive partial reimbursement. After the first semester (6 hours) I went full-time during the year and still took holiday and summer classes.  I took one semester off when I had Madison.  It took me seven years to get my Bachelors degree, but I got it done without going into debt.  I never quit.

Within one year, I realized I wanted to earn by Master's degree.  This time, it was without employer assistance and internships of 750 hours would be required in addition to the  60 hour core program.   This was completed in three years.

In a nutshell, that simple answer of "choices" is reflected above.  Those choices involved sacrifice, determination and hard work.  It also included what I call "stick to it iveness".  There were many times, I was tired, but I never quit.  Not mentioned through all of this is while working full-time, going to school full-time and getting the homework required done, I was raising a family.  Yes, I missed a few things, but I got the job done.

So...I encourage all of you (whether "lucky" or "unlucky") to do this simple exercise of "How did you get to where you are"?   The answers may surprise you.  And it's never too late to make a different choice.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We are family!

Back in the late 70's,  (1979 to be exact) the song "We are Family" was released by the American vocal group, Sister Sledge.  This time frame was when I was in my early 20's.  Fast forward XXX amount of years, and this song is still VERY popular today.  It's the best theme song for ALL families.

We are family (the originals)
This was about the time us five kids were coming (or had already arrived) at the legal age that allowed us to go to clubs.  For those of you from Topeka, who remembers "The Old Way Station"? This was our first go-to club for music and adult beverages.  I am certain my brother-in-law remembers this old haunt since Erik, Lori and I took him for a night out when we first met him.  Both Katy and Tony were in the Air Force and Tony braved the first family intro meeting alone. Apparently we should have told him what happens in Topeka, stays in Topeka.  Yes, I got a call from mom the next day that started out "I hope you kids are proud of yourselves...."  Enough said about that experience.  But I feel certain that we all danced to our song.

Then there was another favorite "Rainbows".  Since Lori and I both worked there part-time, we always had the opportunity to request our song and get out on that dance floor (without waiting to be asked) whenever "We are family" was played.  Why?  Well, because we are!!!

Since that time, we have all danced together at parties, receptions, weddings, bars, in the house, or....even in the grocery store....whenever two or more were gathered and heard that song.

Recently, my niece got married.  It was just a matter of time before our song was queued up.  This song peels away time and years like nothing else.  Of course, my sisters and mom  (and me) hit the dance floor, but now I looked around at the different generations that joined us:   our own kids, grand kids, nieces and a nephew (plus a great niece and nephew) that all danced to this song as if it were just released.

Then we were joined by friends who are like family and the circle continued to get bigger until there really was no room left on that dance floor.  And as we sang and smiled and carried on like dancing fools, we could almost pretend that we were all there.

I don't know about the rest of my family, but for me, whenever I hear that song, in my heart, we are all still dancing together.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I believe it has arrived!

It's all good!
Middlescence.  It historically has been defined as the middle-age period of life, especially when considered a difficult time of self-doubt and readjustment.  Wow.  What a Debbie Downer description of aging.  

If you would have asked me at 20 what middle age looked like, I am sure I would have said "oh, anytime after 40". I think I increased it by 10 years by the time I hit 30, but as it turns out, I didn't realize it arrives when things basically go to hell.

Happily, we all know that times, they are a changing.  And how we look at getting old(er) is much more optimistic.  Some people now define middlescence as the second adolescence. (WHOOHOO)

As evidenced, at 60, I haven't slowed down at all (well, not much).  In fact, it is safe to say that I am enjoying more adventure with less fear, than at any time in my life.  No difficult time of self-doubt and readjustment going on here.

This past year I have zip-lined (first time), skied (first time in 35 years), jet skied (first time) and snow-mobiled (first time - won't likely happen again).  We snorkeled while in Mexico (multiple times)  and most recently crossed the Royal Gorge in a gondola.  I actually also wanted to zip-line across the Gorge but they wanted too much money for the 30 second thrill.  

Where was all this interest and bravado when I was young(er)?  When I was a child, I didn't like to cross bridges (any bridges) and would typically hold my breath and close my eyes until we were across.  Once I started driving, I had to open my eyes but breath holding was still available.  

During that same time period, when the opportunity presented itself, I would go to Haunted Houses, ride roller coasters and watch scary movies.  However, I never liked being afraid and all those things inspired fear in me.  That is another great benefit of where I am at now.  It is obvious that I do more than I did in the past, AND,  I absolutely refuse to do anything that is not FUN to me.

I was talking to my sister a week or so ago and she said "why would you want to go zip lining?  We are too old for that!"  Apparently, I am not!  

Some of the same questions that plagued us when we were younger (where do we fit in this world, what will the future bring) have been answered, or at least, are evolving.  Based on my own experience, my sense of self and identity (while open to change) is now who I am.  This time of life can be very fluid as changes occur that impact relationships, health, job security, and financial status.

Yet I have never felt this serene. I believe this is because I know who I am, I know who I belong to and I recognize this world is not our home.  

When I think of self-doubt and readjustment, that seems to describe that time period for me which included my 20's and 30's. I recognize now the major flaw then was that I relied too much on my own understanding.  

I don't know about you, but I plan on celebrating my middlescence right up until "old age" (yet to be defined).

Until next time,

your pal,

Sticks and Stones

Who remembers chanting these words (or a variation thereof) when called a name?   "Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words can ...