I’m listening, my dear friend

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” — Muhammad Ali

How true is this quote. Lately, a goal of mine has been to listen twice as much as I speak during a conversation. I try to ask more questions pertaining to topics ranging from how their day is going to perhaps a hardship they’re experiencing.

When you are having a conversation, are you simply trying to be patient? Ready to jump in with your advice, funny story, or other comments? The next time you talk to a friend or loved one, refrain from this, and simply listen.

Validate their feelings with statements like, “That has to be frustrating…” or “Tell me more about that!” This has really strengthened my relationships lately.

Now, what about staying in touch with old friends? Are they really gone forever? Not if you’ve taken beautiful care with warm touches. What do I mean? Perhaps you send a friendly text just asking how they’ve been. Even better, if you have their address send them a postcard the next time you travel. I believe most people like getting a hand written note JUST for them.

In closing, just because you may not speak daily to friends from days of old, the memories in your heart will remain should you choose to keep “listening” to the steady sometimes quiet heartbeat of your friendship.

My dear friend, I am listening. Until we meet again.

Video Games: Life Lessons

So, primarily, I grew up playing the original Nintendo game system. On some incredibly hot, I’m talking “furnace” hot, summer days I would spend hours playing Zelda, switch to Castlevania, and then….what happened next was catastrophic and that’s putting it lightly.

Controller in hand, I would stand up to stretch. No big deal, right? WRONG. I took a step backwards, pulling the controller with me causing the entire console to become the least bit unplugged. My heart sank as I watched the TV screen blink – gray and black over and…over signifying all progress (all bosses beaten, every castle conquered GONE) say in Zelda was lost for that summer morning. At the time, I was quite upset but I actually tell that story sometimes as an icebreaker!

So what have we learned folks?

Patience: If you’ve lost a lot of progress on your goal, instead of abandoning it think of another set of strategic steps. Don’t make it 100 steps long, 4-5 should do.

Perseverance: Just keep going. Commitment and perseverance blended together will carry you far.

Take breaks: It’s alright! Breaks during your day are healthy! It’s okay “to unplug” You will have still have beaten those “bosses and castles” Smile and STRETCH!

Until we meet again.

-AM

Full Tank? Or Edging Closer to “E”?

So, right now, I really should be working on my Portfolio Report and Analysis paper for my JOUR762 (Issues in Mass Communication Management) course. Instead, dear reader, I have chosen to write to you! There are a few items up for review that I believe are worth expounding upon.

Let me ask you. Do you feel like you have a “full tank” right now? What in the WORLD do I mean by that?? First, do you feel full of energy, ready to tackle each days’ challenges presented by your line of work (from executive to stay at home parent working or non-working), children and all their activities and school work, supper clubs, perhaps activities with your church, etc? (I believe the list is like an endless runner video game…it goes on and on…)

On the flip side of the coin, you COULD feel like this and over the years achieved a great, admirable balance. I commend you! Leave a comment of how you have achieved this. No, really. Please do. What do you do? Yoga? Stretch? A particular daily routine with pitch perfect consistency? Perhaps a running club? I look like I’m swimming on land when I run! So, running is out for me. Brisk walking is my style.

But, here’s the real crux of the issue. What about those of us who feel like we are truly drowning in fear, anxiety, hopelessness, despair? We feel like we are edging ever closer to “E” (empty) like a vehicle that’s about to run bone dry of gasoline. I wish I had a megaphone that I could broadcast across the nation! I would say to all those who felt this way, “PLEASE! You have support among you. DO NOT GIVE UP! You’re tank will once again be full. It will once again be overflowing with joy, peace, and good things but it’s up to YOU to persist in the eye of the storm! (With much emphasis I would implore) YOU.ARE.NOT.ALONE.

Folks, my entire point of this post is that NOBODY is an island. We are all unique individuals beautifully woven from the same quilt of life. Yet, if too many sections are destroyed, too many pieces utterly cut, and the wonderful, beautiful quilt patches are tarnished our tanks will siphoned so quickly that we will be pushed to “E” so much the faster.

May all peace, joy, and happiness fill your days.

Until we meet again.

Cats – Roll up your sleeves

There are many ups and downs when it comes to pet ownership – especially cats. Am I “cat person”, you ask? Some days, yes. Other days, no way. I shall explain.

Our family has two cats. Both are very docile, love to be petted, scatter when my children run after them, but there is a running, common to (most felines I believe), they vomit almost DAILY if not every 2-3 days. Now, herein lies my irritation.

Why? I walk in our house barefoot almost 95% of the time. These animals are quite angelic, I agree, but, there’s that one thing that sneaks up remember? Right. Where is said vomit MOST of the time? The kitchen. Before I can even turn on the kitchen light in the morning, I’m screeching and sliding in a goopy mess! You’d think, by now, I would – stop, turn on a light BEFORE entering the kitchen, look both ways, and then proceed with caution.

So, how I am learning to solve this barefoot irritation? By rolling up my sleeves and accepting my cats for the sweet creatures God made them to be, teaching my children to be sweet and kind to them, and offering up silent prayers for increases of patience and love for my cats, Mike and Gracie.

Until we meet again…

4 Ways to Make Yourself A Happier Person Every Day

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happiness comes in many different forms. For some, it could be their spouse/children/family, some form of spirituality, connecting with nature, or even just a sipping a latte from a coffee shop and getting “lost” in the pages of their journal. Within this blog post, I will give you five different ways you can practice happy habits every day. My hope is that you’ll come back to this post as a refresher when you need a little lift in your spirits. Shall we?

  1. Daily “Happy Hour”

Now, most people may think when I say “happy hour”, I mean people or perhaps just yourself going to a restaurant or bar and consuming alcohol. In this post, that is not the case. Carve out at least for one hour, to sit down, breathe, and reflect on your day. Think of three things for which you are most grateful. Don’t worry tomorrow will come – no matter what.

2. Keep a positivity journal

To be most effective, writing down positive events that occurred in your day can be done after work or later in the evening. Instead of thinking of all that perhaps went wrong that day, focus on some things that went well such as your boss praised you, you had a positive interaction with a co-worker or customer, etc. Or on the hand, you received an unexpected phone call from a friend or loved one! Write all these down. If none of these things happened, dig a little deeper. Did a stranger show you kindness by holding the door open for you? You are stronger than all of your negative thoughts combined.

3. Stttttrrrretttccchhh!!!

Now, I realize the third title is completely and totally misspelled and not grammatically correct in the least! But stretching every day has its positive benefits. I know, for a fact, that if my lower back is hurting, I need to stretch more often. Stretching can be done any time of the day, but if you’re a person like me who operates like there’s “25 hours” in a day (I know, this thought is absurd), then set your alarm in the morning for 30 minutes earlier to accomplish this task. Your body will thank you.

4. Use Your Words

I had a great trainer recently, and we shared a favorite phrase which was, “Use your words.” In my eyes, it means for that person to describe how their feeling fully so the listener can best understand the situation at hand. Used in a positive manner, great things can be accomplished. Walls can be torn down, empathy expressed genuinely, a resolution is found, and the bond is healed once more. If you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t quite sure what to say, pause, and ask for clarification. But also, be sure to use your words – positively.

Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.

-Blaise Pascal

Everyone, take these words and brush them not aside.

Until we meet again.

To Exercise: “T’is” the Question

A personal trainer once told me, “You can’t “out-exercise” a bad diet.” But, what if I think about exercising, then get dressed to do so, and then get distracted…every day? What if I go to bed the night before, promising myself the next day, that I’ll eat healthier and avoid those popular peanut butter “eggs”, but then go buy a big bag of them? These questions plague me daily. But I’m writing to tell you, if you struggle with the idea of exercising, dread the thought of it, and subsequently not do it, that frequent exercise will pay off in the long run. You’ll be happier, a little sore perhaps, but it really is worth it.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. So, if you have anything that physically holds you back from exercise, perhaps you should consult a physician before starting an exercise routine.

Anyway! So you might be wondering, why would I WANT to exercise in the first place? Exercise comes in so many forms – cardio, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), weight lifting – I could write an entire paragraph on what forms in which you can partake. I’m talking about the MOTIVATION to, as Nike says, “Just Do It”. It’s really that simple. All of us are faced with choices every day – small, medium, and large. (Sounds like t-shirt sizes, but it’s true!)

What could your motivation be? Ladies, maybe for you, your motivation can be to look/feel better in clothes or bathing suit. (Gasp! I said the BS word!) Gentlemen, the same might be true for you. Maybe it’s as simple as wanting to be more physically fit. Period. Maybe your doctor suggested you shed a few “lbs” to avoid certain illnesses. Whatever the reason, a small victory may be jogging in place! Not running around the block, (I’m definitely not at that point), but do something that gets your heart rate up at least 3-4 times a week.

When I was particularly down about the number on the scale, my physician said in a kind voice, “If you exercise 3-4 times a week, and get your heart rate up above 120, and eat a little less, you should see some improvement in your weight.” So, I did as he prescribed. I lost 17 lbs, and when I stepped on the scale one morning, and I saw I was getting closer to my goal weight, whew, the joy I felt!

Friends, exercise doesn’t have to be the silent devil in the corner. Shine some light on him! Make him VANISH with your newfound, awesome motivation to exercise.

Until we meet again.

Let Your Smile Serve

So, how exactly does this title relate to having a happier family life? Allow me to share – beginning with the moment I wake to take on the coming day.

Why do I greet my little girl at 6AM who I felt staring at me by my bedside for a few moments with a smile?

Because I choose to treat every day with her as if it’s almost like Christmas morning. No material gifts but feelings of joy, happiness, pure gratefulness in my soul that she and son were given to me. I practically leap out of bed!

Why am I joking around 30 minutes later as my husband is in the kitchen getting ready for work?

I choose laughter and silly jokes peppered with a bit of seriousness because I want him to be chuckling under his breath as he tells me goodbye.

Now, hold on. This something happened. Kate spilled her drink EVERYWHERE. Do I yell? Do I chastise? You’re kidding, right? We both look at each other she says, “Um, whoops?” I tap my foot very fast with a ridiculous look on my face until there as re gales of laughter from both parties. I kindly ask her to grab me a towel, and the spill is cleaned up. No tears, no fears.

My son, my son. Hears all of this and I ask him (like the commercial) “Did you sleep…like a rock? Oh, like a rock?” He chuckles with a simple yes mom.

This is only the morning in our household! Imagine. If your household has feelings of drudgery, rushing, stress, etc. First, slow.down. Perhaps begin with a simple good morning WITH a smile. No need to dive right into a circus.

My challenge to you, though, is to start smiling. Do it now. Today.

Until we meet again.

Homemade Sunshine

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

-Maya Angelo

So often we become absorbed in our schedules, checklists, and every day tasks. I’d like to pose a question: how many minutes would it take you to stop reading this post, phone a loved one or friend, to simply to hear how they’ve been? What I mean is, you are the listener!

In the song “Cheer Up Charlie” from the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, Charlie’s mother sings of making his troubles go away and blow away. What if you could do the same for someone else with just one act of kindness a day looking for nothing in return?

The quote above is multi-faceted. If you know of someone who is going through a difficult time, instead of being a bystander reach out in some form of communication. People want to be heard. Some nod and listen, but how many listen intentionally?

My husband and I, when we go to dinner, we put away our phones. When we eat as a family? No devices. Why? To facilitate conversation. We ask one another about how our days unfolded, was school/work easy/hard? Additionally, I try to offer some form of praise to every person at the table. I ask my son questions if he gives short answers. (My daughter usually has much to contribute).

If you but put into practice just one thing, well, you just made your own sunshine-be generous though and share it, as you smile at the stranger and those you love.

Let’s talk action

So, right now in your life, are you trying to figure something out? Examples could be: paying off debt, losing weight, your life in general (that’s a heavy one), etc.

I’m trying to figure out how to lose AND keep off 10 lbs THANKSGIVING included this month. So where did I begin this morning? The fridge. I chose to forgo my 2% milk in my coffee and instead use coffee mate. (About 20 calories vs. 130 or so) Doing good so far!

Then, I participated in a pretty intense cardio group fitness class (keep the sweatshirt on, Aaron said, makes ya sweat). I made it 37 minutes. Either I picked the wrong weights or I’m that out of shape or both! However! There’s a class on Monday, and I’ll be in attendance.

I am not counting calories but watching my carb and sweets intake. Definitely drinking 64+ ounces of water per day too,

So? How am I taking action in terms of my journey this month? Daily, realistic, and fun goals. You can think and talk all day about what you want to achieve, but goals are only unicorns disguised as galloping horses if you don’t take action.

Time and Self-forgiveness

As I sat in a beach chair, the sun warming my back as I was conducting research for this post it came to me. Time – that will be the next topic of discussion.

You see, we cannot borrow or give back time. Unlike popular game systems, none of us have “infinite lives” or even cool things like invincibility. My point? I’m still, today, trying to forgive myself for not taking the time to call my best friend from college back in August 2014. I listened to her message, made a solemn promise to return her call…and then her family member contacted me about two weeks later. My friend was on life support! I had just seen her a few months prior!

Within two days, my friend passed away. Shock, grief, you name it I was overwhelmed. But I knew, with ample amounts of each of these (prayer and time) my shattered heart would heal. So, advice time…get ready! Just because your healing is going a little slower than you want it to I have a suggestion for you. Go outside and sit down. Look at the stars, think of a loved one you love SO, SO much and say your ABCs as you look at the stars. Imagine that person wrapping their loving arms around you. Out loud, say I love you.

Leave a comment if you needed a tissue.

Take care.