Taking Care of YourselfThe Lighter Side

10 Things I’ve Learned on the Eve of Turning 50

January 23rd, 2018 → 8:55 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony…

Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” Brad Paisley

I love the start of a new year. Always have! There is something about turning the proverbial page on the calendar to a new year and having 365 days to fill that I find really invigorating! It’s like I have the power to determine how those pages are going to be filled, and that’s exciting. I’m finding this year extra-special because I turn 50. Five-zero. Half a century. Despite medical advances, I’m pretty confident that I can say that my life is half over at this point. Which is really exciting because it also means I have half of my life LEFT TO LIVE! As I reflect, here are a few things I have learned, and the top ten lessons I am going to take with me as I enter into year number fifty.

1. Not everyone is going to like you … and that’s OK! I recall an older friend telling me that getting older meant you no longer had to give a damn about what others thought. I have realized there is truth in her statement. You can’t be Switzerland. Bottom line: you are never going to have the approval of everyone, and you will never please everyone, so quit busting your butt trying. It’s a never-ending battle with no chance of success.

2. Wrinkles, bags, and lines are unavoidable … but the alternative is worse! I’m not saying I plan to age without putting up a good fight (goodness knows I spend enough money on serums and creams each month), but beyond that I am proud of the life experiences, both good and challenging, that those lines reflect. Bottom line: own your lines and their story.

3. Floss … because you realize what your dentist has been telling you to for decades is true. Yup, I’ve heard this for years, and it’s only after reaching my late 40’s and realizing that my gums were starting to recede that I realized why flossing is so important! Bottom line: I’ve discovered you can make up for lost ground and reverse gum disease … if you start to floss (for real this time!).

4. Create your own life … which means figuring out who YOU are. Many people find themselves sacrificing so much for their significant others, their children, their careers, and their volunteer service that by the time 50 hits, they haven’t done anything for themselves in years. Bottom line: retirement and empty-nesting will be here sooner than you think. Figure out who you are, and what you enjoy, so that you don’t wake up one day, look around, and wonder who that person is in the mirror.

5. Age is just a number … and you are never too old to learn new tricks. Just because I am turning 50 doesn’t mean I’m putting myself out to pasture. Hell no. I’ve just launched a new company with my husband and am learning all sorts of new things about designing and manufacturing products. I spoke with two different friends yesterday. During our conversations one said, “If only I was younger, I would do …” and the other, who just retired at age 74 said, “I’m going to start auditing university level classes for fun!” Which person are you? Bottom line: Learning new things helps to keep your mind sharp and keeps life interesting!

4. Menopause is right around the corner … which means muscle mass and bone density both start to decline. For me that was a far stronger motivation to get to the gym and to adopt a more healthy lifestyle than the motivation of showing up at the pool in a bikini had been for decades earlier. Bottom line: it’s about more than just vanity at this point; the health stakes are higher now than ever before. I want to enter the second half of my life being healthy and fit enough, both mentally and physically, to enjoy every moment.

7. Simplifying and decluttering brings great joy … and purging can be fun. It seems that I’ve spent the first half of my life accumulating stuff that now brings me great joy to donate, sell or otherwise dispose of. I’ve had fun figuring out what we really don’t need or want anymore, or to use that Japanese decluttering system that was so popular a few years ago, those things that “don’t bring us joy anymore.” I’m left with meaningful items that I know I will use. Bottom line: Downsizing is liberating and frees up not only my physical space, but also my mental space. And, you really don’t need all that crap anyway. See #8!

8. Experiences trump accumulation … and make the best memories. If I reflect back on the best memories in our lives, it’s those times where I experienced something, not when I received something. Our family travel adventures top my list of experiences that will last a lifetime. Instead of buying tchotchke souvenirs, I document our experiences with photo books. I love coming home and seeing the photo books in disarray on the family room table knowing that someone in my family has been looking through them and reliving the experiences that we shared together. Bottom line: Spending money on experiences trumps spending money on stuff and the “high” lasts much longer, Better yet, experiences don’t have to cost anything at all!

9. Practicing meditation is not a new concept … despite the focus by mass media today. My mom has meditated for decades. I grew up watching her role-model the importance of taking some time to clear your mind each day … to think… to listen … to be still. Today, more than ever, the “on” switch is “on” 24/7 thanks to technology. Consequently, today, more than ever, we need to make time to just be still and allow our minds to calm down. Three deep calming breaths are my “go-to” strategy when life gets crazy. Bottom line: Being still, being present, being focused, and not rushing from one thing to another, makes life much more enjoyable if we will just take/make the time to slow down.

10. Relationships are all that matter … really, nothing else does. Truly, at the end of the day, isn’t it the relationships that you have cultivated in your life that really matter? It’s not your degrees, your job title, the size of your home, the bottom line on your financial statement, or even where your kids are going to school. Isn’t it really about who is there to experience life with you, to be with you when you want to celebrate, and to support you when you need to cry? It’s the relationship you have with your significant other, your parents, your extended family, your friends who are like family. We all have people in our lives who have “wronged” us, and we can choose to hold grudges or find forgiveness. Forgiveness is harder, but has a much sweeter reward! Bottom line: It’s all for naught if at the end of our lives we end up alone with no one to share our love, our friendships, our experiences and our memories with. Relationships need to be constantly cultivated. They don’t just grow overnight.

There it is. That’s my list. I’m sure I can come up with more, but that’s my stream of consciousness around 10 things I know I’ve learned as I embark on the second part of my life.

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Taking Care of Yourself &The Lighter Side

Dating, Romance, SexKids' IssuesMen's Issues

Dating a Divorcee with Kids? Here’s Why Being the Bonus Parent is Awesome!

January 9th, 2018 → 8:15 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

Here’s my latest: https: https://www.eharmony.com/dating-advice/relationship-tips-2/why-you-should-date-someone-with-kids/

 

Dating a Divorcee With Kids? Here’s Why Being the ‘Bonus Parent’ is Awesome

I’m taking a different path in writing this week, and I’m really excited about it. Many of you who follow my articles know that I’m divorced and remarried. You have come to know me really well as you have read about my experiences over the years surviving divorce, dating, and finding love –  all while trying to stay on the proverbial ‘high road!’

But, you have never heard from my husband…until now.

Justin and I married when my kids were 8 and 10 years old. They will be 18 and 20 next year, and we have learned many lessons over the last decade. I am incredibly grateful that Justin stepped into the role of being their stepdad with his entire being. Never once has he ever called them “your kids” instead they have always been “our kids.”

Through the highs and the lows and the ups and the downs – and as with any family there have been a few – he has been by my side and by their side. He has parented them to the best of his – and our – ability. We’ve called Justin the “bonus dad” from the beginning. We nickname him a ‘bonus’ because our kids already have a great dad, and Justin never set out to replace him. Instead, he set out to be the best bonus dad he could be.

“Stepparents are not around to replace a biological parent, rather to augment a child’s life experience.”–Azriel Johnson

Justin and I both realized very early on that co-parenting and step-parenting is not a competition between two homes. Rather, it’s a collaboration between all of the parents to do what is best for the children. When the kiddos see all of the parents in alignment, it tends to mitigate the ability of the children to play one parent against the other.

I tease Justin he got a three-for-one deal when he met me. (I also tease him that he wisely escaped the diaper and potty-training years; I’m not sure how well he would have done with all of that!) The first time I ever met Justin, he shared how much he loves kids. He had been volunteering with elementary-aged kids at our local community church for years and continues to. I’m sure he always presumed he would have his own biological children. But he met me, we fell in love, and I wasn’t prepared to have any more kids.

This became a real discussion for us in our early days, and ultimately, what made me fall in love with Justin, even more, is that he was all-in for being the best bonus dad ever and embracing that role fully without ever wondering ‘what if.’ He has filled the role as a great bonus dad, and he has felt an imperative to serve as a role-model for the kids. My kids love Justin. My kids love their biological dad. They are two lucky kids.

After all, if a mother and father can love more than one child then why is it so hard to understand that a child can love more than one mother and father?

That’s my perspective. But don’t just take it from me.  Here’s what Justin has to say …

“When I was dating, I assumed I would follow that classic path of dating, marrying and having my own kids. Instead, I met Monique and fell in love with her, and her two kids. Having kids of ‘my own’ became less important to me as I quickly realized how much I could and would love her two kids. And most importantly, I cherished the potential positive impact I could make on them and with them.

I believe my family and many of my friends thought I was crazy at first and wondered if I would have regrets. I could sometimes feel their nonverbal, unsupportive or hesitant response when I shared I was dating a woman with two kids. But they weren’t walking in my shoes, nor did they have any understanding of the chemistry in our pending new family situation. It’s an important lesson for all of us as we often judge or assume without knowledge of a person’s true situation – positive or negative.

Being a bonus dad is one of the greatest things I have ever done.

It is incredibly fulfilling, and can be incredibly frustrating, but isn’t that parenting in general? Monique’s right: I never changed the kids’ diapers (which I’m not complaining about!), but I also don’t have any memories or photos of the kids with me when they were newborns or sitting on Santa’s lap at Christmas or joining them for ‘donuts with dad’ at school or taking them on their first trip to Disney World. To be sure, there are things that I missed out on– or a few years – but once I joined their little tribe, I did get to start collecting my own memories and photos with them.

It worked well for us because their little tribe welcomed me so openly, and I jumped in with no reservations and with a ton of love (and silliness) to give. Over the years, I decided I really wanted to write a book about being a bonus dad. Too many stories talk about wicked step-mothers or evil-step-fathers! We don’t believe this is the narrative that kids need to hear. We have witnessed firsthand the positive things that can come from having a bonus parent.

This past summer, we put pen to paper and wrote/designed a children’s book that has become a labor of love for us. We made sure the content focused on the common activities of being a bonus parent – things like driving carpool, making breakfast, sitting through athletic events, and reading bedtime stories.  We also wanted to include a teaching moment in each one-page chapter so we added a ‘big idea’ value–tenacity, cooperation, honesty–to each page.

Our goal was to provide a beautifully illustrated, whimsical, colorful and engaging book that both children and adults would enjoy reading together. We wanted it to be applicable to both bonus dads and bonus moms. Reading it one way, the book highlights the bonus dad. Flip it over, and the book reads the other way to highlight the bonus mom.

You can’t help but fall in love with the characters who are represented as a friendly family of yellow labs. We designed it as a keepsake book and there is a page for the ‘Bonus Dad/Bonus Mom’ to write a dedication to their bonus child.  While our kids are now young adults, you can be sure they are getting an inscribed book from me this year thanking them for allowing me to be their bonus dad! They have given me the greatest gift ever – the privilege to be their ‘bonus.’

Check out the book: BONUS Dad! BONUS Mom! A child’s guide to understanding the role of a step-parent.

 

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Dating, Romance, Sex &Kids' Issues &Men's Issues &Women's Issues

The Lighter Side

Good Night! Sleep Tight???

November 22nd, 2017 → 11:51 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

I came upon this little infographic the other day. It made me smile (and it made me think) and I wanted to share it with you. I like my sleep. Probably better to say, I need my sleep. I have always been an early riser, but I crash hard relatively early at night. My kids know this to be truth: “If we want to ask Mom anything important, make the ask before 8:00PM …”

I write about marriage, divorce and remarriage. I’ve written for years about how to ensure you are compatible when it comes to your values, your mindset, your religion, your views on money, your views on how to parent your children, your views on how to stay connected and be intentional … yet I’ve never written about how to ensure you are compatible when it comes to sharing a bed. When you think about it, we spend between one-quarter to one-third  of our day (I’m assuming that most people get between 6-8 hours of sleep per night; some of you are looking at that number and wishing it were true!).

That’s a lot of time spent in bed, and if those hours aren’t spent getting fully rested and restoring our bodies, it can have a negative impact on us.  Personally speaking, it might be fair to say that I’m a bit crankier and short-tempered after a night of bad sleep. Ask my husband. Check with my kids.

Back to the infographic I saw. Isn’t this cute?  The sleep brand Casper created this guide. It breaks down 6 different sleeping personalities. This can have major implications for a marriage. For example, if you pair a snorer with a night owl, the results can be disastrous. And, can you imagine mixing a hot sleeper with a snuggler? That just sounds like sleeping in a sauna.

Casper_sharingbedv05@2xHere’s what I face every night! I’m lucky. We are relatively compatible when it comes to sleeping. On the rare nights that my husband snores, I simply nudge him gently (OK – sometimes not so gently) with my elbow, tell him to turn off his back, and that usually does the trick. Neither one of us tends to be a Bed Hog, but I’m sure that’s because we sleep on a king size mattress. He is definitely a Hot Sleeper, and I am definitely the opposite (I’m always cold), but we’ve resolved that by my putting 3 extra blanket just over me and my side of the bed! Neither one of us tends to be a Restless Sleeper – when we fall asleep, we fall hard. We can both fall asleep even with lights or noise in the room. Again, when we fall asleep, we fall hard.

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 10.27.20 AMThat leaves us with the Snuggler. And that, my dear readers, is where my husband and I BOTH struggle with getting good sleep. You see, we have two dogs that think our bed, our pillows and our blankets really belong to them. They just let us use them. I know it’s our own fault, and we’ve created this situation, but most nights we find ourselves relegated to some small corner of the bed while the dogs stretch out in all their glory, or we wake to the sounds of our dogs cleaning themselves, and even frequently to the sounds of them talking in their sleep or twitching in their dreams (they most definitely dream about chasing the tennis ball!).  I do recall us once saying that we would never let the dogs sleep on the bed. But …

Good night! Sleep tight! Sweet dreams!

 

 

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Blogtalk &The Lighter Side

Danger Zone!

The Cost of Complacency

November 12th, 2017 → 4:41 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest from eHarmony! The Cost of Complacency

complacency

Complacency is a continuous struggle that we all have to fight. ~ Jack Nicklaus

You know how you sometimes (perhaps frequently) have that experience of something bumping up against you repeatedly and you feel the nudge to listen. It’s like the universe is trying to tell you something, or to teach you a lesson, or remind you of something. Some things just seem to come up enough that you finally just have to pay attention …

Complacency.

That’s the word that has been bumping up against me repeatedly over the last month. So much so that I felt compelled to write about it.

I have a friend who has been married for 28 years. Her husband came home last week and told her he was leaving. No warning. No build-up to it. No kidding. He literally walked out. As she is reflecting on what happened, she admits that neither of them have been actively working on their marriage for several years. She assumed that they would be together forever (a normal assumption, for sure). He obviously decided otherwise. She says they stopped putting forth the effort into their marriage, their ‘dating,’ their sex life, their romantic gestures. As her kids pointed out, “you and Dad haven’t done anything together in years.” They were right. #RelationshipComplacency

I have a friend who has worked for the same company for 21 years. She has progressed through the ranks, worked her way up, earned a great salary, and was even able to work from home frequently. She has done very well for herself. As she has built her career internally, she has become insulated. She hasn’t kept up a professional network outside of this company. She hasn’t stayed networked and connected with others in her industry or in her function. She lost her job last week. She hasn’t put a resume together in over 20 years. She is totally unprepared for this. #CareerComplacency

I have a friend whose teenage daughter appear to have it all going on. She has never been in trouble at school or at home. She is outgoing, kind and respectful. She is a good student. The parents have never felt the need to ask too many questions. Over a few months, she started to act differently. The grades went down. The friend group changed. The attitude changed. Yet, they brushed it off as “normal teenage stuff” and didn’t take any action to try to find out what was going on. #ParentingComplacency

Familiarity breeds complacency. ~ Rick Warren

Why is it risky to become complacent?

Complacency happens! It happens when we get really comfortable with the situations in which we find ourselves. It’s easier to let things continue on as they are than to have to expend energy. Of course my marriage is fine; I don’t need to invest time or energy in it when there are so many other things I have to get done. Of course my job is secure; I don’t need to invest time or energy on my career when I am so busy in my career. Of course my kid is good; I don’t need to invest time or energy creating a problem where none exists. Complacency is risky because it creeps in when we let our guard down and we quit focusing on what’s truly important. Complacency happens when we get too comfortable with the status quo.

What can we do to avoid becoming complacent?

From a relationship perspective, I saw a great example of this on Facebook today. A colleague posted a photo of he and his wife of 27 years at the airport about to head out for a long weekend. He commented that the trip was “marriage maintenance.” How fun is that? He and his wife recognize that they can’t become complacent, but rather need to intentionally work on staying connected within their busy lives.

From a career perspective, there are countless ways to stay connected and intentional about your development. Attend continuous development conferences to stay current on the latest trends in your business. This also allows you to meet others in your industry. Get involved in the community to meet others who might be able to help you should you ever find yourself unemployed. The worst time to try to build your network is when you need their help. Build it first, make deposit and investments in these relationships, so that if and when you ever need them, they are willing to help out because the relationship has been established.

From a family perspective, stay connected and involved. For example, I was never a big user of texting as a form of communication. I realized many years ago that if I wanted to stay connected with my own teenagers, I needed to start texting and quit leaving voice mails or emails (which are never listened to or looked at). Complacent behavior would just say, “it’s too much trouble to learn a new form of communication … my kids just need to listen to my voice mails.” But, if they aren’t listening then all those voice mails are just wasted air. You can avoid becoming complacent by adapting as the world evolves around you.

He who is content with what has been done is an obstacle in the path of progress.~ Helen Keller

The bottom line is that while it’s nice to be comfortable in our lives (our relationships, our careers, our friendships) the reality is that we need to always be intentional about staying focused on what is most important to us so that we never get surprised when something derails and takes a path that smacks us in the face and surprises us.

 

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Blogtalk &Danger Zone!

Taking Care of YourselfWomen's Issues

Celebrating Your Independence Day!

July 5th, 2017 → 10:59 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony… Celebrating Your Independence Day

independence day dating tips

She needed a hero so she decided to become one.”

The importance of our Independence Day is that it marks the birth of the United States of America. Remember your US history? The people living in the colonies were tired of living under British domination. They didn’t want to follow the orders from the King anymore. To go against the King was a very dangerous proposition. They were risking their livelihoods and their lives, but they decided it was worth the risk to win the freedom to govern themselves. They wanted to be free; they wanted to make their own decisions; and they asserted their independence. No sacrifice; no victory.

As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, I am struck by the fact that I have several friends who are in the process of asserting their own independence as well.

I have four girlfriends right now who are each going through a divorce. In each instance, these friends have tried for years to make their marriages successful, but ultimately, and for a variety of reasons, they are unable to do so. It’s been a series of failures and fiascos. There have been trials and tribulations. It’s no longer red, white and blue, but rather red, white and boo-hoo! The sparklers are no longer sparking!

The fireworks are gone!

Their stories needed a hero.

And each of these friends decided to become her own hero.

Each of these women has taken her destiny into her own hands, and I applaud her for that. I am not one to support divorce willy-nilly. I believe in the covenant of marriage. I also believe that there comes a point when you have tried and tried to make a marriage work, unsuccessfully, and it becomes in the best interest of all involved (the husband, the wife, and the children) to declare your independence and move on. It’s tough. My friends are sad at the prospect of ending their marriages which started with so much hope. They are fearful for what impact this will have on their children. They are scared at the idea of having to start over financially.

But, beyond those emotions, my friends are also hopeful. They are brave and strong and independent enough to know that this is something that they need to do. Just like the colonists back in 1776, they realize that the upside outweighs the downside. They know their future is as bright as a July sky during the grand finale of the fireworks display!

On this Fourth of July, I celebrate these 4 friends, and all of the other people who chose to become the heroes in their own stories. Like the colonists, you are choosing to assert your independence. You are indeed a hero. Happy Independence Day!

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Taking Care of Yourself &Women's Issues

Taking Care of Yourself

What My 18-year-old Daughter Taught Me About Relationships

April 18th, 2017 → 6:46 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

 My latest for eHarmony! Enjoy!
relationship advice

My daughter graduated from high school this past May, and is currently on The World Race (a gap year program, #3n9 as they travel to 3 different continents over the course of 9 months). This is not simply traveling around the world with a backpack; rather, they are assigned a host ministry with which to serve in each country. My daughter started with 3 months in Guatemala, then moved to South Africa and Lesotho (I had to look that one up!) for 3 months, and is now finishing up by serving in Cambodia. This isn’t an easy program. Several participants have opted out. Living out of a backpack in some pretty tough conditions (relatively speaking) can be challenging (situations like no running water, sleeping on the floor, lack of fresh food), let alone having to process some pretty rough life realities of our world around poverty, illness, and abuse.

While they may be on this program to help change the lives of others, I can safely say that my daughter and the other participants on this program have had their lives changed even more immensely. The knowledge, maturity, independence, confidence, tenacity, and perseverance they have gained on this trip is incredible.

I sent her a text the other day: “What is one thing you have learned from your experience on the World Race? Don’t think, just answer, then ask your peers the same question! Go!” Their insights are spectacular, and incredibly relevant. I know every one of us can think of a time when a relationship in our lives went wrong as communication broke down, as we assigned blame instead of taking accountability, as we viewed others with skepticism instead of trust, or as we failed to show our appreciation. These are basic tenets of human behavior that frequently occur on the destructive path that leads to failed relationships and divorce.

Here are their answers. I think you will agree with me … out of the mouths of babes (she may be 18, but …) come some pretty amazing insights!

1. “Every day we have choices. We have a choice to dive into relationships with people we meet. We have a choice to make someone smile, to take a risk, and to change a person’s world.”

We own our choices. And, we own how we treat others. We do have that choice, and that ability, to make someone else smile, to take a risk on someone, and to change someone’s world. Whether we choose to do this is in our hands. How many times have you missed out on meeting someone new, or getting to know a new friend even better because you failed to smile, failed to say that first ‘hello,’ or failed to do something nice to rock someone’s world. I’m grateful that 9 years ago my husband made a choice to come up to me at an event and introduce himself with a huge smile. He has changed my world. Proactive choices trump reactive responses.

2. “Life to the fullest does exist, we just have to choose it.”

Many people I speak with seem to relish their own pain and agony. They like to own their story about all the bad things that have happened to them. You’ve heard it … “My life is miserable because he did this … “ or “I have no money because she did that …” You know what? We can all lead full and fulfilling lives if we choose to. One of my favorite mantras that got me through my divorce was, “I can’t control what happens to me, but I can control how I react to it.” I refuse to be a victim, and let life happen to me. We can choose to be happy and lead a full life in spite of the chaos around us. Personal accountability trumps blaming others.

3. “Don’t have expectations … ever (of other people or of the world).”

Putting our own expectations on other people sets us up for failure and disappointment. The only person we can control is our self. We can and should encourage others, challenge them, and hold them accountable, but at the end of the day, we will frequently be disappointed if we live life expecting things from others. Instead, we need to focus on your own deliverables, our own energy, our own impact on our relationships, and the rest will follow. Delivering to your own expectations trumps holding onto expectations of others.

4. “People are beautiful. It is your responsibility to find it in them, not theirs to show you. Be curious, not judgmental. You can learn a lot more from a stranger than from a friend.”

So many people approach relationships with others with an expectation (there it is again!) that they have to prove how awesome they are. Have you ever been on a date where the entire conversation centers on the other person and at the end of the meal you realize not one question has been asked about you, your life, your passions, or your interests? It’s exhausting! Instead, we are better served by our curiosity and our real desire to learn more about others (especially those not “like” us). Conversational curiosity trumps monologues.

5. “Joy starts with thankfulness.

There is a reason that so much has been written in recent years about keeping a gratitude journal, or dedicating a part of each day to being intentional in thinking about thankfulness. When we realize how much we have to be thankful for, and actively recognize those things, we become more joyful. And, who doesn’t like being around joyful people? Joyfulness trumps grumpiness.

6. “Don’t put a Nalgene® (water bottle) in the freezer. It will explode. Thank goodness for lifetime warranties.”

Yes, there is a relationship lesson in this one too. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we freeze. Sometimes we explode. We often make a mess in our lives and in the lives of others. Fortunately, we can honor our own lifetime warranty. We have an amazing opportunity to build credibility and restore trust when we admit our mistakes, and then work to make things right … at no cost to others. This is the cornerstone of building trust and commitment in relationships. Admitting mistakes trumps denying responsibility.

7. “Trust people.”
Life would be so much nicer if we all started from a place of assuming people are acting with good intentions. When this is the starting premise, suspicion disappears, and the potential for misinterpreting comments and behaviors is minimized. Trust people, until given a reason to not trust. It’s that simple. Trust trumps suspicion.

There you have it. Incredible responses to one simple prompt of, “What have you learned on the World Race?” Incredible relationship advice from a group of young adults who are currently experiencing one big adventure … and learning a tremendous amount from it!

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Blogtalk &Taking Care of Yourself

Taking Care of Yourself

On Hold! Now What?

March 25th, 2017 → 10:01 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

life on hold

Our pastor recently delivered a sermon series talking about what we do when life puts us “on hold.” He used an old-fashioned phone as a prop. Well, it was actually a push-button, corded phone, so really not that old-fashioned (after all, it could have been a rotary dial), but it served it’s purpose for reminding us of those dreaded moments when we are put “on hold.”

Like me, I’m sure many of you have experienced situations in your life where you felt like you were being put “on hold” … much to your dismay. I have a friend right now who feels like her life is on “on hold” while she finishes chemotherapy for an unexpected cancer diagnosis. I have a friend right now who feels like his life is “on hold” while he searches for a new job after being laid off. And, as I can relate to, I have a friend right now who feels like her life is “on hold” while she waits for her divorce to be finalized.

The sermon series talked about how we handle being in these “on hold” moments. The gist of it was that when we are stuck and “on hold,” then focusing on the “when” and the “what” can lead to fear, disappointment and disillusionment. But, if we shift our focus to “who,” and place our hope and our fears with God, then we can find strength and peace, even when we find ourselves in the middle of that awkward spot of being “on hold.”

I see this playing out perfectly with my friend who has cancer. Her life has most certainly been put “on hold,” but she is courageous and bold. She has made it clear that while she doesn’t have the answer to “when” she will be cured, and “what” that will look like for her, she is abundantly clear about the “who” in this equation. She has put her faith in God, and doesn’t question His timing.

I can say the same for my friend who lost his job. He doesn’t know why his life has been put “on hold.” For obvious reasons, he is holding off on making big financial decisions. He is not sure how long he will be unemployed, or how long his savings will last. It’s stressful. He’s not sure “when” he will begin to receive a paycheck again, or “what” that amount will be, but he knows “who” is in control. While he is actively looking for his next position, he is also trusting God to reveal His plan when the timing is right.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my friend who is going through a divorce. Her “on hold” moment is driving her crazy. She is trying to control the “when” this will be over, and the “what” her life will look like in the future. She theoretically and academically knows that she needs to surrender to “who” is really in control, but she can’t seem to do it. It’s a frustrating cycle to watch as an observer on the outside looking in.

The reality is that life happens. Life doesn’t go according to our plans – ever! None of us is exempt from having “on hold” moments happen to us. They just show up – normally when we least expect them. We can’t control them. What we can control, however, is how we allow these “on hold” moments to impact us and our attitudes. We do have the ability to leverage this time “on hold” in order to learn and to grow.

Our pastor referred to these pauses as our opportunity to have a season of preparation for what is to come. It is in these times that we have to strike a careful balance between wanting to be in control, and demonstrating patience … and then between demonstrating patience, and appearing passive … and then between appearing passive, and moving into being proactive (and taking control) again!

His bottom line was that we do this through a cycle of expressing gratitude, demonstrating persistence, and surrendering to God. Over, and over, and over again. I’ve seen my friend with cancer to this. In site of her diagnosis, she is demonstrating gratitude for the blessings in her life, then she’s persistently and adamantly fighting this cancer, all the while recognizing that God is in control and surrendering to His ultimate will. The same with my friend who lost his job. He is grateful that he has savings to rely upon; he is persistently and rigorously attacking his job search, and he’s surrendering to God that He has it under control and that the right opportunity will come along when it’s supposed to.

I wish I could say the same for my friend who is going through a divorce. By her own admission, she is finding it incredibly difficult to express gratitude, demonstrate persistence, or surrender to God. I wish my friend could take that first step and find even one or two things about which to be grateful. It’s life-changing when we take the time to demonstrate and reflect on our gratitude each day.

My friend is also struggling with persistence. It’s a hard road to get divorced. Usually our timing isn’t the court’s timing. Things take so much longer than we want them to or expect them to. It’s frustrating. It requires a level of steady persistence to take each day at a time, and not get overwhelmed. I encourage her to focus on her ultimate goal, which is to be divorced, and not to get distracted by all the little bombs going off around her, which are typical of a divorce proceeding.

Lastly, my friend is struggling with this concept of surrendering to God. She tries. She really does. She gives her worries, her fears and her doubts to God. But then she snatches them right back again and tries to regain ownership. Surrendering is a hard thing to do. We like to be in control. And, as I’ve said to my friend, when we finally feel the peace that comes with truly surrendering, you wonder why you held on for so long!

Remember, when life puts us on hold, as it inevitably will, we need to focus less on the “when” and the “what” and more on the “who.” It behooves us to take advantage of that time “on hold” to practice expressing gratitude, demonstrating persistence and surrendering to God. Our “on hold” moments pass much more peacefully when we are able to do this.

What about you? Are you “on hold?” Are you expressing gratitude, demonstrating patience, and surrendering to God?

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Taking Care of Yourself

Taking Care of Yourself

Note From My Father

February 13th, 2017 → 1:32 pm @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony:The word kindness against bright blue sky with cloud

I’ve had this pressing thought lately about how lovely this world would be if we all treated each other with respect and kindness. This isn’t a new thought by any means, yet it seems it’s one that keeps resurfacing in my thoughts.

At a national level, and certainly not to get into a political conversation, I think we can agree that no matter which side of the fence you are on, respect and kindness were lacking in our recent election. That’s all I am going to say about that. I think we’ve all had enough!

At a more local level, my son recently broke up with a young woman he had been dating for a few months. He was adamant that he wanted to treat her kindly and respectfully. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I was so proud of how careful and caring he was as he delivered the message, and the young woman was just as kind and respectful in return. No drama. No anger. No disrespect.

I wish I could say the same for another couple who are in the process of breaking up. The difference is that they haven’t dated for just a few months, but rather have been married for over 40 years.  You would think (hope!?) that after 40+ years, after building a life and family together, and after both coming to the realization that they are no longer happy together, that they would honor their history and treat each other with kindness and respect. Not happening. They have both played with gasoline and matches and the resulting firestorm is no fun for either party, nor for their extended family and friends.  It’s sad to see that kind of history get torched when in reality they could jointly agree to move forward with kindness and respect.

It can be done. I spoke with another couple who is getting divorced this past week.  They were married about 19 years ago, and find themselves divorcing as a result of deceit and extramarital affairs.  I think we can agree that kind of behavior is neither kind nor respectful, and many would argue that the opposing spouse had every right to be just as unkind and disrespectful in return. I’m not saying that there wasn’t some of that going on because human emotions do come into play, but when it boiled down to the “break-up,” the divorce, this couple is choosing to take the high road. Instead of rehashing the past, they are choosing peace. They are looking forward to what will be, and not dwelling on what was.

My father passed away nearly 20 years ago. I found some old papers last night that he had written to leave for his future grandchildren to read. They were his memories, his stories of growing up, and his reflections. It brought tears to my eyes to read them. He described his parents who were married in 1924, and wrote, ”Mom and Dad taught us manners, values, and consideration for others. I don’t recall them ever using foul language, gossiping or making disparaging comments about others. They were kind and considerate and always willing to help others.”  I never knew his parents, my grandparents, but I love the description my dad provided. I wonder, will my kids say the same thing about their parents?

The bottom line is this: it is possible to choose kindness and respect every day.  It is possible to get through life’s toughest moments by maintaining your commitment to kindness and respect. And in the end, that is the kind of legacy we all want to leave.

What do you think?

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Taking Care of Yourself

The Lighter SideWomen's Issues

Collecting Memories, Not Things

October 10th, 2016 → 9:55 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

I just returned from a wonderful weekend away. My good friend K’s mom passed away recently after a hard-fought battle against cancer. Another friend, A, and I flew down to Florida to help K clean out her mom’s house and prepare for it to be sold. Now you are likely re-reading my first sentence and wondering what was so “wonderful” about that weekend.

It’s emotional to “clean out” someone’s life and decide what is worth keeping, or not. It’s heart-wrenching to realize that boxes of photos that were someone else’s memories don’t necessarily mean as much to those left behind. It’s difficult to make a determination in a matter of minutes about whether an item is worth donating to the thrift shop when you know the decision to purchase that item was well-thought out back in it’s day.

Thankfully, K’s mom was neat and organized and her house reflected that same semblance of order. There was no clutter. There weren’t stacks of things everywhere, but nonetheless, there was still a tremendous amount of stuff to go through. Every item in each bedroom closet, bathroom cabinet, linen closet, curio cabinet, dining room hutch, and kitchen drawer sat waiting to be reviewed … waiting for it’s future to be decided. Keep. Donate. Toss.

Our friend K handled this like the champ she is. I learned so much from watching her go through this. I am undoubtedly more prepared for the day when I inevitably find myself having to do the same thing after my mom passes away. K showed emotion, and love, and connection and laughter. Lots of laughter! And her mom would have loved that.

I left with several realizations that I wanted to share with you.

Collections: So many of us love to collect things, and it’s fun as you seek, find, and gather, but remember, what you collect is likely only a turn-on to you (unless it’s a collection of very valuable things, like old gold coins, which can ultimately be sold). Collecting chocolate molds was fun and games for years until someone had to figure out what to do with 92 of them. I realized that my collection of elephants serves no meaning. I’ve had fun buying them on various trips, but it’s really the trips that have been so memorable – not having another wood-carved elephant sitting on a display shelf. It’s time to review which ones are meaningful and which ones are simply taking up space.

Obsessions: Different than collections, obsessions are things that we end up having more than an average amount of for some unknown reason. For K’s mom, there appeared to have been an obsession with placemats. I think we stopped counting when we got to 32 sets (a set being 4-8 placemats each). We had a great time laughing and pondering what our kids will name as our obsessions. In full disclosure, I realized that if my kids were to clean out my bedroom right now, they would find about 19 pairs of flannel and fleece pajama bottoms. I’m going to do something about that this weekend. I promise to pare it down to no more than 7 (at least, I will try to).

Valuables: There are items that have a real financial value, and items that have an emotional value. Sometimes, it can be tough to determine what falls into each category. No wonder so many shows on HGTV feature people discovering great finds at thrift shops that are worth lots of money. The man at the thrift shop literally started rolling his eyes at us when we pulled up with yet another truckload of items to be donated, and the odds are in some treasure-seeker’s favor that we donated at least one valuable piece of blue and white willow pottery, depression-era glass or sterling silver. It’s sitting in that thrift shop just waiting to be found. I realized that the things I own that may not look like much, but that do carry some financial value, need to be itemized and noted for those who eventually clean out my house. It will make things so much easier for them.

Friendships: The most important take-away from the weekend was that friendship ranks at the top of the “value” list. True friendships are absolutely priceless. Life is tough. We all endure our fair share of trials and tribulations. Having deep relationships and people by your side to cry with you and celebrate with you (and even to clean out with you and move on with you) is really what is most valuable in life. K’s mom was a role model for how to be a good friend to others as was evident by how many people we ran into who spoke so lovingly about her (neighbors, the postal carrier, people at the grocery store…). I realized, yet again, the importance of making time for and truly investing in friendships.

So, you see, it really was a wonderful weekend. We laughed and cried together. We supported each other. We contemplated our own mortality. We talked about our moms, and we talked about what we are like as moms ourselves. I think K’s mom was there with us in spirit and we hope she was laughing and smiling with us, even when we were making fun of some of her stuff (seriously, who needs 53 cloth napkins, 24 sets of sheets, and 8 sets of measuring cups?). The three of us friends made more memories together, and, in the end, collecting memories means so much more than collecting things.

Things go away. Memories last forever.

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The Lighter Side &Women's Issues

October 10th, 2016 → 8:36 am @ // No Comments - Join the conversation!

My latest for eHarmony:

Sometimes You Have to Say No to Say Yes!

say no and say yes

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or is it?”

Have you ever had to say no to something in order to open the door to saying yes to something else? What happened?

I had a great conversation with a colleague over lunch last week. She’s been dating a guy for the last two years. She seems to describe her relationship with him as somewhere between “things are OK” and “it’s pretty good” whenever we get together and catch up.  I’m not sure we’ve ever connected where she hasn’t shared some level of angst or tension with where things were at with this guy. There certainly has never been an instance of total love, passion, respect, joy, and fulfillment.  The fact is that her boyfriend is a nice guy and she enjoys being with him (most of the time), but their relationship always strikes me as hard and difficult.

After I got divorced and started dating the man I am now married to, the word that kept popping into my head was “easy!” No, I wasn’t easy! Our relationship was easy! That’s about as complex a word as I could use to describe how we got along from day 1, and in fact, how it continues to be 8 years later. It wasn’t complex; it wasn’t challenging. There weren’t more days of strife than days of joy. There wasn’t more anger and angst than there was love and laughter. Simply put, it was easy. That’s not to say we didn’t face obstacles. We did. Any relationship does, especially relationships later in life that have to take into account things like ex-spouses and children, histories and hurts. We called these obstacles our “hurdles” and made sure we talked about them and dealt with them, and we did, and still things were “easy.”

Which means that I’m puzzled by how “hard” my colleague’s relationship seems to be for both of them. I asked her if it’s always been this difficult. It has. I asked her if it was worth it. She didn’t know. I asked her if this relationship was giving her everything she wanted. It isn’t. But still, for two years, she has stayed put.

I wasn’t sure how direct to be with my friend. Yes, she’s a colleague, but she’s also a friend. I asked her to describe what she wanted from her relationship. She wants more than she is getting. She’s getting “OK” or “good,” and she wants “great.” Frankly, there’s nothing wrong at all with any one of us wanting, expecting, or waiting for “great.”

I asked her why she is sticking around. I asked her why she didn’t just cut her losses and move on. If this man isn’t capable of giving her what she really wants, what good is it going to do either of them if she sticks around. He feels the angst too. She isn’t giving him what he truly and deeply wants either. Both are “fine,” but neither is “fantastic.” They are sort of stuck in this icky and complacent place where neither is terribly happy, but their fleeting bright moments make up for the cloudiness that surrounds so much of their relationship.  The truth is that they want very different things for their future. We’re talking some pretty major differences in expectations. Marriage/no marriage.  Kids/no kids. Pretty major stuff, right?

She didn’t really have a clear answer for why she might want to think about moving on until I pointed out what I thought was pretty obvious. Sometimes you have to say no to something, in order to say yes to something else!

Perhaps it was time to say no to this relationship, so that she could say yes to the opportunity of a new relationship. She wasn’t going to build an online dating profile while still in a relationship with this guy. She isn’t going to put herself out there as available when she is in a relationship. She’s too honest for that. As a result, she’s stuck. She’s not saying no to her current situation, which means she isn’t putting herself in any situations to say yes to something better.

I get it. I really do. It is scary and there is a real risk. The risk is that she says no to this relationship and then nothing comes along for which she can say yes. What happens then? Not only has she said no to mediocre, but now she doesn’t even have a relationship at all. We talked about that. Emotionally and intellectually it’s easy to arrive at different answers. The heart and the head can lead us down divergent paths.

You know that old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? That essentially means that it’s better to have a lesser, but certain advantage, than the possibility of a greater one that may come to nothing (by the way, little history lesson, this statement likely refers back to medieval falconry where a bird in the hand (the falcon) was a valuable asset and certainly worth more than two in the field).

I really like my friend. She has an amazing spirit about her. She’s smart, funny, athletic, gorgeous … truly the whole package. I want to see her truly fulfilled and happy. I don’t want to see her settle.

What do you think? What would you tell my friend? Should she say no in order to have the opportunity to say yes? Have you said no in order to say yes?

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