Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It's all about relationships!

Recently I had lunch with a former boss (and now more of a good friend/mentor) and we were talking about some things we would like to see happen in the future.  And before the conversation was over, we both agreed - it's really all about relationships.

Different depending on the relationship 
I don't mean that you have to "know someone" to get "somewhere" (that never hurts) but more of recognizing how good relationships can pave the way, smooth the rough edges, enhance the journey (you get the drift).  With that being said, there are consequences (not always bad) that are common in bad relationships.  A bad relationship can cause negative feelings, reactions and disregard for forward movement because you don't like the person you are dealing with.  Negative relationships can also cause you to change your path.  This may be a benefit...only time can tell.

So after our conversation (as oft is the case with many conversations I have) I began to ponder ALL of my relationships and past experiences with people (both positive and negative).  I wanted to discover if there was a pattern, maybe a sequence of events that could determine whether or not the relationship would be good, bad or indifferent (a very real category).

Very often, it is easy to generalize our relationships.  Maybe even the importance of same.  Case in point.

When working with direct reports at work, I have often been heard saying "You don't have to like everyone, but I better not be able to tell the difference."   Not that anyone has ever been so blatant to an employee they didn't like, but nevertheless, it shows up in many ways.  An opportunity may arise that the employee out of favor will never be considered for.  Evaluations may show a slant towards recognizing all employees for a similar factor (and outcome) at different levels.  When fresh eyes review material like this, it becomes glaringly apparent.

How about relationships with parents, siblings, children?  It is easy to say that because we are siblings, our relationships are the same (or as mother, I enjoy a relationship with all my kids).  Fair enough at face value but sharing a common bond does not indicate a similar relationship.  And, of course relationships evolve and change over time. 

IMHO (short cut for in my humble opinion) if you have a good (or bad) relationship with someone and it changes over time, you now have options.  I have some relationships that have been in place since high school.  We go long periods of time without connecting and when we do, it is like we last spoke yesterday.  I have also had relationships that were once very close and have become more distant over time.  Not because of some slight or misunderstanding, but factors like age, distance, different opinions, etc. have now come into play.  Now this is a "crossroads" point where one can decide; eh, given current priorities, that relationship can go on as is...or wow, here is an opportunity to work on a relationship that is really important to me.   Because as we know, all good things require work.

So, where are you at in your relationships?  Any work need to be done?  What do you do when you want the relationship more than the other?

I can't answer the first two questions but as for the third, I do what is right for me.  In other words, I don't keep score and think "It's their turn to call, visit, check-in" etc.  I call, write, check in for my own reward.

 In closing, I believe that a changed relationship can be just as good (if not better) than the original one.  And to answer the question pondered in paragraph three - it's all about choices and what you want for YOU!

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It's never too late to do the "right" thing

Even this is my opinion!
What is "the right thing"?  Many times over the years, I have heard people say "I want to do the right thing".  But haven't we all seen cases when "the right thing" is not black and white, it could even look like varying colors of gray?  And sometimes, what is right for you will not be right for me, and maybe neither of us really understands what right could be.

I can remember more than one time in my life when I knew what I was doing, how I was living, why I decided things....was definitely....NOT RIGHT.  Yet, I wanted all those things to be right.  But eventually, I acknowledged to myself that I was not living right, so I fixed it.  I changed what I was doing.  But not until it was apparent to me.  It is never too late to do the right thing, once we recognize what it is.  But is right for me, right for you?

In this world, "right" seems to be increasingly fluid.  What used to be right many years ago, is blatantly unacceptable by today's standards.   And I promise you, if I used any type of example, I would get cheers from some and jeers from others.  Not going there.

Let's go to the dictionary for some common ground.  The definition of standard as a noun is "a level of quality or attainment".  So what if I set a goal for myself to become a quality quilter (recent new hobby...stills light years of way from achieving that status).   That does not mean this is now the same standard for everyone.  If I start judging myself ....and perhaps others...on MY standard, I have just overstepped my bounds.  Another use of the word as a noun is "an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations".  It might be a safe thing to compare wages (there are laws and comparable data) but not attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.  DANGEROUS misstep.

Finally, standard - used as an adjective means "used or accepted as normal or average".  Before going down this road (fraught with hidden dangers), I would pose the question...normal or average as defined by who??  I think you see where I am going with this.  .

Yet there are still some things we can ALL do right.  We can choose to be non-judgmental.  We can ask questions rather than assume we know all the answers.  We can recognize that just because we "feel" something, doesn't make it true (at best, we can offer an opinion; again, which doesn't make us right or wrong....just takes us back to how we "feel").  We can comment on the positive rather than wallow in the negative. We can always error on the side of kindness versus righteousness.

Until next time, before hopping on the "soapbox of life", look for the gray.  I promise you, it is there.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Why it doesn't work

Or not.  Your choice!
All my life I have been told "treat others as you wish to be treated".  As a child, I was certain this was the magic formula that would transform relationships.  It seems so simple.

But it doesn't (always) work. Surely I can't be the first person to have discovered this phenomena.  And once we know this as a cold, hard fact, why do we keep trying?

I do know the answer to that.  It's because we never lose hope.  We believe that our behavior makes a difference...maybe not in how we are treated, but at a minimum, in how we view ourselves.

In my past life, I had a boss who was always very abrupt and to many, seemed either always angry or just unfriendly.  It was neither, though not everyone figured this out about her.  It became most apparent to me during a conversation where she was quite short and rude (at least it sounded that way to me).  I decided to respond in kind so she could hear how she sounded.  Well.  All she heard was how I sounded.   And she was not shy in commenting about it.   #clueless

But I felt very uncomfortable speaking to her in the tone and manner that I did.  Granted, it was just an experiment, but I took no pride or pleasure in behaving this way.  It was very uncomfortable for me and as it turned out, my only of success was that I knew without a doubt that the behavior I was portraying was not natural to me.

I was discussing this with my sister (Katy) recently and she said "I hate that you can't make people be thoughtful".  So true.  At times, people seem to hurt us the most when they don't even know they are hurting us at all. 

I try to be mindful of this, knowing I could be guilty of doing the same thing to others.  I continue to hold myself accountable for how I speak to others.  If I find myself rethinking a conversation and not liking how I sounded, I will follow up with an apology.  This is the only way to "make it right" (at least for me).  And I don't mean a backhanded "sorry" but a full accounting of why I am apologizing.

And Madison reminded me of something important the other day.  Instead of focusing on what people did (or didn't) do, I should focus on the ones that DID!  (or DIDN'T).  Another choice - another perspective.

If you ponder this and realize you might fall short in the "treat others" category, take heart.  You can choose to change that...and remember, how we treat others "generally" does not count.  It is very personal to each individual.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What is your end game??

Everything we do in life, we do for a reason.  Whether it is a conscious or sub-conscious thought or action, there is something we want to achieve.  Most of the time, we head in the direction we are going (both literally and figuratively) without acknowledging our end game.

During the week, every morning I get into the car and drive.  My end game is arriving at work (preferably safely and in a timely manner).  I don't give this much thought as I have been doing this for more years than I can count.

When Madison and I get out ingredients to prepare supper or bake one of our delectable treats, we don't have to say out loud what we hope to accomplish.  We already know.

So, what do we need to acknowledge, when we begin arguing with someone?  Have we been asked for an opinion?  Do we want to impact their thought process and/or behavior?  Do we just want to be right?

What is our end game?

This is when we really need to focus on the big picture.  I have an example (of course).  Last night, Mom, Madison and I were taking a walk around the neighborhood.  (think Fit bit step goals).  Our primary purpose was to get some mileage on the clock, but as we walked, we talked about different things.  At one point, Mom pointed out a house that was in disrepair.  She shared what she knew about the house and owner and I countered with what my understanding was.  We both had some common themes (who the owner was) but differed on time and approach.  At this point in the conversation, it could have gone soooo many ways.  Maybe I just wanted to be right.  Maybe she just wanted to be right.  Maybe both of us hoped to influence the other.  We opted for another solution.  We both acknowledged that neither of us had intimate knowledge of what was going on and were simply sharing information.  End of discussion.

WOW!  What a concept.  No one had to continue hammering home their point (we both heard each other the first time and neither of us are (entirely deaf) or stupid.

Then why is it that we (the royal we) fall into the trap of taking a hard stance on any given topic and lose sight of the big picture?  Of how things can escalate and impact immediate relationships and even extended family/friends?  What is our end game?

As we can all recognize, we live in a diverse world.  No one person represents all women, all men, all ethnic backgrounds, all Republicans, all Democrats, all cancer patients, all new mothers.....I could go on forever.

So why then, do we lump people into categories and present our viewpoints as all knowing?  Perhaps the only person with the right answer?  What is our end game?

I saw a response on Face book the other day that went like this...."Anaaaand here in the comments (in their natural habitat) you can see glimpses of the argumentorus attitudimus.  They are known for their instinctual displays of their ability to find any and everything to combat, and overlook everything good and fruitful".  I messaged the author (who I do not know) and told him that I thought this response could be used for just about everything posted these days.

What is my end game with this blog?  I hope that you will ponder this idea.  Recognize the potential for damage.  Decide on the worth.  Where do you fall?  What's your end game?

Until next time,

your pal,

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

To Infinity...and beyond!!!

Over a year ago, Terry and I made the commitment to up our together time.  One piece of that puzzle included travel.  For many years, we traveled more separately than together, thinking we would take our "together" trips ..."when".  When we had saved more money, when we retired, when the kids were all grown, when we had more time....etc. etc.

While I don't remember any particular illuminating moment when we both said "AHHHHAAA" our focus has definitely shifted.  It was time to pursue life versus waiting on it to just happen!

Over these past several years, we both have experienced the early loss and/or illness of friends and co-workers the same age (or younger) than we are now.  It was the cumulative effect of those life changing events that finally caught our attention.  For some, the pursuit is over.  For others, the pursuit with their over.

So we started doing things that before we had only talked about.  And while it seems that our primary focus is on travel, it is really so much more than that.

It's all about US.  Not him, not me..but US, being together intentionally.  And I have to say, I have never been happier.

Most recently we enjoyed a cruise together.  Eight days of margaritas, sand, ocean, sightseeing, people-watching, and more margaritas (which then translated to daily naps).  On our last night on-board, we enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner.  We were at our own table but our neighbors were VERY close.  Unfortunately, after just a few minutes of them being seated, it became apparent that they were not enjoying each other's company as much as we were (NOT EVEN CLOSE).  If they just ate in solitude, that would have been one thing.  But no, they decided to air every disappointment (with each other) and before their main course had been served, the "D" word had been thrown out.  It got very personal.  Wow!

It was at that point I put my hand on Terry's  and said, "I am so thankful".  Of course I am always thankful, (for many things) but at that moment, I was specifically thankful that we have never talked to each other like they were.  That is not to say we have never disagreed, that we have never had an argument, but....even in our most trying situations, we have never disrespected each other like that.

This didn't just happen.  I (we) have also chosen to be accountable.

Every decision we make creates our circumstances.  Too many times, people get confused on this point.  And there were times when we were too.

But now, it's INFINITY AND BEYOND for us!

Until next time,
instead of

your pal,

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Look past the water stains

Here comes the sun!!!
Despite the streaked window, the sunrise was beautiful.  I would have missed it had not a co-worker said "Come see"  Another guy sitting there, who actually has the best view, looked up as we gathered and said "I am so used to it now, I sometimes don't even notice.  Yet, even through the water stains on the window, it is beautiful."

When I was walking back to my office I thought, isn't that true about life?  Despite those times when we travail more valleys than peaks, shed more tears than laughter, or feel we have lost more than we have managed to hold on to, we still have so much to be thankful for.

It is like the "other side of the coin".   And when the coin is "flipped" that is all we tend to focus on. is only when we become ill, that we fully appreciate how much good health means to us.  And after a serious health issue, the appreciation is often life changing.  A new way in which we view the world.  Because it definitely looks different when suffering. 

Grieving is the same way.  We physically feel empty.  The world is bleak...and lonely.  Yet when we grieve, it is only because we have first loved.  Not a lot of time is spent appreciating that during those initial dark days.  Our thoughts are consumed with the loss.  And we don't stop loving who is gone.

Those are the big things.   But every day there is something to be thankful for.

These past few weeks, the area my sister lives in (Hi Katy), has experienced severe storms.  Not only were these folks lamenting the loss of good weather, at times the storms were so severe, they might have experienced fear.  And then.....power loss....for days!  Nothing like losing electricity to remind us of how much we rely on it.

At work, for several days our break room had no water.  I was irritated every time I had to walk up a flight of stairs to fill my water glass.  Yet those steps are nothing compared to many countries who don't have access to clean water and may walk miles to get it.  If it is even available.

It is easy to take things for granted when everything is going well.  So, today I will remind myself; I enjoy all the creature comforts (food, clean water, housing, education, employment), I love (and am loved by) many people, my health is good and my faith is strong!  If we take a moment to think about it, our lists can get pretty long.   And I want to consciously remind myself of all these things on the good days, so I will remember them should my path go dark.

Some days (more than others) I miss those who have gone before me.  It is like a physical pain in my heart.  On those days, I will remind myself of the love and many good times we shared together.  Until we meet again.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Somebody....but not me.

I was talking to someone the other day (who will remain anonymous) and this person shared with me a story.  On the way to the store, a behavior was observed that the driver did not like.  It wasn't just an annoyance, but something that could be dangerous.  The driver said, "Somebody should call the police."  My person asked "if you feel that way, why don't you call?"  The answer was "no, somebody else, not me."

And it made me think.

How many times do we see something, and don't say something??  For a variety of reasons.  It doesn't have to be a behavior that is publicly dangerous, but how about a behavior that has personal repercussions.

We don't want to rock the boat.  We don't want to make someone mad.  So we turn a blind eye (or keep our mouth shut).  And the time will come when the consequence of the action arrives, and then we can say, "Ha.  I was afraid of something like this."  Or, "I knew that would happen."  And everyone nods in agreement.

But following those type of statements, the next question should be "did you share your concerns?"

Now that is not near as satisfying as saying "I knew it" but somewhere along the way, we need to take responsibility for perhaps choosing that road less traveled.  It doesn't have to be a confrontation, but a gentle observation.  This works well with kids and adults.  Sometimes we need to play the "what if" game to create awareness.  Talking through things can be an amazing thing!

I know I am guilty of this myself.  I would much rather avoid any potential of confrontation.  But that doesn't make it right.

Lord, please give me (and others) the direction and strength to say the hard things.

Until next time,

your pal,

It's all about relationships!

Recently I had lunch with a former boss (and now more of a good friend/mentor) and we were talking about some things we would like to see ha...

Never a dull moment; Look past the water stains; This is out of order, there is no coincidence