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Looking for Good

Some years ago, I began to intentionally look for the positive things in my simple, everyday life. I found saying thank you for small kindnesses or letting people know I appreciated them for doing their job well, was very rewarding. Sometimes, it’s hard to spot optimism, but you can find it if you look for it.

I do most of my shopping online because health issues make it difficult to actually shop in person. Online doesn’t always produce a positive experience, but I am slowly weeding out the stores where I have encountered a bad experience. As my shopping outlets are shrinking, some are gaining my trust. Those stores have made it easier to find products I like, easier to maneuver ordering and return policies. And, make it easier to accept shopping online as my new way of life.

Whenever a customer service experience goes well, I thank the young rep (most of them are young these days) for making my order experience go smoothly. If there is a follow-up survey after the experience, I always take the time to complete it. It doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes and time is the one thing I have plenty of.

However, it’s impossible to do doctor visits online. This time of year brings annual visits to several different doctors for a mammogram, ultrasounds, scans, etc. Doctor visits are difficult and usually leave me exhausted.

I try to be punctual for appointments and have my insurance card (and co-pay) readily available. I try to smile, answer questions, and be pleasant with the staff. This week proved to be a bit of a struggle as I encountered several folks who were just downright rude.

I try to overlook rudeness, if possible. I remember having bad days when I was working; days when everything went wrong. Often, we can be rude without even knowing it, I’m sure my life has found me guilty on many occasions.

However, this week one incident sort of got under my skin. Checking in to see the doctor, a young lady was extremely rude to me and to everyone who came in after me. I noticed that most people came through the door with a pleasant expression on their face, but after a few minutes of being treated with no respect, they became irritated. Many lashed out in frustration with anger in their voices.

After seeing the doctor and stopping at the check-out station, the same young lady didn’t even look at me before she said angrily, “Is May 6th okay?”

Trying to keep my cool, I explained I would need to schedule the ultrasound before making an appointment with the doctor. The reason for seeing him was to follow-up to learn the ultrasound results.

It was obvious she wasn’t listening. After repeating my words three times, I stopped talking.

After an awkward pause, she looked up at me with a blank stare. I then said, “Miss, I don’t mean to be impolite, but you are not listening to what I am saying. I must schedule the ultrasound before scheduling the doctor appointment.”

She was angry. Her face was a dark thundercloud; filled with such pain that I somehow knew she wasn’t angry with me.

Her name tag read Susan, so I quietly said, “Susan, obviously you are very upset. I’m sure this isn’t the way you normally do your job. I’m sorry you are having such a bad day. I’m going to say a prayer for your day to get better.”

Susan sat and just looked at me. My mind was whirling, thinking I had said too much, gone too far. I could see Susan was struggling. Her eyes filled with tears. Finally focusing, she leaned forward and whispered, “I am so sorry. Of course, the ultrasound should be scheduled before the doctor’s appointment. In fact, why don’t I schedule your ultrasound and call you back to confirm the date?” I told her that wasn’t necessary, but she insisted.

In the parking lot, I sat for a few minutes praying for Susan; asking God to guide her through the issues that were causing her such pain. I prayed she would find peace in her life.

A thought occurred to me that if I could fill out a survey, I could take a few minutes to pray for people like Susan, even when they didn’t know I was praying. That thought made me happy and is certainly more productive than getting angry.

The next day, Susan called to confirm the ultrasound appointment just as she promised. As we wound up our conversation, she said, “Yesterday was really a rough day for me. Thanks again for your kindness in helping me get through it.” 

Whether we approach someone with positive or negative expectations, they will often (not always) tend to move toward fulfilling our expectations. Seeing positive possibilities in others will encourage them to bring out the best in themselves.

Look for the good in others, and you will likely find it. But encouraging them helps us grow and creates more positive thinking in our own lives.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Ending on a Positive Note: Sometimes God gives us the right words to say to help someone who is struggling with something we don’t understand (or need to understand). I am amazed at God’s faithfulness when we put our trust in Him.

Be Where You Are

I am a curious person. I love to read. I love to learn. I always have.

A good friend told me years ago, “Ag if you weren’t so busy being a mom and taking care of your kids, I think you would be a professional student.” Doris was pretty close to the truth. The only problem is learning doesn’t always happen in a classroom. Doesn’t always require doing research or turning in homework.

One doesn’t even have to be seeking knowledge to learn. Life lessons are there for the taking, all around us. Sometimes learning occurs in weird places, happening in our daily lives when we don’t even expect it.

I am reminded of the quote, “Wherever you go, there you are.”  Loving quotes, especially simple ones filled with wisdom, I feel compelled to give credit to the person who originally spoke the meaningful words.

No matter where you go, there you are. I’ve heard variations of that phrase for years and never knew who actually said it. So, I googled it and found lots of references to who and where the phrase originated. Not sure I know much more than when I started my search.

Google listed credit references to Star Trek, Stephen King, Muppet Magazine, One Day at a Time, comic books, songs, TV shows, movies, and even a guy from the 70s who claimed credit for starting the phrase himself.  My favorite credit line was from The Brady Bunch, “and remember kids, a very wise man once said, ‘wherever you go, there you are.’” Who am I to argue with wise old Dad Brady?  Even Confucius got a nod. That one seems a bit questionable, but who is still around that could confirm or deny that claim?

I am getting off track. Seem to do that a lot these days. Old age, I guess.

This week, I finished writing a little devotional book, and my neighbor asked me, “So what’s next?” I knew she meant was there another book planned? I replied, “Whatever comes along.” Those words were so freeing. I didn’t even think about them, they just popped out.

No longer does my life have to be about work, accomplishments, striving to meet deadlines or expectations set by others. I am where I am.

After all these years, I still love to read, to learn, and my curiosity is still thriving. The only difference is that time is no longer on my side. I’m okay with that. I am where I am, where I belong. This time of life fits like an old comfortable pair of shoes.

The phrase, “Wherever you are, there you are,” is starting to make perfect sense.  Where am I? Just trying to make sure I am really there, present in the everyday moments of my life. To quote a famous sailor, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.”

Ending on a Positive Note: All I have to do is enjoy THIS time, THESE moments. Taking things as they come, not wasting time wishing things were different.

 

Technology Has Left Me Behind?

My cell phone died yesterday on the way to my granddaughter’s softball game. I’ve known for some time it was time to replace it. The poor thing is almost six years old and a friend told me recently that the model I have is being phased out.

My first thought was to stop at the phone store after the game and get a new one. Instead, we opted for Mexican with our daughter and her family. Having dinner with family, especially my grandkids, will always take precedence over shopping for a new cell phone.

Before going to the phone store, I am doing a bit of research online to prevent being talked into a pricey phone that doesn’t fit my current needs.

My dead phone is an iPhone, so I start there. The latest iPhones with all the bells and whistles are listed at the top of the page. Comparison shopping begins to raise some pertinent questions.

At this point in my life, my needs have changed. I am no longer employed. Tom and I chose to downsize two years ago and are enjoying living a more simple life these days. Checking my emails and social media are not things I want, or need, to do while out and about. I really don’t think people will mind, or even notice if I don’t immediately reply to an email or a message on Facebook. Choosing when I go online offers more freedom in my life.

Our life is uncomplicated and we are intentionally working to keep it that way. We seldom go anywhere where directions are required. If we do, I have time to check MapQuest or Google before leaving home. When out in the car and a need for directions arises, I can retrieve the functioning GPS in the glove box.

Simplicity is the name of our game. My phone should fit that lifestyle. A simple phone is what I need. One that allows me to call and be called by the important people in my life, to send and receive a few texts from time to time, to snap an occasional photo, and to make emergency calls if needed.

We still retain a landline phone as it is a necessity to buzz folks into our building. I like using it. It’s convenient; three out of five rooms in our apartment have a phone. It is simple convenience.

I am seriously considering the newest version of the flip phone. It answers all my needs and comes in hot pink, a color that appeals to this older version of me.

I’m preparing for the laughter and negative responses such as, “Wow, didn’t know they still made those things.” My decision is not everyone’s choice. I’m okay with that. Everyone has the right to choose a phone that fits their personal needs.

Consider our transitions from native Americans smoke signals, to letters, to telegrams, to chunky home phones, to pay phones, to mobile phones, and now to slim cell phones with countless apps that can manage lives. Technology is amazing but nowadays moves a little too fast for me.

The technology of a smartphone is a set of tools you can use when or if you choose to. Access to maps, traffic alerts, and weather reports can be especially useful and helpful when traveling or commuting to and from work. You can easily turn off all your notifications and only check email when you want to. It’s only intrusive or additive if you allow it to become so.

For me, the advantages of going back to a dumb phone are not paying for functions I will never use or need. Leaving behind the never-ending charging anxiety, and an expensive price tag. Going back to basics feels a bit like retreating back to vinyl records. The only computer I want is in my home office. I really don’t need to carry a smaller, hard to read version in my pocket.

Marketers have somehow convinced us that smartphones can whisk us away to a better, more stimulating place. It certainly is more immediate, but I am happiest in the space where I actually live. I want to enjoy what is going on around me, such as real, honest-to-goodness conversations with others. Without an attachment, words on a screen don’t show smiles and certainly don’t give hugs.

Ending on a Positive Note: I have come to rely on my cell phone and I’m not sure if this departure from technology will last. However, it feels right at this stage of my life.

 

Do You Talk to Yourself?

Do you talk to yourself? I certainly do. I think everyone does it. Sometimes without even realizing it. We continuously carry on an inner dialogue about how we view life, people, and even ourselves.

Perhaps the better question to ask is not do we talk to ourselves but HOW do we talk to ourselves? Sometimes the most destructive relationship we have is with our own selves.

How do you talk to your friends? If you talked to your friends the same way you talk to yourself, you probably wouldn’t have any friends.

We tell ourselves things like ‘I should’, ‘I must’, ‘I have to’, ‘I’ve got to’, ‘Why didn’t I’, ‘I’m no good’, ‘I can’t do it’, ‘I won’t’ and  ‘It will never happen’.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I can’t believe I did that, I must be really stupid, or an idiot?”

Over fifteen years ago, we had just closed on our first condo in Mason.  My daughter, Stacy couldn’t wait to see it, so I took a card table and a couple of folding chairs so she and the girls could join us for pizza after we finished the closing.

My brother, Wayne stopped by so he could see the new condo or maybe just have an opportunity to see our granddaughters.  Jenna was three and Jessica was three months old. I really couldn’t blame him because they were at such a cute age.

After touring the condo, we were eating our pizza. Wayne was sitting in the floor with Jenna. He was yakking on about something and said, “I couldn’t believe I was so stupid.”

Immediately, Jenna piped up, “Uncle Wayne, you said a bad word. We’re not allowed to use that word at our house.”

Very confused, he looked at me and mouthed, “What did I say?” After explaining he had said stupid, Wayne apologized to Jenna for using the “S” word and she went back to her pizza.

Have you ever called yourself stupid, dumb, or an idiot? I am much better than I used to be, but I still struggle with my inner voice reminding me of my faults, failures and my short comings. I tell myself that by now, I should be beyond that negative self-talk. I should be stronger than I am, further along than I am.

Although I have learned to recognize and talk back to my destructive internal voice, sometimes it still gets the best of me.

“I’m wasting my time. I might as well give up. I can’t do anything right. I’m stupid (or ugly, or fat). I just made a fool out of myself. Everyone is laughing at me. Who do I think I am? I’m a miserable mess of a human being. I can’t do it. Why try? I’ll just mess it up again. No one likes me. I’m not good enough.”

Do those words sound familiar? If we want to get healthy and whole we must pay attention to what we say to ourselves and challenge it with the truth. I don’t mean simply replacing negative self-talk with positive words of affirmation such as:

“I’m so wonderful. I can do anything. I can do no wrong. I deserve to be _________(fill in the blank) ___________.

Our body hears everything we say and will pick up negative images from the way we talk externally or internally.

When I was still working, I found practicing difficult conversations in my mind helped me to effectively communicate about a tough issue, without anger.

I have heard professional athletes, before a big game, often mutter words under their breath to calm themselves down or pump themselves up.

I remember seeing my girls playing with their dolls and stuffed animals, playing pretend and talking out loud to make sense of their world.

Lately, I find myself having a little internal daily chat about my blessings and life’s confusions. I’m not sure it helps me solve anything, but it seems to clarify my thoughts and keep me focused on the important things in my life.

Recently, I was having a little personal chat about a sweatshirt I had purchased last summer. I was certain I had put it in my chest of drawers. As I was walking through the apartment saying to no one, “If I were a brand new Oak Ridge Boys sweatshirt, where would I be?” Then thirty minutes later: “Aha! Here you are. Right where I put you. In the coat closet.”  

Tom laughs at me, asking, “Who in the world are you talking to?”

I respond, “Hey, talking to yourself is a sign of genius. I read somewhere Albert Einstein was constantly talking to himself.”

Well, I’m surely not a genius, but maybe talking to myself is a sign of sanity helping me focus and keep things in perspective.

However, I guess it can also make me look like I’m crazy. So far, I have been able to confine my external self-talking to the privacy of my own home, but if you see me driving or walking down the street yakking on and on to nobody, I guess I’m just conversing with the voices in my head or being my own therapist.

Ending on a Positive Note: If talking to yourself helps you make sense of your life, go for it. Who knows, you may be talking to the person who knows you the best.

A Brand New Year

For last year’s words belong

to last year’s language

and next year’s words

await another voice.

And to make an end is to

MAKE A BEGINNING.”

-T.S. Eliot-

___________________________________________

Happy New Year 2017!

Welcoming every New Year is a time for reflection on expectations, opportunities, and change.

I sort of gave up on resolutions a few years ago. I never was successful with keeping them. I got tired of feeling guilty, tired of beating myself up.

In the last seven years, my life has been altered so drastically I barely have had time to contemplate the changes. Frustration, pain, and sorrow often seemed to represent the only changes that were taking place in my life.

I retired, lost too many beloved family members; too many friends. Downsizing, battling health issues, getting rid of years of accumulated “stuff” and working to find a new purpose for living presented tough times.

The transition has been difficult and slow. Adapting to a new style of living. I have learned to prioritize my life, not my stuff. My faith has become more childlike and simple, like my life.

In 2017, I will not waste my days focusing on expectations. I will just take what comes my way and accept what I can’t control. If opportunities arise, I will take the ones that make sense and dismiss those that don’t fit. And change, well, change is what it is. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. Most of the time, change is just different.

Regardless of the reason, changing your life can be overwhelming. Concentrating on the important things, staying positive, and never forgetting who is truly in charge helps you make it through the difficult and changing times.

I am in a good place.

 

Ending on a Positive Note: God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10 reminds me, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.”

Wounded? Survive! Thrive!!!

Wounded-Survive-Thrive-MedSome months ago, I was invited to write a chapter for a new book, Wounded? Survive! Thrive!!!, that was released on January 22, 2013. Guess that makes me an author, well more like a co-author. But, I have to admit I feel good about having my story in print for two reasons:

1. Maybe it will be helpful to other women who are trying to be all things to all people. Maybe it will encourage and offer hope to women who find themselves overextended by the demands of everyday life.

2. Writing it down is a form of turning loose; letting go brings feelings of relief that offer freedom, calm and empowerment.

The book contains candid and heartfelt testimonials from amazing women who have overcome tough times to discover clarity, peace, success and happiness in their lives. This book serves as an inspiration and a reminder of how a woman — no matter what her background or circumstance — can have the strength, grace and bravery to rise above adversity and find the courage and wisdom she never knew she had.

I am the spotlight co-author today on the Facebook Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/WoundedSurviveThrive. Take a minute to check it out.

Ending on a Positive Note: I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this book along with other women with fascinating stories. I’m happy to say the experience has kicked me back into gear and has given me the incentive to finish a book I started several years ago.

Get Comfortable with Change

After getting over her fear of riding a pony for the first time, Jessica is all smiles.

After getting over her fear of riding a pony for the first time, Jessica is all smiles.

While waiting in the checkout line at Bed Bath & Beyond last night, a lady asked if I had made any resolutions for the New Year. Briefly, I told her my resolutions were to take 2013 one day at a time, to simplify, live more intentionally, give more than I receive, and focus on the people who matter most. (From my 12/31/2012 blog “A Year Worth Remembering”).

She shared her two resolutions were to lose weight and clear away the clutter in her home. Laughingly, she said, “But I’ve already given up on losing weight because I weighed myself this morning and I have gained five pounds since January 1st.”

The New Year always has people talking about making significant changes for the better. The beginning of a brand new year is a great time to resolve to create a change in our lives, but we should not expect to change a habit we would like to break overnight. It has probably taken us years to create and fine tune; taking baby steps to change a habit seems more attainable.

So, if this is another year of “I’m going to do this or change that.” Here are a few suggestions that might help you succeed in 2013.

  • Create a simple plan & write it down
  • Be realistic about your goals & action steps
  • Hold yourself accountable & review your plan weekly
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself
  • Adjust your plan along the way, but don’t give up
  • Relax and take it slow
  • Surround myself with people that encourage you
  • Live in the moment (life is short)

Here’s to embracing your opportunity for significant change in 2013.

Ending on a Positive Note: Making a significant change in your life can be scary at first, but as you became more comfortable it became easier and easier.