Sunday, February 28, 2010

Breakin’ the Rules

Paul and I had been planning on taking the kids up to Disney this weekend for about a month. As luck would have it, I received a very big assignment from a client that made me reconsider going – I thought maybe we should stay home, and I would work over the weekend instead, to make sure I met my deadline with as little last minute stress as possible.

I actually spoke with my life coach about this, and we talked about my priorities in life. My family is my biggest priority. Although I love what I do, my family comes before work. Being reminded of this helped me to decide that we should still go on our trip as planned.

As my life coach and I were talking, she said, “What would it be like if you left all of your work behind at home? What if you left all of the ‘rules’ of life behind for the weekend?” Wow! I loved that idea! I was sure if I put my energy into having a fun, “rule-free” weekend with Paul and the kids that I would be motivated to work hard the following week on my project.

So, as we started driving up to Orlando, I pulled out a piece of paper and pen and started talking to the kids about rules. I started on a really boring note, without telling them where I was going with the idea. I was asking them about what rules we have at home that they have to follow. They listed things like washing hands, brushing teeth, going to bed on time, etc.

Next, I told them my idea about leaving the rules behind this weekend and just having fun! They LOVED it, so we talked about which rules we could break. This wasn’t going to be a “no holds barred,” no rules at all weekend, but we wanted to try and let them break as many as possible. Here are a few examples:

At lunch that day, we decided not to enforce our limit on dessert – they each had a whole bag of the fun size M&M minis instead of half the bag (our normal rule). The smiles on their faces were HUGE!

We also broke the bedtime rule of 7 p.m. I think we got back to the hotel around 9:30. Very late for those two!

Then, Tyler decided he wanted to either not brush his teeth at all or brush them with his finger! Alyssa said she absolutely must brush her teeth. That was not something she wanted to give up! But in the end, neither of them ended up brushing them at all.

The next morning when we woke up, there was condensation all over the sliding glass doors in the hotel room – we let the kids draw in it, something we would usually not allow at home!

It’s pretty cool that something that started out as an internal struggle for me turned into a memorable experience for the whole family!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Persistence Pays Big Rewards

"Mom, if I put on my shoes and socks, can I go outside and play?" These are the words uttered by my four-year-old on several occasions over the past couple of weeks. There are so many wonderful things about this question, but let me tell you about just one of them.

The biggest thrill for me is that I am a stickler for the kids wearing shoes and socks to play outside (unless we're at the beach, of course). Why? For two reasons -- safety and safety. Wearing gym shoes protects their 10 little toes from getting injured while playing, and it helps prevent them from falling and getting injured.

The sight of children running in flip flops just makes me cringe. Lots of parents let their children play this way, and that is their business, but it's not my preference for my kids. Herein lies the problem.

For years, I've been requiring this of Tyler and Alyssa, and for years they've whined, cried, groaned, moaned, kicked and screamed about it. "It's too much work to put on shoes and socks," or "Sally Soandso doesn't always wear gym shoes."

Well, I've learned over the past few weeks that my persistence and patience has paid off! They get it! Even though they fought me almost every time, they got the message, and they know exactly why they wear gym shoes when they go outside to play!

So, now, not only do they ask if they can go outside and play, but they also mention the fact that they will put on their shoes and socks (by themselves, nonetheless)! Yippee!

Just thought I'd pass along that bit of positive encouragement for all of us parents who sometimes get "oh, so tired" of repeating the same mantras over and over and over again! It's worth it!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Ripple Effect in Life

I've always been a very positive, upbeat person. In fact, my nickname in high school was Smiley. I still get many compliments on my smile. :) Some people tease me about "being so happy all the time," but I can't help it -- it's just the way I am. No. Let me restate that -- it's the way I choose to be.

I realize I have the power to make my life what I want it to be; and I realize it's my actions that create my happiness, not the actions of others.

Have you ever heard about the Ripple Effect Theory? Master Life Coach David Essel talked about it the other day in class, and it really struck a chord with me. The Ripple Effect theory states that every thought and every action ripples from us and affects the world -- positive or negative.

Let's go back to the phone incident, where I was a bit rude and impatient wtih "Amy." Had I not called her back to apologize, she might have been crabby for the rest of the day. She might have been short with her co-workers and other callers; she might not have done a good job at work for the rest of that day; she might have been short with her husband and children. She might have had a hard time sleeping that night. I could have had all of this negative energy going on, as well, because I felt guilty for being rude.

On the positive side, what happens when we are dishing out good vibes? The day I called Amy back to apologize, I felt really good about the ordeal. In the end, I did the right thing. As a result, everyone I came into contact with that day felt my positive energy and saw my smile, I was productive with my work, I enjoyed my evening with my children and my husband, and I slept great that night! As a result, everyone in my life felt good too.

I think we don't always realize how our bad moods impact our families -- especially our children -- you know, the ones we're trying to raise into healthy, happy members of society. :) They feel every bit of our unrest and unhappiness, and it affects them. I would feel terrible if I was crabby with Tyler one evening and caused him to sleep poorly -- what if that caused him to do bad on a test at school the next day? That's not the kind of mom I want to be!

I'm not saying we should all walk around pretending life is peachy all the time. But, it's important for us to deal with what is bothering us, so we can be a positive source of energy to everyone we come into contact with!

Need help learning how to "deal" with what is bothering you? You need a life coach! But, until then, I'll write about the technique another day! Stay tuned!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Got Passion?

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing a woman from a non-profit organization yesterday. The interview is part of an annual report I am writing for a client. I won't give too much away, because we don't like to spoil the report before it is revealed in its entirety, but I was so moved by this woman that I had to share.

This woman is on FIRE for her non-profit. It is evident by the words she uses and the passionate way she speaks them. I swear, she had me near tears and ready to whip out my checkbook! All this during an interview for an annual report ... for a utility. Who'd a thunk?

I'll tease you with one quote. She said, "Give me a pencil, and I'll get a child to college." Wow. Powerful stuff. Doesn't that just give you goosebumps? She's not asking for enormous donations of scholarships -- just pencils. This woman totally moved me.

She inspired me so much that she set the tone for the entire report in my eyes. She made my job so much easier just by being passionate about hers. Now I can't wait to interview the rest of the people!

I couldn't help but think, "What if everyone were that passionate about their job?" Can you imagine what we could do in this world? The mouths we could feed ... the children we could educate ... the diseases we could cure ... the possibilities are endless. The energy that radiates from a person who is that passionate about what they do is powerful.

So, I ask you. Are you passionate about what you do for a living? If not, what can you do about it? Do you even know what you are passionate about? If not, take some time with pen and paper and write about it. Brainstorm some ideas. You never know where it might lead you!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cat's in the Cradle

I love that song Cat's in the Cradle -- it's an oldie, but a goodie. I heard it yesterday for the first time in a long time. I think I hear it differently now that I have children. It's sad. It reminds me of how busy life is and that it sometimes gets in the way of enjoying our children.

Parents older than us always say, "Enjoy them now, because before you know it, they'll be going off to college." While we know this is true, it's hard to hear sometimes when they're driving you crazy and all you want is a little time to yourself ... or to feel like you got one thing accomplished that day.

Being a parent is hard, but, I'd have it no other way. Tyler and Alyssa make my world go 'round! I recognize that they're good for me on many levels -- they teach me many of my life's lessons. Plus, life would not be nearly as fun without them! I just love to watch how silly they can be. And, I like how paying attention to them can take me out of my adult-world head and into the present moment of whatever sweet, innocent goofiness they have going on!

Yesterday, Tyler really impressed me with his creativity. After school he led us in two really fun activities -- first he turned his bedroom into a craft studio, and we made Valentine's. He gave Alyssa and I step-by-step instructions about what to do!

Then, he turned his bedroom into a planetarium. He used a flashlight, his Moon in My Room and a globe that lights up and shows constellations at night. He got this idea from the planetarium at MOSI in Tampa -- a trip that we took last month with the Cub Scouts. Too cute!

It was awesome to see Tyler pretend to behave like the planetarium employee who gave us the show. He mimicked her as best he could and was very informative about the stars, the moon and the sun! What fun!

So, I'm really glad I heard that song yesterday, or I might not have slowed down enough to experience that with the kids. I might have told them I was too busy to play, and I would never have known what fun I missed. I'm so glad I played!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Gift of Time

A couple of times over the past few weeks Paul has offered to drive Tyler to school for me. What a treat! This offer feels like a huge gift to me -- the gift of time. But I'm not the only one who benefits -- we all do!

It allows me to leave the house to take Alyssa to school 45 minutes later -- or not at all on a day like today when she is home sick.

It allows Alyssa the opportunity to sleep 45 minutes longer -- we normally have to wake her up at 6:30 every morning in order to get out of the house by 7:15.

It also gives Paul and Tyler special father-son time, which they don't get a lot of. Tyler really enjoys that extra attention. He loves spending time with mom or dad alone -- without the constant interruptions from his adorable little sister!

And, I'm sure it makes Paul feel good that he is helping everyone else out. Even though Tyler's school is way out of the way, Paul still gets to work on time.

I guess I'm writing about it, because it feels so freeing. Like a weight lifted off my shoulders...just a little release from the normal driving routine...a little room to breathe...a little more flexibility...a little less pressure.

I'll take the gift of time anytime!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Guilt: The Energy Sucker

I wanted to expand a little bit upon the "behind-the-scenes" emotions of my experience with Amy yesterday.

Had that experience happened to me last year, before working with a life coach, I would have walked around all day venting to my friends and family. I would have replayed the story in my mind a thousand times. I would have retold it a dozen times. "Can you believe that woman? Giving me the third-degree like that? How dare she?"

My friends and family would have been fabulous! They would have listened intently, given me the time and space to vent and cheered me on! The problem is, I would still not feel better after venting. The reason is that venting is not the solution to the problem.

The reason I felt bad after hanging up the phone was that I felt guilty that I had mistreated someone. The only solution to that problem is to "own it and clean it up." Those are the words of my life coach, Lynne Pietrzyk. Through her, I've learned the value of cleaning up my mistakes right away -- otherwise, they drain me.

A year ago, I would have carried those feelings of guilt with me for the entire day or longer. But, now that I've learned to fix my mistakes as soon as possible, I have saved myself hours upon hours of guilt.

What's wrong with walking around with guilt for hours on end? It is a huge energy drain. When you expend all of your energy feeling guilty about something or worrying about something, you can't put it toward positive experiences -- toward your NOW. This causes you to not live in the moment. And if you're not careful, you can get sucked in, and life will pass you by.

Had this experience happend to me a year ago, I would have been thinking about the exhange all day, instead of dealing with it and moving on.

But, instead, I had a fantastic, energetic day -- it was liberating to take control of the situation and do the right thing! It allowed me to enjoy my day!

I hope you enjoy your day today! Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Irony of It All

I'm going to get real wtih you for a moment -- show you a moment of my day where I was not at my best, and how I dealt with it.

A friend is going through a challenging time right now, so this morning, I called her at work to tell her that I would be bringing dinner by tonight.

A woman, presumably an administrative assistant, answered my call. Here's how the conversation went. (I am changing the names of the people to protect their identity.)

"Hello. How can I help you?" Amy the Assistant said.

"Yes, I'd like to speak with Suzy Somebody, please," I replied.

"May I ask what company you are with?" Amy asked.

"Oh, I'm not with a company," I replied.

"May I ask the nature of this call, please?" Amy asked.

"It's actually a personal call!" I said, in a peppy voice.

"Well, you're going to have to do better than that. I can't just put anybody through." Amy said in an authoritative voice.

This sent me off the deep end. My patience was gone. I lost my cool. I was pissed off. How dare this woman give me the third degree. "Who does she think she's answering calls for, the President?" I thought. I'm trying to do something nice for someone, and I have every right to call.

I replied in a bitchy, firm tone, "I am her friend, and I am calling because I want to bring her dinner tonight."

"Oh, that's all you had to say, that you are her friend." With that, she kindly patched me through.

I had a sweet conversation with my friend and hung up feeling very mixed emotions. I was grateful that I had a small way of helping her out and showing her I cared, but in the process of trying to do that, I treated someone else badly.

It was as if my tone with Amy had negated the good I was doing for my friend.

I thought about it for a little while and realized I needed to call Amy back and apologize. So I did.
I feel better now that I had a chance to apologize. I had a nice little chat with Amy. We even laughed about it. But I am still annoyed with myself for acting that way.

I think Amy forgives me, but now I need to forgive me ... how will I do that? Part of it was my sincere apology to Amy. Part is writing this blog, and sharing my story with others, but I will also journal about it with good old-fashioned pen and paper. And finally, letting go of it. There's no reason to carry it around.

Master Life Coach David Essel says to not forgive (yourself or someone else) is like having a huge anchor around your neck that goes behind you into the ground, that you’re constantly trying to move forward with. But you’ll never move forward with the pace and the ease you could if you could let go.

So, I'll be workong on that today ... is there anything you need to forgive yourself for?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gratitude: Do You Have Enough in Your Life?

I'm in a grateful kind of mood today. Full of gratitude for many things in my life -- especially the people who make it easier and more enjoyable!

I try to write about my gratitude on a daily basis, and I find that it keeps me thinking positively, even when things are challenging.

Master Life Coach David Essel says you become what you think about. So, if your mind is filled with thoughts of gratitude, you focus more on what you do have, instead of what you don't have.

I think of this often -- especially with all of the negative postings I see on Facebook. I don't think people realize they have the power to shift their focus from negative to positive with gratitude ... or what a difference it would make in their mood if they would try it.

For these people, David recommends keeping a daily gratitude journal. It's easy to do -- simply sit down with a pen and paper and write down everything you have to be grateful for at this very moment. If you find yourself struggling, start with the basics -- food, running water, shelter, etc.

Here's an example from my gratitude journal:

Today I am grateful for Paul's parents who took the kids overnight. I am grateful they had a fun time together. I am grateful they were all safe. I am grateful this break from the kids gave Paul and I time alone and time with special friends. I am grateful this time also allowed me to do my homework and some work for my clients.

Not only does this philosophy work for everyday life, it also works when you are experiencing challenging times in your life.

For example, a woman who lost her job was grateful she had friends and business contacts to call and ask for references, referrals and job leads. She was grateful for the skills and training she got from her previous job. She was grateful for job search websites to post her resume on. During this process, she found that all of these positive thoughts kept her motivated in her search to find a new position.

So, that's the power of gratitude. Do you see how you can apply it to your life?