Blog Posts

Being Okay with Guilty Pleasures

“Sometimes I just need to put away the self-help books and watch Game of Thrones.”- My niece.

Don’t we all have guilty pleasures that make us feel like a normal person? Yet many of us carry too much guilt to allow ourselves to take a time out.

As long as the behavior we choose as our guilty pleasure is not just a short term fix making our long term problem worse, why can’t we enjoy ourselves? We need to laugh, we need to take time for a pause, and we need to connect with other people.  Therefore we need to stop feeling guilty as long we aren’t doing something that will make matters worse for us or our loved ones in the long run.

It is one thing to experience our guilty pleasure, it is another if we are using it as a means of constant avoidance. At times we do not want to face our areas of struggle. Our habits have become too hard to break. We can feel like we are a mess and it is too much work. Yet, what will happen if we do not ever deal with our issues?

If our issue is self-esteem and we grow addicted to the need for other people to lift us up rather than being able to lift ourselves up, we become too reliant on other people to find our joy. That can lead to more depression and unhealthy relationships.

If our issue is anger and we stop working on forgiveness then we will live our a life full of bitterness and ruin our opportunity for happiness.

If our issue is controlling other people or have difficult relationships and we don’t work on trying to influencing versus forcing power over others instead, we end with people avoiding us and becoming lonely.

If our issue is feeling overwhelmed or in a rut and we have not been able to set boundaries we will burn out or have health problems.

If we keep fighting in unhealthy ways and not learning to communicate effectively it can lead to divorce, loneliness or lack of connection to other people.

If we don’t deal with our anxiety and learn to understand how to reduce it we will go on living in fear and not fully experience life.

Keep in mind when working on ourselves can be a delicate balance. When we get caught up in seeking happiness through self-help without acting on the practices taught, we can end up feeling worse about ourselves.  We need to often remind ourselves:

“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” – Author Unknown

When we focus on doing little healthy “other things” like exercise, reading a few positive messages, are intentional about controlling our thoughts, and use active listening, life is good, isn’t it? Aren’t we also happier people when we remember to be empathetic of others?  Why not be more understanding of ourselves as well?

What is it you want? What have you put into your daily practice to stay on the right path to achieve your goal? If you don’t do what you know you need to do, what will be the outcome?  Wouldn’t it be beneficial if you reward yourself for your hard work and accomplishments along the way? Remember to tell yourself each day, “I am worthy! I can enjoy taking a little time for myself and not feel guilty.”

Stone bridge Photograph taken in Ireland

“Discover a Better Life” By a Farmer’s Daughter

As I was replenishing the rabbits’ food supply the smell of hay brought me back to the days with my sisters being in that barn every day.

Growing up on a farm I learned dedication at an early age. The animals had to be fed and watered every day regardless of how of cold it was outside. In the winter my sisters and I would pile on the overalls, winter hats, gloves, boots, and make our way to the barn. If the animals’ water had turned to ice we had to break it up and provide new water. It required carrying two ten gallon buckets across the long graveled barnyard which was quite heavy for a little girl. Filled with horses, rabbits, a couple of dogs and often a new litter of kittens, rabbit poop and hay, that barn seemed impossible to keep clean. When you opened the barn doors there was always work to be done.

In order to free ourselves from the daily feedings and massive poop clean up, one Spring day my sisters and I had taken all our rabbits in the middle of the alfalfa field to run free (in our minds).  While I have fond memories growing up on a farm and am thankful for the values it taught me like hard work and dependability, I did NOT miss the chores.  After shedding many tears due to pets “going missing”, I also learned not to grow too close to the animals on the farm.

I had thought that Spring day was the last time I would ever be cleaning up after rabbits. Now years later, my daughter’s desire convinced me to agree to be part of the Bunny Brigade at the Human Society. Typically it was my daughter that handled the rabbits. I typically just went through the cleanup motions as an obligation to my daughter. Yet this morning was different.

When I started the task of removing the first bunny from its cage I could still hear my daughter’s response to my unhealthy comment the night before.

“Why do you feel I owe you for helping out animals?” She had wisely replied.

Her come-back had left me in silence and in thought. Even though it was not her fault she had another obligation, I had been irritated that it was her idea. I was once again stuck.  It wasn’t right to reschedule as they had counted on us showing up.

Over the course of the morning, smelling that hay brought back memories. After petting and holding that rabbit I started to realize my core issues.  My daughter was innocent. The truth is I had built up a blockade to not feel anything for those rabbits. I had left myself cry too hard too many times when I lost them and quit seeing them as something to love and enjoy.  By resisting vulnerability I killed my own joy.  The experience became an unwanted task because I resorted to just going through the motions.

Can you relate? Are you currently stuck and find something you used to enjoy has now turned into something you dread? Have you let yourself become bitter for feeling out of control of something in your life? Or have you even become detached to someone or something to prevent yourself from being vulnerable?

When you experience yourself feeling irritable, examine the root of it? Dig deep and ask yourself, “why do you feel that way?” Randy Creamer the lead teaching counselor at Southbrook Church then says to ask, “How are you going to find your joy if nothing changes?”

What is holding you back from experiencing joy? What is it you have control over? What can you change to become unstuck?  What are you going to do about it?

Until we dig deep about what it is that is really leaving us annoyed about our life, we will keep living each day as a daily ritual and soon our life will have passed us by. We can choose to live with a dark cloud over us or we can choose to live in the light. It is our choice.

For me, after working through the answers to those questions I began to see again. I was able to see those rabbits as God’s creations who needed care. The bitterness was replaced with delight. I also could see the positive…at least those rabbits were not in my old barn, it was not the dead of winter, and no ice needed to be broken. It was only me who needed to warm up inside.

What can you do right now to enjoy this very moment? Examine the beauty around you right now!  It is there, you just need to look for it.  Begin truly seeing again like you are experiencing whatever it is in front of you for the first time. Let your appreciation be known. Focus on the blue sky rather than the work required. It is amazing what doors will begin to open!  Doors to a more enjoyable life!

Positive Messages

Workshops and Resources

 

Barn Photograph was taken near Terre Haute, IN in 2019

Dear Daughter,

Dear Daughter,

Work seems to have never-ending demands. All of these years I have strived to find balance.  It’s hard to not want to be the best at both career woman and Mom.  As I look back I hate when works’ demands and running the household made me choose to work over putting you first on my list. There were so many times I wished I could quit in order to have more time with you.  Sometimes it makes me bitter, however, I realize my career has always also been a part of me. 

Now as you go off to college I wonder where all the time has gone.  My biggest concerns are what impact I’ve had on you. What lessons have you learned from how I have parented you and what I have valued? Has my ambition for my career and drive for success in my career negatively affected you?

Time seems to be running out and I find myself quickly trying to fix all the things I may have broken in you. Teach you all you need to know before you move out of the house. I want to pour out all my knowledge and life lessons to make your life easier, more fulfilled and joyous than my own.

Sometimes when I am trying to teach you all of these things or try to help you live life better, I go about it all the wrong way. I see that when I try to control your actions and your choices you do not react well.

I noticed the change in your tolerance of control around 13. You entered the time of your life where you were trying to understand yourself. You started to desire the freedom to define yourself and not let others try to define that for you. You started transforming from being a kid to an adult. Sometimes you still feel needy and yet you don’t want to feel you need anyone.

I was once like you.  I know you want to make your parents proud but also want to be true to yourself. Some days are better than others and you still struggle with who you can trust. You want to have the freedom to make mistakes as you are learning. You want to be able to have your own money and not let that be the way others have control over you. You take pride in earning it even though you would prefer to do things where you don’t have to take on adult responsibility.

There are so many things I want to know about you. So many things I want to understand regarding your individual path of life.  What are your fears, struggles, hopes, and dreams?  I want you to feel safe to share these things with me.

I want to share all my own struggles and make myself vulnerable to you so you know you are not alone. I have and still make mistakes too. I know I am not perfect. I am on my own journey of life as well. The more I can understand you and you about me the better our relationship and lives will be.

I promise to work on not controlling you. Instead, I strive to work to influence you to make the best decisions for your future. I will work to make it safe for you to share who you are with me.

All I ask is, talk to me. Trust your Dad and me with our wisdom. Count on our love for you to coach you on decisions that are for your long-term well being. Get me to listen to you, understand you and ask for guidance when you need it. 

Know that I am so very proud of you and that I love you no matter what!

Mom

I had written a similar letter to that of the above to my oldest daughter over a year ago. She is the one that said I should publish it. It was healing for me to write to her and healing for her to know how I felt. It helped bring us back together when I felt I was losing her.

Many working Mom’s ask themselves, “Have I:

-put my work ahead of my kids and made them feel less important?”

-set such high expectations of them the measuring scale seems to be perfection?”

-overcompensated to make their life easier and instead made them take things for granted?”

-taught them to find balance in their life and happiness within themselves?”

The second-guessing list goes on and on. If you are struggling as a Mom, know you are not alone. May this letter inspire you to write a letter of your own and help you find your own healing as your kids grow and start lives of their own.

Givers, Don’t Forget Your Worth

If you are a giver or thrive on the sense of accomplishment, often you may find you have developed such a willingness to help that you begin to overextend yourself.   It can be difficult to know when you may be giving too much versus providing outstanding service to others based on how good it makes you feel. If you often find yourself burnt out and blame it on your job, ask “is it really the job? Or is it me trying to be a superhero?”

It can become detrimental to your own well being if you have trouble saying no even when you are already overwhelmed. If you have a hard time saying no for fear of letting others down, remember your worth! Practice using this phrase for the next time you have larger priorities and want to say no but feel obligated to say yes:

“I would love to be able to help you with …, however, given my current demands, I won’t be able to give your request the attention it deserves.”

If said sincerely the person making the request will understand. Know it is okay for you to not carry the world on your shoulders. You don’t have to be a martyr to be valued and loved!

Also, learn to delegate.  When you have a huge list of tasks, write them down. What can other people help you complete?  Then keep in mind they may have a different way of completing the job.  Ask yourself, does it really matter how it is done as long as it gets done?  For the things where quality work does matter, spend time teaching given you will thank yourself in the long run.

In my own experience, I used to get annoyed when I would rush around the house trying to complete everything.  Particularly when folding and putting laundry away.  I would belabor over hanging up my teenage daughters’ nice clothes and also nicely fold everything I thought should go into their drawers.  Then I would get annoyed when I saw how they would just dump all their folded laundry on their floor and shove it into their drawers or take off the clothes from their hangers and organize it a different way.   I kept doing their laundry because I felt needed and good about doing something for them and tried to push my system on them.

It wasn’t until I had shoulder surgery where I was forced to have them do their own laundry.  When I recovered, they both admitted that they would prefer to just fold their own anyway because they had their own organization system.  It made no sense to force my way of doing it on them.  All they needed was to be taught how to work the washer and dryer, learn to sort, add detergents, and now they are self-sufficient.  It does not make me a bad Mom.  I have taught them how to live when they are on their own.  They also have a less stressed Mom! While I still need to work at setting boundaries, I have become aware that I need to caution myself from basing my worth on how much I accomplish.

We will be no good to anyone if we become bitter extending ourselves too far.   Imagine how our worth multiplies when we teach others and don’t just do it ourselves.

Show Your Enthusiasm for Other Humans

Dog owners know the sheer joy of being greeted by their incredibly excited dog when they come home. Their shaking bodies and wagging tales leave no question they love to see their human friend.  That’s why there are so many dog lovers!

The friends who welcome you with open arms, excited voices and smiling faces are the friends we are always excited to see.  They can turn around a bad mood in an instant.

However, have you ever went up to someone you had not seen in years and were so excited to see them based on an amazing memory with them that your energy was bubbling over until they greeted you back? Once you said “Hi!” and you quickly realized they were less than enthusiastic to see YOU or didn’t even remember your name, how did that make you react? If you’ve ever experienced this you know how deflating it can be. Doesn’t it make you want to dial back your excitement next time?

However, why DO we dial back next time? Maybe it was just that person’s problem, not ours! Why do we let the fact that they don’t remember us deflate us or put up a shield? It can be so hard to concentrate on the simple fact of how we may have made that person feel super special even though we just let them make us feel like crap.

Many years ago at a work event while alongside one of my inspiring mentors, I excitedly went up to someone who I was looking forward to introducing to him. Upon saying hello, my mentor witnessed my response to how her enthusiasm was not shared. I must have shown the disappointment in my body language because my mentor later advised me to not let that stop me from greeting every other person I was excited to see with that same enthusiasm!

Yet, as much as I still tell myself to listen to my mentors’ words of wisdom, when rejection happens it is hard to not revert back to dialing back. The fear of being disappointed if the reaction is not reciprocated makes me modify the true feeling I have for the person. I sure hope I have not been that person who may have deflated someone else. For inside I was thinking:

  • “I am surprised you remember me!”
  • “I wish I could remember your name! It is just my brain isn’t working!”
  • “Oh, I called that wrong…you ARE a hugger, I am too!”
  • “Are they being real?”

Why is it we sometimes guard ourselves so much from being hurt that we forget to live? Who knows, they may have wished they could have remembered our name and feel bad for their not so great memory! When we can authentically share our love for another human being and we find they feel the same we find the most joy!  How are we to discover that if we hold back?

Be authentically excited to see other humans who you adore! Risk yourself to let others know they are special and held dear! Don’t hold back. Be excited to say “hi” to people even if they may not remember you. Remind them of your great memories with them! The more you show you admire others the more you will be remembered whether they reciprocate the enthusiasm or not! Becoming more vulnerable leads to connecting more and becoming fulfilled!

Have Courage

img_0785Off on a new adventure! It took me an hour just to find a working bike rental system. It only gave me 30 seconds to remove it from its automated lock and it was stuck. It took me three tries to unlock the rented city bike with a basket.  

After figuring out how to free the wheels, off I was down the Rabbit Trail. What a beautiful and freeing feeling to ride with the breeze flowing in my face and not being strapped down to obligations at the moment. It was quiet and the trees and flowers were coming to life from their dormancy of Winter. 

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Amongst the new green grass, budding trees and blooming flowers were colors of purple, pink, yellow and white.  The sounds of the river rapids next to the trail were calming and lightened my spirit.

As clunky as that bike was, it sure put a smile on my face to bust through the fear of being a little woman going somewhere unknown, alone and unprotected. While it may seem like a simple experience to many people, stories of kidnapping and people going missing had been close to home for me and thoughts of not being so lucky next time raced through my head.  However, if we live in fear we are not living.  While we must take precautions it is exciting to discover a new path.

Nature was awakening. The birds and sounds of Spring made me no longer feel so alone.  They replaced the noises in my head.  My gut was feeling safe so I decided to listen to the truer voice.  The voice of reason.

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Sometimes we lack the courage of trying new things for fear of the unknown. However once we do discover there is nothing to fear, that freedom renews our energy and confidence and brings a new life to us much like nature comes alive in Spring. When was the last time you were held back by unnecessary fear?  If you listen closely to your gut, you can sense the difference between moments where you need to use precaution and other moments where you need to shut off the negative voice and go for it.  Next time, have the courage to listen closely.

Lion Statue taken near Reedy River Falls in Greenville, South Carolina 2019

Surprise Yourself!

Being a soft-spoken person, there have been many times where people didn’t believe in her.

1. In elementary school, someone close said she didn’t see that shy girl going to college but she did.

2. That little girl’s best friend said she was surprised at how competitive she was in sports in Junior High given her timid nature.

3. Bullies in Junior High were surprised when she fought back.

4. Classmates were surprised at her performance in speech class.

5. Her track coach admitted he didn’t expect much of her because of her little build yet she broke a record the first time she was placed on the relay team.

6. Her guidance counselor in High School thought she could not make it in advertising and thought she should be an accountant. Yet advertising sales gave her the chance to meet amazing people, challenge herself, have fun and make money.

7. Her friends and family have said they have been amazed at what she has been able to accomplish given how little she spoke around the dinner table growing up.

8. One of her first teammates in her first sales jobs questioned the manager for hiring her on one of the first days on the job. Yet that same person has worked with her for a third time because he saw what she was truly capable of achieving.

9. At twenty-four, the person who pointed a gun at her and requested his victim remove her clothes was surprised when he was refused and his victim escaped.

10. While even her husband who has believed in her even when she did not believe in herself, jokes now about how he thought they would be poor. He could care less about her career success though. It isn’t him that didn’t believe in her.   It was the girl who didn’t believe in herself.  That girl is me.  It can still be me when I let self-doubt take over.

If you are a soft-spoken person you have likely felt the same way. If you haven’t surprised people yet, then what is stopping you? Even if you are not soft spoken for all of you who don’t believe in yourselves, ask why? Why can’t you do what you want to accomplish? You are capable if you have a strong desire! Have courage! Remind yourself every time you have been able to accomplish more than you or anyone else thought you could.

Make a list. Write down all the nonbelievers in your life and who you welcomed to the club of people who thought you couldn’t yet you showed them they were wrong about you! Recall all the times you even didn’t think you could but did!

Start preparing your mind through positive self-talk. Whether you are soft-spoken, little, not as … as you wish you were, think again. Instead, when anyone underestimates you, think to yourself “watch out!” Be energized by showing them what you can do!! You may be able to climb mountains! You will blow them away!  Most importantly, set out to surprise yourself and have glory in being amazed by the one person that matters most! All you need to do is believe in yourself! You’ve just been taught how!

 

Photograph taken of Half Dome Mountain at Yosemite