Social Media: The Art of Listening

Social media is overwhelming right now. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising when I look at Facebook and Twitter. Here is the problem: Everyone is talking and no one is listening. We have one mouth and two ears, but social media is nothing but spewing out. We’ve forgotten how to listen. We’re dismissive of other views or, even worse, hateful.

So, the next time you’re faced with a viewpoint that you do not agree with, do not dismiss. Do not hate. Listen. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it costs you nothing to listen. (just remember to breathe!) (oh, and remember, you don’t have to respond to everyone who disagrees with you – it’s okay to keep scrolling.)

If you need me, I’ll be over here breathing. 🙂

Fall Forward

sdrandco-37As I drove to work yesterday, I noticed one of the trees along the drive was turning a brilliant orange. Such a beautiful, striking bit of nature . . .

CRAP!!

Summer is over. And that sucks. Gone are the days of floating in the pool while reading a book all afternoon long. Gone are the long days of sunlight. Vacation is over (Gatlinburg . . . Pigeon Forge . . . Margaritaville . . . Sugarlands moonshine . . . ). The Star Trek convention is over (wowzers, that was a fun, fun, fun weekend!). Penned Con is a memory.
So, what is there to look forward to now?

Fall. Painting pumpkins. Scarecrows. Ravens. Roaring (electric) fire. Hot cocoa. And reading. Though I love reading during the summer, there’s something about it getting dark earlier that makes me want to curl up in a comfy chair with a warm throw, a cup of tea and a good book.

And that’s what I think I’m going to do right now . . . any suggestions for what to read next?

Setting Priorities and Finding Balance

Copy of Lorilrobinett.comI am in the midst of edits on The Danger Within. I’m working on scene 15. (BTW – Scrivener ROCKS. If you haven’t tried it yet and you want to write a novel, I highly recommend it.) As most of you know, I work full-time, so I write on evenings and weekends. Though I really felt like I needed to write yesterday, I took the day off and went to a car show with my hubs – I needed that balance. We went with our friends, Hattie & Jeff (who own a gorgeous blue Cougar). Our daughter and her boyfriend decided to go too – and our daughter showed her ’05 Mustang for the first time.JR-Vette-Macon2016

It was an awesome day (though it didn’t start off well – we lost a t-top out of our Corvette, which, of course, shattered on impact). My hubs won his class (Corvette) and my daughter won runner up in her class (all cars 2005 and up). They were up against really tough competition, so that made it even more exciting (and satisfying). We returned home happy and tired.

Katelyn-Mustang-Macon2016There was another show today that they kind of wanted to go to, but I held firm. Though I enjoy the shows, I really need to spend a day on my writing. I WANT to spend a day writing. My needs/wants are just as important as everyone else’s. Life is all about balance. Every day, you make choices that affect the balance of your life – and you have to include YOUR needs in that equation. Every decision you make adds a weight to the scales. Though success at writing is important to me (oh, how I would LOVE to make a bestseller list some day!), my family is THE most important to me.

Here are my tips for maintaining balance through planning:

Schedule planning time at the end of each month.

Look at the coming month and Identify:

  • Family obligations (I hate to use the word obligations, but you know what I mean. Birthdays. Games. Events. Things that are important to those who are close to you.)
  • Work obligations
  • Appointments
  • Blocks of time to focus on your goals

Schedule planning time at the end of each week.

Review your monthly plan, then look at the coming week and block off time for:

  • Planning – at least 10 minutes every day
  • Meditation – at least 10 minutes a day to be still
  • Appointments – includes appointments with yourself to get things done
  • Work (hey, you have to be there – put it on your calendar so you can clearly see what time you have left)
  • Block out family time (date night, family night, car shows, games, classes, etc.)
  • Look at your monthly goals, break them down into tasks and calendar time to work on those tasks. There should be something on your to-do list every single day that furthers your big goal(s).

A goal is a dream with a deadline. PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR and make your dreams a reality, so make a promise to yourself right now to start allowing yourself time to do that.

(pssst . . . the first step to putting yourself on the scales of life is to identify what you want to do. Reply to this post and let me know what your dream is.)

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Day

How to GET the most oUT Of your dayI know I’m not the only one who needs help with that. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, right? Every morning, the alarm goes off and I start my day with a big list of to-dos. Thanks to my Happy Planner and my Your Best Year Planner, I do get a lot of things done, but there’s always more to do at the end of the day. I collapse into bed at 9:30 or so and my mind races with all the things I still want to get done.

Everyone has the same number of hours in the day.

Lisa Jacobs, Joanna Penn and Tawna Fenske have the same as me, yet I haven’t even come close to tapping their level of success. And don’t even get me started on Oprah and Ellen. Not to mention the President.

It’s what we do with those hours that counts.

It’s pretty clear that the problem isn’t the number of hours, but what we do with them. Here’s my list of things I want to try that I think might help me reach the level of success I want to reach:

Don’t hit the snooze. Self-explanatory.

Start with a plan. I’m going to compare my 2 planners and decide on a plan of action for the day, focusing on the must-do things. And I don’t mean the boring, mundane things I have to do to exist, I mean the things I need to do to meet MY goals.

Schedule. Just like this post. I work, so I write my posts ahead of time and schedule them to release at a certain day/time. I need to check into automating other social media like that, too.

Visualize. I’m going to put reminders everywhere. A chart on my closet door showing what I need to do & how far I’ve come & how far I’ve got to go.

Be selfish. My time is valuable. It’s time to put myself first.

Less TV. Yikes. Hands down, this will be the hardest for me. Good thing Lost isn’t on the air anymore. And Castle. And Desperate Housewives. And The Mentalist.

Be brave. I will try things. I may fail, but I will fail forward (hat tip to my bestie, Lynn).

OK, now it’s your turn. Tips? Suggestions? Hacks?

(BTW – if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter yet, do it now. It’s in the sidebar. Quick and easy, lemon squeezy.)

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Finding my Zen: Suffering

As I’ve mentioned before, I began exploring Buddhism after my therapist suggested I look into Mindfulness as a way to deal with the stress of the Empty Nest. To my surprise, I found a philosophy of life that resonated with me.

The First Noble Truth is that life is suffering.

Lost . . .

Lost . . .

Personally, simply noting that fact was a huge step in the right direction. I made this Truth my own by recognizing that suffering is a natural part of existence. We come into the world screaming (being born can’t be that pleasant – good thing we don’t remember it!) and it ends in death. All around us there is sickness, injury, poverty and depression. Instead of wallowing in that and focusing on the negative, I recognize that it is. Instead of fretting and worrying about the existence of suffering, I see life with a realistic view and can then focus on action and do something about it. Though my goal is happiness, I know that there is suffering. It is not something to dread. When I have a bad night, when the tears just won’t stop, I accept that suffering without judgment and move forward, ready to tackle the day without trying to analyze the feelings of the night before.

Acceptance is the first step. Then we can move forward.

 

 

 

Finding my Zen: Breathe

Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while know that the past year and a half has been extremely trying for me. At one of my lowest points last summer, I visited a therapist on the advice of my family doctor. The therapist encouraged me to explore Mindfulness, and to consider taking a class.

Although I didn’t take a class, I did explore. Several quotes over the years from my sister-in-law about Buddhism resonated with me, so I began reading. Two sites were especially helpful, Zen Habits and Tiny Buddha. There were days I did not know how I could possibly continue, and that’s when I turned to Zen Habits and started with the basics: a simple post called “Breathe.” That staple helped me get through the rough points. When tears threatened or when I felt the weight of the world upon my shoulders, I could breathe. Couldn’t do much else, sometimes.

I know the holidays are often very difficult for people. There are times it seems that happiness is all around you, and you feel like an island of pain and suffering and doubt. Even in those moments, you can breathe. If you are having a difficult time, take a moment to read that simple blog post and DO it.

Trust me. You are stronger than you think.

 

Merry Christmas, damn it!

Christian Nativity Set

Christian Nativity Set

Though Christmas is over, the holiday hubbub has irritated me so much, I decided to write about it. I’ve seen so many comments on Facebook about “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and “It’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!” – and they make me cringe.

Full disclosure: I used to be one of those people. When schools renamed their winter programs “Holiday” instead of “Christmas,” it ruffled my feathers. When the focus was on Santa instead of Jesus, I puffed up.

Menorah

Menorah

Then, one day, I passed along an email to a woman who was my Lupus mentor (introduced through the Lupus Foundation after I was diagnosed) about Jesus being the “Reason for the Season” and Christians were right and how everyone else could kiss my ass. Yeah, yeah, that wasn’t exactly what the email said, but let’s face it – that’s how it came across. Diane replied politely, something to the effect of, “While I appreciate your views and your beliefs, I am Jewish and do not believe in Jesus the same way you do. I do, however, celebrate Hanukkah in December and often greet both my Jewish and Christian friends with “Happy Holidays” to include both religions. Please do not include me on future emails like the one below. Thank you for respecting my wishes. Happy Holidays.”

Wow. That set me back on my heels.

I had been so self-absorbed, I hadn’t considered the fact that other people – good people – might not feel the same way I do. Up until I got that email, I know I said things like ‘Such-and-such is a good Christian person’ or ‘That’s the Christian thing to do’. After that email from Diane, I realized that there are people I think of as “good Christians” who are NOT Christians. Suddenly, the world blossomed before my eyes as I became aware of other religions.

Reindeer . . . or Stag?

Reindeer . . . or Stag?

After being called out by my Jewish friend, I became more cognizant of my behavior and the behavior of others, and how it appears to those who are not Christians. When Christians bluster about the Reason for the Season, it seems to belittle or discount other religions. Insisting that everyone greet friends and family with “Merry Christmas” is ridiculous. Personally, I don’t feel that it is my place to force my beliefs on anyone else. Many of the nastiest, most hateful posts I have seen on Facebook posts and comments on articles are written by people claiming to be Christians. It’s appalling. On the other hand, one of those most spiritual, giving people I know follows a Pagan religion.

And I have to share a little story that made me write a comment, delete it, write it again, delete it again . . . you get the idea. It was a Facebook post covered with red, white and blue and a cross. It said something about being a proud American, Jesus is the Reason for the Season, and then something about “Just like Israel” or something like that. I fought the urge to say, “You know most Israelis are Jewish, right?” (I kept scrolling, afraid my words might not be taken as the lighthearted poke I intended).

Please, before words leave your mouth (or your fingers), give some thought to how they will be heard by others. Consider the elderly woman down the street who may be lighting her Menorah, or the boy who mows your lawn who might be celebrating Yule with his family. How will they hear your words?

Joy . . . Do I need to say more?

Joy . . . Do I need to say more?

What I’m trying to say is, I’m OK with any greeting you choose to use. Just be polite. And thank you for thinking of me enough to greet me pleasantly.

#Introvert

Decorations

Decorations

Yesterday we hosted a BBQ to celebrate my step-daughter’s graduation from college. I’m so proud of her, and was thrilled to host a party so that everyone could let her know what a big deal this is and how much we all want to support and encourage her. It was wonderful, and I had a good time.

But here’s the funny thing. I dreaded it. The idea of having lots of people here. Wondering if everyone would have a good time. Trying to figure out how much food for how many people. Thinking about drinks. What about alcohol? Good idea? Bad? I didn’t get all the decorations done. It was hot. Would people get too hot? Were there enough chairs? How much tea did I need to make? The house was a mess. I couldn’t clean fast enough. I hauled 2 boxes of stuff to the Salvation Army.

The Grad

The Grad

And now that it’s over, I’m exhausted. Totally and completely exhausted. Drained.

I think it’s because I am an introvert. I’m happiest when I’m alone. Would be perfectly happy as a hermit, most of the time. Some people freak out being alone, wondering what they’ll do, how they’ll survive. I’m the opposite. I need time alone to recharge. And, I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of my stepdaughter, who is such a happy, delightful person – someone that everyone enjoys being around. She just makes you smile. Proof is in the pic. ;o)

How about you? Introvert? Extrovert? Whichever – how to do you recharge?

Putting On a Happy Face

Recently, I posted something slightly negative on my Facebook page.

Feeling really grouchy & irritable today. You know, more so than usual. Thinkin’ it’s a good day to keep my head down and buried in work.

A friend responded.

Oh, dear – and you seemed so happy yesterday! Hoping it’s a temporary grouchiness and you’re already feeling better. <hugs>

Seeing that post really did help. Those virtual hugs aren’t just data. They’re emotion.

And that emotion that transmits via social media is why I’m generally careful about what I post. There’s research that indicates mood spreads via Facebook (check it out here), and I have no desire to add to the negativity in the world so I put on a happy face. I do the same thing at work, most of the time. I smile. Pretend I’m not hurting. Pretend everything is OK. And I bet others do the same thing. Does that give others a skewed view of our true selves? Probably. Does it serve a purpose to share those darker feelings? Maybe. Probably depends on why you share your darker feelings.

The reality is, my 18 year old daughter ripped my heart out about a year ago, days after she graduated from high school. Recently, I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of prom and posts about senior events and graduation. Those memories will forever be tainted for me, because they feel like a lie (yeah, yeah. I know they weren’t truly a lie. But they FEEL that way). On top of that, we had to have our 13 year old yellow lab put down last month. And now it looks like we’re going to have to have our 14 year old miniature schnauzer put down, likely on Saturday. If, that is, I can bring myself to make the phone call.

So, no, I’ve not been happy. I’m hurting and angry and disappointed and frustrated. But that’s OK. Those feelings are natural, legitimate feelings. We should not be afraid to share them with others, but neither should we let those feelings wrap their tendrils around every aspect of our lives. Do your 500 friends on F/B need to know that you’re feeling a little down today? No. But a quick post to let people know how you’re feeling is OK. Maybe you’ll even get a virtual hug that makes you feel better.

But remember that there is life outside of Facebook.

Acknowledge the feelings.

And then practice a little self-compassion.

 

 

5 Things I Learned In a Job I Hated

Over the winter I was told about a job in North Carolina. I have family there. The climate is pleasant. Beach. Mountains. It was, oh, so tempting.

Except for one small thing.

I love my job. Well, I don’t love my JOB. Much of what I do is monotonous and boring. But I love the people I work with. I love having a nice environment. I love having equipment that works. And occasionally I really do love the work I do. And so, I did not apply for the job in North Carolina. Because what it all boils down to is that finding a job that you love is a very rare and wonderful thing. And I would not know how to truly appreciate my position without having experienced one I hated.

Still, I am thankful for the Job I Hated, because it taught me these things:

  • People Matter. The other support staff in that job supported me and encouraged me. Without them, it would’ve been difficult to face each and every day. Now, I’m fortunate to work with people who sincerely care about one another. Now, I am told on a regular basis that I am appreciated.
  • Tools Matter. Doing your job is difficult enough without trying to “make do.” Computers have to be updated. The way I look at is this: a trucking company doesn’t buy a fleet of trucks and expect them to last forever. They need oil changes, new tires. Same goes for offices. It also helps if you have a chair that isn’t broken.
  • Respect Matters. I am an educated, intelligent person. Being treated as a human being and not a piece of office equipment is always appreciated. I don’t expect anyone to bend down and kiss my feet, but if I question something, it’s because I care, and think I may actually want to do a good job.
  • Environment Matters. I once worked on the 3rd floor of a building with no air conditioning. This was back in the day when women still wore pantyhose every day. I had to ask and convince my boss to let me not wear pantyhose the week it reached over 110° in our office. It’s not a matter of mere comfort. It’s a matter of being able to focus and do the job.
  • Flexibility Matters. My kiddo missed out on stuff because the hubs and I both worked in inflexible jobs. The number of school activities that end at 5 pm baffle me. Why not end at 5:30 so Mom or Dad can get off work & then pick the kid up? The Job I Hated was difficult to leave early. Heck, it was hard to even take vacation without a fight. One year I was told the week before vacation that I really couldn’t be spared. Uh, what? At the Job I Love, I still catch myself justifying why I want to take off. My co-worker told me shortly after I started that I didn’t need to do that. My time off is just that: MY time off. No explanation required.

And that is why I didn’t even explore the possibility of working in a wonderful climate, near family that I love and miss. Because I have a Job I Love, and thanks to the Job I Hated, I appreciate it.