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Author Archive for Gail

Learning to Live Outside Your Skin

Every year I choose to do only what’s expected and what I KNOW I can do, is another year I’ve wasted – it’s another year that passes without testing my limits or the boundaries of my comfort zone.

But, the only way to truly understand what I can do, and achieve my dreams, is to test my limits. I don’t want to just achieve my goals, but my dreams as well. I dream about:

  • Publish nonfiction books
  • Write a (small) collection of Christian-based books
  • Create a nationwide support system for single moms
  • Go down in a shark cage
  • Travel to Bora Bora
  • Ride a motorcycle across country
  • Go on a cattle drive

I’m afraid of scuba diving, so the shark tank is a real stretch!

The only way to achieve some of these dreams is to boost my income by ALOT. Bora Bora is definitely not cheap. In order to make these happen I have to step outside myself and do things I haven’t done yet.

Because, if I continue to do the same things, I can expect the same results.

I don’t want the same results. I’ve enjoyed the results I’ve experienced so far – but I know that there is more to me than what I’ve done so far. And there is more to you!

When you want to make a change in life and experience different results, of course you have to DO different things. You HAVE to learn to step outside your comfort zone, or outside you skin, and get it done.

The wonderful thing about being human is that we were made in the image of God. He made us. He gave us abilities, desires, and drive.  What we do with those things is completely up to us. In other words, . . .

We have free will.

The challenge with free will is that you don’t have to stretch it. You don’t have to do the difficult things. You can put your head down and work and work every day. But, one day you’ll look up and wonder how in the WORLD you got there. And, you’ll wonder if you could have gotten anywhere else if you had done things differently.

The blessing about free will is that you will get somewhere else if you do things differently. This is your chance to experience different results this year than you experienced last year.

An example is the #MeToo campaign that went viral in October 2017 after actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to tweet the hashtag used by activist Tarana Burke if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. Milano had suffered under the misconduct and assault of Harvey Weinstein of the studio that carried his name.

Milano stepped outside a comfort zone inhabited by women for centuries at the hand of abusive men and suddenly, after the first domino fell, more women followed suit. Men from around the world were outed for their abusive behavior that had been accepted as socially appropriate for years.

Some men were appalled by the extent of the problem. But, more were not. More men understand that the extent of the problem goes far beyond what’s been reported thus far and are hoping that no one speaks out against them.

Men in positions of power have always had the greatest ability to subjugate women, and many like Moira Donegan have lost their jobs when trying to warn women of the men they should steer clear of.

At no time in history has it been more obvious than now that it’s time for women to step outside their comfort zone and speak up – whether it is FOR or AGAINST.

And before you can take the second, third or fourth step, you must first take the first step.

Having the courage to skydive doesn’t start at the door of the plane, although you can turn back at any point until then, but it starts when you sign up for the classes, pay for the lesson, get hooked into the harness, go up in the plane and stand at the door of the plane, ready to take that last step.

Why you choose to speak up, do something differently, live outside your skin – then you are choosing to make the world a different place. It starts in your corner of the world, and like ripples in a pond – your choices have an effect on other people.

The choices you make at home have an effect on your children, and the way they raise their children.  However, it’s also important to remember that the choices you make are filtered through your children’s own lens or perspective. For instance, my mom, her sister and her brother were all raised by the same parents. The choices her parents made were based on their beliefs and abilities.

As they aged, each of the three children interpreted the information differently and became much different people. My aunt was open minded and loved to talk about sex, while my mom was unable to even say the word “sex.” And the differences continued.

The point being, each decision you make at home will have an impact on your children and on their children – like the ripples in a pond. The effect of those decisions become less powerful the further from the source they travel, but there continues to be an effect.

It is important that you learn to live outside of your comfort zone and make choices that change your future, but it’s also important that you filter those choices. Ask yourself:

  • Do you mean what you’re saying or will you change your mind later?
  • Are you moving in a positive direction for yourself and your family?
  • Can you defend your actions or choices?
  • Are you making changes or choices from the backbone of love?

 

Be able to answer “yes” to each of these questions and THRIVE!

 

Rules You Can Live By

Before becoming a parent, and then a single parent, I was a pediatric nurse and then a pediatric nurse practitioner. I spent years in child psychology classes, learning parenting skills and failing miserably at understanding the Freud, Jung, Adler and Erikson theories of child development.

I just couldn’t remember who believed what about how the brain developed. BUT I did remember Freud’s bizarre ideas about boys and their mothers. That’s a whole other conversation!

Only after I had my own precious four did I come to a great realization of child development, parenting skills and the resulting child behaviors. Two of the greatest things I learned after years of marriage counseling and counseling for the children after the divorce, was:

All Kids Are Different and They Have to Understand the Rules

My first two children are boy-girl twins. And they couldn’t be any more different if I had planned it that way!

When they were born I was still grappling with the ideas of nature or nurture. Did a child’s personality and outcome depend upon what they were born with or how they were nurtured?

So I set about my own experiment at home. The twins were nurtured the same. They had the same toys, played, slept and ate at the same time. They got the same punishments and enjoyed the same benefits.

All Kids are Different

It wasn’t long before you could see a heart of gold in my young boy and a backbone of steel in the little girl. She knew her mind and there was no giving in. He would give anyone the toys in his hand and the ones in his box.

Her toys were hers and no one else’s!

When they were growing up, if he got money for his birthday, he asked to be taken out to buy his sister a toy. If the kids on the playground wanted to pick on her brother, she would have beaten them up if the teacher let her.

He had a hard time making up his mind and she knew what she wanted within seconds. He’s a talented mechanic (self-taught) and she’s a musician with the voice of an angel (mom talking). She has a quick temper and he is laid back. She takes special care with clothes and her hair, he loves sweats and a t-shirt.  She was a focused student and he was happy just skating by.

The point being – they are different people. No matter how much I treated them the same, they turned out differently. The argument of nature vs. nurture can continue, but I’m convinced it’s a combination of both and not exclusively one or the other.

Which brings me to the second point . . .

Kids Have to Understand the Rules

Starting from a base that all children are different, will also mean they have a different understanding of the rules as well.

It might make sense to you that someone has to understand the rules before they can obey them, but if their understanding is slightly different from yours, it can distort the whole situation.

For instance, when I asked my daughter to clean her room she would pick up the clothes on the floor and fix the bed. Everything else remained the same. No matter how hard I tried to explain to her that this also meant she should pick up the clothing tags that had migrated under the bed, the gum wrappers near the garbage can or the bits of paper from her notebook that littered the floor, she just didn’t understand.

It was almost as if she didn’t see them.

But, when I picked them up, she noticed they were gone. They were, instead, a comfort to her. Those were her bits of garbage that made the room feel like home.

At that point I had a decision to make. How important was it that I disturb what she found comforting in order to have a room I found clean?

It wasn’t important, so I closed the door and called it even.

If kids are different but have to understand the rules in order to follow them, then wouldn’t it make sense to know what they are thinking?

This is the part where you balance your knowledge, expertise and desire against theirs.

Who Wins?

The objective is that neither of your wins and neither loses – but you come to an agreement about what’s important and you both respect each other.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!
~Aretha Franklin

 

Respect has to be the basis for developing rules they can live with and you can enforce. Without respect for both the rules and for you, chaos rules.

Here are a few tips from psychologists and moms who have walked this road and found relief in the rules.

 

  1. Spend time thinking about what’s important in your family before determining what the rules will be. Too often we look at the minutia of life and forget the big picture. If your daughter keeps her room spotless, will it teach her to be a better person? Forgiving? Charitable? Persistent? Forceful?  What do you want your children to learn before leaving home? Figure that out, and then work backwards.

 

  1. Think about the rules in light of what you are willing to enforce. If you can’t enforce the rules, then maybe you’re becoming a helicopter mom, hovering over all they do. As they grow you should be allowing them to make some of their own decisions so they can make the mistakes at home while you’re there to catch them as they fall.

 

  1. Use words and terms they understand. Think about how they are different from you and from each other before you try to explain what you expect. For instance, explaining how they can honor you will be different for a child of 5 and one of 15.

 

  1. Make gradual changes. Almost no one likes going cold turkey. It might be the best way to quit smoking or eating sugar, but it’s not easy. And, what isn’t easy for them will be more difficult for you. Remember, these are rules for the family and not just the children. If you expect them not to use curse words, then you’d better stop too. Children do what they see more often than what they’re told.

 

Many years ago my twins enjoyed Pop Tarts in the morning before school and gallons of ice cream throughout the week. That’s right – gallons with an “s.”

As I discovered better ways to take care of my own health, they were introduced to new ideas as well. First to go were the Pop Tarts! After weeks of crying, begging, moaning and negotiating they gave in and didn’t ask again. Many, many weeks later it was another treat or sweet they thought they couldn’t live without.

Gradually, over months, our diet changed and we began eating more real food and less processed foods. Today, they enjoy real food and steer clear of the ‘other stuff’ all on their own.

Life is a journey. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. Prepare for the marathon and set your goals accordingly.

All I ask for is a little respect!
~ Aretha Franklin

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Never Too Late to Experience Change

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” ~Edmund Burke

 

Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman who lived in the mid-1700s. This quote is often repeated and more often ignored. Even in our own homes and lives, we often overlook the mistakes we made in past years, dooming ourselves to making the same mistakes again in the future.

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time of transition when many people start to identify the hopes and dreams they want to see realized in the coming months.

We call these New Year’s Resolutions.

According to Forbes Magazine, an amazing 90 percent of these resolutions are never achieved and most are forgotten by February.

As I look back on this year I find I’ve accomplished a couple of the goals I’d hoped to achieve last January, but not nearly the number that I dreamed I could. I would guess that the same holds true for many single moms, who don’t have enough time in one day to meet all the demands of the family, much less make any additions.

But, realistically, the same is true of all people. We all tend to expand our universe to meet the furthest reaches of our influence. Not too many people carefully guard space in which they can relax and refresh themselves.

I remember walking into a new home my then-husband and I had just purchased. I looked with amazement at the cabinet space in the kitchen and declared there was NO WAY I had enough stuff to fill them – and would never have enough to fill those cabinets.

Within six months, even the cabinets at the top near the 9 foot ceilings were full of ‘stuff.”

We will fill our environment to capacity – whether it’s cabinets in a kitchen or time in our day.

As I look back on this year I have determined to learn from my past mistakes and do my best not to repeat them again next year.

Of course, I’ll slip, but the trick, I believe, is to get up from those slips, wipe yourself off and do it all over again. In the time between the fall and the rise is when character grows, making the next slip further down the road and the next rise a little easier.

 

An important piece of the puzzle is reflection. Being able to reflect back on the mistakes I made this last year, identify them, realize what triggered them, and put into place processes so those slips come further and further apart.

The way I use reflection is to ask questions. I find that sometimes it isn’t the answer that’s as important as the question itself. Sometimes there is more information to be learned from the question than the answer.

Here are 5 of the more important questions I ask myself at the end of the year, as I prepare for the next year.

  1. What are my life circumstances at Christmas this year as compared to Christmas last year?

    I use Christmas as my benchmark. You might use another date or time in the year. But pick a time, and ask yourself how “is life different now compared to then”? Our daily lives are filled with minutiae, lists of things to do and places to go. When we compare against something that is larger, it’s easier to see the bigger picture.

 

  1. What would I have done differently this past year?

    Identifying the mistakes or lack of success is as important as celebrating the successes in life. If you can identify what didn’t go so well, you can make a plan for it to go better.

 

  1. How many of last year’s goals were achieved or are in progress?

    If the percentage of your goals achieved is small compared to last year’s list, then maybe you made a list that was too long, or maybe you didn’t concentrate on achieving those goals. Or maybe, just maybe, there isn’t enough time in the day, no matter how hard you try.

 

  1. What can I give up or give away?

    The end of the year is a wonderful time to look forward to achieving more, but also a time to think about what you can purge from your life. What “things” can you leave behind and make your life lighter? Do you want to downsize your home? Can you give away some of your ‘stuff’? Do you need to put some of your goals on the shelf for the next year and concentrate fully on achieving one or two?

 

  1. What are the new goals or dreams I have for this year and do they fit into my life’s vision?

    When you put together goals for your life, do they fit into another overall vision for where you want to be in five or ten years? If your vision for your life is to be a millionaire then your goals this year should be pointed in the financial direction – and not just making money, but also learning about investments and growing money.

 

This concept of having a life vision is not common. More often we are like Queen Latifah in the movie The Last Holiday. In the movie, Georgia Byrd, played by Queen Latifah, works in a department store. She learns that she has a disease from which she is sure to die in several weeks.

In an effort to live all of life in just a few weeks she cashes in all her investments, takes all her money and flies to a luxury resort in Europe. In one scene she tells the people around the dinner table: “You know how it is. You keep your head down and you hustle and hustle. Then you look up one day and wonder, “How did I even get here?”

I’ve always thought that quote sums it all up quite nicely. Caught up in the everyday motions of going to work, taking care of children, being a friend, getting the groceries, making the dinner, cleaning the home, taking the children to their events and the myriad of other things that make up the day . . . most of us forget that when we get to a point when the children leave the nest, we will be alone.

We’ll be alone with our thoughts, dreams and goals – whether we have a spouse at that time or not. There will no longer be a long list of “things to do,” and suddenly we’ll wonder, “How did I even get here?”

That’s why, at the end of every year I also believe it’s necessary to look at the vision you have for your life. . . for your whole life.  And then determine if the goals you’re making this year are taking you toward or away from that vision.

Even goals that run parallel with the vision aren’t going to intersect at any point, so it’s important that you fit your goals to your vision and not the other way around.

The vision you hold for your life is what will drive you when you think you can’t keep moving forward.  Your vision is what you want your life to look like in 5, 10 or 15 years. Your vision is yours and no one else’s, so take care to develop your vision and dream for your life because . . .

 

“You have this one life. How do you wanna spend it? Apologizing? Regretting? Questioning? Hating yourself? Dieting? Running after people who don’t see you? Be brave. Believe in yourself. Do what feels good. Take risks. You have this one life. Make yourself proud.”  — Beardsley Jones

Teach Your Child About Bullies

Unfortunately, bullies are not just common in childhood. It seems that some people never grow up. Some adults think they can get their way by raising their voice, towering over you, staring you eye-to-eye, or threatening you with consequences that aren’t normally associated with the behavior.

The news has been filled with men who are losing their jobs and positions after reports of their behavior have been made public. Some are surprising and others appeared to be the worst kept Hollywood secret. But, the one that strikes me as the most preposterous is the man who lost his job after listening to another man talk about assaulting women, while the guy who did the talking was elected president.

But, I digress.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. All ages. Both genders. All colors. Some hide under a threat of retaliation while others don’t care who knows about their behavior. Your child likely knows a bully at school. They may have daily contact with that bully.

The school your child attends does not preclude this behavior. Christian schools, public, private and even homeschool programs are not immune from children whose behavior is likely the result of how they have been treated.

My children had a cousin who enjoyed pushing them around, bullying them and pulling out his father’s soft porn magazines. It was a fine line we walked between offending the family and keeping my children in public areas with him. Turns out his father treated him in the same way he treated those younger and smaller than he was.

My youngest daughter attends a Christian homeschool program where she’s been bullied by a young man who has threatened her over the phone. The threat was to spread vicious rumors about her.

My oldest daughter experienced interactions with young ladies at her first Christian college who were bullies.

It’s important to talk with your children about bullies, whether they have interactions with one or not. Sooner or later, at some point in their life, they will have a relationship with someone who threatens them with physical or emotional repercussions if the bully’s demands are not met. If your child knows how to react first, they’ll experience less emotional turmoil and may get out of the situation unscathed.

Give your children the tools they need to navigate this minefield.

 

They will feel afraid

Tell your children they will feel afraid. If they know upfront they’ll feel afraid and that fear is exactly what the bully wants, it may help them to deal with the situation. Teach them how to deal with their fear in the moment, so they can follow the plan and deal with the feelings after the situation has expired.

 

Showing fear increases a bully’s power

Most, if not all, bullies will recognize fear and continue their behavior when they recognize their actions are achieving results. If your child can learn to hide their fear or pretend they aren’t afraid, many bullies will back down with other strategies listed here. One way to hide your fear is to keep your mind occupied with another task. Count backwards from 100, spell a word backward or recite the periodic table or the U.S. states. It doesn’t matter what you do, keep your eyes on the environment and your mind on something else – no one will know how scared you are.

 

Try to prevent running into a bully

Teach your children not to give bullies a chance to interact with them. Your child can’t hide or skip class, but they can take different routes and pair up to walk with someone else. Make a plan to walk to school, take recess or walk to class with friends. Bullies are interested in dealing with one person at a time, so two or more children together may be just the deterrent that’s needed.

 

Stand up for yourself

When you’re scared of another person, you’re likely not feeling your bravest. BUT, sometimes just ACTing brave is enough to make a bully back down. Most bullies are not interested in engaging in a physical confrontation. You want to stand tall, but you don’t want to provoke a bully or try to bully them back by hitting, pushing or kicking.

 

Talk about it

Speech is one of the most powerful things we have. It’s why God taught the tongue is more powerful than anything man has at his disposal. The tongue can start a war, forgive a wrong and communicate ideas. And your child’s tongue can stop a bully.

Most bullies prefer their actions to remain private, in the dark and far from the light of day.  When your child talks to an adult about their problem it helps them to process through what’s happening and reduces the risk of depression.  And, between you, you’ll find a solution. So encourage your child to share with you.

Act With Power

Power is something many people seek, even before wealth since in many cases wealth will follow power. Having power in a relationship may increase your confidence and just make you feel powerful. And, while this can be a heady feeling, it may not produce the results you want.

For instance, in many cases abusive men are driven by their insecurity and lack of power in the rest of the world – or their perceived lack of power. Men who are abusive come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the underlying commonalities is how good they feel when they have power over another individual.

In this case, what the abuser is exhibiting isn’t actual power but rather a perversion of power. For instance, the pharisees were driven by their fear of Christ to have him crucified, believing His death would give them back the power they had with the Jewish people. What they did was a perversion of power.

Real power comes from inside YOU. It comes from a knowledge that YOU are capable, able and powerful and not from what you believe you can exert over others.

Body language is one of the ways that people who are truly powerful communicate their power and confidence.

If you consider the animal world, there are many male fights that are averted when one male is obviously more powerful than the other and exhibits recognizable signs indicating the other animal would not win the fight. That is power the other animal understands through body language.

Sometimes you may not FEEL powerful but can still show signs of power and then, by experiencing the results of power you eventually believe yourself to have that power.

In other cases you might accept the power given to your by others.

But the best kind of power is the kind that comes from your security in who you are, where you’re going and how much power you actually need or don’t need to succeed.

Let’s start with acting as if you have the power in order to control a conversation and end with understanding where your power comes from and how to tap into an unending source.

Having and enjoying the results of power in a conversation begins and ends with body language. But, although you may exhibit the body signs, you have to BELIEVE them in order that others perceive you to be powerful.

Eye Contact

People in control are not afraid of looking another person in the eye and holding eye contact. Of course, holding contact for long periods of time may make the other person uncomfortable, which is NOT the emotion you’re trying to arouse in someone who’s interviewing you for a job! On the other hand, consistently averting your eyes when looked at is a sign you aren’t sure of what you’re saying, how you’re feeling and even that you just want to get the heck out of Dodge.

The trick is to use eye contact appropriately without staring down an opponent or looking like a scared rabbit. There’s a middle ground where you will look, act and BE powerful in your demeanor and your attitude.

Think about it – anytime you have a conversation there will be an alpha (most powerful) and a beta (second in command). Even having a conversation with the barista behind the counter, one of you has more power. This line of power can fluctuate between two people when both have similar levels of power.

The next time you’re talking with someone, start to notice the natural give and take between your eye contact. If you’re the one constantly looking down, then you’re the submissive one. It is certainly good to know how to be and look humble, but it is perfectly acceptable to also be powerful. As a woman, you’ve likely been told – either in words or body language! – that power is not acceptable. There are some women who gracefully take on the mantle of power gracefully and others who stomp through life as if they are owed everything by everyone.

Examples? Oprah, likely one of – or maybe THE – most powerful woman alive today, is graceful in her power. Have you ever seen “The Devil Wears Prada”? The film was written for a former personal assistant of Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, portraying Wintour as a tough, demanding, short-tempered, easily angered executive who wielded power in the fashion industry and who scared most who met her.

Two women, two different styles but with one thing in common – immense power.

 

Voice

When I was in high school I had a sweet friend who was “soft spoken.” At least that’s what it was called in those days. It was difficult to hear her speak, even when she was angry. She didn’t PROJECT her voice and it never got above a whisper.

Definitely NOT the way to project power.

On the other hand, I was just at the doctor’s office with my oldest son the other day. I could hear the doctor speaking in the hallway – normal tone, easy voice. The minute he came in the room he was practically yelling – all in an effort to gain power in the relationship. It was interesting since he was tall, the doctor and obviously the one in control in the room by default. But, he gave that up when he started acting like he’d lost his power.

Your voice can project power or you can completely lose the battle before it even starts when you are whispering or yelling.

Power comes from a strong voice that isn’t yelling or whispering. Instead, you goal is to project your voice to the back of the room without deafening the person directly in front of you. It can be done! The power in your voice comes from within your chest and the back of your throat. And it comes when you believe that what you’re saying is true, right and must be said.

Even conversations about the smallest things – like saying hello or offering help to someone in a parking lot. If you believe what you’re saying, you are paying attention and present during the conversation and you believe what you’re saying is right – you’ll speak with confidence and power. But, the moment someone asks a question you don’t have the answer to, or challenges what you’re saying, it may cause a meltdown.

Unless your power comes from deeper within you and not JUST your voice.

 

Leading

Powerful people lead a conversation and it’s done naturally – NOT by overpowering the other person.  Start the conversation with a positive statement to relay information you want. But don’t interrupt the other person or try to take over the conversation.

Power also comes with patience, quietness and submission. When you’re around people who are bullies, you won’t get the upper hand because they never relinquish it. However, you remain more powerful without becoming the bigger, better bully.

Your power may also be communicated well when you have expertise and passion about the subject matter. Your passion and knowledge of the topic has a way of lighting up your face and engaging others – just another form of power.

 

The Ultimate Power

Ultimately, your best source of power comes from the ultimate source of power. God will walk through a journey during which you attain and remain as powerful as He wants you to be. Mother Theresa may not have LOOKED powerful, but that tiny woman was held in His hand and wielded more power across the world than you may imagine.

 

 

Finding Where Honor Fits Into Parenting

Honor: to be regarded with great respect; high respect; esteem

Honor, respect, dignity . . . . these are words that appear to have lost meaning. It’s becoming easier to recognize someone who has served in the military because they look different from the rest. In many cases, these are people for whom honor and respect are more than words – they have great meaning and often steer decisions.

Not everyone in the military lives by these ethics – and not everyone who holds these concepts dear has served in a branch of the military.

Honor is one word my children learned early in life. I had five rules, and honoring me and their father was one of them. In the beginning it was a practical means of controlling behavior, and as they grew older it became part of the fabric in our lives. Today, if I’m contemplating breaking one of those rules I can count on one of the children to speak up and remind me that those rules exist for a reason, and thus far that reason has kept our family strong.

We don’t always do it right – and I don’t do it right more often than I’d like  – but we’ve built a solid foundation.

This the first commandment found in the Bible that comes with a promise. In Ephesians 6:2-3 the Bible says: “Honor thy father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Have you thought how your behavior reflects honor, or whether you are taking time to teach your children about honor? This takes intention, or thinking about how you will teach them what it is and how to live it. For instance, we may believe we want our children to “follow the rules,” but unless we talk about those rules and how they should be followed, it’s a conversation you hold in your head and your children are not privy to the information.

Honor is just such a concept. You might WANT your children to live with honor, but unless you are intentional about telling them, it’s likely they won’t get the idea.

Once you’ve decided to be intentional about honor, you have two ways of passing your knowledge along to your children. By talking about it and by modeling the behavior you want them to follow.

Have you ever seen ads on television where the parents are asking their children where they learned to drink, while they were holding a drink in their hand? Or complaining about their children taking drugs, while their medicine cabinet is chock full of pain medications.

Functionally, to treat others with honor means to treat them with respect, to do more than what is expected, and having a good attitude while doing it.

Practicing honor changes your life, the life of your children and the lives of those around you. Your children stand out from the rest – which is what is needed to find a partner with character, the best job they can find and to stand before God.

Honor is also like oil that lubricates a functioning and hard-working machine. Your works gets done with less friction and anger.

You can find time to talk about working honorably when you talk with your children about money, jobs, relationships, volunteering and school work.

It is not honorable to cheat, but it is to ask your teacher’s forgiveness when you didn’t get your homework done.

If you watch sitcoms on television you see the actors making a play on honor. One wants to cheat or cut corners, while another may want the character to make the “right” decision. Unfortunately, overtime, these television shows are leaning more toward the characters making the wrong decision because the outcome may “feel good,” or get the character “ahead.”

But ultimately, making a decision for the wrong reasons, the dishonorable reasons, results in achieving less than you could have and enjoying much less success than you could have.

Being a single mom is hard work. Remembering to teach the children all you want them to learn is difficult. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is to live your life the way you want them to live theirs.

You don’t have to make compromises to give them more than you had because they don’t want more, they want you. Your children inherently know what’s right and wrong and they are watching you to see the path you want them to take.

I was reading an article a week ago about making goals in the New Year. Seems like there are thousands of articles this time of year about how to write goals, how to make a plan, how to follow the plan and measure the results. But this young woman had a different take on her goals for the New Year.

Instead of making a list of what she wanted to achieve, she began to concentrate on who she wanted to become. By becoming a person she could be proud of, she would then be capable of overcoming obstacles and conquering challenges that came her way in the coming year. By becoming a better person, she would be able to set bigger and better goals.

You don’t have to write a list of what you want your children to learn and know. Instead, concentrate on becoming the person you want them to become. Most children are wise beyond their years. They learn by watching your actions – what you say and do – and not necessarily what you say.

Sometimes, when I’m using a new piece of software and trying to get it to do something, I’ll start yelling at the computer – “Do what I WANT you to do! NOT what I’m telling you to do!”

Your children are the same. You can tell them not to lie to you until you’re blue in the face, but if they watch you lie to your friends or their siblings, they learn to lie too.

Remember, it is never too late to learn something new. Until someone is within minutes of death, it is just not too late. Consider taking the time this year to resolve to BECOME so you can watch your children grow into people you are proud of.

 

 

 

The Power of the Unspoken Word

One of my favorite parts of the movie “Hitch” is his explanation of nonverbal communication. Released in 2005, the movie follows the love life of several couples through the eyes of a male dating coach. The story takes place before dating coaches were popularized, and so Alex Hitchens does most of his work behind the scenes and without publicity.

Part of his job is to teach his male clients how to interact with women. Most of the film is about nonverbal communication and the different ways that men and women interpret the actions of others. In the movie, Hitch says, “60 percent of all communication is nonverbal, 30 percent is your tone. That means 90 percent of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.”

In other words, the people you’re talking to are reading more from what you aren’t saying than what you are saying. This means the power you want – in relationships, at your job, and with your children – isn’t coming from the words you’re using (although there IS power in the words!) – but instead from how you’re saying it.

Your nonverbal communication is communicating power while your words are communicating knowledge and feelings. What you say is as important as HOW you say it. Most of the time we don’t remember this. Especially in a time when quite a bit of communicating happens digitally.

Nearly every digital communication device has a way of adding facial expressions in order to let the recipient “read” body language. But this body language is chosen by the sender, where the body language you communicate during a face to face conversation is nearly always unconscious.

Most people learn to read body language as a child. It’s a process that humans and animals use. Dog whisperers and horse whisperers learn to read the body language of animals to understand actions and reactions. In order to gain greater power in your life, it’s important that you learn to read the subtle cues of others in your life, and learn to control your own body language.

At the end of the day, you’ll be judged by how others perceive you, and your knowledge by the results you produce. You do the same thing with your friends, family, boss and children. You know instinctively when your children are lying, your friends are hiding something and your boss is going to make a decision you don’t like. You know it because you’re reading body language. You might not be able to verbalize HOW you know it – but you know it.

Use It

At the same time you learn how to project power through body language, you’re learning how to read someone else’s language. And, you may recognize that while this subtle language seeks to project something about the other individual, you don’t HAVE to accept what that is.

In other words, just because the person sitting across from you is projecting power, you don’t have to accept they are powerful and continue along the path you desire. In some cases, they’ll back down and recognize you have more power than them. In other cases, they won’t. When and how you use this tactic is important. Use it against your boss, you could be packing up your desk and be on the street by evening.

Use it with your children or a friend, you may get what you want – but in either case you’ll pay a price.

There is a cost to be paid when you project power. The other person may be intimidated and back down, or they may rise to the occasion and challenge you. Both changes may be subtle, but both will affect the long-term results of the relationship. It might be the friend calls you less, or that your child feels more intimidated than loved – but either way there is a cost to be paid.

Learn It

There are several ways to learn the subtleties of body language. One of my favorites is to watch successful sales people. They have learned how to get you to do what they want – and it’s an art form. Tony Robbins comes to mind.

You don’t have to buy any of their products, you just have to spend time watching their videos.

Several years ago I was learning how to write sales copy – written and video sales letters. One of the things I did was to watch and study infomercials on television. These are masterfully written and produced 30 minutes of television designed to do one thing and one thing only – get you to pick up the phone/visit a website and pull out your wallet.

If I focused on studying the infomercial and taking notes, I was able to learn a few things. But, if I was a bit more informal and watched one while on the treadmill or elliptical trainer, I was more inclined to BUY the product instead of learn from the sales copy.

I tell this story because the videos of these sales people, who have body language down to an art form, are SELLING. Remember to pay attention to how they are saying it; the way their eyes meet the camera, how you feel about that person and their knowledge, their shoulders, hands, arms and feet. When you pay attention to HOW they do it, you’ll be less inclined to pull out your wallet to buy what they’re selling.

Action

In order to experience greater success, better relationships, improved business performance and get what you want, you have to take action. Knowing what is important and how to learn it, is only half the battle. The next steps are to actually DO IT. And have fun while you’re doing it – fun is the important part. Because when you are having fun, you’re more likely to learn it, use it and take action.

  • Watch some videos of people you admire, want to emulate or great sales people.
  • Practice in front of a mirror.
  • Practice in front of a camera.
  • Practice with friends.
  • Make it a part of your everyday routine.

All in that order!

 

Have fun!

Embracing the New Year As a Single Mom

Being a single mom has been one of the most challenging and most rewarding jobs I have ever undertaken. It’s likely the same for you too. While it isn’t a job I wanted or chose, it is one I choose to embrace as we move into a new year.

The past years have been some of the most difficult for me personally. But, they have also brought me closer to God and to a greater understanding of His sovereignty in my life.  And this alone has been worth the price of admission. It’s not something you can fully describe .  .  . like explaining the concept of cells without a microscope. It has been a gift I treasure and one I will lean on as we move into very uncertain times this next year.

But, realistically, all of life is uncertain. Tomorrow is only a promise and yesterday a memory.  So how can we embrace an uncertain future as chief cook and bottle washer and everything in between?

There is something about new beginnings and beginning again that is magical and wonderful, that holds promise and hope, and that each of us ultimately desires. Who wouldn’t want to erase the problems and mistakes of the past and start over?

That’s exactly what every new 24 hour day holds for you. Most of the time we hold out that hope for a new future or a magic moment until December 31. At some point near midnight we anticipate the goals and dreams we’ll write the next day – January 1st – on a piece of paper.  And, unfortunately, most of those dreams will be felled by February 1st by the business of everyday living.

The truth is that you can enjoy the rejuvenation of new beginnings on any day during the year. You can start fresh on your birthday, your half birthday, or on February 1st. It’s your choice. You can choose to embrace YOUR new year on March 31 at noon. All your choice.

But, since January 1st is just around the corner, let’s make the assumption you’ll be starting a new year of new plans, goals and achievements on January 1st.

This day holds the promise of something new, something better. Your very spirit yearns for something more, to have your thirst quenched. When I was young there was nothing more satisfying than coming inside from playing in the heat to pour a large glass of ice cold milk and chug it. Today, I wouldn’t think about chugging milk – but that’s another story.

You have your own glass of ice cold milk that you find deeply satisfying and uniquely filling. What calls you about a new year and new beginnings is uniquely human and can’t remain in yesterday. It’s more than a feeling. It is grounded in hope and promise that each of us believe we have a right to claim as our own.

And today, you can claim your new beginning, hope and promise because you have the tools to make a difference in your life and the lives of your children and your family. The question isn’t do you HAVE the tools – but rather will you USE them. In other words, are you willing to take the action you need to take in order to enjoy the successes you have only dreamed about?

There are many platitudes that end up on memes, images and in emails or coming from the mouths of friends and relatives. But although they are commonplace and commonly shared, there is more than a grain of truth to many of them. For instance, “Failure is an opportunity.” It is – failure gives you the opportunity to do it better, faster, greater, and with more panache the next time.

“Discouragement is a path to joy.” Yes, because when discouraged there is no way out but up – unless you choose to stay discouraged.

Your new beginning doesn’t have to be marked by a physical event – such as moving to a new home, having a new baby, or entering into a new relationship. Instead, your new beginning may be marked by making a new decision or choosing a new goal. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind as you begin again:

Stay open: Keep your mind open to new ideas, new ways to do things and new people in your life. Make smart decisions but don’t close doors to something just because you always did. Have a good reason for saying “no.”

Notice the small things: Not all your accomplishments come with fanfare and excitement. Sometimes it’s a smile on your youngest face, a note from your oldest child or a short “atta girl” from your boss. You may not get the big raise, but it’s important to celebrate the small victories in order to build to the big ones.

Stop editing: In any brainstorming meeting no thought or idea is discounted. You never know when a great idea is sparked from a crazy one. It’s also important to stop editing your thoughts and feelings. If you’re uncomfortable doing something new, then own it. Revel in the discomfort. You will get past it and you will accomplish your goals despite your discomfort. Then, the next time discomfort rears its ugly head you will be ready and waiting to crush it. Don’t edit your thoughts – but once you realize they aren’t productive, kick them to the curb.

Work, Work, PAUSE: You can’t stop time, but you can stop the madness in your own life occasionally. Clear your calendar and your schedule for a couple hours of reflection and planning for the next phase in your action plan. Without pausing to recharge your brain and body you may be operating on fumes, unable to achieve the goals you set for yourself and disappointed once again.

 

You CAN achieve your goals and desires this year. You need to do the research to determine your journey. Make a plan to take the journey. Take the steps on the journey and remember there are many others who have achieved these goals before you. This means you CAN do it. You may just need to find someone who has done it before you and follow their path.

Kick Negativity to the Curb

Negative thoughts can be as toxic to your health and your future as smoking cigarettes. Negativity breeds emotional, mental and physical changes.

Here’s an experiment that immediately demonstrates the power of what you think over your body.

This experiment takes two people. One person (person A) stands with their arms held out to their side at shoulder height. The second person (person B) stands to one side and tries to push one arm down while the person A resists.

Pay attention to how much strength you [person A] have to use to resist person B.

Now, out loud person A will say three times, “I am not good enough. I am not good enough. I am not good enough.” These words have to be said out loud.

Immediately, person A holds their arms out to the side and asks person B to use the same amount of force to push the arm down.

What did you experience?

If you are like the majority of people you’ll have found that the second time you [person A] were not able to hold your arm up as long as you did the first time. Or, said another way, it takes less energy from person B to push person A’s arm down.

This is because your brain hears what your mouth says and it becomes immediately integrated in your muscle and neurological system. This is more powerful than what you say in your head.

However, while saying something out loud is MORE powerful, your thoughts are just as powerful but over a longer period of time. For instance, you could experience immediate results in your strength by saying something out loud, but will experience the same results over a slightly longer period of time when you continue to think a certain way.

Isn’t that amazing? What you THINK and say to yourself (don’t even have to believe it!) has a definite effect on your physical body. NOTE: in this case you likely didn’t believe what you were saying but your body still responded negatively. Imagine how much power you lose each day when you BELIEVE what you’re thinking and saying out loud!

It’s time to believe that you can achieve your goals this next year and be the role model to your children you want to be.  Because, when you believe you can, the likelihood that you will goes up exponentially.

The Consequences

The results of consistently thinking negative thoughts are too many to list. Here are just a few that may motivate you to change your perspective and your habits this year.

  • What you think is what you value and influences the choices you make
  • The choices you make influence your results and success [or lack thereof]
  • Negative thoughts hurt your physical and mental performance, which affects your income and relationships
  • Negativity negatively affects your confidence and influences your decisions and performance
  • Negative thoughts increase your stress levels and reduces your ability to concentrate
  • Stress results from negative thoughts and this triggers hormonal imbalances, damages your immune system and reduces your cognitive abilities

The Strategies

You might think that you’ve always been this way and can’t change now. After all, changing is difficult and sometimes it’s just easier to keep going down the same path. But, when you look down the road three years and see yourself in the same place you are now with worse health – are you happy?

Do you want to be in a better place personally? At your job? In your relationships? Then you must make personal changes to experience different results. Your goal achievement is based on your own decisions and actions and not those of others. Here are several strategies that may help you reduce negative thoughts and improve the actions you take:

 

Make the punishment fit the crime.

In other words, seek proportionality in your personal punishments. You wouldn’t ground your child for 3 weeks if they forgot to clear their plate from the table after dinner – but you might be punishing yourself just like that.

Spend some time over the next couple of days to see how you react to disappointments or mistakes you make. You may be surprised by the things you say to yourself.

My youngest son spent nearly a year learning how to get out of his own head while he was playing basketball. Much of this sport is won and lost before the players even get on the court. If he missed a shot or two, let someone get through his defense or didn’t do exactly what the coach expected, his performance dropped drastically. This created more negativity and more negative thoughts, which in turn generated even poorer performance.

Remember, unless you’re performing brain surgery, you’ll have another chance to fix the issue. Take the chance to do a better job and resolve to continue to do a better job because you are CAPABLE.

 

Forgiveness

Forgiving others is foundational to living a better life. Unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the other person, but it does create bitterness and a poor life for YOU.

It is important to remember that you also deserve and require your own forgiveness so you can move on from your mistakes. If you continue to beat yourself up and say negative things to yourself everyday you’ll reap the rewards your body and brain are wired to produce – poor health, poor decisions, depression and few friends.

Researchers trained 260 adults in forgiveness over six weeks. 70 percent reported a reduction in their feelings getting hurt and 27 percent experienced fewer physical symptoms. Forgiveness reduces YOUR stress and changes YOUR results.

 

Gratitude

As humans, we are wired to give thanks to God and be grateful for the gifts we have. When we practice gratitude, it alters the way we think and how we perceive our life. The situation doesn’t change. The consequences don’t change. But the way you react and act – and therefore the results of your actions – do change.

Learning how to practice gratitude in any situation you find yourself will help you move on and achieve greater success. Any negative situations will teach you something. These will bring you closer to God if you allow them. And He will work miracles through you.

 

Emotional Resilience

Having positive emotions – the opposite of being a negative person – helps your body and mind recover from challenges and obstacles that continue to happen throughout your life. Cultivating this positivity helps you become resilient in the face of stress.

Your resilience is like an industrial rubber band – when you pushed and pulled by negative events in your life, you have the ability to bounce back to your original state. You can build resilience even after being hit by negative events. This means that although you’ve experience bad things, you don’t automatically expect poor performance in your life or more negative results.

 

The Results

The results of IMPLEMENTING the strategies and taking action is a positive result. However, when you read the strategies, shake your head yes indicating you’ve read them before, but don’t DO anything – you can expect the same results – nothing!

 

In other words, the results you can expect from addressing the negativity in your life is completely up to you.

Life Lessons from the Classics

I love stories!

Children learn through stories and adults spend billions of dollars being transported to another world through stories. We watch stories on TV and at the movies. People have made a business out of telling stories on YouTube. Amazon is making billions selling books that tell stories.

When you get together with your friends, you tell stories; stories about what happened to you, to your children or at work. Stories are powerful. The story you tell yourself about your life is powerful – and it often comes true.

In other words, the story you tell yourself about yourself will be the one your grandchildren tell their children about you. What you believe will happen will happen because what you believe and think controls how you feel. In turn, your feelings determine your actions and what you do – and of course, what you DO determines your results.

When you begin with a better story, you’ll likely have a better ending.

Christmas is a time of year when more stories are told around the world. Some of the most fun stories and best lessons are buried in those stories. Here are my favorite stories from this holiday and what I’ve learned from each. If you have another story you enjoy, or lesson from one of these, please post it in the comment section!

 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

In 1964 this stop-action animated movie was top of the line animation and released as a television special. Today, children may laugh at the animation, but the story is as old as time – and it introduced another reindeer to Santa’s sleigh.

Santa’s original reindeer were Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Vixen, Dasher, Comet, Cupid and Blitzen and named by Clement Clarke Moore in the late 1700s when he wrote the Night Before Christmas. When Santa’s sleigh is depicted today, there’s a small reindeer at the front with a blinking red nose.

I’m reminded that not all of us look the same, and if we did the world would be a pretty boring place. I’m reminded that not all motorcyclists are drug-dealing, gun-toting bad guys and not all preachers have warm, fuzzy personalities. We’re all different and we all have something to offer. And, we are not defined by that difference.  In other words, Rudolph had a nose that got the sleigh through the night, but it doesn’t mean he was good through and through.

The drug-dealing gang member is breaking the law and likely is scary, but he may also be willing to protect his mother with his life.  None of us is what we seem on the exterior.

 

Holiday Inn

Irving Berlin wrote the music for this 1942 musical, featuring the song “White Christmas.” The story is about four people whose lives are interconnected by show businesses and stage performances. At some point, they all pretend to be someone they aren’t.

At some point we all pretend to be someone we aren’t, and like in the movies, we are usually found out. Sometimes the results are ok, and at other times, not so much. The movie makes it appear as if everything turns out well in the end, even when you pretend. But the reality is different.

Pretending is lying about what and who you are. In the 1940s there was a lot of that going on. It was a simpler time, but the problems and challenges that many women faced were never addressed in the public eye. The past looks good through rose-colored lenses, but the present reality is much easier to deal with.

 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I love this animated television short released in 1966. There is a little bit of Grinch in all of us. Anytime we think twice about helping, giving or doing for someone other than our self or our family.

In the movie, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day he saw Cindy Lou. This is a gift I look for as I make my daily journey. What will come across my path that will make my heart grow or will tug at my heartstrings. And when it does . . . how will I react?

Sometimes this gift takes me out of my way and interrupts my day. But, it is always a gift because all gifts cost something. It doesn’t have to be a gift to me – it may be that I’m giving a gift to others. And every gift costs something. It may be time, effort, energy or money.

BUT, I also get a gift in return. I get something from giving that I can’t get any other way. I receive more from the gift of giving than I ever give.

 

Miracle on 34th Street

I think the title of the movie says it all. There is a miracle at Christmas that involves Santa and it happens on 34th Street.

There’s a young lady with her daughter, a young lawyer, Santa and large department store. If you haven’t seen this 1947 classic film, it’s time to see it this year. It’s a story of hope, joy and a miracle that we all hope for each Christmas.

 

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. He’s the reason for the season. It’s often a time we spend introspectively examining our own lives – what we accomplished in the past year and what we hope for in the coming. As you march forward into 2018, remember:

Not everything is as it seems
You don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not
You will be touched by others and this is a gift to YOU
And
You can expect miracles when you keep God front and center

 

It’s Time to Say YES!

Last week you discovered if you say “No” to somethings you’ll enjoy greater love and joy in your life. However, life isn’t all about learning what to turn away FROM but also what to turn TOWARD.

In other words, what should you say YES to in order to experience greater joy? Your children will see what you don’t do – and they will mimic what you DO. Here are several things I’m going to say YES to more often this year.

Say yes to:

Discovering more about how to support your health

I might be just a little enthusiastic about my health. We have one body, one life and what we do with it will be our legacy after we’re gone. I think too many times we put our heads down to power through the day without thinking clearly about each little decision made. The pastry at 10am in the breakroom, extra dessert coffee at lunch, candy bar at 3pm and on to a grab and go dinner while driving your children to their events.

Suddenly, any idea of good nutrition has flown out the window.

Think about what you eat each day as if it were compound interest in your life. One donut won’t make a dent in your cardiovascular health, one donut three times a week will. But, the same is true in the other direction. Eating vegetables, getting plenty of fiber and significantly reducing your fructose intake each day will also improve your health over the years. One day of eating well won’t make much of a dent, days each week will.

Exercise every day

Exercise also pay compound interest and in multiple areas of your life – and often without much effort. For instance, walking 30 minutes each day (15 minutes after lunch and another after dinner) may be enough if you spend several hours a day on your feet and not in a chair behind your desk.

Exercise doesn’t mean you are training for the Olympics, just that you’re moving and active through the day. I was out walking with my new dog yesterday and stopped to talk with one of my neighbors. She’s about 55. She told me that she took on painting her home, from ceilings to baseboards. After a day of painting a room she thought she’d be sore. But she wasn’t. She slept great that night and felt the best she had in a while the next day.

Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult. Think about walking with the kids. Get up out of your work chair every 15 minutes and stretch. Look for an exercise partner. Do whatever you have to do to get exercise every day so you can keep up with your children and you’re ready to enjoy the unexpected – like a surprise canoe trip, hiking with friends, biking with your children, or whatever else happens your way.

Positive, energetic friends who have achieved goals you want

We are what we hang around. In other words, you become like the friends you have. They don’t become like you. So, find friends who have achieved the goals you want to achieve so they can show you the path and encourage you on your journey.

I want to publish a new book this year. My plan is to find a group of authors in my area and join.

Activities that build your self-respect and self-esteem

I have a problem. Chocolate.

Chocolate is what I eat when I don’t feel good about myself or situation. Unfortunately, my comfort food makes me feel even worse about life. There is no comfort in overeating or eating foods with fructose or refined sugar. This is a lesson I have a LOT of trouble learning. I’m hoping I learn it this year.

Find the activities that build your self-respect and self-esteem. Volunteer work, patience, expressing your emotions, learning a new skill, helping others and expressing gratitude are just some of the ways you can boost your self-respect and self-esteem.

Strategies that move you toward your goals

OH MY GOSH! This is the one. This is what I have to concentrate on this year. This past year I have not done what I know would move me toward my goals and at the end of the year I’m paying the price.

I have a book that was written and 95 percent complete in MAY. It’s November and I’ve done nothing else to finish the project. Not only have I not finished the project but I also have not met my financial goals this year BECAUSE I didn’t finish the project.

I let life get in the way instead of getting in front.

This year I’m taking control and by year’s end I’ll be reaping the rewards.

Building a life you can be proud of

Not everything we do makes us proud of our actions. And, as a human it’s impossible to achieve that goal. But like all things, every small decision you make has long-term consequences. This means the MAJORITY of the decisions you make should work toward building a life that you can be proud of as you share those achievements and events with your children.

 

It has been a difficult, educational and unique year that builds on the work of past years. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t made the decisions I had during the year. This coming year I’m going to make some tweaks to those decisions and hope to follow through so I can experience the rewards that come with greater, more positive and forward moving, action.

Start Saying NO To These Things and Watch Life Get Better

The day starts early, usually before sunrise. A few stretches, a warm shower and a quick cup of coffee, before the alarm is sounding in the children’s rooms and they emerge, sleepy-eyed and groggy. Showers, packed lunches, gathered school books and packed backpacks as you usher still drowsy children out to the bus. It’s a full day’s work and the sun has only just peeked above the horizon.

Friends need your advice, your boss needs that report, meeting must be attended and you’ll still try to make that yoga class while you chug down a 4-hour energy boost drink before picking up the children from their after school program. Then it’s home for dinner and back in the car for their sports activities, while they try to get their homework done as the car rockets down the road.

Sound familiar?

When all four of my children were home together I was driving in three directions all day, and arranging rides for the children I couldn’t logistically chauffeur. It really does take a village to raise a family of children. Paying attention to what I wanted my children to learn made me pay attention to what I was showing them every day.

It’s a bit like what I scream at my computer – “Do what I WANT you to do – not what I TOLD you to do!!!” Your children watch you carefully and no matter what you tell them . . . what you show them is far more powerful. As you begin to format the goals you want to accomplish this coming year, think about what you’re doing and teaching your children about living a healthy and productive life.

Here are a few things to say NO to this year. Next week I’ll share what I will say YES to next year!

SAY NO TO:

Anything that lowers your self-respect or challenges your integrity

Last week an opportunity presented that could have been lucrative but would have made sleeping difficult for me. While the money was good it went against my ethics and so I said no. It has taken years for me to learn that doing something that goes against what I believe is not worth the angst and bad feelings that come with it.

Several years ago I made another similar decision that didn’t involve money but it did cause me to do something I swore I wouldn’t.  To this day I wonder if what I did created another mess I’m living with.

The long of the short is that it is never good to make a decision that lowers your self-respect.

Anything that may risk your health

You have one body and one life – it’s important you live it well. Studies have shown people’s regrets at the end of life are about what they failed to try and not how they may have failed at something they DID try.

But, trying something that destroys your ability to enjoy the rest of your life is another regret. Your health is a bit like compound interest – the little things you do each day pay big dividends in the future. It’s like smoking. One cigarette won’t kill you and neither will two. But one pack a day for a couple of years and plan on wrinkled skin, difficulty breathing and a high risk of heart disease and cancer.

How well you care for your health is a reflection of how much you value your life.

Anything that turns you from your life mission

When you reach the end of your life and look back on what you’ve accomplished what will you think? Will you be happy?

Many of the little decisions you make each day without thinking often deter you from what you want to accomplish. When you can say no to vacuuming the rugs in order to finish your personal projects, you’ll remember the accomplishment in a year but not the vacuuming.

Things that rob your time

Time is a precious commodity. We each get 24 hours, no more and no less. However you spend this time, it is spent and you won’t get it back.

Things that rob your time include people you don’t want to be with, jobs that cause too much stress, attending events that are meaningless to you and the people you love and anything else that makes you wish you had those moments back.

Other people’s baggage

You carry enough of your own baggage – you don’t need anyone else’s.  Enough said?

This includes getting into new relationships with toxic people or abusive partners.

Toxic relationships and negative people

You probably can identify the people in your life who cause you stress or pain. These are the people who don’t support your dreams. They tell you that you aren’t good enough, strong enough, thin enough or smart enough. You dread sharing dreams or thoughts because you know exactly what they’ll say.  While constructive criticism is good these people usually just pass along negative comments.

Say no!

Self-pity because you aren’t where you want to be today

You are a strong single mother. Anything else is icing on the cake.

I know you’re strong because you are a single mom. And because you are strong you can accomplish exactly what you want. The problem may not be what you lack in ability but rather in resources- such as time, energy or network.

 

Leave self-pity in the garbage where it belongs. We all need a pity-party once in a while but it is vital you don’t live there.

 

Build a Strong Family Financial Team

One of the topics that is often neglected or overlooked as parents struggle through the pre-teen and teen years, is finance. Money is not often a subject that comes easily to parents. And, once you’re teaching your children, they often want to know more about how much you’re making, how much debt you carry and why you aren’t making more.

While some of these may be good questions, they may leave you feeling uncomfortable or even violated, depending upon how open your own parents were about money. However, you might be overlooking a strong team of individuals living under your own roof who can help you move your family’s goals forward.

What if you learned that one night a month could change the financial direction your family was taking and grow your children’s understanding of how to grow their own financial future?

Not only will this build your bank account but you’ll also strengthen your relationships with the little adults you’re growing at home.

Let’s Talk Money

Most of us are very uncomfortable talking about money unless you’re doing taxes with your accountant. Money is an objective measure that many believe measures not only their financial worth but their own self-worth. Our society values those who have money, are rich, can afford to spend whatever they want on whatever they want.

But the reality is that your self-worth is not based on a number in your bank account. That number will let you know the probability you’ll pay your bills on time, can afford a new car or can easily splurge on a new wardrobe. But the amount of money in your bank account tells NOTHING about who you are as a person. It says nothing about your worth, your intelligence or your ability to be a great parent or partner.

Today I met an orthopedic surgeon who didn’t think he walked on water. Most physicians I meet these days think they were born with a stethoscope in their hands and a packed bank account. This one did not. He was humble, nice, listened to what we said and had ideas he talked about and didn’t TELL us about. In other words, he earned our respect and didn’t assume we would give it.

When you remember that no matter how much money you do or do not have in your bank account has nothing to do with who YOU are, you’ll be more comfortable sharing those numbers with your children. This is an extraordinary lesson for your children to learn as well. My middle son continues to struggle with this concept. In his mind, money equals worth.

He doesn’t have much money as he is still in college – but that isn’t as important to him as the fact that we didn’t have much money as he was growing up and therefore my poor worth was transferred to him. He has a good friend whose father is very well to do and he compared their family against ours for years. Teach your children their worth – and yours – doesn’t come from a bank account and you’ll all be happier.

Not Just Children

According to a survey by American Express, 90 percent of couples avoid talking about financial issues, debt and household expenses. In fact, many knew their partner’s weight but not how much they made at work! The couples claimed that financial discussions led to arguments so they avoided them.

And, while your children know you work to put food on the table, they don’t always understand the relationship between how much you make and how much you can spend on miscellaneous expenses.

The result is that many children believe the ATM is a magic machine. You’re getting money from a machine and not your bank account. My youngest daughter had that same idea when she was five. If I said, “That expense isn’t in the budget this month.” her response was always – “Go to the machine! The machine has money!”

Change the Future

For many years the family has been one unit. If one parent stayed home, what they contributed was valued. Children worked to make the process functional. Not necessarily outside the home, but they did chores, learned to cook and clean and earned their spending money. There wasn’t the expectation that one person brought home the bacon, but that everyone contributed.

Your family financial team is that – a team. You can make the meeting times fun by including prizes or games and treats. The team’s goal is to build a future and help each person achieve their own personal goals. Everyone has a voice in decisions and responsibility for the outcomes. As with any meeting, it’s important to start with a structure that each person can anticipate.

Begin by identifying any movement forward since the last meeting in individual or family goals. These goals can be short-term or long-term. For instance, saving for college, buying a bike, paying for music lessons. Reducing debt should always be a top priority as it may reduce your stress and therefore improve your parenting skills.

Use programs that will create a visual image that tracks your goals. You can easily build a graph using an spreadsheet program that’s free online inside your Outlook or Google account.

Put your goals in writing, and use pictures for the younger children, so everyone remembers and can participate in the meetings. Each meeting briefly review the goals to be sure you’re traveling down the road you WANT to. Part of your goals is controlling your spending so you can achieve those goals. So at each meeting, review your spending from the previous month. If you commit to using the same debit card each month it will be easy to track where your money is spent.

Review your upcoming spending with your children – how much is budgeted for food, rent, utilities and any known extras. Ask you and your children if the extras are something you need or you want – and if you can afford the want or should put that money away for your goals?

 

As you wind up the meeting, determine what you’ll review in the next meeting and the date and time. And then celebrate! You and your children are on the same page as you journey toward your future and together you’ll likely get there faster than traveling alone.

 

 

Queen Latifah, The Buckeye Bullet and a Shark @Thanksgiving 

With your Thanksgiving meal just around the corner, here are a couple of stories to help you stay focused on your family and not on the challenges and obstacles we all face.

Have you ever seen the movie, “The Last Holiday” with Queen Latifah, Timothy Hutton and LL Cool J? It might be something you want to watch with your family when you’re all stuffed from a good meal and too tired to do anything else.

It’s the story of a 30-something single lady who was misdiagnosed with a brain disease. She’s given about 2 weeks to live, so she cashes in all her money and goes on an exotic vacation.

She doesn’t pull her punches with the people she meets and is surprised to find that she could be herself and still be liked.

Through some miscommunication that she doesn’t correct, the people she’s met believe she’s an up-and-coming entrepreneur who is very well to do. Toward the end of the movie Timothy Hutton finds out that she is a “nobody” [his words!] and calls her out.

She apologizes if she has offended anyone and explains that she is dying, she cashed in all her savings to go on this fabulous vacation. . .

“You know how it is. You keep your head down and you hustle and hustle. Then you look up one day and wonder, “How did I even get here?”

Is this where you are?

Have you been hustling every single day, head down, eyes on the to-do list for the day or the week and not paying attention to how quickly life seems to be passing you by?

Hustle . . . Action . . . Power . . . Application . . . Enterprise

These are all good words. They are the way toward achieving your goals.

BUT, when you do them at the exclusion of activities that balance your life, you are in danger of developing bad health habits and losing relationships.

You don’t have to make the choice between your definition of success and good health or great relationships. You can have all three.

It takes balance. It takes becoming inspired. It takes inspired action.

Don’t just put your head down and plow forward. Look up! Take a look at where you’re going and who you’re going with.

Sometimes the journey we’re taking starts out with challenges and obstacles not of our own choosing .  .  .

Born in Oakville, Alabama, in 1913, the Buckeye Bullet was the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of slaves. He was a sickly child, often battling pneumonia. But, at the age of seven he was still expected to carry his weight in the family and was picking up to 100 pounds of cotton each day.

When he turned 9, his family moved to northern Ohio where life was faster paced and school was a challenge. Once in high school, he made a name for himself and became a nationally recognized athlete.

In college, he dominated his sport, winning all 42 events in which he competed one year, setting a world record that stood for 25 years and making the Olympic team, set to participate in Berlin, Germany, 1936.

At those Games, he won four gold medals and broke two Olympic records, one of which stood for the next 25 years. After he won the event, that now confers the title of “the fastest man,” Hitler stormed out of the stadium.

Back home in the US, Jesse Owens received a chilly reception from his own country as well. Not surprised by this country’s hypocrisy, he made this statement, “When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn’t live where I wanted. I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President either.”

Jesse Owens is one of this country’s best athletes, in any sport. He overcame physical illness, injuries, hypocrisy, prejudice and discrimination. He excelled at sports and later went on to run his own successful public relations and marketing firm.

When you imagine the challenges that Mr. Jesse Owens overcame in his life, you probably won’t be able to fully appreciate the obstacles.  But if you can stop and imagine what it would be like to have the inspiration, desire, drive and commitment to achieve the goals that he did . . . .

And then understand that we are all born with the same abilities to face challenges. Our obstacles are different. Our goals are different. But we CAN achieve those goals by tapping into the ability to become inspired and do the work to achieve them.

It isn’t where you started or where you are today that matters most . . . but, the actions you are willing to take to make your tomorrows a reality.

Thanksgiving is a day and a season for giving thanks for what we have. Whether it’s a roof over your head, a hot meal on the table, running water in the bathroom or a bounty you hadn’t imagined you could achieve, we all have something to be thankful for.

But, to be thankful, grateful and fully appreciate the gifts we already have, we also have to have a positive attitude. This does NOT mean being a positive thinker, convincing yourself that something that isn’t real has already happened. But it does mean seeing your life in a positive light so you can see the opportunities and take advantage of them .  .   .

The effect that a negative stimuli in our lives has will have long term consequences on our success.

Consider the marine biologist doing a research experiment with a shark.  The shark was placed in a large holding tank where several small bait fish were released. As expected the shark attacked and ate the smaller fish.

After the shark was accustomed to getting those small fish, the scientist placed a strong piece of fiberglass into the tank, creating two partitions. The shark was on one side of the partition and the small bait fish were released in the other side.

The shark quickly attacked the small fish but slammed into the divider and bounced off. The shark repeated this behavior every few minutes. In the meantime, the bait fish kept swimming, unharmed, on the other side. After about an hour, the shark gave up.

Over the next several weeks the experiment was repeated several dozen times. Each time the shark got less aggressive in his attack on the bait fish. Eventually the shark tired of hitting the divider and just stopped attacking altogether.

At this point the divider was removed and the marine biologist discovered that the shark did not attack.

The shark had been trained by his environment to believe that the barrier existed between himself and the bait fish.

Over time, YOU are trained by the negative people in your life that you cannot achieve what you want.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for what you have and what is yet to come. You CAN achieve what you want when you look past the influence of the negative and focus on the positive.

So, today, while you’re sitting around the table with family, friends and the people who mean the most to you in life, remember that what you experience is only a function of how you perceive it.

 

Make a decision to see the positive, act on the positive and start the holiday season with heart of thankfulness and gratitude.

 

You Don’t Have to Sacrifice Your Relationships for a Successful Career

Life is all about balance. Whether you are trying to balance your family with your career, or your dietary choices against your health – balance is possible. The honest question is not whether or not it CAN be done but rather HOW to do it.

As a single mom it’s important you have a stable means of putting food on the table and a roof over your heads. On the other hand, there is just one parent for your children so you end up being the chief cook, financial planner, provider, caregiver and superintendent of schools.

With all this on your shoulders, you likely have already learned the art of balance. But, what you may find challenging is balancing something just for you in a schedule that revolves around your children. In other words, it may be necessary to overcome guilt first, before you can use strategies to balance advancing your career with romantic relationships and those with your children.

While this isn’t always easy, balancing your life has significant benefits for your children and makes a long-term impact on their lives. As you survey your life and the commitments you have made, consider if you would like to change your standard of living so you can work less, or increase it so you can afford a few luxuries that give you more time with your family – such as a housekeeper, or after school sitter who drives your children to after school programs and cooks dinner.

Although pursuing a demanding career is time-consuming, it also may allow you these options that free up more of your time. The added income may also increase your own self-esteem and feelings of power over other challenges in your life, that in turn have positive benefits for your children.

But, what if you want to have it all?

  • Career
    Great family life
    Romance

Is that possible?

The reality is that it is as possible as you are willing to compromise. There are only so many hours in each day. You won’t find more and you won’t get less. But, in order to have it all, so to speak, you have to fully use each one.

Remember the choices you make are not permanent and it’s perfectly acceptable to change your mind later. A good friend of mine chose to take a significant pay cut and put her career on hold for 7 years until her daughter graduated high school so she could attend every event and spend quality time with her. She didn’t regret her decision because she PLANNED it.

She worked in a job that kept her current and allowed her to continue to advance up the ladder when she was ready. She’s currently interviewing for jobs around the country and the salary range is more than she gave up. This does NOT mean this happens for everyone, but the likelihood you can do it is higher when you make a plan, watch your step and stick with it.

As you consider your schedule, time, children and desire for romance and career, remember you must also schedule downtime where you recharge your own batteries – away from partners, children, and your job. This means driving to work in the morning is NOT your downtime, nor is the time you spend watching movies with your children or dinners out with your partner.

You know what drives you and keeps the motor running.  For me, it’s the hour I spend every day working out. When I don’t work out my whole day is different. I may not have as much patience, be as productive or even as creative.

Identify what you need, and how often you need it, to be sure you schedule it.

You will live on a calendar. It’s the only way to keep everything straight. And, with as easy as it is today to add a calendar to your phone and share with your family, it’s important to take advantage of this strategy.

Share your calendar with your children and be sure you all add EVERYTHING to it – work, school, dates, after school events, sports, and anything else your family participates in.

Talk with your boss about being able to be flexible with your schedule at work. There may be some tasks you can achieve at home, so you and your children are doing homework together. It may give you enough time to be there when school ends and attend most of their after-school events.

Find quality childcare. When you aren’t worried about your children during the day you’ll be more productive and creative and your children will be much happier when you all arrive home. Being more relaxed at home may mean organizing your morning the night before. Make lunches, lay out clothes, and have everyone shower the night before so morning is easier, faster and you and the family are not frazzled when you start the day.

Even if you can’t make changes to your hours at work, making small changes at home may have big consequences for you and your children.

Leave it at the door

When you come home, leave your stress from work at the door. You may remember how much your ex’s stress after work irritated you – well the same happens for your children. If you need to, take a 10-minute walk before getting home or a 10-minute shower after you arrive to relax. Your children will be able to pick up on your moods, so if you’re tense, they will be too. Two tense people make for more arguments and bad moods all around.

Dinner at the table

Research shows that families who eat together often have better emotional bonds and the children pay greater attention to instructions from the parents. These family dinners are a wonderful time to hear about their day, tell them about yours and share the little details that make you a family.

Spend an hour with your children

This is time away from the dinner table, just you and the kids without any other distractions. Put the electronics away to play a game, go for a walk, watch a movie or go out for ice cream. When you consistently spend time with your children, the odd days you’re out on a date won’t leave such a hole in their lives.

Make bedtime special

Your children don’t need, or want, full-on entertainment. What they want is your presence while they are playing in the tub, or have you read them a bedtime story. Even when they can read, it’s about you and them, not about what you’re doing. This gives them a foundation each evening.

Listen to your body clock

Are you a morning person? Get up early to get your workout in before work, or to finish that project. If you’d rather sleep an extra hour, then stay up to finish. The important thing is to listen to your body clock and work with it, not against it.

Consider relocation

If moving to a different community may shorten your commute, give your children a better school system or improve your opportunities, it may be time to pull up stakes and get it done.

Stay connected

Your children are likely experts at using digital communication. If you aren’t, it’s time you became an expert. Staying in touch while you’re gone is one way that will help reduce feelings of isolation for both of you. Text messages, sending pictures of yourself or recording a video on snapchat for your child helps to bridge the gap until you’re together again. If you can’t be at an event, ask a friend to record it for you and watch it with your child later. If you can’t be home at bedtime, record yourself reading a book, or whatever you and your child normally do, for the sitter to play. If you have younger children record your voice in a stuffed animal for them to carry during the day.

 

While these strategies won’t give you more time in your day, they will help you utilize the time you do have more productively. When you want to spend time with a romantic partner your children will be more secure in your relationship and know that you’ll be available when they need you.

It won’t be easy, but it is more than possible.