Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Excited to be at work? Or not so much....

Anyone else feel like Christmas just whirled by, and find themselves stunned to be back at work already? Well, according to most of the posts I have seen on Twitter or Facebook - a lot of my friends are pretty cranky about being back at work.

Some days, I relate. I am not always joyous or happy to come to work. When you get up for work as early as I do (4am!), it can be tough to be grateful - but the bottom line is that I GET to work. I don't HAVE to work. If I truly am that grumpy about my circumstances, it's my job to do something to change it!

So, here's where I am: I love what I do. I have been in radio for over 17 years, and it hasn't lost it's thrill yet. I have toyed with leaving to do other things along the way - but always come back to the fact that I get to do what I love every day, and that is such a gift!

I don't want to change that - so, I change the things I can. I can go to bed earlier - I can accept the fact that I WANT more sleep, and let myself go to bed earlier to get it.

More importantly, I can change my ATTITUDE about work. I don't have to work - I GET to work. Because I work, my life has amazing opportunities and blessings in it. When I come to work each day, I am stacking up more of these...every time. When I can take a moment to remember THAT, it's a lot easier to get out of my warm bed with my snuggly, cute husband still in it, and get ready to take on the day.

This morning, I actually woke up before my alarm clock! Instead of grumbling about missing out on a few extra minutes of sleep, I thanked God for the chance to get caught up on emails and news before rushing headlong into the day.

Finally, when in doubt, I try to remember that it could always be worse. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why I believe in Santa again

I believe in Santa again.

When I was about 5, I figured out what was really going on with Santa, and it was my mom's own fault, really. She's the one that taught me how to read when I was only 3 - and I got suspicious when I realized that Santa's handwriting on the gift tags looked an awful lot like hers.

After a very frank conversation with my mom about the truth, I don't remember being devastated - as a matter of fact, I was so proud of my cleverness at figuring the whole thing out that I could wait to tell everyone: my brother, neighborhood kids, cousins.

I wasn't very popular that Christmas.

Anyway, I saw this blog post last week, and want to keep it so I have a really good answer when my kids ask for the truth about Santa Claus - which is, YES, there IS a Santa Claus. Read below to find out why I believe again.

A few months back, the Tooth Fairy got busted. She left a note for Alice up on her computer, and Lucy figured the whole business out. The Tooth Fairy cursed her need to write notes in elaborate fonts and tried to come up with a cover story, but it didn’t fool Lucy.

To her credit, Lucy has kept the secret from her little sister, who still hasn’t lost a tooth and deserves to wake up with money under her pillow.

But the Tooth Fairy knew it couldn’t be too long before Santa was similarly unmasked. She didn’t know when or how, but she knew the days of magic in her house, at least magic of a certain sort, were coming to an end.

And the Tooth Fairy—by which I mean myself—was pretty darned sad about the inevitable, which finally arrived last week.

Lucy and I have been exchanging notes since the school year started. We’ve talked about all sorts of things—sports, books we’d like to read, adventures we’d like to have, even stories from when I was in third grade. For the most part, though, it’s been light, casual stuff. Until last week.

I NEED TO KNOW, she wrote, using capital letters for emphasis. ARE YOU SANTA? TELL ME THE TRUTH.

What do you do when your kid asks for the truth? You tell it, of course, doing your best to figure out a way that keeps at least some of the magic intact.

Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Lucy,

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”

I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.

I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.

I love you and I always will.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

100 Ways to Nurture Yourself

I saw this today when I poking around the web - and it's a GREAT list of things we can do to nurture ourselves. Especially in this crazy holiday season, a lot of us are burning the candle at both ends - so it's important to make sure we are taking the time to take care of ourselves.

My personal favorites? #7, #11, #14 (something I really need to work on!), #18....actually, MOST of this list is my favorite! Which ones do you like most?

From Demanding Joy:

Probably the most important component to demanding your joy is learning to take excellent care of yourself – mind, body, and spirit. Think of caring for yourself as if you were your own child – giving to yourself at least as much as you give to others. You are worth it!

Like joy itself, self-nurturing comes in many little bits. Here are 100 of those bits for your consideration. This is not a checklist – only a list of suggestions. Please take the ones that speak to you and ignore the rest. Enjoy!

  1. Put a post-it on your mirror that says, “You look beautiful!” – and then accept the compliment every time you look at yourself.
  2. Buy fresh flowers every now and then. – Brighten up the place.
  3. Used colored pens for no particular reason. – Blue and black are fine, but how about orange?
  4. Take a walk without a destination. – It’s a great way to get some exercise and clear your mind. Be mindful of what you see, hear and feel.
  5. Take a hot bath. – With bubbles.
  6. Write in a journal. – Write anything that calls you. Ideas, experiences, dreams, frustrations – get them out of your head and down on paper.
  7. List the things that you’re grateful for. – You can’t help but feel better when you literally count your blessings.
  8. List the things that you like about yourself. – We can all list the things that we don’t like about ourselves. Turn that around and think about your many positive qualities.
  9. Create something. – Many of us have gotten away from actually making things. Create some artwork. Write something. Build something. Make something that didn’t exist before. It can be functional or frivolous – as long as you enjoy the process.
  10. Treat yourself. – We struggle to be disciplined, especially with money and food. You deserve a reward, right?
  11. Smile. – It’s very difficult to feel bad when your face is happy.
  12. Squash negative thoughts. – Listen to what’s going on in your head and actively quiet the voices of pessimists and critics. Assume the best, not the worst.
  13. Try something new. – Go out on a limb. Learn something new. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to try. The more experiences you have, the richer your life will be.
  14. Get enough sleep. – Everything is hard when you’re tired.
  15. Meditate. – It takes a little practice at first, but if you find a meditation that works for you, you will be calmer and more peaceful.
  16. Drink plenty of water. – It’s basic, but it’s so good for you.
  17. Stretch. – Before you start your day, take a few minutes for a good muscle stretch. It just plain feels good. And, it’s fast, easy and free.
  18. Put some “me time” on your calendar. – When life gets busy, doing things for yourself is the first thing to be sacrificed. So, actually block out time on your calendar. Call it a ‘staff meeting’ or something so that no one intrudes on your time.
  19. Call a friend. – Think of someone who you enjoy and ring them up!
  20. Ask for help. – This can be hard. But it’s so important to recognize when you need a sounding board, or some advice, or an extra pair of hands.
  21. Say no. – Your time is valuable. Set boundaries to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
  22. Ask for a hug. – We all need one. So just go get one. The person you ask probably needs one too.
  23. Delegate. – Hire someone to mow the lawn or scrub the floors. Teach the kids to do laundry. Give that project to a co-worker. You do not have to do it all.
  24. Take a deep breath. – And another. Now another. It’s like a mini-break to reset yourself during the day.
  25. Light a candle or use a reed diffuser. – Your sense of smell creates the strongest memories. Find scents you love and enjoy them.
  26. Claim some space for yourself. – A place where you can go to have a quiet moment to read a book, or meditate, or cry – somewhere that you can get some peace and privacy.
  27. Get out into nature. – Reconnecting with the earth is just good for your soul. Feel the breeze. Breathe the fresh air. So good!
  28. Buy the good ice cream. – Even on the tightest of budgets, this is important.
  29. Use lotions & soaps with scents that you love. – It’s a nice way to pamper yourself, plus you’ll smell good all day.
  30. Give a compliment. – Telling someone that they had a fantastic idea or that they look beautiful in that color creates a pleasant environment and makes two people feel good for the price of one.
  31. Listen to music. – Listen to whatever makes you happy. Can you be grumpy while listening to Gloria Gaynor? I think not.
  32. Play. – Something we forget as adults. A board game, a sport, finger painting – find something frivolous and have fun!
  33. Eat foods that you love. – Low fat, low calorie, low carb – blah, blah, blah. Food is to be enjoyed! Put food into your body that nourishes you in every way.
  34. Be silly every now and again. – We take ourselves entirely too seriously. Let go. Be spontaneous and outrageous!
  35. Laugh. – Sometimes you just need a good laugh to lift your spirits.
  36. Limit screen time. – Too much time in front of computers, TV’s, video games, and blackberries (or all of the above) disconnects you from the world immediately around you and makes your brain mushy. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of input from the non-virtual world.
  37. Be present. – Be deliberate about experiencing what’s happening right now. It’s all about the journey – don’t miss yours!
  38. Stop worrying. – It’s going to be fine. Because it is.
  39. Trust yourself. – You are smart, capable and talented. Your choices are just as valid as anyone else’s. Don’t second guess yourself.
  40. Do something that’s only for you. – Remember that hobby that you used to have time for? Or that food that no one else in your house likes? Reclaim it.
  41. Make sure your health is in order. – What’s more important than your health? See your doctor regularly. Make sure you are getting the vitamins or supplements that you need. Advocate for yourself as you would for your child.
  42. Give to someone in need. – Donating your time or your stuff or your money to someone less fortunate makes you feel good and puts your problems into perspective.
  43. Sparkle! – Feeling schlumpy? Get all dolled up. Wear something schmancy. It’s a good way to find your strut.
  44. Dance. – It’s inherently joyful. You can’t be sad if you’re dancing!
  45. Write your own rock star introduction. – Image you’re on tour with thousands of screaming fans. How will you be introduced? “Please welcome the brilliant, the amazing, the gorgeous….you!”
  46. Stand up for yourself. – Your needs are important. Don’t let anyone disregard them. Pushing back can be scary but it’s empowering too!
  47. Celebrate! (for any reason at all) – Your kid learned to tie his shoes! Your taxes are done and filed! The week is more than half over! Let’s party!
  48. Find a mantra or an affirmation that lifts your spirits. – “Today is a new day.” “I know that life always supports me.” “I get everything that I want.” Find one that works for you.
  49. Stand tall. – Your spirit can’t soar when you slouch. You feel much more powerful when you stand up straight and look the world in the eye.
  50. Have sex. – What can I say? It feels good.
  51. Get a massage. – What can I say? It feels good.
  52. Choose optimism. – Thinking positive thoughts has a tangible impact on your day and on your life.
  53. Dream big. – You can do anything you set your mind to!
  54. Tune out the naysayers. – People criticize for many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with you. Follow your heart – not everyone has to get it.
  55. Add color to your surroundings. – Beiges and taupes are pervasive these days. Depressing. Make sure that you introduce energetic colors where you work and where you live.
  56. Surround yourself with the things you love. – Photos of loved ones or mementos that bring happy memories. You should have the stuff that you love all around you.
  57. Declutter. – You should have ONLY the stuff that you love. Purge everything in your life, both physical and emotional that you don’t honestly need, use or love. Everything else distracts you from your true intentions and bogs you down.
  58. Stop procrastinating. – Procrastination is a form of perfectionism. Accept that it’s not going to be perfect and just get it over with. Image how great it will feel to not have it hanging over your head any more!
  59. Listen to your inner voice. – Your instincts are good. It’s important to listen to your own head and heart.
  60. Cut yourself some slack. – Arguably the most important tip on this list. We hold ourselves to impossible standards and then beat ourselves up when we don’t meet them. Would you be this hard on anyone else?
  61. Slow down. – When you’re living your life at top speed, you’re missing most of it. Stop and take a breath. Look for ways to adopt a more humane pace.
  62. Identify your passion. – What do you love? Do you have a non-profit organization that you feel passionate about? Are you passionate about water polo? How about 14th century Portuguese literature? Find something in your life that really floats your boat.
  63. Toot your own horn. – You’re awesome. Please make sure that everyone knows it.
  64. Move your body. – Run and jump and climb a tree. Take a tap dancing class. Power walk. Anything that feels good that gets your blood moving. The only limitation: it has to be fun. Don’t get on a treadmill if you hate the treadmill.
  65. Invest in really good bras. – This one is gender-specific, obviously. You feel much better about yourself when you’re hoisted up properly. So stand tall and salute the sun ladies!
  66. Purge things that aren’t good for you. – Unhealthy foods, cigarettes, a miserable work environment, toxic people – do what you have to do to set boundaries and demand the highest quality of life. You deserve it. Things that don’t nourish and support you – think about how you might be rid of them.
  67. Limit your news consumption. – It’s important to be well-informed, but the non-stop feed of earthquakes and plane crashes and economic crisis and war is not good for us. Be deliberate in finding a balance that’s best for you. Once you’ve seen today’s news cycle, turn it off.
  68. Say yes to life. – Opportunities are everywhere. Take a class, join a team, go bungee jumping. When new things present themselves to you – jump at the chance.
  69. Stop hating your body. – If the women of the world took all of the time, energy and money that we spend on hating our bodies and turned it towards something productive, there would be no war, poverty or disease left on the planet. Your body is your body. Nobody’s looking at your physical flaws because they’re all too busy trying to hide their own. Let’s give ourselves a break and let it go.
  70. Sing loudly. – In the shower and the car and anywhere else you like. With reckless abandon.
  71. Be kind. – Be nice to someone else. You will have made the world a better place. What feels better than that?
  72. Tell someone you love them. – We often forget to say it out loud. It matters.
  73. Take all of your vacation days. – You earned them. Don’t give them back to your company for nothing.
  74. Play hooky. – Call in sick once in awhile when you’re not sick. Use the day to pamper yourself (not to catch up on errands or housework).
  75. Take pride in the hard times that you have overcome. – What didn’t kill you made you stronger. It wasn’t easy, but you did it!
  76. Let someone else be in charge for a while. – Other people can be responsible while you do something for yourself.
  77. Don’t answer the phone unless it’s someone you want to talk to right now. – Some people find it difficult not to answer a ringing phone, but it’s liberating once you learn to ignore it or even better, just turn it off.
  78. Have faith. – It’s going to work out. The future is bright!
  79. Take a personal inventory. – Does your behavior match your true intentions? If there’s a disconnect, you’re carrying a heavy weight.
  80. Go on a retreat. – For a couple of minutes or a couple of days, get away for a bit to re-energize.
  81. Put your finances in order. – Money problems are enormously stressful. Paying off debt where possible, putting bills on automatic payment, and working with a financial planner if necessary can all help to ease the strain.
  82. Eliminate all expectations of perfection. – In fact, eliminate the word ‘perfect’ from your vocabulary. If you expect yourself to be perfect, you will never stop beating yourself up.
  83. Find a good way to blow off steam. – Bottling it up indefinitely will probably end badly.
  84. Be who you are. – your authentic, true self.
  85. Spend some time alone for quiet reflection. – We spend all of our time go, go, going. Try stopping to think about your life, your goals, and your dreams.
  86. Keep your words positive. – Happiness and complaints cannot coexist.
  87. Let light and fresh air into your house. – Sunlight is a must. Open up those windows!
  88. Turn off your e-mail, cell phone, blackberry, fax, etc. for a while. – It’s not healthy to be accessible 24/7.
  89. Pare down your to-do list. – Feeling overwhelmed? What’s on your list that can be delegated, avoided, or jettisoned?
  90. Avoid boredom. – Keep your brain active to keep the blues at bay.
  91. Make your home a haven. – Your home should be a place where you can take a breath and really relax. If it isn’t, you may have some work to do.
  92. Be stingy with your time and energy. – Both are precious and should be spent on things that really matter to you.
  93. Let go. – 80% of everything is irrelevant. Focus on the other 20.
  94. Minimize multi-tasking. – Yeah, women are supposed to be good at it, but that doesn’t make it good for us.
  95. Break your routine once in awhile. – Get out of a rut and into a groove.
  96. Take action! – If something isn’t right in your life, fix it!
  97. Plan ahead. – With a few minutes of organizing your time and to-do’s, you will be better prepared to take on the day.
  98. Intentionally enjoy your journey. – As you go through your days, look around. Be present with what you see, hear and feel. You might be amazed at what you’ve been missing.
  99. Spend time with people who make you happy. – Who nourishes and supports you? Surround yourself with those people.
  100. Enjoy your kids. – It’s easy to rush through the day without really connecting with them. Make a conscious effort to talk with them about their day.
  101. Avoid self-deprivation. – When it comes to food, it’s OK to cut back on things that aren’t good for you (sweet, sweet carbohydrates), but if you feel deprived, it’s probably not maintainable, creating a vicious circle of cheating and guilt.
  102. Forget the word “should”. – Instead of doing what you think you’re supposed to, follow your own path.
  103. Pay attention to your energy. – Are you most productive first thing in the morning? Are you sluggish after lunch? Honor your natural cycles and plan accordingly.

OK, that’s more than 100. I got carried away.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A surprise at a surprise party

I had the honor of going to a dear friend's 70th birthday party last night, and it was truly a special event. It was a surprise party - which, as we discovered once the special lady had arrived, was her first! There was much food and laughter, and an incredible cake, so, if that had been all that happened, it would have been a very fun night. But then, things turned a little more magical.

My favorite part of the evening was when someone suggested we all go around and speak to what we loved most about the birthday girl. I was brought to tears more than once as the women in attendance shared how they had met Liz, and what she had meant to them over their friendship.

They spoke of her grace, her patience, her acceptance of each of us (exactly as we are), her willingness to give time, her willingness to give of herself, her honesty, her creativity, her humility, her maternal energy, and much much more. They spoke of her integrity and humaness, and how much she had changed each of their lives.

As I got in my car and drove away, I was struck with the thought that we should do that more. We should take the time out to celebrate the people we love and tell them WHY we love them, to their face. Sure, we felt a little silly when we first started out, but as we got going, it was a powerful and moving experience, and I am glad I was there for it.

I was also inspired to try to live my life a little more like Liz - she's already one of my role models and heroes, anyway, but I want to live a life that leaves people with nice things to say. If I end up being half the woman that she is, I will have lived a useful and purposeful life, and will have helped and impacted a lot of people. I was inspired to try to live in a way that would leave people talking nicely about me - whether it was my 70th birthday or not.

What would people say about you on your 70th birthday? What would they say today?

Today, I am going to pick just one of her many fabulous qualities, and try to practice it in my interactions with other people. I figure that's a start - hopefully, over the next 35 years, I can master a few, and end up a lot more like Liz.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Up early on a Saturday...and grateful?

What on earth am I doing up so early on a Saturday morning? Well, I am one of those "if I am up, I am up" types, so once I wake up, I am usually up for the day. So, when my eyes popped open just before 5am, I knew I was up for the day. I had two choices - I could be bitter...or I could make the best of it.

Because of my work schedule, I am pretty accustomed to not getting a lot of sleep. I get up at 4am - so to get a full 8 hours of sleep a night, I would have to go to bed at 8pm. That doesn't happen that often...

So, here it is, Saturday, and I am up when I really don't need to be. Rather than be annoyed - I decided to make the best of it. I made myself a yummy cup of tea, and some toast on the homemade bread I made yesterday in our new bread maker. I paid some bills - which had been nagging at me to take care of this week. I am working on the thank you cards for our wedding (4 months ago...don't judge me!). I am blogging. All before 7am!

Now, no matter what else I do today, I can feel pretty accomplished. Here's the kicker: I have a BUNCH else planned today...but instead of complaining about being sleepy, I can be grateful for the "extra" time I found in my schedule to take care of some of the things I've been wanting to, and some time to eat a yummy breakfast, instead of grabbing a meal bar on the way out the door.

It's been a little while since I posted a gratitude list, so here's the rest of my list for today:
- Butternut squash - I recently mustered up enough courage to try to make it, and it's delicious! Why have I been holding out for so long?
- The dogs barking - when Chelsea ran away recently, the house was way too quiet. Now, each time she barks, it's a reminder that she's home, safe and sound. (I kind of wish she would find another way to remind me...but I will stay grateful that she's safe.)
- A husband that helps - when I ask for what I need, he remembers AND does it. I do NOT take that for granted!
- Special, fancy, high thread count sheets - they were a gift, and to be honest, I never got the whole "thread count" thing...but now, I GET it. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
- Comedy specials and funny movies - it's nice to hear my husband laugh, even when things are really yucky right now.

Dear God, thanks for the extra time to connect today, and to get some things done this morning. Thank you, also, for the many other blessings in my life. I know that everything will be alright - no matter what, You have a better plan than I can even imagine. Please keep a loving and comforting arm around S, and guide us both to make good decisions going forward. Please keep an eye on the girls from St. Anne's - the holidays can be a tricky time for people in recovery. If there's a way for me to be of service to them or to anyone else, please show me and give me the gifts to do what is needed. Also, please keep a special eye on my friends and loved ones - I need each and every one of them that I have. Thank you for keeping them safe and healthy. Amen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Photo Card

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

You can't get oranges at Home Depot

About 8 or 9 years ago, I had a friend point out a huge character defect of mine - one that I had been blind to for my entire life. Basically, I was going to the wrong people to get my needs met - which set off a cycle of feeling even more insecure, and going to the same people again to try to make me feel better, ad nauseum.

Because I am a little hard headed, she had to get creative in how she described the vicious cycle that I had placed myself in. In my recollection, the conversation went something like this:

Me: Ugh! So-and-so is NOT reacting like I need them to. Again. Why won't they be more like I want them to be?? Blah. Blah. Blah. Whine. Whine. Whine.

K: Jeannine, you nightmare. You can't be mad at the guy at Home Depot for not selling oranges.

Me: Aren't you listening?? I wasn't talking about stupid Home Depot. I don't even like oranges.

K: (calmly) You can't be mad at the guy at Home Depot for not selling oranges.

Me: What are you talking about??

K: You went to the wrong store, dude. If you go to Home Depot, it's not the people that work there that failed. It's you - for going to the wrong store. If there's something you need, you have to make sure you go to the right store.


If I am hungry - it does me NO good to go to a hardware store. If I have an emotional need, it does me no good to go to someone who has proven that they don't have it to give. By doing so, it's ME that is perpetuating the problem, not them. They are who they are - and I need to change what I do, accordingly.

This little mantra has changed almost all of my relationships - friends, family, romantic, work. If someone doesn't have what I need, it's my job to go seek out someone who does. It didn't happen all at once - and I still have occasions where I find myself up against a brick wall in this department, every once in a while. There have been periods in my life, over the past decade, where you would have heard me mumbling "Home Depot. Oranges."

These days, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by lots of friends and family - all with varying wonderful traits to offer. However, no ONE person has everything I need - so I need to be choosy about who I go to for what.

Victoria Osteen put it much more elegantly in her blog today, on joelosteen.com:

Part of having healthy relationships is understanding what you can and cannot expect from other people. It's a fact that no matter how badly you may be craving steak and lobster, you can't expect to get it from a McDonald's drive-thru because they simply don't have it. You can sit in the line and beg the attendant for it, but it won't make a difference. In the same way, there are some things you can't expect to get from people emotionally, no matter how badly you want it, because they simply don't have it to give.

If a person never received the affirmation and support they needed growing up, they may not know how to give affirmation and support to others. It's not that they don't want to give it; they simply don't know how to give it. If your spouse was never encouraged, he may not know how to encourage you today. If your husband doesn't talk a lot or show affection the way you want him to, understand that he may not know how. You can't expect people to give you what they don't have. Sure, people can change over time, but they may never be as good at expressing love as you would like them to be.

If you're looking for something different in your relationships, you might begin by looking at yourself. Oftentimes, when you see something missing in your relationships, you are the one who has it to bring to the relationship. You carry the seeds of change. If you want more encouragement in your home, sow seeds of encouragement. If you want more affection and tenderness, sow seeds of affection to others. Relationships are just as much about what you have to give as what you are hoping to receive.

Remember, ultimately, only God can meet every single one of our needs. His love is perfect, and when we receive His perfect love, we can invest it in the people around us.

Remember, you have so much to contribute to your relationships. Give your spouse and the people in your life grace and something to draw from. You be the model of change. Don't push people to change; instead, lead by example. Dig deep within yourself and plant seeds of love and life and get ready to see the harvest of blessing come back to you in your future!

"…Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity" (1 Timothy 4:12, NLT).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Things to stop doing to yourself

I saw this today - and wanted to share with you! I love a LOT of this list - and especially #30. Which one is YOUR favorite?? Which one will you do today?

When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.

As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.

2. Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on. No, it won’t be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.

3. Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself. Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves. Read The Road Less Traveled.

4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.

5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.

6. Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.

7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.

8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.

9. Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive. But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.

10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else. Read Stumbling on Happiness.

11. Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. Evaluate situations and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. Making progress involves risk. Period! You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.

12. Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.

13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely. It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. There’s no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.

14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.

15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.

16. Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself this: “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”

17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation. So smile! Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.

18. Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.

19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.

20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway. Just do what you know in your heart is right.

21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.

22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things. The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.

23. Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done. Read Getting Things Done.

24. Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Don’t take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.

25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while. You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well. You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.

26. Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.

27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. So narrow your focus.

28. Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time? Three years? Five years?” If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.

29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.

30. Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Love in my coffee

I am always grateful for my morning caffeine fix. I hope someday to be someone that is so well rested and spiritually sound that I don't require any caffeine to start the day, but for today, I am just not there yet.

This morning, I raced through my morning routine because I knew I was going to need to call out the big guns - COFFEE - instead of downing a Diet Coke on my way to work. (Yes, I have a coffee pot, but I forgot to set it last night!) I headed towards the 24 hour McDonald's near the highway, and prayed that I would hit all the green lights on the way there so I would have enough time to actually stop and get them to load me up.

When I pulled up to the window to collect my caffeine...er, I mean, coffee, the very sweet woman behind the drive through window was beaming! It was a genuine smile, ear to ear, and it was accompanied by a bright and sunny, "Good morning, darlin'!" I couldn't help by smile back and brighten up a bit (even though I hadn't had any caffeine yet...).

She took my debit card, and when she handed it back, she said, "Thank you, now you just sit tight and I'll whip up that coffee for you, sweetheart!" As I watched her work behind the closed window, I could tell she was having a good time - bopping along, whipping up a coffee, all with a smile on her face. Her joy was infectious, and I found myself sitting up a little straighter and already feeling more awake!

Here it was, 4:30am - and this woman would be well within her rights to be grumbly and sleepy, and yet, she was upbeat, bright and friendly...and it made all the difference in my morning. Before I even had any coffee, my spirits were lifted up and my day was off on the right foot.

It was a good reminder that, no matter what, I can be friendly and positive, and do all things with LOVE - and it can make a big difference in someone's day. Even if it doesn't, it can make a big difference in mine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My mother's thoughts on faith

Today is my mother's birthday. It's been over 11 years since she passed away at the age of 50 - and I still miss her every day. Today, for some reason, I don't feel sad, like I have in years past. Today, I feel more contemplative and grateful to have had the chance to have such an incredible woman as my mother, at all, because I know not everyone was that lucky.

A few years ago, while we were going through her things, we found a folder of writings that she had collected over the years. They were short stories of her life, and of ours. They were thoughts and memories, things she had written along the way, and in one very powerful case, her testimony she gave at a church function of how her faith was bringing her through the loss of her parents and her battle with cancer, the first time she was diagnosed. In her memory, I share that with you below.

If you want to see the collection of her writings, you can see them at: http://dianejenkinsjerseyslicesoflife.blogspot.com. I had them made into a book, and gave them out to family for Christmas presents back in 2007. She was an incredible woman - probably the best woman I'll ever have the honor of knowing, and today, I am grateful for the fact that she took the time to write down her thoughts on faith, and memories of her life. In her absence, it is a powerful way to stay connected to her and continued to be parented by her, as I continue my journey.

Good morning. My name is Diane Jersey. Our family moved here four years ago from Annapolis, Maryland. My husband, Dave works for UPS in Philadelphia. My daughter, Jeannine, is a freshman at Penn State – main campus. My son, Kevin, is a senior at East High School. My daughter, Jessica, is in seventh grade at Fugett Middle School.

I am the fourth of five daughters, originally from Kansas City. My dad’s job with the FAA required us to relocate every year that I was in elementary school. I don’t remember this as being too difficult or traumatic. We always became involved in a local church, wherever we settled.

The church was an anchor in our lives.
I really appreciated that spiritual foundation, more than ever this past year. Without my faith in God, and the support of my church and family, I don’t know how I could have made it through this year.

In August of 1993, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My treatment would include 3 months of chemotherapy, a modified radical mastectomy, 3 more months of chemotherapy and then, 6 weeks of radiation. Prior to treatment, I had a bone scan, heart scan, chest x-ray and various blood tests. Each test came out clear! This gave us hope that the cancer was localized. Praise the Lord!

As people began to hear of my illness, wonderful things happened. I received cards, flowers, food and phone calls from all over the country. There was such an outpouring of love and support that I couldn’t help but feel uplifted. My husband accompanied me to every test, doctor appointment and treatment. I believe he would have gone in my place, if that would have been possible. I will always be grateful for his support.

Alan Brown came and prayed with us at the hospital on the day of my biopsy. He, Barbara and Pat also stayed in frequent contact throughout my treatment. Always encouraging and cheerful, they visited me after my surgery, as well.

I can count many blessings throughout this year. My medical insurance is certainly something to be grateful for! My team of doctors is all thoroughly competent, and wonderfully upbeat and compassionate individuals. My neighbors and friends provided countless meals, phone calls and cards of encouragement.

There were many times that God was obviously at work in my life this past year. For example, during chemotherapy, if your white blood count goes very low, you are vulnerable to infection, which may require hospitalization for IV antibiotics. During one cycle, I was precariously close to being hospitalized. My fever inched up and up. Coincidentally, my Bible Study Group from Annapolis was meeting that evening. They called to see how I was doing and promised to pray that my fever would go down. Almost immediately, it did! Never doubt the power of prayer!

Another unexpected occurrence was the need for a blood transfusion. My red blood cells were not strong enough to sustain me through surgery. Although my husband and daughter were willing to donate blood on my behalf – they are both A-positive. I needed O-positive blood. The rest of my family lives in Texas, so their help was not an option. Without a moment’s hesitation, one of my oncology nurses donated blood for me that very day. We contacted Alan Brown, here at Grove, and within hours, he had recruited additional donors from our church. Words cannot express my gratitude to those people! I felt so much better with my new blood!

My mother passed away the day after Thanksgiving in San Antonio, Texas. Once again, God was working my life. I was at a good point in my treatment, so I was able to attend her funeral. On of my mother’s friends, who she affectionately called her “Guardian Angel” whispered to me at the service, that she knew about my “little problem” and would continue to pray for me. I was deeply touched.

Without a doubt, this has been the most challenging year in my life. However, it has also been the most faith affirming. No matter what has happened. God has provided the strength and grace to get through it. One of my favorite Bible verses is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.” I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I do know that God will guide me through it all.

Amen, Mom. Amen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A lesson I'll keep having to learn

Anyone that knows me knows that I love kids. As a matter of fact, it's kind of a joke among my friends - they call me the "baby whisperer". I love to hold babies, and rock them to sleep. At gatherings, if there are kids there, I am down on the floor or out in the backyard with them.

Earlier this year, when one of my very good friends had a baby boy, S and I went to go visit them in the hospital. As we were about to walk in to the room, S looked down and remarked that he was glad I had brought the purse I did. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why he would care about my purse choice, until he made his follow up comment, "Because I know you won't be able to fit the baby in there to steal it."

So, now, we are married - and part of the reason that we picked the wedding date that we did was so we could start trying to have kids sooner than later. I am 35 - which means that I don't have too long to wait, especially if we want to have more than one (which we do!).

S is of the school of thought that we just do a lot of what newlyweds do, and that God will take care of the rest. As for me...well, I wanted to be a little more proactive. I downloaded an app on my phone to chart my most fertile days. I read a big old book about how to get pregnant. I used a ovulation tester kit, so I could have more proof of when it was "go time".

You know what makes someone not want to make a baby with you? Talking incessantly about making a baby. Reading a fertility book in bed. Peeing on a stick. Charting your most fertile days on your iPhone.

So, the big question is: What's my hurry, and more importantly, what's my worry? In the past, with EVERYTHING that I have turned over to God and His timing, it has always worked out for the best: I have the best husband in the world. My dog is home safe and sound. My career continues to surprise me. My family is awesome. My health is great. My friends are fantastic. We have a savings account, a place to live and clothes on our backs. All of those things were, at one point or another, things I had to give over to God and let Him figure out how to give them back to me.

For some reason, I am more afraid about truly turning this over. What if it takes a really long time? What if He decides to make it really tough for us to get pregnant? What if He decides that we aren't meant to be parents, in the traditional way? What if, what if, what if?

My fabulous therapist, E, reminded me yesterday that I have had to exercise faith in a pretty darn big way on those things listed about, and she believes that part of the reason that they turned out so well was because I was able to have gratitude while waiting for my answer from God and the outcome.

So, here goes - a gratitude list about where I am, right now. Today, I am grateful for:
- friends and family that love me enough to care about me getting what I want that they ask how the process is going.
- the fact that people aren't horrified at the idea of me being a parent (one of my greatest fears is that I'll share with someone that I want to be a parent, and they will shriek in horror at the thought).
- being financially stable enough to consider the idea of bringing a child into our family
- examples within my close friends of people that had trouble getting pregnant...but eventually did. (They are truly rock stars...and they know who they are.)
- a reminder from E to be grateful, under all circumstances, not just when things are going the way that I want them to. (Damn therapists...)
- a husband to walk this journey with (it wasn't so long ago that I actually had contemplated becoming a single parent, on purpose.)
- the power of prayer - even if it doesn't change the outcome, I know it'll change me.

Ok, Dude - I'll be patient, and wait on Your timing. I know it hasn't been that long that we've been trying - but since I've been waiting for my entire adult life to become a momma, it sure feels like it. Please remove this obsession from me - and help me to enjoy the process and my marriage, kid free. Thanks for the many blessings you've give me for this journey - and the reminders to stay grateful. Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chelsea is home, safe and sound!

My girl is HOME!! She was returned to me on Friday afternoon by two of my wonderful neighbors, and I could not be more happy or grateful.

Everyone has been asking how this all worked out, so I thought I would share the story with you.

Tuesday night of last week, Chelsea wandered off from the backyard, and we spent the entire night searching for her. She had been spotted about a mile from our house within our neighborhood, so we focused our search in that area. I posted it on Facebook - and many of you reposted it for me (thank you!) My fantastic and compassionate neighbors went out on their own to look for her that night, and in the days to follow, as well.

On Wednesday, my work partner, Rob, went to local businesses to hang flyers, and I went door to door in the neighborhood, and if someone wasn't home, I left a LOST DOG flyer with my contact information on them. I literally left a flyer on EVERY house.

That same day, my friend Lelle suggested using a service through www.lostmydoggie.com, where they did a phone blast to 500 of our neighbors to let them know to be on the lookout for her. They were able to get the word out to way more people than I would have. I had never heard of the service - so, I am very grateful for her research on lost dogs and her suggestion to use this service.

Steven continued to canvass the neighborhood each day before and after work, and I posted flyers in every business that I could and on every light pole and stop sign. I made the report of her being missing at the Humane Society for Shelby County and in Greater Birmingham, and posted her being missing on every website I could. I called the police, I called town hall, I call vet's offices....you get the idea.

On Friday morning, we got an email from a woman who claimed to have seen Chelsea the night before. Steven immediately went over to that neighborhood - which was 2 miles in the other direction from where she had last been seen to look (he even took a co-worker with him!), and put up signs all over the area.

Now that we had an area to focus our search, my friend Bridget went to put up signs in more businesses and ask everyone she saw if they had seen Chelsea. My former roommate Kristen and I were tromping through the woods looking for any sign of her, and when it started to get dark, we started to head back. I was despondent and heartbroken, thinking of her spending another night out in the bitter cold.

Then, my phone rang, and a woman on the other end excitedly said, "I have the most beautiful, sweet dog sitting here in my lap, and I think she's yours." I couldn't believe it!! We made arrangements to meet up immediately, and I raced over there with Steven and Kristen, following right behind.

When I pulled up to meet Karen and Anna, there was Chelsea, sitting on Karen's lap, just like she had been there all along! When I asked Karen how she found her, she said, "I had gotten the call from the service you hired, while I was out of town, and when I got home, I saw the flyer on my door. So, I decided to hang on to the flyer, because I could tell this was a well loved dog. Then, as luck would have it, today, when I pulled into my driveway, there she was!" So, they coaxed her into the car, and called me right away!

Not only was Chelsea home again, safe and sound....she wasn't even dirty! She didn't have a speck of dirt on her (unlike me, who had gotten filthy tromping through the muddy woods). She even still smelled good from her bath on Monday (the day before she disappeared)!

I have no idea where she was hiding out for three days - she was discovered in the very area we spent most of our time looking!

We spent the weekend, cuddling and sleeping, all of us, after our very stressful and scary week. I kept waking up to make sure she was still there, and every where I moved around the house, Chelsea was right next to me. When it was time to go outside, we had her on a leash and watched her like a hawk. She's got a new collar with my new phone number on it, and we are looking into other ways to contain and track her (doggie GPS, fence...you name it!).

I am forever grateful that she came home to me, safe and sound, and for all of the love, support and prayers from all of you. In my darkest moments of fear and worry, your support carried me through, and that just means the world to me and my family.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chelsea has been found!

I will write more details when I can wrap my brain around them - but CHELSEA HAS BEEN FOUND!! Not a scratch on her...she's totally fine! Thank you, God!!! Thank you to all of you for your prayers, support and concern!!

Chelsea has been found!

I will write more details when I can wrap my brain around them - but CHELSEA HAS BEEN FOUND!! Not a scratch on her...she's totally fine! Thank you, God!!! Thank you to all of you for your prayers, support and concern!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Attempt at gratitude

It is with a truly broken heart that I am writing today. My dog, Chelsea, has yet to return home to me.

In an attempt to "walk the walk", I got on my knees prayed this morning to God - and thanked him for keeping Chelsea safe, warm and fed until we can be reunited. I thanked Him for the person taking care of her - and for the one that would return her to me. Even as I prayed the words, I felt the weight on my chest get a little lighter. It was good for a moment, which is progress for me right now.

This is in very sharp contrast to last night, when I found myself rocking back and forth, heaving sobs, unable to take a deep breath, unable to pull myself away from the computer in the hopes that one more email or post would lead to the person that would return her to me, safe and sound. I literally felt numb - other than the ripping ache in my heart, a true heartbreak, stronger than I have felt in a long, long time.

I am having a hard time balancing my desire to live by the motto: "In all things, give thanks", with the stark and painful reality that Chelsea remains missing. How can I be grateful for her being missing? I just can't make myself do it. I believe that God has a plan - and because I believe that, I know that this is part of it. I just can't reconcile what I know of a loving and forgiving God, with one that allows this (and so many other bad things) to happen.

Because I can't find any reason to be grateful that she is gone, I have to look a little deeper to see what about this very sad situation might hold that I can be grateful for.

Here's what I can come up with, so far:
- that so many compassionate and wonderful people have offered to help and to pray - if nothing else, this has restored my faith in other people's capacity to literally help thy neighbor.
- that I work in a public medium - it helped me spread the word to a much wider audience than I would have been able to otherwise.
- that my bosses offered to use even more of the media tools available to is to help to spread the word: tv commercials, email blasts, interviews on sister stations
- that my friends and family are checking on me - it's nice to be loved.
- that S was home to help look and when it got dark, just to hold me whole I cried.
- that there are so many organizations in place to help lost animals
- that the rain has stopped for now - at least, if she is outside, she is not wet.
- that my husband didn't question how much money I have spent on efforts to find her

That's all I can come up with right now - and considering the state of my heart, that's actually pretty good.

Dear God, I don't understand this whole thing, please help me accept and learn the lessons available here. Please bring Chelsea home to me safely. Please keep her safe until then. Amen.