Winter Woes

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polarbear

This has been one long winter…

Now I know that most people are dealing with winter woes just as much as I am, but I think I have officially reached my limit.  And now that we are finally getting some nice weather (i.e., above zero degrees), I find that I am getting even more impatient for summer.

Normally, I am a big fan of the spring season.  I love the budding trees, seeing those first crocus, tulips and daffodils pushing bravely through the soil and sometime snow, brings me back to life.  When the crab apple trees and the orange blossom bush (that is threatening to take over my front yard, by the way) start to bloom, my soul fills up with a giddy happiness.

This year, I’m not in the mood.  Bring on summer…now.  I want bright, hot sun, 90-degree days.  I will even take to 150% humidity that we can get…my skin will love it!

But ultimately, I want to feel the warm summer sun on my face.  I want to have coffee on my patio while I greet the sunrise.  I want to sit on the bleachers at a baseball game with a ballpark hotdog (ketchup and mustard please) and maybe a beer (depending on where the bleachers are).  I want to drink an ice-cold strawberry lemonade while catching some rays…using sunscreen of course.  I want to open all the doors and windows in the house and feel the breeze blow out the cobwebs in my house…and my brain.

I keep reminding myself that we are getting there.  The piles of snow are shrinking and I’m seeing more ground patches.  (Notice I didn’t say grass…grass is green and we aren’t quite there yet.)  I keep reminding myself that there will come a day in late July where I complain – out loud to anyone who will listen – that it is too hot.  There will come that moment in September where I want nothing more than to wear a sweat shirt.  I tell myself not to wish my life away, since it’s going too fast as it is.

But right now, everything else is being drowned out by my winter woes.

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The Art of Conversation

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Hazlett quote - listening

Many colleges offer a degree in “Communications Sciences,” but I think that is a bit of a misnomer.

I have spent the last 20 years plus of my professional life helping companies tell their story. And yes, sometimes that can feel like “science” because you propose a theory, perform the experiment and then measure your results to see if your conclusion is true.

But at the end of the day, communications is much more nebulous than science. At the core, all “communication” is about either sharing information or, even better, driving a conversation. A conversation has to contain at least two or more people, each with their own thoughts and perspectives and emotional baggage. With all that going on, it can feel challenging to get your point across.

But often, to get your point across, you have to try to understand the opposing point of view first.

Think about the last conversation you had. It could have been with a colleague, trying to sway him to your side about a new product to propose. Or it could have been with your spouse, trying to get her to see the merits of a “Baseball Stadiums of the U.S.“ tour via RV rather than a relaxing week on a tropical beach. Or it could have been as simple as wanting your 4-year-old to wear pants versus shorts in the middle of winter. (In my experience, this conversation could have been with a 16-year-old child as well…sigh…)

Did you just keep pushing your opinion, without listening to the other person’s perspective? And how did that go? Especially with the “pants versus shorts” conversation?

The “art” part comes in here. Employing the art of listening to the conversation can help you detect what is holding the situation at a standstill. Maybe your colleague already propose that same new product and has inside info why it can’t happen. Maybe your wife would do a couple of ballparks if there were a couple of “beach” days included. And maybe that four-year-old (or 16-year-old) will learn that winter winds are cold on bare legs.

Think about how you paint your perspective in your next conversation, and be sure to add in the color of listening. You might just be surprised at the artwork you end up with.

Dance like No One is Watching

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dance color

So I realized when I hit 40, I needed to move.

All my life, I have been anti-exercise. It’s not that I’m against it, per se, but I could never find a workout that actually worked for me.

I had tried a number of regimes. Aerobics in my 20’s (leg warmers are a good look on NO one). Tae Bo in my 30’s (Billy Blanks was very inspirational, until I started to sweat). After I tried something – and didn’t like it – I was still young enough to convince myself that working a full-time job, chasing little ones and keeping house, not to mention a working metabolism, were more than enough to keep me in relatively good shape.

Then the scale hit a number much too large to share outside the privacy of my boudoir. And I realized that I that I had unknowingly waved good-bye to my 30’s and my metabolism, and gravity decided to betray our long-standing friendship.

So now I had no choice…I had to do something. I started slow…here again I really had no choice…trying various routines to find the one that I could commit to. And then I realized that dancing burns a lot of calories. And I like to dance. I found a cheesy exercise DVD of dance routines and started there. I then moved on to Zumba, which didn’t feel like exercise because it was just fun. Finally, Just Dance, or its exercise cousin Just Sweat, is really a great work out. And don’t let the “video game” moniker fool you…you will sweat if you really throw yourself into it.

And it’s working. I feel better, I have more energy and my attitude is much more positive. As a bonus, my clothes started to fit better and that awful number on the scale started to drop.

I raided our family iTunes account for songs that keep me moving. The kids may not like it when they happen to walk in on my “workout,” but I’m gonna keep dancing like no one’s watchin’.

Random Relationship Advice

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pinky hold

Having watched too much “Sex in the City” reruns, I got to thinking about things that I wish someone told me about what to look for in a man.

When I was young, it was all blonds, all the time. And cute. Honestly, I didn’t look much farther than that.

As I hit my teen years, I realized that blond goes gray and “cute” often came with an attitude. So I focused on mutual interests and intelligence…keeping “blond and cute” around to refine my flirtation skills on.

Looking back at the early years, I can see – with the clarity of distance – that I was focused on superficial factors. Had I known then what I know now, I could have probably saved myself a lot of time and energy.

So here is my recommended list of criteria for Mr. Right. I believe these are the things that make for a lasting relationship … through thick and thin.

  • Look for a boy that makes you laugh. He’s the one that can make the rough times easier.
  • His looks aren’t everything…it’s how he looks at you – and how that makes you feel – that really counts.
  • Find the boy that can get you through the forest with very few resources. Make fun of “MacGyver” all you want, but I want to know that my boy can save me using his wits and a gum wrapper.
  • Make sure that he supports your interests outside of what you share. If you are totally dedicated to your softball team, stay dedicated. While he should cheer you on at the game once in a while, he doesn’t need to love it the way you do.
  • Pay attention to his reaction when you think you need help. The right one will know when you need it…and step in. Otherwise, he knows you can do it on your own because he believes in you.
  • It may sound trite, but watch how he treats children and his mother. Enough said.
  • And most importantly, find the boy that always puts your needs before his…and do the same for him.

Thankfully, the boy I met at age 16 filled all these qualifications and more. And while I didn’t realize it at our first meeting, it did register that somehow he seemed right. Throughout our relationship, I’ve slowly come to see that I knew instinctively that he was the one.

And more than 30 years later, he still makes me laugh.

 

Rainy Days and Mondays

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rainy day boats

“Rainy days and Mondays, always get me down…”

As stated by the Carpenters, and more recently by Emmy Rossum, rainy days can have a negative impact on your attitude.

But I have to admit, more often than not, I like a good rainy day.
During the winter, a nice rainy day to me signifies that spring is coming. And given the winter this year here in Chi-beria (AKA Chicago), that first little hint of a thaw is enough to get me through…at least through today. A nice gentle rain in the spring gets us even closer to green grass and early, spring flowers. There is nothing as peaceful and at the same time exciting to me as a good, old-fashioned summer storm, complete with a lightening show and house-rattling thunder. And rain in the fall reminds me that we’re coming full circle back to winter and the holidays.

But beyond the changing seasons, a rainy day often gives me the chance to think. My creative juices seem to fill me up like the puddles outside. I’m more focused on a rainy day, since there isn’t anything outside to tempt me. And when you have the opportunity to curl up and watch movies with the one(s) you love on a rainy day, under a cozy blanket with popcorn close at hand? Well, that just makes for a great moment to be truly enjoyed…and a fond memory.

With all due respect to both the Carpenters and Emmy Rossum, I agree on the “Mondays” thing, but I kind of like a rainy day.

What about you?

 

No Longer a Numbers Game

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Numbers game image

I am cutting numbers from my life.

Ok. Let’s face it, you can’t ignore numbers. You need to deal with them in some places. You need to know that the Ann Taylor sweater that will be perfect on you is 40% off in two days, meaning that your $25 gift card will get you one then.

But numbers and math have never been my thing. Some people, like my husband, get numbers and can do the math in their heads. I’m not that person. I went into communications so I would not have to deal with numbers. I like to say that I got married so I would no longer have to balance my own checkbook.

That said, I should amend my statement to say I’m cutting numbers that I choose not to care about from my life.
Maybe I’m just reaching that point in my life where the majority of numbers just don’t matter. I’m no longer going to obsess about my age. I’m going to focus on how I feel. Some days I feel 20 years old, and I will act accordingly. On the days I feel 104 years old, I also will go ahead and act like it.

Weight is another number I choose to ignore. As long as my clothes fits and I feel good about myself, I really don’t care what the scale – which I swear is not calibrated right anyway – says.

Money is another area. Now that’s not to say I won’t pay attention, but I won’t obsess over it. As long as we can pay our bills and live comfortably, with some kind of plan for the future, that’s fine by me. I don’t need a load of stuff or cash that impresses others…because I’ve come to realize those are people I don’t really care about impressing.

I’m going to focus on the numbers that are important. The number of years we’ve been happily married, the number of times that my kids call home just because they want to chat, how many times a day we laugh together at stupid things only we understand. These are the things that are fast becoming more important to me … the love and relationships in my life. And those are the things that I will continue to count … and count on.

Because life is too short to worry about the things that don’t matter in the end. For me, it’s no longer a numbers game.

Some Mornings are Made for Crayons and Coffee

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Crayons

Life moves quickly.  Sometimes, you have to take the small moments of peace it offers. For example, coloring.

Now you may think…coloring?  Isn’t that for 6-year-olds?  True, but isn’t there a six-year-old child still living in each of us?  Every now and again, like today, when it is one of those cold, dark, dreary kinds of mid-winter mornings in the Midwest, with more snow expected (sigh), I get my coloring book and crayons (the box of 96 colors…after all, go big or go home).  I pour a warm cup of coffee and choose a picture to color.

Some mornings, this activity gives me back the control I don’t always have in my career.  At the office, you have to follow company procedure, deliver what the boss wants, and tow the company line, whether you agree with it or not.  Your coloring book leaves all the decisions open to you…there are no right or wrong answers…and best of all, no one needs to approve it!

Other mornings, it’s just about letting my creative side run wild.  Well, semi-wild…I’m not the most artistically talented being.  Coloring lets me pretend that I am and that I do have an eye for color…despite the fact that not all shades of purple look good next to each other and most reds and pinks don’t tone together well.  But in that single moment, I am Van Gogh.

Whatever needs coloring fills for me, the final outcome is peace.  Peace of a clear mind that was moments ago spinning.  Peace of body because you can’t be moving 100-miles-a-minute when you are coloring…why do you think Kindergarten teachers include it in lesson plans?  And peace of spirit, because when you color, all the stress, fear and uncertainty of life just fall away.

Like I said, some mornings are made for crayons and coffee.