Friday, January 21, 2011

Dogs of all ages really CAN learn new tricks! (and, p.s., people too) ;)

Definition of "learn:" to gain knowledge of a subject or skill by study, experience, instruction, etc (Webster's New World Dictionary).

When we think of the word 'learn,' perhaps we most often envision minor-aged children in school learning required courses and materials. I loved school--English, reading, and writing, in particular (gee, ya think)?! I do believe that these subjects provide good base knowledge and foundation and that they also have the potential to create a passion for knowledge and discovery within the hearts of our young people. I don't know why, when you think of the vast number of existing students out there, so few (in comparison) emmerge from the student setting with the desire to continue their quest for learning. Heck! There are loads of younger students who never even tap into the excitement of learning while they're young, let alone when they enter adulthood.

I was incredibly blessed to have a wonderfully well-rounded family. My parents and grandparents were encouraging and set good examples in all sorts of areas such as reading a variety of newspapers and mind-provoking magazines, listening to a wide variety of musical styles (including classical and jazz...which I'm of the opinion that every child should at least be exposed to regularly), supporting us regularly in our many school programs and performances, allowing and encouraging us to try physical activities such as gymnastics and soccer and taking us on regular outdoor excursions to discover the real Florida (nature hikes, river raft trips, camping trips, etc). These were but a FEW of the wonderful activities and resources that I was regularly exposed to as a child that encouraged learning and kept me engaged.

In addition, I had the additional blessing of being taught by some of the most amazing teachers! My 4th, 5th, and 6th grade enrichment teachers were the creme de la creme and seemed to look outside the box for exciting, new ways to teach us our lessons and inspire us to dig deeper into learning. To this day, I often think of Ms Fuleihan when I'm working with my groups of students and can only hope that I inspire some of them (if not all) to be their very best as she inspired me. I'm talking about more than the 3 R's (plus science and social studies); I'm talking about recognizing the need within myself to keep my brain active--to be in tune with both the inner longings of my heart and the external triggers that capture my senses.

As we grow into adulthood, I think we sometimes allow the day to day repetition of obligations to squelch that inner voice and dull our senses. Blinders go up. We fulfill our daily obligations and then plop onto the couch in exhaustion. From my experience (maybe some of you can relate), we have our beautiful babies and pour every bit of ourselves into raising them and doing what's right for them that we forget that it's important to give ourselves the gift of TIME and continued discovery. There has been a wealth of research showing the benefits of 'lifelong learning' as demonstrated in a much more vibrant later life. I say let's bridge that gap between learning as a student and rediscovering the importance of learning during retirement and challenge ourselves to learn new things throughout our entire lives!

I know it's hard for folks to think about mustering up the energy sometimes (so I hear; energy is not usually something that escapes me, lol). Be encouraged, though, learning something CAN mean buying a new surf board and hitting the waves (something a friend told me he did just today)! It can be a quieter activity. For example, I've have been wanting to learn how to crochet or knit for longer than I can remember. I've just never taken time to do it. Picked up a couple of inexpensive supplies from the dreaded Walmart a couple of weeks ago and pulled up some really great (and free!) basic instructional videos on YouTube! It was simple to get started and was something I could do when I felt like I wanted to be in relaxation mode with my family. I'm still only in practice mode but have already crocheted a couple of really cute 'tea pot blankies' and a bookmark. I fumbled a little bit at first but played the videos over and over a few times and the repetition won out! To top it off, both of my daughters are now really interested in learning to crochet along with me. It's a great opportunity for bonding.

Speaking of bonding, our whole family became interested in playing music quite a number of years ago. We've just dabbled a bit here and there with learning our guitars and playing around on the keyboards. In our son's last year of middle school, he became involved in percussion and that opened up a whole new world for us! We were blessed with a drum kit which all 5 of us enjoy playing around on. Our son, in particular, is doing VERY well because he made the drumline this year in high school and also takes a percussion class. I've voiced (and showed) my continued interest in drumming and he and I often take time out to practice rudiments together or just goof off on drumset and guitar together. He teaches me things that he's mastered. It gives he and I time to bond and keeps my brain engaged.

There are other things that have captured my interest that I've chased after with my learning cap on: vegetable gardening, household composting, various art mediums (my favorite focus last year was oil pastels), and experimenting with a vegan lifestyle. I've loved shooting pictures since I was a child but I'd really like to learn to take my camera off of automatic and shoot with varying settings and effects. Just remember during the course of your days to keep your senses and your heart open. Take note when your heart or your mind does a little flip flop when you notice something new. Maybe it's something you'd like to learn about or learn how to do! Remember that learning can occur by study, experience or instruction. It could be as simple a step as checking out a book from the library about a subject you've always wanted to learn more about. My husband has become a shining example of a knowledge-seeking warrior via library books! Most of what he checks out lately is related to health and longevity--learning how the body works and natural remedies for keeping our bodies at their peak as well as fixing something in our system when it gets sluggish.

**Warning!** Don't let others discourage you! I have to admit to being a squelcher of my husband's quest at first because it felt like he was embarking on this big SOLO adventure. Thankfully, we used our communication skills (follow my blog long enough and you'll know me for my soap box cause: communication...people in general suck at it!). I described my feelings to him that I felt left out and he told me that it was actually me who got him reintroduced to the excitement of reading and how he really wants to learn all he can about good health in it's purest form. We had good discussion and came to the conclusion that we both longed for this and wanted to make the quest together! I've also had MY quest for learning challenged. Not long ago, my son and I were practicing on the drumpad when a flippant comment was tossed my way that I didn't know what I was doing. Who knows why some people try to drag you down or belittle you but don't let it happen! Don't let your desire for learning be shot down! WANTING to learn something doesn't mean that you're going to be a pro within a few short lessons. In fact, if you can't afford to pay for lessons and you are going the self instruction method like we have to, it might take quite awhile to successfully learn all about something. But enjoy the ride; savor each step in the learning process.

It's been proven that learning knew things engages a larger portion of your brain and that the process, as I mentioned before makes for a much more vibrant life all through the advanced years. It also gives you opportunity to destress and unwind, to enjoy quiet meditation as well as establish new, lasting relationships and to enjoy the company of others with like interests. It gives you the opportunity to show your children the value of continued learning and to even find fulfilling, new things to learn and to enjoy doing together. Search your heart and think of something you've always wanted to learn how to do. Start by checking a book out on the subject. Put out the word through your social networking avenues to see if anybody you know can put you in touch with learning resources. If you can afford to take a class, find a local class you can join! Maybe you can get a small group of friends together and pool of you could teach everyone crocheting one time; the next time someone teaches how to cook a special dish; another friend could give a couple of lessons on gardening, or bocce ball, or creative writing, or yoga...the possibilities are endless! You just have to recognize the value in and the significance to continued learning and go for it~

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Before you throw that thing away...

Taking time out from a beautiful Saturday afternoon to get everybody thinking about an exciting little tool I found about about a few months ago called The amount of STUFF that gets hauled to our landfills is absolutely astounding and the thing that has always amazed me even more than the overall amount of trash I see piled up for pick up is the percentage of it that is perfectly GOOD STUFF that folks are just tossing because they don't want it anymore! We haul it to the curb with the rest of the garbage and, like the rest of the garbage, it gets hauled off to the dump. Perfectly good toys never to fall into the hands of another adoring child. Discarded chairs, lamps and whatnot that would bless a hurting family. Cast off plants that, with a bit of tlc would perk right back up and beautiful our world.

The EASY thing to do is to toss it, but here's a worthy alternative to think about:

Through, members (membership is free and just requires you to sign up with some very basic information) post messages which are basically short and sweet classified ads. The messages get emailed out to members and then folks can respond, if interested, directly to the sender via email. You can either post messages for items you have that you'd like to GIVE AWAY or, a couple of times per month, you may post a 'Wanted' ad for an item that you are in need of. It's very VERY simple to do. By asking posters to keep listing really short (sticking to an accurage description of the item and not getting into the 'story' revolving around why you are getting rid of or in need of that particular item) it makes it super quick and easy.

In the past, I've taken things to the curb with a big "FREE" sign (also something really fun for me to do! I love the feeling of providing an opportunity for somebody to stumble upon an item they might need~!). In the past couple of months, though, I've given away clothing that our children have outgrown, books, cds, dvds, kitchen items and various other sundry items.

On the flipside, I've received a ton of things that have been a blessing for our family:

~a really cool lounge chair for our livingroom...looks like it was straight out of a trendy coffeehouse


~craft paint for my art camp...along with other craft-related supplies

~even packaged food items and much more

I don't know why some people feel 'weird' about taking used goods. Hopefully all will see the value to our planet and to our fellow man in pooling together our resources and trying to help eachother out while keeping the contributions to our landfill to a minimum. When you've got a minute, do a search for your closest 'freecycle' organization and look into getting signed up. I know there are other similar sort of trading websites out there but this is as far as I've gotten in the recycling adventure so far.

Happy Freecycling!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Developing a personal relationship with your body~

Nope. Sorry, folks, I'm not talking kinky stuffola here today. You'll have to look elsewhere if that's what you're searching for! I've been thinking about what it takes to develop fitness and nutrition plan that truly works and that is lasting. It's definately not a recent revelation that we should be selective in what we eat and that it's important to exercise regularly. We KNOW this. The new year celebrations often involve new and renewed resoloutions revolving around weight loss and getting in shape---it feels like a fresh, new start come January 1st! But why is it so common for people to kick off their adventure with a blast of positive momentum only to end--sometimes suprisingly quickly--with a lackluster fizzling out of the mojo?!

For starters, maybe the main motivation (losing WEIGHT) is overemphasized. I mean, I know that there are a lot of people who really do need to drop numbers to be healthy. But let's set that fact aside for a moment. When I heard on the news the other day of a debate regarding the rising epidemic of TEENAGE cosmetic surgery I was absolutely stunned. Parents, afterall, have to sign consent forms for these surgeries to take place. How is it that so many parents think it's ok for their teenagers to rearrange their faces and bodies?!... in order to achieve what??...a more perfect visage?! Their bodies aren't even finished growing yet, for goodness sake. But why am I surprised? So many of us are stuck like a deep scratch in a record album on the idea that plastic surgery of whatever kind (you fill in the blank) will make us a better (ie: more desirable, more likeable, more popular, less teased, more "perfect") person. I'm guilty, myself, of seeking a surgery numerous years ago that I thought would help a relationship. Needless to say, it didn't, and I truly wish I hadn't have undergone the risks. In hindsight, I'd much rather be the natural, 'athletic' self I was born as. God didn't create me to be a Marilyn Monroe! It almost makes me sick to now have to lump myself (goodness...certainly no pun intended) in the mass group of people who felt the need to get bigger you know whats to feel better about themselves. How could I have felt that need?!

I question myself and yet I know the answer and it's age-old and getting worse with each passing year. Stupid pressure on so many levels to achieve some sort of vague and never-to-be-attained level of perfection. I've talked with my hubby and many other men and women about the subject and, hands down, the winning opinion seems to be that people think that a healthy and fit yet NATURAL-looking person is so much more attractive. We feel this way about OTHER PEOPLE...why is it that so many feel this continuing need, then, to impose impossible and ridiculous standards on themselves? Again, I think it falls back on scewed perceptions, priorities and expectations.

A couple of close friends and I have held interesting conversations on the subject. We have children of varying ages and have expressed deep concern over this whole subject of self esteem and health. We agree that it's important to get our kiddos involved in some sort of regular physical activity. The friends I'm talking about are fellow runners and we know, first-hand, how wonderful running is for kids and youth as well as adults. It's a great strengthener of your cardiovascular system, of course, as well as a couple of the major muscle groups (you know the ones...legs and buttoxeez)! You get an instant endorphin kick like you wouldn't believe and this helps to keep stress and anxiety at bay. You can set small and then progressively larger goals and enjoy the satisfaction of attaining them which is rewarding for all ages. Plus, one of the best things is that it places emphasis on being strong and fit, happy and healthy as opposed to giving your brain fuel to fester on woes and worries.

I know that running is not for everyone though. Actually, after the last marathon I ran, I started experiencing some intermittant knee trouble. I'm learning not to stubbornly insist upon running as my sole source of exercise, though it is my first love and I try to run a few times per week . During the time that I was a BeachBody coach I was introduced to a lot of wonderful programs and it sparked the desire within me to create a fitness plan that was more well-rounded. With the arrival of the 2011 new year, I've embarked on a personal quest to create a fitness plan that is the best for ME. I make a point of not making my emphasis losing weight but on doing SOME type of workout for approximately 45 minutes to an hour (sometimes less and sometimes balances out) each day for the sake of being healthy, relieving stress and, in general FEELING great! I'm still experimenting with what works best for me; that's the whole 'developing a personal relationship with my body' idea in action. Most weeks I enjoy alternating between a few of my favorite activities: running, walking briskly with my family, P90X workouts, Insanity workouts and yoga. In fact, in a perfect-for-Lisa world, yoga is a part of my every day. When I'm doing some sort of yoga practice daily, I find that the nagging lower back pain that sometimes creeps up on me is nonexistent. I have SEVERAL yoga dvds of varying time frames--some active workouts and others geared more toward relaxation and winding down. I'm familiar enough with many poses now that I'll often stick a short yoga routine at the end of a run to help loosen my muscles back up. Yoga gives me so much: strength, flexibility, detoxification, a sense of peace and balance. During our warm Florida summer months I enjoy adding swimming to my fitness coral. I'm also reintroducing biking. I did a lot of that during my triathlon training days; biking on a road bike (or any bike, for that matter) is a great complement to running because it works different muscles and gives my knees a break. In deepening the relationship I have with myself, I've also come to find that I really don't so much enjoy working out in the gym environment (not enough to be a member) but prefer outdoor activities or participating in exercise involving a small group of close friends, my family or even just by myself for some meditation time. That is the equation for MY personal fitness plan. You have to find what YOU will enjoy, what will motivate you to stay plugged in and excited to continue doing and what makes YOUR body and mind feel their best. It'll take trial and error.

Eating healthfully--and this involves good food choices as well as appropriate portion sizes--is also a hugely important part of deepening my personal relationship with myself. I've had my annoying days as an obsessive foodie. It's as annoying as piss on a pickle to have obsessive people around (I can say that because I have often been the annoying one); so much better to achieve balance and enjoy your food. I now find that I can't stand the word "diet." I find that it's a helpful part of my regimin to have meals and snacks all planned out and shopped for in advance so that I'm not left hanging after a rigorous workout starving to death with no healthy snack to reach for! Quick fixes always seem to be calorie-laden bombs. Calorie-laden bombs are often the types of foods that just compound the problem of feeling unmotivated and bleh. Good food makes you feel good. It's energizing and doesn't weigh you down mentally, emotionally and physically. Matt (my husband) and I have been really trying to take note of how our bodies react to different foods and to avoid the ones that we seem to have some sort of negative reaction to (tiredness, irritability, allergic reaction, etc) and gravitate toward the foods that make us feel terrific. There are a lot of interesting written resources on the subject. We've found that there's no easy formula to follow. You kind of have to make the commitment to just enjoy the self discovery. Keep a food journal to help you remember.

Healthy fitness and eating plans often fail us, I think, because we think of them as something we HAVE to do. For those of you who believe in God, it's like a relationship with him...or it's even like a relationship with your parents: You don't HAVE to come to them--to spend time with them deepening the relationship...but it sure is a lovely thing when we do! If we think of exercising and eating right as something we HAVE TO DO we feel rebellious and eventually revolt and toss in the towel. It's also similar to a situation I experienced with some of my students today. They were asked to write a narrative on a prompt and 3 of the students absolutely stiffened up and closed their minds refusing to write. After saying some encouraging words and reminding them of some basics I asked them to think of it a different way: Think of it as Ms Lisa giving you permission to actively daydream in school ('actively' meaning they just had to WRITE about the things they were daydreaming about). Sometimes we just have to adjust our outlook--our take on things--look at a situation with rose-colored glasses (you friends and relatives of mine know how very Bohemian I am...I had to throw that in). :) Cast into the fire your past ideas of what exercise and healthy eating represent and think about making the commitment to discover your authentic self. Tell yourself that you DESERVE to feel and be healthy! You deserve the small amount of time each day to devote to moving in a way that your body and mind enjoys. Now just get going on trying out different activities...classes, dvds, outdoor activities. Come to me for ideas and encouragement if you need to! Just get moving and discover that the beauty who is YOU is not a carbon cutout of somebody else. You are unique and beautiful. ~Go discover that.~

In peace~


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A bevy of miscommunications and the misery they bring us! "Get Real" topic #2

I'm a firm believer that just about every single problem, challenge, frustration or source of irritatation stems, in SOME way, from a breakdown of some kind in communication. I've said for a number of years now that, if I ever made it to graduate school, I'd want to do my thesis on that particular subject because there's such a wealth of continually supplied evidence to back up my claim! My thoughts headed in that direction after I started to take pause in my own life when roadblocks of whatever kind would hit. I could always trace the origination of the problem back to a lack of communication or a miscommunication of some kind.

Yesterday, I talked about how relationships are golden (they are the gems of life, afterall!) but they can be very difficult at times. We have to live with a spirit of perseverence to continue with relationships successfully. It probably seems obvious that communication is a crucial element of that relational mainenance but I think, even grasping that basic premise, we routinely fall short of making EFFECTIVE communication happen? Why? I think that maybe the reasons are varied for different people and that there are several factors going on for each of us. This post is just meant to get us all thinking...not meant to judge but to offer up some observations and encourage folks to take part in discussion here or quiet reflection and a personal quest for good communication.

So, my two cents worth of observations:

~Communication is wonky because the basic idea of it (discourse of some kind with another person) is uncomfortable for people. Sometimes it's a matter of shyness (and you often feel better once you break the ice and just get the communication GOING); sometimes it's more an issue of being nervous about what the other person will say or do in response to the subject matter you wish to discuss with them.

~We're living in such an exciting technological era with so many avenues of communication available at our fingertips. We've got landlines, cellphones, texting, emailing, instant messaging and wallposting on social networks available (oh! and don't forget my beloved 'snail mail)! I LOVE the potential that all of these tools offer us for staying in touch with one another. For example, numerous fellow classmates and I reconnected with eachother on Facebook approximately a year before our last reunion. We spent time on FB getting reacquainted with eachother and catching up on both old times and new so that, by the time we got together for our reunion, the typical ice was already broken and we all had a casual, relaxed, terrific time! I'm also able to post pictures to share with family and friends from across the country--such a great way of staying plugged into the lives of loved ones. I still think that the benefits far outweigh the challenges but there are some points to consider:

Though I LOVE the fact that texting is such a convenient way to get a message to somebody (I'm often not available to take/make calls during my workday and, conversely, I don't want to be ringing people into the later evening hours and disrupting their nighttime routines), there is SUCH incredible room for misunderstandings that arise from the nature of texting. Abbreviated spellings and such short/sweet messages leave out the details that are sometimes necessary to understand a person's true meaning, tone, specific details and the like. A person might text a funny but sarcastic remark to another person only to result in the other person taking personal offense because they didn't take it as a joke. Emails bring about the same potential for misunderstood intentions in that they often do not convey true tone and mood of the author to it's recipient. For this reason, I try to write emails, texts and even handwritten letters with 'feeling.' You can probably get a sense of what I mean just by reading my blog posts. With the use of quotation marks, carefully chosen words, certain words in italics or caps to show emphasis, etc you can give your reader a more accurate message.

EVEN with careful thought placed into the creation of your texts and emails, however, there is still such room for misinterpretation. This often just boils down to basic semantics (good ole gifted English! I'll FOREVER remember this lesson that Mrs Dempsey taught us at Edgewater High!): We each have a different memory bank of experiences, different grasps of vocabulary, different thoughts and such and all of that plays a part in how we process information. I might type a Facebook wallpost, for example, with a particular thing in my mind that is completely taken differently by another person! Then that person draws an inaccurate conclusion of what you meant and bases THEIR actions on the inaccurate conclusion. Let me try to think of an example...hmm...ok, this may be a rather weak one but for example's sake let's say that a friend has just become an Avon Rep and asks me (via facebook wallpost) if I would like to order something. I mention to her that I can't at this time because I'm flat broke but would love to someday in the future. Then, a month or so later I receive an awsome Avon gift for Christmas and type up a wallpost about how much I LOVE my new Avon lipgloss! My friend reads it and 'ASSUMES' that I've ordered from somebody else...feels hurt and betrayed and unfriends me. Then, there I am left feeling like a wounded dove myself and not knowing what happened. The uncomfortable part of the scenario could have been avoided had the Avon friend simply asked (and she could've done it in a joking sort of way), "Hey! I thought you were going to buy that lipgloss from me! Your ole buddy!" I then have the chance to explain and all is good with the relationship.

I think we have to keep in mind, too, that when we're communicating in writing we have to add more detail to get an accurate point across. This is opposite, I think, of what usually ends up happening as remember with texting, IM'ing and such we often abbreviate. Sooo much room for misunderstandings! Ok, so we have technology on our sides but it's important to remember good communication skills. Think about what you type and how it COULD be perceived by the there a chance they'll take it to mean something else. As I mentioned yesterday, I've found it to be a good clue that you've got some tweaking to do in the communication dept if you find yourself often frustrated that people are misunderstanding you.

~Face to face communication is beauty! What a great opportunity to enjoy the company of friends, relatives, coworkers and to also get to know new people! But miscommunications can even happen when we talk directly with people...especially if it's an uncomfortable subject that's being discussed. People are people. We get defensive if we feel we're being challenged or doubted and we go into that 'defend myself' mode sometimes. There's nothing more FRUSTRATING than trying to hold a conversation with a're making eye contact with them, trying to remain calm and to have an even keel, adult conversation and they kick into major defense mode...they interrupt and keep tossing retorts back to you. They open their eyes wide and nod their head 'yes' as if they're listening to what you have to say but you get a sense that they're just waiting to fire the next retort that's been churning in their minds. It's tempting to keep pushing through that conversation...especially we women. We like to talk things out and get things resolved NOW! Sometimes, though, I think we have to step away for a time if things get too heated. Try to come to an agreement that it'd be a good idea to step away from the conversation right now...maybe to each think about what the other has said so far...and to come back and pick up the discussion at a later time. SOMEtimes we humans get tired or cranky for various reasons and just blow off steam. There's often some validity to the points we try to make but maybe we add a little extra drama just because of the timing....that ole 'wake up in the morning and feel tons better' kind of situation. Your communication thorn may be as simple as that. It may may require more work. All you can do is do YOUR best to communicate honestly, in a way that is respectful of the person you're communicating with and as succinct as you can be. Look for signs that your message might have been misinterpreted and don't be afraid to speak up in a kindly way to ask for clarification.

I think we also need to free with our apologies if we realize that we were in error with our communicating and not take it as a personal afront. We get so uptight sometimes! I have such HUGE respect for people with humility. I can think of a dozen people right off the top of my head (I work with many of them!) who are so very gracious and who readily offer up an, "Omgosh, I'm so sorry! What I should have said was...." blah blah blah. They keep recognize signs that there was a misunderstanding and don't pass the buck or place blame but own up to it and apologize then clarify! Gosh I love that! So many folks just get so defensive and short-tempered if they've miscommunicated...OR they have that same reaction when taking somebody ELSE's comment the wrong way and harbor a grudge as opposed to trying to clarify and come to a more accurate understanding.

I guess fear really seems to be an underlying factor in a lot of miscommunications. We're afraid of what could happen. We're afraid of being wrong. We're afraid of being left out. Let us all remember that we are HUMAN and, again, are not perfect. But let us LEARN from our mistakes. If a pattern is recurring and no attempt is made to change then THAT can be a whole different issue all together (maybe meat for tomorrow's blog!) but, for those of us who yearn for authentic relationships of all kinds with others let us remember to also strive for effective communication. I'm convinced that it's a long learning process. Perhaps it's one that will never come to full closure. But the continual attempt to communicate WELL with others and to clarify misunderstandings and also not be ashamed, afraid or hesitant to admit to and apologize for a mistake will be yet another way you can demonstrate to others your level of care for them AND bring a joy and authenticity to your life.

Peace and joy~


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A little r-e-s-p-e-c-t, please? "Get Real" topic #1

My mind is such swirl of thoughts from day to day experiences and general observations. But, where to start? Wheeeere to start? If I try to hit on everything all in one post I'll have a novel (Hey, though! Isn't that one of my life's goals)?! So I guess for now I'll begin this new year with a post about something that I think should be so obvious and so integral in all of our lives but something that is obviously so incredibly squelched: the subject of respect--common courtesy--a spirit of caring for others and giving a darn about something other than our own agenda. I'm going to 'get real' with this post and with several to come. I've always been forthcoming with my intentions but I may be a little more bold in these next few writings.

I think it's fairly common that most of us experience moments of 'Me-ness' where we become so blinded by our own problems, feelings, ailments, goals (you fill in the blank) that we dive so far within much so that we forget to notice how our words (or lack of them), our facial expressions, our body language and all other actions and interactions are impacting those around us. Granted, some of you may NOT give a royal rat's patootie about anybody else. I'd be willing to bet, though, that most of us DO want to be involved in healthy relationships of all kinds. We'd like to foster relationships with immediate family, extended family and friends--friends both inside and outside the realm of work. But relationships are hard. Let me clarify. LASTING relationships (of whatever, spousal, friends, whatever) are hard!

Because we are human, this whole 'we are not perfect' idea enters into play and muddies things up. All sorts of STUFF gets in the way of our experiencing smooth sailing relationships. Some of it's external and out of our control but I'd be willing to lay down a chip and bet that if each of us focused more on giving our all when it comes to relationships and not worry so much about what WE are NOT GETTING then seas actually WOULD be incredibly smoother. It's that darn "ME-ness," though. That ever-intrusive "Me-ness" mist floats on in. It clouds our senses and assaults our very core.

At the school I work at, part of the motto that we teach our children is that we will be "respectful, responsible problem solvers." It's a GREAT motto! It is critical that children learn to embody these 3 elements. Ideally, they should be learning them at home as well as at school. I'm so very honored to work with so many fine individuals, be friends with such incredible people and am proud to have fantastic people in my family who embrace this way of life. Then there are those--along with so many strangers that I simply observe in daily life--who fall short in one or more areas--regularly. (Again, we ALL have our days. It goes along with that whole not being perfect thing). The "respectful" piece of the pie is the one that's particularly disenchanting for me these days. How can children learn from us if we are falling short? Actually, they're learning alright. But they're learning to live by the opposing forces: negativity, disrespect, lack of commitment, inability to hold face to face conversation.

Ok, you're sitting there by yourself reading this post. Nobody's lurking over your shoulder...let's just quietly and with an OPEN MIND think about a couple of things. Do you do any of these things:
~Interrupt often or even completely ignore somebody when they are trying to talk with you in casual conversation...or get defensive and jump in with 'your story' before hearing another person out when it's a touchy subject for you?

~Do you greet a person--even just with a smile and polite head nod--when they enter a room or an area in which you are or do you just ignore them and keep going about your business or your conversation without acknowledging that somebody just entered?!

~Do you SMILE at people as you walk or drive past or do you think most people would notice a scowl or furrowing of the brow or other irritated look on your face (or even a blank stare)?

~When somebody offers to help you with something do you SMILE at them and say "Yes please" or "No, thank you" or are you gruff and short with them?

~Do you latch onto and harbor grudges forever and a day?

~Do you effectively communicate (this is a topic for a completely different post!) with people or do you take shortcuts in communication or ignore it all together because you feel uncomfortable with it (a clue that you might want to improve communication might be if people are often misunderstanding what you mean or your intentions...perhaps you THINK you are communicating well but...well, as I said, we'll talk about that later)

~Do you delete friends from social networking sites or simply refuse to call or write friends or family rather than simply having a conversation (written or spoken) about a topic that has upset you? Did it occur to you that YOU might have misunderstood?

~For goodness sake, are you following the golden rule?? Are you treating people the same way you would like to be treated? Seriously?

~Do you find it hard to be respectful of a friend or loved one when their ideas or beliefs are different from your own? For example, would you run to your computer and delete a friend because they mention they hate dogs if you're a dog lover?

~Are you friendly or, let me be frank, are you a drag to be around. Is it possible that you are really friendly with those folks you're 'tight' with but, for whatever reason, do you turn into that character with the stripey tights in Wizard of Oz (hint: she's the one with the black, pointy hat) if somebody you're not close with OR somebody you're trying to 'teach a lesson to' enters the room?

~Do you cop out of commitments routinely (not talking about the occasional scheduling conflict that pops up...I mean, are you a 'no show' continually to important things and/or things that you commit to)?

I could sit here for a few more minutes and think of more but I think this gives us enough to chew on for now. All of these things somehow tie into being respectful of other people. Holding good relationships starts with the awareness of all other people around us and a desire to create positivity and balance with others. We're not going to enter into relationships with every person we come across but pretty much every contact you have with another person has the potential to make or break their day. How we carry ourselves throughout our days, how we interact with other people speaks volumes about the kind of person we are. How we treat our friends and loved ones lets them know, directly, how important they are to you. We like to say, "He/she is such a wonderful friend we don't have to communicate with eachother; we just KNOW we're there!" This IS true, to a certain extent, with some relationships. It's sort of like the ability to be next to somebody you care about and not have to SAY something every's SORT of like that...but not really. You see, people that we are in relationships with DO want to hear from us. They DO want us to show up to gatherings or make plans, from time to time, to get together. They DO want us to write letters and to chit chat. These actions DO SHOW THAT WE CARE...that we respect the people in our lives.

For many of us it's that we've gotten out of the habit of being responsible, respectful loved ones and friends. We've allowed this busy culture and our own agenda to deceive us into thinking we can't allow any spare time for the relationships in our lives. As I said, it's HARD to keep the fire burning. It takes effort. It takes effort to smile sometimes. It takes effort to hold a conversation that you might initially feel nervous about having. It takes effort to write a letter (and mail it), to schedule a workout/play/tea/coffee date with a friend, to say 'hello' to people when your mind is on your problems. Let me tell you, is so worth it! gets easier the more you do it. It's like embarquing on a marathon training program. It seems overwhelmingly impossible in the beginning then gets a little easier. You experience highs and lows along the way but you get so strong at the end and glean such a sense of gratification when you stick it out and achieve your goal! Your medal for all of your efforts will be the lasting relationships in your life...the people who will be there for you through thick and through thin because you treated them with respect. YOU stuck it out with THEM and that gets reciprocated!

If we could all just think about taking this respect thing day by day. Make the absolute most out of each day you are blessed with. Sure, it's easy to linger in the doldrums but it's so much more fun to rise above it all despite the hard work! Try something I like to do and go into Walmart sometime (that infernal place!) and just smile at everyone! *Note* It works better if you make the smiles genuine "How are you doing today?" sort of smiles as opposed to raving lunatic grins...I'd hate to have my readers following my blog from loony bins across the country! :) Anyway, I'm simply asking you all to join me right now in making the commitment to really thinking about the feelings of others and acting accordingly. We know we're not perfect but we can certainly try to fall into our beds each evening knowing we did our best to bring a bit of joy to those who crossed our paths that day as opposed to dropping a wet blanket over their heads.

~In peace~
Oh, and P.S....It's really important that you be GENUINE in your kindness toward others...not patronizing, fake or superficial. REALLY LISTEN to people! People know when you are really listening and paying attention to them and when you're faking it. ;)