Sunday, July 6, 2008

An apology to my readers

Sorry I have been absent for quite sometime now. I have been dealing with some family issues that have required much of my time. I promise to be back with new blogs in the next few days. Right now, I am battling a cold, so look for me soon!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Somtimes ya gotta hurt feelings

The number one value in my family is compassion--compassion for ourselves, each other, and for those we don't know. That means many things.
1. Forgive yourself. We often make mistakes and the hardest part of making a mistake is forgiving yourself, but you have to do it.
2. Forgive your family. Sometimes we can't understand a person's unique point of view, but when it is your family you must try. If someone is having a bad day or a bad experience, be supportive and forgive their attitude or sadness.
3. Give people the benefit of the doubt. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, why get road rage? Instead remember that you have probably cut someone off before. Maybe that person is in a bad place or having a crisis or maybe they just made an honest mistake.

Given all of this, sometimes you have to hurt people's feelings. This is especially hard for me because I try to have compassion for people in every situation. I was thinking about this after reading an article on MSNBC on preemie births. I was reminded of the first time my oldest daughter got really sick. My daughter has struggled with some fairly serious health problems that doctors have attributed to "an otherwise unspecified immune deficiency." Basically that means that she has a compromised immune system and no one is really sure why. She has since outgrown this condition, but when she was younger, she really suffered.
The first time she got severely ill, she was five months old. I was moving into a new apartment, and she hadn't been feeling well all day, but in the hustle and bustle of moving, we gave her Tylenol and didn't give it much thought--after all, kids do get sick. After we had finished up for the day, we started noticing that she was really lethargic, and being a young, first-time mother, I freaked out. We took her to the hospital on the corner. The emergency room nurse took her temperature in her ear and told me is was 102 degrees and the doctor would be in to see us shortly. Well as time past, she seemed to be sicker and sicker and I was questioning the temperature reading. I went out and nicely asked the nurse for a recheck, but she told me there was no need, and I trusted her--after all she was a nurse. But after sitting there for several hours, I knew something was wrong and asked the nurse to please come check again. Well, she relented and came in. Her fever was now 106.5 and she was septic. She was sent in an ambulance to the nearest children's hospital and it was touch and go for several weeks. I always wished I would have stood up to that nurse, but I didn't want to make it seem like I didn't trust her or understand that she was the expert.
Well after several more hospitalizations, when my daughter turned 18 months old, she had another crisis. Again, they took her temperature in the ear, and said it was nothing to worry about. Again, I knew this was something far more serious. We sat in the lobby for a little while, but I knew that I had to do something this time. Again, armed with my compassion, I asked the nurse nicely to recheck her because I knew something was wrong, but she refused because she was a nurse and she knew better. So, I had to hurt her feelings, and I called a patient advocate at midnight. I didn't care if I hurt her feelings or not or if I woke someone up. My child was sick. Guess what? She had bacterial spinal meningitis and was patient zero in an outbreak. One of the children in the emergency room who had a broken arm actually contracted it. I am glad that I spoke up and did the right thing even though it hurt someone's feelings because it was the right thing to do and probably saved more people from contracting it.
When I called the patient advocate, that nurse was on fire. She treated us horribly and said something about me being a hypochondriac parent and she didn't have time to deal with me. After my daughter was in the hospital for a few days, that nurse came an apologized to me. Maggie almost died. In fact, we were told to prepare ourselves. She pulled through, and I have been forever grateful that I was nasty with that nurse.
The point is that sometimes, compassion just won't work and you have to stand up for what is right even at the expense of others' feelings.
But how do you decide? Well, it is an individual decision, but here are some of my guidelines.
1. Is this an important issue--For example, are you trying to right a wrong. Did your cellphone company really screw you up and now you are trying to fix it, etc. Then yes, you need to stick up for yourself. Compassion is not about being a doormat.
2. Never be mean. You can always accomplish your goal without resorting to eighth grade name calling. There are always avenues to solve your problem. In my example, I used a patient advocate. In different situations maybe you need to speak to a manager or owner or possible contact the better business bureau.
3. Have your ducks in a row. If you are going to challenge someone, make sure you have all your facts and figures together. If you are calling someone out, you want to make sure that you are right.
4. Sometimes people need to know that they are wrong. We all hate to be wrong. We all hate to look foolish or incompetent, but sometimes we all are. It is not a unique experience to be wrong or to do a poor job on something. So, sometimes we need to correct that wrong. As you know, probably from experience, when someone points out that you are wrong--man does it hurt your feelings. So, naturally, when you point out someone else's faults, their feelings are going to be hurt, but maybe it will make them a better person, especially if you do it in the right way.

Remember be kind, be compassionate, but don't be a doormat.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Little Dog . . . Found

A few weeks ago we found this lovely white Shepard at my parent's house. She was playful and sweet, and you could tell someone had really loved this dog. We tried to ignore her and send her on her way, but she just kept hanging around.
Finally, my husband broke down and decided to bring her home. Well, I called the Humane Society, scoured the newspapers, looked for signs, and there was NOTHING. We assumed that she was truly a little dog lost. With wide and welcoming arms we brought her into our family. We had her sleep next to us, we took her to the groomers, the kids walked her, we really enjoyed having her around.
We just knew that we would never find her owners, and so, we took on the role of owner and really fell in love with this dog. For those of you who have pets, you know they really become part of the family.
Then the unimaginable happened. My daughter saw a sign for a lost dog. The picture was of our dog! My eldest daughter immediately let me know about the poster and how we should return the dog. I have to admit, for a few minutes, I actually considered not calling. My daughter, of course, thought we should "do the right thing." My middle daughter, on the other hand, said, "right thing? who cares about the right thing?" This perfectly highlights what was going on in my head. On the one hand loomed this great "right thing." But on the other hand was the very real to me reality that I loved this dog and considered her to be part of our family.
After all, the owners of the dog were strangers. I had never seen them before. I had no idea who they were. And, they had let the dog get lost. Maybe she was better off with me.
I think many of us go through life with this mask on. We don't know that stranger. We have no intimate knowledge of their feelings and we are only aware of our feelings. Since our feelings are more real to us, we tend to think about our own feelings almost to the exclusive exclusion of other people's feelings.
So what did I do with the dog? I called the real owner. When the nice couple showed up at our house to pick up the dog, I knew that they loved her and had missed her terribly. It was hard, but because I considered how worried and upset the real owners must be, I knew I needed to call them and give them their little dog back. Of course, they offered a reward, but we didn't take it. Knowing we had done the right thing was enough.
We had done the right thing because we considered the feelings of others above our own selfish feelings. You know what? That felt better than keeping the dog ever could have. Now she is frolicking in someone else's yard--happy as a clam and loved.
This was a great lesson in how giving sympathy and compassion to others can help us love ourselves. You release your selfishness and you release an inner angst. Trust me, when you think of others and show compassion and do the right thing, you win in the end.
Till next time . . . live, eat, and be well.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Can we have another topic please?

I (heart) self esteem! But, as promised, each month we are going to explore a new topic. I had planned on talking bunches more about meditation this month, but unfortunately I still don't have my audio issues at home worked out.
So, instead, I want to focus this month on "doing the right thing." I could call it compassion for others or having fortitude, but when it comes down to it, our lives are a series of moments that are strung together by what we choose to do when no one is looking. How we behave when we don't have to do the right thing, but we do anyway.
Now, I am not trying to get all moral on you. I may discuss my morals in the process of giving examples, but understand, that doing the right thing does not mean that I am trying to impart my personal morals on anyone. Rather, I want to share with you my journey to finding the strength inside to do what I know I should.

See ya tomorrow for our first doing the right thing post.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Love yourself--Half the Battle Exercise #3

Hello friends and readers. Today, we are going to start on exercise three. Now, we have already really gotten a good start on this one. First, I want you to take out that list we made awhile ago. You remember. The list with things we don't like about ourselves. This time, we are going to write the things I do like about myself list. The purpose of this exercise is to see how the good things in us can really address or diminish the bad things.
Step One:
Get out your list and on the flip side start a list of things you do like about yourself. As with the list of things you don't like about yourself, it can be anything.
A sample of my list is as follows:
My eye color.
My hair color.
My compassion for others.
My ability to work quickly.
My desire to do what is right.
Step Two:
Just as in the former list, we are going to divide this list into things that are changeable and things that are not. Now this may seem counterintuitive because we don't really want to change the things we like about ourselves, but these are things we have control over. We can use these traits to improve ourselves, and we can continue to improve these traits. Besides, somethings that are counterintuitive work out just right in the end!
Changeable: My compassion for others, my ability to work quickly, my desire to do what is right.
Unchangeable: My eye color, my hair color.
Step Three:
Pick one thing off your "I don't Like" list and see how you can address it with one of your "I do Like" list items.
My "I don't Like" list contains procrastination. I don't like that I wait until the last minute. But my "I do Like" list contains that I work quickly. Perhaps, I wait until the last minute because I like how working quickly makes me feel. So, how could I take this dislike and address it with my like. Well, this is one I am actually working on right now, so I don't know if it will work, and I may need to come back and modify my approach. But, what I am doing is allotting 15 minutes everyday to work on a project and assigning a certain portion of the project to that 15 minutes (mini-deadlines). This is forcing me to work quickly but at the same time is dealing with my procrastination.

Let's try another. One of my dislikes is that I am overly critical. However, one of my likes is that I am compassionate. After thinking about it, I realize that I am most critical of myself and those I truly care about. It is my desire to see both myself and my friends and family succeed. The criticism could also come from my own insecurities about my station in life or my success compared to others. However, if a person were in need or hurt or acting out, my first response is always to be compassionate. So now, I have started every critical statement I am about to make with "I am compassionate about." For example, the girl up the street from me is missing a tooth. I feel very critical of this because she lives in a beautiful home and should care more about her teeth. However, today when I saw her, I thought, "I am compassionate for this girl because she is probably very embarrassed about her tooth and she may not have access to a dentist or some other health situation may prevent her from addressing it." As soon as I said it, I quit feeling critical of her, and I was able to connect with her on a much better level.

Step Four:

Put this paper in your notebook along with your other self esteem workouts and regularly visit it. Even if you just spend a few minutes reviewing your goals and what you need to work on, it will really pay off in the end.

And remember to Live, eat, and be well.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dealing with the "LAME"

I hope that you are working on your negative feelings exercise. In a few days, we will incorporate your positive feelings, so keep a look out for that.
Today, I wanted to talk about dealing with difficult people. We all have people that talk badly about us or who say mean things to us. Often we internalize these comments and interactions and let them bring us down. Recently, someone said something mean about me. At first it really hurt my feelings and put me in a bad mood. This person called me lame. Silly word, but it really affected me. Then I got to thinking about it, and I want to share my experience with you.
I sat down and asked, "am I really lame?" Well, yes, there are somethings about me that are kinda silly. For example, I am weird about the way I walk through the grocery store (it has to be in a certain order), and yeah that probably is lame. While, I would personally never use such a derogatory term, I can think of things that others might think are odd about me.
Then, I asked my husband. He told me that I was fantastic and that this other person was just jealous. Probably true. I am always telling my daughter that people often lash out at us because they are insecure about themselves or are jealous of us in some way.
I have a great life. I have a wonderful family. I am almost finished with my master's degree. My children and my husband are all successful. I have a beautiful home, and I am really fortunate to have my life. I am really happy. That makes me not lame no matter what anyone else may think.
Now, there are times when someone may be giving constructive criticism, and I find that helpful, but you have to evaluate the things people say about you to see if they are true or not.
Perhaps more importantly, we should evaluate what we say about others. The next time you want to say something mean about someone else, evaluate your motives. Because bringing others down is not going to make you feel better. So, to the girl who called me lame, I don't think you are lame. In fact, I don't think you are anything bad. I think you just make mistakes. On that note, I think maybe you should evaluate your happiness because you seem unhappy in your life and that is why you are so concerned about mine. If I can help you find your happiness, I will. That goes for all of you. Let me know if I can help you find your happiness.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Self Love--Now the work begins

Before I begin today's post, I want to let you know about what is coming up. It is really exciting. I am working on our first meditation excersice. It is going to be fantasitic and will include audio. Look for this exciting blog coming in the next few days.
To begin today, let's talk about being embarassed. For years, I struggled with low self esteem and a feeling of worthlessness. To be honest, I still have days that I struggle with my sense of self worth. Embarassment prevented me from doing anything about it. I felt silly doing self esteem building excersises. I couldn't talk to myself or try to enhance my life because other people would think I was dumb or would make fun of me. Guess what? Having low self esteem led others to think less of me anyway. Guess what else? No one can see your thoughts. No one has access to your private thinking, so go ahead and think positive things. Instead of sharing a personal story with you today, I want to go through a basic exercise.
Exercise #1
There are things we all dislike about ourselves. That is ok. As long as we see these things as a work in progress. Many of the books I have read encourage people to start by writing a list of things that they like about themselves. I think this is not very helpful as a first step. Don't get me wrong, we will be using this technique, but don't jump ahead because I have a special twist on it.
For this excersise, you will need a pen and a piece of paper. Find a quiet place to sit and have enough time to be introspective.
Step One:
Now begin the list with "things I don't like about myself." This may seem like a harsh excersice focused on being critical, but it is not. Begin to list all the things that you don't like about yourself.
A sample of my list looks like:
Overly Critical
Frizzy hair
Weird Toes
I think you get the idea. List as many things as you can or want to. Try not to dwell on each item. Just write it down and move on.
Step Two:
Look at your list, and divide it into two lists: Things you can change or adapt and things that are unmutable.
Changeable: Procrastination, Overly Critical, Frizzy Hair
Unmutable: Weird Toes, Small Hands
Step Three:
For today, we are going to focus on unmutable items. Look at each unmutable item and think of something positive about it. Write that next to the attribute. Then each day, look at this list and review the positive things about your unmutable items until you no longer feel bad about them.
Weird Toes: encourages me to buy really cool shoes, my husband thinks they are cute, lets me pick up a pencil without bending over
Small Hands: makes me valuable because I can reach into tight spaces, I can purchase cheaper children's gloves, no one could steal my ring because it would be too small, they make my husband's hands seem so strong.
Real World Application:
For those of you who think this is totally off the wall, trust me, it works over time. Remember, no one can see your personal thoughts. So, what you are thinking doesn't really matter to anyone else. This can only help you. I once knew a girl who was mortified by her nose. She always focused on how large it was and that it wasn't dainty, etc. The funny thing is, she would have looked absolutely ridiculous with a smaller nose. No one who knew her ever though twice about her nose. In fact, it was a little irritating to constantly hear her pining away about it. So, I encouraged her to do the above excersice. She made a list, but I have no idea what it said. Often I would see her in the mirror mouthing things, but I don't know what she was affirming to herself. Years later, I asked her about it. She said that she had grown to love her nose because it made her unique and interesting. She said that by stopping focusing on her nose and how much she hated it made her miserable, but focusing on how it complemented her face and how it showed off her heritage made her feel happy. She said she hardly ever even thinks about her nose now. It can make a difference.
Tips for next time:
Keep this list somewhere private and safe. I have a folder that I keep all of my happiness work in. We will use the changeable part of the list in our next excersise. So keep it handy.
Until next time Live, Eat, and Be Well.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Self Love--Time For Yourself

Today, we are going to focus on a simple way to improve your self love. Pampering. Now men, don't stop reading, men pamper themselves too, but often in different ways than women do. Before I get into today's topic, I wanted to mention that self love takes a lot of work, and in this blog, I am going to tackle many of these methods. However, my motto is start small. You don't want to jump into the more complicated aspects of self love and feel overwhelmed or like a failure, so start with something simple, pampering, that feels good and that you will succeed in. As you may have figured out, this blog is a lot about meditation, and I will be showing you some great ways to use meditation to improve your self love in the coming days.
But, let's start with pampering. This has been an incredibly hectic week for me. For the past few days, I have been feeling a little off. I haven't been comfortable with my outfits for important family events, I have been feeling a little bad about myself, and having some really bad negative thoughts. Then yesterday, it hit me--my nails were all chipped and gross because I hadn't had time to do them, and it was making me feel like I wasn't presenting my best self. So, I got to thinking about pampering.

For many of us, we constantly are doing for others or we are sitting around trying to decompress from our stressful lives. Pampering does two things: it allows you to focus on yourself and it feels nice. I know for me, I am always thinking of others and giving them little gifts or pep talks or helping wherever I can, but it is important to also give yourself gifts, and pep talks.

Now, you may be thinking, I don't have the money to pamper myself. But pampering doesn't take any money. You can take a bath or paint your nails. Men, you can fish, work on your car, or do your nails (if you are into that!). It is just about setting a few minutes aside to focus on you.

You won't believe how good you feel after only a few minutes. A fresh coat of paint on the nails really cheers you up, a warm shower ALONE really relaxes you--I think you get the drift. Now, if you do this every couple of days or once a week, you are showing yourself that you love you enough to take the time.

For me, I decided to pamper myself with my nails. Now, I like to go to the nail shop, but I don't have the time or money to do it very often, so I gave myself a free nail update.

I mean look at those horrible toes--who wouldn't feel bad about it. But luckily, I had everything I need at home!You may be thinking, but I don't have all that stuff. That is ok too. You could just throw on a fresh coat of polish or take off the old stuff. You could even just soak your toes in a warm tub of water. It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be done.

One thing that really works against us is the thought that you can't do something until you have everything you need or until you can do it just right. I have these types of thoughts all the time, "I can't possible start decorating my room because I can't afford new carpet!" Well those kinds of thoughts just hold us back. Instead you can say, "I may not have the perfect nail kit, but today, I am going to do the best job with what I have.

Now as you can see, they aren't perfect after all my work. There is some polish on my cuticle, and my nail is a little lopsided, but hey, they look good enough. Just taking the time made me feel so much better about myself.

Ok, I know, it sounds so silly. How can painting your nails really lead you to love yourself more and feel more happy? I don't know if it is subconcious or if it really happens just through the time, but it works. You know how you see those little old married couple that are so in love. They love each because they spend time with one another and grow to love each other more each day. The same works for you! The more time you spend with yourself, loving yourself, doing nice things for yourself, the more you will grow to love--yourself.

Now, GO, live, eat, and be well!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Self Love... its more than Self Esteem

So, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I want to work this blog, and I have decided that each month, I am going to have a theme. The month of May is going to be all about self love. Self love? But isn't that a dirty word for ... you know? No, self love is about truly loving yourself the way you love your children or parents. When people talk about self esteem, it simply isn't enough. Self love is more than just self esteem.

I want to spend the month of May discussing ways that we can grow to love ourselves and thereby increase our happiness. There are many important things in this world for us to focus on loving: loving ourselves, loving our family, loving the earth, loving our friends, loving strangers. But each of these begins with loving ourselves. Even if we think we are loving other people or things to the fullest capacity, the truth is that we could all love so much more if we only loved ourselves. Loving ourselves also shows others who love us how much we respect their love.

Each blog this month (expect one every few days) will focus on how to love ourselves more completely. This is a work in progress. As time goes by, you may have to revamp yourself love or take another look at it, but in each step of your journey, you should love yourself first.

NO! Loving yourself is not the same thing as being selfish. It is not about only doing for yourself or thinking only of yourself, but it is about knowing who you are and about being happy with that person.

Don't worry, there will be plenty coming up about how to use meditation to increase that love!

So, go look in the mirror, tell yourself, "I love you," and check back later to learn more about creating and maintaining your self esteem!

Let me introduce.....

Remember that journey I just talked about? Well, none of us journey alone. In fact, if we like it or not, we have many people on our journey with us. Those people include our family, our friends, our colleagues, our enemies, and even those we don't know but who help us everyday (have you ever talked to your grocery store clerk?)
On my journey, the most important people are my friends and my family. The person who falls into both these categories and helps me every step of the way is my husband, Robert.

Robert is the most special man I have ever known, and that is how each person should feel about their life partner. He is a bit quirky, but he is the type of person who is absolutely supportive and wants to see you succeed. He is the coordinator of operations and data control for a railroad, and he really enjoys his work, but he also loves to come home and spend time with his family, work on the house, and play with computers. Do we fight? Yes. Every couple gets in disagreements, but it is how you handle them that is important. In the end, he loves me for who I am and that makes all the difference.

Then, we have three lovely children. Magdelaina, Persephone, and Medea. They are all so special, and they complete my life. I never knew that you could feel so much love, pride, concern, happiness, fear, and compassion before I had my children. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, but who doesn't? My three daughters provide me with a continuous supply of adventure. My oldest daughter is bright and compassionate and socially conscious. My middle child is creative and emotional, and the baby is trouble with a capital T, but she is also interesting and vivacious.

Last, but certainly not least, are my parents. My lovely and wonderful parents, Ruby and Larry, who raised me to be who I am and have always stood by me no matter what horrible mistake or huge success I was making. My parents just moved to live near me, and I am so dog gone lucky that they are here. Both of them are medically retired, and are about to be my guinea pigs for my wellness plan. They are loving parents and loving grandparents. My husband's parents, Bill and Maria, have also played a big role in my life, and I am lucky to have them as well.

Who wouldn't love that face? My dad Larry (pictured above) at a school function is showing off his signature grin.
My mother is doing what she does best... snuggling a baby!

My husband and his parents at the park... ahhh!

Well, now you have met my family, and I am sure I will mention them many more times and will introduce others!

Being the ripe tomato

When I first started on my journey to happiness, I read a book in which the author said you have to be the ripe tomato. She meant if you want people to follow your advice or purchase your services, you have to show how wonderful the product of that advice or services is going to be.
I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the ripe tomato concept. Often before I give someone advice or start standing on my soapbox, I think, "am I already a ripe tomato for this concept."
The truth of the matter is I am not always a ripe tomato, but don't click away just yet. We are all works in progress. There are days when I am cranky, sad, lazy, or just plain stubborn. I have to admit my craft projects aren't organized and I missed a doctor's appointment in January (without canceling--YIKES!) The difference with me, is I am aware of my short comings, and I have the tools to fix them.
When I am cranky, I can say, "I recognize that I am cranky." Then I know what to do to turn that crankiness around. My life's journey has taken me down many down many bumpy and unpleasant roads. While I was traveling down these roads, I often thought of giving up or giving in, but in the end, I have learned something valuable about myself and about navigating life. Now, I am still working on my journey, but I am a lot better off.
I don't just want to help you with your journey through meditation techniques to relive stress and increase focus and happiness or through goal setting techniques and follow through encouragement, I want to be your ripe tomato, so I want to share with you my experiences. I want to use this blog to share with you the ways that I use my techniques to help you improve your life.
I hope that you will take this journey with me, and that you will invite me to be part of yours. Check back often for updates!