Category Archives: practical advice

Do What You Love

I had a conversation today at lunchtime with one of the professors who works in my department. He told me, “Never get old and never retire.”  He is in the process of retiring and he said the paperwork is endless. He also said that professors, lawyers and teachers never retire because they have poured so much of their lives into their work.

 My mom is a lifelong educator. At 82, she is still educating others through her column and her website, “Supporting Super Students”. Mom graduated in 1958 with her degree in Education and immediately went to work as a teacher. In her 60 plus years as an educator, my mom has learned a thing or two. She has not let technology stop her from sharing her wealth of wisdom as an educator. She blogs, she texts and she even has her own website, thanks to my nephew. Mom is doing what she loves – educating students and their parents.

 I am doing what I love at myjob. Back in October, I returned to Myschool as the Accounting Specialist in one of the Humanities departments. I thoroughly love being back on campus and helping faculty, staff and students. I enjoy being in the center of campus, in the middle of all the activity! This feels like home! As an extrovert, I thrive on activity and people. I enjoy laughing with my coworkers and sharing silly stories with the faculty. The mom in me comes out when I see a student in need.

 Sometimes, it can be difficult to do what you love – you may not like your job, your hobby might not do well as a job, or you’re in the wrong place (city, neighborhood, etc.). Take some time to think about what you love to do. Can you share that with other people by volunteering? Example – If you love to sing, go sing at a retirement home. There will most likely be someone there who loves to play the piano and who would be thrilled to accompany you. You don’t have to be perfect and it gives you a place to do what you love.

 What would it take to do what you love? Would you need to move? Perhaps go back to school and upgrade your skills? Take private music or voice lessons? Rent space at a local craft shop? So what’s stopping you- time, money, fear?

 My mom didn’t let any of those things stop her. She took classes at the local community college to learn how to write better. She submitted manuscripts to publishers. She talked to newspapers in her area, asking if they would run her column. She talked to my brother, son and nephew and learned how to work with modern technology. She went to conferences and presented her website. She has the energy and drive of someone twenty years younger than her – all because she wants to do what she loves.

 Don’t be afraid to do what you love. Chances are that if it brings you joy, it will bring others joy as well. Stay tuned. . .

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To Be a Friend

I have a friend who works for the same hospital in Mytown that I used to work for. We didn’t start out as friends. In fact, about two months after I started working there, she called me and laid into me: “I have NEVER had as many problems with your office as I now have with you! I have been here for over 13 years and you have only been here for two months!”

I must admit that I was taken aback by her biting words. Even though I felt like crying, I didn’t. I was determined to be nice to this lady. Over the next three years, whenever I would email her or call her, I would be as nice as possible to her. When I told her I was leaving for another job, she panicked. “I will miss you! You have inspired me to be a better person!” I must admit that I was taken aback by her complimentary words.

She and I got together for dinner about a month ago. When I emailed her to invite her to dinner, she was very grateful. At dinner, she told me, “I am not a very nice person. I was surprised when you emailed me.” I almost cried. I told her, “I can be a pain in the patooty sometimes, too – just ask my children!” I invited her to go to dinner next week with my best buddy whom I have known for over 15 years.

It takes a great deal of effort to be a good friend. When we commit to being someone’s friend, we commit to the seen and the unseen. We commit to them – past, present and future. That’s a very difficult thing to do. What if they have a bad, dangerous past? What if they are extremely needy right now? What if they do something really stupid in the future?

We all have something in our past that makes us vulnerable and maybe a bit dangerous. Your friend could be needy right now because of her past. All she may need is someone to talk to who will show some compassion. I can guarantee you that I will do something stupid in the future – never fails. So will you.

To be a friend we need to step outside of ourselves, to b-e willing to give our best when our friend is at their worse, and to be willing to give abundant grace to others (and ourselves!). My best buddy has done all of that for me. She knows my past, has seen me at my worst, has given me abundant grace and compassion and still wants to hang out with me.

To be a friend is to take a huge risk. I am so glad my best buddy risked it with me. She has been a wonderful friend. Who will you take a risk with? Stay tuned. . . .

 

Tight Budget Holiday

You are newly divorced and this is your first post-divorce holiday season. You may find yourself on a very tight budget – there is money for the basics but not much else. How do you get through this time and still maintain some semblance of happiness?

First of all, happiness should not be an externally motivated emotion. You choose to be happy. Sit down and do an inventory of all that you have. I can think of several things I had my first post-divorce holiday season: family, friends, my dogs, and a roof over my head, a car (or the bus) that got me to work. I did not have much, but I was thankful for what I did have.

Second, who says you need a great deal of money at the holidays? Be creative!

Centerpieces: Granted, a table centerpiece is the usually the last thing one thinks about when one is on a tight budget, but sometimes a little festive decoration can do wonders for one’s spirits. And a little goes a long way. A simple Christmas centerpiece: 3 apples, 2 red or white pillar candles, sprigs of greenery. Make a ‘bed’ from the greenery, add the apples, and then arrange the candles in and among the other pieces. Use small pieces of ribbon as accents. (Do not use the apples as candle holders – don’t waste food – you may want to eat them later.) Reuse taper candles (the long, thin ones). Cut off the used part, making sure not to entirely cut through the wick. Once you light the candles, no one will notice they’ve been “recycled”.

Gifts: Can you sew? Do you bake? Do you paint? Can you walk? Use your skills to make low-cost Christmas gifts. Cut out two circles from a piece of felt, whip stitch them together, hot glue buttons on the felt, and add a piece of ribbon (or red or green embroidery floss) for the hanger. Whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. When cool, dip one end of the cookie into melted chocolate (dark, milk or white). Simple, yet elegant. Paint three palm-sized rocks – one green, one white, one red. Use the green, white and red paint to paint dots, speckles, zigzags, etc. on the rocks. Give them together as a unique Christmas decoration. (You can also sprinkle glitter on the paint while it is still wet to add a little extra pizzazz.) Take a walk and collect some pine cones. Paint them white and add a little glitter, the attach some red ribbon. Simple Christmas decoration!

Attitude: It’s very easy to have a poor attitude during the first post-divorce holiday season. Sit down and have a self-pep-talk instead of a pity party. Did you wake up this morning? Good. Is there a roof over your head? Good. Did you have a warm shower? Good. Do you have least one friend? Good. Don’t expect this holiday season to be like all the rest. You are headed for something better! Now is the time to start some new traditions. Now is the time to step outside of yourself and give to others. Now is the time to enjoy the peace and quiet. Reflect on the God Who gave. Or, if you are not religious, reflect on how vast the universe is and how you are part of something that big! Have a thankful heart this holiday season – big budget or not. Stay tuned. . . .

 

A Better Person

I have recently shared that I will be leaving my current job for a job at my Alma Mater – just across the river from where I am now.  Earlier this week, I was emailing a colleague in the Accounts Payable Department. She was sad to hear I am leaving. She told me, “You have made me want to be a better person and I’m working on it.” I felt humbled.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man (or woman) sharpens the countenance of his (her) friend.” I told my colleague that one of the signs of a good relationship – personal or professional – is that those involved become better people. There should be people in our lives who “sharpen” us and make us better people.

How does this happen?

Professional: Coworkers, supervisors and business associates should motivate us to be and to do our best. Improper relationships, shady dealings, work gossip and ‘working/cheating the system’ is not our best. Taking advantage of other people in the workplace is not our best.

Personal: Whether the relationship is friendship or romantic, we should aspire to influence one another for the best. Gossip, stealing, mocking, selfishness, any kind of abuse – none of these things is our best. Compassion, integrity, generosity, faith – these things are our best and we should encourage them in those we love and are friends with. If you have personal relationships that are dragging you down, causing an overwhelming darkness in your life or are just plain unhealthy (co-dependence, addiction, abuse, etc.), it’s time to re-evaluate and end that relationship.

I have a couple of friends who have been with me through the good times and bad times in my life. I have been with them through the same. One friend I refer to as ‘My Best Buddy”. Over the past 13+ years, we have sharpened one another. We have also rounded down the edges that have gotten a little too sharp! We know we can depend on one another (like the time she called me at 3am because she had a water pipe burst). Cycle Dude has made me a better person – more at peace, more generous.

Take time to consider if your relationships have made you a better person. If not, seriously consider ending them. Life is too short to waste it on bad relationships. Stay tuned. . .

 

Lawn Mower

I recently read about the new trend in parenting, the “Lawn Mower Parent”. These folks seem far worse than the “Helicopter Parent”. The Lawn Mower Parent mows down every obstacle in their child’s life so the child doesn’t have to overcome adversity, etc. Needless to say, this kind of parenting will produce very weak, pampered and entitled people – even more so that the Helicopter Parent.

A child is like a butterfly. If you help the butterfly out of its cocoon, it will die. the butterfly needs to struggle out of the cocoon to gain strength. It needs to let its wings unfold slowly so they will dry and also be strong. We do our children no favors when we mow down the obstacles for them. The obstacles are what causes strength and resiliency in a person’s life. Are they fun? Heck, no! But they are needed to allow us to grow into strong, healthy people.

One cannot live one’s life without some pain and adversity. I know of people who try to avoid pain at all costs – their lives are dull and they are dull. Getting out of bed in the morning is inviting pain and adversity. My divorce was one of the most painful things I had ever been through. I would much rather had gone through natural childbirth again! But I have come out of it a much stronger and more compassionate person.

We can spend so much time mowing down pain and adversity that we have little time for anything else. We may be mowing down flowers or insects – the little things that make life special. Weeds continue to pop up in different parts of the yard. As we go after one weed, another pops up and at the end of the day we are exhausted from mowing. Put the lawn mower away. A few weeds are good.

Yes, pain and adversity are not pleasant. That’s a ‘duhism’. But pain and adversity help us to become stronger. We grow and change in ways we never thought possible. And through that growth and change, we are able to be more empathetic toward others as they face pain and diversity in their lives. Isn’t that part of what life is about – helping one another along on this journey? Life is an adventure, live it! Stay tuned. . . .

It’s Your Decision

I had a job interview yesterday. I was excited about it and thought I was prepared. However, when I got to the interview, the three people in the room all seemed to be in a sour mood. No one smiled and it seemed like I was just a token interview that no one wanted to do. I almost got up and walked out. But I thought, “Well, I’m here – stick it out.”

I was quite upset when I left the interview and I was on the verge of tears. Luckily, I had planned dinner with my best buddy. She was disappointed that I did not feel good about the interview. I thought, “You know – this is my decision: am I going to feel bad about myself because the interview didn’t go like I thought it would? Am I going to feel bad because my friend is disappointed?” I talked with Cycle Dude about it a little bit, then I decided that I did what I could do and it’s in the past.

I have blogged before about giving other people the power to make you feel bad. Short story – DON’T! I decided not to let those three people or my friend cause me to feel bad about myself. I know my abilities, I know my skills and I know what I do on a daily basis that contributes to my job. Last week I received a phone call from someone at my job. She said she had been to three different departments before she was told to call me. I asked her, “You were told to call this department?” She said, “No, I was told to call YOU, that you would know how to help me.” That made me feel great! (And, of course, I did help her and followed up to make sure she had gotten what she needed.)

Each day we are faced with what a friend calls “life-giving” or “non-life-giving” decisions. Are we going to make the decision to let others speak negatively into our lives? Are we going to allow bad experiences to ruin our day? Each day is a gift and each decision should be life-giving. Sometimes we make bad decisions and things don’t go the way we anticipated. Stand up, brush yourself off and move on. It’s your decision. Stay tuned. . .

 

Sorting It Out

When I was getting ready to move in with Cycle Dude, I realized I had boxes and boxes of stuff I needed to sort through. I sorted and sorted and threw away and gave away stuff until I was blue in the face! Yet, I still moved into Cycle Dude’s house with what seemed like a million boxes! Now, eighteen months later, there are far fewer boxes and bins and I am still sorting and giving away stuff!

When I first started dating Cycle Dude, I was very conscious of the baggage I carried from my divorce. I did not want to take that baggage into a relationship. I was in counseling for a long time to unpack that baggage and finally get rid of it.

I held on to a lot of junk for a long time – both in the boxes and bins I carried with me every time I moved and in the emotional place in my heart. It took a while to sort it all out – to determine what stuff is worth keeping and what stuff is worth getting rid of.

What do I keep? I keep items that have sentimental or monetary value – family photos, gifts from my children, etc., and items that are part of the better me. I keep the strength I developed though the adversity of my marriage, I keep the ability to make wise decisions from the time I spent on my own.

What do I get rid of? I get rid of anything regarding ex, anything that has not or will not change my life for the better, anything I won’t use in the next 3 months. I get rid of the anger, the bitterness and the desire for vengeance. I get rid of anything that is not the better me.

It takes a while to sort it all out after a divorce – physically and emotionally. If you have been married for any length of time, it will take a while to untangle the tentacles of anger and bitterness. Give yourself grace. If you’re not quite ready to sort through that box, or talk about your experience, it’s okay. Healing and sorting take time. Learn to become a better you. Stay tuned. . .