Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mom Talk #28: In Praise of Fezziwig

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Dearest Children of Mine,

Last we talked, I told you about my most embarrassing professional blunder and encouraged you to make the most of even the most ridiculous of circumstances and take responsibility.  Since we're talking about professional life, let me pose a question:  what do you think is the most important element to consider if you want to make sure that you love your job?

Is it your job description?  Perhaps location?  Maybe your colleagues?  Or is it compensation?

What if I told you there is a single component that can significantly influence each of these important elements of a satisfactory job?

I believe the one thing that holds sway over each of these elements is your boss.  Granted, who you work for isn't necessarily within your control, but you should be aware of the significant impact a great boss can have on you and your career.  In my opinion it should be the tipping point if you are ever fortunate enough to be considering multiple job offers.  Here's why:

Your boss will put your team together

Your colleagues make a big difference in how you feel about your job in the day to day.  The people your  manager selects for his or her staff are your colleagues.  You want a boss who is skilled at putting effective and positive people together on a team.

Your boss will spearhead your professional development

A great people manager will support you as you take advantage of training and learning opportunities and will make it a priority to see that your professional skills grow over time.  When you're evaluating potential managers, consider the career development of their current reports; it's a good indicator of how well supported your own efforts to develop and advance will be.

Your boss is the gatekeeper for your advancement

Because your boss is involved with things like providing references, scheduling interviews, and even in giving permission for you to seek new positions within the company, you'll want to pursue positions reporting to a boss who is supportive of you as you seek to move in your career.  Or, if you're a little slow to contemplate career advancement, your boss can be the one to give you the encouragement and confidence to step out.

Your boss is the advocate for your compensation plan

No matter how hard you work, or how well you perform, if your boss doesn't value the job you do and make the effort to see that your are financially rewarded, you may as well be working in a quiet closet.  While the Compensation and Human Resources department will have input on the parameters of your salary, your boss is the single person who will (or will not) put forth the effort to see that your compensation is reflective of the fantastic job you do.  In some corporate environments, this may require political courage, and you want a boss who's willing to do what it takes to get you the compensation you deserve.  And do please note: your fantastic performance comes first.  Your performance gives your boss the data points to argue for greater compensation - it's up to you to give him or her enough data to work with and make a compelling argument for a raise in salary ... or perhaps even a promotion.

It's your boss's job to do their job with excellence, and the best bosses make their people a priority.  Look for potential managers who consider their people to be their best asset, and you're almost certain to love your job.  Let's close with the seasonally appropriate and immortal words of Ebeneezer Scrooge upon reminiscing about his favorite boss, Mister Fezziwig:

"He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil.  Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up: what then?  The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune."

Sounds like a great boss to me!

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mom Talk #27: Take Responsibility

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Dearest Children of Mine,

You may be thinking you got off easy with only 26 posts in this 31 Days Blog Series.  But wait!  There's more!!  There are actually 31 entries for the Mom Talks series, I'm just going to need some of November to get them all in.  Because you know ... when it comes to Mom Talks, I have LOTS to say :o)

In the last post I gave you some tips for arriving on time.  Today, I'll tell you about my most embarrassing professional life moment that still makes me cringe, and the lesson I learned from it.  It has to do with cookies, responsibility, and what happens if you don't take it.

Before I quit my corporate job to be a stay at home, homeschooling Mom, I had a fabulous opportunity to work on a special project for our Vice President on a series of first ever Team Meetings for our department.  It was an opportunity for exposure that I probably wasn't quite ready for, and I certainly didn't grasp its potential.  But it afforded me some pretty slick experiences, all of which were good, with one exception that is forever immortalized in  my mind as The Cookie Incident.

Among other things on this Team Meeting project, I was responsible for ordering and organizing the post-meeting refreshments.  Well before the first kick off meeting at corporate headquarters, I placed an order with the corporate kitchen and confirmed the order should be delivered to the top floor executive meeting room.  Two weeks before the meeting, I followed up with my contact to make sure everything was in order.  Finally, the day of the meeting arrived, and about 20 minutes before the meeting concluded, I slipped out to make sure the refreshments had arrived ... only to find no refreshments ... anywhere. 

I was mortified.

I rushed downstairs to the cafeteria, which I found closed up tighter than a bank vault.  I pounded on the door to no avail, then raced to my office to call the kitchen manager on the phone.  Maybe the staff was just busy putting the finishing touches on the cookie trays and couldn't answer the door?  Alas, no answer on the phone, either.  

I went back to the meeting, wholly terrified.  I knew I should make an announcement that there would be no refreshments, but thinking about standing up in front of a hundred of my colleagues to say, of all things, "There will be no cookies" had me completely paralyzed.  It was such a stupid situation.  I desperately tried to send my boss telepathic messages across the room, hoping he would somehow bail me out, but my powers of telepathy were as efficient as my powers of getting cookies delivered that day.  The meeting ended, and a hundred people wandered around in the foyer, only to conclude that there were no cookies to be found.  

Afterward, I apologized and explained to my boss and the Vice President that I had placed the order but the cookies and drinks hadn't been delivered.  The Vice President wasn't particularly chatty and didn't say much, but it was her meeting and it made her look bad that promised refreshments hadn't been delivered.  Although no one ever mentioned the incident again, I'm sure no matter how well I performed in my job thereafter, to this Vice President, and possibly more people than I'm willing to imagine, I was:

The Girl Who Didn't Bring the Cookies.  


How I wish I had confirmed the order with the kitchen staff the day before the meeting.  But my greatest regret is that I didn't take the opportunity to transform a bad situation into a chance to shine by taking responsibility for it.  

Accepting responsibility is always the better choice.  Here are three reasons why:

When you take responsibility, you gain authority

Accepting responsibility shows your understanding of a situation, demonstrates your grasp of its implications, and displays your capabilities.  Results build credibility, and the person who takes action or addresses an issue has the authority.  It's always the person getting things done that people listen to.  When you take responsibility, you are a leader, and that gives you authority.

When you take responsibility, people give you a break

Particularly when you've made a mistake, taking responsibility moves you on and helps everyone else let it go.  If you've made a mistake, whoever is in authority over you is responsible to make sure you don't make the same mistake again.  When they trust that you understand the situation and have learned what you need to learn, they'll know you don't need further correction.  [Hint:  file this one under How to Get Mom to Stop Talking next time you're called on the carpet for something.  You will be amazed at how well it works.]

When you take responsibility, you distinguish yourself

We've all been there at one time or another, and everyone knows that when you've made a mistake, it takes guts to shoulder the responsibility.  It takes strong character to own up to a mistake, but the reward is that when you do, people remember you were tough enough not only to admit something went wrong, but to own it.  This isn't necessarily a rare occurrence, but it's gutsy enough to get you noticed every single time.

Because it gives you power to act on your situation and make things better, taking responsibility is always the better way.  When you do, you gain authority, move the focus to the next step, and distinguish yourself as a person of strong character. Always ... the better way.  

We have four more Mom Talks to go!  Next we'll talk about the importance of who you work for.

There will be no cookies.  

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mom Talk # 26: How to Be On Time

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Dearest Children of Mine,

We talked about what you wear to work and the importance of suiting up }here{. Today, let's talk about how to get yourself out the door and arrive on time.

Not only does arriving on time allow you to enter a meeting, interview or social event feeling calm and focused, it conveys some extremely positive things about you:

  • You respect the other person and their time
  • You are reliable
  • You keep your word and are trustworthy
  • You manage your time and your schedule well
Being on time doesn't just happen though; you have to take steps toward it with intention. To make sure you're on time consistently, no matter where you're going, you must consider being on time to be a choice and take responsibility for it.  Here are a few things you can do to set yourself up for punctuality:

Know your route

Do your research when you make the appointment - use an online map to determine how you're going to get there, and especially note how long the drive will take you.  It's important to do this before the day of the appointment, so that this part of your plan is already done and doesn't take up your time the day you need to go.

Plan to arrive 10 minutes early, not on time

Your target arrival time is 10 minutes before the appointment, not the actual time of the appointment.  You need a moment to check in, put your coat away, pull things out of your briefcase, whatever.  Pad your time plan and consider 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment to be, in your mind, the arrival time.

Work out your schedule

Think your schedule through with precise detail, and then you can let yourself run on autopilot.  Consider how much time everything will take you:

10 minutes ... Ironing my shirt
45 minutes ... Dressing
35 minutes ... Commute
10 minutes ... parking/walking to building
100 minutes ... TOTAL 

Then add 15 minutes for the unexpected:  traffic is unusually heavy, you take a wrong turn, you can't find a parking place.  Work backwards from the time you want to arrive to figure out when you need to leave.  Thus in this example, to arrive at 9:50 for a 10:00 appointment, you need 115 minutes, or an hour and 55 minutes (you may as well round that to 2 hours), and should begin your leaving process - all those steps lined out above - at 7:50.

It helps to be exceedingly precise with this exercise.  Our brains like to round down on how long things will take, and if you aren't painstakingly specific, you'll convince yourself you can sleep a few more minutes, check this one more website, or get this one thing done.  If you know precisely what time you need to begin your process, it's not so easy to let things bleed.  

Round UP

You know it's true:  everything takes longer than you think it will.  Do yourself a favor: round up when you're calculating time required to get yourself somewhere.  Don't think in 5 minute segments, think in 10's.  Don't think in 15 minute segments, think in 30's.  

Establish your last minute checklist

Every time your Granddaddy left the house, he checked his pockets.  It went something like:  left front - pocket change, right front - keys, left rear - handkerchief, right rear - wallet.  Thus, he never left the house without these important things.  You should do the same.  Start with knowing how many things you need to be walking out the door with, and then make a mental checklist and go through it just before you head out the door every single time.  It's also a good idea to assemble the things you always take with you in the same place all the time.  That way, when you need to go somewhere unexpectedly, it's all right there ready to grab.  

Use a timer, not a clock

Finally, you should know how long it takes to drive from home to points A, B, and C.  When you leave, set your car's timer feature to zero and don't look at the clock.  That can help relieve the stressful adrenaline rush that looking at the clock can bring and will help you arrive in a more relaxed state.

If you do all these things, you'll be consistently early.  Don't let yourself think being early is a waste of your time - it's an easy investment that builds your reputation, makes you feel good about yourself,  and gives you the advantage of being collected and relaxed everywhere you go.    

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mom Talk #25: Suit Up!

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Dearest Children of Mine,

Yesterday I gave you some ideas about things to say and not to say.  Today, let's talk about your clothes.  We won't talk about all your clothes, just your work clothes, because they can make a difference in what people think about you, how people treat you, and how you feel about yourself in the workplace.

As you enter the workplace, note the environment and dress to fit in - if it's a corporate environment, you need to dress like a professional.  Dress one step up if you have aspirations to move up on the corporate ladder.  This will help others take you seriously, and help them envision you as someone who is promotable.

Not only will wearing professional attire help others take you more seriously, it will help you take yourself more seriously.  You know this is true.   Think about how you walk when you're wearing your PJs and slippers as opposed to when you're dressed in your very best, right down to the shoes.  See what I mean?

Does this go against your free spirit, "I've got to be me" style?  It did mine, too.  But think of it like this:  if you were going to play football with a professional football team, you would suit up with the pads and the uniform, wouldn't you?  Business attire is just suiting up - putting on the equipment and uniform appropriate to the game you're playing.

Whether you like it or not, it's a simple truth that we are judged by appearance.  The principle of first impressions is real, and you should use it to your advantage, if no where else but the workplace.

Now that we've talked about dressing for work, we'll next talk about getting to work.

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mom Talk #24: Say this, not that!

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Dearest Children of Mine,

Pop Quiz!  What are the three things your Granddaddy recommended for a long and healthy life?  If you don't know, read yesterday's post Three Keys to Good Health.

Today I'd like to offer some thoughts on things you should and shouldn't say, particularly if you want to establish yourself as exceptional young people.

Pretty much, you shouldn't mumble anything.  But offering a pleasant greeting in the morning - or a pleasant greeting any time of day, for that matter - is a convention that can set you apart, set the tone for your interactions, and set other people up to view you favorably.

 It's okay not to know the answer to a question.  But if you say only "I don't know", it can be interpreted to mean "I don't care" or "It's not my problem".  If someone asks you a question and you don't know the answer, take responsibility for finding it out. 

One word answers can come across as cocky, and they're not at all conversational.  When you answer a question, answer in a complete sentence, since using more words in your answer invites further conversation.  Allow your tone of voice to convey a secondary message of warmth or competence over the rest of the sentence.  

If someone tells you something that you know, chances are they're telling you because your behavior indicates that you don't.  So, if you do know, let your behavior speak for you, and no one will have to tell you what you already know.  Saying "I know" makes you look foolish when someone tells you something you appear to be unaware of ... if you know you shouldn't be spitting over the banister, then why are you doing it?  Instead of saying "I know", try "yes, that's right", "I agree", or "that's true".  You might even consider a humble "you're right". 

Give some thought to your speech patterns and the things you say frequently, and make sure they're setting you apart in a positive way.

Tomorrow, I have some thoughts for you about the clothes you wear.

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mom Talk #23: Three Keys to Good Health

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Dearest Children of Mine,

Yesterday we covered the importance of choosing your friends wisely.  Today, I'd like to share some advice with you that I heard all my life and only took me about 40 years to appreciate.  I hope it won't take you quite so long!

The source of this advice is your very own Granddaddy, and you know well that not only did he talk the talk, he - literally and figuratively - walked the walk.  My own advice to you is to take care of your body, and start right now.  Granddaddy's advice is specific and practical, and it really is just this simple.

Eat right

For Granddaddy, eating right had a lot to do with not "overloading the system", and that basically means don't eat too much.  A good meal was a great pleasure to him, but afterward he would ease up on the intake until his digestive system had recovered.  He was aware of how food made him feel, and adjusted accordingly.  

Get enough rest

This is a no brainer until you realize just how far and frequently we push our bodies into sleep deficit.  When you are rested, you think more clearly, have more energy, and your mood is more steady.  Know how much sleep you need, and then make sure you get it!  


Growing up and working on a farm gave your Granddaddy plenty of exercise in his younger years.  When he was in the Air Force, the calisthenics program played a big part in resolving chronic back pain.  He took up jogging in his mid-life years (complete with 1970's jogging suits), and when jogging was no longer optimal, walking was his thing, even into his 90's.

When you live a long and healthy life of 93 years, you can claim authority on how you made it so far so well.  Take your Granddaddy's word for it - "Eat right, get enough rest, and exercise" will keep you healthy and feeling great.

Next up: "Say This, Not That".

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mom Talk #22, The Company You Keep

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Dearest Children of Mine,

We've talked about processing your feelings and being your own best friend though journaling.  Now I'd like to talk to you about the importance of choosing your real life friends with careful intent.

There are four levels of friends:  acquaintances, casual friends, close friends and intimate friends.  The deeper the friendship, the more intentional you need to be about the people you pursue to be your friends.


It won't be too difficult to find people with whom you have affinity ... but you also need to consider how wise your intimate friends are.  When life throws you hard knocks, your friends will be your closest advisers.  Make sure that the people who can make you laugh the hardest can also give you wise counsel when things get serious.

Since guilty by association applies even to friendships, you should seek friends who are making good life choices.  Even if you aren't directly involved in bad decisions made by friends, the consequences of their decisions can have significant impact on you.  Make sure that your friends are not consistently needing your help to get past stupid decisions or refusing to take responsibility for their own lives.

Eventually, you begin to resemble the people you spend the most time with.  Your closest friends are the people who will influence who you are now and more importantly, who you become.  Your friends should be people you admire, people who inspire you, and people who encourage you to improve and to grow.

While you're considering the character quality of the people you spend the most time with, you should spend some time considering the quality of your own character.  If the best way to make a friend is to be one, the best way to make an excellent friend is to be excellent yourself.

Tomorrow, we'll visit some great advice from your Granddaddy.

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mom Talk #21: Write it Down

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Dearest Children of Mine,

Previously, we talked about how much easier it is to deal with things when they're fresh - the longer you wait, the harder it gets, whether it's a bug on the windshield or something you need to get right with another person.  Today, the topic relates to helping yourself sort out matters of the heart.

“There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.”  ― Zora Neale HurstonTheir Eyes Were Watching God

In my opinion, the very best way to sort through your feelings is to write them out, and it's my strong recommendation that you develop a regular habit of journaling.  You can write in a paper journal or keep a digital journal, write free form, use a template or writing prompts.  Find what works best for you, and write consistently.

Here are some reasons why journaling can be a great thing in your life:

Process your feelings

Just because your feelings fill up your heart doesn't necessarily mean you know what they are. Writing will help you figure out what you feel and will naturally help you explore why you feel that way.

Find the right words

If you're in a situation that's going to require a difficult conversation, journaling can help you put your feelings into words.  It can also help prevent saying hurtful things if you get the ugly words and feelings out privately before you have a discussion.  One caveat:  you must never leave hurtful words in your journal that you wouldn't someone else to see.  After you write the hard stuff out, it must be destroyed, and you may find that knowing the hurtful things you write are to be destroyed will help you be more wholly honest with yourself.

Be heard

We all need to have our say, but sometimes there's no one around to listen, or maybe the people  around you won't really understand. The fact is, no one is more interested in what you have to say than you, and no one understands you better :o)  You can act as your own best friend in the pages of your own journal.

Find a solution

You'll see that there's a natural turning toward optimism and solving problems when you write long enough.  Eventually you'll make the mental shift from talking about what's happening and how you feel about it to what you're going to do about it.

Journaling isn't just for dramatic teenage girls.  Keeping a journal can be a fun way to capture snapshots of your life and chronicle your personal life lessons.

Next, a word about the company you keep.

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mom Talk #20: Clean Your Windshield

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Dearest Children of Mine,

Yesterday, we talked about the word power of "Whatever", which is best wielded when you have no control over a situation.  Today, let's discuss the flip-side - when there's something you can do about your circumstances.

Take, for example, the bug that hits your windshield.  

You have two choices:  ignore the bug goo and deal with it later, or use the windshield wipers with the washer fluid right away and clean it off.  If you ignore the bug, the effort required to clean off the mess is exponentially related to how long you leave it there. This also applies to gunk in the bottom of the refrigerator, tomato sauce on the kitchen floor, and the fossilized cereal bowl under your bed.

You are my children, you live in my house ... you know I can ignore an awful lot.  But the older I get, and the more experience I have with ignoring things, the more clearly I see that dealing with things when they're fresh is vastly easier than dealing with them later.  

It's no surprise, is it, that the same principle applies relationships?  When you have issues or offenses against another person, there are two choices:  ignore (avoid, suppress... ) your feelings, or deal with them in short order.  It's so much easier to work through a single offense right away, rather than let it build up steam in your heart until you blow like a geyser.  Offenses collect other offenses like magnets, and if you let things sit in your heart on a slow boil without letting off the steam, a Big Deal Conflict becomes your solution, whether that's your intent or not ... just like the Big Deal Cleaning is necessary with the bug you left baking on the windshield since last summer.

Do yourself a big favor, make it a habit to take care of both the bugs on the windshield of life and matters of the heart in a timely fashion.  You'll be glad you did.

Next up, we'll talk about one way you can sort out matters of the heart.

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mom Talk #19: The Power of Whatever

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Dearest Children of Mine,

Your grandmother could write in shorthand.  She could listen to someone speaking and her hand would race across the page putting down strange symbols almost as fast as the words were spoken.  Then she could read back - word for word - what had been said.  Shorthand makes taking notes quick and easy, and significantly abbreviates the process of writing down every single letter of every word.  At one time, shorthand was a must for secretaries, but it's a dying art anymore - at least the shorthand that's used in the office.

We actually do a kind of short hand in our heads all the time.  Rather than going through an entire thought cycle, we short cut to the end because we know where we're going when the loop begins.  And this is where the magical power of "Whatever" comes in.

"Whatever" can be mental shorthand for "I see a bad situation, but it's not going to get me down."  You can use this mental shorthand to prevent a downward cycle into a sour mood.  Don't pick apart and dwell on the negative details.  Acknowledge them, and determine to move on.

"Whatever" can mean things like:
That person is obviously having a bad day, but it isn't my doing.  Just look at that blue sky!
Oh Darling, you must need that parking place far more than I do, please, go right ahead.
The meeting is starting late again ... awesome, I can work on my report.
The appointment has been cancelled?  Great!  I can finally get to those errands I've been neglecting.  
All the milk is gone?  Bring on the bagels and cream cheese!
That person has 36 items in the 10 or less line ... no worries, I can catch up on People Magazine.

You don't have to use the word "Whatever" - you can have your own word or phrase.  Just make sure that it helps you give the briefest nod to the negative that's beyond your control and jets you along to something better.

Next, let's talk about the right time to clean bugs off the windshield.

for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mom Talk #18: This One is Safe to Assume

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Dearest Children of Mine,

Have you ever tried to thread a needle when someone was watching?  It's nearly impossible.  Your hands shake, you can't see the eye of the needle, and every pass at it is completely wrong.  It's being watched - and not being able to help but think that you're being judged - that makes you self-conscious.

Today, I want to suggest an assumption that can relieve you of significant frustration as you relate to other people.  Normally, I'm a big fan of 'trust but verify', and 'assume nothing'.  However, I highly recommend this one exception:
Really, you have no idea what's happening in all the arenas of anyone else's life, and you can't know what difficulties they face.  Assuming everyone is doing their best moves your heart away from judgment and toward acceptance.  It's the opposite of being critical and judgmental.  Judgment makes people self-conscious and keeps them bound to failure.  Assuming they're doing their best sets them free to do better and sets you free from the exhausting tyranny of judgment.  And it lets you move along.  

While you're assuming that everyone is doing their best ... don't forget that "everyone" includes yourself, and that may be the best place to start.  We all have expectations of ourselves, and often those expectations are straight up perfection.  Sometimes you do the best you can, and it isn't perfect.  But you've done the best you can, and that's good enough.  Training yourself to respond to your own failures with this kind of grace sets you up to extend the same to others.

Choosing to believe everyone is doing their best has its foundation in unconditional love, which offers a firm foundation, and freedom to improve, freedom to change and freedom to do it better next time.  It's a safe assumption.  

Tomorrow, I will teach you the word that magically fends off getting caught up in the judgment/criticism briarpatch and keeps you in the wide open spaces of grace.

 for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mom Talk #17: The Ones Who Need Grace the Most

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Dearest Children of Mine,

We talked about fighting fair }here{, and about apologies }here{.  Today I'd like to share some thoughts with you about grace.

More specifically, I'd like to talk with you about who needs grace the most.

Grace is a lovely word that means lovely things.  According to Webster: elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action; a pleasing or attractive quality of endowment; favor or goodwill; mercy clemency, pardon. 

Theologically speaking, grace is freely given and unmerited favor and love from God, extended to us.

One of the greatest examples of grace I have ever witnessed occurred in a very public arena.  Someone spoke - very publicly - mean, hurtful, unkind and ungenerous words.  I was stunned and horrified.  I couldn't think how I would handle the situation had the words been directed at me or my family.  And as my ears began ringing with the silence that fell down heavy upon us, the astounding message of grace was spoken just as publicly as the unkind words had been.  Not from leadership ... but from the very person who had justifiable  reason to be deeply hurt and offended.   The message included an appeal not to judge, an appeal to extend love, an appeal to let the milk of grace pour deep into the cracks between those involved, and an appeal to close the episode with finality.  This grace made an appeal to love the unlovely and to forgive the unforgivable.  It was assuredly undeserved, and assuredly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. 

There will be days when you are the recipient of unkindness.  There will be days when, through no fault of your own, someone else has a terrible day.   There will be times when - wrongly - people take out on you their own lacks.  People will fail you, disappoint you, and hurt you deeply. 

Always, my first advice to you is to determine not to take things personally.  Develop a thick skin instead of choosing to take offense.  But most of all, I would have you remember this:

the people who deserve it the least are the ones who need grace the most.  
That's the nature of grace.  
Grace says, "I know the unlovely parts of you, but they are not the whole of you."  Grace says, "I know what you did, but you're still good with me."  Grace says, "I see that ugliness, but I choose to forgive you anyway." 

Don't wait for people to deserve grace ... none of us ever will.  

Tomorrow, we'll talk about assumptions ... sometimes they can be dangerous, but this one can bring you great freedom.  

 for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

This Blogging Break Brought to You By ...

I've loved blogging the 31 Days series "Mom Talks"!

When LtDan and I planned a sort of spontaneous trip with dear friends smack dab in the middle of October, I planned to be so ahead of the game that I would compose and schedule posts in advance.
Didn't happen.

No worries, I knew I would be SO on top of things that I would write my posts from the comfort of the hotel.
Also didn't happen.

Thus, this break in blogging is brought to you by great friends, good times and the City of New Orleans.

We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in the French Quarter and it was (no surprise) completely lovely.  

The colors were navy blues and burgundies and plum and gold and chocolate browns - my absolute favorites.  I really wanted to put the chair from our room into my suitcase and bring it home.  

We especially loved the courtyard both day and night, and the Davenport Lounge downstairs.  The Davenport was hopping with live jazz music every night.

We were in New Orleans once when the kids were little to over night and go to the New Orleans aquarium (it's fantastic).  I was there for an afternoon in my twenties but all I remember is very strong coffee and crowded streets.  Both times, New Orleans was on the way to something else, and didn't get the attention it deserves.

Every city has a personality, and New Orleans wins the contest, in my opinion.  Everyone is so New Orleans (and Saints!) proud, and with only one kind of funny exception, everyone we encountered was delighted we were there and happy to provide service.

We did the typical tourist walking tour of Bourbon Street.  It was everything you've heard about it - very loud and crowded and wild and crazy - and that was on just a normal Saturday night.  I know  for sure Mardi Gras is not for me.    My favorite was Royal Street, which was more laid back with antique shops and restaurants and bars.

We all loved the sea food and ate oysters at every opportunity (and we made sure there were plenty :o)  The Chicken Andouille Gumbo at the Gumbo Shop was good enough to make me want to make the 8 hour drive again right this minute.  Brandon was our waiter extraordinaire, and we owe him thanks for his expert recommendations.

We took a buggy ride in the early evening through the French Quarter.  You can catch a buggy at Jackson Square any time of day.  Our driver gave us a great feel for the area and some good historical notes.

Being right on the Mississippi, it seemed appropriate to take a Steamboat Ride, and we spent a couple hours on the Natchez.  It was a relaxing afternoon on the riverboat; we went about seven miles down river and back.  We saw some huge cargo carriers, lots of barges and where the levy broke during Hurricane Katrina.

Back in the French Quarter, we saw at least three wedding parties, two were dancing down the street complete with umbrellas, hankies and a band, and the grandparents brought up the rear of the wedding party in bicycle rickshaws.  So fun!

Everywhere you look there is something interesting to see.  There was definitely plenty crazy, some sad, and abundant fun.  I loved the street performers and the artwork and the antiques and the architecture.

Our favorite street band was Yes, Ma'am, playing on Royal Street.  They play eclectic country/blues, and bill themselves as 1920's rock and roll.  Have a listen, I think you'll love them, too!

New Orleans is full of energy.  Everyone is cool and on their way to something fun.  I really enjoyed the fact that there were lots and lots of older people there ... including a white haired Granny with a walker on Bourbon Street!  The city exudes a quiet confidence and understated elegance.  You feel the age of the city, and sense the history.  The food is wonderful.  It's definitely in the top three of my favorite cities. 

We had  a fabulous weekend with great food and SO MUCH FUN in an amazing city ... 
but the company was the best of all.  

The other best thing of all?
That we could leave town and not worry once about our kids and 
what they might be up to whilst unsupervised at home.
Maybe they have been listening to all those Mom Talks?
Last week, we left off with a talk about effective apologies }here{.
Join me tomorrow and we'll take the Mom Talks series up again 
and talk about grace, and who needs it the most.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mom Talk #16: Apologize

yay!  you're here!
for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{

Dearest Children of Mine,

Yesterday we talked about how to have a fair fight.  Today, we'll talk about a critical component of fair and healthy conflict, and that's the apology.  Please remember your goal in an argument isn't to prove yourself right, it's to gain deeper understanding about the other person while you resolve the conflict.  Also, you must determine that you will do no further damage to the relationship because of things you say or do while in the heat of the argument.

There are two sides to an apology - giving and receiving.  We'll talk about giving an apology first.  While no one should be "grading" your apologies, here are the basic components of the kind of apology that can do the deepest healing.

Say "I'm sorry"

Just those two words and you're off to a great start. 

Acknowledge their feelings

Imagine how the other person must have felt, and empathize with that.  "What I said was hurtful", "My comment must have been embarrassing to you".  This gives assurance to the other person that you understand the situation and have considered their perspective.  Remember, the goal of an argument is greater intimacy.  Learning what is hurtful to the other person strengthens the foundation of your relationship.  In this case, knowledge is power to improve.

Take responsibility

Your actions caused the other person harm, and when you own that, you convey to the other person that you value them.  You can do this by saying "I was wrong" without offering excuses or defending your actions.  Your apology is about them, and about their feelings,   Whether or not your hurtful actions were intentional, the end result is the same:  someone's feeling are hurt, and it's your responsibility.  Take responsibility for that, and don't make excuses.

Ask forgiveness

This is the most difficult and humbling part of an apology, because you are completely vulnerable to the other person.  But this act of humility conveys trust that they will respond to your apology with mercy.  It calls both of you to value the relationship over either of your feelings, and when you both step up to that, it can put you on the fast track to healing.

Now that we've covered giving an apology, let's consider how to receive an apology:

Make it safe

Offering an apology is putting yourself at the mercy of the other person.  Honor them and your relationship by extending grace.  And it will do you good to consider the Golden Rule here ... you will surely be on the giving side soon enough.  Treat the other person the way you want to be treated.  Furthermore, if you show the other person that you are likely to accept their apologies graciously, you will build trust, and it will be more likely that you'll get an apology next time it's your due. 

Say thank you

It takes humility to say I'm sorry.  Thank the other person for saying it.  It means they value you.

Say the words

Listen to the apology, and then say the words:  "I forgive you".  Don't take another opportunity to tell them how wrong they were, it's time to let it go.  Say "I forgive you" and then actively practice forgiveness every single time your heart wants to go over the offense again.   Sometimes you have to remind yourself.  Say it outloud to yourself in the mirror if you have to:  "I've forgiven them for that.  I'm letting it go and we're moving on."

Don't grade

 A dichotomy exists here.  If you're on the giving end of the apology, read the above and take those steps.   If you're on the receiving end of an apology, please read on.  The more you practice "good" apologies, the easier it gets.  But we all have to start somewhere, and that means you may or may not be in a relationship with someone fluent in the art of apologizing.   Sometimes, you have to let people say they're sorry the best way they can.  That may mean accepting a casual "my bad" or a seemingly unrelated act of kindness in place of steps one through four above.   Trust that the other person will become more adept at apologizing, and accept their apology in whatever form it comes.  

To be in a relationship with another human being requires lots and lots of grace.  Next, we'll talk about who needs that the most.

  for the introduction and index of the posts in this 31 Days series, click }here{
thanks for reading!