Too Much Reality

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Phil 4:8 NLT

Whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, it’s good advice.

There is so much in this world to get caught up in. So many opinions, so many distractions, so many criticisms, so much bad news bombards us daily. And so much of it is not the Truth.

So much of it is distorted, and skewed, and I swear it’s just to get us all riled up. Then we lash out at one another, and accomplish nothing.

It’s enough to make the happiest of people depressed. And it was happening to me.

It’s hard to keep a balance. How do you stay informed and yet not be inundated with a barrage of waste washing into your brain, covering over all the joy?

Since I work from home, and don’t drive, I have a hard time not getting caught in the vacuum.

But this last weekend, I made an effort to turn off the TV, and not read the Facebook “Trending” feed (I HATE that thing). I hung out with family friends, and went to church, and got OUT of the house. And by Monday, I felt so much better about life.

I’ve been skipping past blogs that only stir up frustration and anger. And I don’t read hateful comments anymore…people can be so mean to each other. You aren’t going to change someone’s opinion by making a contrary comment.

If you want a real feel-good story, just see how people are helping one another in Texas right now. It’s inspiring seeing them come together.

And another thing I ran across is a new Facebook Series by Mike Rowe called “Returning the Favor.” It’s a breath of inspiring air that we could all use about now. You should check it out.

Here’s to reaching for happier days, and good conversation with friends.

How do you balance staying informed and not getting sucked into the vortex?

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No Opportunity Wasted

Where I live, I am surrounded by over-achieving adults, and they’re passing that on to their kids, not that there’s anything wrong with that. If you have that kind of drive, more power to you.

But sometimes I think we look too far ahead to the “end product” and miss a whole bunch in between.

We miss the opportunities that happen our way, and consider them a waste of time or not worth the effort.

But life isn’t about the “end product,” it’s about all the stuff in between birth and death, and what we do with every opportunity we get.

There seems to be a big portion of the population, mostly millennials (sorry guys, I don’t mean to stereotype you, but it’s what us “old people” see – and by “old,” I mean middle-aged), who are reaching for the brass ring and missing all the silver, pewter, and aluminum rings on the way.

One thing my husband and I are teaching our kids, is that no opportunity should be wasted…ever.

Every opportunity, whether it works in your favor or not, should not be wasted.

But what does that look like?

For kids: Say you didn’t make it into the advanced placement math class this semester. Disappointing? Yes. Tragic. No. Any opportunity? Definitely. First, figure out why you didn’t make it in to the class. There are those moments when you just weren’t “smart enough” I suppose, but more likely, you just didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t study as hard as you could have. You didn’t take the opportunity for the extra credit questions because it didn’t seem as interesting, or fun, as your video game.

We carry this into adulthood too.

How many jobs have we passed up because the pay was “beneath us?” Now if you’re unemployed and have a family depending on you, chances are this won’t happen. If you’re unemployed, and the sole provider, you’ll take any job you can get. But every job can be looked at as an opportunity. Maybe it isn’t what you want to do for the rest of your life, or even for the next month. But what can you learn from it? Nothing, you say? Don’t be so sure.

You may learn how to work with people, especially the ones you don’t like. You may learn a new skill. Maybe this job is just a stepping stone to the next job…a better job. Maybe it inspires you to be the entrepreneur you’ve always dreamed of being. Maybe you’ll make connections that can help you further down the road. You may even learn something about yourself, if you’re paying attention, that is.

Opportunities stretch us, and grow us into the people we need to become. Don’t waste them.

Life rarely turns out the way we plan, but sometimes the plans are better than we could have ever imagined. But not unless we take the opportunities given us.

Have you ever passed up an opportunity and you wish you could have a “do over?”

Career Advice to the SAHM

First, let me say that I would not go back and change my decision to be a SAHM. It’s been rewarding and challenging, and they’ve driven me crazy a lot of days, but I wouldn’t take it back if you paid me (although getting paid to be a #SAHM would be a great idea).

For my husband and I, it made more sense for me to stay at home, rather than what it cost for 2 kids in daycare. Aside from wanting to be a SAHM, the financial aspect was really the bottom line for us.

That being said, what I wish someone would have told me before I made the decision to stay at home is this: Keep up with your industry, whatever it may be, especially if it’s a technology driven field.

Fast forward, and my kids are now 15 and 11.

Before kids, I was a graphic designer. I loved doing that. It was fulfilling both to my creative side and my task-oriented side. But I happily set it on the back-burner when my daughter came along, some 15 years ago. I did some side jobs here and there, mostly volunteer work: the newsletter for my church, and any other flyer, ticket, program or brochure they needed, and I volunteered for a Pregnancy Center where I helped with their “Walk for Life” campaign. Again, with brochures and posters.

But technology changes in the blink of an eye, and after only a few years, the graphic design apps I used were quickly becoming obsolete. I still have the graphic design knowledge, just not the daily experience with the new applications. I didn’t have the money to invest to retrain myself or invest in the new programs, because I was investing in diapers and formula, and later in braces and glasses and music lessons for the kids.

Graphic Designers need a portfolio of their best work. My portfolio is filled with my children’s Citizenship Awards, and Soccer Pictures, and Homemade Cards for Mother’s Day.

My advice to new moms, or moms with young children who have stepped away from the workforce, is don’t let your special skills fall by the wayside. Your college education will always be there. But if you have a specialized field, keep up with it. Do whatever you can to stay with the technology. Take classes at the local college or adult school. Check in to your local library and see if they offer any refresher courses.

If you don’t, you will pay a price. Finding a job will be much harder when you want to get back into your field of interest. Most employers don’t mind so much if someone took time off to raise a family, so long as they kept up with their industry, or if they took a few years off (maybe 3 or 4).

But for those of us who took longer (up to 10 years), remember that the competition is tough out there. There are lots of women who didn’t take the time off standing in line for the same job you are.

If you can still talk the talk and walk the walk, it will go a long way to getting a foot in the door.

You can do it. I believe there are people that WANT mom’s to work for them, because those employers realize that Moms have a lot at stake, and are hard workers…they’re moms.

How about my fellow SAHM’s? What career advice would you give? Did you find it hard getting back into the workforce after taking time off to raise your kids?

What Happened to Life Skills?

I worry about my kids’ generation’s life skills.

Because of technology, our kids are far more advanced technologically speaking than we were at their age, it’s true. AND KUDOS TO THEM. Where we had to show our mom’s how to program the VCR, they are downloading apps, and writing code by the time they’re 10 years old.

But it’s the basic “life skills” that worry me.

I was the generation of “latch key kids.” Basic “life skills” were, at least, a matter of necessity, and at most, a matter of survival.

My husband was getting dinner prepped and could de-bone a chicken by the time he was 10 years old. We could use knives, and the toaster, even the stove at a much younger age than many of our children do.

We used the phone (landline, that is) and called our friend’s houses to arrange our OWN “playdates” (we didn’t have a name for it back then). I had probably a dozen phone numbers memorized in my head, not programmed into the phone, by the time I was 7. I can still remember a few of them to this day. And we had to talk to their parents when we called and ask politely to speak with our friends.

We also knew how to take a proper message and write it down, and to screen a call to be able to tell if it was stranger or friend calling. We didn’t have “caller ID” to screen our calls. The only thing “programmed” was our ability to ALWAYS tell whoever was calling that our parent(s) was “busy” and NEVER tell the person calling that our parent(s) wasn’t home.

My generation was handling money (of the paper and coin persuasion) at a very early age too. I lived in the boondocks, but my husband lived where he could walk to the nearest liquor store with a friend and buy candy or bubble gum or a comic book, give the clerk the right money and get back the right change.

We all had jobs by the time we were 16, some of us were even younger. If we didn’t work at the mall or a fast food restaurant, we pulled weeds for neighbors, or mowed the lawn for the old lady down the street. We learned responsibility.

Some of us had paper routes, much to our parent’s chagrin, where we folded and banded the papers, and on rainy days stuffed them in plastic bags. And we were responsible if someone didn’t get their paper, because WE got a call telling us so. But that rarely happened, because we didn’t want to get back on our bike or incur the wrath of mom or dad who had to drive us to go back out to deliver the lone paper, especially in the rain.

I worry that this generation doesn’t have those skills, just as I’m sure my parent’s generation said the same thing about us. I know it’s our responsibility to teach them, but here’s the thing: Unless they get a chance to PRACTICE THEM OVER AND OVER ON A REGULAR BASIS, they will always be a little bit hesitant, or worse, over-confidant, and THINK they know what they’re doing when in actuality they only know a fraction of what they should.

The thing is I don’t know where this mindset comes from that we tend to shield our kids from the world. We want to do everything for them, and it isn’t helping them at all. I’m guilty of it too.

This summer, is the summer of “Do It Yourself” at my house: your laundry, your lunch, your social arrangements with your friends (with permission of course), your dishes, your hygiene (I can’t even believe this one is an issue), your money management, and your time management.

So far, it’s going well. They feel more empowered. Of course, there’s still whining at times, but it’s working…I hope.

Please feel free to leave any suggestions for encouraging “life skills?”

As a side note: I had a hard time finding stock photos of kids doing any of the things I listed above.

Brushing up on your job skills

 

Did you know the Goodwill does more than resell clothes and furniture? Whether you’re a SAHM going back into the workforce, an older adult learning how to navigate technology or you just need a refresher, I stumbled across a FREE website the other day that can help.

This is not a sponsored post. I’m just sharing information that I found.

The Goodwill Community Foundation has a website that offers FREE tutorials on a myriad of topics. You don’t have to create an account and think of yet another password. They offer the service for free (from what I’ve experienced so far).

They offer tutorials in Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Basic Internet usage, even Reading and Math Skills.

The tutorials are simple and easy to follow. Sometimes you may just need to get acquainted or re-acquainted with up-to-date software. For instance, you may remember how to use an older version of Office and just need to see what Office 2016 has to offer.

There is also work and career advice on resume writing and job search tools including interview skills.

It makes so much sense to have a service like this. Most people, when looking for a job, can’t afford to take classes, either because they don’t have the money or the time to sit in a classroom. For many, time is running out, and they need a job ASAP. This is a great option.

If you don’t need the service, then please pass the information along. We all know someone who needs a job. Or maybe you just need the confidence builder.

Hope this helps someone, and thank you to the Goodwill for recognizing a need and doing something about it.

The Sky Is Falling…or is it?

The world seems to be living by standards set by Chicken Little…The Sky is Falling!

It feels like we’re all on edge…no matter what your belief system, your political affiliation, your socioeconomic influence, we all seem to be living like that animated chicken who sadly mistook an acorn falling on his head for the ENTIRE sky falling.

It’s all about the extreme headlines, the ratings, who can get there (where ever ‘there’ is) first. We’re all in a panic! It’s not about whether or not you’ll reach your goal, it’s about reaching your goal FIRST!

And when things don’t go our way we immediately run to the extreme of anticipating the sky to fall. We’re absolutely sure of it! And if we can just scream louder than the next guy, then we’re convinced WE can hold up the sky one more day.

I’ve got news for you…the sky is NOT falling…at least not today. And you CAN’T hold it up ON YOUR OWN.

I’m not suggesting we don’t try to change the world. I’m a writer…it’s why I write. But I am suggesting that we don’t forget to breathe. We calm down. We don’t forget ALL of our manners. Whatever happened to “if you can’t say something nice…?”

I swear there are days that I think we’ve lost our collective mind!

And I am no better than the next guy – I find myself sucked into the mania at times too. And it depresses the hell out of me. And I can’t live like that. Can you? It’s exhausting!

We’ve gotten mean-spirited. Or maybe it’s just the headlines focus on the ugly parts of our world. My soul begs for “feel good” stories most days.

So to prove the sky is NOT falling, please share a brief inspirational story below. Tell me something good, something uniting, something kind. I really need to hear it.

Let It Go…Again

Let It Go.

It’s not just an overplayed Disney song (my apologies if you’re singing it now), it should be a way of life.

I am guilty of obsessing over trying to fix things that I may not be able to fix. I spent my morning doing just that.

Ever since my husband’s employment status changed last year, our income took a hit. We were living comfortably until then. Not richly, but comfortably. Taking a vacation was not out of the equation. Paying for the unexpected car repair wasn’t a choice between eating steak or ground round. Fortunately he found work within two months, but at a significant pay cut. And we feel it.

I can easily fall into the trap of juggling numbers and stressing over bills, and trying to pay for the dentist bill, the cable bill, and our children’s college all at once. By the way, my oldest won’t start college for 4 more years, but that won’t stop me from pretending that Rush Week starts on Monday.

I could get two more jobs, reinvent myself, put the kids to work (not really), or I could keep on trucking. I mean, we aren’t poor by any measure. We get by just fine, it’s just that the budget is tight and we have to account for every penny. Mostly that’s because of my own fear. I’m the penny pincher. My husband is much more relaxed about our provisions than I am. But I think that’s the difference in our personalities.

That’s where Elsa’s song comes to mind. But before Elsa knew to sing about letting your fears go, Jesus knew it. In fact, he instructs us to do it. He wants us to come to Him and lay our burdens at His feet. So why does it take me so long to figure it out? Why do I let it go only to pick it right back up again?

I think it happens most often when I’m not walking beside Him. When I’m not seeking Him daily. When I don’t hear His voice in my ear, then I tend to fill it in with my own voice. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that my voice can NEVER replace God’s. But isn’t that exactly what I’m doing while I’m obsessing and stressing? I just need to trust, to listen, to let go and let God.

I need to work on that. What things in your life do you keep picking up that you really should let go?