Friday, February 26, 2010

So, How'd It Go?

Well, it's Friday and aren't we all glad?  Even if you express no complaints about the past week, Friday still has a freeing feeling, doesn't it?  A change of pace at least! One of the hardest things for me sometimes is to stop, be still, and contemplate the past week (month, year, project) and then come up with improvements, lessons learned, etc.  So, I'm going to use Fridays as the time to do that and maybe it will help you as well.

Things that went well this week:
-I ate clean all week and fully recovered from the vacation diet.
-Jumped back into piano playing with a bang!  Sight-reading is improving!!
-Started a new exercise routine.

Things that need improvement next week:
-Walking hasn't happened much because of the cold.  Need to recommit next week, especially b/c it will be warmer.
-Didn't make lists or stick to ones I did make for my days. With a lot of stuff coming up, I definitely need to be more organized.
-Dogs need more structure and play.  I wasn't feeling well and they are the first to feel it.
-Didn't journal the way I needed.  Committing to a time and/or # of pages would be helpful.

I'm learning (slowly) that real growth happens in small yet pivotal moments like this where we see problems and, instead of giving up completely,  make adjustments and try it again.  It probably sounds like a DUH! moment to you, but this is where I always gave up and tried to head out in a different direction.

Because it's Friday and because I would love to be doing this one day many years from now, here is something to put a smile on your face!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spasm Living

Upon our arrival to the great city of Austin, Texas last week, it became strikingly clear that the layout of the  city (street names, exits, etc.) was not like home.  Since I'm used to being confused when it comes to directions or maps, this didn't bother me so much.  It's just another adventure.  For Randy, whose logical lifestyle is what makes us so good for each other, maps or locations that are not logical bother him greatly.  So, after a couple of days into our trip, we set out to go pick up dinner quickly and watch a movie we had rented.  Through no real fault of our own except inexperience, we did not return for another 45 minutes.  Let's just say it was a trying time for everyone's patience.

I share this experience with you because I noticed something by the end of it.  Just like Randy has a hard time being patient when things don't proceed how they should, I have a history of not being patient with Randy when he's not being patient! It's kind of a mess just to say it!  This time around, I did really well.  It was like (for the first time ever, I think) I was conscious of my own attitude on the matter and it didn't have to be influenced by his.  The way I've (always?) lived my life has been dependent on the circumstances/moods/opinions/younameit of others and, in case you're wondering, that doesn't work.  Only if everyone around you is perfect and work their hardest to make your life perfect regardless of how they feel.  When you can find that, give me a call!  Anyway, it was clear that day that I wasn't in a bad mood, not being able to find what we were looking for was just an adventure, good story and laughable and I was NOT upset by it all.  So, if it bothered him, why did it have to bother me?

I might be the only person who has lived this way on occasion (if not constantly) but I expect I'm not.  Living my life in spasms isn't really living.

For me, it feels like releasing all control, responsibility and peace, just to say "I can't handle this so I'm going to beat on you a while until you make it easier!"  I'm not talking about the kind of control we release to God, just to be clear.  I'm talking about sitting in a car with someone who is increasingly aggravated and having a choice: #1 Hate that they are upset and criticize them further for being upset, thus allowing their frustration to some how dictate how I handle the situation or #2 Stay centered on the peace I'm seeking after daily and do my best to help him weather a difficult situation.

I'm a little jumbled today so sorry for the meanderings but do you get what I'm talking about?  How do you avoid living life in spasms?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You might want to check your facts first!

Did you hear about the Dutch speed skater that got disqualified because a coach gave him wrong directions during the race? Can you even begin to imagine how the skater AND the coach must have felt, or I guess are still feeling? We saw a news clip on NBC about it last night and my jaw literally dropped!  It's such a sad thing, especially since he was CLEARLY the winner of the race.  How would you have handled it? Obviously the skater was upset and didn't welcome (publicly) any consoling, but he was on display for the world. That's a lot to take.

Dial it down a bit and place it into us little people's lives.  Have you ever had a friend (intentionally or not) completely mislead you or give you all the wrong information?  I can't think of an individual that has impacted me in this way, but my perceptions and my own emotions have, I think.  Whether it involves comparisons or maybe just what I think is right or justified, my feelings can run the show before I've even had (taken) the chance to see if they have a real leg to stand on.  For instance, there are some feelings that have carried over from my teenage years that were out right feminism and undermining my relationship with Randy.  If you had asked me before, 'Has feminism impacted you?', I would have said not at all.  But when I took the time to look at the emotions and then a second time, sure enough, I was a little bit of a man-hater and didn't even know it! :)

This coach, who from what I hear might be needing a job soon, reminded me how important it is to check and double check sometimes before we jump into anything.  Thankfully, my emotional decisions don't happen in front of the world and don't risk a gold medal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Something Yummy

I'm no chef, but on occasion I make a substitution in a recipe that is just delicious and today I thought I'd share one with you.   In the midst of planning out a couple of weeks of meals and a grocery list, a few months ago I asked Randy if there was something new he would like me to try for dinner.  Parmesan Chicken was his first response so I went digging for an easy recipe.  Below is one I've tweaked to make a little more healthy.  The original called for breadcrumbs and one day I tried pecans instead. I've never gone back.

Parmesan Pecan Crusted Chicken
3/4 c butter
2 cloves garlic
1 c ground/chopped pecans
1/3 c parmesan cheese
2 T fresh thyme
2 T fresh basil
2 T fresh oregano
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 (6 oz) chicken breasts

Melt butter w/garlic.  Stir pecans together with cheese and spices. (I salt and pepper chicken just a bit for extra flavor) Dip chicken in butter and press into pecan mixture.  Place in 9 x 13 dish and bake at 350 for an hour.  Serve with your favorite pasta sauce on top or on the side for dipping, and with pasta if you're looking for extra carbs!  I'm sure most cooks will know this, but (on a different recipe) I learned it the hard way.  If you don't have fresh herbs, the amounts will go down a lot and especially beware putting too much thyme in.  It wrecked a whole meal one time! Randy still ate it, the trooper that he is, but I could hardly eat half of it.  Anyway, we had this for dinner last night and it was great! Good news is I get it for lunch today!

Monday, February 22, 2010


This past week Randy and I took a trip to Austin.  With it being known for its musical flare, Randy commented that he felt "like we should see a show or something", but we hadn't really planned anything like that and didn't really feel like hunting something down that may or may not be lame.  Still, we talked about it for a little while because we felt like we should simply because it would be cool or might make a good story.  We didn't want to come up short when comparing ourselves with other people.  All in all, though, we took the trip to get away, do whatever we felt like, when we felt like and just be together for relatively cheap.  So, that's what we did.  But that tendency to compare yourself with everybody else or the imaginary "they" and "them" is a much bigger force in my life than #1 I ever used to realize and #2 is healthy for a whole group of people, much less little ol' me.

Comparison is human and productive in learning.  How is the apple different from the orange? How would the story change if Cinderella was a CEO and not interested in settling down?  Comparing isn't bad, but comparing yourself with the constant question, "Am I as good as my best friend or cooler than this random person I've never met?" is treading on dangerous ground.  Friends and peers can be motivating to be better, but for me it always left me despising myself.  I guess I was looking for some one or some group that was just like me so that then I could be acceptable or just as good as because they would be just like me. I'm not about to finish up with a we are all different, what would the world be like if everyone was just like you speech, because that never really helped me NOT compare myself.  Instead, I'd like to talk about permission.  For whatever cooky reason, I think I've needed permission to do what I want, regardless of what custom or the group says is acceptable.  The group, the customs are rarely dictating what is the healthiest option for your life.  And I never really understood that until recently.  

Whatever it is driving a new car rather than a dependable used one, going into debt because you get something cool rather than paying cash and knowing you aren't in debt for the next 12 years, saying yes to every good thing there is to do in the world rather than choosing some and still meet all of your family obligations, or chasing down some music scene just b/c someone else might think its cool rather than making personal gains with your best friend, comparing your life with anyone else just wastes time and stifles growth.  Take it from one who had every opportunity to grow a lot more a long time ago but didn't because she 'wasn't already as good as so-and-so', it's just not worth it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love Better

When anyone mentions Valentine's day in a group of people, you are bound to get a varied response, anything from drooling gush about pink and red hearts to anger and bitterness at the very day itself.  So, I expect this love themed post may not suit many, but hopefully it's helpful.  In my inbox this morning, I received Focus on the Family's newsletter with romance in marriage being it's #1 article.  Not having a valentine or the holiday's commercialization are good reasons to ignore this day, but regardless of your current status, it could be a good opportunity to refocus our love for each other - romantic or not.  Below are a few tips by Mitch Temple on successful marriages, but all of them can be applied to any relationship.  And don't we all need to see and be a part of more healthy, successful relationships?

  1. Happiness is not the most important thing. Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness will come and go. Successful couples learn to intentionally do things that will bring happiness back when life pulls it away.
  2. Couples discover the value in just showing up. When things get tough and couples don't know what to do, they need to hang in there and be there for their spouse. Time has a way of helping couples work things out by providing opportunities to reduce stress and overcome challenges.
  3. If you do what you always do, you will get same result. Wise couples have learned that you have to approach problems differently to get different results. Often, minor changes in approach, attitude and actions make the biggest difference in marriage.
  4. Your attitude does matter. Changing behavior is important, but so is changing attitudes. Bad attitudes often drive bad feelings and actions.
  5. Change your mind, change your marriage. How couples think and what they believe about their spouse affects how they perceive the other. What they expect and how they treat their spouse matters greatly.
  6. The grass is greenest where you water it. Successful couples have learned to resist the grass is greener myth – i.e. someone else will make me happy. They have learned to put their energy into making themselves and their marriage better.
  7. You can change your marriage by changing yourself. Veteran couples have learned that trying to change their spouse is like trying to push a rope – almost impossible. Often, the only person we can change in our marriage is ourselves.
  8. Love is a verb, not just a feeling. Everyday life wears away the "feel good side of marriage." Feelings, like happiness, will fluctuate. But, real love is based on a couple's vows of commitment: "For better or for worse" – when it feels good and when it doesn't.
  9. Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears. Successful couples have learned to resist holding grudges, bringing up the past and remembering that they married an imperfect person – and so did their spouse.
  10. A crisis doesn't mean the marriage is over. Crises are like storms: loud, scary and dangerous. But to get through a storm you have to keep driving. A crisis can be a new beginning. It's out of pain that great people and marriages are produced.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Like a comet pulled from orbit...

Today I want to share a guilty pleasure. I found a book of music from the musical Wicked at the library and was playing through it just now. From the first time I heard the music from Wicked, it has always made me cry. Just playing through 'For Good' this morning made me tear up. The original witches, Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, are so good and their friendship is so sweet. There is a video on youtube of Kristin's last performance and you can tell they both are so emotional. Anyway, if you've never seen Wicked, you should! The story is a fascinating insight into The Wizard of Oz, it has great, great music, it is HILARIOUS and makes you feel good to boot! And, if you don't have the option today to go to a broadway show, youtube is FULL of videos of various songs! Below is the song "For Good" that overlays some explanation of the show. It's neat. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Be Just Like Me!

I'm not sure what it is about us humans that makes us desire, expect, demand others be, think, want just like us.  Perhaps its partly female but I expect its largely human.  We seem surprised when others like different things than we do.  Sometimes we are even offended that others make decisions vastly different than we do.  More often than not, we try (at least internally if not outright) to make others be like us.

 A good example is love - getting married - having a spouse.  It is common to hand out unsolicited advice to engaged/newlywed couples like it's candy.  "Oh, I know you feel that way now, but just you wait! It's all going to change and be [insert my personal experience here]"  Now, maybe they'll have your experience and maybe they won't.  But why is it so easy to walk around telling people they WILL be just like us, when #1 we don't really know and #2 we usually hate to be told how our life is going to be just as much as the next guy?

I've been on both ends of this scenario and didn't like how it felt either way.  It's one thing to be told that you're normal, but it's a whole different ball game to be told you don't know your life at all.  I'm guilty of it I know and if I did it to you, I'm sorry.  And I'm not criticizing advice from those with more experience.  It's the unsolicited "I know better than you about your own life" kind of stuff that doesn't seem to benefit anyone.  There are a few things in the world that a lot of us would agree on for sure (God, murder isn't a good idea, etc.), but the rest is pretty subjective.  Some girls, okay A LOT of girls love princessdressuppinkshoppingbarbiegirlygirlmakeupfashionista-NESS.  I despise it.  I really hope God blesses me with many boys, though by that very desire I'm fully aware it's likely I'll have a coop full of hens.  But the point is I'm very different from a lot of people that way.  Actually there is a whole lot of me that is very different than most people. So, you'd think I would be used to being different and not ever get caught up in trying to make others just like me somehow.  Why is it so hard (myself included) to believe, accept and celebrate the differences in other people?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oh, Obligation

As Randy stood in front of the bathroom mirror,  I could tell he was delaying movement.  "Got a case of Monday Denial, huh?" He laughed, saying "Of course!"  We both passed out last night when we hit the pillow and slept really good.  The kind of good that just aches for a snow day so the cozy morning can go on and on.  Though Oklahoma City is expected to get some snow before the day is through, nothing is shut down yet so business as usual, no matter how we feel about it.

This little scenario brings to mind the dilemma that continually shifts between obligation and denial, and how we can royally distort both of them.  I think we've all felt or experienced both at varying times in our life. Obligation: Somebody expects something out of you because of your position/relationship to them. Ex. Tinker AFB expects Randy to show up this morning at work because they pay him and he's agreed.  I think we would all agree that is a fair expectation and a reasonable obligation he should fulfill.  Denial: Despite a reality, you choose to ignore it.  Randy and I sleeping in a little and not getting in a hurry, even though time is slipping away.  The reality of Randy needing to leave for work was something we chose to ignore for a while.  I don't think many would criticize us because there was little consequence to minor negligence and it could be argued that we needed a little extra time - that it was worth the rush that would ensue afterwards.

So, what's your point, Amy? My point is that obligation and denial both have healthy roles in our life, but way too often they both grow very distorted and seem to increase in power over us as the distortion gets bigger.  Distorted Obligation: Let's say there is a function that I am invited to and someone specific would like for me to be there, but my husband and I have been having some difficulties lately - so much so that the kids are even feeling it.  He asks me to stay home, but I am overwhelmed with obligation to this function and friend.  Ultimately, I tell my husband I have to go, with the intention to attempt to come home early.  Distorted denial is easily seen when I have a major health issue but refuse to do much about it because I shouldn't have to or my child has multiple educational and behavioral problems but couldn't bear to consider his home environment (parents) might have something to do with it.

The hard part is knowing when reasonable starts to disappear and distortion shows up.  I don't have any grand ideas on how to ensure we're not sinking into distortion because there has been only one thing that has really brought me out of distorted times.  So, if you have any good self-check ideas, bring 'em on.  I found myself a best friend who has this uncanny knack at seeing straight through my emotional arguments and telling me how it is.  90% of the time its borderline unbearable to hear, but I've always been thankful to him later on.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A new day rises

And a new day rises again. Isn't that the most wonderful thought? No matter what happened yesterday we are blessed with a brand new day!  Sometimes that can feel like a burden, especially if yesterday leaned more towards imaginary steps than baby steps, but it is important to recognize potential the way God does. Without His perspective, most of us I think would cut the entire world off at the knees, saying everything is impossible.  Just think about the number of people who have surprised you.  I've (falsely) judged people, never expecting anything good from them or assuming they would quit trying and just give up.  Sometimes I've even thought that they should give up.  Isn't that awful?  Well, whether its a person, a project or this brand new day, who are we to judge or limit its potential? 

As a teenager, I was NEVER an organized person and so, as an adult, discovering routines and schedules was like a life-preserver of sorts.  I hang on to them for dear life sometimes! The down side, though, has been getting off those schedules.  Being sick, waking up late, etc. pushes everything back and, instead of just rolling with it, I have a tendency to just give up on the day.  Sure, I can start over tomorrow, but simply because it's 9:30 and I haven't worked out yet isn't a sane reason to give up until tomorrow.  What is cool to me is when I start to give up on the day, somehow bypass it (through the power of God) and start accomplishing anyway and what do ya know? My day wasn't a failure after all!

Fridays are happy days anyway, so it will be an easy starting point to look for God's potential in our day.  The key for me anyway is to be purposeful about it.  If I don't intend to look for the potential, it's a sure bet I won't find it on accident!   So, moral of today: Look for the awesome potential in today!

It's a new day and I'm feeling good! 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How Do You Do When You Don't?

Anybody who has known me for very long will know how much I hate fake things.  I'm not too partial on the matter either.  Fake plants to fake jewelry to fake love - just don't bother!  To me, the real thing is worth the effort and the fake things just aren't.  I've killed many a plant in my lifetime but I feel so good about myself with the ones I sustain.  So, as a quick summary, to me fake=bad.  So, then what do you do when faking it seems your only option? Today I'm struggling with my emotions and would appreciate it if you would indulge me for a few lines.  Let me explain.

Love.  Whether you're talking about a spouse, friend or your body, how do you handle not at all loving what is in front of you? Say you come face to face with a reality about your spouse that is not lovable in your eyes.  Or a friend betrays you and there isn't a shred of love left in you.  Or the health or weight struggles have not been won and you can't find anything to love about your self.  How do you do (love) when you just don't? Because its not like you can just flip a switch.  You can fake it, sure.  But in my mind fake =  bad.  So, what can you do?

I know there are a lot of things you can do and not feel all the nice feelings.  But sometimes that is the absolute hardest for me.  I want to feel the feelings and when I don't, autopilot takes over in search for good feelings, not healthy thought processes or wise choices.  So, the first thing I need to do is hijack autopilot sit still for a minute.  Prayer for a peaceful heart and a wiser autopilot is a must.  Then, what? Here's where I get stuck because the best thing I can come up with is to let it go.  Let it go and put your energy into something productive.  Do something loving or do something productive until you can do something loving.  This seems superficial and like I'm missing the bigger picture today.  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Just Not Yet

So, what happens when, despite your superb execution of EVERYTHING, results are nowhere to be had?  Say your goal is to lose weight.  You eat right, exercise like a maniac and nothing happens.  Or you are trying to improve a relationship.  You say and do all the right things, but they still find a way to bring out the worst in you.  Or, my favorite, you ask God for growth in your life and then the next day your husband gets laid off and does not find a job for another six months! What do you do when all the 'right' things aren't working?  This is one of the hardest questions to face head on.  If something is supposed to work a certain way, and it doesn't, what do you do then?

My answer, unfortunately, is typically to give up.  Write it off as a hopeless failure and indulge myself with mindless eating or 40 minutes of House or better yet, both!  But as we both know, that doesn't fix anything. It just takes your mind off of it for a while.  Instead, what are realistic options, besides quitting? There's the do something different option we talked about yesterday. Though, when you know you're doing what is appropriate, necessary or just right that might not apply. So, what about waiting? Praying about it, giving the rest to God, having faith that you are doing enough, giving the results time to manifest.

I'll be honest, I am awful at this part.  I'm starting to believe that a large part of my weight struggles have been due to giving up too fast - not giving anything enough time and attention to work.  Once I embraced that, it's sobering to think about how much potential in my life that I've spoiled by quitting too soon.  For any goal that's ever been important to me, its success had little to do with one moment in time, but the consistent commitment of numerous days in a row.  Just because the results aren't in today, doesn't mean they won't come.  Just not yet.

Isaiah 40:31

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What is a Goal Worth?

If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong. - Charles Kettering

I don't think I can attest to the truthfulness of this quote, but it made me laugh.  And for a lot of things, it might be more true than I'd like to admit.  How many bad habits remain because we've 'just always done it that way' and changing would be hard?  Don't get me wrong - change for changing sake isn't a good reason to do much of anything.  But, refusing to grow because 'it's too hard' or 'I've never had to before' aren't good reasons to stay miserable.

If you're not miserable, then great. Disregard what I'm saying, because what you're doing is most likely working for you.  But, myself, I have sought out growth because I was miserable - unhappy with mediocrity, uncomfortable with my relationship with the world, and unsatisfied with my pace.  I tend to be a little dramatic at times, so take it for what it's worth, but my point is this: If you're unhappy with a circumstance that you're somewhat in control of, but refuse to try change, then it's your own fault.  My adolescence and young adult life was littered with so many complicating factors that I would blame my dissatisfaction on all of that, but it was a lie, really. There was never a real commitment to making lasting changes. I wanted to be better, different, happier, more, but refused to really consider changes.

In the past 3 or 4 months, Randy and I have had a similar interaction.  He tells me of a situation and I offer my solution.  He looks at me with perplexity and frustration, saying "Has that ever been a good solution to that before? You have offered that multiple times, but it never is what is needed."  I have, so to speak, continued to run into a brick wall, knowing it was a wall and knowing I wouldn't get anywhere.  I'm realizing that the change that needs to happen in me (to improve that interchange with him) is a commitment to embracing it differently, something that subconsciously I just didn't think I should have to do.

Sometimes a goal isn't worth all the sacrifice.  Living on the moon isn't worth leaving your family, Ernie says.  But when the goal is worthy, maybe change is what needs to happen.

Monday, February 1, 2010

What's Keeping Me Down

 Would you say that pride is one of the biggest hinderances of growth?  I'm considering it.

Here's an example.  I've played the piano for a really long time but I've never been good at sight-reading (the ability to pick up a never-before-seen piece of music and play it moderately well the first time through).  Until recently, every time I would try to improve this skill, I would sit down with music at a level I would be proud of in the presence of others.  Of course, this was fairly difficult and, without fail, I would give up on the endeavor before too long.

Several weeks ago, my husband brought home a book of children's songs from the library.  In his sweetness he thought I might enjoy it and find some songs to use with my students, but apologized for the easy skill level.  Because they were easy, I thought it would be fun to play through the entire book at least once.  So, that's what I have been doing and guess what? It has been the BEST exercise for sight reading I've ever had.  The music is fun, easy enough for me not to get discouraged and every page turn is improving my sight-reading skills!

I'm starting to believe this idea that we should be better than we are only stirs up a big pot of deception and destruction.  We're ashamed of failure, inactivity and insignificance.  I get it.  I live it daily sometimes.  But once that deceptive pride either runs out or you get tired of it, ultimately what have we gained? Nothing. No growth, no improvement, just more regret and shame.

So, what's the moral here?  I guess it is that baby steps are better than imaginary steps. :) What do you think?