Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fear Factor

When you come from a family of talkers like I do, it's easy to assume that because someone talks a lot, they must be an effective communicator.  But, that is not necessarily so.  Doing a lot of talking could just be a lot of talking.  Effective communication involves one person accurately and clearly expressing ideas and another person listening and understanding.  Talking a lot may sometimes do exactly the opposite.  

Randy does not come from a family of talkers, but his abilities as a communicator (when he is actually trying) are far greater than my own.  As that has been made clear to me over and over, I've been trying to strengthen my communication skills by reading a book or two.  Today, I'd like to share with you something I'm learning about.

What makes you feel emotionally safe in a conversation?  According to Love Talk by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott, we all have primary fear factors that, when not addressed, lead to walls coming up and communication completely breaking down.  "When our fear of losing what we deeply value increases, so does our insecurity, and that's when our conversations get twisted." Below are the 4 basic fear factors and as with anything, you may identify with more than one.

-gaining control of time (live in fear of wasting your time, complains to others to 'get to the point')
-winning approval from others (facts take a backseat to emotion of your message, do you like me?)
-maintaining loyalty (needs met through commitment and stability, fear change, value devotion)
-achieving quality standards (fear a choice may tarnish, approach decisions cautiously)

So, as I've mentioned  before, Randy and I are quite the opposites and this is no different.  My primary fears are that you won't like me and you will shift your loyalty away from me.  Randy feels the most at ease when high standards are met and he is using his time productively.  

How can any of this help you today?  When you're trying to communicate with someone, it's important to understand what might be sabotaging it.  If you start a conversation with me by telling me how much you don't like what I've just said or done, don't be surprised if that's all I hear and shut down from there.  If you want Randy to understand something and engage with you, don't spend 15 minutes explaining something when you could say it in 15 words.  See how that works?  It may not change your life, but it might help you understand people a little bit better.

I get shy when it comes to taking compliments and saying thank you.  Many of late have been very complimentary of this blog and some of the things I've written.  Every comment is appreciated and soaked up by my primary need of approval and words of affirmation.  :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gaining Momentum Without Burning Out

Day after day, we have recorded temperatures in the 100's with no end in sight.  Saying it was hot, well that's an understatement.  Climbing into a boiling car (which imitates the feeling of opening an oven in front of your face), it can be difficult to think of the fall season without rose colored glasses and a heart full of wishes.  How often do you think of times ahead and just day dream?  I do that a lot and with that daydreaming comes these crystalized expectations of how 'perfect' things could be!  But daydreaming does very little unless it is joined with action.

On the other hand, have you ever tried to plan ahead and you seem to get distracted or too involved so you end up spending more time on planning than actually accomplishing anything?  I do that too.  Sometimes we make excuses about our time, saying we don't have time to plan ahead.  The kicker with that one is that usually as time flies by, we moan and complain about how things aren't the way we wish they were. 

This week, I'm taking the week off of piano lessons to prepare for the fall season.  Piano lessons are hit and miss during the summer, as people vacation and what not.  But once school starts, everyone benefits with sticking (as much as possible) to a regular schedule.  I have a few organization things, some projects and some planning that I would like finished before we're locked in for a few months.  As I've been thinking about all of this, I again came to the conclusion of moderation and 'slow and steady wins the race' ideas.  Here are a few pointers I'm going to try to implement in the Butler house.

-Put down on paper where you want to be/what you want to accomplish by the end of 2011, if for no other reason than to just put some thought into it.

-Commit to doing a minimum of 1 thing a week to achieve one or more of those goals.  Something is always better than nothing.  Trying to do everything will result in doing nothing. If nothing else, plan time to plan once a week.

-If you hear yourself committing to mountains of work and insurmountable projects OR if you hear yourself excusing everything and getting ready to quit because everything is too hard, take a step back and realize you're not being reasonable.  Nobody is perfect and nobody is worthless.  We just have to have a little bit of vision and motivation to do a little bit at a time.

I don't know about you, but my world is getting so full - full of joy for births, marriages, enriched relationships; full of heartbreak - sickness, financial struggles, death, heavy burdens; and full of distractions good and bad - gossip, beautiful music, job opportunities, etc.  There is so much to be thankful for and there is so much to prayed for.  Above all, there is no reason to give up and drown yourself in isolation.  Let's grab this life by the horns and have a great day!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Diamond in the Garbage

Sometime in the year 2004, in the Spring I think, I made a very bold statement to a very good friend.  Carisha Hullet asked me if I'd ever thought about dating a one, Randy Butler.  I quickly told her I had no desire to date him and most certainly would never marry him.  The following months provided lots of interesting events and if you ever want to know the story, just ask me.  It's probably my absolute favorite!  But for now, suffice it to say that I was convinced of what I wanted/needed and he wasn't it.  Clearly, I had no clue what I was doing!

How many times have you heard of or even experienced something like this: You start out with a clear plan (a career, place to live, type of person to love, way to believe) and due to any number of things, that plan gets changed for you.  You would never have planned it that way, yet when its all said and done, it couldn't have worked out better for what you needed.

I judged Randy and assumed that he would not be what I wanted or needed in a mate.  We judge others and assume their friendship is not valuable.  We assume that a change is going to bring all bad things.   We assume a move could be the worst thing that could happen.  And, yes their are some people who would be horrible mates.  Some friendships are not valuable. And some changes or moves do bring all bad things.  But here's my issue: Have you honestly considered, with facts and actually knowledge about the value of this choice or are we assuming too much?

I'm so thankful that God knew better than I and that I was allowed to spend so much time with Randy that when his interest wandered elsewhere, I was green with envy.  Had my emotions and assumptions not been changed, I wouldn't have had almost 5 years of marriage with the best guy in the world for me or a fabulous son who has brought us so much joy.  Consider the people, the choices, the opportunities that you are automatically throwing in the trash.  You just might find a diamond!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Biggest Hurdle Ever!

There are times in our lives when you get stuck.  You feel overwhelmed by a task, a problem, a circumstance.  Everyone around you can be singing praises and encouragement, but they might as well be sticking their tongue out at you, as far as you're concerned.  And then in comes a few 'conquering heroes' that seem to have all of their 'stuff' together and just the sight of them makes you want to vomit.  Sure, that's not the right attitude to have.  And yet, all the frustration, envy and self-loathing just comes bubbling up like a geyser.  And then sometimes, this is the case for weeks, months (maybe even years?).

Talk about story of my life.  I am easily discouraged.  I can have amazing highs and even higher intentions, but one wrong look and I'm ready to say "Forget it!" and go sulk.  It's not pretty to watch, but it's what I know.  Thankfully, I married a guy who doesn't really understand the concept of giving up.  The engineer simply says, "Ok. It has to work somehow. Let's find out the way."  I'll have been married to my complete opposite for 5 years in September.  It's finally starting to sink in that my worst enemy is me.  He's been saying it forever, but I guess having a baby and all of that has done a number on me (in a good way).

So, I'm a believer now!  Our biggest failings are truly our own fault.  The world does what the world is going to do and very little can we actually change.  But, from start to finish we have control of ourselves and too often we put our fingers in our ears while screaming "It's everyone else's fault!! I can't change until everyone else stops what they are doing!!!"  And you and I both know that NEVER works.  From the personal (weight-loss, emotional security, time management) to the familial (parenting, marriage, friendships) to the professional (promotions, projects, mediations).  Expecting everything to go your way and then throwing in the towel completely when it doesn't will not miraculously change your life.  Let me repeat: Expecting everything and everyone to agree with you, do what you want, and then quitting in an ugly pout when that doesn't happen, NEVER makes things better.

For a long time, my actions really believed that the proverbial "holding your breath til you get your way" really worked.  Yeah, it doesn't.  Getting up and trying again, in a different way or asking for help or any number of problem solving techniques - now THAT leads to growth, change and eventual SUCCESS!
So, today - don't be ugly, don't be spiteful or rude.  Just get up, try it all again and think about how YOU can be part of the solution.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: what mothers do (especially when it looks like nothing)

what mothers do (especially when it looks like nothing
by Naomi Stadlen c2004

Let me begin by saying, I should have read this book while I was pregnant.  If you ever plan on having (more) kids, I recommend you reading this book during your pregnancy, whether or not you've had kids before.  It took me a while to finish it, mostly because I started it when Jude was a month or two old - not the best time to accomplish anything.

What I liked about it:
It's not a parenting book or a child psychology book.  It's a woman sharing her thoughts, thoughts of the numerous new mothers she's counseled and simply ruminating on concepts that are taken for granted by mothers and the rest of the world.  My favorite chapters (that resonated with me the most) were (4) "being instantly interruptible", (6) "I get nothing done all day", and (11)"snapping at my partner". It genuinely discusses the value and importance of what mothers do - like functioning on interrupted sleep, the ability to shift gears from a project to diapering/soothing/nursing and back again over the course of an hour or more.  In a nutshell, it validated and justified the out of control feelings that surrounded me and appreciated (valued) the unspoken acts a mother gives daily to her child.

Not all mothering experiences are the same so for the chapters that didn't apply to me as much, the reading got tedious, but in the areas I needed, the extra discussion was good.  So, picking and choosing what you want to read about could be a good thing if you're short on time and attention.

Overall, a mom (especially a new one) is so vulnerable to first few weeks and months.  Sometimes there are great women to guide and reassure them and sometimes there just isn't.  This book can definitely fill in gaps.  It's not an instruction manual or even one woman's opinion on how to mother.  It's just a gathering of 100's of women's experiences, organized in such a way to assure the reader that she's perfectly normal and doing great things as a mother, even when it looks like nothing!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Losing Big!

It's bedtime and I'm tired.  So, just a few quick thoughts about the next 12 weeks.  Several of us (something like 22 or 23) at our congregation are playing "The Biggest Loser" for 3 months and I'm very happy about it! I need to lose weight, so there's that, but this is bigger than that.  It's so nice to have a common goal, everyone on the same page, doing similar work!  12 weeks is a long time to commit to a way of life - for me it's no sugar, no white flour, cutting back calories just a little and exercise.  A month, maybe two is one thing, but we have until October 8th.  That's a completely different season from now!

But you know what? I'm not dreading it.  Being in the same boat is oddly freeing to me.  Some are motivated by the competition and it's important to find what works for you.  But I think we forget how much human beings seek out those in similar situations for comfort and support.  And that is seen in any group or organization.  If you feel like an outcast, you look for the other outcasts.  If you have expensive taste, you gravitate towards others who do as well.   Why are you friends with who you are?  What traits are  you gravitating towards in a person or a group of people.  Not sure what any of it means.  It just seems like something I should be more aware of in myself.

Anyway, I hope to be lighter in 12 weeks - say a prayer for me!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Who Are You Listening To?

Sometimes the devil and all of his advocates are gathered around my ears and screaming out a stream of "You're not working hard enough!" or "You'll never be like so-and-so!" And sure, there may always be an element of truth to that - there's always more work to be done and I'll never be like a million so-and-sos.  But, what good is it doing me to listen and dwell on that?

Today is one of those days where the negative thoughts are growing on trees, despite the 100 degree weather.  Jude was up ALL night so we took a morning nap so my day didn't really start until 10:00am. Lots of stuff going on and not enough time, as usual, but as I was watering the front yard at 11:00am and fretting because it should have been done at 7 when it was a bit cooler, gave myself a verbal slap in the face.  I was working hard. It was better to get watered at 11 than not at all.  Sometimes  your best doesn't produce what you intended or what others were expecting.  That does not mean you fail, deserve to be replaced or should be mired in guilt.

Every day has room for improvement and I know that I can never expect to grow if I sit around being defensive with the world saying "I'm doing the best I can, so leave me alone!"  But the nay-sayers (imagined or otherwise) aren't helping anyone.

Here in Oklahoma, it's hot.  I mean hot.  Kinda makes you wanna give up and hide.  Instead of listening to the heat-demons, focus on your goals and the joys of the day.

Even though he was up all night, he still is a smiley boy today.  This is my joy of today:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

To Compromise or Not To Compromise

I am not an expert housekeeper, an accomplished mother or a master organizer.  I have to work at not being a 'messy' and deep in my heart would much rather run off to a forest or meadow and just think than to clean every nook and cranny of anything.

And yet...

I am what you might call a discouraged perfectionist.  There's a side of me that wants a perfect house, with perfectly made beds, perfectly planned meals and perfect time management so that I even have leisure time to play the piano or read a book.  But when I quickly realize I can't possibly have even half of that, I'd just as soon do none of it.  All or nothing.  My way or not at all.  I have all kinds of projects waiting on me to have the time or mindset to do it the way I want it to be done.  But when things get busy, those things or really anything that takes extra thought or effort, gets cast aside mostly because I can't do it all/perfectly/to my standards.

I think big projects are understandable, but today I've started to wrestle with myself because its a big problem with little jobs too.  I have a basket on my kitchen counter (a present from my sister-in-law, Rashelle, that is super cute!) that is for collecting mail and such things, but sometimes things get left around it, instead of inside it.  Since we arrived home from TN, it has been out of control and gotten worse.  All it needs is a couple of things mailed, and general sorting, but because I have felt pulled by other urgent things and my mind wasn't 'ready' to tackle it, I'd avoided this little task that was junking up entire counter, which in turn makes the kitchen never look clean and my husband to be a bit more crabby because the clutter stresses him out.

So, today, I compromised.  I didn't take the time to sort and act, instead I just shoved EVERYTHING around the basket, INTO the basket.  And guess what? The kitchen looks so nice.  My heart tried to explode a little because I knew that I wasn't fully addressing the problem, but at the same time, it made me feel good to see a clutter-free kitchen.

Moral of the story:
Sometimes its better to do a little (put a band-aid on a problem) than to neglect it fully.

Monday, July 4, 2011


As the 4th of July is halfway to its close, I've been thinking a lot about what this freedom of living in the United States means to me.   It's funny how becoming a parent makes you think more purposely about traditions and ideas that you've grown up with in a new way.  4th of July has always brought about the same images in my mind - Songkhla (Vu) Winter's birthday, the annual gospel meeting in Sulphur, OK and fireworks.  Nothing more, nothing less. Songkhla was a very dear friend growing up and I always thought it was so fun that she was Vietnamese and her birthday was on the 4th of July.  To my recollection, I never missed going to the Sulphur meeting until I got married.  And fireworks, well, pretty much go without saying.

Today, though, I'm reminded of my grandfather J.D. Elmore and the Statue of Liberty.  There is a story of him returning from World War II and watching the statue come into sight.  Being away from his family and in the midst of a war, the statue's picture of freedom was much needed safety and reassurance of being home.  The safety of home is a multi-faceted idea, but one that should be appreciated everyday, but at very least today.

The reason Americans celebrate this day is because it marked the beginning of our freedom as a country.  As I seek to grow and as Jude gets older, I want freedom to mean more than that to us.  U.S. freedom is great, but personal freedom from ugly burdens of this life is even greater.  Addictions, dysfunctional relationships, lies, debts, and the many consequences of sin do not have to be mine. That is what freedom really means to me.  Celebrating freedom doesn't even mean I can do whatever I want.  Freedom means to be free from ugly, destructive things in order to live in beauty and growth!

When a sacrifice has been made to ensure your freedom (physical or spiritual), that sacrifice is dishonored and devalued when you live a shameful or destructive life.  Freedom isn't about doing whatever you want, but about making the sacrifice that's been made worthwhile in you.

"When in the course of human events..."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Staying at home again...

There's nothing like vacations to make you happy to be at home!  Since we arrived home from Tennessee on Wednesday evening, Thursday felt like a Monday and this 3 day weekend feels very bizarre.  But it is SO good to be home.   I'm sad that we won't make it any 4th of July gospel meetings this year, but "gazelle intensity" (a Dave Ramsey phrase that means to pay off debt ASAP and don't spend on superfluous things) is a very worthy endeavor.

A few highlights of our adventures:

1. The chance to sing with/for Keith Lancaster, a room full of excellent singers AND get to record a CD was so much fun!

2. Randomly getting to spend some time with Gina Costa was some icing on that fabulous cake!  Thanks for requiring us to get out and have some fun Tuesday night!

3. I found us a hotel in TN for $65 (that's including taxes and fees) a night and it wasn't lame at all! Everything was super clean, appeared to have been updated recently, a good size breakfast and overall a relaxing atmosphere! Score for cheap!

4. Even though I was nervous about traveling with a 7 month old who has never really seen a car for more than 2 hours at a time before, Jude did amazingly well!  The Lord blessed him with a very easy going spirit for most of the trip.

And lastly, here a few pictures Randy took Thursday afternoon.

A Series of Events

Such a smiley boy

Starting to get sleepy