For the Love of an Aunt or an Uncle

On Thanksgiving, my niece had a seizure and became non-responsive.  She is a healthy young lady who had never had a seizure before.  She was rushed to the hospital and the family followed, desperate to see if she’d respond to emergency efforts and, if so, what her brain functionality would be.  Thankfully, she was revived, spent time in the ER and ICU, and is now home.

Those moments of not knowing her condition were horrible. My heart ached with the thought of what would happen if she didn’t wake up. She’s my sister’s child and though she’s all grown up, she’s still my little niece and I’m her “Auntie”.

It made me think about how special the relationship is between aunts and uncles and their nieces and nephews.  I know many doting aunts and uncles that love their siblings kids like their own.  They’re connected by an unbreakable bond that transcends generations and reaches down to their nieces kids and their nieces kids’ kids or their nephew’s children and their offspring.

They wouldn’t think of missing a holiday or birthday gift, graduation or recital and they keep many a secret from their siblings, on their nieces and nephews behalf.  They know who their nieces’ crush is and are willing to play defense attorney when their nephew dents the car (or vice-versa). And if the unfortunate need should arise, most aunts and uncles would be the first to step in to raise their sibling’s children.

Aunts and uncles aren’t included in the bereavement policy list of “immediate family members” at most companies, but they should be.  The legacy of love that aunts and uncles leave should be highly respected and time off should be granted for mourning their loss and for comforting parents who have then lost a sibling. I sure hope more companies see that some day.

Keep up the good love, aunties and uncles! Your family is blessed to have you!

 

Follow me or comment on lovingmiddleagedlife.com

 

 

 

Conquering the enemy: Fear

A few years ago I wrote an article that was published in the Democrat and Chronicle, in which I referenced the movie, We Bought A Zoo.  It’s a great family film starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson.

There’s an underlying theme in the movie that shows what happens when a person sets aside their biggest fears for “an ounce of insane courage.”  Have you ever thought of what could happen if you did that? Can you imagine what the world would be like if you just said “not today” to your fears, pulled that little piece of courage out of your back pocket and waved it around in the atmosphere?

With just one ounce of insane courage, you could ask out that cute guy from the café and he could say yes. With that same ounce you could apply for the job that you’re scared you’re not qualified for, and actually get it.  That courage could even motivate you to apologize to a loved one, or perhaps use the “L” word again, after a loss.

Or maybe your ounce could prompt you to go back to school or step into a calling you know you’re meant for, but have been afraid to try.  Or it could be the encouragement to say goodbye to a bad relationship.

And perhaps that courage is all you need to leave your day job and pursue your dream of owning your own business, or the catalyst for applying for your very first mortgage.

Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.  It weighs down our potential and bears a heavy load on our possibilities. It limits your life, stifles your stamina and cripples your creativity. Don’t be obese with fear.  Lighten your load! Show it your courage and free yourself from it, one ounce and one victory at a time.

Remember: (Fear=False Evidence Appearing Real) If you haven’t tried it, where’s the proof you won’t succeed at it?

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

 

Interview With an Old Person

When was the last time you sat down with an elderly person and asked them to tell you their story?

Two things happened this week that made me realize that I need to do this. And perhaps you should do this, as well.

During a trip to the library, I sat next to two gentleman who were deep in discussion about war. One of the men was a college student and future historian, working on his thesis. He was interviewing an 85 year-old Korean War veteran.  At the end of the interview, the veteran said “Is that it?  Is that all the questions you have for me?” It was obvious he had far more to say and, to his great relief, the young man answered “Is there more you’d like to tell?”

The veteran continued to talk, taking out pictures from the war to show the young man. He even showed videos of the war on a laptop, including videos in which other people had interviewed him. His voice was filled with passion, his stories, astonishing.

I also attended a Grandparents Day celebration, where grandchildren, young and old, told their grandparents how much they meant to them. Each grandmother was read a poem or a letter and presented with a token of appreciation from her grandchildren, and each one beamed. A woman in her 30’s told her grandmother how especially important she was, because her grandmother had raised her as her own child, never once letting her know that she was her grandmother and not her mother.  With this revelation, there was not a dry eye in the building.

These events made me think about two very important things: Our seniors need to hear that they’re appreciated and they desire to be asked about their history.

They yearn for validation that their lives are meaningful and that someone cares about their contributions to the world.  They want to know that their memories are important and by sharing them, their legacy will live on, long after they do. They want to leave footprints in the earth.  I believe they deserve this honor and it’s our duty to make sure it happens.

My husband and I both lost our grandparents in 2005.  In one foul swoop, they were gone, and we’ve lost some parents, too. If you still have yours, ask them to tell you their history.  What were their dreams for their lives? Who was their first love?  And be prepared for the answers…their first love may not have been your dad.

If you don’t have seniors in your family, ask one from the community, work, a neighbor or someone from church. Pastors weren’t always pastors, nuns weren’t always nuns and the elderly weren’t always elderly. They want to be asked.  They desire and deserve your interest. You’ll gain knowledge, insight and a lot of laughs. You’ll learn something and they’ll feel appreciated and that’s a win-win!

Make it a priority.  Make time for it.  Ask them, it’ll make their day!

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

Pictured above is a great book I bought for my daughter to interview my mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taming the Griper in your life

The griper.  We’ve all known one.

Some of us work with them, some of us live with them and some of us sleep with them.

The griper is that person who is just never satisfied.  They’re always unhappy about something or someone.  They’re that person who you can always count on to bring the party down.

You could give the griper everything they say their heart desires, but there’s still going to be that one little thing that isn’t quite right.  And whether legitimate or not, they plan to make sure you’re aware of it.  And they’ll likely preface it with a statement that deflects attention from the fact that they’re griping like…

“I’m not complaining, but…”
“I’m not one to gossip but…”

“I know it’s wrong to say, but…”

“Wouldn’t it be perfect if she’d just….”

 

These are key indicators that you’re about to hear the gripe of the day, nicely disguised as news you can use. And it’s easy to get swept up in the drama, especially when the griper is someone you can’t avoid.

So, what can you do about the griper in your life?  How do you get them to understand that you’re not interested in being part of Group Griper?

If it won’t negatively affect your paycheck, a good friendship or your marriage, you could just tell them directly. You can be bold about it and let them know where you stand.  Tell them what your boundaries are. Do a “drop the mic,” sort of thing.

But if the griper is a coworker, boss, relative or good friend, it’s a lot more complicated and requires more subtlety. And your spouse would likely notice if you unfriend them.

Some things you could try, are:

Refocus your conversations on something positive about the day, the company or how much they’ve accomplished since you met them, keeping in mind that you may need to update this every few hours because a true griper is rarely satisfied with just one gripe per day.

Share positive affirmations with them in person, through texts and your posts on social media.  And when you sense their day is turning in a funky direction, send them some more, but don’t bog down their messenger, tag them and 50 others, or give them another reason to gripe.

Decorate your home or office with art that speaks life.  This will remind the gripers that they’re entering a space that values peace. (The picture above is one of my favorite lamps). If you don’t have an office or cubicle, write it on your lunch bag, hang it from your rear view mirror, put a bumper sticker on your dashboard, make it a part of your digital signature, buy a necklace with a positive inscription or, if possible, a t-shirt.

It’s easy to get swept up in negativity and gripers know that. They don’t like to pity party alone, so they’ll try to get you to bring a dish. You must be prepared. Be intentional about being positive.

And, if this all sounds foreign to you because you’ve never encountered a griper, congratulations, my friend! My hope for you is simple… I hope YOU aren’t the griper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you the Best Supporting Actor?

We’re all stars in God’s great galaxy. Sometimes we twinkle, sometimes we shine and sometimes we just hang out in the background, lighting the way for those in the limelight. I call it being the best supporting actor, and it’s quite an impressive role.

You might be the assistant that created the presentation your boss is about to present to rave reviews. Or you could be the person that watches the appreciation shown to your spouse for the great steak they grilled, that YOU bought, seasoned, marinated and made all of the side dishes for.

Or maybe you’re the songwriter, watching throngs of fans swarm the performer, or the team that did all of the work that your boss is being promoted for. Or the coach who made up that great play.  Or perhaps you’re that mom or dad, playing chauffeur, cook, cleaner and calendar keeper to make everyday miracles happen for your family.

And, if you’re like me, you’re a ghostwriter…an ultimate supporting actor role. You’ve authored or completely re-written works for others, that you will never receive credit for.  And all the while you know that, no matter how great your piece is, no one would ever know that you wrote it.

Supporting actors of the world, I salute you!  If no one has told you today that your work is amazing, consider yourself told. Only you can bless others in the way that you do and that makes you very important.  You’ve grasped the realization that your gifts were created to benefit others and that makes you a life-changer.  You adhere to the belief that the strongest structures are built with the strongest supports.

Supporting actors, the world needs your light and you are a star in God’s eye. Be the best supporting actor you can be. Keep doing what you do to make life better for others and life will get better for you. (Eph 6:8)

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

 

 

 

 

Are you overdue for Date Night?

So, you’ve read my posts about the importance of girl time and I hope you’ve experienced it for yourself. If yours was less exciting than the hit movie, “Girls Trip,” don’t stress about it. That’s hard to beat! Do girl time your way.

But equally, if not more important than girl time, is the ever-elusive, often overlooked, Date Night.

That’s right, Date Night.  When’s the last time you had one?  If it was more than a month ago, you might want to reschedule that business dinner or call that babysitter.

Life is busy…I get that.  We work, we have businesses to run, we take care of others, we have events to attend, dinner to cook, laundry to do, houses to clean and the list goes on and on. And if we have kids the list can be even more overwhelming.

We get so preoccupied with the busyness of being busy, that we often neglect the business of getting busy. We give the passing cheek-smooch to our significant other and rush off to complete the tasks of the day.  But guess what?  The tasks of today will be the same or a different task tomorrow, but there will still be tasks.

And if you think your kids will miss you so much that you couldn’t possibly leave them for an evening, guess again.  Your kids are likely as much in need of a break from you as you are from them.  And your stress level is stressing THEM out.

Date night gives you the chance to re-acquaint yourself with your significant other…a chance to hear and more importantly, listen to how you’re each doing and feeling.  It replaces the noise of your chaotic day with harmony and a sense of “we’re in this thing together,” and who doesn’t want to feel that their beloved has their back?

Here are some signs that you might need a Date Night:

Job has you totally stressed out…Date Night.

Spouse seems totally distracted….Date Night

Kids getting on your last nerve…Date Night.

Spouse looking cute in those jeans…Date Night.

Admiring that couple that’s been married for 40 years…Date Night.

If you seldom have Date Night, do it this month. Finish this post and get out your calendar. If you haven’t done it in a while, do it this week. And do it spontaneously sometime.

Those tasks aren’t going anywhere.  The kids will be fine. Make date night your priority, tonight.

 

Are you overdue for Date Night?

So, you’ve read my posts about the importance of girl time and I hope you’ve experienced it for yourself. If yours was less exciting than the hit movie, “Girls Trip,” don’t stress about it. That’s hard to beat! Do girl time your way.

But equally, if not more important than girl time, is the ever-elusive, often overlooked, Date Night.

That’s right, Date Night.  When’s the last time you had one?  If it was more than a month ago, you might want to reschedule that business dinner or call that babysitter.

Life is busy…I get that.  We work, we have businesses to run, we take care of others, we have events to attend, dinner to cook, laundry to do, houses to clean and the list goes on and on. And if we have kids the list can be even more overwhelming.

We get so preoccupied with the busyness of being busy, that we often neglect the business of getting busy. We give the passing cheek-smooch to our significant other and rush off to complete the tasks of the day.  But guess what?  The tasks of today will be the same or a different task tomorrow, but there will still be tasks.

And if you think your kids will miss you so much that you couldn’t possibly leave them for an evening, guess again.  Your kids are likely as much in need of a break from you as you are from them.  And your stress level is stressing THEM out.

Date night gives you the chance to re-acquaint yourself with your significant other…a chance to hear and more importantly, listen to how you’re each doing and feeling.  It replaces the noise of your chaotic day with harmony and a sense of “we’re in this thing together,” and who doesn’t want to feel that their beloved has their back?

Here are some signs that you might need a Date Night:

Job has you totally stressed out…Date Night.

Spouse seems totally distracted….Date Night

Kids getting on your last nerve…Date Night.

Spouse looking cute in those jeans…Date Night.

Admiring that couple that’s been married for 40 years…Date Night.

If you seldom have Date Night, do it this month. Finish this post and get out your calendar. If you haven’t done it in a while, do it this week. And do it spontaneously sometime.

Those tasks aren’t going anywhere.  The kids will be fine. Make date night your priority, tonight.

 

Uh oh…Bad news is coming

I consider myself a “glass is half full” kind of person. I’m pretty optimistic about life.

I’m also fairly discerning, listening carefully to determine what a speaker is about to say, preparing myself for what’s next, always hoping for something positive.

I think many people are like this, but for those readers that could use a little assistance in this department, here are some clues you’re about to get bad news…

In the office:

One statement that should make your arm hairs stand up is “It’s been brought to my attention that…”

I have worked in the corporate world for decades, including corporate communications, and I have never seen this statement followed by good news, ever! Good things stand out, bad things get brought to the boss’ attention. A close second to this statement is anything starting with “Until further notice…”

Also pay close attention when your boss talks about “opportunities” for you.  This word is often used as subterfuge for “We have more work we’d like you to do, at your current pay, with no extra assistance.” If you choose to buy into it, buyer beware.

And when asked if you have the “bandwidth” to take on something, know that there’s no way to answer except, “yes,”  because a decision has already been made that you’re going to be given more work.  It may sound like you have a choice, but you really don’t, and saying that you don’t have the bandwidth could be viewed as not having the energy or mental capacity to handle additional responsibilities or, worse yet, insubordination.

At home:

“Honey, we need to talk.” This one should make you stop in your tracks.  Something is up and it’s likely not good. Best to get it over with now.  Putting if off will only add fuel to the fire. This statement is right up there with “We need to have a family meeting” and “I think you should sit down”.

Another doozy is “The doctor would like to see you,” and the oh-so obvious “I have good news and bad news”.

And when you hear “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” there’s a good chance it’s going to hurt you more, so hold onto something strong, quick.

And last but certainly not least, be on the lookout for the dreaded “but”. In fact, at home or at work, most phrases that start positively then insert the word “but” in the middle, are likely not moving in your favor.  Take for example “I’d like to offer you the position, but,” or “I thought we’d be together forever, but”.  A well-placed “but” can be a real downer.

So, there you have it… a few clues to bad news. They’re more subtle than “We regret to inform you,” but they’re out there. So stay positive, keep your eyes open and your head up.  Joy comes in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Wife, Happy Life

This one is especially for my male readers.

You’ve all heard the expression…Happy Wife, Happy Life.  Sounds expensive and elusive right? But what does it mean to a woman?

Does it mean that you have to agree with everything your lady says?  Does it mean that you can never win an argument?  Does it mean that you have to give up everything you enjoy to satisfy her wants and needs? Or perhaps it means that every cent you earn should be spent on her every desire.

Whatever it means, it sounds like it costs an arm and a leg. But it doesn’t have to. Here are some inexpensive ways to achieve Happy Wife, Happy Life.

  • Men don’t need to agree with everything a woman says…but they should listen. Offering an opinion on the subject lends evidence to active listening and makes a woman feel that what interests her, interests him.
  • There’s no need to give up everything you enjoy. Invite her along, if possible, and let her see if it’s something she might enjoy, too. Or, if it’s time with your buddies you require, be sure to encourage her to spend time with her friends doing something they enjoy. But, if your hobby is disrespectful to her, it’s a good idea to find another hobby.
  • Most women don’t expect you to spend all of your earnings on them. And if they do, they might not be the right woman for you, or for anyone.  What most women desire is for a man to be a provider, and providing can take many forms. Men who aren’t the financial provider of the household, but are in school, unexpectedly unemployed or tackling the role of Mr. Mom are still providers. And most women will tell you,  in households where one or both partners work, there’s nothing more attractive than a man that comes home and helps with the household chores.  Helping with chores is right up there with drying her tears and making her feel protected.  You can’t go wrong with these, guys.
  • Support her dreams.  Give her uninterrupted time to work on her business plan. Use your gifts to help her…paint a room for her office, taste the recipes for her cookbook, help her build her website or encourage her to take a class. There are tons of ways to support her in achieving her goals and you are just the man for the job!

All of these things can be done with a simple investment of your time, attention and affection, gentlemen. So what are you waiting for?  Why not help fold that laundry?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad customer service

Customer Service. It’s something we all deserve and respect. After all, we pay for it.

When we have a problem with our electric or gas, we call the utility provider, that we pay every month, and we expect them to fix it.

Cell phone problem? We call or visit Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or the Apple Store, because we pay them every month and expect them to fix it.  (And they always try to upsell you with a new phone, but that’s beside the point).

And when we eat out, we hope for a pleasant dining experience and expect courteous service because, on top of the food prices, we leave a good tip.

But what should we do when the customer service is bad, or there’s none at all?  What are our options?

We can ask to see a manager, of course, but sometimes the manager is not empathetic to our problem.  And sometimes the manager IS the problem.

We can speak directly to the person that is providing poor service and let them know that they are not providing the level of service that is expected or we can leave without tipping.

We can also write a letter to the establishment, or a review on their website, hoping that someone in charge will read it and counsel the employee on their behavior.

Or, we can just leave it alone.

This week I’ve encountered poor customer service at a party supply store, a restaurant and a bakery and, in an attempt to show compassion, did not complain to management or write a bad review.  I  decided to go with the belief that these folks may have had a bad day or a busy one.  Or perhaps they were going through a personal crisis that no one could know like a heartbreak or a bad medical diagnosis.

But I must admit, I’ve struggled with that decision because it may just be that they’re constantly rude and need correction. And how will they get it if no one complains about their service? How will they get better?

Then the other side of me says “But what if your complaint is their third strike and they’re fired?  You would be affecting their livelihood.  What if they have a family to support?”

So, the question of the day is…Do the individuals who provide bad customer service deserve a second chance as much as we deserve good customer service?

This week I’m going with “yes,” because we all deserve second chances and, unlike the cost we pay for good service, forgiveness is free.

That’s not to say I tolerate bad customer service. I really dislike it. In fact, outright rudeness and downright dirty conditions have prompted me to write some strong reviews and resulted in unsolicited free food, gift cards and hotel rooms from the companies that provided the bad service. But I’d like to know what you think readers…Forgive always and never complain, forgive based on the offense or complain always?

What do you do?

Follow me on lovingmiddleagedlife.com