Are you Using your Gifts?

I went to a jazz festival this week and watched in awe, the faces of the musicians as they played. They absolutely loved what they were doing. In fact, one of the group’s leaders said “It’s really unfair for us to call this work. We have so much fun doing it and love it so much, that it’s not right that we get paid to do it.”

Wouldn’t you love to feel that way?  The good news is, you can!

You are tremendously gifted.  Did you know that?

Were you aware that there is something that only you know how to do? And there’s something that you do better than anyone else.

Yes. I’m talking to you.

Your mind is a womb of unborn ideas that could change one life or many. You have solutions that no one has thought of or dared to invent.  There are things that this world needs that only you can provide.

So what are you waiting for?

Do you think your gift is useless, because it’s not tied to a monetary value?

Do you have thoughts like: “I know I’m a good singer, but there are lots of wonderful singers in the world,” or, “I know that I’m a great hairdresser, but beauty salons are a dime a dozen,” or, “I know my baked goods are delicious, but who’d want to pay money for them?”

To those doubts I say:  How will you know if you never try it?

How will the world know how great your voice is if you never sing? How will we know how well you can do hair, if we never see your work? How will we find out your molasses cookies are the best thing ever baked if we never get to taste one?

You don’t have to start out by owning a business. You can start out by giving away freebies. People love free stuff!  It gets your name out there and establishes you as a service to others.  And every great venture requires some investment.

Your great singing voice would be a hit at nursing homes, your hairdressing skills could be showcased during a back to school hair competition, and cookies melt hearts everywhere.

And often life’s greatest pleasures come not in profiting from your gift, but in using your gift to profit others.

You possess abilities that are uniquely yours and talents no one else has.  You may not even know your gift is a gift. But guess what?

Your attention to detail is needed on a Hollywood set. Your color coordination skills are needed on a runway in Paris and your chicken is better than a national favorite that’s closed on Sundays. (Who I will continue to visit until your chicken is available).

If you find yourself thinking “I could’ve designed a prettier dress than that,” or “I could’ve created a better invention than that,” or “I could’ve finished that obstacle course before he did,” then go out and take your place on that podium!

You don’t have to make it your full-time vocation, but get in what you can fit in.  Use your gift for good and you will feel great about it. And, if it makes you money, all the better.

Starving artists may have empty pockets, but they are full of passion. Find yours, breathe life into it and watch your spirit soar.

Saying Goodbye to your Doctor

Like millions of others, I have a chronic illness. Something that requires care from a team of doctors and a colorful variety of medications.

Recently, I visited a new specialist. He asked who he should send my test results to, since my regular doctor would be retiring.

I looked at him, laughed and said. “Surely, you must be mistaken.  My doctor hasn’t told me he’s retiring. You must have him confused with someone else.”

The specialist assured me that he was not mistaken and suggested I call my doctor’s office to confirm it.

To my great surprise, he was right. The doctor who had treated my condition for nearly 20 years was calling it quits.  And though he called it retirement, I  felt like he was leaving ME.

I’d been treated by the same team of doctors for so long, that I thought it would always be that way. After all, though I’d missed an appointment or two through the years, they were always there when they were supposed to be.  I took it personally that my doctor was retiring and set up an appointment to see him and tell him just what I thought about his abandonment of his duties.  He was part of a team. He couldn’t just leave when he felt like it.  As long as I was breathing, he had a job to do!

As my last appointment approached, I thought about all the times we’d shared together…good news, bad news, births and deaths.  Test results, procedures and prescriptions. And the time I told him that I must have a kidney problem because my ankles were retaining water and he said “Nope. You’re just not eating the things I told you to and you’re getting fat. Those are cankles.”

I gasped, then realized he was totally right.  We laughed hard together and from that day forward, his nickname for me was Cankles.

During our last visit, we were both very solemn. He gave me a list of other doctors and told me which ones he’d recommend. Then he thoroughly went through my chart and asked for an update on every symptom I’d had over the years and advised me on what to do going forward.

I didn’t go off on him like I planned to.  I just told him I was sad he was leaving and handed him a card that I’d written. Inside was a photo of my family and a thank you, from all of us, for taking such good care of me.

As he stood up to leave, he asked if I’d like him to read the card first and I said “No,” holding back tears. He replied with “OK.  I understand.”

Then, with a look of sadness, he turned to leave and asked if I signed the card as “Cankles.”

I smiled to confirm that I had.

Isn’t it funny how we take important people in our lives for granted? How we don’t think about just how precious they are until they’re gone?

Sometimes it’s family and sometimes it’s someone whose name we don’t know.

Maybe it’s the person who serves your food at the diner, or the person who delivers your mail. Or perhaps it’s the girl who gives you extra latte at the coffee shop or the security guard who monitors your building.

If you have been fortunate enough to have a doctor, or other professional, that has taken such good care of you that you feel like you’re their favorite customer, then you have truly been blessed.

Show them some love during your next visit.  Let them know how much you appreciate  them. Tell them how much their service has meant to you and make their day, before they move on to a well-deserved rest.

Happy retirement, Dr. P.

Love, Cankles

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

10 Ways to Spice up Your Middle-Aged Love Life

When you’re married and middle-aged, sometimes your love life can grow a little limp.

You love each other and sometimes kiss and spoon, but unless you’re newly married, you’re often a long way from your honeymoon. The days of work, kids, chores, repeat, sap your energy, while Father Time takes a toll on your libido.

You may even find yourself sashaying through the house half-naked, trying to evoke a response from your mate, only to find that Netflix has become their new lover and your desperate plea for attention goes unnoticed.

And then what? Do you throw in the towel and grab a good book to read?

No.  Because they don’t care if you’re wearing a towel or not.

But here are some things that I’ve found to be helpful:

1. Read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Sure, it’s an oldie and you may have read it once, but read it again. Find out if you’re speaking to your mate in their love language. Maybe theirs is physical touch and you’re so busy providing acts of service to show your love, that you’re completely missing the mark. Perhaps they aren’t responding to you because you’re just not speaking their language. Read the book and break your language barrier. The growth in your intimacy will speak volumes.

2. Support their dream

Nothing says I love you like supporting the dream of the one you love.  There’s nothing like knowing that someone believes in you, has faith in you and has your back, no matter what. It provides a comfort level that allows you to divulge the innermost secrets and desires of your heart and draws you closer together. And knowing that your mate desires what you desire for yourself, makes them ever so much more desirable.

3. Give them space

Now this likely sounds counterintuitive to growing the closeness between you and your mate, but it’s not. It is very important, especially if your mate is requires quiet time to study, do their job or work on their dream. Anything that involves creativity requires some peace and quiet.  If your mate is tired of playing chauffeur to the kids, give them a respite.  Take on their load for a period of time and allow them to relax and rejuvenate. If they tell you that all they want for their birthday is for you to take the kids for the day, do it.  Better yet, don’t wait for them to ask.  Show them that you understand their need for down time. Respect their need for peace because peace and respect are sexy, but stress and fatigue are not.

4. Skip your nighttime beauty regimen

Yes. I said it.  And you can do it.  Skip your regular nighttime routine once in a while.  Your face is not going to fall off if you forget to apply your eye cream, wrinkle gel, charcoal mask and head wrap for a night.  And wear something to bed that’s better than that usual get-up you throw on.  Make it something you purchased this year. Let your mate mess up your hair for a change and kiss your face without an aftertaste. You’ll still glow the next day. But it’ll be a different kind of glow. Try it!

5. Tickle their non-traditional hot-spot

We’ve all got one, folks.  We’ve all got a hot spot that only those who know us most intimately are aware of.  And it’s there for the tickling. So if your mate seems more interested in washing the car or dishes than you, give them something they can feel. They can’t keep a straight face when you go there, so go ahead and make them look goofy. They’ll be surprised, they’ll widen their eyes and they won’t help but notice you’re in the room.

6. Talk dirty to them

Master the art of flirting with your mate.  Let them know you think they’re sexy. Whisper in their ear.  Tell them what a great time you had last night. Let them know they’ve still got it. Say things that confirm they are the captain of your ship and nobody steers quite like they do.  And develop a code if you need to, so the children don’t know what you’re talking about.  Keep them wondering why their parents talk about Mr. Hammer and Ms. Bellringer all the time. They’ll never guess that fluffernutter has more than one meaning.

7. Date night

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again.  Don’t forget to do date night!  Take some time away from your kids, at minimum, once a month. Whether you are parents or not, you have to be intentional about keeping your love life alive.  Making it last is hard and it requires effort. You must make time for just each other, to check in, check up and check on one another. Life moves crazy fast. Make sure you’re keeping up.  If you want to feel like you did when you were dating each other, then keep dating one another.

8. Buy them a ticket for something that you care nothing about

If you’re wondering why you should spend your hard-earned money on something that you care nothing about, the answer is, because it’s not for YOU! Purchasing something that you know will make your spouse happy, even if you find it ridiculous, will go miles toward touching their tickle spot. If you hate opera, but she loves it, buy a ticket for her and her mom. If he loves golf but you hate it, buy him some golf shoes. Show your mate that their happiness is a priority and they will make yours a priority in return.  Buy them a ticket, and then turn in yours for a ride on the love train. Woot Woot!

9. Get a sleep apnea machine

Many a good relationship has been ruined by snoring.  It has been the cause of sleeping in separate rooms for countless couples, throughout the years, and it’s difficult for a couple to grow in intimacy when their sleeping hours are spent far apart.  For many couples, the answer is a sleep apnea machine. These devices are like answered prayer to those who have tossed, turned and slept with a pillow over their head, to avoid the growls and snorts of the monster in bed beside them.  Newer, non-restrictive models are available and they’re not just good for your marriage, they’re good for your health.  So do a sleep assessment, get a machine and take back your honey and your health.  Your mate will thank you for it.

10. Forgive them

Is it possible that your love life is suffering because one of you is holding a grudge against the other?  Could it be that you haven’t felt sexy in a long time because your feelings were hurt by something she said, or he didn’t say? Or maybe you’re withholding affection as punishment for an offense you’ve told them you’ve forgiven.  If any of these are possible, then it’s time you loosen your grip on that grudge. Have an open discussion about what’s bothering you. Get it out and then get rid of it.  If you want the freedom to experience true intimacy then you have to give up the things that have held you bound, because you can’t be free and bound at the same time (unless that’s something you’re into). So let out the bitterness and let in the love. Forgive them.

Try one or a combination of these ten things and be intentional about improving your love life. Your engine’s not dead, you’ve simply stalled.  So rev it up, put it in drive and enjoy the ride.  You’re glowing just thinking about it.

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

The Most Powerful “F” Bomb…Forgiveness

Forgiveness.  It’s elusive. It’s complex. It’s deep.

So deep that some drown in the pursuit of it, flailing about, gasping for air, hoping to receive it. And they perish for the lack of knowledge that they already have it and it’s available to us all.

We hold onto forgiveness like collateral, withholding this precious resource from someone in a compromised position. And we grasp it ever tighter from those who are closest to us, who betray our trust and our love.

We place it in our forgiveness bank, racking up interest daily, compounding it with bitterness and loathing. And it builds and builds, gaining weight and size spreading throughout our lives, enlarging its territory.

And why?

Because the one who hurt us took something from us…our pride, our trust, our self-esteem, our money, our property, our hope or maybe even our loved one. And we need to hold onto something that we’re positive they can never take away.  If we give it up, we’ll have nothing.

So we keep the upper hand, with our full forgiveness bank, which we don’t realize is our heart. And our heart is full to capacity. Our arteries are clogged, our beat is erratic and our blood supply is deeply diminished.  And we still think we’re winning…but we’re not, because heaviness on the heart is never good for us and the weight of unforgiveness is immeasurable.

So isn’t it time to make some withdrawals from our forgiveness stash?  Why not find those we’re withholding it from and drop the “F” bomb on them. Blow up the bitterness and destroy the damage.   Take a weight off ourselves and lighten our load. Improve our health, our heart and our life.

We don’t have to allow them back in our life or be in relationship with them again. In fact, they’ve likely forgotten what they did and moved on. The favor we’ll be doing is for ourselves.  It’s a win-win. And best of all…it won’t cost us a thing.

Ask yourself today… If Forgiveness is Free, why are you saving it?

Free yourself.

 

Forgiveness is Free…Why are you Saving It is the upcoming book by April Randolph, available everywhere soon.

What I tell my African American son

My son was locked out of the house yesterday, in the middle of a snowstorm.

He called me at work to ask me to drive home and let him in. None of the neighbors we knew were home, and the neighbors across the street are brand new. So he had nowhere to go.

When I told my co-workers that I was leaving because my son was locked out, one mentioned that they used to climb in a window, or pry the door open with a credit card, when they were locked out.  And my reply was, “I can’t tell my son to do that”.

My son is African-American and he’s fourteen years old.

When we go shopping after school, I tell my son he has to leave his backpack in the car.

When he’s hungry in the grocery store and sees customers eat food they’ve yet to pay for, I tell him he can’t do the same.

When he wants to take a walk past dark with his friends, I tell him “no”.

If he bounces a ball in the sporting goods store, I make him stop.

He’s not allowed to play with guns that aren’t clearly Super Soakers.

If we’re stopped by the police because our headlight is out, I say, “Remember what I taught you.”

Because my son is African American and he’s fourteen years old.

When my son couldn’t get in the house, he walked down the street to the local drugstore, to seek refuge from the relentless snow.

I drove to the drugstore as fast as I could and when I was near, I called to let him know I’d be there soon. I suggested he stay inside until I arrived, but when I got there he was out in the snow.

When he got in the car, shivering and wet, I asked why he didn’t wait inside.

His reply was, “Mom. The people who work there kept staring at me and following me around. It was like they thought I was going to steal something. I felt like I didn’t belong there.  It was awful. And I had no money on me to prove I wasn’t a thief.”

Because my son is African American and he’s fourteen years old, he can’t just be a teenager shopping for acne cream. He has to make a purchase to prove he’s not a thief.

Those who know me will tell you that I’m not one to claim every scuffle with the police is police brutality. And I’m not one who sees racism in every unique article of designer clothing or every news anchor’s slip of the tongue.

But I do remember moving to a nice neighborhood as a child, and being awaken during the night by a cross burning in the front yard and the “N” word carved into the fresh concrete sidewalk that led to our front door.  And I remember the nails in our tires, every morning when mom tried to leave for work.

I remember the neighbors staring at us, like we didn’t belong. And I remember, for our safety, mom told us things that other moms didn’t have to tell their children.

Yes. That was over forty years ago. That was then and this is now.  But just because you’re uncomfortable talking about it, doesn’t mean it no longer exists.

Accept it. Talk about it. Change it. And don’t get caught outside in a snowstorm.

 

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

 

Calling All Hustlers

Attention Hustlers:

I’m not talking to those who are hustling illegal products or nefarious services. I’m talking to the ones who are busting their behinds, every day, to make their dream a reality.

I’m talking to the people who rise early and rest late, writing that last word, sewing that last stitch, sharpening that last design or putting the last period on that proposal.

The ones who are stepping out of their comfort zone and into the unknown.  Who are striving to leave their 9 to 5 behind to one day be their own boss.  The ones who do a little something each day, to inch ever closer to their destiny.

I’m talking to you.

I want you to know that I appreciate your hustle, because I am a hustler too.

I know what it’s like to work on your job, then come home to work on your journey. And I know the journey is exhausting. And for those who have quit their job to work on their journey, I know the journey can be terrifying and the hustle is real.

I know, because of it, you don’t have time to sit down and watch This is Us, Chicago Hope or Housewives of Wherever, because the hustle requires your attention and your determination won’t let you.

And I know, if you’re a writer, that you’re surrounded by people who have no idea that being an author is way more than writing books, because books are nothing unless you do research, have a social media presence, an author platform, find an agent, attend conferences, work with editors and designers, manage a website, a newsletter, a blog, attend book signings and speaking engagements, make ads, garner media attention, work with Amazon and other retailers and the list goes on and on. And none of these tasks include actually writing the book!

And all of this is after you’ve made dinner, done the laundry, played chauffeur and helped with homework.

So Hustlers, I’ve asked for your attention today, simply to say… I salute you.

I honor you and your hustle and I know you’re going to make it.  So don’t give up!

Keep moving. Keep grinding and keep your head high.

Because if you can do all of this, you can do anything.

And one day soon, you’re going to hustle all the way to the bank.

 

Tell me how you honor your hustle. Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

A Kinder World at Walmart

I was in line at a busy Walmart the other day with a cart full of grocery items. The cashier, a lady who appeared to be in her late sixties, didn’t smile or say hello as I unloaded my cart. I was buying so many items that my purchases filled the counter from end to end. As she looked at my order, the cashier turned off her light and snapped to the woman in line behind me “I’m closed!”

As I turned to look at the woman behind me, I noticed that, not only had she pushed a cart full of items to the counter, but she was also pushing a large wheelchair holding a developmentally disabled teen-aged girl who was curled up in a fetal position.

When the cashier turned off her light, the woman softly said “Oh no. I have to go find another aisle.” She didn’t make a fuss or tell the cashier that she was in line before her light went off, she simply dropped her head and proceeded to try to turn around her heavy cart and the wheelchair. Having just searched for an aisle myself, I knew that all of the aisles were full of customers and this woman would now have to push her passenger to another full aisle, then return to ours to get her cart of groceries and push that, too.  And my heart sank.

I wanted to ask the cashier if the woman could go ahead of me, but she was halfway through my order and my heart sank further still.   As I stood there throwing darts at the cashier with my eyes, I wondered how such a sweet looking lady could be so cruel.  I contemplated finding a manager to complain and I had some very not-so-nice thoughts about her in my head.

I continued to look back and forth between the lady who was struggling to move both the cart and the wheelchair and the cashier who looked like she could care less, and I began to pray for this world to become a kinder place. And the more I prayed, the less animosity I felt toward that cashier.  I began to think that perhaps she cares for a sick person herself, at home… someone she was anxious to get home to. Or perhaps she was sick herself and just desperately needed to leave. I began to stop judging her and started to pray for whatever her situation was.

As she murmured my total and I began to pay, the cashier reached over and turned her light back on! I stared at her in disbelief, wondering if I was on an episode of What Would You Do.  Surely, if she took another customer after turning away that woman, I was going to start looking for a manager.

Then the cashier leaned over her counter and yelled to the customer she had turned away, “Come on back. I’ll take you.” The customer had so much to push, between the cart and the wheelchair, that she hadn’t gotten far and turned around.

Though I don’t know what made that cashier change her mind, I was able to leave Walmart with a lifted spirit and a renewed hope in the kindness of our world. And I believe that if we all  pray for the same, that more lights will turn on in dark places.

Let’s get together sometime!

These four words…we utter them often, don’t we?

We see each other in the grocery store, hug, smile, chat for a while then walk away with a “Let’s get together sometime.”

We sit together at ballgames and concerts, cheering our kids on to victory and enjoying each other’s company. And when the event ends we wave and say “This was great. Let’s get together sometime.”

We worship together in the sanctuary, shake hands and chat after service, then wish each other a blessed week and shuffle off with a “we really ought to get together sometime.”

And to show our commitment, we even exchange numbers with a casual, well-intended “I’ll call you this week, so we can get together.”

These occasions occur frequently to most of us… but how often do we actually receive or make that call?

About a month ago, my husband and I were chatting with two couples after church that we chat with often before going home. When it was time to leave, we said the usual “Let’s get together sometime,” and headed for the door.

But that Sunday, something magical happened. One of the other husbands said “No! We’re not leaving here until we make a plan to get together, right here, right now!”

He said it with such intensity and authority that we were jolted into submission. It was fantastic! We made arrangements, right then and there, to have brunch two weeks later. When that day came, we had a wonderful time and we’re going to be fast friends. And did I mention she’s Anita Baker’s number two fan?

So, my readers and friends, I encourage you to follow through with the good intentions you’re putting off today and to do it right now. Don’t shy away from these opportunities. Many good things come from networking. Enlarge yours. Make those plans.

And your other good intentions…do those too! There’s no time like the present to begin that exercise program. Start that business. Write that book. Apologize to that loved one. Reach out to that old friend. Apply for that new job!

What are you waiting for? Tomorrow is not promised. If you meant it when you said you’d get together, make it happen. Someone out there needs someone just like you in their life. That friendship or thing you’ve been meaning to try out could be just the blessing you’ve been waiting for.

So get together!

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

 

 

 

 

 

Long Live Legendary Singers

What do you do when legendary singers come to your town?  Do you purchase tickets and start searching for that perfect concert outfit or do you google them to see what they currently look like and read their recent reviews?

Do you go to the show with your ears and heart open or do you stay home because somebody said, “They sure don’t sound like they used to!”

If you’re the latter, I’d like to ask a few things…

When you go to an event, do you search your closet for an outfit that looked good on you twenty years ago?

Do your outfits from twenty years ago still fit you?

When you do that dance you did in the 90’s, do you think you look the same doing it now?

Are the things that jiggle now the same things that jiggled then?

Is your hair color naturally the same?

Do you have the same energy you had at age 20?

How about your lung capacity?

If you answered “NO” to any of the above, do you expect people to treat you differently because of it?  Do you feel any less capable or gifted in your art? Have you lost all of your passion?

If not, then you should go out and support the legends that sang the songs you love…especially the ones you still know all the words to. They’re likely just as passionate about their work, as ever.

Treat your mature self to a concert of mature sound, remembering every moment that your legends aren’t the only ones that have aged. Expect a great time and you’ll find one, because good music, like good love, only gets better with time.

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

 

On Turning 50

The month of April is here and I’ll soon be 50!

Yes, April was born in April.  What can I say…my mom was a little tired when I was born and there was a calendar in the delivery room, so….

I’m often asked if I’m excited to turn 50 and my reply is always “Yes!”  50 is a whole new chapter in life, and I can’t wait to turn the first page.

I recently read a list of things that every successful woman should do before she’s 50 and I’ve accomplished only some of the list. But, as 50 fast approaches, I don’t feel compelled to rush out and do the rest.   I believe that each woman’s journey is unique and so should be her pathway.  So, I’m skipping along on my uncharted road, knowing that there will be potholes and breakdowns, but I’ve got the number to AAA and some Fix a Flat, so it will be OK.

My successes aren’t measured by the big things.  I count every little success in life. And my 50-year-old advice to you would be to count every little success, too.

Every day you survive as a wife, husband, mother or father, is a huge success. Every time you make someone smile, you’re a success. Every time you bring someone into the knowledge of Christ is a success. Each time you give, you’re a success.  Every day you show up for work, when you don’t want to, you’re a success.  Every time you take the high road when you could’ve gone off on someone, you’re a success.  Every moment you beat sickness or disease, you’re a great success.

Every day you live is a paragraph in one huge success story.  So write until you’re out of lead and use your eraser, when needed. Re-writes and edits are acceptable.

Am I excited to turn 50?  You bet I am!  I’m excited just because I’m here and I intend to make every moment count.

So, wrinkles and gray hair, bring it on!  I’m ready to show 50 who’s boss!

Who’s with me?

 

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

Until you run out of pages, there’s still room to write an epic ending-Kevin Ngo