Monday, December 31, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Favorite Funny Quotes

  1. Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? – George Carlin
  2. The meek will inherit the earth – if that’s okay with everyone else. – Author Unknown
  3. The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you. ~ Rita Mae Brown
  4. Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.  ~ Faith Whittlesey
  5. The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off due to budget constraints – Elaine Ambros (humor expert)
  6. There are two different kinds of people in this world: those who finish what they start, and ... – Brad Ramsey
  7. If you're going to make every game a matter of life or death, you're going to have a lot of problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot. -- Dean Smith
  8. If you think something small can't make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room. - Unknown
  9. Pro and con are opposites, that fact is clearly seen. If progress means to move forward, then what does congress mean?" - Nipsey Russell
  10. If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers. - Doug Larson
  11. I only know how to do things 3 ways: the WRONG way. the RIGHT way. and MY way. Which is really the WRONG way, only faster! ~ Unknown

Monday, December 24, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Favorite Quotes

  1. Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong. ~ Ella Fitzgerald
  2. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~ Aristotle
  3. “Those that don't got it, can't show it. Those that got it, can't hide it.” – Zora Neale Huston
  4. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream – Benjamin Mayes
  5. The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence. ~ Confucius
  6. Nothing ever comes to one that is worth having, except as a result of hard work. ~ Booker T. Washington
  7. Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter, find simplicity; From discord, find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein
  8. Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. ~ Albert Schweitzer
  9. People will not warm to you words if you don’t appeal to their hearts – Karin Friedman
  10. "If you don't have time to do it right, When are you going to have time to do it again?" ~ (Author is listed as Unknown . I attribute it to Bettye A. Beach because she said it to me quite often!)

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Candle in the Wind

As we approach the New Year, people begin thinking about a new start - goals, resolutions and just things we'd like to do differently. One of the keys to success is motivation. With every goal, there will be times when you falter or fall, without motivation, you won't get back up. With it, you can keep moving and eventually reach your goal.

True motivation is always internal. It comes from within you. It doesn't come from family, friends, church or self-help books. External motivation is always temporary and fleeting.

Let's say you light a candle in your front yard. It's a bright sunny day. Winds are light to non-existent and there isn't a cloud in the sky. Your candle is burning strong and bright. As the day goes on, it starts to get cloudy and the winds pick up. Now, your candle is flickering. Soon it starts to rain. At this point, even a light drizzle is enough to extinguish the flame.

What if you had lit the candle, not in the front yard, but inside of the house? Now, the winds can pick up and it could rain cats and dogs but your flame would still be burning brightly. Are there things in the house that could put out the candle? Yes. But it won't be as easy to do.

Your motivation operates the same way. When I conduct goal-setting workshops, I have people come up with an initial  list of possible goals. Next, I have them go through that list and cross out any should goals. Should goals are goals that are on your list solely because you think they should be and not because you want them to be.

Should goals are like that candle in the yard. You might be motivated for a minute but these aren't truly your goals because someone else wants them for you more than you want them for yourself.

To find out if you are truly internally motivated, ask yourself one question: "Why?"

Why do you want to succeed with this goal? Your answers should begin with "I need ..." or "I want ...". They should not start with "I should ... ", "I might ...", or "Someone wants me to ...".

A strong reason why is critical to lighting the fire within - the fire that will sustain you when times get hard. It's a fire that will light the way to goal success!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12 Days Til Christmas ... Take a Break!

We are less than two weeks away from Christmas Day. There are gifts to buy and wrap, travel plans to make, Christmas parties to attend, food to prepare and the list just gets longer as you think about it! LOL!

In the midst of the holiday hub-bub, take a couple of hours during the week for yourself. You need the down time. Plus, taking some time out for yourself will make you more effective when you jump back in.
  1. Go to a movie
  2. Have dinner at a favorite restaurant
  3. Take a bath and curl up with a good book
  4. Pop some popcorn and watch your favorite holiday movie on TV
  5. Have a girl's night
  6. Have a date night
  7. Take a nap
  8. Get a massage
  9. Take a drive in the country
  10. Go to the library
You don't have to spend a lot of time but it is important to take some time to rest and recharge.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Helping Hand for the Holidays

According to the American Research Group, the average American plans on spending $854 on Christmas gifts this year. The good news is that spending is up significantly from last year – good news for the economy. It won’t be so great for the average American next month when those Christmas credit card bills start rolling in.

While we want to definitely focus on our families and friends this season, let’s not forget about those who won’t have as wonderful a holiday experience. People, who are homeless, financially challenged, hungry or just lonely during the holiday season. When we give to these people, we are also giving a gift to ourselves.

What can you do? Here are seven things.
  1. Call or visit any relatives or friends who live alone, in nursing homes or who may be isolated or away from loved ones.
  2. Take the kids to the toy store and pick out some inexpensive toys and gifts. Take your kids with you to a homeless shelter or hospital and have them pass out their gifts if possible.
  3. Go through your kitchen and put together a box of canned goods and unopened boxes for a donation to feed the homeless or hungry.
  4. Go through Wal-Mart and put together packages of toiletry samples (deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste …) and donate to a men’s or women’s shelter.
  5. Make cupcakes or brownies and distribute them at a local nursing home or assisted living facility. If you can sing or play an instrument, make a little show!
  6. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or to cook or feed the hungry.
  7. Adopt a shelter pet.
Writing a check is nice but doing something gives you the added benefit of seeing the people who are benefitting from your help.
Whatever you decide to do, contact the organization you want to work with or donate to and find out what kind of donations they’d like and the best way to help them. You wouldn’t want to make cupcakes and then find out that no one can eat them!
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Who's In Control?

Sometimes I wonder who exactly “they” are. Maybe you do to. You know them. “They” are the shadowy figures lurking in the background. Apparently, “they” have a lot of power. I have been told that “they” control everything from national economies and political races down to what you learn (or don’t learn) in school.

Those who believe that “they” (whoever they are) control everything must also admit to having very little control over their own lives. They have an external Locus of Control.

Locus of Control is a psychological term that looks at how much control a person thinks they have over their own lives. People with an internal Locus of Control feel in control of their own destinies. People with a largely external Locus of Control feel outside forces and others control their fate.

Two co-workers applied for a promotion and neither one got the position. The person with the internal Locus of Control might think about what they could have done differently during the interview or what courses they need to take to be prepared the next time the position becomes available. The person, with the external Locus of Control will look outside of themselves for the answer. He might blame gender or race or just good old office politics for being passed over.

It is safe to say that most people who have experienced professional success have highly internal Loci of Control. They believe that, by and large, they are the ones who determine their fates. These are the people who don’t wait for favorable conditions or for things to change; they make things happen. These are the people who invest in bettering themselves and who will see the reward in hard work.
Those with a primarily external Locus of Control often feel helpless and at the mercy of others and events. They wait. They wonder. They watch as life passes by.

The Serenity Prayer (made popular by Alcoholics Anonymous) is a great start for developing a more internal Locus of Control. It says:

God give me the courage to change the things I can;
The serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

A strong internal Locus of Control doesn’t mean you attempt to change everything. Like the prayer says, it means being accountable and in control of the things you can change but accepting of the things you can’t. Those with an external Locus feel that just about everything falls within the realm of what they can’t change.
ACTION: Today, take a look at your own situation. Are there things that are under your control? If so, what can you do to change things for the better? What is out of your control? What can you accept and stop fighting against?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Get It Together Girl!: Goal-Setting edition

This brief four-week series will introduce the workbooks in the Get It Together Girl series.

I love setting goals! It's one of the things I'm passionate about. Not only do I set goals annually, but I revisit them and set mini-goals every once. Most of the time, I meet them but even when I don't, I know what I need to do to tweak my plan. I'm so passionate about goal-setting that a few years back, I convinced my manager to let me conduct an optional goal-setting workshop for employees. It was from that workshop that Get It Together Girl!: Getting to Goal - Your Dreams, Your Desires, Your Way was born.

In this 90-minute workshop, we looked at the immediate past (no more than two years) to see what worked, what didn't and, most importantly, why. Then we shoot a year forward to see what we'd like our lives to look like. What is different? What has changed?

It's from that forward look that we start to look at what goals we'd need to create that picture. We also look   at the goals to determine which ones we truly want for ourselves versus the ones others want for us and the ones we thing we should have. Once we get rid of the should goals, we focus on no more than three goals and we develop the plan for achieving them.

As with It's About Time, I created an appendix with practical information - including a series of Goal Assistants for the most popular goals (weight loss, new job, continuing education, saving money, stopping smoking and starting a relationship). With Goal Assistance, I list several tips that will help you succeed as well as several resources to help you along your journey.

Challenge: We're already in December so New Year's is around the way. Instead of focusing on resolutions, think ahead to this time next year. By December 2013, what do you see for yourself and what will it take for you to get there? This is the beginning of your goal-setting journey!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Honest Abe Says ...

One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. It simply states, "Whatever you are, be a good one." I think a lot of us forget about being good now, right where we are. We want to be a good one once we get the dream job, land the right partner or move into the right neighborhood ... but it doesn't really work like that.

First of all, if you aren't doing your best where you are, how can you expect to move to the next step? The bare minimum is rarely rewarded. Want a promotion? Do more than enough to get by. Want a better house or car? Treat the one you have with care.

People are watching you. They are watching more than listening. If someone talks about fidelity and loyalty but constantly cheats in their relationships, which will you believe, their words or their actions? It's your actions that matter, so make them count.

Also your actions become your habits. This idea that you'll do better when you have more doesn't often play out. A strong work ethic is born of a series of habits and, of course, habits aren't established overnight.  If you don't believe in taking care of your rental property then there is a good chance that you wont' take care of your property when you become a homeowner. Those habits are ingrained. They can be changed, but it takes work, a lot of work.

From another perspective, being  a good one - working hard, doing your best, treating people the way you'd want to be treated, feels good. When you do good and are good, you are laying down a strong foundation. You are setting yourself up as a person who is prepared to answer the door when opportunity knocks. True enough, it might not be acknowledged in your immediate circle, right this moment, but I truly believe that it will be acknowledged.

Take pride in who you are, where you are, and in what you are doing. Be a good one! You might not be where you want to be but that's okay. Be a good one now and you'll have the opportunity to be so much more very soon.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Get It Together Girl!: Time Management edition

This brief four-week series will introduce the workbooks in the Get It Together Girl series.

As the holidays approach, it's a great time to talk about time management. The second in the series, Get It Together Girl!: It's About Time - Finding It, Saving It and Making the Most of It is a collection of time-saving tips doled out one per weekday.

A common excuses that many people have is that they don't have enough time. One thing is certain, you aren't going to get anymore! The trick is to do better with the time you have. Most people get defensive when I say it, but I can squeeze an hour out of the average woman's day.

The trick is to not look for large blocks of time; but to use small pockets of time more effectively. I had a client who claimed she couldn't study for the bar because she couldn't find enough 3 hour blocks of time. I agreed. Three hour blocks of time are hard to come by. I gave her a question and a challenge. My question was how long are the blocks of time she did have. She told me an hour. Next, I challenged her to take those 3 hour subjects and break them down into hour-long subtopics. Working with the time that she had, she was able to finally study.

This book starts with a question? What would you do if you could find an extra two-hours in your week? Next, we spend two weeks looking at different ways to get that time: bundling errands, using the Focused Fifteen outside of organization ....

What makes this book different, is that I've included a lot of extra information in the Appendix. There is a chart for age-appropriate chores for kids, tips on how to delegate as well as web-based and mobile applications that will help readers save even more time.

Challenge: Ask yourself the question: what would you do with two extra hours a week? I start with this question because saving time is a task that is hard to track. If you have a good answer to this question you'll have something to work towards as well as a great way to tell if you have succeeded!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Get It Together Girl! - Home Organization edition

This brief four-week series will introduce the workbooks in the Get It Together Girl series.

The first, and most successful, in the series is the original. Get It Together Girl: A 28-Day Guide to Practical NOT Perfect Home Organization is built around the power of the Focused 15. I am constantly amazed at how much can be accomplished in a dedicated quarter of an hour.

I gave a series of 15 minute assignments to be completed Monday through Friday. We move from the kitchen to the bathroom to the bedroom (and the closets!) and finally the living room and work areas. If just the Monday through Friday assignments are done, you've spent over 5 hours organizing!

For example, Day One is the Refrigerator Run-Through. You aren't cleaning the fridge out so much as you are getting rid of everything that is "moldy, hairy, furry, gooey or otherwise inedible."

At the end of the week, I provide a series of steps that help you stay organized. Most can be accomplished in less than one minute. For example, get undressed while standing in front of the hamper. This way your dirty clothes go directly into the hamper without making a pit stop on the floor. Also, if you keep your hangers on the hamper or in another accessible place, it is easy to hang up things that can be worn again.

Weekends are free ... unless you want to do more. For the overachievers in the group, I give some longer weekend assignments that make great projects (or possibly punishments for the kid! LOL!).

Challenge: Try the power of the Focused 15 for yourself. You don't have to limit yourself to organization, it works in almost any area. Devote 15 minutes to a specific task: walking, cleaning, organizing, reading, filing, talking to someone on the phone, budgeting.

At the end of 15 minutes, one of two things have happened. Either you have made a dent in whatever you are working on or you've gotten your momentum going and are ready to keep going.

The key to an effective 15 is to seriously devote 15 minutes to the task at hand. This is not 15 minutes spent multi-tasking or with a split focus. It's called the Focused 15 for a reason!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Karyn Cooks: Sweet Potato Cheesecake

One of the things I enjoy is reading recipes. I found this one and it sounds delicious! I haven't made it yet but it seems like it would be a perfect addition to the Thanksgiving Dessert Table. Try it out and let me know if it's as yummy as it sounds!

For the crust:
1 14-ounce bag of gingersnap cookies, finely ground
6 tablespoons butter, melted
For the cake:
1 14-ounce can of canned yams in light syrup, mashed with fork until it makes 3/4 cup
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider
3/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cream
4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider (see note)

To make the crust: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 1/2 -inch springform pan. You can optionally line the bottom and sides of the pan with buttered parchment paper. This makes it easier to remove the cake from the pan, but it is not essential (see note).

In a mixing bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter. Stir to mix well. Place the crumbs into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared pan, tamping down to form an even crust. Bake at 350 degrees about 8 minutes until the edges of the crust just start to pick up some color. Cool completely and reserve.

To make the cake: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer with a paddle, combine the cream cheese, butter and sugar and mix until very smooth and well-combined. Pause to scrape down the bowl once or twice.

Add the reserved sweet potato puree and mix to blend. Add the apple cider, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cream and mix well. Add the eggs, two at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions and mix just until incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Pour batter into the reserved prepared crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn oven to 325 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes. Turn oven to 300 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes. Turn oven to 225 degrees and bake until the cake is just set around the edges, yet slightly jiggly in the center.

While the cake is baking, prepare the topping by whisking together the sour cream, sugar and apple cider. 

When the cake is done baking, remove it from the oven to cool for 5 minutes and turn the oven to 350 degrees. 

Spread the sour cream topping over the baked cheesecake, using a small offset spatula to ensure an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes until the topping is just set. 

Remove from the oven. Gently run a paring knife around the top outer edge of the pan and allow the cake to cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, refrigerate it for several hours or up to two days before serving.

Makes 12 to 16 servings. Per serving (based on 16-slice serving): 484 cal., 33.6 g fat, 40.1 g carbo., 7.1 g pro.

NOTE: If you have lined the bottom of your pan with a parchment liner, remove the cake from the bottom by briefly running the chilled cake (still in its springform) over a medium-heat stove burner for 30 seconds. Remove the springform sides and loosen the bottom of the cake by inserting a long bladed knife between the crust and the parchment liner. The cake should easily pop off and can be transferred to a serving plate.

NOTE: You can substitute bourbon for apple cider in both the cake and topping if desired. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Get It Together Girl: The Philosophy

This brief four-week series will introduce the workbooks in the Get It Together Girl series.

I'm a writer and have been all of my life. After getting my coaching certification, I found that I had a unique opportunity to combine my interest in coaching with my passion for writing. This had two results. The first one is this blog. The Lose the Excuses blog gives me the opportunity to write about coaching-type topics. Here I can reach people with messages that are positive, practical and, hopefully a few, that help readers be more productive.

However, I wanted to do more and the result is the Get It Together Girl series of workbook.

Through my coaching clients and conversations in general, people shared with me the obstacles they felt kept them from achieving their goals. Surprisingly, many of them weren't big things, but little ones. By taking one topic at a time, the Get It Together Girl workbooks were born. Filled with practical information, my goal wasn't to uncover brand new ways to do everything but to put a series of solutions in front of people and, most importantly, give them a framework to take action.

The workbooks are just that - books designed to be worked - not just read. They are short, targeted and contain daily action items. To me, reading and researching are great but after a point, they become another form of procrastination. There are times when reading takes the place of doing. So, at the end of the day, the reader has amassed a lot of knowledge through reading but none of the results that come from doing. Get It Together Girl workbooks are designed to get the reader to take action.

So far there are three books in the series:

  1. Get It Together Girl!: A 28-Day Guide to Practical NOT Perfect Home Organization
  2. Get It Together Girl!: It's About Time: Finding It, Saving It, Making the Most of It
  3. Get It Together Girl!: Getting to Goal: Your Dreams, Your Desires, Your Way

I self-published the workbooks through Amazon (Kindle) and Amazon CreateSpace (paperbacks). It's an exciting and empowering process, to undertake your own publishing. Gone are the days of having to beg a publisher to look at your work!

I am looking at creating workbooks for office organization, money-saving tips. What other topics, would you like to see?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nickels and Quarters

About 20 years ago, I spoke with a woman who had been married for over 60 years. Not only had she been happily married but she and her husband also worked together! With this rare opportunity in front of me, I asked her for her secret to marital success. She thought for a second and said, “There are nickel battles and quarter battles. Fight over the quarters and let the nickels go.” I’ve never forgotten that. In fact, it is a critical life lesson that applies to a variety of situations (family relationships, friendships, work, driving in traffic…).

How often do we get caught up in nickel battles? How much time do we spend stewing over small slights and petty arguments? As easy-going as I am, for years, I harbored one dark secret. I suffered from road rage. I mean road rage so bad that, on several occasions, people got out of their cars and came after me. It was bad!

Yet, a few years back, I got a ticket. To avoid the fee and the points, I had the option of going to bad driver’s class and I jumped at the opportunity. The instructor actually made the class fun. When she touched on road rage, she focused on how truly insignificant the incidents that incite road rage really are. At that point, I realized that I had been fighting over nickels every time I got upset. Nickels! Definitely not worth my time.

I don’t think we need help knowing the difference between nickels and quarters. We just need to learn not to react to nickels the same way we react to quarters. We need to learn, even if we are annoyed to just take a deep breath and move on. We need to learn not to carry those nickels around all of the time. When compared to the quarters, they aren’t worth that much anyway.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Writing's on the Wall

It’s easier some times to stick your head in the sand. And, as the saying goes, “Ignorance is bliss.” Refusing to see the signs that are flashing in front of your face may seem easier in the short run, the long-term consequences of refusing to look at the facts can have devastating consequences.

Often after seeing someone else’s fate, we comfort ourselves by saying, “Whew! That could never happen to me.” However, if you are dealing with the same person who inflicted the pain or caused the situation, know that it could very well happen to you. In fact, it probably will. The chronic cheater will probably cheat on you too. The boss from hell will eventually pull you down to her level. Watch how people treat others and you’ll have a good idea how they will, most likely, treat you.

Other times, we make excuses for people’s behavior. An excuses, even if it’s unplausible or unlikely, is easier to believe than the truth of the matter. A co-worker takes credit for your work and you rationalize that you both worked on it and the lack of acknowledgement is an oversight. But, especially if you can combine that with other underhanded behaviors, there is a good chance that it is exactly what you thought it was.

Then there are times when we see the behavior, acknowledge it and still refuse to act on our knowledge. Inertia is a powerful force to overcome – doing nothing is easier than doing anything else. After all, acting on your knowledge will take a lot of work, rock the boat, upset the status quo or involve stepping on someone else toes.

Reading the writing on the wall provides you with truth and gives you the opportunity to prepare yourself for what’s ahead. In this case, the writing isn’t graffiti to be ignored or cleaned up. It’s a gift. Treat it as one.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bullying – It’s Not Just for Kids Anymore!

We talk a lot about bullying. It’s wrong and it shouldn’t be tolerated. However, bullying doesn’t stop when school ends. Unfortunately, bullying often continues into the workplace. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (yes, there is such a place), over 50 million Americans say they have been bullied at the job. This too needs to stop.

Here are some signs of workplace bullying

  • You are given tasks that you have not been trained on, saying no is not an option and asking questions is frowned on. Needless to say, when you complete the task unsatisfactorily, it’s all your fault.
  • You spend your work day feeling agitated and anxious knowing that something bad is about to happen (and it usually does) 
  • Jokes are made at your expense and teammates make baseless complains about you and your performance.
  • You are left out of meetings and team activities.
  • You are shocked when accused of incompetence, despite a history of objective excellence, typically by someone who cannot do your job 
  • You are never left alone to do your job without interference usually in the form of criticism, knit-picking or derogatory comments.
  • People feel justified screaming or yelling at you in front of others, but you are punished if you scream back 
  • You are singled out for discipline or chided for behaviors that others engage in without any consequence.

If you feel you are being bullied, first off, you are not alone. And, unlike school-aged bullying victims, you are not being targeted based on any perceived weakness. On the contrary, many targets of workplace bullying are targeted because others view them as a threat based on their knowledge or expertise. Often they appear to be more independent and/or more technically savvy than those doing the bullying.

Sometimes targets become targets not for their technical skill but because of their social skills. Workplace Bullying targets are often well-liked or generally respected. Finally, the target tends to be a non-confrontational type of person. They are not going to respond to bullying with equal treatment. Unfortunately, this makes more bullying more likely.

There are very few laws against bullying on the job so taking legal action isn’t usually the most effective way of handing bullying. It also does nothing if you, the target, sink down to the level of your bully. In fact, tit-for-tat with a bully will normally lead to more bullying.

To combat the bully, start keeping a journal. Use it to list the facts relating to each incidence of bullying “On November 1 (when) Sally Shaw (who)copied a vacation photo of me from my Facebook page and passed it around to co-workers (what)  including Lisa, Stephanie, Allison and Heather, who all joined her in ridiculing me and the outfit I was wearing in the beach photo.” As you journal, stick to the facts and try not to interject any emotion.

Once you have several incidences in your journal, go to your manager, If your manager is involved, go directly to Human Resources. If you think that HR might squash your complaint, if possible, go over their heads to corporate HR.

If nothing else works, you might have to consider a transfer or getting a new job all together. No job is worth your peace of mind or emotional health.

What other advice would you give someone being bullied on the job?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Permission to Speak Freely?

Can we agree to disagree? Maybe. A lot of times, however, the answer is ‘No.” Lately, I’ve noticed that many people are downright offended by someone who voices a difference of opinion with theirs. It’s as if reasonable people can’t look at information and come up with different conclusions.

It’s worse now, in an election year. Where I live, one neighbor has had a sign for the presidential candidate he’s backing vandalized several times. I have had another friend (who doesn’t share the popular stance on a particular hot button issue) shouted down and verbally disrespected when she dared to voice her opinion.

In the past, I’ve been ridiculed for my faith just because I included the sentence, “I went to church” when a co-worker asked me what I’d done over the weekend.

It’s one thing to be offended by an offensive statement. It’s another thing altogether to be offended by someone who, while being otherwise respectful, simply does not agree with you. All of us bring our experiences, outlook, and beliefs to any discussion. It is those very things that help us come to the conclusions and develop the opinions that we have.

I’ve actually received ‘lectures’ from well-meaning people who have opposing views to mine. Their belief is that I simply must not have the facts. If they can explain it to me well enough (and in some cases long enough), I’ll have to come over to their side. What they don’t understand is that while we can have a lively discussion, I have my reasons for my particular set of beliefs and they probably won’t change.

The bottom line is to try and respect the person even if you don’t agree with their beliefs and unless they are in your face and truly being disrespectful, then respect them enough to let them have their views. In other words, agree to disagree.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Your Terms

What is success? If you ask 100 people, you'll get 100 different answers. People have different definitions and different benchmarks. Some people measure success in monetary terms, the square footage of a home, the labels on clothes or the kind of car in the driveway. Others base their definition on professional standards - the title of their job, how many years they've spent at a company, or even how many hours they work. Even still there are those that base their definition of success on relationships - are they in one, are they married, do they have the number of kids they want.

I'm to here to quibble with anyone's definition. I'm here to encourage you to pursue your definition - even if it isn't the definition that someone else wants for you. My definition involves following the beat of my own internal drummer and indulging in my creative pursuits (writing, photography, even performing). That definition runs counter to the more standard definition of those in my family. I've grown to be okay with that. Adopting their recipe for success would be a recipe for unhappiness to me.

Yet, if you find that you've achieved your definition of success or that you are on the way towards acheiving it and you still aren't satisfied or happy. If when you look at the path you are on, you feel something significant is missing, then maybe you should revisit your definition of success.
  • Is it based on what someone else wanted for you? - Are you living someone else's dream and not your own.
  • Is it too lofty? - If your definition consists of being a billionaire, is that really necessary? Could you be comfortable with just a couple of millions.
  • Is it realistic? - Even at my skinniest, I was a 6 -8. A goal to be a size zero wouldn't be realistic, attainable or healthy for me.
Your success is yours and it starts by deciding what you want it to be. It begins and ends with you so make it personal and authentic.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Family Redefined

As the holidays quickly approach, thoughts turn to family. Normally, when we think of family, the nuclear family comes to mind: Mom, Dad, Kids. If pressed, we’ll include extended family: grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Of course, that is family and there is nothing wrong with that. When it’s good, it’s great. However, that isn’t always what a family looks like.

Yes, the single parent home is now more common than a two-parent home. Even the definition of a two-parent home is changing, but I’m not talking about that either.

I’m a 44-year old single woman with no kids. Technically, I don’t have a traditional (nuclear) family to speak of. True, I have a father (whom I’m very close to) and a sister and a step family – yet I live a day’s drive away. I have aunts and uncles and cousins but not a lot of family that I’d consider myself close to.

Yet, if the definition of family is based more on having people who love, support, understand and accept you and less on marriage and blood, I do have family … and a great one at that. I am surrounded by friends who give me the emotional support that is normally associated with family.

These are people who ‘get’ me. While my blood relatives love me, as the creative and sensitive type, they don’t always understand me. My friends do. When the going gets tough, they are the ones I turn to first and they, in turn, turn to me when they need support. They are the ones with whom I share the good times with too. These are the people whom I experience live with. I cherish them.

Often single people like me are assumed to be lonely or in need of someone to make us whole. While I would love to have a partner to share my life with, I have a family now. When and if the right man comes, he’ll be welcomed into two great families – the one I was born into and the one I created.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eternity High

I graduated from Beachwood High School in 1986. As a teenager, I was comforted in knowing that we’d all be adults soon. In my teenage eyes, adulthood meant maturity and an end to immature high school antics like cliques, mean girls, rumor mongers, teasing and bullying. Here I am 26 years later, and sadly for many people, high school has never ended.

In fact, in many ways the work world is just an extension of high school. You have your departmental cliques and cliques within those departments. You have your teachers pets expect now they are kissing up to the boss. You have your gossips and you even have the fashion police. In fact, you meet these people not just at work but in other social groupings as well – church, volunteer organizations. Ah, some things never change!

It isn’t really any better on the personal front. You have those relatives who enjoy stoking the flames of discord at family gatherings. You date the guy (or girl) who still plays silly jealousy games. And let’s not forget the hyper competitive parent living out his dreams through his child.

Luckily, not every high school graduate maintains a high school outlook. Many of us do move on, and, more importantly, grow up. Yet, we still have to deal with our colleagues, acquaintances and relatives who decided to stay forever in the comfort of the 11th grade.

The best way to deal with these people is to see them for what and who they are. Often times, we want to give people the benefit of the doubt, and that is fine. However, if they continue to exhibit this kind of behavior then we have to realize that it is probably more than an instance of immaturity and it’s probably just who they are. They might be great people in other ways; however, they are who they are.

Once you realize that, start to put some distance between you and that person. It isn’t physical distance but emotional distance that matters. Do not take these people into your inner circle. Do not confide in them or trust them with sensitive information. Also don’t engage in gossip or talking about other people with them.

While some people never graduate, it is up to those of us who did to keep those held back in their place (or at least from ruining our lives).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ungrateful People Aren't Happy People

I was talking to a friend about happiness. I told him what I’ve recently shared here that happiness is not the absence of problems but happiness is problems you can handle. There will always be problems, waiting for a problem-free time in your life means you will spend the majority of your life waiting to be happy … and that’s just sad.

In relationships, problems translate into baggage. All of us have baggage, however, the right person for you, among other attributes, has baggage that you are comfortable carrying and they are equally comfortable carrying yours. I have absolutely no problems dating a workaholic. However, I have friends who simply aren’t willing to carry that bag. And so it goes.

I think you can be happy (or at least have the possibility of happiness) if you have problems you can handle and you have a sense of gratitude and appreciation. If you can be satisfied with what and who you have in your life, you can be happy. If you are someone who is chronically dissatisfied and always looking for something more, different or better, you won’t be happy. Again, you’ll be playing the waiting game.

Just like you will always have problems, there will always be someone who is better looking, more talented, makes more money than you, lives in a better house than you or uses a better smartphone. Don’t let that stop you from being happy. You cannot keep up with the Joneses. For one, they don’t exist. Secondly, if they did they would always have more than you because that’s the nature of the Joneses. Chasing them is a waste of time.

Instead of worrying about what someone else has, be grateful for what you do have. A lot of people have problems with gratitude and being satisfied with what they have because they feel it breeds complacency. After all, if you are happy with what you have, then you wouldn’t want more, would you?

Gratitude doesn’t have a direct effect on motivation. If you are grateful and appreciate with what you have, you are not carrying that extra burden of frustration that accompanies dissatisfaction. It doesn’t mean you don’t want more. In fact, I believe that you are in a better place to move ahead if you aren’t saddled by the mental drains of dissatisfaction and frustration.

By the way, if you want to read a good book about happiness, read Happiness is a Serious Problem by Dennis Prager.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vacation Photos - Edisto Island

I spent the last week of September in Edisto Island, South Carolina. About 50 miles south of Charleston, Edisto is a quiet, sleepy uncommercialized island. Forget about going through a drive-through or eating at a chain restaurant, and if you are looking for nightlife, you need to look elsewhere. If you are looking for rest, reflection and relaxation, this is the place.

I came to Edisto in 2011 and fell in love with it. I knew I'd be back. This year I went with books, my journal and my camera in hand. Every day I walked the beach, read, journaled and traveled the island looking for phto opportunities. I never had to look long. The island is so picaresque that there is a great photo every time you turn around.

I returned to civilization a week later refreshed and renewed. A stay-cation for me isn't nearly the same as a vacation. Staying at home, even with time off, wouldn't have been nearly as effective. Some times you need to get away.

Headed to the beach!

Walking on the beach is like moving meditation.

The beach at dusk.
Just driving down the street was a wonderful experience.
Sunset from the island.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Cold Hard Truth: You Can't Always Get What You Want...

The Cold Hard Truth is a five-week series designed to discuss things that people don’t really want to hear but need to!

Cold Hard Truth: You can’t always get what you want … but be happy anyway. You can have a beautiful puzzle with 1,000 pieces and 999 of them are in place. One is missing. Guess what part of the puzzle you will focus on?

Life is made up of a myriad of experiences and compartments. Rarely is there a time when everything is going well in every area. When work is going well, you might have some issues with the kids or the spouse. If home and family are going well, there could be financial issues or issues with the parents or extended family members. There is usually a missing puzzle piece, sometimes more.

In those times, we need to learn to look as much as what is going right as what is going wrong. Focusing all of the time on those missing pieces is a recipe for unhappiness.

It starts with a familiar but often underutilized concept: gratitude. Be grateful for what you have: health, friends, family, a working car, food on the table, and the list goes on and on. Gratitude immediately puts the focus on what is right and good. It offers a sense of balance when you are tempted to dive into a pool of frustration and despair.

Related to gratitude is the concept of appreciation. Appreciate what others have done and are doing for you. Take it a step further and take a moment to appreciate yourself. The steps you have taken, how far you have come and the work you have put in. You might not be where you want to be but you are moving forward and that needs to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Be grateful. Be appreciative and find things in your life to be happy about. It may sound silly but when I was in the throes of unemployment and financial woes, walking my dog gave me a few moments of peace and happiness everyday. I tried to be grateful for Marty (who always seems to be doing something funny) and for the ability to walk outside, watch a sunset and feel the sun on my face. It didn’t make the unemployment any less frustrating or the financial problems any less daunting but for a moment, things were good and I needed those good, happy, moments.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sincerity Matters

It sounds so simple “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” but it isn’t that easy. For some people, it’s damn hard. Words only mean something when they come from the heart and when they are genuine. Real relationships start with real communication.

Flattery will not get you everywhere especially when the words don’t ring true. People can sense insincerity and eventually, flowery words wilt away and people see them for what they really are. Insincere compliments and words are dishonest. Dishonestly breeds suspicion. Once people sense a little dishonesty, they being to look for more dishonesty.

When combined with a request, a compliment is also a big no-no. If you want something, ask for it. Don’t couch your request in insincere compliments or flattery. Heck, even if your compliment is accurate and well-meaning, it becomes tainted as soon as it is followed with a request.

My cousin is big on multi-level marketing. It isn’t uncommon for him to call former co-workers, old friends, my friends and just about anyone else to tell them about the ‘opportunity.’ People are initially glad to hear from him until they find out that he hasn’t called to catch up, see how they are doing or share fond memories. No, he’s called to set an appointment to discuss an ‘amazing business opportunity.’ He doesn’t understand why that is such a turn-off. He doesn’t get that entire conversation preceding the request immediately comes off as insincere and crass. Who wants to do business with someone like that?

At the same time, if you see something that merits your attention and your admiration, say so. A sincere compliment can make someone’s day. If you like their haircut, say so! If a color looks good on someone mention it! If you appreciate the time someone took to work with you or address your concern, make it known.

As a corporate trainer, I’ve done my share of customer service training. When I receive really good service, I don’t hesitate to tell the person who has given me the service that they’ve done a great job. And, I’ll go a step further and ask to speak to their manager as well. A job well done deserves just as much attention as a job poorly done!

Speak from the heart and you’ll never go wrong!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Cold Hard Truth: Don't Focus on Your Faults

The Cold Hard Truth is a five-week series designed to discuss things that people don’t really want to hear but need to!

Cold Hard Truth: Too much time spent focused on your faults is a waste of time. I’m not a great money manager. Heck, I’m barely a good money manager. When my checkbook balances, it is a cause for celebration. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten a lot better. I’ve paid off most of my debt and my checkbook balancing is now a regular occurrence. There is room for improvement and I’m working on it but I’ll never be Warren Buffet – and that is fine with me.

When I look at the time I have available, I’d rather spend it on things that I enjoy and things that I am good at. Sure, I have to make time for improvement and to work on my weaknesses, but the majority of that time needs to be spent making my strengths stronger.

Working on my writing is a priority to me. As a self-published author, my writing isn’t just a hobby but a secondary source of income. It matters. Likewise, I am a good speaker but I can be better and possibly use it to augment my writing income.

Yet focusing on strengths isn’t just about income and professional success. Being a better photographer matters to me, it is an area where it is possible for me to be really good. It’s something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and to be a better photographer would be quite an accomplishment for me. Cooking is another area where I am spending more time. I love it when people love my food and it’s a feeling I never get tired off.

All of us are given the same 24 hours each day and we all need to do a better job of being more diligent about using that time. Focusing on an area where I only have the potential to be average at best isn’t a good use of my time, especially since there are areas where the pay-off financially, professionally, emotionally and socially is greater.

I’m not saying to put your head in the sand and ignore those areas of improvement or frustrations. By all means, give them their due. Yet, make as much of an effort, if not a greater one, in building on your successes and strengths as you do working on your weaknesses.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quality is Job #1

My mom used to say, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when are you going to find the time to do it again?” This was often said when I’d throw the covers up on the bed and call it made or when I would ‘clean’ my room by shoving the junk under the bed (she’d always find it). Ultimately, I’d have to make the bed correctly or fish everything out from under the bed and put it where it belonged. It took more time and more effort this way and eventually I learned the lesson.

On a daily basis, at work and just going through life, I come across people who try to minimize their workloads by cutting corners. The common excuse is time. Ironically these people end up doing more work because, they have to do things over or they spend time fixing errors or handling problems that they wouldn’t have encountered if they just did it right the first time.

It may seem faster to do things this way but it takes longer. Reading an email completely might take an extra 20 seconds but (depending on the email) it can save hours of time doing things over.

Taking a moment to proofread or looking something over can catch costly mistakes and avoid misunderstanding.

Asking questions or clarifying what someone needs might take an extra few minutes but it can save a ton of work on the backend.

Finally confronting procrastination and diving in to the tasks you don’t want to do can save time, money and headaches. Here are three techniques I use to banish procrastination.

  1. The Sandwich: I usually try to sandwich unpleasant tasks between two more enjoyable (or at least bearable!) tasks. 
  2. The Focused Fifteen: This is where I set a timer or look at the clock and agree to do the task for at least 15 minutes. After that time is up, I’ve usually overcome the inertia of getting started and have some momentum going so I don’t mind continuing. Otherwise, I will stop or do another fifteen.
  3. The Countdown: This one is great if you have something repetitive like making phone calls, grading papers or other items that you have to complete a lot of. I will take a sheet of paper and write down the numbers in reverse order (20 to 1 or ten to one) and as I finish each call or complete each item, I will cross it off the list. After my first phone call, I’ll cross off the number 20 and know I have 19 more calls and so on. Putting the numbers in reverse order shows you how close you are to being done.
As mom would have said, I job worth doing is a job worth doing well … if not, you will be doing it again!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Cold Hard Truth: Nothing Lasts Forever

The Cold Hard Truth is a five-week series designed to discuss things that people don’t really want to hear but need to!

Cold Hard Truth: Nothing last forever. Everything changes. People change, grow and move on. Circumstances change. Money comes and goes. At work, roles and responsibilities change, even if your job doesn’t.

Change happens. It’s about the only thing you can rely on. Friendships and relationships have grown and ended abruptly. My best friend and I have been friends since the 4th grade. Our relationship has changed over the years. She’s married with kids. I’m not. She’s still in our hometown. I’ve moved around. We’ve both changed and grown and although we haven’t taken the same path, we’ve grown in the same direction as far as maturity and spirituality.

Yet, I can point to other relationships that don’t have our longevity. Some of these relationships weren’t meant to last. Looking back, I can see that the specific person was in my life for a reason, a season or to teach me a lesson. When time was up, so was the connection. I don’t wish any of these people any ill will; they just weren’t long-lasting relationships. They weren't meant to be.

Jobs change, finances come and go, and the quality of our health fluctuates. When things are going well, I have learned to savor those times. When things aren’t going well, I know that change means that this too shall pass.

But, it isn’t just the tangible things that that change. At the very heart of the matter, we change. You aren’t the same person you were a year ago and the person you are now is not the person we are going to be in a year from now. We grow. We change. We are shaped by our relationships and our circumstances.

Trying to hold on to what we have, who we are and what we know is fruitless. Nothing lasts forever. Likewise, we can’t expect others not to change or grow either. The best we can hope for is that we change and grow together.

At first, nothing lasts forever sounds depressing. While some change might be unwanted, a lot of it can be embraced if we accept it for what it is. Who knows it could be a change for the better!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Go Karyn, It's Your Birthday (well, almost)!

Tomorrow I celebrate my 44th birthday!

I make a huge deal out of my birthday. In fact, I actually tried to get my friends to give me a flash mob in honor of the occasion (they didn’t get on board with that one). Tomorrow, I will treat myself to a massage and a Pandora bracelet. I will spend the evening surrounded by my friends at a great restaurant and cap the evening off singing at my favorite piano bar.

Last year, an acquaintance commented to me that most women ‘my age’ don’t make a big deal about their birthdays. Well, I guess I’m not most women. I told her I’d celebrate 43, 63 and even 103. The way I see it, another birthday beats the alternative! I’d rather celebrate with daisies than push them up!

I've enjoyed every age I've been. Trust me, I wouldn't want to be 18, 21 or 30 again. I have had lots of experiences (lots of good ones and my share of bad ones, too), met lots of people, made my mistakes and had my successes. I'm learning. I'm growing. I like to think I'm getting better with age. ; )

For me, my birthday is my personal New Year. It is a great time to reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the year ahead. I love to set birthday goals. This year won’t be any different. In fact, I’ll be in Edisto Island, South Carolina next week, taking time to relax and reflect.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow and to the next year.

Happy birthday to me!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cold Hard Truth: Thinking Does NOT Make It So

The Cold Hard Truth is a five-week series designed to discuss things that people don’t really want to hear but need to!

Cold Hard Truth: Positive thinking, in and of itself, is not enough. If thinking were enough, we’d all be living the lives of our dreams. We’d be working in jobs that we love or we wouldn’t be working at all. We’d have perfect mates in perfect relationships. We’d have wonderful kids and live in the homes of our dreams. How many of us are doing that?

Positive thinking is an integral part of success; but, it isn’t the only part. Thinking has got to be combined with action; and not just any action but consistently-applied action.

Positive thinking might make for a happier attitude but it won’t make for a happier outcome. If you want change, you have get out of your head and get busy.

Really, thinking and action are two sides of the same coin.

  • Thinking without action is dreaming.
  • Action without thinking is reckless.

The two go hand and hand. Positive thinking can give you the motivation to take consistent action when you may not feel like it (think exercise, diet, saving money or even going to work!). If you are taking consistent action but run into obstacles or roadblocks, it is thinking, positively and proactively, that will help you develop an alternative plan.

Positive thinking might be the first step, but no one accomplishes a journey in a single step. To take the next step, and the step after that, you have to do more than think about your destination, you have to take consistent action to reach it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Skewed World View

I have a view of happiness that has been called depressing and pessimistic. Yet, I honestly believe it to be true.

To me, the definition of happiness starts with problems that you can deal with. Happiness is not, and can never be, the absence of problems because that kind of nirvana only exists in the landscape of your mind. Therefore, why should it be your goal? Likewise, perfection is non-existent as well. If you to manage to catch it for a fleeting second, you can’t expect to maintain it. So why should that be your end game?

Life is messy. People are imperfect. Timing is never what you want it to be. Situations change. The unexpected is the only thing we really should expect. So our definition of happiness needs to be both realistic and attainable.

Since a problem and error-free existence is no real existence at all, shouldn’t problems and mistakes be incorporated into our definition of happiness?

Right now, my life is good. I have my health and am surrounded by great friends and family. I like my job and am compensated decently for it. My bills are paid.

Basically, I have problems I can handle. My health is good but not perfect. I have a few minor ailments – but they are minor. I need to lose weight and I’m working on that. Saving money has always been a struggle. I have to deal with my share of office politics, which I don’t care for. I’m very single and would like that to change. However, I’d rather have no man (and a few lonely Friday nights)  than the wrong man (who unpacks suitcases filled with drama, misery and heartache).

These are not overwhelming or catastrophic problems. So I choose to focus on the abundance of things going right in my life … including the minor problems I have. The key to happiness is keeping those minor problems in perspective and not blowing them up in my head and making them bigger than they are. In fact, I’m actually thankful for them … it could always be worse.

In fact, one day it very well may be worse. A major health crisis or job loss or death of a close love one could throw my happiness into jeopardy. It’s part of the ebb and flow of life. I know that. Yet, for now, I’ll just enjoy the flow.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cold Hard Truth: Not Everyone Wants to be Happy

The Cold Hard Truth is a five-week series designed to discuss things that people don’t really want to hear but need to!

Cold Hard Truth: Not everyone wants to be happy. We assume everyone does but misery does love company. Misery is looking for cohorts and not a change of heart.

A little unhappiness is not a bad thing; in fact, it is a necessary thing. It is a reality. No one is happy all the time (without lots of drugs). We all go through tough times, disappointments, grief, anger. We always will. I’m not talking about a bad mood or a tough patch. I’m talking about people who are chronically unhappy and who want to remain that way.

The unhappy come alive when they are complaining and when things aren’t working right (for themselves or others). They come up with reasons why they don’t want to change – why they don’t look for a better job or relationship. The truth of the matter is that they don’t try to change because they don’t want to.

There are benefits from being unhappy. Unhappy people get the attention and effort from happy people. After all, they want to turn them around. Some unhappy people actually enjoy the attention.

The relentless search for perfection is another source of unhappiness. If there is a problem or even a blemish in an otherwise pristine situation, then it isn’t good enough. Their attention immediately goes to the imperfection. They dwell on it. They make it bigger than it is and that becomes a source of unhappiness.
Ironically, many people consider this a good thing. The search for perfection, in their minds, pushes them to do better or have more. In a sense, this can be true but after a point, this philosophy yields fewer results an d the damage it causes far outweighs any benefits.

Some people choose unhappiness because of the drama associated with it. The feelings of disappointment, sadness and frustration can become so commonplace that they become habitual. These people feel happiness as almost second nature.

Regardless of the reason (attention, perfection, habit), some people are comfortable staying right where they are. If you know someone like this, who steadfastly does not want to change, then your goal becomes not letting them change you. Accept them for who they are but do not let their mood or outlook affect you. It doesn’t have to be contagious.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Karyn Cooks: Key Lime Pie and Whipped Cream

I haven’t done a Karyn Cooks in a while ... although I have been cooking! A few weeks ago, I was at the Farmer’s Market. I just had my debit card and was told I had to spend $10 to be able to use it. I was just over a dollar away and there was a line of people behind me so I grabbed the closest thing: a bag of key limes.

Driving home, I had no idea what I was going to do with key limes. The only thing I could think of is pie. So I went on line and found this surprisingly quick and easy key lime pie recipe. I made my own whipped cream too. If you use lime juice (and don’t squeeze your own key limes), this whole thing can be done in 30 minutes.

Key Lime Pie

5 egg yolks
½ cup lime juice
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
9-inch Graham cracker crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix the egg yolks, lime juice and milk together.
Pour into graham cracker crust (unbaked).
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

If you want to make it pretty, you can top in with whipped cream (recipe below) and or lime slices.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like. (I used an electric mixer and not a wire whisk for mine).

Key Lime Pie recipe and Whipped Cream recipes courtesy of All Recipes. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day!

I'm not working today ... neither should you! : )

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Changing Your Mind is Fine

It’s not just a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. It’s the prerogative of every thinking person to be able to change their mind. In fact, sometimes changing your mind is the only thing that makes sense!

You start with a plan. Of course, your plan is to follow your plan … but what if circumstances change? What if, while following your plan, you become privy to new information that compels you to go into another direction? What then?

Changing your mind gets a bad rap. It’s considered wishy-washy or inconsistent or silly to change your mind. Yet, changing your mind in light of new facts, or even a change in your feeling, is often the most mature, thoughtful and courageous thing you can do.

Stubbornly staying the course when you know a new course is in order is often born of insecurity or fear of what others may think. You don’t want to appear indecisive or wrong in the eyes of family and friends. You definitely don’t want to hear the dreaded “I told you so,” so you persevere even though you know you shouldn’t.

The reality is that other people can comment on your life and state their opinions, but what they can’t do is live your life – only you can do that. You are the only one living with the consequences of your decisions. Only you know the gravity of your situation. The truth is that even those closest to you spend less time thinking about you than you think. They’ve got their own problems to deal with and lives to live!

Still the critical comments of those closest to you can make you question your judgment. Have a few people in your corner to support you and encourage your decision. Going against expectations and risking the disappointment of family and friends is hard. It hurts. Having people close to you who understand your decision is essential.

Next, in light of new information, get calm and get clear. Look clearly and objectively at what you need to do. Does this new information mean a few new steps in your current plan or does it mean scrapping your plan all together and coming up with something entirely new?

Once you know your new plan, move forward with it. Keep your head held high. Move forward with the confidence of knowing that you are doing what is best for you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Raise the Bar!

It’s not surprising that children told they will never amount to much become adults who often don’t amount to much.

There is a faulty school of thought that believes negativity can produce a positive result. In other words, calling someone fat or stupid will motivate them to lose weight or study harder. The problem is that it usually backfires. The person, or should I say more accurately, the victim, usually does the opposite. The overweight person eats more or the bad student becomes even more determined not to apply him or herself academically.

It’s bigger than this though. There are entire groups of people (based on race, economic status, …)that are consistently told they are not good enough or capable of accomplishing more. The bar is lowered because there is a subtle belief that these people can’t reach it if it is raised higher. The tragedy is that when the bar is lowered, along with expectations, the desire to do or be more is, time and again, lowered along with it. The very people who are told that they can’t, don’t.

The fact of the matter is that you can find the facts that support your belief in either direction. You can find facts that support the desire for lowered expectations. Test scores, employment rates, median household incomes can attest to the fact that some people have it harder than others. On the other hand, you can find always find people who have bucked the trend and succeeded against the odds.

If you want better, you have to push for better. Insist on it. Raise the bar and you will be surprised when people begin to strive to reach it. It might not happen right away but it is worth the time and the effort. Insistent on more and eventually, you’ll get it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Email and Texting Aren't Enough

In this day and age, it's easier than ever to keep in touch. There's text and emails and Facebook. Very soon, high school reunions will be a thing of the past. Who needs to get together once a decade when you can reconnect with your entire graduating class via Facebook. Yet sometimes when people matter, they deserve an extra little TLC, a telephone conversation or even a face-to-face meeting, when possible.

An email announcing 'girlfriends' day' and telling all of your girlfriends how much they matter to you, isn't that special when it's a forwarded email you didn't write sent to thirty of your 'closest' friends. A Facebook post, sent to 300 Facebook friends doesn't really strike me as intimate.

A one-to-one email or a phone call says much more. Reconnecting with a friend on an individual basis shows that you really are a friend and not just a passing acquaintance. It actually means something when you can ask how they have been and truly find out what they've been up to.

Also a lot is lost in translation with a text or email. Yes, there are eight million emoticons, but nothing is better than the inflections and tone of voice that are communicated in a verbal conversation. Plus, taking the time out of your day to talk to your friend shows your friend that they matter to you.

Want to make a real connection? Pick up the phone and make a call, schedule a lunch or go out for drinks. Reach out and touch someone!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Setback not Set Aside

When planning for success, we all have a plan. Follow those steps and we succeed, or so we think. Yet every plan has unforeseen events and obstacles. They affect our timeline. They alter our moods. They can shake us to the core and leave us in doubt and despair. When it gets really bad, we begin to question if we should still pursue our goal at all.

There is a difference between a setback and setting aside a goal all together. A setback is an obstacle  you can get around. It requires rethinking, regrouping and altering your plan. Setting aside your goal requires giving it up and making the decision not to pursue it at all, or to put it on hold for a while. Only you know how you can proceed because every situation is difficult.

The key is not to set it aside unnecessarily. Many times, people who don't share your vision will encourage you to set your goal aside. They will tell you it's not worth pursuing. I choose not to listen to people who never believed in me or my goal in the first place. Instead, I seek the advice of those who know me and what it is I'm trying to do. People who can be honest and balanced. Maybe the timing isn't right and I should put it aside for a minute. Maybe my approach was wrong. Regardless, I have to figure it out before I move on, if I decide to move on.

There are other times when setting a goal aside is the best approach. There have been times when a plan hasn't come together and I look at it and see the frustration, the challenges, the effort. In a couple of cases, I realized that I was doing what I thought I should do and my heart was never in it or that my actions were motivated by fear. In those cases, it is best to put the goal aside... permanently.

Other times, I have looked at my goal and realized that, right now, I didn't have the knowledge, the resources or the money to make it happen. In those cases, I might put my goal aside ... temporarily,  while I work through my issues. When I have gotten the knowledge, the resources and/or the money, I'll try again.

Setbacks are part of success. The key to overcoming a setback is to have the ability to bounce back. Surround  yourself with people who believe in you, read books and listen to music that encourages you and, for goodness sake, be gentle with yourself. Beating yourself up or putting your mistakes on an endless loop never helps. Once you are over the initial disappointment and the waves of frustration begin to ebb, you can start planning your comeback.

If you decide to set your goal aside, realize that there will be a period of mourning. The death of a goal or dream is a death and should be treated as such. Give yourself time and don't immediately go out and try to replace the dream with another. Also, remember your decision to set your dream aside is your decision. It isn't your spouse's, your friend's, your business partner's but yours. Do not set your dream aside because someone else thinks you should. Do it because you think it is best for you. Once you let yourself mourn and come to peace with your decision, you can begin searching for a new dream. Most of the time, one will come to you.

Setback or set aside, it's up to you.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

In a Funk? Here's the Cure

If you are feeling down, the best and quickest way to pick yourself up is to help someone else.

When you are in a funk, the focus is on you ... what's going on, what you have done wrong, what someone has done to wrong you, .... Helping someone else takes the focus off of you and puts it on someone else. You get a break from your own drama. You are thinking about and working with another person, which will give you a much needed break from your problems.

Plus, helping someone else gives you the ability to make a difference and get the kind of closure and completeness that might be lacking in your own situation. While I was unemployed and in danger of losing my home, I volunteered. Helping people write a resume or solve a problem was empowering. It gave me the opportunity to do something, something that yielded real and tangible results for the other person. It gave me a welcome respite from my own problems.

Finally, those people I helped were grateful and appreciative for the help I was able to give. The gratitude felt good! And I needed it! In helping someone else, I was able to help myself. Talk about a win-win!