Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Daddy's Girl and Daddy turns 74 today. We talk on the phone several times a week and since I've become an adult, he has become more than my Dad, he has become my friend. I have learned so much not just from his word but from his example. Having my Dad in my life has truly been a blessing.

He has shown me what a real man should be like. He worked his way through undergrad and grad school and his work ethic is something I definitely inherited. He was the one who told me that as long as I was willing to work hard, I could have just about anything I wanted. So far, he's been right.

He encouraged my independent streak. He made sure I knew how to fix a flat, jump a battery and paint a room as well as I could cook and keep a clean home. When I set out on my own and moved several time zones away, I left with the confidence that I could take care of myself. 

He's been just as much of a protector as he has been a provider. Knowing that he was there to look after me allowed me to flourish as a child. I knew I was going to be taken care of. No matter what, Daddy was going to do what he had to do (legally and ethically) to take care of us.

Now, I'm not saying he has been perfect. No one is perfect and that includes my Dad. As a little girl, there was nothing my Dad couldn't do;  but as I got older, the tint on the rose-colored glasses began to fade. As an adult, I see the mistakes and missteps very clearly. Yet, I've been able to learn from those experiences as much as he has.

We have had our disappointments and disagreements over the years. Yet, there has never been a time in all of my 43 years that I have doubted his love for me. I have truly been blessed to have my Dad in my life. 

I love you, Dad. Happy Birthday.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Remembering the Whole Whitney

In all of the coverage surrounding Whitney Houston’s homegoing and burial, I have seen her elevated to practically sainthood status while other people have taken the time tear her down for her drug use and addiction. For me, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I saw a grief counselor shortly after my mother passed. I was 15 at the time. She cautioned me not to turn my mother into a saint. She said the best way to honor my mother was to remember the whole woman, the good and the bad, because that was who she was. That, is who we all are.

So I remember my mother as a brilliant communicator, compassionate teacher and a woman who could make you laugh till you cried. However, I also remember her as a woman who pushed me too hard at times, who didn’t make caring for her health a priority and who could be moody and impatient. She was a complicated mix of a whole lot of things, not all of them great.

I think when someone dies there is a need among those closest to them to whitewash and sugarcoat their lives. No one wants to speak ill of the dead. Of course, we should never dwell on people’s mistakes and shortcomings (in life or in death) but to ignore them isn’t honest or truthful.

Our mistakes, shortcomings and weaknesses are a part of us, just as our successes, overcoming and strengths are. It takes all of that to make us who we are.

So I will remember Whitney as a beautiful woman with a heavenly voice who had some demons that she had a hell of a time trying to overcome. She had a talent like no other and many of her songs are included in the soundtrack of my life. At the end of the day, she was a woman, a real woman, with all the complications and baggage that entails. May she rest in peace.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Want a Happy Home?

I was listening to the radio on my drive home the other day and the deejays were discussing an interesting question. “With most women working and super busy, does the average woman know how to make a happy home?” Obviously, there is quite a bit of sexism in that question, however, it got me thinking.

When asking about what it takes to make a happy home, there is an underlying assumption that the people involved want a happy home. I would argue that there are many people for whom happiness is not the goal.

I remember a friend who went from one tumultuous relationship to the next. For her a stable, drama-free content relationship was, in her words, boring. A lot of people live on the adrenaline rush that comes with drama, conflict, strife and uncertainty. They want the roller coaster, not the Ferris wheel.

So for me, the first requirement for a happy home would be people who want to be happy. I think the first step for a happy anything is the desire to be happy. And most of us can be a little happier if we want to be.

Notice, I said happier … not richer. A lot of people equate happiness with material things and that isn’t the case. Looking back at your childhood, are your best memories the ones with the most expensive toys or are they the ones that cost nothing but laughter?

If happiness is your goal, don’t put it off until the perfect situation arises. Find happiness where you can find it right now.

I’m very single right now and frankly, I’d rather not be. However, I am not going to wait until I’m in a relationship to be happy. I’m going to enjoy right now. I make happiness a daily scavenger hunt. I try to uncover happy moments throughout my day – a laugh with a coworker, a conversation with a friend, playing with my dog, a favorite TV show, a nice bubble bath, fixing a good meal– are all things that bring a smile to my face and brighten my day a bit.

And that’s important. Happiness is a state of mind and it’s made up of moments. In between those moments, there are frustrations, annoyances and disappointments. Its choosing to focus on the happy that ultimately makes us happy … if that’s what you want.

So if you want a happy home, start by filling it with people who make happiness a priority.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Get Inspired

Have you lost your passion for something you used to love? If so, today’s blog post is for you.

I used to love to cook. I’d test recipes or make up my own. I’d love potlucks and special occasions at work when we’d have to bring in a dish. I had a great time for a few years hosting Thanksgiving dinners.

Yet over the years, cooking became more function than fun. It was something I had to do and wanted to get through as soon as possible. Meals became very rote and very basics. The passion I’d once felt was gone.

It took a cranky British chef to bring it back for me. I’m a huge fan of Hell’s Kitchen. Actually, I’m a huge fan of Gordon Ramsay. I watch Hell’s Kitchen. I followed him on Friday nights to Kitchen Nightmares and when he started Master Chef, I was in.

Unlike Hell’s Kitchen that focuses on actual culinary professionals or Kitchen Nightmares, with its real restaurants, Master Chef was about real people who just had a passion for cooking and baking good food.  Among the contestants were lawyers, servers, travel writers and marketing pros. These were people who still had the passion.

Their passion was infectious and when Christmas time came around this past year, I decided that I wanted to give myself a nice gift. After a lot of thought, I decided to get new cookware, and not just any cookware but the good stuff.

When my cookware finally arrived, I was ecstatic. That same night I started cooking. Now, I am looking forward to cooking in a way I haven’t in years. The investment was worth it because it reignited my desire to cook and once that passion was reignited, I realized exactly how much I had truly missed it. It was like reconnecting with an old friend.

So, if you have lost your passion, what can you do to reignite it? Believe me. It’s worth the effort.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

When Opportunity Knocks

If opportunity would knock today, would you a) Answer it b) Ignore it c) Ask it to come back another day. It’s an interesting question and one you should have an answer to, if for no other reason than you never know when that knock will come.

To me, the only answer to that question is A. You answer it. However, answering isn’t always easy. You have to be prepared for that knock. You have to know what you’ll do when you are standing face-to-face with the Big O (no, not Oprah! Opportunity!)

A lot of us simply ignore opportunity, we are just too busy  for it. We get mired down in the day-to-day that we can’t see the forest for the trees and we can’t even see the trees because we are focusing on raking up the leaves!

Then again, some of us don’t answer the door out of fear. Opportunity almost always involves the unknown. It means taking a chance or making a risky move. Since we can’t be 100% certain of the outcome we choose to stay where we are.

Some of us will answer but ask Opportunity to come back at a better time. We’d like it to come back when the kids are a little older, when we’ve had more time to prepare, have more money in the bank, or at some indefinable future date when we are certain that we’ll be ‘ready.’

The problem with ignoring or rescheduling Opportunity is that there is no guarantee it will come back. It will go door-to-door until it finds the person who is ready, willing and able to go for it.

Countless times, I run into people who had a great idea only someone else ‘beat them to it.’ They weren’t ready to move on their idea when Opportunity knocked on their door but unfortunately for them, someone else was.

So while you are waiting for that infamous knock. Make the time right now to get ready. Practice. Prepare. Study. Do what you have to do so when that knock comes or that doorbell rings, you’ll greet Opportunity with a big smile and a firm handshake.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Praise Sandwich

Coins have both heads and tails. If you flip them long enough, you will find that the odds of getting heads or tails is pretty even – one shows up as often as the other. Praise and criticism are also two sides of the same coin. However, if you look at how often praise is delivered and how often criticism is delivered, could you honestly say that both sides end up equal, or is your flipping a little lopsided?

This is my blog and I’ve already given you all way to much information about me. But here comes some more! My family has always had a tendency to find criticism helpful and too much praise to be coddling. For instance, if I show them my Get It Together Girl workbook or send them a link to my blog, their first comment will be something about a typo or other mistake they’ve found. I can remember bringing home a test where I got 49/50. My mom’s first question was, “What did you miss?”

Sure, eventually, they’ll get around to saying something positive, but it’s almost certain that the first words they utter will not be.

I don’t say this as an indictment of my family because I know why they do it. Criticism, from their perspective, is what I need to perform better. Criticism lets me know where I need to improve. They are coming from a place of love and I recognize that. However, I also recognize that we need praise in equal measure.

Criticism lets me know where and how I need to improve. Praise lets me know what I’m doing right and what my strengths are. We all need both, and like the coin, we need them in more equal measures.

I don’t think my family is alone in singing the praises of criticism. I think a lot of us focus on what can be done better or differently. Criticism can be a motivator but only when it is paired with praise. A discussion of weaknesses is not complete without a discussion of strengths.

Without praise, all someone hears is what they are doing wrong and if that is all someone hears then the question becomes, “What’s the point of doing anything?” or “Why bother?”

So here are some final thoughts.
  • When giving praise and criticism, start with praise first.
  • Be as specific about praise as you are about criticism.
  • Don’t use the word ‘but’ to start off the criticism, because that word negates everything that comes before it.
  • If you can, end by offering a solution or a little more praise.
NOT: “I noticed you were a bit flat going into the chorus but I enjoyed your performance (vague praise and coming after the BUT the praise sounds like an afterthought).”

BETTER: “I loved the tone of your voice and that song really emphasized your range (specific praise, given first). I did notice a little flatness going into the chorus (specific criticism). I’m sure that is something you can easily work on with your vocal coach (solution).

If you are going to be quick to criticize, be prepared to praise!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Great Expectations

A few years out of college, I was working as a news producer/anchor at a small radio station. I was asked to speak to a group of high schoolers for career day. Several of them balked at my modest success. They were destined for greater things. They laid out their plans for me: go to college, get a job at the college station, graduate, ease into a morning or afternoon drive slot on a major radio. 

When great expectations are also unrealistic expectations, frustration and disappointment are the outcome. There is nothing that says those kids couldn’t end up as major market deejays, but it was going to take work, sacrifice discipline and time. It wouldn’t always be easy and it wouldn’t always be fun.

Great expectations require great effort.

Some people who harbor great expectations expect a lot but don’t expect to do a lot to get it. They often believe in the myth of the Overnight Success. It sounds great … the starlet that was ‘discovered’ in the coffee shop, the inventor who made a million off of his simple gadget, the basketball phenom. The only problem is the Myth of the Overnight Success is just that, a myth.

Ask any Overnight Success and they will tell you that their success occurred over many nights, often years of nights. They had sleepless nights wondering how the bills would be paid, after they sunk all of their savings into the business. They had nights on just an hour or two of sleep because their work had them waking up early and staying up late. They spent nights tossing and turning because they lost the game or got cut from the team or didn’t get called back after the audition. Yet they preserved, they kept going and eventually, they became Overnight Successes!

For me, great expectations also require a great deal of gratitude. Gratitude gives perspective. Gratitude keeps one grounded in the now. Gratitude allows you to be thankful for what you already have. Without it, those with great expectations don’t see all of the blessings that surround them. They stay transfixed on the pie in the sky and don’t see the feast spread out before them.

Expect the best. Put forth the effort and do the work. Be grateful for what you have and the people you meet along the way. You'll be a success (maybe not overnight, but you will succeed)!