The Dance of Non-Verbal Communication

I have been taking a couple’s dance class recently, which has been making me think about the importance of non-verbal communication.  It is absolutely imperative in social dancing.  The man has to clearly communicate what he wants the woman to do, and she needs to be able to interpret things correctly in order to follow his non-verbal directions.  That is such a perfect metaphor for any kind of relationship because both communicating and interpreting are very important.

Some people give off very few non-verbal cues as to what they are thinking or feeling. That makes them hard to read and can lead to confusion, playing guessing games, or even tip-toeing around issues because the other person may not know how that person will react.  That’s been my experience, anyway.  On the other hand, I have experience with people who give off almost too much non-verbal communication.   Continue reading

To Work or Not to Work?    

That is a big question for many people.  I am talking about whether or not to be a stay-at-home mom (or dad in some cases).  For me, it was an easy one.  I knew long before I even thought about getting married that when I had kids, I would want to stay home with them for a while, and I am grateful that it has worked out that I could do that for as long as I have.  I was a teacher before having kids, and that is definitely not a 9 to 5 job.  For me, it was more like a 7:30 am to 10:30 pm job, plus overtime on the weekends. I am the type of person who puts their all into whatever I do and wants to do well at it, so I didn’t want to do either one or probably both poorly.  And for me, being able to be there for my kids was priority.

While it has been challenging, I have no regrets about that decision.  I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about calling in sick when my kids were sick or take off work for their numerous doctor and dentist appointments or my own.  I enjoy being able to make them lunches in the morning and see them get on the bus, and they don’t need to come home to an empty house.  They appreciate the fact that I can pick them up from school when they stay after so they don’t have to be on the late bus for an hour.  I was there for all their important milestones and could easily attend field trips and other events at school during the day.  And I didn’t have to worry about what to do with them over the summer while I was a work. That’s something I know a lot of parents struggle with and feel guilty about.

There are some down sides to being a stay at home mom though.  Obviously, not everyone can afford to not work, so I have been fortunate in that regard, but we definitely had to pinch pennies and watch what we were spending to be sure we weren’t spending beyond our means. There is also not necessarily a lot of regular interaction with other adults, unless you find ways to make that happen.  I ended up getting very involved with my children’s pre-school and volunteered quite a bit at the elementary school.  I have also done a lot for my neighborhood. These activities have been a source of interaction with others and have also helped fill the void of feeling like I am making a difference somehow, other than being there for my family.

I have mixed feelings about the example I am setting for my kids, particularly my daughter, with not working.  I like that they are learning that family is important and should be a priority, but I also think having a mom who works sets the example that you don’t have to give up your dreams and aspirations, and you can be whatever you want to be and have a positive influence on the world around you.

Now that my children are older, I have come full circle to my original question…to work or not to work?  So now I am trying to navigate getting back into the work force. Teaching is not a field that is easy to jump back into after having not taught for almost 18 years.  A lot has changed in that time.  I contemplated getting a job that has nothing to do with teaching for a while, but I eventually decided to be a substitute teacher even though it is not reliable and doesn’t pay that well.  I do like the flexibility of the schedule, which has allowed me to make a more gradual transition back to work and continue enjoying the benefits of being a stay at home mom just a little longer.  I really wouldn’t trade that for anything.

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That Little Extra

little-extra

You never know when that little extra effort could really pay off, whether it’s because it will positively impact you or someone else.  Success often comes to those who are willing to put in a little bit more time and energy towards their goals.  It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut, but sometimes a little conscious effort to think positively can get you over the hump.  Perhaps a few extra minutes spent doing something like exercising would be good for you, or taking the time to call or message a friend might put you in a better mood.

There are numerous situations that come to mind where it would be so helpful or just plain nice if someone made a little extra effort rather than just doing the bare minimum.  For example, it doesn’t take THAT much effort to push a shopping cart all the way in the cart return and put it in the correct row along with the other ones of the same size and push them together.  It would keep the cart return from filling up so quickly and cut down on shopping cart dings and unavailable parking spaces. Speaking of parking spaces, I wish everyone took a little extra time to make sure they were parking in only one spot and straight. A little bit more order goes a long way.

My kids do a reasonable job clearing their empty bowls and cups off the table and even rinse them out, but then they leave them on the counter.  Apparently, it’s very scary for my teenagers to open the dishwasher, but if they did take that extra step of putting the item in there, that would be much appreciated. I can think of countless other examples like this where a little bit more effort on a few people’s parts would make a lot less work for someone else.

Then there are things like making a little more effort to be pleasant towards anyone you encounter throughout the day.  Just making a conscious effort to smile would be an improvement for some people.  Recently, I had a store clerk ask how my day was going so far, as if she was very interested.  It was a nice change of pace from the often meaningless, “How are you?” It was a very small thing that significantly improved my mood for the afternoon, so I really appreciated her asking.  If everyone made more of an effort to be kind to others, even in the smallest way, I think that would make a big difference.  Giving someone you know a random hug, asking if there is anything you can do to help them, or telling someone you have been thinking about them or appreciate them are all small things that can have a big impact on someone else.

What little extra thing are you going to try to do more often?

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The Reason For Tragedy And Heartbreak

No one likes to experience either one of these or watch our friends and loves ones have to experience them either.  Whether it’s a tragic accident, an unforeseen break-up, a suicide attempt, some form of hardship, the death of loved one or favorite celebrity, or any number of other situations, these experiences can be painful, devastating, and gut-wrenching.  We sometimes ask ourselves all kinds of questions including why it had to happen or what we (or whoever else) did to deserve whatever happened.  Some people really struggle with the answers to these and other questions.

To me, these things are there as reminders for us of so many things…

  • that life is precious and fragile and can be taken away at an instant
  • that nothing and no one should be taken for granted
  • that we are stronger and more resilient than we think we are
  • that we can face our fears and overcome them
  • that change is sometimes a good thing
  • that the people and relationships in our lives are more important than things
  • that we need to continually remind our loved ones how much they are loved
  • that others may seem fine on the outside but are struggling on the inside
  • that we need to be kind and understanding to one another and really listen
  • that we shouldn’t sweat the little things
  • that sometimes our words and actions are more hurtful than we realize
  • that we should accept and celebrate our differences
  • that together we are stronger, and so on.

Most of all, I think they are reminders that we need to continually take a step back and be grateful for what we have, even if it’s not much.  There is always something positive we can find to be thankful for, and there are always so many people going through situations that are far worse than our own. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Of course, this is all easier to think about when we are not the person going through the particular tragedy or heartbreak or while we are not in the midst of it ourselves. We may never get over the pain or disappointment of the given circumstances, but hopefully at some point we can at least get to a place where we have a more positive perspective of why these things happen and what they were trying to teach or remind us.  I don’t think enough people stop and consciously think about and appreciate all the positives in their life. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t need so many reminders.

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Appreciating The Ordinary

love-the-ordinary

Lately, I have been making a special effort to notice and appreciate things that I normally wouldn’t … things that are everyday occurrences that we come to take for granted.  I have also been making an effort to look carefully at things I see so frequently that I often overlook, like all the photographs all over my house.

Last week, I was raking and noticed a tree root partially above ground that had three new green leaves growing from it.  It seemed a little out of place surrounded by a sea of yellow leaves that had already fallen to the ground.  I saw it as being symbolic of so many things … life is constantly evolving and is full of surprises, there is always hope for a new beginning, and so on. The week before that, I sat and watched a beautiful blue jay that was sitting on top of my hedges for a bit calling to other birds.  I found myself wondering what the bird was trying to convey. Sometimes I have discretely observed my kids doing their homework or something else that they do on a regular basis.  In the process, I noticed some things I hadn’t before, like how my one son runs his hands through his hair frequently while doing his homework and that he smiles when he understands what he is doing.  These are just a few of many examples I could share.

It’s too easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life and lose track of what’s really important. Being more mindful of my surroundings has made me feel more appreciative of the little things that I often overlook.  It has also helped me not to be so lost in thought sometimes, which I tend to do.  My thoughts sometimes wander to thinking about the things in my life that I wish could be different than they are now. So not letting my mind wander helps me to be more in the “here and now” and think about all the positive things for which I am grateful.  I recently learned about how being grateful positively affects how well our brains function, which is always a plus!  I will continue to try to be more mindful of my surroundings and be thankful for even the most ordinary things, as it seems to be having a positive impact on me.  I hope you will do the same.

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Winning At All Costs

winningMy son was somewhat perplexed following his volleyball games against another school yesterday and questioned his coach afterwards about some of his decisions.  My son was disappointed that, although his team played well, the other team won more games because they bent the rules and were encouraged to take advantage of our weakest player.  He thought the weaker player should have been subbed out for a stronger player.  Our coach explained that he was all about playing by the rules, teaching good sportsmanship, and being fair about rotating the players so that they get the experience to improve and build their confidence, especially at the modified level when the kids are learning the sport.  He also explained that at the JV level, what the other team’s players were doing incorrectly will get called every time, and those kids will look foolish and will have to relearn how to play correctly, whereas our team will not.

I told my son as I emphasized all the positives that I was more proud of him for playing by the rules, being a good sport, and playing with the right technique than I would have been if they won because they had bent the rules or played underhandedly.  I know it isn’t sitting well with him that the other team got away with playing the way they did, but it bothers me that he seems to be focused on the fact that his team didn’t win.

The whole thing makes me think of that whole mentality which some people have that it shouldn’t matter how you get the outcome you desire as long as you get it, even if you have to be deceitful, manipulative, bend or ignore the rules, or hurt people in the process.  Sports are one thing, but everyday life is another.   Continue reading

Patterns of Behavior

A person’s true colors are apparent by the patterns of behavior they establish.  These can be patterns of positive or negative behaviors.  Unfortunately, we sometimes focus more on the patterns of negative behaviors that people establish for themselves.  How many people do you know that when you think of them, you think about how they are always complaining about something or how they are always late everywhere they go. Or maybe they tend to interrupt others a lot or are deceitful or dishonest.  Perhaps they put their own needs first the majority of the time or they are quick to judge others.  The list goes on and on.

You might know other people who bring to mind positive patterns of behavior like being a good listener, always helping others out, always having a positive attitude, and always giving others the benefit of the doubt.  Or perhaps they are silly and fun a good part of the time.  There are plenty of other qualities I could list here.  People with these attributes usually have numerous friends and family members who look forward to spending time with them, and it is easy to overlook certain things about them that are not so positive such as being a little forgetful or not so great at replying to emails. If they occasionally exhibit a behavior that is unbecoming or they make a poor decision, it is easy to forgive them because it only happens once in a while and probably has a reasonable explanation.

No one is perfect, but it is much more difficult to overlook negative behaviors and poor decisions for people who exhibit patterns of negative behaviors on a regular basis. It becomes easier and easier to keep lumping everything together and form an overall negative impression of that person, to question the person’s intentions, to not give them the benefit of the doubt, to start looking for negative behaviors where there aren’t any, and to want to distance yourself from them.  Not only is this true in relationships on general, but it appears to be very evident in this election on both sides.  The hatred for both candidates is palpable, and neither one of them does themselves any favors by some of the choices they have made or the way in which they behave on a regular basis.

I find it interesting that people who tend to behave negatively themselves tend to look for and point out negative behaviors in others, are quick to deflect the attention off of themselves by drawing attention to the negativity of others, and will even accuse others of doing the very things they themselves do on a regular basis.  It’s like they don’t see the connection between the two, or perhaps they are unwilling to see or acknowledge that they do the same things, so there are double standards. They are usually quick to play the victim too.

We all have a choice every day as to how we go about our lives. We can have a positive influence on those around us and try to establish positive patterns of behavior such as being respectful, trustworthy, honest, helpful, giving, open-minded, and make decisions based on values and integrity.  Or we can behave in a way that establishes negative patterns of behavior and negatively impact those around us, which makes it very difficult for anyone else to give us the benefit of the doubt or a chance to redeem ourselves.  Which will you choose?

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