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Friday, July 11, 2014

Reflections From Victory's Crossing Church June 8

 Reflections From Victory's Crossing  Church, June 8th, 2014
from Growing Confident Kids to Growing Strong Adults and Relationships

A recent sermon at church was about growing confident kids. The Pastor talked about “speaking words of encouragement, loving unconditionally, making time for play and not undervaluing the time we have with our kids.” In a family context, he is absolutely correct! The importance of growing confident kids is a priority for all parents, or it should be.
I understood his message and believe it whole-heartedly. As a single mother, I can only hope that I have provided a strong foundation for my kids- in spite of the stressed and complicated reality that has been my norm for way too long. I hope that my children are still secure in what I was able to give to them- not mentally making a list of what they did not have. It's not all about the money, but even in respect to fun, like the saying goes, "Money can't but you happiness, but poverty can buy you nothing."  This year, I am trying to be mindful to make room for fun. I don't want their memories (or mine) to be full of missed opportunities.
Along that same line, I don’t want my friendships and other relationships to be full of missed opportunities either. As I reflect on the Pastor’s message, his points of loving unconditionally, making time for play and spending quality time are applicable to our other relationships too. We all need friends who love us, encourage us, and pick us back up when we fall.  AND YES, we all fall.
I am a firm believer that investing in people is incredibly valuable. Pastor Arlie is correct that quality time allows people to feel accepted and nurtured. Just as it is important for kids to feel secure in their identity, I think that is important for adults too. No one wants to feel judged or as if they are unworthy. When we sense that we aren’t accepted and loved, that self-doubting voice will try to dominate all thoughts. You can’t thrive when you are making decisions from a position of fear or insecurity.  
With that understanding, I am making a mental checklist to be mindful in how I treat others. I am normally mindful, but everyone has a certain amount of “mess” in their lives. If we wait for “the right- time” to see people, the right-time may be an optical illusion that never happens. I will not take my friendships for granted or let them lapse because I am too "busy". I have learned that life goes by too quickly if you let the time slip away. I have also learned that when time is shared, you capture a bit of it by holding that memory.
The thought for the day is: I will give of myself where I can and invest in the friendships that I have and any new ones along the way. At the end of the day, I don’t want to reflect on the things I didn’t give, or should have done.
Many years ago, when my mother-in law passed away, someone remarked that she had a way about her that made each grandchild feel as if they were her favorite.  What an awesome legacy to leave behind. For some people it comes naturally. For others, (like me) it may be a conscious decision. I say this knowing that I won’t be perfect, but I will do my best. We are all works in progress.

To hear the sermon for yourself:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Personal and Professional Development Series: Overcoming Adversity

It’s no secret that everyone faces conflict, adversity and stress in their life. How we deal with it is as unique as our individual personalities. Sometimes we bounce back, sometimes we don’t. Our circumstances can get the better of us for a while… until somewhere in our psyche, we begin to heal and move forward again. Until that happens, these things can affect everything in our lives: our work, our relationships, and our health.

Not all stress is created equally. I remember a story about stress that made me cry- during a time when I couldn’t even define how many stressors I was carrying. Comparing stress to a glass of water, a professor recognized that if you had to carry the glass of water for a minute, it was light, but the longer you carried it, the heavier it would seem. Finally it clicked for me that carrying so many stressors (no matter how “light” they seemed to me or anyone else) were enough to overwhelm me. Together, they had created a heavy burden. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t handle the stressors individually, but until I was able to put it in that perspective, I felt like a failure.

As I researched this blog series, people told me stories of major life decisions they had made and events that traumatized them. In spite of whatever time that had elapsed, sharing their stories with me made them feel vulnerable all over again. It was clear to me that it shows how few people really get to know our WHOLE story…. and that we only show people what it’s safe to show.

Trauma, you say? YES! Recognize trauma for what it is!
Trauma by definition is “a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time.” ( Because every person reacts differently to life events and relationship issues, we don’t always recognize situations as traumatic until they manifest in other areas.  It doesn’t mean that the trauma is less severe, but just less recognizable than a broken leg.

The best way to recognize trauma is to know yourself and those close to you.  Take notice of changes in behavior, productivity, habits, and attitudes. If people change in noticeable ways like being inconsistent in their behavior, it could be a sign that there is trauma lurking below the surface.

According to, below is a list of Emotional and Psychological Symptoms of Trauma.  (

·         Shock, denial, or disbelief
·         Anger, irritability, mood swings
·         Guilt, shame, self-blame
·         Feeling sad or hopeless
·         Confusion, difficulty concentrating
·         Anxiety and fear
·         Withdrawing from others
·         Feeling disconnected or numb

Finding your way out: (Baby Steps)

Your support circle: Who are your closest friends and advisors? Talk over your stress with someone- even if just to release some of the anxiety. Listen with an open mind to what they say… they love you and have your best interests at heart. You don’t have to do what they say but you should recognize that if you are under the fog of anxiety, your brain cells are not operating at their maximum potential. Sometimes when we are stressed, we don’t rationalize even the simplest of solutions. (Have you ever been stressed that something doesn’t work only to find out it wasn’t plugged in?)

Take care of yourself: I KNOW this sounds cliché, but eat healthy foods, exercise and get enough sleep. Failing to do any of these will put you at a deficit from the on-set. Studies show that sleep deprivation alone can result in accidents, forgetfulness, depression, weight gain, and even death. (WebMD)

Small perks: Appreciate the small perks that come your way AND don’t be afraid to arrange a few perks for yourself.  About a year ago, I found a list of 24 Ways to Remind Yourself that You Are Special. Some of the perks on the list don’t even cost money. While not all of these things will work for everyone, you can always make your own list of small perks and work your way through them. You CAN add some beauty, creativity and positive energy into your own world.

Positive people, positive energy, and positive affirmation: We all have people in our lives that are “Negative Nellie’s.” Life is too short and fragile to surround yourself with people who rob you of your joy. Even if you can’t avoid them, you can minimize your exposure to them and their effect on you. I have positive declarations on my appointment calendar so that I begin my work day with a positive thought for myself.

Need ideas for positive affirmations? Here’s a short list of sites to get you started.


Many of life events can wreak havoc in our lives and will continue to do so until something gives… Don’t let it be your sanity. You can conquer adversity.

Anyone who has ever been through a trying period of their life will recognize that your feelings and reactions to adversity are unique to you. People often want to categorize and compartmentalize what they think you are going through, but they probably don’t know the whole picture. Don’t let their labels or the labels in your head prevent you from bouncing back. Sometimes, in spite of all the things that are not working, all you need is one area of your life to come back under control and the tide of adversity will begin to wane.

However, please know that you are not the only one who has had a struggle. You are not the only one who has needed help in time of a personal crisis. If you ever feel like you can’t handle “one more thing” or that there is no end in sight, know yourself enough to know when to seek help.

 Know when to get help: ( 

  • Having trouble functioning at home or work
  • Suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression
  • Unable to form close, satisfying relationships
  • Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma
  • Emotionally numb and disconnected from others
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better is a great starting place and a valuable resource. It won’t take the place of localized resources that can help you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Remember- “You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Personal and Professional Development: Things We Should Learn at Any Age

photo credit: <a href="">gdiazfor</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Much like the old saying that "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink," you can give advice to young people but you can't make them listen!

As I was interviewing people for this series, one of the questions I asked, was "looking back, what advice do you wish someone would have told you?" From a few, I got some very specific answers. From others, they echoed versions of a shared thought- "some things you just don't understand when you are young...even if someone would have told you."
I want to share the answers to the "Things that I wish I would have known..." from those that had specific thoughts. These are some lessons that people learned the hard way.

"Things that I wish I would have known..."

·     The evils of using credit cards. (How much credit card debt do you have? Banks routinely increase your limits as you pay your bills, but if you use that credit, your monthly payments can become substantial. Then, all of your disposable income is taken up by paying off past debts.)
·     It’s never a good idea to date someone at work. (Yes- some people learn this the hard way! It doesn't have a good outcome if you don't stay together... and even if you do, all relationships have their disagreements. Work is not the place you want to air your disagreements.)
·     It's not the best idea to marry young. (For many reasons marrying young is not a great idea. You are still learning so many things like who you are as an individual, how to succeed at work, learning financial responsibility. When you add marriage into the mix you are still learning in every major area of your life and at the same time learning how to be a good spouse.)
·     Finish your education while you are young- even if it means getting into debt. (It’s smart to finish your undergrad or graduate degrees before life decisions or events  de-rail you -that could mean marriage, working full time, having children, or moving as a result of one of the above. Also, the sooner you complete your degree, the sooner you will make more money. According to a May 5, 2014 post by , “college graduates, on average, earned $830,800 more than the high school graduates over the course of their working lives.”
·     Be consistent in your work product. (This sounds as though it should be self-explanatory, but consistency is key when building trust – even at work, and remember those first impressions?)
·     Allow other people not to like you. Don’t waste time looking for justifications of why someone doesn’t like you, or seeking ways to try to make them like you. Some relationships are not meant to be. Accept those who like you for they bring positive energy around you. Leave those who do not like you, for they steal your positive energy.

Things young people can't understand...
When we are younger, most of us don’t believe everything our parents tell us. (or is that anything our parents tell us?) If we are lucky, there are other adults that we’ll listen to- perhaps family members, friends or teachers. It’s interesting that we don’t listen to our parents more as we grow up… but we are too busy trying to prove ourselves. However, sometimes you can tell young adults something 100 different ways, and they still don’t get it.
Do you remember your parents saying, “life is hard?” What I thought was- they are just telling me to “suck it up” and maybe they were. What I didn’t understand is that Life is Really Hard. It’s complicated, messy and sometimes difficult.
Money- Remember your parents saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees?” Of course it doesn’t!  But when did you really learn to manage your money? 
Being 18 or 22 may make you an adult, but it does not make you know everything!  Nor does it make you invincible! Somehow we don’t know what we don’t know or learn caution until we are older.
You can be ANYTHING you want, but you can’t be EVERYTHING. For every decision and move you make in one direction (even towards a goal), you are taken farther from something else. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but by recognizing that you probably can’t both be a professional hockey player and a ballerina… you should focus your time and energy where your talents and passions lie.
Life is short.  It doesn’t seem so in the midst of turmoil, but it is. Use each day to the fullest- we are not guaranteed a certain amount of time in life. Work hard. Have goals and dreams and don’t forget to make time for fun. It sounds cliché, but it’s true.

If you aren’t familiar with a story about a professor, a philosophy class, a mayonnaise jar, golf balls and sand, you should check out this viral social media post.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Personal and Professional Development Series: Benefiting from the Wisdom of Others

Over the past few weeks, I have interviewed several women whom I admire. When I approached them about the interviews, several of them said, "Why me?"  They consider themselves ordinary. They have no idea, or little idea of the impact that they have on others, in their ordinary course of business, or by just being themselves. They are professional, but also personable and caring. They have a positive impact on their environment.
As I listened to their stories, I was amazed by their wisdom. Some of it was taught to them as they grew up- some of it was learned along the way.
A few themes ran through the conversations: Good advice is timeless, Hindsight is 20/20, and if you persevere, you might just succeed in spite of yourself. One more thing that became clear is that there are some things that we just don't understand until we are older.

Timeless Advice:
“Always chose friends who are better than you in knowledge, character and morals. Their influence will have a positive impact on your life.” (Hafsa Abdikeir, Program Support Specialist, George Mason University)This piece of advice is totally true! As a parent, I have told my kids “not to hang out with the wrong crowd,” but this takes that advice one step further and it’s not only for kids. We are often a representation of those closest to us. We learn to emulate those that that we spend the most time with- for good or bad. I have heard reports that we are the median of our inner circle and I think that’s true. If we give thought to our values and with whom we spend our time, then the impact will be positive. We will learn more and be more successful and in the end we will also be better people.
As I reflect on this now, I understand that we guide our children to keep them from harm (and to keep them out of trouble) and that is our job as parents. However, I can’t help but think that for all the negatives that we offer kids- “don’t do this or that”-we really ought to be offering the positive spin as well. It seems clear to me that instead of saying, “Don’t waste your money on that,” we should probably offer thought about spending money on things that have more value or quality. 

If we focus on teaching positive lessons to our kids, they won’t have to learn them later.

“Start out as you mean to go.” (Linda Lane Sheridan, Deputy Campus Coordinator, 4-VA, George Mason University)This is another piece of advice that has a positive spin.  Linda told me that one of her first bosses gave her that advice. This gem simplifies several other familiar sayings: “Don’t go off half-cocked,” “Put your best foot forward,” and “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Professionally, it means, “be organized, positive and strategic. Don’t do things in a haphazard or careless manner.”
Jeff Toister, a national customer service and training expert, explains that first impressions have a lingering effect by creating confirmation bias. Toister explains, “Confirmation bias occurs when people have strongly held opinions. There’s a natural tendency to selectively filter new information, facts, and experiences based upon whether it confirms our opinion. We conveniently hang on to anything that supports our point of view while ignoring or dismissing any evidence to the contrary.”  On a professional level, a good first impression is critical. We all have off-days, but if it’s not the first impression, we are forgiven. Confirmation bias is hard to over-come once a negative first impression has occurred. 
From a relationship perspective, I think this means even more. The precedents we set with relationships- both personal and professional- are defined by the boundaries we set in the beginning. If we allow people to be rude, or to treat us badly, or to take advantage of us in the early stages of a relationship, then it is perceived that the behavior is deemed to be ok, or that we won’t do anything about it. It’s not to say that things can’t change afterwards, but as with most things… change is often met with resistance. It’s harder to change than it is to set the tone from the on-set.

Learning from the wisdom of others is better than learning the hard way. (way better)
As I continue this personal and professional development series, I am doing my best to learn from the wisdom of others. As much as I can learn and share- if I make anyone else’s life a little better or easier, then I have succeeded.
Wisdom is timeless. Knowledge is powerful. Learning the hard way is painful!