Listening is underrated and an underperformed act

Dear Readers,

I had occasion to connect with a dear friend of mine on Sunday and it occurred to me how long it has been since we had time to talk. Scratch that, I talk to people all day long and they talk to me, but do we really LISTEN to each other? I am sad to say that no, that isn’t always the case.

I am diligently working on this skill and am so glad I am because in this chat, he said something I REALLY needed to HEAR. I won’t share what it was because it was important to me and will mean nothing to you. Later that night, I heard a similar thing when a friend opened up and was very upset and I didn’t have an answer which is hard but often true.

I honed that skill further when another friend in need said, I don’t want you to cheer me up (a tall order) I want you to listen, and I want to be in a dark place and be pissed at the world. I also will understand if you need to not be around me right now. Deep breath. Okay. First, you are family, I will always want to see you, and hear what you have to say.

Then in the same week, I needed to listen to myself when I was sick and needed to rest. I tend to be a workhorse, and not stopping for anything as unimportant as a little sickness, but you know what, this was not small, this was non unimportant. I needed to go home and rest. So I did. I do not regret it, your health is no small thing and I can tell you listening to your body is a great skill to develop.  I am posting this picture of a coffee cup a friend gave me which I cherish and I used during one of these conversations to take a thoughtful pause when I wanted oh so badly to talk…. but what my friends needed was a listener. I encourage you to take stock and consider, Do you listen or wait…………………………………for your turn to talk? friendsMartina

Think About It……

Think about it.

What baking has taught me about love….

Dear Readers,

Every year, my dear friend Jessi makes Christmas cookies from scratch and provides an assortment and (keeping in mind which person like which cookie) its just as labor-intensive as it sounds. I have “helped” her do this exactly one time and that help pretty much consisted of tasting batter and entertaining her with stories and occasionally moving one dish from the table to the sink. Her love language is Quality Time so it works.

Lo these many years, bemoaning my lack of ability to cook I allowed myself the use of premade cookie dough and occasionally would spoon it on to a cookie sheet (instead of my mouth) to “make cookies” for people I cared about. But over the last few years as I learned how to make cakeballs (to great compliment) so I can no longer say that I don’t know how to cook, I did attempt to find out how to make my Aunt Nancy’s cookies which is are known all over St Louis for being amazing. I watched her once and despaired I would ever figure it out. It is not that difficult, it simply takes effort which I recently learned is well worth the time to expend. Let me explain.

On Tuesday night, I hung out with my friend Meredith and amidst lots of time spent and grocery shopping we made over 100 cookies, some for the church, some for my team, some for the checker at the grocery store who took notice of us and said, “I want some cookies” so we brought him some. He was happy and surprised that we did.

I was struck by how easy it is to take the shortcut and buy the premade dough and if you do this, I want to be clear, I am NOT judging you, as there is definitely something to be said for the sacrifice of time for convenience. The difference between the prepackaged cookie dough cookies and the homemade cookies you mix the flour, sugar, butter and chocolate chips is like night and technicolor morning! I had no idea the difference was so stark. The richness of the flavor, the sweetness of the chocolate chips each one melting in your mouth, absolute heaven! How does this relate to love you ask?

Simple, we can love everyone the same, cookie-cutter emotions, words and ideas or we can choose to take the time, the effort, and the energy to find out exactly what the other person wants, needs, and desires. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes effort.  However, the result you get is much like the difference between pre-packaged cookie dough and the cookies we painstakingly mixed, scooped, and baked the other night with the most important ingredient, LOVE.

Think about it…. and Happy “baking”!!cookiescientist

What’s your Love Language?

Dear Readers,

I come to you today to ask a question. What is your love language? I actually was very surprised when I went to this link to take that quiz. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

The last time I took it, was seven years ago when my boyfriend (now husband) agreed (at my urging) to take it so we could better communicate and relate. In retrospect, I remember thinking it was a fun exercise and didn’t have much to do with how I would behave moving forward. I know at the time, my highest score was “words of appreciation” so while actions are still important, as a logophile (lover of words) I love words of appreciation. Really shocking.

However, the more important result was my partners. Acts of Service is the best way to show your love to him. This would likely not surprise anyone who knows him. He is the kind of person who not only would give you the shirt off his back if you didn’t have one. He also would take particles and pieces of things from the ether to MAKE one for YOU before ever thinking of HIMSELF. This makes him a giving and selfless person and utterly lovable.

I hate doing landry so much so that I have a saying.. “I love you laundry loads” which for a long time was an “inside story” I had with a member of my family of origin which I have mentioned to my husband in passing, and he has truly taken it to heart-

What this means is I love you as much as I HATE doing laundry. Simple and awesome right? It turns out my husband understood this much better than  I did… Since he did an act of service for me..  which would be doing the trash, dishes, laundry and cooking.. things like that.. you know the things we all would rather not do. Well I came face to face with the fact that acts of service means more to me than I thought because the other day, though he was bone tired, my husband finished my laundry for me. I woke up early to finish.. and lo and behold I woke to find this ==Loveyoulaundryloadswhich is the physical manifestation of someone loving ME Laundry Loads. I teared up a little and headed to work, happy with my lot in in life to be loved so completely.

In case you are curious, this my love language NOW –

7 Quality Time
7 Receiving Gifts
6 Words of Affirmation
5 Acts of Service
5 Physical Touch

It lines up well with my values, because as many of you, quality time is hard to come by and the most valuable commodity to me. It behooves all of us to know how the people in our lives can “love us better” so I recommend you take the quiz, at the very least to understand more about yourself and how you feel most loved.

Think about it…..

You don’t have to do it all, its okay to ask for help

Dear Readers, I consider myself to be a very independent, take charge kind of woman so it’s always surprising to me how freeing it is to hand off something to my husband or close friends to handle. The offer comes so often, “let me know if I can help.” “Let me know what I can do” but we so rarely take it!

When was the last time you asked for help or support? Are you afraid to do that? Why? There is a reason that TEAM stands for

Together

Everyone

Accomplishes

More

Don’t be scared to ask for help, the response you get might REALLY surprise you! helpothers

Step outside your comfort zone.. its not as scary as you think!

Dear Readers,

I have signed up to do a 10 mile walk/run at the end of March and I am scared but I am doing it. Between now and then I need to run longer and faster but work myself up incrementally, I know that I can do it but it seems a daunting task at the moment. I got sick right after my birthday which impeded my progress but I am back on it now. I will work out tonight no matter how late it is or how tired I am when I get home. I know that sometimes you have to let that go and sleep instead of work out or sleep in instead of working earlier like you planned but there is also something to be said for accountability and the fact that I have told the 1087 of you following my blog that I will do it means that I have to.

A note about that, I started this blog 3 years ago and it astounds me that I have that many followers. Lots of people have a lot more and lots of people have a lot less. It’s not a measuring stick, but a factoid. If I am going to accomplish my goal of world domination it is nice to know I have that many people’s rapt attention.

I tell you this because I think it is very important we do things that scare us – To paraphrase the great director Baz Luhrman- “Do one thing every day that scares you” — I am not talking about crossing the street without looking both ways or purposely doing something you know will endanger you. I mean step up to do something that scares you because its “unfamiliar” and “unknown”. You will never truly know what you can accomplish until you try. If you don’t believe me, try it and see and then argue with me about how I was wrong. Even if you don’t succeed, you have lived a little more fully than you did the day before. We all hear those platitudes- “Seize the day” “Do one thing a day that scares you” but what do we really DO about it? Well I will tell you beyond the 10 mile walk run, I have volunteered to do a work presentation which may not seem scary but I have not done one before so I am scared and it represents a major step as well putting myself out there for an even bigger opportunity all in aid of getting to my Ted Talk.

It’s scary to type but there it is in black and white. Ted Talk, I will do a Ted Talk.

In the world of doing the baby steps I inquired and found out that you can’t even apply to give a Ted Talk till Summer 2016. I was disappointed, a big part of my “but I want it now” and the total impatience that does not go with delayed gratification but as my darling husband pointed out, this gives you time to be perfect. Well, if not perfect at least the most prepared. One more thing about that, I started realizing that if I have a long-term goal like that I need to go from that goal and work backward and develop a game plan for “getting there” much like my “steps to a marathon” coming up in March!

Think about it!

1. What represents stepping outside your comfort zone to you?

2. What is something you say that you want to do but never take any steps toward? (mine was learning French as an example)

Date Night with a Stranger

Dear Readers,

If you have read my blog for any amount of time, you will know I am unabashedly in love with my husband. He is my Prince Charming in every sense of the word, I love him in a besotted way. I could go on and on and on… and often do!

My birthday was this past weekend and among many things we did was a movie night/date night. I got a free movie because it was my birthday (go me!) and we are on a budget so he also used a coupon for 2.00 off so because of that, we were in two different lines and he used this opportunity to pretend not to know me in the ticket line. At first, I thought, this is so cute, and was ready to give it up, but he kept flirting and pretending not to know me, so we made up names and peppered our conversation with little snippets of things only we know after being together for 7 years. The great thing about this is that we switched personas and pieces of each others story. That first brush of the hand near the popcorn was truly electric and it felt like the first time all over again. As a lifelong fan of “revisionist history” and “time space stories” such as Back to the Future, it was fun to play pretend especially because the longer we played the more I became convinced that we end up together in any timeline!

It was fantastic and I highly recommend you do it with your partner, because its very exciting to flirt with someone who already belongs to you!

All we need is you.

Dear Readers, do not underestimate the importance of your presence.

I was reminded recently of how wonderful my friends are and how much I love to help them. I am friends with doctors, lawyers, and teachers to name just a few. Many of them, if not all of them do not need help doing anything much to my chagrin, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to, but yesterday, I had an “aha moment” and I realized:

Being there is enough.

When a close friend battled and won her fight against cancer, I had no words of advice to give but I was there. When a friend moved to New York, I had ideas and high hopes for her, but nothing solid to offer. When another friend had a baby, I wasn’t able to give any counsel but was there to love and be there for her. It’s easy to say you have nothing to give and we are so quick to discount what we can give which is ourselves. I invite you to be there for someone, take them for coffee, pick up a phone or send an email. You are far more important than you give yourself credit for.