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Keeping Busy

Today’s culture …

One thing about today’s culture is that it keeps me busy. Oh yes, I have many technological advances at my fingertips that enable me to do even menial tasks quickly and efficiently with the touch of a finger. I don’t even need to push buttons any more. A quick swipe of my finger across a screen gets us the latest news from my friends and family as well as quick blurbs about what is going on in the region or around the world. I can find out about pending storms, how much I have in the bank, and directions to a new restaurant. I even have a touch screen in my car. Speaking of cars, some of the newer models can parallel park and apply the brakes with little if any assistance from the driver.

Marvelous timesavers …

So, with all of these fabulous timesavers, how come I’m still so busy? Where is all of this free time that technology claims to bring? If truth be told, I think I’m busier today in semi-retirement than I was when I had 3 little kids at home. But there’s one slight difference. I don’t stress about the busyness like I used to.

Priorities …

I suppose that might be because I have gained some wisdom from my years of life experience. Unfortunately, there were a lot of candles on my cake before it finally began to register, but the fact remains: I make time for what is important to me.

We all do, even the younger set like my kids and grandkids approaching their academic finals. They may have made less than studious choices throughout the semester, but when it comes down to the last exam of the year, they will often stay up all night to ensure the information has been duly entered into their brains. Finally, it has become important to them – maybe that’s why the exams are called finals. I can’t help but chuckle at this last-ditch effort, but I certainly don’t say a word.

Too little too late …

Ok, so it may be too little too late, but even in my golden years, I sometimes do the same thing. That said, my choices generally are based on wisdom – what’s important as opposed to what I’d like to get done – an immaculate house vs. lunch with a friend, or a sewing project vs. spending time with my grandkids.

Here’s the thing. Being busy in and of itself is neither intrinsically good or evil, but the choices we make on how we occupy our time might be better spent. I still need to set priorities. You’d think at this stage of the game, I’d have this mastered, but alas, I’m still at the stage of just getting better. That said, I think that’s a good direction to go. 😊

What a difference 7 days can make!

Last week we visited family in the Adirondacks to celebrate my grandson’s graduation – how this sweet baby grew up so fast is beyond me – but I digress. The mountains are known for delayed springs. I expected chilly weather and was not disappointed, yet when the spring snow came, however, it provided impetus to complain. Even the locals expressed their dismay. It was time for warm weather. This week, I am home in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the temperature is 84, and people are complaining that they are hot and uncomfortable because of the heat and elevated humidity. Isn’t there a better way to take action and expend our energy? Why, I wonder, are we humans so prone to complain about the weather and think it is okay?

ComplaintsAccording to Wikipedia’s Free Dictionary, the word complain is an action verb meaning to express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event and includes synonyms repine, grumble, lament and moan.

Although I have heard that several governments, including the US, are trying to control the weather by various means, obviously they have not succeeded to the point where everyone is satisfied. We still complain and regardless if we prefer cool or warm temperatures, we complain. It’s second nature to us. Yet it seems to me we are wasting our time. (Notice I’m including myself in these statements because I’m as guilty as anyone else.)

Wouldn’t it be more productive to complain about something we can change? What if we complained instead about the dirty windows in our house? We could get out the cleaning solution and rags and make them shine. Then we would have something to rejoice about. We could send out positive messages about shiny windows and invite our friends to rejoice with us. We could throw a party. If the windows were really bad to start with and obvious to passersby, we’d have no problem getting people to come. But no, we complain about something that it is impossible to change.

Perhaps we use the weather as a level playing field, a point of commonality, to initiate conversations – you know, break the ice. It does work because everyone will join in, yet grumbling and complaining are negative characteristics and instead of building people up, it drags people down. Who needs more of that?

It seems to me it will take an intentional effort to change my thoughts and expressions about the weather, but I’m going to give it a try. After all, it takes intentionality to do anything worthwhile. So here’s the deal. You have my permission to remind me the next time I complain about the weather that there is a positive aspect that I am missing. Who knows, it may filter down to other areas where I struggle to do better.

Why is it we’re never happy?

spring has sprung Keukenhof09Appearances are deceiving. I’m looking outside my window at actual green leaves on a few of the trees, fading flowers and buds on others, grass that needs mowing (my neighbor’s yard), and perennials poking up besides the blooming bulbs. It looks like spring. The air sports an aroma of spring, BUT it’s still cool. What is up with this? We should have temperatures in the high 70’s. Although I don’t want to lose the temperatures in the 60’s we’ve been experiencing to return to the 20’s and 30’s, it’s still sweatshirt and fleece weather.

Why is it we’re never happy?

It is absolutely beautiful outdoors, yet in my way of thinking, all the windows should be open to let in the fresh air. I could do that without the heat going on, but honestly, it’s too cool to be comfortable. So I will just crack the door and let in a little. That brings me back to my – and a whole bunch of others’ – discontent. If discontent leads to improvement, then it can be a good thing, right? So I’m going to try to find 10 good things about cooler temperatures.

  1. You can go outdoors without a heavy coat.
  2. You can work outdoors without getting covered in sweat.
  3. The work is rewarding because the weeds you just pulled don’t come back overnight.
  4. The biting bugs aren’t out yet.
  5. The birds have returned and you can enjoy their playful antics.
  6. The daffodils and tulips are more vibrant.
  7. The spring flowers seemed to last longer in the cool temperatures.
  8. Nature continues to move in the direction of spring as opposed to waiting.
  9. The ground is not hard and is more workable.
  10. The air is fresh and invigorating.
  11. People seem friendlier because they’re anxious to get outdoors and share with one another.

I did it. I found more than the required 10. And I’m no longer as put out by the cooler temperatures. Maybe I will try this again when a spirit of discontent overtakes me – like when I think it’s too hot. It seems like the process is therapeutic.

Does anyone really observe the National Day of Prayer?

National Day of Prayer ndop-2013-sccacc-wordpress-pageI typically listen to the radio when I have “mindless” tasks like curling my hair, cleaning the bathroom, etc. to do. I’m an auditory learner, so I really am engaged. This morning I was challenged and humbled at the number of men and women who called in to the Focus on the Family broadcast – not to ask questions, not to air their opinions, not to challenge authority, but to pray on this National Day of Prayer. The response was huge!

Each one of them prayed for our country

  • our government leaders from the President down to the janitors in the White House
  • our Congressmen and women
  • our state legislators
  • our local officials
  • our military
  • our Supreme Court Justices and throughout the court system – I should have added lawyers to the mix.

Other groups I had not thought to add to my original list were the families of the military, especially those who were still grieving the loss of a child, spouse or sibling who had given the ultimate sacrifice.

Interestingly, the biggest challenge and emphasis was not for the President and leaders, but for the church in America that we might be humbled and focused to seek God with our whole hearts. This is indeed a challenging thought. If God is going to be glorified in our nation and if we are going to have any measure of peace and safety, cleansing of hearts and lives will have to begin with God’s people and that includes me. I told you I was challenged. How about you?

Spring’s Redemption

Spring has sprung. The grass has riz. I wonder where the birdie is. 

cardinal-snow-snowstorm-red-bird-Favim.com-474579My son told me yesterday that he received 12” of new snow, and it was still coming down. He was expecting 6 to 10 inches more today. Not what I would have scheduled for the first day of spring. When I think of spring, I’m looking for warm sunshine, green grass, balmy days, new life poking through the ground, warm temperatures, and longer days. Did I mention warm weather?

Spring does draw my heart to consider these things, spring-flowers1 yet I think its true meaning is hope! With spring comes a full assurance I will see an end to winter with its cold and yes, snow. The daylight hours will increase and warmer temperatures will begin to lure me outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Yet here’s the looming question. If the daylight hours are increasing, will it impact the way I use my time?

No doubt spring weather also brings additional tasks to clean up from winter’s winds and wild weather. The flower beds will require planning and planting, and the lawn will need attention. Yet all of the indoor responsibilities still require time as well. Somehow it all gets done. The work level increases and yet the number of hours in the day remain static. I tend to think the difference is more of those hours contain daylight, and I can accomplish more outdoors for a longer period. Yet more likely the change comes from my perspective and the way I align my priorities. Instead of being enticed to sit by the fire and watch TV or surf the web, I need to begin now to redeem the time. If I can do it while it is still getting dark early (though daylight savings has already started), just think how much more useful I can be when the reality of spring and summer come to fruition?

Here’s what I’m learning that may also help you. When you redeem the time, it can be done in increments, and it actually works better this way because two benefits appear. First you tend to sustain your efforts because you’re not making huge adjustments, just small ones. You’re increasing a little more each day. Second, you compound your efforts, much like interest on your savings account and increase them consistently. In so doing, one day you wake up and look over your shoulder with amazement to see where you were and where you are now. The key is consistency.

I love spring and all that it entails. (My apologies to those who suffer from spring allergies. I no longer do but more on that on another post.) Today I choose to use it as my springboard to a better and more productive me. I will do better than yesterday and move forward step by step. I can’t wait to see what happens between now and the beginning of summer. Feel free to hold me accountable.

Am I there yet?

Pilot gty_pilots_cockpit_airliner_ll_120718_wgMy husband is an aviation enthusiast and reminded me of this illustration. Before commercial or corporate pilots take off, they file a flight plan which includes, among other pertinent details, the destination and estimated time of arrival. Once they take off, however, wind, air currents, storms, turbulence, etc. work against the aircraft so that they must continually make corrections in order to remain on course and reach their appointed destination. Pilots understand the necessity of regulating the route, anticipating and performing the process to achieve their ultimate goal – a safe and punctual arrival.

This course correction is often needed throughout life, but too often I only recognize it after I’ve become discouraged that my project or goal is not working out right. For example, when I began my adventure into semi-retirement, I had so many ideas about what I would do when I grew up. I have many interests – Bible study, business, embroidery, friends, gardening, grandchildren and their parents, people, reading, sewing, teaching, writing and so much more – so I wanted to make my choice fit within the parameters of the things I enjoyed as well as discover a niche where I could concentrate my efforts so that I spent my time wisely.

I started out enthusiastically, doing a little bit in each genre, yet it didn’t take long to realize that I had too many things going on. I needed to prioritize my list. I thought that since I was good at multi-tasking in the workplace, I could come up with a workable solution if I concentrated on only three things. Not so. The three things were still too large, and I finally realized that I had to narrow my concentration further, yet with an interesting twist. One project remained my main focus while the other two became secondary. In other words, I did not give up on them, but I just take little chunks of time and do something that will advance their completion. It may only be reading an article, watching a video or jotting down ideas, but I am moving along in the right direction. Eventually I will get there – I will realize my goal. At that point it will look like an overnight success, but I’m not there yet, and it’s okay. This has helped my level of frustration.

Maybe when you’re asking yourself the am-I-there-yet question, knowing it’s acceptable to continue along your desired path, regardless of speed or apparent success, will help you as well. Just keep going.

Picture credit: gty_pilots_cockpit_airliner_ll_120718_wg

Happy Valentine’s Day

tullips t11z104aNo doubt Hallmark, FTD Florist and Hershey Chocolate stocks are up today as millions of men and women seek to honor their special someone with a Valentine. Other retailers and restaurants will also increase their business, yet these displays of affection beg the question, will my significant other feel loved as a result? In other words, does the gift given match the person’s personality and help them to feel loved?

My husband loves roses and though I don’t send him flowers for Valentine’s Day, he knows that I enjoy them, and he lovingly sent me some (Thanks, Honey! J). Valentine tradition says roses are the perfect flower to say, “I love you” and spark romance. Although I too adore their beauty, this time of year I’m looking for spring, and a bouquet of tulips perk me up. My dear husband looked at what I liked rather than what he liked and selected an appropriate gift. And, he chose my favorite color.

Dr. Gary D. Chapman contends that each person has a predominant love language that speaks volumes to his/her heart and when another person speaks their language, they feel totally satisfied. It’s like their gas tank is full and their engine is purring like a kitten. It makes sense. If someone tried to speak to you in Portuguese or Russian, you’d have little idea what they were trying to say, even if the message were critically important. Chapman lists the five languages as

  • 5 love languages communication04Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Although each person has a combination of preferences, usually they have two that stand out. If the needs in these areas are met, the person flourishes and grows. Chapman has provided a free online assessment so that you can discover your own love language or that of your spouse or children. It’s especially crucial for teens. Check it out to see if you can find your spouse, kids as well as your own special love language. Be sure to let others know what it is so that they can fill your love tank appropriately.

By the way, have a super Happy Valentine’s Day!