Posted in Self-Improvement, Writing

Success for the Future

20160806_084854
One of my hobbies – Orchids! 5th time blooming since I brought it home!

Good morning all,

It’s been a while since I posted anything.  I have been focusing on a lot of new things which have taken most of my time.  This entry is the beginning of developing additional focus on my writing.  I’m excited to share with you what’s been keeping me from a regular blogging routine.

In 2015 I decided not to make any “New Years Resolutions” again, EVER!  I thought, it’s too much of a commitment to say on one day that I’ll do or be something for an entire year!  Right away, I knew I’d be setting myself up for failure.  In my day job, I’m always thinking about how we can set ourselves up for success.  So, after a bit of journaling, I decided that I could commit to anything for thirty days!

In 2015 I chose to start one good thing and stop one bad thing every month.  Each month would have a single focus area for positive improvements, and efforts to eliminate something not so good.  Whatever worked for me I would choose to continue just as a part of my new way of life.  During 2015, I stopped chewing my fingernails, I started a fitness program, I went for a whole month without coffee (only water for all fluid intake), another month I eliminated all “fat pills” (cookies, cake, ice cream, basically anything with sugar–or all the good stuff :-))  Needless to say, I was so pleased with the success of my self-improvement approach to 2015, I decided to take it up a notch for 2016.

In November of last year, I spent a good deal of time journaling about “who am I?”  What is it I have always believed about myself that I wanted to be true…not just a wish, not a something I’ll get around to…but no kidding, I wanted there to be observable evidence of truth to the things I believed about myself.  Who is the person I say that I am?  I always wanted to play an instrument, speak another language, be better at personal relationships, stay in shape/be healthy, write a book, etc.  So I came up with a new way to organize my life so that I could set myself up for success.

I created a notebook with eight tabs.  The first tab is the Activity/Progress Tracker which is nothing more than a blank month calendar template.  At the bottom is a legend with alpha characters that match the first letter of the word for each of the following 7 tabs.  Seven tabs, seven days in a week.  So, here are my tabs:

  1. Activity/Progress Tracker20160806_084828
  2. Guitar Practice
  3. Spanish Lessons
  4. Fitness
  5. Writing Studies
  6. Reading
  7. Personal Relationships
  8. Hobbies

Each of the tabs 2-8 are filled with blank notebook pages for me to write short journal entries about progress I’m making in each of those areas.  Every day, I track my progress on my activity tracker like this:

  • H – Gardening 1hr
  • G – 5 min Timed Chord Changes
  • F – 4 miles walk/run intervals

Just like last year, I decided that I’d give it a month and if it seemed like too much work or I could not consistently keep it up to date, I’d try another way.  However, after my first month, I was amazed at how little time it consumed to keep up with my progress and for the first time was able to track real progress.  My objective was to make sure that in any given week, I would have at least three of each letter in my tracker.  If I can’t find time three times a week to focus on Spanish, I’m not going to achieve a conversational fluency by the end of the year (okay, maybe that’s ambitious–but that’s the kind of goal setting that works for me).

The nice thing about this project is that my binder is my affirmation.  I don’t need anyone to pat me on the back.  Also, if I ever start to doubt myself in any of these areas, I just look at the tracker or the log entries behind each of the tabs to see that I have dedicated serious time and energy to the things I believe are important for me to achieve.  So far, it has worked very well.  I have seven completed months of tracking/logging.  I can now play a Spanish love song on the acoustic guitar.  I have a lot of Spanish practice under my belt and have basic (read, write, speak, listen/comprehend) skills.  I am only 14 pounds heavier than I was when I completed technical school in the Air Force at the age of 18–30 yrs ago.  I am improving my personal relationships.  I joined the Nebraska Writer’s Workshop (a three hour weekly commitment) Jan 2015 and am an active weekly member–I wrote my first novel!  I have read 12 and a half books since January–all while holding a full-time job and enjoying the most awesome gardening season ever.

The results speak for themselves and I now have a way to hold myself accountable to the things I say are important to me.  I hope that everyone who reads this is able to glean an idea or two that will help them with their goals.  One of my Writing goals is to blog more regularly.  I haven’t decided upon a rhythm yet, but I’ll share what my plans are soon.

Cheers!

Posted in Business, Education, Relationships, Uncategorized, Writing

2012 Accomplishments

I have begun a new tradition…starting the end of year in recap mode and planning for the next!   I really have much to be thankful for…its sometimes hard to remember that on Mondays!

This has been a year of accomplishments:

  • Completed Bachelors Degree in Business (made Dean’s List w/4.0 average)
  • Received a promotion & a new job
  • Found reliable renters for our small farm
  • Sold old farm truck
  • Updated our family photo (1st in 7 years!)
  • Twin daughters started driving and completed 1st college level course
  • Participated in #NaNoWriMo with my children (Megan was only one to complete hers, but at least we all got started on writing a novel!)

I turn 46 in January!  I seriously don’t feel that old, except when Mondays roll around 🙂 Did I make it clear that I don’t like Mondays?

So, what I am shooting for in 2013?  Do It Yourself (DIY) home repairs; foodscaping my yard; building a close-knit community of dads who want to be better dads, husbands, and friends; becoming more involved in the education process of my mostly home-schooled children; and brushing up on my sign language skills.

Do you have an annual ritual for setting goals and holding yourself accountable to them?

Posted in Relationships

A Gender Betrayed

Women may agree with an assessment I’ve come to conclude–men just aren’t ready for marriage or committed relationships until they’re at least 30 years old or so.

The seed of these thoughts emerged while I was showering this afternoon after my treadmill workout.  And please forgive me, there may be exceptions to what I speak, however, I’ve yet to meet one:  A man, who is a true asset, a compliment to his wife, mature enough to journey in lock-step with his bride–without causing grief, sadness or disappointment – regularly.  Maybe its circumstance, maybe a combination of a lack of instruction, poor communication skills, or that we’re really as fragile as the fairer sex are accused of being?

When I reflect on my own relationship with my wife, I can honestly say that I wasn’t fully prepared for the reality of dealing with young children.  I knew that I wanted a family, and was in love with the idea of being a dad, but man is there a lot of work, repetition, and challenge with caring for our young.  NOTHING in life, except experience prepares you for the reality of being one hundred percent responsible for the care and health of another human being!

labrador puppy at age 2 months
Image via Wikipedia

During the child-rearing years of family, both husband and wife, dad and mom need to be a team–on the same page!  Too often because of the tolerated and accepted stereotypes of testosterone carriers, we’re let off the hook, excused from particular parenting chores and responsibilities because we’re ‘not used to it’ or ‘not as good as it.’  The new world of parenting and navigating the emotional landmines of decisions often lands squarely on the woman.  Late nights with sick children, taxi service and household management when the husband is away on business trips; more on her plate.  The laundry service, the menu planning, cooking, baking, doctors appointments, clothes shopping, parent/teacher conferences, enrollment in clubs and athletic teams…it never ends.  Parenting is the boot camp of independence for many women who learn in the school of unfair and hard knocks that they can stand on their own two feet and don’ t need a man to be a success.  Frustration is the bitter wine shared between the lonely stay at home mom and the dad who all too often puts self before the family.

In many respects, we’re like a young Labrador pup!  You know how they are?  Running through the house, playful, cute….and destructive!  Lordy, the trash isn’t even safe in a home with one of these best friends!  One morning, you’ll awaken to find your favorite slippers torn and soggy; or groggily walk down the stairs to get your morning coffee and step into a pile of puke on the last stair step.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re fun, look adorable in pictures, even more serene and attractive when asleep.  The commitment level associated with the care of a young pup is a long-term endeavor.  Notice any parallels ladies?

While finishing up my shower with these thoughts racing through my head I felt great compassion for my wife and this same story that is being played out on life’s stage throughout the world every day.  It DOESN’T have to be this way, but it won’t change until our theories and instruction for future generations are shown that gender is not an excuse for poor communication skills, respecting boundaries, being consistent or holding true to our commitments.  I really think the whole marriage vows practice should be re-examined and revised, that interpersonal relationship skills should be a course taught in school and required for any couple who find out they’re expecting!

I have four older sisters, have been married for almost 19 years, and have two daughters and one son–been surrounded by estrogen my whole life–and think I have the inside scoop!   I believe that civil society would be better off worldwide if both genders were on equal footing.  Guys, we have so much to learn and much work to do within ourselves.  It’s not all about toys, fun, fame, power or control!  There’s a deeper purpose and meaning to our existence, its time we explore together and help each other be better men.  Our wives and women worldwide deserve it.

Posted in Relationships

Married and Wondering “Do You Love Me?”

Anillos de Matrimonio, Aros de Matrimonio
Image via Wikipedia

The point of this post is to unravel the mystery of how time and circumstance impact your relationship with that person you agreed to spend the rest of your life with.  There are bound to be variances of this tale (some more positive, some more negative) depending upon the support systems and quality of commitment to the communication aspect of the marriage.

My wife and I have celebrated 19 years of marriage on June 20th.  We’ve had three children and moved across the country five times to find a new home and start again–the military is a great way to broaden your horizons ya know!  Our twin daughters came after 3 years of marriage, four years later, our son was born.  My wife and I are very cerebral people–always thinking, contemplating, strategizing–we enjoyed the spontaneity of our pre-child years.  It hasn’t always been the romantic image of wedded bliss one dreams of during the engagement.

Having children begins the truest test of your marriage relationship.  Its easy to have a discussion or debate about differences between two people when there are no distractions or competing deadlines/priorities.   This discussion/discovery phase is natural and necessary to blend two lives together.  But, all of that gets put on hold once children enter the picture.  The real challenge is continuing that blending process with two people who have at least eighteen years of baggage (different backgrounds) while discovering how to share the parenting responsibilities.

No matter how prepared you think you are, or how many discussions you have with your wife prior to the arrival of your children, you will not explore every possible parenting scenario.  The result is unmet expectations and some Children Change Your Lifedisappointments.  This is true for both husband and wife, but especially true for the male in the equation.  Maternal instincts are very real and hormone changes in a woman post-delivery helps them to be very protective and confident about what needs to and must be done.  As a man, you may feel like you’ve taken the back seat and your once “I have all the time in the world for you” sweetheart has been replaced with M. O. M.  and you may be struggling with feelings of abandonment or maybe a sense of having lost your purpose/mojo.  Now there are exceptions and variations to the dynamics I’m telling you about from couple to couple.  No two marriages are the same.

So….fast forward to the point your eldest children are in middle school or high school.  If you take stock/inventory of your relationship and are honest, you’re probably not as happy as you could be or thought you would be when you said “I do” all those years ago.  Some days, life is like “Ground Hog Day” or “Oatmeal…again?” (those references are related to how you view your emotional status from day to day) Some days its hard to feel like life is about anything other than work!  Other days, you’re surprised with amazement at how great or proud you feel.

My wife explained it best using an analogy.  If you’ve ever visited the deserts of Nevada, you’ll see a lot of interesting shaped rocks and boulders.  They didn’t obtain those shapes and textures overnight.  It took years of sandblasting winds and rushing torrents of water to sculpt these beautiful creations.  So, when she says “I look in the mirror and don’t even recognize the person I am!” she’s right–she isn’t the same person!  Time, situations/environments, events, gains and loses have changed the person she was.  The same has also happened to you.

I was reminded during our conversation about the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” and the song Tevye and Golde sang to each other “Do You Love Me?’  Here’s an excerpt…

“(Golde)
Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”

“Copied from lyricsondmand.com”

In addition to time and circumstance she has truly become someone else.  A code developer who loses his job and gains employment as a cab or delivery driver after a couple of years will notice diminished capacity at developing code for applications.  You know the expression, if you don’t use it, you lose it!  Same transformation holds true for people on a personal/relationship level.   After so many years, she becomes a logistics, navigator and event planner expert.  Her conscious day to day skills are honed around being the person who schedules the babysitter, and juggles the events schedule for figuring out how much time between grocery shopping and getting the oldest child to the soccer field.

Life is often more challenging for women than it is for men because they have to cope with our lack of interpersonal skills.  We generally aren’t taught or encouraged to communicate on all levels well enough to share the workload of house and family in a way that a woman would consider equal.  We’re not taught how to BE a person of encouragement and support–considerate, gentle, thoughtful–enough to slow down and think of someone beyond ourselves.  Another way its challenging for them is there are many families where both parents work…so stop and think a minute about how many hats she’s wearing!  It’s sometimes hard for a woman to “feel” anything other than tired.

Too often we men think in the “ME” context.  Now, being objective about myself, I do a lot more than most husbands today–laundry, cooking, schoolwork grading, cleaning, full-time job outside of the home, dates with the kids.  But I haven’t always been where I am today.  I went through too many years where the job was #1…and my marriage suffered for it.  So, I guess I’m spilling my life story to you all (especially the men!)  to spare you some grief.  Talk to your wife–on second thought, don’t…LISTEN to your wife.  Hear what she has to say (often she just needs to vent) and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.  Most importantly, in whatever way you can be supportive, be CONSISTENT!  Find ways to SHOW you appreciate her. Share the household schedule/chores to allow her a chance for a break without interruptions or demands.

I close this post with something for you to think about:  “LOVE IS A VERB!”  Words mean nothing without action. Do your best to exercise your communication muscles daily–don’t give up and don’t lose hope!  Kahlil Gibran said, “Let there be space in your togetherness”  Don’t forget to allow yourself to be vulnerable to other people outside of your marriage who you feel safe with.  Sometimes you too need to vent.  Another person’s perspective on your situation can sometimes slap you out of your own pity party and put your mind on a better path!

Peace–let me know your thoughts, and if you’re further down the road (years of marriage) than me, and can offer another perspective–please share.  I would love to be prepared for the next 10 years of marriage.

Posted in Relationships

From Passion to Parent – We Men Can do Better

Gentlemen,

I’m writing because there’s something that must be said.  I speak from personal experience, both as an observer from childhood and as a husband/father.  We can do better!  Just ask your mother or your wife!  On the average, regardless of origin, age or class, women bear the brunt in the familial relationship.

I know there are exceptions and some men are great examples of how to be a true teammate in the marriage relationship.  Most women however could, can or have thought the following:

How is it that even though we both work, I still end up doing most of the:

Grocery shopping/menu planning
Cooking/cleaning
Arranging for babysitters
Picking up the kids from school when one gets sick in middle of the day
Staying up with sick kids in the night
Handling the more emotionally sensitive discussions

Now I realize that some of you may bristle at reading this post.  If the truth fits though, perhaps there’s some chance/hope of change.  Most fathers begin their parental journey lacking necessary skills to embrace the responsibility in a fashion that allows women to feel they are “on the same page!”  Many of us are too absorbed in the feelings of loss created by displacement in what seems relationship priority.  You may feel as though this bundle of joy has ousted you in #1 position with your bride because you’re not able to spend the kind of time you used to spend with her.  You may also feel like no matter what you do, it doesn’t seem to be good enough.

This relationship evolution (from the passionate/blissfully spontaneous intimacy of just the two of you, to a now exhausted, frazzled, lets  just stay at home)  will never remain static.  Get used to constant change and many surprises.  If you find yourself in a rough patch, relax–its normal and it won’t always be like this.  The parenting years are some of the most stressful and create a great deal of introspection and comparison between how you remember being parented (what was and wasn’t okay) and how you want to parent.

The real key to harmony once you split yourselves up by creating more mini-miis is to mentally condition yourself to always approach every situation with a questioning mental posture.  If you attack the situation with suggestions and assumptions, you might as well take off your size 10 shoe and begin inserting into mouth!  Seriously, plan your time–print out a blank calendar each month and put the important things to accomplish on it and post it on the fridge.  If you don’t know what she’s planned, your spontaneous after work drinks with the guys just might have hijacked her schedule to have her one and only ladies night out event.  Guys, let me tell you, there’s no greater stress that having to juggle everything on that list above , maintain a house and full-time job!  Take inventory and see where you can help out.

Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, homework help…as much as you can anticipate and take care of  is greatly appreciated.  Where you begin to sense distance and coldness in your relationship is when she feels abandoned and saddled with the responsibility for everything.  She’ll be gritting her teeth, cleaning puke off the floor from one of your sick kids remembering “for better or for worse!” while you’re snoring away.  Its times like those that begin to create the irritable exchanges, the brief looks that once were longing, and the quick peck on the cheek instead of the passionate embrace.  Don’t let the little things in life, forgetfulness, procrastination, and obliviousness our gender is notorious for ruin the adventure of sharing your life with another.

Women, can I hear an amen?

Posted in SocialMedia

Personality Type ~ Impact on Relationships

As a parent of three children I am frequently afforded the opportunity to observe relationship dynamics at their best and their worst.  There is no other relationship that better forces the conditions of intimacy (day-to-day, in your space and in your face) like marriage as the sibling relationship.  There’s an obligation to “relate” to each other because of proximity and genealogy.  Some are better at it than others and I’ll explain why I believe that.

Introversion and extroversion are polar opposites on the personality continuum.  Most people fall somewhere just to the right or left of center if you were to view these personality styles on a gauge.  However, there are some whose personalities are in the far right or left extremes on this scale.  Neither one is “better” than the other.  They both have valuable attributes that are beneficial in every situation.  Often introverts need time to process thought before sharing it with others, and extroverts need to voice thought as it comes into their heads. Extroverts can sometimes appear to railroad over introverts in meetings and heated discussions because they are a bit more experienced at shooting from the hip so to speak.  Introverts will find themselves have to apologize less than extroverts for things said that can be hurtful.

This discussion I just had with my kids last night:

The stay-at-home parent lives and works in the home 24/7/365.  My wife home schools our children so her “office” is our home.  I consider myself to be a very organized individual and enjoy sharing the benefit of my skill with others.  So, early in our marriage I would get a wild hair and “reorganize” the kitchen drawers and their contents so it made more sense.  The part that I didn’t appreciate was that this kitchen was the same to her as my office was to me.  Every person works differently according to their personality, training, and experience.  My way wasn’t “better” than hers, and it was arranged to suit her personality and the way she worked in it.

In relationships where it is obvious who the “owner (i.e. responsible individual)” of a particular job, it is very important in your helpfulness to respect that the owner may not work the same way as you do.  If you wish to “help” someone, make sure your help is truly helpful.  This can only occur if you share your idea with them before taking action.  Now in this instance please don’t think me a sexist because I’m not, I have learned that when I use the kitchen, I use it according to the arrangement/design that my wife prefers because overall, I do spend less time in it than she does.  I try to make at least one meal a week, and do a lot of the cooking on the weekends.  But, back to the point of this entry.

Credit for image to "Chiff.com" "Sibling Rivalry Happens to the Best"
Credit for image to "Chiff.com" "Sibling Rivalry Happens to the Best"

Introverts should not get discouraged and give up in situations where an extrovert is exercising their “good idea” capability.  In intimate relationships, it is important to have equal voice and for both to be heard/considered and valued for the positive aspect each contributor is offering.  You can have five people in the same room talking about one subject, but five different perspectives.  Three may see the glass half full, and two may see it half empty–but all are viewing a glass with 50% of its volume filled with fluid.  Allowing all of the views to be heard is how creativity is born in collaboration environments.  (this applies marriage, siblings, teams, working groups, etc.)

Respecting ownership of ideas is very important!  If Johnnie has an idea for a game but is struggling on one aspect, he may ask for help from his siblings.  Jill, excited by the whole idea may want to change key elements because it isn’t how she would have planned it.  When you’re invited to “help” on someone else’s idea you must remember that the originator of the idea probably already has at least an 80% solution for the end state in their head.  It’s better to offer your opinions and suggestions in the form of a question, rather than critical comments.  It requires a bit of thought and processing in your head before you share it with the person who has invited your creative assistance.

Ownership and expression of ideas is what helps us become known by others.  Michael Jordan is known for his skills on the court.  Martha Stewart is known for her expertise on the domestic front and how to make a house a little more home-y! Chris Brogan is known for his expertise in social media. Oprah Winfrey is known for her position as queen of daytime TV and a promoter of authors.  Ellen Degeneres is also known for her position in daytime TV but comedy is her thing!  We are all great at something!  It is important that we look for and respect those skills, talents, and perspectives in each other and remember when we are asked for help that our help is FOR the person asking.  When you take hostage someone else’s ideas, and begin to change them to suit your own perspectives, you are asking for discontent and a fracturing of the relationship.

We humans are fragile, sensitive, particular beings; male or female, introvert or extrovert, optimist or pessimist.  Caring for and nurturing a marriage, supervising a sibling relationship, or leading a team at work requires a careful balance of observation, a LOT of listening, and meditation BEFORE you open your mouth or take action.

Posted in Uncategorized

Christmas 2010 Poem & Thoughts

My Christmas poem:2010

Twinkling bright the little lights
Upon our Christmas tree
Trimmed and topped the boughs now frocked
with tinsel and treasures for all to see

While wrapping presents with my son today, I mentioned the non-stop rains in California and the loss of property, as well as people who lost their jobs this year, and the homeless across America.  He said, “I wish there was a way that everything could cost only a penny–no matter what it was, and that people could count on their homes staying in one place!” (seeing the houses collapse in mudslides)  It is important for us all to remember with gratitude, the blessings that we have been privileged to enjoy.

We spent the day baking and preparing to bring a meal down to my wife’s folks as they are housebound.  Chex Mix is baking in the oven; my wife and I still managed to get our workouts done on the treadmill.  We are bound and determined to enter the “senior” stage of life with as much get up and go as we can.  It’s tough staying committed to a workout schedule when you have teenage children.  But we won’t put upon them the burdens of full-time geriatric care that is required of many who choose the TV and sofa over the gym.  Life is hard enough, might as well enjoy every single moment given to us.  I encourage you all to at least get out and walk, weather and safety permitting!  Even walking can prolong your cognitive and physical strength.  Read this article http://aol.it/efkBQQ if you don’t believe me.

In addition to doing better with health and lifestyle choices, I am committed to being as good a husband and father as I can be.  This means doing more reading (marriage, child-rearing, and financial planning books.)  I also will use my cooking/baking talents acquired growing up with 4 older sisters and working as a General’s Enlisted Aide for 3 1/2 years in the Air Force.  Men, if you need some help in the area of encouragement I’m not perfect but I try…respond or follow me on Twitter @justasked…I love people who engage, ask questions, provide answers, and generally those who share themselves with others.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Cheers,
Ed