The Right Stuff

For my February Happiness Project, I focused on 10 daily behaviors that would serve my marriage.  Key among these were a few that focused on being a good partner versus being right.

Here is my scorecard on how I performed.  The thing that stands out the most and that I will take forward above the others was the virtuous cycle that is set in motion by choosing grace.

Feb Scorecard

I was going to go through the month without telling my husband about my focus.   That all changed one day in the car when he said something that he knew was controversial and waited for me to react and take the bait. I sat silently and just let his words hang in the air. As I sat there peacefully, instead of assuming I was choosing not to argue he accused me of giving him the silent treatment! This was great insight into how I must normally behave.  I like to be right.  I like to manage my husband and wear the bossy pants. I like to think I’m smarter than everyone including him.  It was eye-opening for me that it was easier for him to see me as punishing him versus recognizing that I was loving him and showing him grace. book So I told him I was working on marriage for my Happiness Project and had revisited the many lessons learned in our marriage-changing workshop on Love and Respect.  I told him I was being respectful and apologized for previous behavior that made him jump to the conclusion that my silence was a punishment.

From that moment forward, we have had a different dialogue.  There has been a lightness to the way we engage with one another.  He laughs when he sees I am choosing not to complain or argue. My decisions not to react have caused him to pause and evaluate what he just said that warranted me biting my tongue.  He has apologized and laughed at himself when he gets heated versus feeling it is his right to behave any way he wants or that somehow I have caused him to act that way. 

The results have been improved cooperation and communication in our household.  As I serve him, he is motivated to serve me right back. Letting go of needing to be right in the moment has paid huge benefits of helping my marriage be on the right track in the big picture.  Happiness Project month 2 has been a success.

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Taking My Own Advice

WorryI haven’t posted in a few weeks.  I have been in a bit of a funk.

Nothing too serious, but there are times when my work life can take a toll on me.  I know better and am the first one to tell others to stop worrying.

Today, for the first time in a long time I felt like I had a small, public win at the office. I needed it and I can’t take any of the glory. God is so good.

What made the difference?  I read these four points below.  I wrote these to myself a few months ago when I was feeling very lost. Here was what I focused on today:

  1. God is a perfect father, who doesn’t compare me to his other children, he loves me.  HE loves ME.  He loves the imperfect me.  I don’t need to waste my time comparing myself to others and spending so much time on my flaws and “growth” areas.  God loves me in this moment and he’ll love me when I’ve improved and he’ll love me if I take steps back.  God loves me right now.  Right this minute, right this second.
  2. I can do nothing without God.  When I’m overwhelmed and stressed it is because I’ve forgotten that he is in charge and somehow I think I’m in control.  I’m not in control.  God is in control and I can trust in his plan.  The evil one distracts me into thinking I can control anything and everything.  I am his instrument but I give it over to him to be the controller.
  3. It is ok to ask the Father for favor.  I have been paralyzed by the belief that I must only serve others and God and that I should never expect favor for the seeds I sow.  I spend too much time thinking I don’t deserve favor because I am caught up measuring the way I worship.  Am I reading the Bible enough, getting on my knees or spending quality time in prayer enough to ask the Father for help? God is a loving and giving God.  He will expand his favor on what the evil one tries to take away 7 fold.
  4. God admires boldness.  I tend to take the humility/meek thing to heart and forget about being bold. I put on the breast plate of righteousness to go and do great work in the world.  God has given me the gift of leadership and I will not put it on the shelf because of fear of what others may say about me.  God never fails.

I will be bringing this out more regularly as a self-coaching technique.  I love to encourage and mentor others and there are times when I need to coach myself.

I’m sure many of you can relate to getting yourself out of a funk. What do you do when you need to build yourself up?  How do you overcome criticism?

The Good Wife

Happiness Project - Marriage MonthI remain committed to my happiness project and this month’s focus is all about my funny Valentine.  I’m upping my game on my marriage.

My husband is a wonderful man.  Like so many (ALL) of us, he isn’t perfect, but he is the answer to my prayers.  He is a Godly and humble man with a positive outlook.  He would lay down his life for his family and will do anything to serve or protect us.  He is smart, capable, considerate, selfless and funny.  He has a level of integrity that continues to amaze and inspire me and at 48, he is still a total hunk.  What’s not to love?

He deserves a month of extreme good-wife-y-ness and I’m going to give it to him.  Here are my new habits for February.

  1. Don’t nag, my schedule isn’t his schedule. He is going to do it when he is going to do it.  I tend to notice a task needs to be done around the house and I ask him to do it without respecting what he’s doing.  We talked about creating a better system to get things done and settled on communicating about the honey-do list via email.  I’m pleased with the results so far.
  2. Check in each day via a text, email or phone call.  My husband and I have very similar, self-sufficient personalities and we don’t need to talk several times a day. But a phone call or text to say I’m thinking of you would be a bright spot in the day. I need all of the bright spots I can get!
  3. Show affection coming and going.  Hugs and kisses hello and goodbye are such an easy thing. I realized a few weeks ago that somehow this had become a not every day thing.  It is back on the everyday list now.
  4. Make him laugh.  We have always had similar senses of humor and we find the same things funny. I’ve challenged myself to share/do/observe something chuckle-worthy every day. I also, make it a point to laugh at his or my son’s jokes. The sound of all of us laughing is music to my ears.
  5. Choose grace.  My significant other has his moments. Trust me, I’m no picnic either. For the month of February, I’m burning my membership card to the legion of the easily offended and am biting my tongue.  I don’t care what he says or does, I’m going to react with grace, humor or worst case scenario walking into another room.
  6. Just do it.  I admit that I am guilty of procrastinating when my hubby asks me to or suggests I do something.  “I’m so busy” has been a handy excuse to ignore requests.  I’m focusing on doing it as soon as he asks and with a smile.
  7. Listen and give him my full attention when he’s talking.  I am sure I am not the only one who sits with the laptop open and pounds away at the keys thinking I’m somehow participating in family life. I miss a lot doing this.  On all fronts.
  8. No complaining.  My husband is an amazing cook and cooks me dinner almost every night (I am the primary breadwinner).  However, some nights I turn my nose up at the dinner I didn’t have to lift a finger to prepare.  Too fattening!  We just had that!   So ungrateful, That is just bad form.  Another thing I complain about is his questionable taste in television shows. Why are reality shows based in Alaska so popular all of a sudden?  I don’t win the battle for the remote control anyway, so I’m not going to complain about it.
  9. Praise him.  This is an easy one.  He does great things every day.  I’m proud of the man he is every day. Consciously expressing it makes me happy.
  10. Serve him.  My husband is a true renaissance man and he can do just about anything.  He can cook, manage our finances, install new flooring and carry a new toilet up 2 flights of stairs so when he needs me to help him, I will be his willing and eager helper.  I am committed to proactively finding ways to serve him and lighten his load.

All the Single Ladies! — Online dating advice in time for V-Day

As we head into Valentine’s Day, I thought I would play Cupid by offering my personal online dating tips.

This is what worked for me and maybe it could work for you, too.

I am an educated and driven career woman who wanted a husband and a family to share and enjoy life with.  I realize that not everyone wants this, but I sure did and I would love to help anyone out there who is in the same situation but maybe needs just a little nudge to go look.

I didn’t settle on who came across my path, I went out looking for him…and I FOUND HIM.

My husband and I met during the pioneer days of internet dating sites.  It was a weird, untrusted and unknown phenomenon, with no track record yet.  Most people who participated did so under a cloak of secrecy, me included.

The ramblings below are the result of numerous tips from my best girlfriends and 1 year of personal trial and error online.

Figure out what you want in a man.  This is the hardest part. Understanding what you want and don’t want and what is good for you and NOT good in any way for you is critically important.  You hear nightmare stories of divas with superficial checklists.  I’m not saying make a list, I’m saying get your priorities straight.  Hint: Character is key.

Put yourself out there.  Find a site that is reputable and treats its members with dignity and dive in.  First thing you’ll need after a valid credit card is an accurate but flattering photo of yourself.  Great relationships are built on honesty. You want a man who is interested in you today not you 20 or 30 pounds or several laugh lines ago. Choose an appropriate and current photo.  It’s tempting to use that one photo from that time you had a stomach bug for 2 weeks and dropped 10 lbs that shows your cheekbones, but don’t.  He needs to be able to recognize you when you meet him in person.

Write a great profile.  Your profile should scream  “You want to meet me!  I’m a great catch!”  Be witty, be clever, be YOU.  Have a friend (or 2) review what you’ve written and give you feedback and then LISTEN TO THEM.  Remember that any man reading your profile already likes your picture so you need to keep his attention. Your words should show him you have your act together.  Be direct, be confident. Be careful not to sound bitter or jaded. Be positive. If positive doesn’t reflect who you are or where you are in life right now, should you be seeking a mate?

Who picks who?  Sites have different features that allow women and men to notify each other to express interest.  You will be tempted to select guys who you find interesting. Calm down missy. This is when you need to step into the feminine.  Let him pursue you.  You have made yourself available and that is all you need to do.  For the first 60 days, you can look all you want but you are only to interact with men that select you.  Yes, you read that right.  If, after 60 days of waiting, no one has picked you or you have no reasonable prospects of a date, please start over with a new picture and/or profile or try other sites.  Maybe one of the niche sites (Christian Mingle, Our Time, something local to your city) would be a better fit.  If you are truly drawn to someone and the 60 day waiting period has gone by, then gain the consent of at least one level headed girlfriend before contacting him one time.  Then, sit back and let him do the pursuing. No chasing.

OK, you’ve got some “hits” now what?  Evaluate carefully who you plan to respond to. You are not obligated.  I know this sounds harsh, but don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings at this point. As a woman you overly empathize with how it would feel to take the risk and pick someone and how awful it would be to never hear back from them or to be rejected.  But he’s not you and he’s not a woman. He can handle it. The guy you are stressing about letting down easily may have used a shot-gun method and picked 100 different women.

Also, keep your superficiality in check and get beyond the pictures.  Read profiles carefully and read between the lines. Once you have someone you’d like to engage with, run it by a friend. This serves two purposes:  it gets you a second set of eyes looking for red flags and it creates a built-in delay.  You are an amazing woman with a full life, you are not sitting and staring at your screen waiting for any form of contact. Give it a few hours girl.  When you do respond, resist the urge to exchange life stories via email and send a brief but warm and witty note.  Without being reckless, your goal is to minimize back and forth email chit chat and exchange phone numbers ASAP.  You are not looking for a virtual pen pal or a texting buddy. Once he follows through with a phone call (and can speak intelligently) suggest a meeting.  Don’t dominate the decision making but a cup of coffee or a glass of wine sure does sound nice.  Remember to meet someplace safe and public with lots of other people around.  More tips on safety later.

Prepping for the first meeting.  Pull together a first date outfit, one that your girlfriends approve of.  You want something that you feel feminine in and that a healthy male will appreciate.  A wise girlfriend once told me to always wear a dress or a skirt on the first date and to wear soft, touchable fabrics on top.  Don’t dress like Miley Cyrus but No Turtlenecks.  In addition to a great outfit, you need a great attitude for that first date, too. Establish a first date mantra and use it to get pumped up:  You are a great woman with much to offer. You are the whole package. You are going to rock this date!

During the date.  Break out the witty banter. The lighter you can make this, the better. Remember this is a mutual decision point where you both have the right to say Yes or No to another date so relax.  Ask him about himself and make sure he asks (and is interested) in YOU.  Conversation starter: Talk about the online dating experience. Trust me this topic alone can fill an evening. Steer clear of traditional first date taboos: old boyfriends, ticking biological clocks, your Pinterest board for your someday wedding and any discussion of more than 1 cat.

Who pays?  As the date comes to an end, let him pay. This may sound old fashioned but again, this is my strategy for finding a man and men pay for first dates. If things work out, you’ll have your entire lives to split things 50/50. Don’t emasculate him. If it looks like there will be a next time, offer to get the next one.

Do I kiss him?  I leave this entirely up to you but I remind you that you don’t owe anyone anything. You didn’t tell him to order the $100 dollar bottle of wine (this story will have to be a future post!).  Also, remember that he may be going out on 10 dates in 2 weeks (as was the case with my husband — again another future post) so don’t do anything that feels unnatural to you and your values. Personally, I don’t kiss people I’ve only known a few hours but I do hug them. I’m a hugger.  I could work up a hug for my worst dates.  It was nice to meet them, I wished them well on their journey and they were helping me on mine. Totally hug-worthy.  I may never hear from them again (nor want to) so my philosophy was to not give away kisses but to embrace the hug.

What next?  You decide if you are Yes, Maybe or No on going on a second date.  You may know immediately or you may need to talk it through with a girlfriend.  You should know what you want to happen before you consider what he wants.

You think Yes, he never contacts you again.  With online dating, he can find you if he wants to. There is no “maybe he lost my number.”  If you never hear from him, it’s his loss.  Learn from it if you can and move on.

He says Yes, you say No.  If you don’t want to see him again and he reaches out for that second date, then end it gracefully.  Don’t waste his time or yours.  Isn’t that what you’d want?  My process involved a nice email note via the site a day or two later that said it was great meeting you but I had met someone else with serious relationship potential that I wanted to focus on.  (see how nicely this is set up by discussing the online dating experience on the date!)  You did not start this process to find new friends so I do not encourage remaining “friends” with any of your online dates.  He has expressed interest in you that you don’t have for him.  Is that the basis for a valuable friendship?  Wish him the absolute best in life, but don’t take him on as a friend.

When the Yes and Maybe guys reach out  (bonus points for timely contact and double bonus points if they compliment you or reference something you said on the date) say Yes and set up the next meeting.  Again in a public place.  Don’t forget to offer to treat.

Safety tips.  Unfortunately, safety concerns are a top reason people view online dating negatively.  It is understandable because the one thing an online date typically does not have that most regular dates do have is a mutual acquaintance.  Someone who says this guy checks out.  Because of this, I highly recommend using sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google to verify what your online prospects tell you about themselves.  With a few keystrokes you can verify a lot. Once the internet search criteria has been cleared, make sure to meet in public places, meet friends and family of theirs as appropriate, call them at the office or go to their place of work (a great way to do this is to offer to pick him up for a date near his workplace).  Have your friends meet him by inviting him to a group activity. Steer clear of anyone that does not want to share their world with you or be part of yours.  Also, as you suggest ways to meet in public that make you feel comfortable, he should encourage and embrace this versus poo-poo your concerns. Any man worthy of your time will bend over backwards to make you feel safe.

And then what happens?  After several dates, you may just have a budding relationship and the start of your forever romance.  Trust your instincts on when to take your profile off of the site. (a true sign that you are investing in him is taking yourself off of the market)  More bonus points for him if he does it first!

You Say You Want a Resolution…

How are those New Year’s resolutions going?  happy-new-year-2014-hq-wallpaper-740769

Still working for you?

With the help of my personal Happiness Project, I am tracking towards my best self-improvement year ever.  (just when I needed it most! )

I don’t know about you, but I need accountability and I need the win.  I am a rule follower and an admitted achievement junkie.  Put my name next to a task and it will get done.  If there is a chance there is recognition involved (even if it is with my virtual blog community) it will get done faster and better.  Knowing this about myself, I adopted a scorecard strategy (just like Gretchen Rubin)  for tracking and scoring monthly goals.  My first scorecard for January/Energy is complete and here are the results.

janscore

High Scores:  The mental goals of under-reacting, staying positive and faking energy levels yielded immediate payoffs.  Instead of wasting energy on negative self-talk, anxiety and resentment or feeling like I should save my energy for later (was I going to need to lift a car off of someone in a few hours?) I could choose a virtuous cycle of seeking out the positive, talking myself up instead of putting myself down and faking higher energy levels just to see what might happen.  This left me feeling strong, capable and ready for anything.  Nailing these 3 goals definitely contributed to higher energy and feeling like the old me again.  Life changing.

Above target but not perfect:  These goals ranged from the fun stuff like planting email seeds (sending out love into the email universe and looking forward to what came back to my inbox) to matters of pure discipline like taking my vitamins and not staring at my blog stats all day.  When it comes to the blog, I have to admit that the days I was successful at not peeking until my must-do work objectives were complete were days I was so busy I barely had time to eat or escape to the ladies room let alone do anything personal on my laptop.

Needs Improvement:  The lowest tier consisted of writing things down at work (detailed notes), sleeping, eating and exercising.  Writing things down?  What does that have to do with energy?  Well it helps me learn and also helps me with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.  Some days I have nothing but meetings all day and I catch myself taking little mental vacations (kind of like Walter Mitty) and coming back to earth and realizing I have no idea what is being discussed. Even though I didn’t hit target on sleep, I know that having a goal to get good sleep got me in bed earlier most nights.  The days I could put a solid checkbox in the sleep column were great days.  There is just something so satisfying about the guilty pleasure of 8 good hours of slumber.  Even though eating clean and getting my 10K of walking didn’t score as high as I would have liked, compared to where I was pre-January, I have to give myself mad props.  To get 10K steps in 50% of the time is a big deal.  If I had been measuring in December, my score would have been closer to 10%.  So huge jump there.  The eating thing is a day by day journey.  I did pretty good until my supply of Costco peanut butter pretzels was replenished.

All in all, 80% is the target and 80% is my average.   I’m feeling energized by my success and that energy is showing up as more of me to give away (one of my 12 commandments).  I will keep the January scorecard going in February (in addition to February’s goals) to make sure I don’t lose ground.

Have you ever had a New Year’s resolution that landed real change in your life?  What was it and what was your secret to success?

YOLO

YOLO

This morning my son met me in the hallway with a big smile on his face and let me take in the wonder that was his outfit. He announced, “it’s pajama day!” and I could see he was looking forward to a day of fun and comfort in his fleece pants.

My shame sheriff rose to the surface and I quizzed him. “Are you sure it’s pajama day buddy, it would be embarrassing to show up in those pants and it NOT be pajama day.”

He assured me it was but I couldn’t let it go, “why don’t you wear jeans to school and bring those bottoms in your backpack and change later, just in case you’ve got the wrong day.” Maybe I was having a flashback to my 18 year old self showing up at the restaurant I was waitressing at in full cowgirl gear only to find out it wasn’t rodeo-days anymore. I needed to protect him from being embarrassed. Just as I was stringing together another warning he smirked at me, did a little dance move and said, “YOLO Mom.”

(You Only Live Once) Wise words.

Oh, and today’s ZerotoHero challenge is to link to blogs you love. Here is Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project.