Monday, August 28, 2006

Florida: Before the Storm

Central Florida is preparing for a hurricane. The stores have stocked up on water and the newscasts are updating their weather reports every hour. It’s a nerve wracking time for a newbie so I thought I’d jot down a few observations.

I moved back to Central Florida last year after being away for 20 years. We haven’t had any hurricanes as of yet but it seems that we are facing the possibility of one now.

Preparing for a hurricane is like getting ready for a crazy aunt that is going to visit. You have to get special food, and set your house up just right so she doesn’t inconvenience anyone. You have to get the yard fixed, extra food and do all of the laundry just in case you’re busy entertaining and can’t do any when she comes.

The attitude of our neighbors greatly differs depending upon who you speak with at that moment. When I was in a local news station the other day, there was buzz of the impending storm and with any “news” that might hit at any moment, the whole newsroom is thrown into an unusual amount of chaotic activity. Let me just say, if you aren’t an adrenaline junkie, then you shouldn’t work in a newsroom. They thrive on intense situations and all seem to be cool under pressure. That’s when they’re at their best.

As for me, the new gal in town, when I heard about the storm, I dropped everything and headed to the store. I stopped to ask my neighbor if she needed anything and she nonchalantly mentioned that they had plenty of everything and didn’t need anything. When I’ve talked about hurricane’s before, I’ve heard that our neighborhood gets together for hurricane parties and has a ball. The neighbors across the street own an electrical company so they provide anyone in the neighborhood with power if they have an extension cord that is long enough. It relieves the stress about having no air conditioned during the tropical heat that the fall season brings.

When I got to Walmart, I didn’t feel the electricity that you sometimes feel before some tragedy, or massive event. I did see lots of people possibly getting ready for the storm and lots of them were buying water and paper products and canned goods, but there was plenty of regular shopping going on too. One gentleman casually asked if I was preparing for the hurricane. It didn’t seem to be a surprise to know that I was “new” in town. I guess I had more of that look of, “I’m going to fight this thing come hell or high water.” Generally, most of the others who have probably lived here longer than me, weren’t as worked up about it.

My own mother admitted that she’s praying that no one gets hit this year. She’s painfully aware of what hardships they went through a few years ago during the summer of 2004 when they were hit back to back to back. They went without electricity for over a week and she doesn’t want a repeat of that.

I spoke with my good friend Debbie Benton who left Central Florida recently to go back home to New Orleans after they lost their home last year and she said that they’re all feeling that one hurricane could just send them all over the edge mentally. I’m sure many of them are praying like crazy too. Come to think of it, if all of us pray that we all get a break this year, perhaps that extra focus on keeping us all out of harms’ way will encourage the Good Lord to spare us all this year.

Hurricane season isn’t the most fun but our life here is pretty glam outside of the pending weather. Florida is destined to become the third most populated state in the next 10 years and I certainly see the attraction. It’s got great weather 11 months out of the year, beautiful beaches, a laid back attitude and even decent shopping.

So this week, keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Even though the natives are used to these alerts, I think they’d rather not have the visitor this year. Three crazy aunts that visited a few years ago are about three too many!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Performers Regret

Tonight I watched a documentary on Jerry Sienfeld by Jerry Sienfeld. It was an inside look at the inner turmoil of a comedian. It documented the struggles of the comedians to write new material, keep it fresh, try it on audiences and then to perform in a one hour + show. It was cool to see Jerry forget his line or his joke and freeze on stage. It was insightful to see the other comedians give him advice or commiserate with him over his feeling that he didn’t quite have it any more. He wasn’t in the flow of the material much of the time and it was such a relief to hear them admit that to one another. He was admitting how long it took to get the gig right, and to make it look easy.

In the TV news field, people rarely have a bad day. They’re always perfect and say everything correctly. They have perfect make up and have memorized their lines and after they’re through, go on to their perfect lives. Okay, I’m just joking! I know it’s not true, but it’s rare to hear a talent admit to anyone that they were off or not exactly “on” that particular day so my own doubts about my performance don’t find a voice.

This week I appeared on one of the local TV stations commenting on the recent story of whether working women make lousy wives. I was excited about the topic because of course I have lots to say about it. I could extemporaneously speak about this topic for an hour and still be excited to express my wealth of wisdom on this topic I know so well. (YES.. sometimes we DO make lousy wives… but not all the time, and most of the time, we’re working hard to please everyone!)

During the newscast, I was squashed in between a plane crash, some local crime buzz, and some other hard news stories. I’m used to getting about 3-4 minutes on a news segment and forgot to ask before I went on the air. So without me knowing what hit me, my segment was over in about a minute thirty, and I was DONE. OFF the air. Finished. Caput. Gone. Adios. You get the picture. The anchor ran back to the news desk, with my jaw hanging down to the ground.

Okay, I’m being a bit over dramatic. I was fine…. for a minute. But after I regained my bearings, I realized that I had just bombed the segment! I was ticked at myself and angry that I didn’t say more brilliant tips on how to survive a current marriage. I was horrified that I didn’t give the advice about making the time people have with their kids’ quality instead of quantity. I was upset I didn’t dazzle the anchor, and have her tell me that she’d love to get together with me to chat sometime, like they often do. Not today. As soon as we closed the segment she was gone in a flash, and I left thinking that I bombed.

A bit paranoid you say? Perhaps I am, but at this point, I’ve done enough TV segments to know when I hit a home run and know when I’m average and know when I stink. I didn’t stink today, but I just floated above average today. My hair and makeup checked out fine (according to my mother who loves me no matter what I do and who called 19 of her friends and told them to watch), and the segment did manage to look like we were having a friendly chat, but I didn’t pull off the goal of the segment, which was to offer solid tips for the viewers. The anchor who was the consummate professional, was lively on the air and acted like I offered some great wisdom.

Needless to say, this inner turmoil that I now feel will feed me to better prepare and practice for my next time on the air. I’ll get the call inviting me to be on the air. Then I’ll write an article on the topic that they request, probably a few hours before show time. Rush to get dressed, but this time, show up with my 3 main points drilled into my head, ready to spew out of my mouth regardless of what she asks me. I probably won’t have much time to prepare, just like today, so I’ll know if I get the 3 points out, I was successful.

Jerry Sienfeld gave me confidence today. He gave me the confidence to admit when it’s not in the flow and when it doesn’t quite work. He gave me the strength to keep working hard until the segments are all hit out of the park. He also gave me the motivation that even if a performer regrets the segment they just did, there is always another show tomorrow and the day after. The key is to never give up, always keep trying, and go easy on yourself when you feel you bombed. Even the best performers have off days.

So I learned? No more regrets! Thanks Jerry!

Tell People You Love Them

Have you ever met a person who knows exactly what to say at the right time? He or she is the type that always makes you feel good, respected and loved. It’s the rare individual who has learned that this simple quality is one of the most important ones to develop good relationships with others.

Today at church my husband was speaking to a guy we know and like from Boy scouts. This guy has a few kids and is one of those easy going and funny individuals that always makes you feel good to be around. The first thing he said to me was that he loved my new hair cut and that I looked “beautiful”.

And then he told me that he was just telling my husband how lucky our community was to have him around and that he really loved us.

Imagine how we felt? Oh my gosh, we were just in awe that this guy who we really enjoy but don’t know all that well, took the time to make us feel good ourselves, needed and loved. And of course since this is the type of guy who always strives to make everyone feel good, he’s a very popular guy and people want to be around him.

So why don’t we all do that to one another? Certainly there are people that we see in our every day lives that we admire and respect. There are individuals who have that sunny outlook on life and are always upbeat and fun to be around. Are we telling them? Could we do better at that? What could it hurt after all? And if we have the opportunity to make someone feel good, should do it?

I learned a valuable lesson today. It’s that each one of us want to feel connected and important for who we are, not just for what we do or what we look like or for the money we make. We want our lives to count and to matter, to others and to the community at whole.

I was given a gift today by a valued member of our community and now it’s my responsibility to pass that gift along to someone else. Perhaps at the store today I’ll tell the cashier that she’s doing a good job. Or I’ll wave to a neighbor or compliment them on their nice yard. Or, I’ll tell a child that he is talented at the scooter or the hula hoop!

We can all have immediate impact on those around us. We can make or break their days, just based on whether we are looking for the good in others, or just looking at the obvious and complaining about that. We have a choice. That choice can and does effect others in a positive or negative way.

So when we start our day, ask yourself, “How can I make others feel good about who they are today?” If we keep that message in the forefront of our thoughts, good relationships will be developed with others. In return, people will always want to have you around.

If you tell them you love them.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Do Working Women Make Lousy Wives?

The recent controversy that was recently posted on between Michael Nor, the editor and his associate Elizabeth Corcoran about whether or not working women make lousy wives is the same controversy that working women versus stay at home mom’s have been fighting over for the past 30 years. People dramatically defend their positions based on their own personal point of view, regardless of the statistics that support theirs or their opponent’s side.

Let’s take a look at the so called facts according to the article by Michael Nor:

If you marry a working woman:

Working women are more likely to get divorced, and less likely to have children
If they do have children, statistics show that they’re more likely to be unhappy about it

But, let’s also look at the facts:
They still carry the majority child rearing duties
The average woman does 7-9 loads of laundry a week and are carrying the majority of the housework and still are working the same average of working dads at 7 hours and 50 minutes.
These numbers change when the couple has small kids.

On the flip side:
Non working women aren’t as happy according to the polls
Don’t have as much in common with their husbands as the young ladies at the office do
Working women aren’t controlled by their husbands because they have more freedom if they earn their own money.

Let’s face it! We’ve heard it all before and we all have an opinion about it based upon our own experience. What I’ve learned by coaching and speaking with men and women about this subject is that we are all painfully aware that we’re basically living in a different day and time from the time any of us grew up. In the good ol’ days, most of us came home to a mom after school who gave us snacks and then we kissed her goodbye until dinnertime when she served us a home cooked meal. If and when we did homework, it wasn’t until middle school that we really had to study at home, and we might turn on the Brady Bunch or Gomer Pile to unwind after an afternoon at the neighborhood pool or playing Simon Says. We worried about whether we were going to get picked on a team for kick ball, and whether or not the neighborhood boy would sit next to us on the bus.

Fast forward 30 years and our teenagers are dodging bullets in our schools. Kids are learning to make explosives off the internet and as parents we’re scared stiff for our child to wander out of our site for 5 minutes so our child isn’t molested or kidnapped. Mom’s are working just as many crazy hours as their husbands or ex husbands and the kids have to fend for themselves spending hours upon hours with their best friends, the TV’s, and Video games. Conversely, they’re also getting to travel more, have more luxuries and have more conveniences than we did as children.

What is the answer to this question of working or not working outside the home? We want our kids to excel in school so we work to provide them an excellent education. We want them to be able to explore the world and travel so we work to give them opportunities that we never had. The pressure is on both moms and dads to compete for promotions at the office or to build their personal incomes or empires. Our world is globally competitive and we’re no longer competing with just the people in our own community, but now, we’re competing with everyone else around the world.

As a result, we have added tremendous pressure and stress to our lives. We’re burning out more often and our families are suffering. The divorces are up because stress is up, and if we don’t personally take control of our own lives, we can all end up being a statistic.

The bottom line is this: YOU GET TO CHOSE FOR YOURSELF! We all make personal choices depending on what is important or what we value at that point in our lives. If the kids are small and we feel that they’re better served by us saving for their future by working for their college tuition, that’s a personal choice a couple has to make. If the kids are in high school and need someone to monitor them more closely, the couple may choose to have one of the parents at home during that season of their lives.

What I’ve learned is this: We’re all doing the best we can given the resources we have at the time. Are we all making the best choices? No, not necessarily, so here are a few tips that can help aid the process along.

Put the marriage first. Couples will only stay strong as a unit if they’re able to connect frequently to discuss their ups and downs. If the couple sets aside 10 minutes a day to “dialogue” with each other about their feelings and events, the marriage has a better chance of staying a priority. Just like a car, if you don’t do regular maintenance, the car will die. A marriage is the same, without the regular focused time given to the relationship, the marriage will die and the couples will individually turn to outside sources for their support. Do things like write emails to each other during the day, have a regular coffee time where you call each other on the phone, or meet nightly in a special setting that you set up to do a dialog with each other. Practice only using encouraging words to each other and stop yourself before you use words like “you always, or you never”. These destructive words damage and don’t heal or support. Focus on supporting your mate first and foremost before everyone else.

Focus next on the family. When you married and had kids, you chose a life, and a lifestyle. Your family is going through seasons all the time. Having little children is the most demanding time of all. Discuss the needs of the children and what is going to work best for them, then plan accordingly. Kids need to feel secure so setting family time every week such as Friday night is movie night, or Saturday is chore or play time. Make things a game and decide together how the family will spend family fun time each week. We’re lucky in Orlando that there are so many things to do for families such as the theme parks, beaches and resorts are close by. Make events such as the first lost tooth memorable by doing something special. Create special holidays and traditions that are unique to your family. And try to eat together at least once a day for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

3. Realize that all of our choices bring positive benefits but also have a down side. You will have to make sacrifices along the way. Discuss these fully by making a pro and con list before you make major decisions in your lives such as should we hire a nanny or use day care? Should I go part time and receive no benefits at work in order to have more time at home? What is more important at this point in our lives, having a beautiful wardrobe or going on a nice vacation? These should all be joint decisions. And always have something to look forward to so you don’t feel like you’re never coming up for air.

For husbands:

Thank and acknowledge your wife for what she’s doing right! Tell her that you appreciate her making the meal even if she threw it together at the last minute.
Realize you’re NOT married to June Cleaver and that a messy house is the sacrifice that you might have to make if you are both working. Realize that you are now a modern man, and modern men change messy diapers, clean the toilets and occasionally do laundry.
Only have eyes for your wife and tell her how beautiful she is and that you’re blessed to have found her!
Take time out for yourself and do self care by working out and meeting with your buddies for lunch every so often. Your career isn’t going away and statistics show you’ll be more productive if you take time off every week to refuel.
Be a good partner by loving and respecting your family and their differences.

For wives:
Thank and acknowledge your husband for him working hard to support your family. Even if you do it too, understand the toll he’s taking at work and appreciate the time he spends taking care of the family.
Praise him for every thing he does in the house to help you. Yes if you are a typical family, you probably do more, but you can encourage him more by being sweet than by arguing and by nagging.
Treat him to a special dinner now and then, and make sure you have fun date nights where you dress all up and look great for him! Call it old fashioned, but guys love to have their wives look nice, so put on that make up, put on some heels now and again, and take care of your man!
Get support if you need it from friends, co-workers, counselors or experts in the areas where you need help.
Take good care of yourself by doing lots of personal self care to nurture your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional sides.

We’re all in this world at a crazy time. We’ve got stresses with money, war or children. Realize you’re just in a SEASON of life and it will get better eventually. Hang in there, and know, that the weekend is coming, and you can kick back for a few hours on the weekend to recharge, and do it all again on Monday.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We Don’t have Friends, We have Mirrors

Tonight I was in a coaching class and the instructor made the statement: “we don’t have friends, we have mirrors”. I thought that was so interesting because it is describing the law of attraction, that what we are, we attract. What we reap, we sow, etc. We develop friendships with people who have similar interests, backgrounds, or other commonalities such as location, career choice or even mental outlook.

The friends as mirrors concept is really great. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have lots of different friends that reflect different sides of your personalities, or your different moods. I admire my friends for different reasons and have different types of conversations with them when I’m with them.

I have my old friends from high school. With a couple of my friends, we can’t go 10 minutes without reverting back to talking about people from high school or talking about the “old days”. My husband just LOVES to hang out and listen to us rant and rave about all of these people who he doesn’t know! But even though I know how bored he is, I cant’ help but laugh and whoop it up with these friends even when the stories we’ve told have grown so old that my husband could recite them from memory. Then, I have friends that I talk “kids” with on a regular basis. We share our secrets for motivating our kids or swap stories back and forth of how the kids are doing at school. Several of these friends I see at school so we also have that in common. I find it comforting to connect with these friends a few times a week for short minutes at a time. I know they’re living their personal or work life in between the hours of 8-3:00PM like I am and many of us are doing kid stuff in the afternoons like Taekwando.

I have my “beautiful friends” who I talk to about staying in shape and working out. I want to spend even more time with these friends as this is an important part of my life right now. But truth be known, I sometimes avoid these friends if I’m feeling particularly sluggish, fat, or the feeling I’m having a bad hair day. And if I’m going to see any of them, I usually work out hard for several days in a row to drop a few lbs before I have to go out with them. It’s always great motivation having friends like these. I know they’re not judging me, but they genuinely know my desire to be in shape so they come armed with lots of ideas and motivation.

I have my “TV” or “PR” friends who have creative minds and are constantly in the “Know”. I find them intriguing and exciting and when I’m around them, I want to appear brilliant, creative and witty. Of course this doesn’t always happen and so I sometimes have to get back with them about something I’ve found out that they might like. I always want to feel like I’m bringing them as much value as they bring me. These folks are similar to my work associates or friends. These are people I’ve worked with or for through the years, and we catch up a few times a year. I enjoy hearing about their lives and their triumphs as well as their struggles. I knew them for a “season” in my life when we were close and although we’ll never be that close again, we’ll still remain friends, just at a distance.

Then I have a few of those, “just come as you are” type of friends. We have no masks, no games, and no agenda. We can pour out our hearts to one another without the risk of rejection and no fear of losing the friendship. These are the friends whose calls I’ll take any time of the day or night, and will return their call promptly as soon as I see it on the screen. These friends include my mom and my sister, and a few others who will always be some of my best friends. We can go months without talking, or talk every day, but the intimacy and realness is always there.

I’ve had to let a few friends go here and there. The ones who had unreal expectations of the amount of time I was able to offer in friendship, were told the truth. Others had other agendas in their lives that made it hard to relate. Still others, didn’t understand my role as a mom and the choices I made separated us by our own individual beliefs. Some new friends have had to be told that I’m just not able to get together now due to some additional responsibilities, and that in a few months, my personal situation will probably be a bit different. I’ve found that honesty is the best policy, because even new friends can tend to get their feelings hurt when you don’t respond to their invitations.

Some friends I’m surprised are still with me. I’ve been through so many personal ups and downs that I can’t believe they’re still around to cheer me on. Other friends, I wish I could connect with more, but for one reason or another their lives have taken them on a completely different journey. Many of them I miss, and will always think of them often.

If our friends are our mirrors, I’m feeling pretty good right about now. Even though my life isn’t full of socializing, I still feel the closeness of a few very dear friends and blessed to enjoy the personalities of many interesting individuals who I enjoy wholeheartedly. Lives become rich because of the friends we keep and the relationships we nurture.

We don’t have friends, we have mirrors. Who is in your mirror today?