Monday, December 12, 2011

Let me entertain you

Yesterday my daughter wanted to call child protective services. Apparently, in her mind, the mommy contract clearly states that if the children are not being entertained at all times then their life sucks.

The morning started with her in pajamas on the couch watching Nickelodeon as I checked email, emptied the dishwasher and made cinnamon rolls. This progressed to me bringing up the boxes of ornaments so tree decorating could be done in the evening, starting laundry and cleaning bathrooms. About bathroom number three the pouting began (by her-although I’m sure I always pout a bit while cleaning toilets).

“WHAT are we going to do today??!!”

“Uhhh…I’m trying to get a few things done and then after lunch Drew has a meeting."

“WHAT?? That’s not fun!!  Why can’t we ever do anything fun?”

Yes, I never do anything fun with my kids. In fact-I try to never be fun, funny or even happy for that matter. Just call me Eeyore….thanks for noticing.

Of course anyone besides my daughter that Sunday morning knows that I thrive on joy. I love to laugh and make others laugh. I guess somewhere in that desire translated into me being her personal circus clown, cruise director or theme park.

So I found myself saying the very un-fun speech about life not always being fun.

We all know it’s true. Cleaning bathrooms isn’t my choice Sunday morning activity. But I shove my ipod in my back pocket and try to make the most of it. Attending a two hour meeting with my 16 year old isn’t a barrel of laughs-but we whisper silly comments to break it up. Sitting through her Christmas concert is not fun-elementary band and orchestra can be downright painful-so I make lists in my head or make silly faces at the inevitable toddler sitting nearby to hear them giggle.

There was a women I knew years ago who made a huge impact on my life regarding this subject. She had three kids the same age as mine and had the most amazing spirit. She had lost an arm to cancer and held a continual battle with the disease, in and out of remission.

I had just had knee surgery and was struggling to walk across a field to a soccer game our boys were playing in together. At that time she was slowly losing her battle, yet she was so concerned about my knee it was overwhelming. I told her how it was really nothing, leaving out the word “comparatively.” But really she wanted to discuss the not important, hear the normal, talk about anything but the disease that was killing her. She needed to smile, socialize and enjoy whatever was presented to her, no matter how trivial or mundane.

She gave me a new appreciation for enjoying every moment to the best of my ability. Even if it’s waiting in line at the DMV, getting your flu shot and joking with a nurse, or those hateful events like flat tires or dentist exams can be made bearable if put in the right perspective and humor.

We can tell our kids about starving, sick, abused or simply neglected children and see if that helps them appreciate what they have. But life will teach them that same lesson if we simply show them to open their eyes and see the world around them. And when things are truly not fun, they need to develop the sense of humor to be their own circus clown.
Even Eeyore can see the bright side on occasion:

"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However, " he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Across the Ocean

I’m on an almost nine hour flight from Amsterdam. This was my third Thanksgiving there. I don’t mind not being home for this holiday. It’s not one I really understand. I know it’s about being thankful for what you have and the family aspect is nice. But I’m with my family a lot and I try to live a thankful life.  My kids only see their cousins on their dad’s side once a year, during this holiday, so it seems a perfect time to see Dan.

We’re beginning year three of a long distance relationship. We take it to the extreme of course. I’m in Pennsylvania and he’s in Holland. Yet more than half of the year he’s in Africa, Asia, South America or some other part of Europe. I have trouble keeping track. But we see each other every two to three months. I fly there, he flies here, or we meet somewhere.

We were much more social than usual this trip. Dan cooked a traditional PA Dutch Thanksgiving, we met his friends for lunch, drinks, and I even helped locate a Krav Maga center in Amsterdam for Dan’s friend, an extremely high profile musician who is often in fear from strange fans or even stalkers.

One of his friends commented that it must be easier now, the distance, after so long. Dan responded that it’s harder. In the beginning it was new, exciting yet so different for us both. Now we fit into each other’s lives so easily that we feel it more when apart.

Yes, we’re both incredibly busy. He works hard and travels the world changing the face of whole communities with his projects. I lead a bit less exciting existence but wonderful in its own way teaching and training at Direct Action Tactical and studying for my coaching certification. My kids keep me hopping with all they do and my friends keep me sane even when I question if they are at times. My horse keeps me grounded and my dog keeps my language colorful. His business doesn’t translate to the United States. My children don’t translate to Dutch.

We are, in my opinion, now experts in long distance relationships. I can tell you about free texting apps, Skype, frequent flyer miles, money exchange, time zones, Google chat or packing light to avoid checked luggage fees. I can tell you my opinions on Newark vs. JFK vs. Dulles vs. Philadelphia airports. I can suggest an inexpensive driver or cheaper parking locations.

What I can’t tell you how not to miss someone. I’m still figuring that one out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Finding the Jump

I have a passion. Those who know me will be able to say right away what that is-my horse.

I started riding when I was eight. I was always the smallest in the class so usually picked last for such things as dodge ball, kickball, really any team sport that required me to be athletic. I was a tom-girl. Most of my friends were boys. Days were spent climbing trees or catching crayfish with our bare hands. I liked anything that made me feel tougher than my size (welcome to my present job). So getting on my first horse was empowering! Being able to control a 1000 pound animal to jump around a course of obstacles became my drug of choice. There was no better high.

But jumping on a horse is tricky stuff. They have a brain of their own, moods, fears, needs, desires, aches and pains, good days and bad days. They don’t have the ability to tell us what is wrong (which would save a lot of vet bills).

So facing a course of eight or ten jumps can be a challenge. If you hit that first jump poorly he may not be so keen on the next one, his confidence is blown.
If you’re not finding the right striding to a jump over and over again you may have to change your pace or alter your path
If your horse finds a jump scary in one direction, jumping it as if the rails will bite him, after a few times he may relax into it. Unfortunately if you jump the same jump going the other direction he may find that jump scary all over again-like he had never seen it before.

So every time I ride I find myself amazed at how we can put all of these ideas into our life practice and often into my coaching practice.

In dealing with people around us we have to be aware they have moods, fears, needs, desires, aches and pains. We can be sensitive to how we react to others, always holding the knowledge that we never know what is going on truly in another’s life.

If we’re looking to a goal and we keep hitting the same stumbling blocks, changing our approach, slowing down out pace or redirecting our path may help to find the way over our obstacles.

And if we have something in our lives terrifying or intimidating us we try to face our fears, hitting them head on to the best of our ability until we feel more comfortable. Things may shift or new fears appear but giving ourselves a chance to get used to our strength and ability, jumping again and again until we are confident, lets us move on with our goal or resolve our conflict.

Horses are majestic, sensitive creatures. There are hundreds of stories about wild beasts suddenly calming for a disabled child or a person in need. As humans, we can find that same sensitivity, listening to each other in a way that we can see past the exterior. Understand what we each need and strive to give our best to each other.

And in return we may get a loving pat, a shiny apple, a sweet sugar cube. Or we might make connections that last the rest of our lives. All because we listen and care.

This is dedicated to my friend Kerry-who is amazing in her caring of others and her love for her friend Holly now in desperate need. <3

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Horse of a Different Color

Do you remember the horse in the Wizard of Oz? Dorothy finally makes it to the Emerald City and is riding in a carriage pulled by the horse of a different color. She looks at him and he’s one color. The next time she looks he’s a different color. The perspective of that horse was continually changing. You could never be comfortable with a certain look. Depending on your color preference you may have thought he looked ghastly or beautiful but wait, he’s about to change.

Changing perspective is something we often have trouble doing. Our perspective for a situation may be a result of many factors in our lives: our mood, history, belief system, values, religion, and lifestyle. There are many difficult events in our lives that keep us stuck for one reason or another.  When there is no easy, quick answer we often need to find a way to make it bearable until a change can be made. This usually requires a change in perspective.

Such a change can support a mother feeling guilty for trying to carve her own niche away from the constant rigors of childcare. She may need to realize that her time away will re-energize and brighten her mood, therefor becoming a happier and more patient mom. She may also be illustrating to her children that she respects herself enough to give some self-care so they see the value in that.

It could benefit a man going back to school while juggling a family and a full time job. He decides to take the fast track to get to his new career more quickly. The sacrifice is time away from his young family. He can look at this time as opening up an easier future that will provide a better family life. He can decide to make the time they do get worthwhile by being completely present for them. He can begin to feel better about his endeavor.

It could help a long relationship where the same issues are simply never resolved and hurt; resentment and mistrust continually sabotage it. One person may have to come to terms that some things may never change in a partner. If the person holding the hurtful feelings can work towards a different idea, view of their partner’s motivation and gain some ownership to how they will let these problems control them, they may be able to find their own power and peace to either accept what they have for the benefits of the relationship or be fully prepared to admit it’s just not enough.

So this week the theme seemed to be changing perspective both in my own life and for my clients. Coaching is not always about the huge goals finally achieved. The bulk of coaching is in the smaller tasks that lead to that goal. Often what trip us up in our goals are ourselves and our limiting beliefs.

So if you have a part of your life that you feel helpless, hopeless, or discouraged, try giving it another color and it may release some of the flying monkeys. The Wizard can’t always fix our problems, it may have been is us all along.

Hey-the Wizard may have gone on to be a great Life Coach. J

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Coaching What??

I’m always up for a challenge.

When I was young I’d ride any horse-no matter how insane.

I needed a daughter to complete my family.  I figured out where she was waiting for me and adopted her.

I started martial arts with my boys and became determined to achieve my black belt. After many years and two knee repairs I finally earned it.

I had a goal to be happy after way too many years in a sad marriage. After summoning a mass amount of courage I was able to break free.

I’ve become determined to create a life for myself that supports my views, values, interests and, to be honest, future income needs. I’m still working on that one.  That’s where coaching comes in.

A year ago in December I enrolled in the International Coaching Academy.  Every week I participate in hours to classes with fellow students and instructors located in every part of the world. I have 6 clients and two coaches I have weekly sessions with.  I try to help people who are stuck, unhappy or unmotivated in a part of their life by simply listening closely and asking powerful questions. It’s not therapy, counseling or consulting. It’s having goals or a vision and discovering the best path to make them a reality.

But coaching is still a fairly new concept in the world. When I say I’m studying to be a coach I usually hear “You’ll be great-high school or college?” Truly, no one wants me to coach a sports team. I throw like a girl, catching is sketchy and my brief field hockey career consisted of being yelled at for hitting the little ball with the wrong side of the stick. I can teach someone how to defend themselves, ride a horse or what life was like in a one room school house in 1853 (I have a weird variety of abilities). But coaching a team to score a goal, make a home run or create the best human pyramid is not what I’m going for.

When I was going through my divorce my then husband made me go to counseling. After one session it was very clear I was wasting time. I wasn’t having a mid-life crisis.  I wasn’t confused or struggling with childhood issues or emotional drama. I knew exactly what I wanted. My struggles were simply around the best steps to make it as easy and successful as possible. I needed a coach.

I’m still working on creating the life I want. I certainly feel on the right track. I’m stronger, happier and more confident at this age than any other time in my history. I have fabulous children, a man I adore and the best friends in the world. My goal for the next two years is to add a coaching career to my already amazing job. Thankfully I now have my own coach to help me stay motivated.

So if you’re still confused about what I’m doing, Maya Angelou summed it up brilliantly:
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

And if you’re having trouble doing this on your own, I know of a good coach…..