Listening is underrated and an underperformed act

Dear Readers,

I had occasion to connect with a dear friend of mine on Sunday and it occurred to me how long it has been since we had time to talk. Scratch that, I talk to people all day long and they talk to me, but do we really LISTEN to each other? I am sad to say that no, that isn’t always the case.

I am diligently working on this skill and am so glad I am because in this chat, he said something I REALLY needed to HEAR. I won’t share what it was because it was important to me and will mean nothing to you. Later that night, I heard a similar thing when a friend opened up and was very upset and I didn’t have an answer which is hard but often true.

I honed that skill further when another friend in need said, I don’t want you to cheer me up (a tall order) I want you to listen, and I want to be in a dark place and be pissed at the world. I also will understand if you need to not be around me right now. Deep breath. Okay. First, you are family, I will always want to see you, and hear what you have to say.

Then in the same week, I needed to listen to myself when I was sick and needed to rest. I tend to be a workhorse, and not stopping for anything as unimportant as a little sickness, but you know what, this was not small, this was non unimportant. I needed to go home and rest. So I did. I do not regret it, your health is no small thing and I can tell you listening to your body is a great skill to develop.  I am posting this picture of a coffee cup a friend gave me which I cherish and I used during one of these conversations to take a thoughtful pause when I wanted oh so badly to talk…. but what my friends needed was a listener. I encourage you to take stock and consider, Do you listen or wait…………………………………for your turn to talk? friendsMartina

Think About It……

Think about it.

What baking has taught me about love….

Dear Readers,

Every year, my dear friend Jessi makes Christmas cookies from scratch and provides an assortment and (keeping in mind which person like which cookie) its just as labor-intensive as it sounds. I have “helped” her do this exactly one time and that help pretty much consisted of tasting batter and entertaining her with stories and occasionally moving one dish from the table to the sink. Her love language is Quality Time so it works.

Lo these many years, bemoaning my lack of ability to cook I allowed myself the use of premade cookie dough and occasionally would spoon it on to a cookie sheet (instead of my mouth) to “make cookies” for people I cared about. But over the last few years as I learned how to make cakeballs (to great compliment) so I can no longer say that I don’t know how to cook, I did attempt to find out how to make my Aunt Nancy’s cookies which is are known all over St Louis for being amazing. I watched her once and despaired I would ever figure it out. It is not that difficult, it simply takes effort which I recently learned is well worth the time to expend. Let me explain.

On Tuesday night, I hung out with my friend Meredith and amidst lots of time spent and grocery shopping we made over 100 cookies, some for the church, some for my team, some for the checker at the grocery store who took notice of us and said, “I want some cookies” so we brought him some. He was happy and surprised that we did.

I was struck by how easy it is to take the shortcut and buy the premade dough and if you do this, I want to be clear, I am NOT judging you, as there is definitely something to be said for the sacrifice of time for convenience. The difference between the prepackaged cookie dough cookies and the homemade cookies you mix the flour, sugar, butter and chocolate chips is like night and technicolor morning! I had no idea the difference was so stark. The richness of the flavor, the sweetness of the chocolate chips each one melting in your mouth, absolute heaven! How does this relate to love you ask?

Simple, we can love everyone the same, cookie-cutter emotions, words and ideas or we can choose to take the time, the effort, and the energy to find out exactly what the other person wants, needs, and desires. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes effort.  However, the result you get is much like the difference between pre-packaged cookie dough and the cookies we painstakingly mixed, scooped, and baked the other night with the most important ingredient, LOVE.

Think about it…. and Happy “baking”!!cookiescientist

Is your friendship on life support?

Dear Readers,

My blog is directly related to the things that happen or don’t happen in my life and I do my best to be honest with you, my readers, in the hope that something I say will inspire you to action in your own life. So here is my question-

Is your friendship on life support?The more important question is- Should it be or is it time to pull the plug?

A few caveats, people get sick, they have kids, they have other friends, jobs, and responsibilities and for that I do make allowances until it becomes clear that the person I am trying to be friends with doesn’t really care about me at all. This is the time when you just have to say enough is enough and pull the plug. The catalyst for me making this decision was a few weeks ago, I went to The Smart Conference in Dallas and was privileged to hear Dr. Henry Cloud (author of the book , “Necessary Endings” who gave a really excellent speech about the necessary pruning we must do in our lives. In a nutshell, he talks about getting rid of the relationships or aspects of our lives that are “dead or dying” — which got me thinking, how (one minute microcosm of his ideas here)

So a few words about this, there are relationships that grow you and change you and support you and there are then people who just make you feel bad about yourself or can ONLY talk about themselves and spending time with them is always a version of  The __________ Show — (you know what I mean) and those are the ones I am proposing you prune. Life is too short, we all have lots of things we are doing so I tell you now, the next time you set up plans to spend time with someone think about what you get out of that friendship. This is not about “what have you done for me lately?” this is about what does “this friendship” do for me?

Think about it!

This was me in June of last year…

This was me in June of last year...

It was a great day, my best friend got married to a wonderful woman, my husband twirled me on the floor and we had a great time visiting New York. I have been to the city twice before, but this time I got to see it through his eyes and you know what, it was even better than I remembered. It’s probably one of my favourite things about being married is seeing things through his eyes.

Be Bold, you have no idea where it can lead!

This is a bold statement to make, so here are some examples.  

1. My husband had three strikes against him when I met him. He smoked, he didn’t like cats, and he was a waiter. I decided to take a chance and work against snobbery and ask him out because there was something about him. (THANK GOD) because he is the most amazing man I have ever met and that was not immediately apparent to me and now I can NOT imagine my life without him!

2. I am not shy and have no problem talking to anyone and often embarrass other people with my enthusiasm and willingness to look foolish. I have met Spaulding Gray, Mose Alison and Kevin Spacey because of this boldness. More importantly I have made really wonderful friends *you know who you are* who would not even be on my radar if I had not taken the chance to reach out and say hey, let’s go have coffee, you seem to be a pretty cool person let’s explore that notion!

3. Recently given the opportunity to reach out and be bold in that same way, I expected little despite lots of evidence to the contrary, (noted above) and was pleasantly surprised again.

Marianne Williamson says it best- We are powerful beyond measure. 

I used to say, Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst, and Adapt to the Outcome, but I have a better mantra now, I think. Expect the Best and let disappointment challenge you not stop you!

What are you scared to do? Can you see yourself doing it? I can. I believe in you. I KNOW you can do it! What are you waiting for?

Are you really too busy?

Seems like a simple thing.. and it is but a lot of us get caught in the trap of being busy, we say it all the time. I am busy, I can’t make it I am busy.. oh I would love to, but if I weren’t busy…. You get it.

But ask yourself, what are you too busy doing? Are you busy following the dreams that matter to you? Are you saying you are too busy to avoid a confrontation?

You know, we all have the same 24 hours. Some are working two jobs, some are new mothers, some are mothers of 2, and you don’t have to be a mom to be busy. You can be single and be busy with pursuing your career. You can’t exactly say,”I really don’t want to spend time with you, and our friendship isn’t strong enough to support one on one time”, but due to the niceties of society that we are all conditioned to support, we don’t say that, because, A) its rude B) we don’t want to admit we have failed that friendship by pretending its something its not but are unwilling to move on. We all make time for the things that matter. I am guilty of this problem which is why I am posting about it, I struggle with making time for the things that matter, but sometimes I just sit and watch netflix because that is what I really WANT to do.

I want you to think about it the next time someone asks you to do something. If you don’t want to do the activity, pick another activity and suggest it. If you are already committed for that time, suggest another time, Committed is a very different word than busy. Busy is flabby and unspecific. 

If you don’t want to spend time with the person think about why.. and then decide if its time to tell them (hard truth time!) or to just say you are busy. I don’t expect that one post can change the behavior of an entire culture, I just think its worth examining what you are “busy” doing.

What’s the point? Life is short, spend it with people you care about.