Relationships

Daring to Love: How to Repair, or Sustain, a Marriage

(This post was originally published 3-9-09 – wow, time flies).

Want to know how to make your marriage stronger? The answer is not for the weak-minded – it takes strength, courage and determination. Are you up to the challenge? Read on …

THE SCRIPTURES SAY that God designed and created marriage as a good thing. It is a beautiful, priceless gift. He uses marriage to help us eliminate loneliness, multiply our effectiveness, establish families, raise children, enjoy life, and bless us with relational intimacy. But beyond this, marriage also shows us our need to grow and deal with our own issues and self-centeredness through the help of a lifelong partner. If we are teachable, we will learn to do the one thing that is most important in marriage—to love. This powerful union provides the path for you to learn how to love another imperfect person unconditionally. It is wonderful. It is difficult. It is life changing.

(Love is) about learning and daring to live a life filled with loving relationships. And this journey begins with the person who is closest to you: your spouse. May God bless you as you begin this adventure.

But be sure of this: it will take courage. If you accept this dare, you must take the view that instead of following your heart, you are choosing to lead it. The world says to follow your heart, but if you are not leading it, then someone or something else is. The Bible says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else” (Jeremiah 17:9), and it will always pursue that which feels right at the moment.

We dare you to think differently—choosing instead to lead your heart toward that which is best in the long run. This is a key to lasting, fulfilling relationships.

The Love Dare journey is not a process of trying to change your spouse to be the person you want them to be. You’ve no doubt already discovered that efforts to change your husband or wife have ended in failure and frustration. Rather, this is a journey of exploring and demonstrating genuine love, even when your desire is dry and your motives are low. The truth is, love is a decision and not just a feeling. It is selfless, sacrificial, and transformational. (emphasis added) And when love is truly demonstrated as it was intended, your relationship is more likely to change for the better.

Remember, you have the responsibility to protect and guide your heart. Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Resolve to lead your heart and to make it through to the end. Learning to truly love is one of the most important things you will ever do.

Powerful stuff, right? This excerpt is from the introduction of “The Love Dare” and I think it epitomizes the essence of marriage. Love is about so much more than just feelings – it’s about sacrifices, humility, giving, it’s about tolerance, compromise … geez, the list just goes on and on.

What is The Love Dare? Let’s find out …

Too many marriages end when someone says “I’ve fallen out of love with you” or “I don’t love you anymore.” In reality, such statements reveal a lack of understanding about the fundamental nature of true love.

The Love Dare, as featured in the new movie Fireproof (starring Kirk Cameron and from the team that brought us the #1 best selling DVD Facing the Giants), is a forty-day guided devotional experience that will lead your heart back to truly loving your spouse while learning more about the design, nature, and source of true love.

Each day’s entry discusses a unique aspect of love, presents a specific “dare” to do for your spouse (some will be very easy, others very challenging), and gives you a journaling area to chart the progress that you will be making.

It’s time to learn the keys to finding true intimacy and developing a dynamic marriage. Take the dare!

I first watched Fireproof by myself and on the treadmill. I could barely maintain my speed because I was crying so hard. It’s a touching, Christian-based movie about the courage it takes to keep a marriage intact. And I think with so many marriages ending in divorce nowadays, it’s more crucial than ever to help and teach people to love – we all have preconceived notions of what love is, but I would like to boldly state that most of us don’t truly understand what it is to love someone else, not really.

Myself included. But I’m learning.

I told Kevin about the movie and we sat and watched it together. By the end of the movie, he even had tears in his eyes. The reason the movie is so emotional is because it dares us to explore our most secret, carefully guarded hearts. It challenges us to look honestly at ourselves, and to re-evaluate our behaviors and expectations about relationships.

Even though my marriage to Kevin is stronger than it has ever been, I think I’m still going to go out and buy this book because I think the lessons it teaches is a good reminder, to me specifically, about how important my relationship with Kevin truly is.

Here are the first five days’ assignments:

Day One: Love is patient. Love works. It is life’s most powerful motivator and has far greater depth and meaning than most people realize. It always does what is best for others and can empower us to face the greatest of problems. We are born with a lifelong thirst for love. Our hearts desperately need it like our lungs need oxygen. Love changes our motivation for living. Relationships become meaningful with it. No marriage is successful without it.

Love is built on two pillars that best define what it is. Those pillars are patience and kindness. All other characteristics of love are extensions of these two attributes. And that’s where your dare will begin. With patience.

The dare asks participants to refrain from saying anything negative to one’s spouse for the entire day – that it’s best to hold one’s tongue and say nothing as opposed to saying something one will regret later on. It’s taken me YEARS to learn this lesson, but I learned it, and I apply it today and it really does work wonders.

Day Two: Love is kind. Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive. These two sides of love are the cornerstones on which many of the other attributes we will discuss are built.

Love makes you kind. And kindness makes you likeable. When you’re kind, people want to be around you. They see you as being good to them and good for them.

The dare asks that one do at least one unexpected gesture – and I’m assuming this doesn’t mean buying gifts but rather, fold the laundry, or wash dishes, or take out the trash, or cook dinner, all without being asked and all without expecting a “reward” for doing so. I think this lesson might be harder for the men because women naturally NOTICE that these little things need to be done. Men often times simply don’t notice these things. Patience ladies. 🙂

Day Three: Love is not selfish. We live in a world that is enamored with “self.” The culture around us teaches us to focus on our appearance, feelings, and personal desires as the top priority. The goal, it seems, is to chase the highest level of happiness possible. The danger from this kind of thinking, however, becomes painfully apparent once inside a marriage relationship.

If there were ever a word that basically means the opposite of love, it is selfishness. Unfortunately it is something that is ingrained into every person from birth. You can see it in the way young children act, and often in the way adults mistreat one another. Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. Yet you cannot point out the many ways your spouse is selfish without admitting that you can be selfish too. That would be hypocritical.

Why do we have such low standards for ourselves but high expectations for our mate? The answer is a painful pill to swallow. We are all selfish.

If you’re not invested in something, you naturally won’t care about it as much. The dare asks one to buy a little something-something for the spouse. Again, nothing too expensive. Maybe just a lone flower. Or a thoughtful card. Or a gift certificate to his/her favorite store. I often put goodies into Kevin’s lunch, without him knowing it, so when he opens his bag at work, there’s my materialistic reminder that I love him and I’m thinking about him.

Day Four: Love is thoughtful. Love thinks. It’s not a mindless feeling that rides on waves of emotion and falls asleep mentally. It keeps busy in thought, knowing that loving thoughts precede loving actions.

When you first fell in love, being thoughtful came quite naturally. You spent hours dreaming of what your loved one looked like, wondering what he or she was doing, rehearsing impressive things to say, then enjoying sweet memories of the time you spent together. You honestly confessed, “I can’t stop thinking about you.”

But for most couples, things begin to change after marriage. The wife finally has her man; the husband has his trophy. The hunt is over and the pursuing done. Sparks of romance slowly burn into grey embers, and the motivation for thoughtfulness cools. You drift into focusing on your job, your friends, your problems, your personal desires, yourself. After a while, you unintentionally begin to ignore the needs of your mate.

The dare asks one to contact his/her spouse during the day, with no agenda other than asking if he/she is okay and if he/she can do anything for the spouse. Kevin and I email silly little nothings back and forth a lot of days. I’ve learned that he’s quite funny and he’s learned that I can be quite the flirt. *wink*

Day Five: Love is not rude. Nothing irritates others as quickly as being rude. Rudeness is unnecessarily saying or doing things that are unpleasant for another person to be around. To be rude is to act unbecoming, embarrassing, or irritating. In marriage, this could be a foul mouth, poor table manners, or a habit of making sarcastic quips. However you look at it, no one enjoys being around a rude person. Rude behavior may seem insignificant to the person doing it, but it’s unpleasant to those on the receiving end.

As always, love has something to say about this. When a man is driven by love, he intentionally behaves in a way that’s more pleasant for his wife to be around. If she desires to love him, she purposefully avoids things that frustrate him or cause him discomfort.

The bottom line is that genuine love minds its manners.

Man, can I relate to this one. I have such a mouth on me – Kevin calls it “sassy.’ He hates it when I get sassy. I hate it when I get sassy. I know I’m doing it, and yet, I keep right on being mouthy and stupid. I’m usually sassy when I’m feeling cranky, or tired, or frustrated, or hurt or … heck, I’m sassy pretty much all the time. I’ve learned, through some pretty hefty fights, that I need to just shut up and stop taking my feelings out on my husband. Most times, it’s not even his fault I’m feeling a certain way. It’s not fair and it’s selfish.

Reading over those first five days makes me want to know what the other 35 days say.

I was drawn to this idea from the very beginning. I mean, how many times have you heard someone lament over the fact that there’s not a parenting manual, or a marriage manual, etc. out there? Well guess what, there’s a marital manual out there and I think it would be a shame to just ignore it or not even take a look at what it suggests, don’t you?

Love is a state of mind. It’s about acting, not just about feeling.

Good luck and don’t give up. I truly mean that.

Relationships

DARE to Build a Better Relationship

I’ve met and worked with a lot of people in my life. One of the consistent people in my life right now is the nurse I work with. If I had had a daughter, I would have wanted her to be like this nurse. She’s kind, compassionate, funny, friendly, smart and has a good head on her shoulders.

But she’s young. She’s a young mother with two small (and VERY ADORABLE girls) and I remember what it was like trying to navigate trying to be a wife and a mother while not losing myself in the meantime and I know – IT’S HARD.

There comes a time when you have to think outside of yourself: life is no longer about you, it’s about your husband and your children.

In that order.

Again, maintaining that precarious hold on yourself is also important but that’s a whole different topic – this is about finding that balance working on your marriage so that you have a solid foundation to raise your children. Because if your marriage isn’t strong, then your parenting skills will not be strong enough.

Too many times, people get married, have children and suddenly, the spouse becomes an after thought. It’s all about the children. It’s all about how tired I am and trying to find myself again in the (normal) chaos that is my life now.

What about your spouse? He/she gets left out, he/she feels left out and suddenly, problems start developing. Which only makes it worse because WE HAVE CHILDREN, and I’M TOO TIRED TO DEAL WITH YOU RIGHT NOW.

News flash: that’s the wrong attitude. It’s a human response, sure, and to curb that natural response is hard, but it’s necessary and rewarding if you push past the internal dialogue and rewire your brain to think differently.

I too went through this. And I think it was especially hard for me because I’m fiercely independent and selfish with my time. But I was motivated to rethink my reactions and emotions and analyze myself a little deeper to understand WHY I was reacting a certain way or WHY I felt angry and tense when I was a young mother.

I mean, it’s normal to feel these emotions, you are, after all, a YOUNG person. You don’t have the life experience to objectively analyze yourself and we all know there is no such thing as a parenting manual, we all do the best we can, but the point is, when you’re a wife and mother, husband and father, your life is not all about you anymore.

It’s just a fact.

This nurse and I talk about relationships and she often asks for my advice when it comes to marriage and children. I’m actually quite honored that she thinks I have anything valuable to share, but I do have quite a bit of life experience under my belt and like many young couples, Kevin and I went through a pretty serious rocky patch in our marriage when the boys were young, SO I GET IT.

Which leads me to the reason behind this post.

It’s February, love is in the air. Which, honestly people, why do we put so much stock in ONE day of the year where we have to scramble to come up with ways to SHOW our significant other that we love him/her?

Shouldn’t we be striving to do this every day? Shouldn’t every day be Valentine’s Day? There are more than one way to express love, you know. Love goes WAY beyond a box of chocolates and a useless stuffed animal.

And that’s where the Love Dare comes in.

It teaches people to think, and act, outside of themselves. It teaches people that love can be expressed in many different ways. It’s just that we are so focused on ourselves, partly because we’re in survival mode because for the love of God, I JUST WANT UNDISTURBED SLEEP, and partly because society has drummed into our heads that WE ARE THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE that we have lost sight of how to love outside ourselves.

Anyway, I’m going to re-post the Love Dare challenges not only for my daughter from another  mother but for you, dear reader. Perhaps you’re currently going through marital issues and this hits home for you. I feel like February is a month that highlights our own love lives and sometimes shining a light on an otherwise dark corner of our relationship is healthy.

Caveat: if you are truly wanting to make changes, you have to start internally. You have to examine AND BE HONEST with yourself and your shortcomings. How can you fix something externally if it’s broken internally? You will need to approach these challenges with humility and with honesty. You will need to examine your own emotions, reactions and agendas before you can hope to fix your marriage.

And your partner is going to have to make a solid effort to meet you halfway, as well. It takes two to fix this particular problem and that’s a conversation only you can have with your partner. But someone has to blink, someone has to be the first one to give a little and be more patient because if no one offers the olive branch, then your family will always struggle to find peace.

The Love Dare was inspired by the movie, “Fireproof.” That movie was a GAME CHANGER for me. I cried FOR HOURS after watching it and let me tell you, I’m not a crier. But the movie really opened my eyes to MY behavior and showed me what I was doing wrong and what I could do better.

 

I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend watching this movie. Yes, it’s a Christian-based movie and faith is a large part of this process, but ultimately, the fundamental message can, and should, be applied to all serious, long-term relationships.

So put your big boy/girl pants on and let’s get honest.

Good luck.

Book Corner

Book Review: Dirty Letters

I’d never forgotten him—a man I’d yet to meet.

Griffin Quinn was my childhood pen pal, the British boy who couldn’t have been more different from me. Over the years, through hundreds of letters, we became best friends, sharing our deepest, darkest secrets and forming a connection I never thought could break.

Until one day it did.

Then, out of the blue, a new letter arrived. A scathing one—one with eight years of pent-up anger. I had no choice but to finally come clean as to why I stopped writing.

Griffin forgave me, and somehow we were able to rekindle our childhood connection. Only now we were adults, and that connection had grown to a spark. Our letters quickly went from fun to flirty to downright dirty, revealing our wildest fantasies. So it only made sense that we would take our relationship to the next level and see each other in person.

Only Griff didn’t want to meet. He asked that I trust him and said it was for the best. But I wanted more—more Griff, in the flesh—so I took a big chance and went looking for him. People have done crazier things for love.

But what I found could change everything.

First of all, can we take a minute to appreciate the male HOTNESS of the model on the book cover. Wow.

Secondly, the first line of the blurb is KILLER. Love it.

I’ve always been fascinated by building relationships sight unseen. I would like to think that one has a better chance of building a solid relationship by getting to know the PERSON first before becoming distracted by the gift wrapping … but maybe that’s an unrealistic view because physical attraction is a big part of a relationship.

So when I read the blurb to this book, I was immediately intrigued. It sounded pretty close to an idea I had for a story a few years back (and one I might still cultivate).

It started out really cute. I loved how the authors built up the suspense between the characters but I would have liked to have had more letter writing and more tension building before they actually met. And by that I mean, I wanted to see more character development. The transition from writing each other and being friends to suddenly crossing the friend line was just too abrupt for me. I wanted more friendship and a gradual jump.

And then when that jump finally occurred, I wanted it dirtier. They were almost too polite with one another.

The transition from friendship to downright talking dirty was smooth, I just wanted to see MORE of it.

And the part where Griff doesn’t want to see her was a nice touch but the reason why Griff didn’t want to see her … I actually rolled my eyes. It seemed cliche but I understood why the authors picked that occupation because it directly conflicted with Luca’s “issues.”

I thought Luca’s (platonic) relationship with her therapist was cute and believable since the therapist was pretty much a stand-in father to Luca. I feel like that relationship really brought some humor to the story and made Luca more likable, in my opinion. Though again, I understand why the authors picked Luca’s phobia, it almost felt like they picked a phobia out of a hat because it just didn’t seem to fit Luca’s personality and I often times felt like her character was inconsistent.

I felt like Griff tried harder than Luca did and at times, it almost felt like he was chasing her, nay, obsessed by her at times.

Overall, it’s a cute story and the premise was different and interesting. I just wish we could have seen more of their relationship develop via the letters before they actually met.

Bullet Journal

I Started a Bullet Journal

Hold on to your seats, my friends, I’ve started bullet journaling.

I KNOW!

I didn’t even know this EXISTED until about two months ago. I was browsing YouTube, as I tend to do way too much nowadays, and this cute little video about bullet journaling popped up in my recommends.

Hold up … what the heck is bullet journaling??

“Though it does require a journal, Bullet Journal® is a methodology. It’s best described as a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system. It’s designed to help you organize your what while you remain mindful of your why. The goal of the Bullet Journal is to help its practitioners (Bullet Journalists) live intentional lives, ones that are both productive and meaningful.” from BulletJournal.com.

This system was developed by Ryder Carroll as a way to manage his ADD. It’s a great method. But I think the real beauty of the system is that it’s customizable to you and your needs. I’ve always wanted to keep a journal/planner, but I never felt the pre-made journals out there were right for me. So when I stumbled across Bullet Journaling, I was immediately intrigued.

Bullet journaling has been around for a few years and I CAN NOT believe I’m just now discovering it. But now that I have, I have jumped into the middle of it with both feet.

For me, I was more interested in the journaling part of the Bullet Journal as opposed to the planner part of the process. I’ll be honest, now that I’m an empty nester, the boys have moved out and it’s just me and Kevin again, I don’t have a lot TO do. I get up, go to work, come home, watch YouTube videos and then go to bed. Weekends, I read, do chores, nap … I just don’t do a lot. And I like it that way. I don’t want to be super busy. I’m selfish with my time. Probably because 40+ hours of the week do not belong to me, they belong to my employer. So for me, there isn’t a lot to write down as far as a planner, but the journaling part …. NOW we’re talking.

I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with my own death, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how it will be for Kevin and the boys when I’m gone. (Assuming I pass before Kevin). I would like to leave a bit of myself behind for the boys to enjoy and remember me by so that’s why the journaling part of this process appeals to me. I watched A LOT of videos (still do because I like to see the different spreads that people do every month – “spread” just meaning the categories/pages people divide their journals into and how they create and decorate them) and it took me a bit to get the gist of Bullet Journaling, but here’s a video that I found helpful to help me get started.

I read somewhere, or maybe Ryder Carroll mentions it in his video, that you’re 40% more likely to actually DO what you want/need to do if you write it down. Apps are great, but they don’t really help you actually get the job done.

And I have to agree with that. For example, I have been making step tracker spreads and it really motivates me to get my steps in so I can color in the appropriate symbol with the color I’ve designated. It seems silly, but somehow, it works for me.

Bullet Journaling also satisfies the stationary nerd in me. I have had A BLAST shopping for supplies for my Bullet Journal. In fact, I find myself getting excited to leave work so I can work on my journal when I get home.

I hope this excitement lasts because it’s already fun to flip through my January spreads to see what I’ve done.

Okay, first things first: supplies.

As studyquill says in her video above, you really only need a bullet journal and a pen to get started. However, I do recommend you also use a pencil and have a good eraser on hand so you can sketch your spreads in pencil and then go back over with markers later so there are less mistakes.

And side note: You WILL mess up. Do not stress out about this journal. You will learn so much by actually doing it and  you will only get better. I’ve already learned so much and trust me, I have goofed up plenty. For example, I did a spread that I absolutely hated. What did I do? I glued the pages together and VOILA! They are gone and no one is the wiser. I have also put paper over parts of my spreads that I hate so that I could, in essence, “redo” portions of my spreads. And there are definitely sections I’m less than pleased about but oh well, I will try something different next time.

It’s a learning process and quite honestly, I’m having a BLAST learning as I go.

Okay, back to supplies:

After MUCH research, I decided to buy this Bullet Journal:

It’s a Minimalism Art “New York” journal. I like it because I think the cover is fun (and I love New York and have been a few times), the pages are numbered, (which was important to me as I don’t want to spend time numbering my pages in order to fill out my Index), and there are 234 pages in the journal because DUDE, I have a lot of spread ideas and wanted plenty of room to spread out. (See what I did there?)

So, the link takes you to the page, but it looks like the New York style is no longer available. Which scared me enough to go ahead and buy the San Francisco journal as well, because again, we’ve been to San Francisco, and I wanted to make sure to buy the journal before it’s discontinued. I also went ahead and bought the pink version as well, because, I’m that extra.

I’ve been using my normal pilot G-2 pens, the same pens I use at work, but I have found they don’t tend to trace over pencil very well so I went ahead and bought the type of pens a lot of YouTubers have been using for their Bullet Journals, the Micron pen set.  I just got them today and haven’t had a chance to use them yet, but I”m looking forward to trying them.

And because I’m not the most artsy person and can’t draw worth a crap, (Hi Heather!), I went the cheesy route and bought a ton of stencils. And even more stencils. I even bought a circle template because again, NOT ARTSY. And boy howdy, I’m having fun with these stupid stencils.

(Side note: you’ll need a ruler, too. TRUST ME).

But I didn’t stop there. Oh no, I then needed markers. And after watching A TON of YouTube videos, I found that many were using the Tombow markers. Which I bought. And have been collecting from Hobby Lobby every week using the weekly 40% coupon. Which I must say, ARE AWESOME.

Then, after watching MORE Bullet Journal videos, I started buying rubber stamps. Which required ink. And now I’m on a mission to buy more stamps and DIFFERENT colored ink.

Wait, we’re not done. Then I started buying stickers.

I bought Gold gel pens and little coin envelopes to add a little something-something to my journal. (More on that later).

And God help me, Washi tape. (I didn’t even know Washi tape existed before this!)

And now I’m on the hunt for a bigger box to put all my supplies in because the kitchen table is just not working for Kevin.

I think I might need help.

Now that I have my supplies, it was time to turn my attention to what I wanted to put in my Bullet Journal.

I opted NOT to have a key because again, I wasn’t planning on my using my Bullet Journal as a planner so there was no need to put a key into my journal. I do have an Index though and find that helpful when I need to find a section fast. (This is when those numbered pages come in handy!)

Here is a breakdown of what I have in my journal (so far):

  1. Yearly goals
  2. Monthly Quote page:
    1. January quote is: “Take Risks: If you win, you will be happy, if you lose, you will be wise”
    2. February quote is: “A friend is someone who know all about you and still loves you.”
  3. Mood Tracker. My categories are: happy, focused, tired, angry, stressed, uncomfortable, relaxed, meh and hangry
  4. Story Ideas
  5. Monthly Question – this is a question about me that I answer and address to the boys (or Kevin). I then print that paper off and put it in an envelope for the boys to read at a later time.
  6. Brain Dumps – these are pages that give me space to just vent, or write about something that is bugging me – a chance to clear the clutter from my brain
  7. Future Log
  8. Monthly Log
  9. Step Tracker
  10. Blog page for each month to write down ideas for blog posts
  11. Monthly favorites that consist of favorite YouTube vidoes, TV shows (or movies), and songs
  12. A bookshelf that has 100 books on it because my 2020 goal is to read 100 books (again).
  13. A timeline of a typical work day and a typical weekend to give whomever is reading a bird’s eye view of how my days are structured.

And that’s it for now. I plan on making a spread of my 5-star books including colored print outs of the book covers, a travel log to fill out when we go on our yearly cruise, and some sort of spreads about my writing (though I bought yet ANOTHER journal to use for just my writing projects), and a page for my ARCS (Advanced Reader Copy) that I’m reading from NetGalley.com. (More on that later).

I’ve used 44 pages so far.

Here is a good website to visit for category ideas and spread ideas to help you get started.

You can watch Studyquill set her 2020 Bullet Journal up as well to give you an idea of how it all fits together.

I will warn you, once you jump down the “Plan with Me” bullet journal YouTube videos, you will never come out. THEY ARE STRANGELY ADDICTING! And some of them are just BEAUTIFUL spreads, beautiful artwork, watercolor paintings …. wow. Mine is nothing like that, in fact, I think it’s actually quite ugly, but it’s my ugly duckling and I’m being patient because every time I create something ugly, I learn and grow and get a little better the next time I work on it.

In fact, it has quite inspired me to teach myself calligraphy. It’s actually one of the things on my yearly goals list and I’m excited to try it. Of COURSE, I bought the necessary pens and this workbook to help me get started.

Did I mention I might need professional help?

What’s that? You want to see a few of my spreads?

Well, since you twisted my arm …

I’m warning you now, don’t expect to be blown away because you won’t be. But again, I’m a newbie and and I’m having fun trying, be kind, please.

Here is my January weekly spread.

Let me explain – since I don’t have a lot of tasks to write in on my monthly spreads, I have decided to use the space to write a short blurb about my day. What did I learn from the day? What one thing stuck out for me? I wanted space to “journal”, in essence. And the little box on the left of each daily block? That’s where I record the weather. I think it will be fun to see what sort of weather we had on such-and-such day. I typically draw in a sun, or a sun/cloud, or a cloud/rain, or a cloud/snow .. whatever the day held. And the penciled in part at the bottom – the “to do” part? Well, it’s penciled in because I’m not real sure what to do with that space yet. I’ll likely put appointments or events that I need to remember for that week there.

Here is my January step tracker:

(The left side is the monthly tracker – I blocked it out because it’s private).

Here is the Question page with the little envelope for the boys to open at some point.

Yes, ugly. But I’m getting there.

Here’s my February Quote and February Brain Dump:

Here’s my weekly February spread:

See the To Do at the bottom? I bought a stamp. 🙂 I’m getting better. I also made the weather boxes a bit bigger.

And one of my favorite spreads, my bookshelf:

Obviously, it’s not done. I’ll go over it with pen and of course write the books that I’ve read on the book spines and give it a header, but I had SO MUCH fun putting it together – I can’t wait to fill it out.

And that’s pretty much it, so far. I’ll keep you updated on future spreads and give you a peek into what I’m working on. But honestly, it surprises me just how much fun I’m having with this project.

I hope you found this information helpful and maybe it will inspire you to make your own Bullet Journal and leave a bit of yourself behind for your loved ones.

Happy Journaling!

Work Stuff

Gossip is a B*tch

gossip: casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.

Dangers of gossip:

  • Erosion of trust and morale.
  • Lost productivity and wasted time.
  • Increased anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without clear information as to what is and isn’t fact.
  • Divisiveness among employees as people take sides.
  • Hurt feelings and reputations.
  • Attrition due to good employees leaving the company because of an unhealthy work environment.

Oh yeah, we’re going there. Strap in.

I’ve been having anxiety attacks again. My chest is tightening and I feel like I have heartburn all the time. My heart is being thrown into palpitations and my whole body just feels TENSE.

Things were going great at work. Everyone had their assigned doctors, we were all doing our thing … and then one of the MA’s was asked to leave. She wasn’t a good fit. Her doctor wasn’t happy with her work performance and this girl, though  nice, was one of those people who you couldn’t say anything to without her taking it the wrong way or over analyzing everything. If you said something, it became a “thing.” If you didn’t say anything, it became a “thing.” If you tried to help, it was a “thing.” If you looked at her wrong, she made it into a “thing.”

News flash, I don’t do “things.” I like my drama-free life, thank you very much. I tried to stay out of it as much as possible but one thing about being one of the oldest people in your clinic is: people come to you for advice because being older equates to being wiser, I guess.

So, I heard a lot. And I offered advice and served up my thoughts.

Mistake number one.

But honestly, we all heaved a collective sigh of relief when this person was kicked out because she was just too exhausting to be around and ain’t nobody got time to walk on eggshells all day, every day.

Now there was an MA opening.

Right around the time this MA was asked to leave, another MA, who worked with Dr. S., was struggling to try and do a good job for him. It didn’t help that she was fairly new and was being told, or showed, different ways of doing things. We all do the same things but we all approach these duties a bit differently because every doctor we work with prefers a different approach. Which is fine, but it can be confusing. I have to give this MA credit, she lasted way longer with Dr. S. than I thought she would. Because Dr. S. is a dick. On one hand, I think he enjoys being a dick because he gets some sort of high off being that way simply because he CAN. But on the other hand, he is a meticulous doctor and wants it done a certain way and accuracy is EVERYTHING to this man. Which is not a bad thing, we should always strive to be accurate but let’s not forget, we are human and it’s not a question of IF we miss something, it’s a question of WHEN. And WHEN that happens, please be patient as we learn from this experience and strive not to do the same thing again.

Because Dr. S. has such a reputation in our clinic as being difficult to work with, he has gone through several nurses and MA’s. No one wants to work with him because it’s just not easy, let alone pleasant. So Dr S. is discouraged by his clinic days because no one sticks around long enough to LEARN and/or IMPLEMENT what he wants.

Someone, who had good intentions, told Dr. S’s MA that he didn’t like her. Unfortunately, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and she went to management and told them she no longer wanted to work with Dr. S.

So, she no longer works with him and took over the spot that was recently vacated by the MA that was asked to leave.

Are you keeping up?

Personally? I don’t blame the girl. I wouldn’t want to continue to work with a doctor who is difficult on a good day, let alone who doesn’t like me or I don’t like him. How exhausting. I didn’t blame her one bit for moving, I just wish it had happened a bit more organically and wasn’t prompted by another employee, who again, had good intentions but the execution left much to be desired.

Now, Dr S. is without an MA – again. And his nurse had to leave because of family issues, which is a shame, because she was actually a good fit for Dr. S., but life happens, what are you going to do?

Now Dr. S. is without an MA OR a nurse. Awesome.

Enter me.

Look. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but I’ve been an MA for nearly six years now and I feel like I have a pretty good handle on my job. I can handle the patients, give the doctor what he wants and very little gets by me so that our clinics typically run really well, barring anything outside my control.

I thought about it … agonized over it … and ultimately, I just couldn’t sit back and do NOTHING. That’s not in my DNA, unfortunately.

I volunteered to take over Dr. S.’s clinic preps/clean up until we could get someone else hired, trained and up and running.

I did it because A. I knew no one else would volunteer, which B. meant that we all would be assigned days to cover for Dr. S., which meant we would have 8 different hands in his schedules and potentially a completely f*cked up mess that would only make our volatile doctor even more of an ass to be around. Which brought me to C. I know what I’m doing and I was hoping I could bring a little stability to his clinic schedules and D. I thought of Dr. S. as a challenge and I like challenges, and E. I don’t give a rats ass if he likes me or not.

Take me or leave me, dude, I really don’t care.

However, me, being me, I took on the challenge, THAT I VOLUNTEERED for, and have been stressing myself out because I desperately want to do a good job for this man and I didn’t want him to think I was a dumb ass and say something to my normal doctor like, “Wow, your MA is really stupid” or something to that effect because I DO care what my doctor and mid-level think of me and I don’t want to disappointment them.

So yeah, I’ve been stressed being Dr. S’s “MA.” I have covered a few of his clinics though thankfully, we are rotating on actually working his clinics, so that helps a bit. But I am the go-to person for anything concerning his clinic schedules, which is fine, and seems to have been working thus far.

At least, I haven’t heard anything to the contrary and in cases like this, no news is good news when it comes to Dr. S.

However, Dr. S.’s old MA, though consistently covering another doctor, is always listed on the coverage schedule as a covering MA. I mean, if she’s going to be this other doctor’s consistent MA, why make it sound like it’s a temporary gig on the schedule?

This has been going on for WEEKS. Nothing is being said, nothing has been announced, we’re just stuck in limbo. So naturally, people have questions.

Which management construes as GOSSIP.

I respectfully disagree.

WE HAVE QUESTIONS. WE ARE ASKING QUESTIONS. What’s the big secret? Why isn’t management telling us what’s going on? The lack of communication from management is only making us ask MORE questions. And now, management has berated us for gossiping because these questions are getting back to management and they aren’t addressing the questions.

Dude, if you don’t have answers to these questions, just tell us – we’re still working on the situation. But to deliberately not address the elephant in the room only makes that elephant an even bigger entity which leads to more questions.

Which management then gets pissed off about and now the message is more severe and less enlightening and again we are TOLD to stop gossiping.  Which confuses people even more – it’s a damn merry-go-round.

Everyone is now so sensitive to this “gossip” problem that I was actually pulled into my director’s office and she asked me why I brought this MA’s name up in a conversation I had with my immediate manager. First of all, that was a conversation that had NOTHING to do with my director and secondly, I mentioned this MA’s name because I was making a suggestion on how I thought she would be a good fit to help out another team that just lost their MA. (Yes, I’m talking about a THIRD MA leaving – they’re dropping like flies, ya’ll).

I was beyond annoyed. I told my director that I was confused by this “gossip” thing and felt like the real issue wasn’t “gossiping” but a lack of communication on management’s part. Everything is a damn secret in this clinic. All management has to do is address the murmurs, answer the questions to the best of their ability, people are not stupid, they realize that there are some issues that are none of their business but SOME information is better than NONE and by the way, don’t make us feel like 5-year old children because we dare TO ASK QUESTIONS.

I also told my director that when it comes to this specific person, or really, anyone outside myself, I don’t care what happens. Ultimately, it’s none of my business. But when things happen seemingly out of nowhere, we, as humans, who have a vested interest of what happens in the clinic because we spend 40 hours of our lives every week in this place, have a right to wonder WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.

Of course, I didn’t word it like that, I maintained a professional tone of voice (though I’m not going to lie, I was pretty frustrated, and have been because this tension has been building FOR WEEKS), that was the essence of our conversation.

Look. Gossip happens. I’m not naive enough to think it doesn’t happen. Whether it’s with ill-intent or not, gossip is a by-product of working with a group of people, but when something happens, and everyone notices it happened, but management treats it like, “hey, there’s nothing to see here, folks, move along” and then berates us because we dare to ask questions about what happened, that’s not gossip, that’s just bad management.

I think this situation has not been addressed for so long that it only PROMOTES gossip because we’re all speculating and wondering why management hasn’t said anything. What are they hiding?

It just snowballs.

And unfortunately, this is how our clinic runs. Our communication with management is not ideal. They can do a better job. And I think our clinic peeps also need to understand that not everything that happens in the clinic is their business. However, when something happens that affects the overall running of the clinic, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to answer a few damn questions.

So. This “gossip” train has also been stressing me out. And whenever I feel overwhelmed, I tend to withdraw and emotionally shut down. I go into self-preservation mode – I don’t care. I have to do this because I find myself caring TOO much and honestly folks, IT’S JUST A JOB. It’s not worth my health and when your job starts to physically affect you, it’s time to take a step back and breath some reality.

Dr. S. is starting to get used to my face. He has had a few suggestions concerning my clinic prep (which he told to his medical secretary who told me. But that’s par for the course with these doctors – they go to the person they are most comfortable with and his medical secretary has been with him for a long time. That’s fine. I get it. It doesn’t bother me) and I’m adjusting what I’m doing based on his feedback and hopefully making his clinics a little less painful for him.

But consistently maintaining two doctors’ schedules takes a lot of my mental reserves and it’s all I can do to keep my head above water. And I’m being real here – we have to resolve this other doctor’s MA team thing before we can even ADDRESS finding an MA for Dr. S. and now an MA for the team that just lost theirs. I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel on the Dr. S situation for quite some time.

And again, that’s fine, I volunteered for this gig, remember? However, what I DON’T have time for is the extra drama and reprimanding from management for all of the “gossip” around the clinic.

My mantra, at this time, is, “I don’t have an opinion and I don’t have any suggestions.” It’s sad that I’ve come to this place but my mental, and physical health, can’t take any more stress at this point.

I’m in survival mode and will continue to be in survival mode until the dust settles, every team has an MA, and we can get back to “normal.”

Book Corner

Book Review: Hidden in Plain Sight

By day, Roberta Lake is a computer software and hardware specialist with an uncanny knack for understanding the inner workings of the technology she works on. By night, she is a CIA Brain Trust operative, putting her abilities in mind communication, infiltration, and control to use on people instead of gadgets.

In other words, Roberta Lake is a psychic assassin.

Under the watchful eye of the Brain Trust, as well as her handlers, the Three Wise Men, Roberta takes out her assigned targets from afar with the help of her alter ego, Bobbi Waters—the true killer of the two—and only after she determines whether the target truly deserves to die.

This arrangement spins out of control when the Brain Trust suspects Bobbi is fracturing from Roberta, becoming a separate persona. Roberta is deemed a threat to the organization, and this time, it’s her life that’s being targeted. What’s worse—they want to know her secrets first, and she’d rather die by her own hand than be the blueprint for an unstoppable force of psychic killers let loose on the world.

I downloaded this book from NetGalley so in essence, it was gifted to me for my review. (More about NetGalley soon).

First off, the book cover and the blurb are what sucked me in – the eye really captured my attention. And I like the title, though after reading the book, I think “Hidden in Sight” would have been a more appropriate title because for me, this story was anything BUT plain.

It’s an intriguing premise and though I personally don’t believe in psychics and the paranormal, I do believe it’s possible on some level, if not probable. So I’m coming at this read from that opinion.

I was confused right off the bat. The author does a really good job of pushing me right into the middle of Roberta’s story but it took me several chapters before I started to get a feel for what was happening. For example, I thought Roberta and Bobbi were two separate people for several chapters. And I couldn’t figure out the relationship between Roberta and her boss Magi and why were they jumping right into sex? Though an interesting read, I felt cheated in some respects because I wanted to see more character build up before the action.

Though I certainly understand why the author chose to open the story this way, and it was interesting, if not terribly confusing, I feel like if an author is going to open up her story this way, then allow me a moment to catch my breath and catch up to the premise. I needed to know more about Roberta, how she discovered her abilities, who these characters were and why they were important to the story. Though I’m not a fan of back story, a little back story goes a long way.

This story felt more like part four of a series. And I can definitely tell that the author is working that angle with this premise, and I think it’s a good idea, but to me, this was like walking into a movie theater late and jumping right into a story that A. I have no idea what it’s about, B. where it’s going, and C. why I should care enough to stick around and figure it out.

I wanted to know more about how Roberta discovered her talents. I wanted to see her struggles and her emotional journey that led to her decision to terminate bad people. I wanted to know more about her family history and why this ability is prevalent in her family. I wanted to know how she was recruited and by whom. I wanted to experience her first kill and the creation of Bobbi because after the author reveals who Bobbi is, I totally bought the REASON Roberta created her. I wanted to experience Roberta’s moral dilemmas and struggles. I really wanted to see more relationship building between her and Magi – I’m suddenly thrown into the middle of a sex scene and a few chapters later Magi is professing love. Whoa guys, slow down! And I wanted to know why Roberta felt so uneasy about Jenny. Other than that character being annoying, why did her gut tell her there was something off about her co-worker? What actions caused Roberta to be suspicious about Jenny? Simply being annoying doesn’t quite justify why Roberta felt the way she did about Jenny.

I felt like a runaway train trying to make out details from a blurred landscape – it was exhausting and frustrating.

And perhaps that’s the author’s intent, to spoon feed backstory to the reader as the series progresses, I can appreciate that approach, but I needed a bit more backstory IN THIS STORY because it took me a while to play catch up.

This premise also reminds me a lot of the TV show, “Alias” with Jennifer Garner. The character is recruited from college for her raw talent and then cultivated and groomed to be an effective tool for an agency’s agenda.  Then, her and her handler develop feelings for one another which complicates their working relationship. That premise has always fascinated me and being a fan of “Alias” I really liked the strong female character and her ability to kick ass virtually all the time.

Which brings me to another point of contention: Roberta is seemingly invincible.

I’m all about strong, powerful women. But Roberta doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses. Her ability to compartmentalize and turn her mind off/on is certainly impressive, but short of killing her physical body, what weaknesses does she really have? We’re lucky that Roberta has a strong moral compass and she’s capable of compassion and love as evidenced by her interactions with her family, but surely there is a physical limitation to her supernatural powers? If so, this story didn’t reveal it. And though her ability to control a target’s mind, and other entities, (no spoilers), it’s almost too much power, too easy, in some ways. I want to see a weakness that is not readily apparent and not many people know about but when someone stumbles across it, it absolutely cripples Roberta and she has to come up with creative ways to handle it.

At this point, Roberta is more machine than human. Which may be what the author is going for, but in order for me to care about her, the possibility of losing her will only enrich the story, in my opinion.

Overall, the story is well written, fast-paced and interesting. I think the author has the potential of taking Roberta on some incredible journeys, I would propose slowing down and allowing the reader to enjoy the experience.

*All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

Book Corner

Book Review: Talking to Strangers

How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true?

While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you’ll hear the voices of people he interviewed–scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There’s even a theme song – Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout.”

Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.

Yes, it’s true, I rated this book three stars.

It wasn’t due to lack of interesting content, all of the examples that Mr. Gladwell presents are interesting, his points are well taken, they are also well articulated, when he gets around to making them. And the thought that the “supposedly” brightest minds in the world are incapable of detecting bullshit is more than a little alarming. (As evidenced by his examples).

I gave this book three stars because of the way this book is laid out. Mr. Gladwell gives us example, after examples, to prove points that he doesn’t quite allow the reader to digest before moving on to give us yet another example or another aspect of communicating so that by the time I reached the halfway mark, I was ready to just scream, “JUST GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!”

I suppose, after reading the above blurb, I was expecting a mind-blowing, profound solution to talking to strangers – a how-to guide to communicating and understanding a stranger’s non-verbal language. I was expecting some tips and tricks on HOW to talk to strangers, but Mr. Gladwell instead shows us, through historical events, that it’s nearly impossible to truly know a stranger’s motives.

With all due respect, Mr. Gladwell, duh.

In essence, this book is about reminding us not to jump to conclusions when speaking to total strangers. We don’t really know the motivation behind someone we just met. We may think they are honest, they may appear sincere in their body language and facial expressions, but Mr. Gladwell’s point is: it’s virtually impossible to truly know people.

This quote perfectly sums up this book: The right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.

Not exactly earth shattering advice.

However, let’s be fair, there are a lot of television shows, movies and online sites that tout the ability to teach someone to tell if someone is lying or not. And if the person’s motivations match their non-verbal language, then we will likely correctly interpret whether someone is telling the truth, but if someone truly wanted to fool us, it wouldn’t be hard to do.

As Mr. Gladwell states, we all default to believing people are inherently good. We want to believe that people are honest and truthful because no one wants to believe that people are capable of lying or generally being assholes. And now, with the aid of the media, we are constantly reminded to be careful, don’t trust anyone, people have ulterior motives and no one really cares about anyone but themselves, (it’s all about ME), that now I think the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction and most people default to thinking the WORST of people right off the bat. Which Mr. Gladwell shows us is also a very dangerous road to travel.

So, what now? How do we successfully communicate with strangers? I don’t have the answer to that question and I don’t feel like Mr. Gladwell answered that question either, he simply reminds us that in order to effectively communicate with people, one must be patient, kind and understanding because people are the byproduct of their life choices and personal history and if we understand that crucial factor, then we are more likely to understand a person’s motivations and temperament.

If you’re looking for a how-to book on how to talk to strangers, this is not it. But if you want a glimpse into the human psyche and a thought-provoking read, then enjoy.

Can We Talk?

Appreciate Now

This video really resonated with me….

I think I can appreciate this message now because I’m older.

A new year, a new beginning, a new chapter … and a time to reflect on the past. Which I don’t do, ever.

I’m a future sort of gal. I tend to only look to the future, plan for upcoming events, always thinking of what is to come. And because I tend to do that, I tend to forget to appreciate the now.

Though I feel like I’m better than I used to be.

I think Kevin is focused on the NOW. He’s always working on projects and doing things that need attention NOW. But he’s so busy living in the now that I don’t think he takes the time to appreciate the now. I’m working on coaching him to slow down, take it easy, appreciate the moments. His tasks? Will still be there whether he takes ten minutes or an entire afternoon to just STOP and appreciate the fact that he stopped and paid attention to the now.

I could be busier, sure. But I don’t want to be busier. I like having my quiet, solitude moments. I like parking my butt on my couch and reading books, or putting in earbuds and watching YouTube videos. I appreciate the moments perhaps TOO much.

But time doesn’t seem to be moving as quickly since I’ve been less busy, less productive.

I just wish I could slow time down a bit more so I can appreciate the moments even more.

Time is precious. It’s important to make the most of this precious time. But it’s also important to appreciate the previous moments as well.

It’s all about balance. And finding that balance is perhaps the most challenging part of living life.

Daily Prompts

Thoughts: 1:2:20

Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution that you kept?

No and here’s why.

I think my resolutions have always been someone else’s resolutions. Not to say I haven’t wanted those things I’ve resolved to do but rather, they were goals that weren’t that important or realistic for my lifestyle.

Not to mention, I just get bored with trying after a while.

I’m lazy. I really am. And I’m terribly selfish with my time. I think that selfishness stems from the fact that I spend the majority of my time helping/serving others. I work in the medical field so my day comprises of being available to our patients and at my doctor’s beck and call.

I don’t feel like I truly have time for ME. Because given the choice, I WOULDN’T do this job – it goes against every grain of my body – but somehow, I’m good at it. And I’ve gotten to the point where I feel comfortable doing the job and I like my co-workers so I don’t see myself starting over any time soon.

Plus, I’m just too old to start over. I could, but I don’t think it would be a good thing, overall, to do that.

I think if alternate day fasting has taught me anything, (and yes, I’m still doing that), it’s that I need to do what works for ME. Granted, I don’t know what that is until I try different things but I need to stop and recognize when something is not working and try something else. And NOT beat myself up over failing.

Ultimately, I’m scared of failing. I’m scared of wasting precious time because again, I don’t have a lot of time TO waste. I think that’s my biggest hang up with writing – I’m scared to fail. But how can I succeed if I don’t fail?

So, though it’s good to have goals, I think it’s more important to have REALISTIC goals for YOU and YOUR life.

Daily Prompts

Thoughts: 1:1:20

I’m asking the obligatory first of the year question:

What goals do you have for this year?

I want to write more and finish a novel. Notice I didn’t say it has to be a GOOD novel, but something tangible, something workable.

I want to do a better job of balancing my work/personal life and take more days off. Life is too short.

I want to blog more.

I want to successfully complete a bullet journal. (More on that later).

I want to take more pictures.

I want to improve my mental/physical self.

I want to make money from my writing … somehow.

I want to cash in our frequent flyer miles and take a long weekend trip with Kevin (in addition to our yearly cruise).

Your turn: What goals do you have for this year?