Musings

Best Practices, Self Improvement

Active Listening

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” -Bryant H. McGill

Communication requires speaking and listening. It’s a dance where effective communication requires the participation of everyone. One of the most difficult parts is active listening. Here’s a quick summary. Take two minutes and watch.

Forbes offers 10 Steps for Effective Listening. The article is from 2012, but still good advice.

  1. Face the speaker, maintain eye contact
  2. Be attentive, but relaxed
  3. Keep an open mind, don’t judge
  4. Listen and picture what is being said
  5. Don’t interrupt or impose your solutions
  6. Wait for a pause to ask clarifying questions
  7. Ask questions to ensure understanding
  8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling
  9. Give feedback by nodding, reflecting, show some feeling
  10. Pay attention to non-verbal cues

And I will add…

If you are the speaker, give the listener a chance to offer a response or ask a question. Conversations shouldn’t be a one way street.

Friday is for

Friday is for…Finally.

It is finally Friday and I could not be happier. It’s been a long week.

I do believe the United States has breathed a sigh of relief this week. Regardless of political affiliation, it is good to see the inauguration and transfer of power complete. This election was stressful. I’m glad to see it done, and I am hopeful for the future. I’m always hopeful for the future.

No big projects this weekend. We have a family dinner planned for Sunday. We’ve decided that will be a nice addition for 2021. We’ve worked hard for 9 years to blend our families. There are times it has worked, and times it has not. That doesn’t mean we stop trying.

That’s the way with each week too. Whether it is busy, stressful, or not good we still don’t stop working through it.

It wasn’t a bad week, but it was busy. I don’t do boring, so that works.

Empowerment, Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday January 20

Taken from President Biden’s Facebook Page

Family, Life, Quotes, Today I will

National Day of Service 2021

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Steve and I wanted to do something today for #nationaldayofservice. It had to be Covid-19 aware and something important to us. The Covid Aware part was the biggest struggle. What can we do that is adequately socially distanced and we will not risk exposure? Today we chose to take the afternoon, enjoy being outdoors in the cool day sun, and pick up trash. We were not without subject matter to work with!  There are several local parks we like to visit. Some days there is a good bit of trash and it is terribly sad to see. 

There is a growing awareness that single-use plastic is detrimental to the planet. Do you know what’s worse?

Humans.

If we would make better decisions, pick up after ourselves, and work for the good of each other so many issues in life could improve.

I digress. This is not a post about how much humans can sometimes suck. Although, I’m sure as my husband hauled a giant lawn leaf bag full of trash around our favorite park the thought crossed his mind several times.

While there was plenty of trash to pick up, there was beauty worth working for. Nature always finds a way to make us smile. Deer and raccoon tracks were all over Pharr Mill park. Families were using the trails or playing by the water at Frank Liske. From trash to fungi to waterfalls our time outdoors today was wonderful. 

It is not uncommon for us to take trash bags with us when we walk the beach at our favorite Dauphin Island. I believe it will now be a regular part of our park excursions.  The parks that do not have on-site attendants fare poorly.  I expected to need the large trash bag, I did not expect to fill the large trash bag overcapacity.  

Our parks are not able to have their regular clean up events. They are understaffed as it is. Picking up is something that needs to be done, and we don’t mind doing it.  I believe this is a regular task to add to our 2021 goals and I want to find others.

Organizations that rely on volunteers are struggling. They are struggling to raise money for their organization. They are struggling with volunteers and health protocols.  I encourage you to find something you care about and discover how you can contribute. It doesn’t have to be for a specific day. Every day is a great day to work for the good of our community.

 

 

Family, Life, Rambles

Weekend Fun

So how was your weekend? Our guest room and bath are getting a fresh look. We are the weirdos who find home improvement projects to be fun. There’s always something that needs attention.

Next month we will tackle the upstairs bath. The next, our bedroom. One project a month is the goal. Floors in the bedrooms will come at some point and kitchen cabinets are in the agenda before year’s end. I do believe both of us are putting off trim painting for as long as possible.

Family, Life, Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday January 14

Happy Thursday! For Thankful Thursday, I reflect on these two. Julie and Aubrey have grown into amazing young women. These two are strong, independent, and straight-up good people. They take things as they come. They are accepting of others. They are supportive of each other. They go out of their way to help when needed.

Ten years ago I met an acquaintance that would change my life. It was not the easiest year for me. That acquaintance became a friend. Nine years ago, that friend became more. Almost 8 years ago, I married him. Julie and Aubrey have accepted us without question. He’s not their dad and has never tried to be. I jokingly said they treated him like a pet. So, I am thankful for their acceptance.

When we have faced difficult circumstances these two have dropped everything to step in and help, even if it is just being around. No hesitation, just what can we do? Or, they just do. I’m thankful for their empathy.

Both had lived life on their terms. It’s not always easy to take a chance or do your own thing. I’m thankful for their adventurous spirit.

I’m thankful that I was the one that got to make them.
I’m thankful to be their birth-giver.

Leave a comment or LinkyLink below. I would love to know what you’re thankful for. I’ll be by to visit this evening.

Photography, Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday January 13

It’s a beautiful view from the home office today!

It’s a Blog Hop so Linky Link below or comment and I will be around to visit this evening. Happy Hump day everyone!

Family, Life, Motivation, Rambles

Aspiring to be

In an attempt to not break my workday writing streak I headed over to Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop Inspiration Button. After several uninspiring, or I don’t know you like that, clicks I was inspired by the following prompt:

When I grow up I want to be like…

Let’s get something straight. I’m not growin’ up and you can’t make me. I hold dear my Ravenclaw coffee mug, coloring books and super amazing twisty Crayola coloring pencils, and my silly accents I use while making dinner and jamming to 90’s hip-hop. By jamming I do mean dancing in my kitchen while wearing dachshund printed PJs and fuzzy socks. #dontjudge

There are also many in my life who have inspired me to be the best me I can be. However, weird and sometimes immature that may be. Hey, I hope they are proud.

#1 My Grandmother

#2 My Aunt Merita

#3 My Great Aunt Hazel

Despite being terribly sick, my Gran raised me from two years old until she died in 1997. Off and on I spent time with various family members when Gran was in the hospital or recovering from being in the hospital. She was declared dead once, and we were told she was brain dead another time. She wasn’t ready for such a final diagnosis and managed to push on.  Because of her health, her time spent directly entertaining me involved reading, drawing, coloring, word search, or other word games like Scrabble or Boggle.  I learned to entertain myself by playing outside, climbing the fruit trees, picking blackberries, kicking a ball around, or building with legos. Not those lego kits either. I had to use my imagination to come up with what to build. My favorite was designing lego houses. I wanted to be an architect or a veterinarian. Gran never discouraged me. Our games gave me a love of words and creativity. When I discovered music she would listen to me practice for hours. Never complaining. At the beginning that had to be terribly difficult. By the time I was in high school I was pretty good, but a trumpet is loud and had to be difficult to listen to hours on end. She knew music was my ticket to college. Living on her fixed income, there was little money for extras. I did not go without needs and she did her best to make sure I got some things I wanted. Others helped with some of those too. She instilled her love of art, reading, and her “do what you have to do” spirit.

My Aunt Merita is my go-to for all things advice. I know she helped Gran when things were tight. I remember staying with her regularly. I grew up as her 5th child. When I discovered the level of math and advanced science necessary for architecture or veterinary medicine, I realized my goals needed to be revised. Social Science and teaching became my area of interest. As a teacher who began her career later in life Merita was able to guide and advise. She stepped in as a grandmother to my children, an advisor when I needed to find my way, and a friend when I needed an ear. She is a strong independent woman who battled cancer and won. Given only a few months to live and asked by doctors if they could study her case, she emphatically proclaimed she was not ready to give up yet and sought treatment. That was ten years ago. While we are separated by distance these days, she is only a phone call or text away. In a sense, we share a mother. It is because of Gran that Merita and I have similar views on getting done what has to be done and pushing ourselves.

Lastly, my Great Aunt Hazel.  She would come by regularly to chat, sometimes bringing fresh vegetables. She loved Gran’s cooking so it was usually at lunch and the vegetables would be part of it. Aunt Hazel was loud, vibrant, and lived her life the way she wanted. After her husband died she ran their coal mining business and kept it successful. Talk about a woman in a man’s world. I can remember staying with her once and she took me for a 4 wheeler ride around her property. It was terrifying and exhilarating.  She was in her 70s and loved the adventure.  By her 90s she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She had such an amazing attitude about it. Very much an “it is what it is” mindset. Once, at a family gathering (decoration if you are familiar with the Southern tradition) Aunt Hazel was riding her scooter along the dirt walking paths and weaving in and out. She was having a joyful time, happy for anyone to tell her all about her grandkids…even if she had just heard about each.  Aunt Hazel was willing to help Gran anytime it was needed, and she didn’t have to be asked. She recognized the need and filled it. She was vibrant and didn’t let anyone tell her what she couldn’t do or how she should do it. She also did what made her happy.

These three summaries of amazing women are extremely condensed versions. Gran, Merita, and Aunt Hazel are my best examples of tenacity, strength, and joyful living. Each rose above their circumstances in life. Each faced adversity and pushed on anyway. Each modeled the tenets of continuous improvement, be your best self, and help others when you can.

I want to be like them. I want to be me, not what others think I should be. I want to be driven, creative, and strong in the face of adversity. I want to be happy where I am and help bring happiness to others. I want to offer words of wisdom when it is needed. I want to be able to ride a 4 wheeler in my 70s and a scooter in my 90s.

Life, Photography, Technology

Canon of Nature and Me

2020 Photography goal complete!

In an effort to keep busy, continue learning, and challenge myself I decided to dedicate several months to learning my camera. I signed up for a Coursera specialization and worked to learn various aspects of photography and manual mode. By the end, I was confident shooting in manual, although not always successful.  It was worth the time and effort to improve the shots I take and develop a fun, although expensive, hobby. (Donations for new lenses will always be graciously accepted!) Nature is my preferred subject. I was also able to practice with our kids, as well as their friends. Completing this specialization and receiving constructive feedback and encouragement from my peers is both validating and extremely satisfying. There were elements that challenged me tremendously. (I’ll be honest, it’s mostly the math of it.  Math makes me want to cry.) Other elements will help me in my instructional design and development. More importantly, I accomplished something I set out to do and developed a new hobby.  Below is my Capstone Statement for Canon of Nature and Me and the images I submitted. A canon is a statement, collection, or criterion of related works. It is also my brand of camera, so a little play on words.

It would be easy to shrink within and give in to the frustration of 2020. Nature has been my inspiration to stay positive and stay healthy. It has been my retreat. My photography inspires me to explore new areas, as well as explore the same areas through a different lens…sometimes literally. Colors change throughout the year. Light reflects differently each day, and at different times of the day. The view changes and the camera keeps me from taking it for granted. In this series, I am exploring the world around me. What is growing in my own backyard, my neighborhood, my favorite parks, and nature preserves? Getting outdoors keeps me motivated and I seek to capture that motivation with my lens and share it with you the viewer.

I started taking pictures regularly a few years ago. My philosophy was point, shoot, and hope for the best. My strategy was volume. Thousands of pictures for a small number of useable images. This learning series and Capstone Project has encouraged me to adjust settings, eventually shoot in mostly manual, and delve into editing RAW images. I have successfully become intentional about framing, exposure, and seeking to capture inspired moments instead of seeing something cool and hoping for the best as I take shot after shot.

As cities grow our neighborhoods expand. New building projects are implemented for houses, apartments, storage facilities, another gas station or car wash on the corner. Finding a relaxing natural space can be difficult in larger cities. Greenways offer an escape to nature. Nature preserves offer some protection to nature and the environment. As with our changing cityscapes, natural landscapes change as well. I seek to document the natural places I enjoy, frame the landscape, and capture the inspiring moments for both historical documentation and change over time.

 

Friday is for
Friday is for, Rambles

Friday is for…

In my 2021 attempt to write more I have jumped back into the blog world. Each evening I venture into the blogosphere and visit others. I participate in blog hops to explore and find inspiration for writing topics.  It’s interesting, it’s fun, and it is a wonderful break from the stressful social media world.  A few daily writing hops I like are Wordless Wednesday, Thankful Thursday, and a recent find the Writing Workshop. There are several for Friday, and I would like to leave Fridays open for any topic. Not that any day isn’t open to any topic. One post a day is a stretch goal for me. So for Friday, it’s for:

  • Funny
  • Funky
  • Friendly
  • Family
  • Food finds
  • Whatever

This Friday, Friday is for food.

We enjoy cooking together. It’s a time to get something done and discuss the day, or just be silly together. Sometimes we turn on the “device that shall not be named” and watch Hot in Cleveland while food prep. Sometimes we ask “the device” to play soothing music in the background while we prepare the meal. Sometimes it’s a funky-funny festivity of chaos complete with the funniest 90’s hip-hop hits. If I’ve been completed disconnected I ask for news highlights.  In the winter we like comfort food and soup is at the top of our list.

As I look out my window and watch the cold rainfall that is threatening to become snow I think about what soup I would like to make this weekend. My current favorite is a creamy taco soup. It has a little spice and is rich enough to really warm you up. I found the recipe on allrecipes.com and tweaked it to fit our tastes. While we prefer to go as unprocessed as possible, with some soups I cheat and use condensed soup. If you would like lower calories and sodium, make your own mushroom cream sauce instead of using canned cream of mushrooms soup. You can also chopped your own tomatoes and chiles.

Creamy Chicken Soup topped with corn chips and quesadillas on the side.

This soup doesn’t take long if you boil your chicken and shred it. It can be done an hour before dinner, or slow cook all day. As with most soups, longer or save until the next day is better. We prefer the slow cook method because it means no chicken to thaw.  When we get up we throw in a frozen chicken breast or two with a little water and slow cook until lunch. At lunch break, we shred the chicken if it is ready, and throw in other ingredients- minus the cheese, and drop the heat to warm. The Neufchatel cheese is left until the very end just before serving.  The soup spends the remainder of the day marinating. When it is soon time for dinner stir in the cheese. It will need about another 20 minutes to absorb flavor. I add the cheese just before making quesadillas. That’s just enough time for it to blend well. Beans and corn make a great addition to this recipe if you need more substance and oomph to your meal.

100% our favorite soup meal. It is a creamy variation of our chicken fajita soup. It’s the creaminess that takes it to the next level of yum.