33 Years and Counting!

Today is Mike’s and my 33rd wedding anniversary.  It is hard to believe that it has been 33 years.  When we married April 28, 1984, we committed to each other and to our two daughters (one from each of our previous marriages) that we would be family for the long term.  Although 33 years is long term, I hope that we have many more years together.  I feel so blessed that Mike and I met and married.  He is indeed my soul mate.  We have had a blessed life together.

As I think about our long marriage and how it has lasted when so many others haven’t, including our own first marriages, I think there are three keys to our marriage’s success. 

First, we made a commitment.  Those of you who have read my writings before know that I use the word commitment intentionally, and that to me a commitment is different than a plan.  Most people plan to be married for the long term when they make the marriage decision.  Some even have a commitment, but things don’t work out as they planned.  Sometimes one of the partners in the marriage is committed, but the other one isn’t.  A marriage that is going to withstand the challenges that surely will come requires that both people be committed.

Another key to a long term successful marriage is that the individuals complement each other, not compete with each other. When people are too much alike, they can fight for control.   When they complement each other, they depend on each other; their strengths are complementary, and so are their weaknesses. They need each other in a way that people who are too much alike do not.  This need is not a weakness, but a strength. They do not lose themselves in each other; they become more of their best selves with each other.  While it is certainly possible for couples to be happily married when they are more alike than different, I do believe that differences in the personalities adds a dimension to a relationship that strengthens it.  It is necessary to understand and value the differences, and to see those as complementary, not divisive. 

A third key to a long term successful marriage is that both partners respect each other, not just love each other.  Love can ebb and flow, and when one must dig down deep to find the love, respect is what sometimes helps to weather the storms when the love needs to be rekindled.   If respect is lacking, it is easier for the daily challenges that can occur in any marriage to become insurmountable.  If each person truly respects the other, their behavior will be respectful.  They will want what is best for the other, not just what is best for themselves. They will be committed to what they have built together and protect it, not allowing anyone or anything else to come between them. 

This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list.  There are other variables that are involved in a successful marriage.  But a marriage that involves commitment, effectively managing the differences each brings to the marriage, and respect for each other has served Mike and me well for these first 33 years.  Now on to the next 33! 

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Managing Our Emotions

We all have a range of emotions, some good, some not so good.  Well, I should change the word “good” to “positive” and “bad” to “negative.” Emotions should not be thought of as good or bad, but positive or negative.  “Good” and “bad” labels put us in the position of judging, and emotions should not be judged.  While we should evaluate them, and determine how to manage them most effectively, that is different than judging emotions as good or bad.

It is good to be in touch with our emotions, all of them, and to not “stuff them down.” If we fail to deal with our emotions, they can become more problematic. We heard about the problems this can create from Prince Harry earlier this week.  But how we deal with our emotions is the key.  Sometimes our negative emotions come between us and others because we do not deal with our own emotions effectively.  That can become cumulative, and what could have been resolved develops into conflict, expressed (overt) or unexpressed (covert).

What are some negative emotions?  Hurt, anger, frustration, envy, and sadness are some of the most common negative emotions.  If these are unresolved, other negative emotions can occur.  Unresolved hurt can become anger, anger which can be directed at others.  Frustration sometimes comes from our inability to control our situation, and can result in us trying to control others.  Envy is coveting what someone else has, and can lead to sadness and even depression. Sadness that isn’t intercepted leads to depression.     

Joy, gratitude, empathy, happiness, and hope are some positive emotions.  As is the case with negative emotions, positive emotions are often related. The person who has a spirit of gratitude is usually happier and perhaps even joyful.  Those who possess empathy usually also have a spirit of gratitude.  People who have hope also are usually happier. 

We all possess both positive and negative emotions, and these are often the result of allowing external factors to control how we feel.  We need to examine this.  Why would we allow our happiness to be dependent on how many “things” we possess, how we look as we age, and even the opinion others have of us?  If we need the latest Apple product or the latest fashion to feel good about ourselves, we will likely have too many days of negative emotions such as envy or sadness.  If we are depressed or even sad as we notice we no longer can color the gray in our hair or hide our wrinkles, we are likely to be unhappy most of our days, and miss the joy those years can provide.  If others disagreeing with us makes us hurt or angry, we will miss the opportunity for polite discourse that can result in mutual understanding and even deeper relationships. 

When dealing with emotions, it is best for us to look within, and refuse to focus on the behavior of others.  You have heard, “The only one you can control is yourself.”  If I control my own behavior as I deal with my emotions, that will be more than enough for me to do.  There won’t be time for me to worry about the emotions and behavior of others!

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My Spendaholic book is Changing Me, Again!

Last week’s Blog Post was about my latest book being published, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic. Thank you to all who sent me such wonderful comments.  It is indeed very exciting!  A friend has a book launch party scheduled for me in Raleigh, and my two book clubs have selected Spendaholic for our May readings. And there are other book promotion activities planned.  I am honored and blessed.

If/when you read the book, you will find that I state that the book is about me changing a behavior I needed to change, and that if others are inspired to change, that is great.  But I knew I needed to change, and the year of no spending changed me in three significant ways.  One, I made a commitment, not just a goal or a plan.  Commitments are stronger, and once made, not easily broken.  Two, I am no longer (usually, that is) an impulsive spender.  I am able to walk away from a purchase, knowing that if I decide to buy it later, it will often still be available, and if not, that is ok.  My third change is that I also do not (again, usually) waste money.  An example is choosing to have water with lunch instead of watered down tea that isn’t worth the money it costs.  I know some of you are thinking, “that is small money,” and yes, it is, but small money adds up.

I realized years ago that one reason for my spendaholic behavior is that I have a need for beauty; a need, not a want.  So, when I see beautiful things, and especially if they are at a good price or on sale, my temptation to purchase them is very strong.  Too often those have become impulsive purchases.  Later, I have sometimes, or even often, found that they do not fit where I plan to use them.  I had a great example of this yesterday.

I purchased a beautiful loveseat several years ago for our beach condo.  When doing some redecorating a few months ago, my decorator stated that the loveseat was too big for the space it was occupying.  I saw it through her eyes, and realized that she was right. But since I loved it, I couldn’t get rid of it.  I put it in my storage shed.  Yesterday I decided that I needed to do something with it, but what?  I almost convinced myself to recover it and use it somewhere else.  I called an upholsterer and got a price and fabric yardage needed, and loaded it in the van, planning to transport it from the beach to Raleigh, then to the upholsterer almost an hour away from Raleigh.  Then I came to my senses. I realized that I was going to spend too much money to try to make the loveseat fit somewhere else, and in so doing, I would be having to decide what to do with the item that is currently occupying the space where the loveseat would go!  That would likely result in spending more time and money, and I might not be any happier with the change.  This was spendaholic behavior at its finest.  I decided to make a different decision.  Instead of my plan to reupholster the loveseat, I took the loveseat to a consignment shop. 

Motivational guru Jim Rohn said many years ago that one positive change results in more positive changes.  He used the example of eating an apple instead of something unhealthy, and that in doing so, it becomes easier to get outside and take a walk.  I find that to be the case with the publication of Spendaholic.  The book’s lessons are so much on my mind that I feel like a hypocrite if I waste money.  Recovering that loveseat would have been an example of wasting money.  The loveseat is “sunk” cost, it is money already spent.  But spending more money to try to make it fit somewhere else would be foolish.  While I have done just this many times in the past, I now want to permanently change that behavior. I believe I took a significant step toward that with this loveseat decision.  There are other items in the storage shed that I need to deal with in a similar fashion.

One of my commitments for 2017 is mindfulness.  I want to be more mindful in general, and to be a more mindful spender in particular. To do so, I will need to make different decisions about spending than I have in the past. 

There are only three decisions we can make about money which we already have.  We can spend it, invest it, or keep it.  If we invest it, it can grow; it can also lose its value.  If we spend it, it is gone.  While we may be spending it wisely, the money is still gone.  If we keep it, it doesn’t grow, and inflation may result in the money being worth less, but that is still better than not having it at all. 

Now, I assure you, I am not an expert on money.

But I do know a lot about spendaholism, and how to change that.

Here is the link to the book: Click here

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My New Book Is Live!

More than ten years ago, I began a journey, a journey to address my Spendaholic behavior.  I wanted to be in control of my spending, and to do so, I knew that it would require major change.  I decided that major change does not happen in thirty days, or sixty days, or even ninety days.  I decided that for me to change my behavior would require at least a year. So, I made a commitment that would last for a year.

I made a commitment to not purchase anything (non-disposable) for myself or my home for a year.  During that year, I journaled the journey.  I journaled my thoughts, feelings, and insights, to connect to the lessons that I needed to learn to change my behavior.  I had planned to publish this book soon after the year of no spending ended, but I did not.  Even so, the lessons contained within the book are timeless. 

A few months ago, I decided it was time for this book to be finished, and engaged Write Way Publishing Company to help me get this book to print.  And we have done so!   My journal journaling my journey, A Year in the life of a Recovering Spendaholic, is now in print and in eBook form, and is available on Amazon. 

I invite you to take this journey with me, to see how I struggled, and how I succeeded.  In so doing, you may find that some of my lessons connect with you.  It is more important that you uncover your insights than that you read about mine.

In “Spendaholic,” I hope that you laugh some, learn some, and grieve some.  Laugh about my foibles, and maybe your own.  Learn about how I conquered some of my challenges, and how to conquer yours.  And grieve some, grieve with me over my losses, and your own, and my and your failure at times to be our best selves. 

And in the end, rejoice in the human spirit, that part of us that allows us to change things that are so difficult to change, to become what we are more than capable of being, to be our best selves! 

I invite you to take this journey with me, by clicking HERE

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Human Skills Can Change the World for the Better!

We seem to need a reminder every now and then of the importance of what I refer to as Human Skills.  Human Skills refer to our communication skills and our ability to connect well with others. While these are sometimes called “Soft Skills,” I prefer to call them “Human Skills.”  In our society, when compared to “Hard Skills,” “Soft Skills” are not valued as much.  I just googled “Hard Skills,” and found the following, which proves my point.  “Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured, such as typing, writing, math, reading, and the ability to use software programs.  By contrast, soft skills are less tangible and harder to quantify, such as etiquette, getting along with others, listening, and engaging in small talk.”  Do these definitions seem to value one of these types of skills more than the other?  I think so, since something that can be defined and measured is more valued by many in our American society than skills that are less tangible and harder to quantify.  In our macho society, “hard” can also be thought of as aggressive, (in a good way) and “soft” is more often considered weak.  That is one reason for my recommendation that what is usually thought of as “Soft Skills” should be renamed “Human Skills.”  I believe that the most successful people have a combination of both Hard Skills and Human Skills.  Hard Skills are often a requirement in many jobs.  Human Skills should be a requirement in all jobs. 

Just think about it.  Think about the people you know who you are always glad to see, and those who you aren’t.  It is likely that those people who you are glad to see have good Human Skills, and those in the other category do not. Think about the people who are nice, friendly, and listen at least as much as they talk.  These people have human skills that allow them to connect well with others.

Sometimes it is easier to describe the opposite of something than it is to describe what it is.  People who lack sufficient human skills do not speak to others when they enter a room, and do not say goodbye when they exit.  Greeting others and saying something appropriate when leaving a room are important human skills.  People who have a long conversation with one person when there are others around lack human skills.  Someone who does so much talking that others can’t engage in conversation with them lacks human skills.  People who go to networking events to collect business cards and interpret what they are there to do as engaging in small talk lack human skills.  Yes, being able to make small talk (whatever that is!) is considered an important networking skill.  A far better skill is the ability to connect with others, which requires engagement on a different level. 

We have many current examples on TV news channels of people not listening to others, talking over others, and being condescending to others.  And then, there is the too common skirting the issues, blaming others, and even outright lying.  People who engage in these behaviors may have great Hard Skills, but they lack Human Skills that would result in them being trusted.  That makes it so much harder for them to do their jobs, regardless of their Hard Skills.

Etiquette is involved in communication and relating well with others, but it is a broader subject worthy of its own post.

It would behoove us all to brush up on our Human Skills.  And we cannot look to many in the media for how to behave.  Unless we are looking for examples of what NOT to do.

Back to the definition mentioned earlier of Hard Skills and Soft Skills.  I disagree with the premise that Human Skills (referred to above as Soft Skills) are less tangible and harder to quantify.  The fact that they may seem to be is probably because they are not as common.    Will you join me in changing that?

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Our Health Care Hero

Maureen Hession, RN, MSN, FNP-C, was honored recently as a 2017 Health Care Hero by Triangle Business Journal.  She was the only Nurse Practitioner honored, joined by MDs, nurses, hospital managers and administrators, and several health care related agencies.  It was a proud night for Maureen, of course, but also for her many friends and colleagues who know the excellent care she gives patients.  Mike, Chatham, Paula and I, as well as Maureen’s close friends Liz Jones and Sara Rooker, attended the evening dinner awards ceremony.  It was a wonderful night for all of us.  There is not a more deserving honoree for this award than Maureen, and it was a privilege to celebrate with her.

The Health Care Awards ceremony was one of my few outings in the past two weeks, since I am still recovering from a car accident. During these two weeks Maureen, who is called MoMo by friends and family, moved in with us to care for me.  A better care giver could not be found.  She changed dressings, cooked, and made sure that I had whatever I needed.  Mike cared for me as well, but having MoMo there gave both Mike and me a sense of peace and comfort that we would not have had otherwise.

I first met Maureen in 1986 when she was a staff nurse and I was VP of Patient Care/Nursing at Rex Hospital.  She was chosen by her peers to represent them on a Practice Committee developed to improve nursing decision making in patient care and for nurses.  I recognized in Maureen a real love for patients and patient care, and saw in her the ability and willingness to push the system, to improve things, for patients and staff.  At times this resulted in resistance from others, (of course) but Maureen did not back down.  She has always been clear about what patients need, and has fought for those things, even when to do so was not popular. She was an expert clinician, even then.  I am not the only person to have said that Maureen is more clinically competent than many MDs.

MoMo became a member of our family many years ago.  Sometimes she seems like a younger sister, and at other times, she feels like our oldest child!  She came into our family when Tara and Chatham were teenagers, and now we and she have the honor of her love and caring of our grandchildren.  Through the years Tara has usually called MoMo when she has had a health care need or a question related to her children; not me, her mother, who is a nurse!  That is fitting, since I have not been in the clinical field for over forty years, and certainly do not consider my clinical skills current. In my case the statute of limitations has run out on the loved expression repeated by many nurses; “Once a nurse, always a nurse!” I am more than glad for MoMo be the expert for our family’s health care needs.

A few years after she came into our life, I encouraged Maureen to continue her education.  At that point she had a diploma in Nursing, and while that had served her fine as a staff nurse, it would not provide her the opportunities to make an impact at the macro level.  This was at the time when it was becoming clear that advanced practice nurses would fill a major role in the future health care delivery system, especially as Nurse Practitioners. This required that Maureen go back to school and complete an undergraduate degree, then a master’s degree and certification as a Nurse Practitioner.  Maureen did just that.  In 2002 Maureen graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Master’s degree in Nursing and became certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner.  Since then she has worked as a Nurse Practitioner in primary care practice settings, at Rex in the Urgent Cares, and for the past two years at North Carolina State University in Student Health.  In each of these settings, Maureen has had patients and their families write her and tell her that she saved their lives.  Her clinical diagnostic skills and her attention to detail, as well as her love for her patients, is what separates her from others who see what they do as only a job.

Maureen gives me some of the credit for inspiring her to complete her education and become a Nurse Practitioner, stating that she would never have known she could do it without my encouragement.  I always respond to that with, “You did the work!” I am proud to have had a small part in it.

Every day Maureen continues to do the work, the work of caring for patients at the highest level, not leaving until the work is done.  She truly loves what she does, and that is evident in so many ways.

Congratulations to you, Maureen, for a well-deserved honor.  We celebrate you, and the difference you make in patient care and for patients, every day.  We are all better because of your care and caring.

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Southern Graciousness

Everyone is more than busy, with little time to spare.  But some people, not just Southerners, look past their own priorities to reach out and help others.  “Southern graciousness,” which does not just reside in the South, can replace some of the negativity we are experiencing in our society, and bond us in a way that can transcend our differences.  It certainly has for me.

I had an accident recently, and have been overwhelmed with the care and concern of some of my friends and connections.  Our family friend MoMo, who is an expert Nurse Practitioner, has moved in with us to care for me, changing dressings, cooking, and doing whatever is needed.  She still manages all her responsibilities, including more than a full-time job. She has always been there when our family needed her.  She is more family than friend. 

Our neighbor, Laurie, was right over when she heard of my accident with a sweet note and a plant, even though we haven’t seen each other for months.  A better neighbor cannot be found. Our youngest daughter, Chatham and her husband Johnathan who live near us came over and brought a meal the first night after my accident.  And the love and caring of my husband, Mike, has been ever present throughout.

My Solo Sisters (Solo Sisters are women without siblings) brought a delicious meal, delivered by our most gracious founder, Sally. There were also texts and calls of support.  Many in both of my book clubs have reached out with support and food, and Lisa, one of my book club sisters, loaned me a wheelchair!  Their texts, calls, and emails are so appreciated. My college roommate, Alda, and another friend, Diane, visited and brought lunch.  When one is not able to move around easily, those who reach out in these ways do more than help pass the time, they take some of the pressure off the family. 

Our oldest granddaughter, Mary Grace, celebrated her 12th birthday and Confirmation this past weekend with a luncheon after church.  Our daughter, Tara, and her family live in Georgia. Tara and family prepared most of the food.  Mary Grace’s younger sister, Elsie, who is 10 years old, made 50 plus beautifully decorated cupcakes for the party. 

Several of Tara’s friends offered to bring food to the luncheon, to which Tara politely replied that such wasn’t necessary.  A couple of friends, Susan and Filiz, would not take “no” for an answer. Susan told Tara, “In the South, we don’t let our friends do these things alone; we bring food!”  And bring food they did, lots of it, and it was so welcomed, and delicious.  This reminded me of the difference between the “Let me know if you need anything,” or those who offer but when told, “No, nothing is needed,” take that answer as their “pass” to not bring anything to contribute, and those who just reach out and do.  Too often I am in the first group.

My cousin, Paula, who is more like a daughter, allowed her van to carry us to Georgia for Mary Grace’s celebration, and helped prepare food.  She also took me to my hair appointment, which involved spending half of a day caring for me.  You know we don’t miss our hair appointments unless we absolutely cannot get there!

Now before some reading this feel guilty for what they themselves did not do in these or similar situations, there are a couple of clarifications to be made.  Some people are naturally more giving of their time, food, and efforts than others.  This difference does not totally excuse our failure to reach out by calling or connecting in some way when our good friends are in need, however some of us give in other ways.  You know who you are.  Then there are some people who do not give of themselves at all, even when they could and perhaps should.  And you also know who you are.

I have always written what I need the most, hoping that my insights can also be of value to others.  So, this reminder of how to reach out and touch someone is for me more than anyone else.  If any of this gives others insight on what they can and will do to show more caring and graciousness, especially to their close friends and family, that will warm my heart. And, those of you who do not need these reminders, please know that you are so appreciated. 

I know that I have failed to send cards when I should, call when I could, or take food when it was needed. I expect the same is true for some of you.  Are we really too busy to do so?  Do we not know how and what to do?   I doubt that it is that most of us don’t care enough to reach out, or that we don’t know how to, or even that we truly do not have the time to.   We just don’t.  But those that do can teach us a very valuable lesson, a lesson in graciousness that is remembered long past the specific gift of time, food, and connection. 

Thank you to all who have reached out to me and my family in our time of need. I will be there for you in yours.  You are appreciated more than you can know. 

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