Life Management

Dec
13

What Is Personal Freedom?

by Christine

Each time I return home after seeing my grandchildren, I end up reflecting upon the wealth of wisdom I want to share with them, particularly my granddaughters. I don't love my granddaughters any more than my grandsons but I have a great deal of first hand experience being female. I believe the advice I have to offer will be useful, not like the confusing piece of advice my mother once gave me. "Don't go down a dirt road with a boy". The comment confused me because there wasn't a single dirt road in Jacksonville, Florida when I was growing up. But I agreed...got it covered Mom! Today, I do wonder if this advice came to her from personal experience or from the experience of another. I do hope it was the latter or that it was a "rural myth" started by grandmothers trying to protect their granddaughters.

I read a Time Magazine health article titled No Satisfaction: Woman Are Less Likely To Orgasm During Casual Sex and my first response was DUH! And my second thought was," I long for the days when headlines weren't so graphic". In an effort to be free, to be more like men, young women are engaging in one night stands (vocabulary for the Boomers) or hook-ups (vocabulary for the Millennials) and finding they are unfulfilled at the end of the um, evening.  Envision if you will a man and a woman who just met in a bar or restaurant, made each other laugh with a few funny stories about ex-lovers and then headed home to recreate the love scene from Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Yeah right!  Why would any young women think this was going to be good for her? Women don't even like to undress in front of other women at the gym and the guy you are with just spent 30 minutes talking about his fantasy football team. Do you really think he is going to be paying attention to you and your "needs"? For gosh sakes, haven't you seen American Pie...all it takes is an apple pie.

I am not bashing men here, honest. I am pointing out that men and women are different. Yes, I know you took basic biology but in an effort to reach equality on job opportunities, salary and to balance out a few other societally imposed limitations women and men have come to expect equal behavior in all areas of life. Today hooking up is considered a "fun" time for both sexes. But the research says something very different; women aren't getting the same enjoyment from the activity as men. It's every man for himself in a hook-up.

My granddaughters are little girls, under five and hopefully before they reach the age that this conversation is appropriate for them, the world will have evolved once again. Over the course of my lifetime I have watched as the place of women has evolved in the job market, in government and in the world of finance but sex remains the same. Young women are being told by the media, acquaintances and men that sex is nothing more than a recreationally activity. But research shows that women aren't getting the same benefits from recreational sex as men. When the time comes, I am going to tell my granddaughters and grandsons that true freedom in life not only comes from being able to say yes to what you want but it is also to be able to say no to what you don't want.  I will encourage them to intentionally do the necessary work to figure out what they truly want from life so they can answer yes or no to the opportunities that come their way.

Hugs,
C

Dec
11

What Is Your Greatest Achievement In Life?

by Christine

 

Recently I read a blog post that asked the question, "What is your greatest achievement in life"? This was a blog written by and for women and the blogger was now reporting back on the answers that she had received from her readers. The majority of women stated that raising their children was their greatest achievement. They were proud that their hard work as mothers had resulted in adults that were good people. But I was shocked at the blogger's response to her readers' vision of their personal achievement. She minimized their achievement by saying something to the effect, come on ladies, men don't claim raising their children as their greatest achievement, haven't you done anything else in your life besides child rearing, try again?

I haven't ventured back to her blog because I realized we had nothing in common. I believe that women should have all the opportunities that are open to men including raising children. I believe women should have access to a good education, be physically safe in our society, have an opportunity to pursue meaningful employment and be able to create a family that is fulfilling and satisfying. I also believe that a woman may choose not to pursue anyone of those opportunities including having children. I believe a woman has the right to declare what is meaningful to her and state her "greatest achievement" without having it marginalized by another. 

I am old enough to have experienced some very real prejudiced behavior by men and corporations. When I was pregnant with my first child, JC Penney's let me go from my job because the manager of my department thought it was unsightly to have a pregnant woman waiting on customers. I went quietly because I was young and stupid. Years later I wanted to buy a BMW; it was my "reward" for working hard at my job. The male sales rep told me that he would sell me a car when I came back to the dealership with my husband. I give you my word, true story. Instead, I drove across the street and purchased a Volvo; they had no husband requirement. To this day, I have not nor will I purchase a BMW.  Fortunately that kind of prejudice has been tempered though education and a few hard fought lawsuits. 

In spite of those who would limit my ability to pursue my goals, I've earned a degree with honors in Political Science, I own my own company, I've traveled to China, South Africa as well as to many other unique and engaging countries and I'm writing a book that once finished will be a proud moment for me personally. But the most important achievement in my life has been to raise children that contribute each day to the lives of their families, to their jobs, inside and outside of the home and to their community. When I read another woman minimizing that achievement, it's just plain irritating. I could go on and on about how it takes finely tuned managerial skills to raise children, manage a household, work a job outside the home and maintain a marriage...or any combination of those. Should we shame the individuals who choose not to have children or travel outside of the United States or own a business? No, real choice comes to women and men when they can craft a life that fits their talents, abilities and desires. So I will ask you, what do you value? What is your greatest achievement? And remember don't let anyone steal your power by minimizing your achievement. 

Hugs,

 

Dec
10

Christmas Shopping: Time For New Guidelines?

by Christine

Over Thanksgiving, my daughter, Kathryn shared with me her new philosophy for Christmas gift giving to her children. Santa will now leave for her kids something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Kathryn could not remember who said or wrote this first but she has made the philosophy her own. I think it's the perfect approach to limiting the excess that has robbed the season of meaning and overwhelmed our children and grandchildren. Additionally, the financial hangover we experience when the January bill arrives can be avoided. 

But it is not just Christmas that suffers under the burden of gift giving. When Marty was growing up, they celebrated Hanukkah by gathering to light the menorah and enjoy a family meal. Yes, there were gifts but it was items like socks and small toys. Today computers or iPads are expected for Hanukkah--though in Marty's case those things were still 30 years in the future. In my family we knew that Santa would leave us one big present and a few things we needed. It was the excitement of the season and being with family that held the joy.

Whether you take up Kathryn's catchy little tag line or make up your own, I encourage you to be intentional about gift giving and resist the urge to overdo and overwhelm. There is joy in tradition and in being surprised by a special gift under the tree. But there can be too much of a good thing when gift giving gets out of hand. Gather with friends and family to share a gift or two but remember to laugh, sing and trade stories with those you love during this season of faith and tradition. 

 

 

 

Nov
19

Finding A Grief Support Group

by Christine

I remember the first Thanksgiving after my father died, my mother sat in the seat that had traditionally been his seat at the dining room table. After saying grace, Mom gently laid her head on the table. Everyone seated at the table was stunned into silence. Time slowed as we tried to wrap our minds around what was happening. Finally, my son, Matthew said, "Grandmother are you okay?" Not moving, Mom said, "Yes". Several minutes later, she stood and left the room. She had only been morning the death of my father for three months and her first Thanksgiving without him in over 50 years was more than she could handle. 

My mother was never much of a joiner. She was an introvert who got her energy from her alone time so when my father died, she didn't know how to go about getting support from others. Like Mom, millions of others "go it along" when they lose a loved one. There are groups that can offer support during this time of mourning but sadly many people don't take advantage of their expertise. Maybe they don't know how to reach out or how to find a group. In either case I encourage anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one to reach out for help to one of the groups below, particularly during the holidays. 

Here are a few groups who can help:

  • Hospice: As part of its mandate, hospice organizations offer grief counseling. Professional counselor runs the grief support program.  Anyone in the community can take advantage of these services even if hospice wasn't part of your loved one's end of life journey. Some hospice organizations charge a fee for those individuals or families who weren't part of its end of life hospice program while other hospice groups opens its program to everyone in its community.  Hospice of the Valley in Arizona offers these services at no cost to its entire community while Suncoast Hospice of Florida charges a fee to community members who didn't use its program. When looking for a group through your local hospice, ask about any fees.

  • Grief Share: GS is a church based program that is staffed by volunteers. The volunteers are mainly individual who have lost a loved one and have gone through the GS training program. There is no cost for joining the group. GS groups are in the US, UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Follow this link to find a local group. Kim Moody is a Grief Share counselor and she shared her story with us here on Footsteps. 

  • The Compassionate Friends: A friend who lost her daughter found help in this group. Their network has more than 650 chapters and has been supporting families after the death of a child for four decades. There is no charge for attending their meetings. 

  • Funeral directors, hospitals and faith communities: As you seek help, these folks may also be a resource. Good funeral directors are plugged in to their communities and are a wealth of information. Most hospitals and faith communities either host grief support groups or know how to help you find one. 

The biggest challenge to finding a grief support group is that you need to ask for help during a time of great pain. I encourage you to reach out because these groups and organizations have the expertise to make your journey a bit easier if for no other reason than you won't be alone. 

Hugs,
C

 

Nov
15

Why Call Hospice?

by Christine

I've mentioned hospice in some of my previous post so you know I am a supporter of the program As more of my friends are helping a loved one during their end of life journey, I've been asked about my experiences with hospice as a volunteer and as a one who asked for their assistance during my mother's end of life journey. I am glad to share my observations about this organization. 

Hospice is a movement that came into the United States circa the 1970's as a response to what medical people, particularly nurses, saw as people dying "badly". The medical system was set-up to heal and help the living; medicine didn't know what to do for the dying. In many cases people were released from the hospital to go home, often in pain, to die alone. Hospice came into being to support the dying and their familes during the end of life journey. 

When hospice is called to take the lead on caring for a patient it means the patient, his or her family and their doctor has made the decision to stop actively seeking treatment for a medical condition. The decision to request hospice support is a difficult one because it's an acknowledgment that medicine can no longer do anything to stop a disease or in most cases reverse aging. Hospice comes in to act as a guide during the end of life journey by managing patient care through pain management and comfort, walking friends and family through the stages of death and offering grief support to the family.

The length of time a person spends in the program depends on when hospice is called in to the process. While I volunteered for hospice, I visited one man for a year before he passed away but many other people passed away after a week or two of being in the program. One time I spent an afternoon with a women and her dying sister until the rest of her family could assemble and offer each other support. The reality is that in most cases hospice could be called in sooner but families and doctors are reluctant to "give up" so they resist calling hospice. In my own family, I tried to get hospice involved with my mother sooner but the home health person we hired to help mom was resistant to the program and candidly, made the process a negative one. Key members of the family were out of town when my mother started to actively die and our home health person refused to call hospice; family had to return to town to get the process started. My mother died a week later. 

Today people talk a lot about what services hospices has to offer and how cost effective it is. That is all true. But I believe that the real "service" hospice brings to the table is experience. Few of us have "experience" in dying. We become lost, afraid and emotionally drained as we try to navigate the end of life journey with someone we love. The people of hospice have that experience; they can guide you though the medical, legal and emotional process. Can they take all the pain away? No. But they can be there to answer questions, broker medical needs and sometime just listen or offer a hug when it all seems overwhelming. 

Hospice started as a grassroots movement to take the end of life journey out of the cold, impersonal setting of a hospital or worse yet, a lonely, painful journey at home. When a friend or acquaintance calls in hospice, it is an acknowledgement that the dying process has started and that science has done all it can. That process may take months, weeks or days but the goal of the program is to limit the suffering of the patient and help family and friends navigate what can be a painful journey for them. When the time comes, I encourage you to seek the talents of a hospice group to help you and your family along this path.

Hugs,
C

 

 

 

Nov
13

Caregivers: How To Help During The Holiday Season?

by Christine

Two years ago my family was struggling with my mother's end of life journey. At the time I thought we were "living" but actually we were just managing to get through each medical crisis that mom suffered while precariously balancing caring for our own homes, work and personal relationships. Today I visualize the plate spinner from The Ed Sullivan Show when I think of how we would dart from event-to-event working to keep everything going. Our friends and neighbors were sympathetic and offered help; we were thankful for their kind words and offer of assistance but we were never able to accept the vague offer of help. The holidays were particularly difficult.

Having walked this journey, I've developed a list of how-tos when it comes to helping a caregiver. My pointers are meant to make it easier for the caregiver and the person offering help.

  •  Don't Ask...Do. The caregiver's mind is pre-occupied with the current challenge. She feels responsible for the person she is caring for and is not in the mindset to ask for help. Instead of asking if you can make dinner, make dinner and drop it by the house. If you are worried that food may go to waste then make a dish that the caregiver can freeze and use later. If you have a couple of hours to give so the caregiver can go to the grocery store or get her hair done, then your offer needs to be stated as a choice. "I can come over on Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon for a couple of hours while you run some errands, which would work better for you?" This is a specific offer of help and is easier to get a positive response.

  • Help with the mundane tasks of life. Caring for someone whose health is failing is similar to caring for a newborn child, sleep is illusive and laundry, yard work, housework and other mundane tasks of life fall by the wayside. If you can afford it, give a gift certificate for a cleaning service to come in for a one time "spring cleaning" or if you feel close enough to the caregiver offer to help with the cleaning yourself. Again, it is the "I can come over on..." statement that will be most beneficial. If you are running to the dry cleaners, offer to drop off the dry cleaning and pick it up. The caregiver may worry about getting out to pick-up the dry cleaning and refuse your help but if you offer to pick-up the dry cleaning when you get your dry cleaning you have taken away that worry. If you have older children, they could mow the lawn or wash the car for the caregiver. Helping others is a life lesson that is beneficial to us all. 

  •  Do something positive for the caregiver. Fresh cut flower, a plate of homemade cookies or a bottle of wine with a note of encouragement goes a long way when you are in the midst of caring for a loved one whose health is declining. (This also applies to caregivers who are taking care of loved ones that have a long convalesce ahead of them.) In life it is not always the grand gestures that bring joy to our lives and keep us moving. Mostly it's the small and loving remembrances that touch our hearts.  

These pointers can be applied anytime of the year but become critical during the holidays. The holidays are exhausting because of the extra work required to keep up with family traditions. I made the decision to decorate my mother's home for Christmas because she was unable to do so but I also, made sure there was someone to take down the decorations at the end of the season if I wasn't able to do it. Caregivers can feel particularly isolated during the holidays because they can't easily attend holiday parties, shop for gifts or participate freely in religious services because they feel they can't leave their loved one. Hiring a visiting home health aid is an option; researching that service and making it available to the caregiver would make a lovely gift. 

Caregiving is a labor of love that is also emotionally draining and difficult. Anything you can do that will relieve some of the pressure and exhaustion will be greatly appreciated by the caregiver. They don't always know what they need. Your greatest gift maybe that you didn't require them to ask for help; you just gave it.

Hugs,
C

Nov
12

Do You Give?

by Christine

At the risk of speaking in clichés, I can't believe how fast this year has gone. Time is no longer a lazy river; it's now a fast-flowing and sometimes turbulent rapid. This time of the year I start thinking about my annual gift giving. Before starting my own company, I would give a little out of my regular paycheck but now; my giving is a one-time gift at the end of the year. Family and friends have asked me how I found the groups I chose to support and why. 

I've taken the time to learn if the charities I support align with my personal code. I am intentional about my giving and two criteria need to be met. First, I work hard at my job and don't want my efforts wasted by individuals who can't effectively manage their organization. Additionally, there are people in real need and I want the money I donate to reach them. I give to two charities that I believe accomplishes my goals; the organizations are run efficiently and the money reaches the people that need the help.

Doctors Without Borders came to my attention in 2010 when Haiti experienced a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. The earthquake decimated an already broken and wounded country. In the late 80's I had been on a Mission trip to Haiti and saw first hand the poverty and need of this small Caribbean island. I knew what the relief workers were up against. In the days following the earthquake, relief organizations including DWB were flooded with donations. But DWB made a surprising announcement; it stopped taking donations that were solely earmarked for Haiti. DWB explained that given the situation in Haiti and its infrastructure, it couldn't effectively use all the money donated on behalf of Haiti in Haiti. If people wanted to continue to donate to DWB, the money would be effectively used to help people but it might be in other regions of the world. 

Wow! Talk about thinking differently. I felt DWB was making me a partner in its relief effort and they trusted me to do the right thing. I could either find another relief group that had boots on the ground in Haiti or I could continue to support DWB but it was my choice. DWB action in Haiti garnered my trust. 

The next group I learned about after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I watched in disbelief as 80% of New Orleans flooded leaving people stranded without basic services. The State, Local and Federal governments were ill prepared and only made excuses for its failure to help. The Salvation Army was the first group to get into New Orleans; they were ahead of the government and other groups. The primary mission of the SA in the wake of a disaster is to meet basic human needs...food, water, shelter and supplies. I was not the only one to recognize SA's capabilities in a disaster. The Lilly Endowment gave $10 million dollar to The Salvation Army to manage its commitment to helping the people of New Orleans and NPR reported positively on SA's work in the region. 

I view my donations to these groups as my commitment to the people that suffer in a tragedy. I don't personally have the medical skills to help people that are sick or hurt. I don't have the infrastructure in place to truck or fly in needed supplies after a disaster. I give money to people to act as my representative before the families and individuals who are hurting. I want them to represent me well. During this season of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to find a charity that represents you when helping the less fortunate and be part of the community of people that offer a helping hand to those in need.

Hugs,
C

Nov
08

Maximize Your Experience

by Christine

Several weeks ago some dear friends took us to a wonderful place that is all about food from Italy. Eataly, a little play on word(s) there, consists of a market, restaurants and a cooking school. The design of the space is engaging and welcoming even though it is wall-to-wall people at all hours of operation. Since the moment we left Eataly, I wanted to return to purchase olive oil but in true New York City fashion, Marty and I only leave our invisibly barricaded 4-block radius if we have something specific to do. Returning to Eataly nagged at me because it has an olive oil section that is to "die for". Hundreds of bottles line the shelves, all imported from different regions of Italy; overhead is signage that brags of olive oil from Liguria, Sicily, Tuscany and more. Since yesterday I was venturing out to an appointment in SoHo, I decided to stop in to purchase a bottle of olive oil. 

I entered the store and made a beeline for the olive oil section. I was on a mission and would not be deterred. Finally, after block checking a man and his wife who thought I had all day for them to stare at the veal cutlets in the meat case, I am standing before all the beautiful bottles of olive oil. I started to read the artfully displayed product copy above each section of oil. Some oils were described as fruity while others were praised for a hint of hot spice. Still others talked of the slight artichoke flavor that lingered in the oil.

I won't tell you I started to sweat as the first wave of panic came over me but I was mighty uncomfortable. I felt like I was standing in a liquor store looking at the wine section, a place that makes me feel uneducated and until recently unsophisticated. I am no longer unsophisticated because I developed a "wine standard"; I buy wine based on how much I like the label.  So here I am reading vocabulary that sounds a lot like it is describing wine but it is olive oil. I had no idea what to purchase. The truth of the matter is I wanted a good bottle of olive oil but I wasn't prepared to be shopping in a store that discusses the soil, climate and processing when it comes to olive oil and my label standard wasn't cutting it.

Finally, I purchased two yummy sounding bottles of olive oil and headed home. Leaving, I thought about my "blind" purchases and what it really meant. It's fun to sometimes blindly try something new, particularly something safe as commercial olive oil. But on the other hand, I felt I was unprepared to take full advantage of the selection before me. I hadn't done my research; I just didn't know enough. My olive oil adventure is amusing but how many times in life have you said, "If I knew then what I know now, I would've done it differently".  As we age, our life experiences allows us to see other avenues but at any age, taking the time to learn about a subject and then think about what is important to you can lead to a more positive experience. Slow down and take the time to think about what you are doing and why...you just might enjoy it more. 

Hugs,
C

Nov
06

How To Avoid The Herd Mentality

by Christine

Have you heard of Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants lawsuit or as popularly known the "McDonalds' Coffee" case? In 1994, Stella Liebeck sued and won from McDonald's damages after spilling a cup of its coffee in her lap. Ms. Liebeck suffered third-degree burns and had to have skin grafts to heal. This case became the poster child for an out of control legal system where frivolous lawsuits against big corporations netted lucrative payouts for unscrupulous lawyers and their clients. I, like, many people laughed at the comedian's jokes on late night TV as Leno and others lampooned this case. I also felt the wave of indignation come over me as the news media "reported" on the award. But each time this case was mentioned I also had a nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right. I had served on a jury and just couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing. Finally, several years ago, I did my own research and this is what I learned.

  • 1. At that time, McDonald's sold its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees.

  • 2. Coffee at that temperature causes third-degree burns.

  • 3. McDonald's admitted it had know about the risk of serious burns and that McDonald's coffee had previously burned more than 700 people.

  • 4. McDonald's admitted that they did not warn the consumer of the risk of serious burns from its coffee.

  • 5. McDonald's witnesses testified that it did not intend to turn down the heat and that its coffee was not fit for consumption. 

Additionally, I discovered that Ms. Liebeck's original request was that McDonald's pay for her medical bills, which would have been only $20,000. Instead McDonald's forced Ms. Liebeck to go to court where the jury found McDonald's negligent and awarded Ms. Liebeck 2.9 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages. The trial judged reduced the damages and McDonald's turned down the heat under its coffee. 

These facts may not change your opinion of the case but I would encourage you to read the thinking behind the jury's award. The jurors were reasoned and not some run away jury. 

To live an intentional life means we must dig a little deeper into what we hear from others including our friends, family members or the media. Just because a friend's articulate rant on Facebook or in the comments section of CNN.com speaks to us on an emotional level doesn't mean it's accurate. When all the facts aren't known, it becomes easy to feel like a victim. The "I am working hard and doing the right thing while everyone else is getting away with murder" attitude causes distrust and anger. Never questioning anything you are told is blindly running with the herd. Sadly when the herd starts to stampede, people can be trampled. Living intentionally means take the time to education yourself, think about what you learn and live your life aligned with your personal code. Your world will be a better place for you effort.

Hugs,
C

 

 

 

 

Nov
05

The Stories We Tell

by Christine


{What story would you tell?}

I love a good story. One of the reasons I am engaged to Marty is that he is a good, no, a great story teller. He tells the most fantastical and amusing stories about the people in his life. During his storytelling sessions he will   humorously describes in detail his grandfather's "square head". Or he will weave a word picture about setting up the main tent in the rain during his days working for the circus. Many of his embellished stories are now legends in our family even to the point where my grandchildren believe that Marty's grandfather had to have special hats made to fit his square head. Marty makes us laugh and he makes his family and life before we met him "real" though his stories.

Americans love a good story. Our national stories are told and retold about the lives of Americans like George Washington, Steve Jobs or Ernest Hemingway and those stories are now woven into our national consciousness. The national stories celebrate Washington's morality, Jobs' genius and Hemingway's understated writing style and as Americans we are proud and strive to follow in their footsteps. But today, a darker and more sinister story is being told about our nation, about us. Government representative, business leaders, educators, scientist, writers and even our religious leaders are described as corrupt, criminal, morally bankrupted and even stupid. Our vocabulary has become one of hate and accusation when there is a difference of opinion.

Even when describing ourselves we use negative personality adjectives. If we have a clean and organized home, then we are described as OCD. If a woman is direct and assertive at work, then she is bossy and aggressive. If someone disagrees with us on a political issue, they are stupid or weak-minded. Sadly, we are embracing the labels placed on others and ourselves from the hypercritical elements in the media; people who love exploring sarcasm, failure and mordant humor.  We are forgetting that we are human. Humans may stumble and fall during a lifetime but ultimately human beings are good and we should celebrate that goodness.

My mother used to say, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". I have worked all my life to do this, though not always successfully. I encourage you to look at your vocabulary and the stories you are telling. Do they heal or hurt? How do you describe yourself? How do you describe others? What story are you telling about yourself, your family, your community or your nation? Take the next few days and discover if you are one who uplifts your world and the world around you through the stories you tell.

Hugs,
C

 

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