Celebrating the Advent season with a child a state away – it can be done 

Celebrating the Advent season with a child a state away – it can be done 

Advent season is approaching like a freight train. How quickly this year has zoomed by and we are entering into December. I feel like I was run over a few times on the way to this month, but we’ve arrived. Advent is a season that I’d never really participated in until I joined the Christian Church, but it has become part of our Christmas traditions. To me it puts Christ at the forefront because each week of advent we are celebrating the promise of Christ’s birth. In our house we follow the pattern of the church with candle lighting, scripture reading and a prayer maybe not in that order though.

Since my son went to live with his dad three years ago this makes advent a bit more challenging for us as a family. This blog is about how we do advent long distance. It’s meaningful and it’s still Christ centered. 

What guide do I follow? My favorite and the one I keep stored in my bible all year long is an insert that was sent to parents called teachable moments. It gives each week, what it means, what candle color and a scripture to read. Makes it easy for me. 

Teachable moments

In other years I’ve used different material but this year I decided to go back to my favorite. I let my son know on Friday that he would need to set aside a little time for me. Teenagers are busy creatures! I shopped for my last candle on Saturday, so I was ready to go for our Sunday afternoon time via the phone. I assigned him the verse to read, and I read the week one info as given on the sheet. Once I got to the scripture I had him read it. Then we finished off with ways that we are filled with hope because we know Jesus. That kid brought tears to my eyes with what he said. He knows even during the hard times that Jesus will be his hope and strength. Since the candles are here I light the first purple one. At the end I offered up a prayer for our time together in celebration of advent and how Christ represents hope to each of us.

Some other ideas that I’ve used can be found on Pinterest, and I’m including the links here➡ Advent Wreatha fresh Advent wreath, and new verse ideas. I’m sharing this example because finding purple candles that aren’t tapers is hard as heck! I don’t have a taper holder, so I use purple tea lights. I have enough for one more year. This is my plan once I finish them off. 

My twist on an advent wreath – eclectic

How does long distance work? You have two options phone call where you put them on speaker so you can manage the tasks. I will normally ask my son to read the bible verse, since I’ll be lighting the candle and normally he’ll want me to pray. Divide up those tasks so they are being in the moment and not doing something else. The other option is facetime. This is awesome because you can see each other, they can see the candle lighting and it makes the family time feel more like you’re together. Sometimes the connection isn’t so good, so then we fall back on a phone call. Again even with facetime divide up the duties. 

Today he actually had a friend over, but he took time out to spend it participating in our family tradition. I could hear his buddy about the time we were coming to a close. He was shouting tell your mom ”hi”, so I was returning the the greeting. Not our first exchange. Hopefully I’ll finally get to meet him when my son graduates.

I think it’s important for a child or children to understand the who, what, how, and when of certain celebrations. He’s experienced prepping communion during my first year as deacon, we’ve practiced Lent together, and both of us had challenging tasks. I felt for a long time that I was failing him with his christian walk. As he becomes an adult I want him to know the religious celebrations, as well as, having that relationship with Christ. I’m trying to make sure he has all the tools and support I can give him to grow into a strong christian man. He took care of finding Christ all on his own bless him.

As we go into the following weeks remember that distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to traditions or family. It’s taking the time and being purposeful that you can share in them together. Photos, calls, facetime, and even texting can all be ways to bring you closer to the ones you love that are far away.

Week 1 of Advent

Many blessings – G.

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The Game of Life

The Game of Life

The Game of Life, not to be confused with my favorite show – Game of Thrones. Although I can draw a correlation between the two. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” I think of diabetes as a potential road to death, hence the game of life. What kind of life do I want? I’m insulin resistant, which is type 2 diabetes. It’s treatable and I have the option to take control of my life.

I like my food. Plus I travel and I have a desk job so I’m not staying as active as I should. Although I did start wearing a Samsung watch that gives me nasty grams to get my butt moving throughout the day…stay active. Foodie and desk rider does NOT pair well with diabetes of any sort.  A key piece of the game.

Earlier this year I had been feeling miserable and just couldn’t get past symptoms that had been coming and going for more than a year. I’m terrible to treat myself with home remedies a lot of times. Plus I kept thinking I eat healthy so I’m not getting why I feel so bad. Along comes June and a girl I went to high school with walks up to the event I’m supporting, and I’m like damn she looks fabulous! What has she done? Since we’ve known each other a long time I had no problem asking. She tells me she had bariatric surgery. 

I hadn’t really thought about having surgery until that moment and then I thought “would that work for me.” I went home and did my research, met with her to get the lowdown on what she did, and then talked with another friend that had a different type of surgery. It was a big decision and I needed to talk to my doctor. He had to officially sign off on this medically. 

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” Amelia Earhart

I was at that point of making a decision. What action do I take?! I’ll tell you after much discussion and bless my doctor for spending the time talking with me. I decided that based on my health, and how I felt about my “sugar control” that surgery might not be the best choice. I had other challenges that needed to be overcome like a carb addiction. If you just laughed no worries but I’m not being dramatic. A lifetime of eating whatever I want and especially carbs because my body craves the crap out of them thanks to insulin resistance. You feed the demon and it demands more. I’d been happily feeding mine and now I have to find control, so I can be healthy beyond right now. I don’t want to fall into full diabetic status and just by having surgery wouldn’t guarantee that wouldn’t happen. In the end it might cause more complications so controlling my sugar a necessity. Mostly so I don’t have the highs and low’s – gain some control. 

First thing was the list my doctor gave me of what to avoid:

  1. Sugar – no kidding
  2. Pasta – OMG I love this stuff and I’d make a fantastic Italian
  3. Bread – nirvana
  4. Rice – stay away from white food
  5. Potatoes – I cry over this
  6. <30gm/meal of carbs – fml

He gave me a book that lists most every food. What I thought was a good option got booted and figuring out ways to eliminate carbs but feed my foodie soul was a challenge. It’s still a challenge. There are days I just drink a protein shake cause nothing sounds appealing. I try to eat as fresh as possible. I think over processed food is a major issue as well…go natural as possible. Fortunately for me right down the road is a farmer’s market. The Fenton’s have their own store front they keep open most of the year. The owners are wonderful and I love supporting a local farmer and the produce that is sourced from around the state.

Beyond just controlling food, aka the fork as my doctor called it. I have to exercise. Failing in this key area….I think weight loss would be greater if I would exercise. I decided that I would breakout the hated exercise ball. Previously I completed the New Rules of Lifting for Women. I’d like to start that program over again, but I’d need to get a gym membership. Ugh my last gym burned down and it was in a great spot. The options left to me are 3x’s as expensive and I hate paying for classes I’ll never use. I like lifting and I detest cardio. Just throwing that out there right now. All those cardio memes are probably for me. Anyway in NRFLFW there are several exercise ball circuits that will make you wish for death….I mean make you sweat. Plus the body weight exercises will be an improvement over doing nothing. Geez admission makes me feel like I have to do it now to have some accountability. Gah

As I said in the beginning I’m playing the Game of Life. My life as a person that isn’t held hostage to diabetes and all the other issues that come along with it. What does it take for me to win or die in this game? It takes control of the carbs I put in my body. Sounds easy but it’s not. It takes losing weight so my body can hopefully right some of the insulin resistant issues I’m creating. Again no easy task because one thing a person with insulin resistance knows is that losing weight is like winning the Olympics. Lots of effing hard work. When you do those things you keep doing them because you can easily slip into old habits that will put you back on the path of death. And finally being active and exercising. Riiiight, like exercise is something we like doing. All I can say is find something you like doing. If it’s hiking then hike, walking then walk that ass, or if you’re like me and it’s lifting get in the gym. Until I can get over the sticker shock I’m going to torture myself with the freaking exercise ball and body weight exercises. I’m committing to a future report out to stay accountable just don’t expect it next week or even next month. This task is almost as hard as the carbs. 

Oh to be young and willingly go for a run, now I’d rather sit on the couch with a book and a glass of wine. So I’m going to gather some courage and start this program. I’ve been tenacious up to this point. I’ll keep grinding on until I know I’m in a place where my body is healthy, and I’m winning the game not back in the pack.

Play to Win – G.

*photo Voodoo donuts Portland, OR – Voodoo doll (deliciousness also a sugary sweet carb)

Goal achiever or just a setter: Practical strategies for success.

Goal achiever or just a setter: Practical strategies for success.

I love reading articles on LinkedIn. Sounds like a sickness but I find it relaxing. I came across an article that sparked my interest, but I didn’t have time to read it so I saved it. Such a handy feature.

The article will “squash all of those limiting perspectives and provide concrete strategies you can use to achieve your goals. There are no fixed-limits.” That statement alone peaked my interest and then I got to the core principles. I’m not going to cover all 21 principles but focus on some that stand out to me. For the full article click here. I highly recommend reading it because what is significant for me might not be the same for you.

The first strategy falls under core principles – Set Absurdly Ambitious Goals.

Under this first principle there is a slew of motivational thoughts about goal setting and going after what you want. One thing that struck me and has been striking me for some time now is that for some my competitive nature isn’t wanted, and I’ve been told to my face it’s disliked. I realized that yes, I’m competitive, but the problem is that I’m ambitious. I do 10x what is needed to achieve my goal! 

I was at a women’s symposium and one of the speakers talked about how important it is to be your own spokesperson. Talk up the good things you’re doing. Even the male executive in my group said I need to speak up more often. He said it to all of us. We don’t self-promote enough! Funny thing I’ve been knocked for self-promotion. So onward and upward. 

The second strategy I want to highlight is Learn and Work in Counter-Intuitive Environments.

What does that mean exactly? Think outside your normal box. That means letting go of worry and stress. Be in the moment so ideas can foster, synergy can occur, and be innovative. Do the unexpected because you think differently! Just in case you don’t read the article I really liked this quote so I’m sharing it.

“Choose one thing and become a master of it. Choose a second thing and become a master of that. When you become a master of two worlds (say, engineering and business), you can bring them together in a way that will a) introduce hot ideas to each other, so they can have idea sex and make idea babies that no one has seen before and b) create a competitive advantage because you can move between worlds, speak both languages, connect the tribes, mash the elements to spark fresh creative insight until you wake up with the epiphany that changes your life.”

We have the ability to master whatever we choose, but is up to ourselves to make the choice and Jump! Be creative, be ambitious, speak up, and be curious!

The third item I want to focus on Ignore What Almost Everyone Else is Doing.

Awe the competitive spirit in me gave a shout out on this one! I have to make excuses for being competitive like it’s a bad thing. To quote the article “In the book, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, Tim Grover explains that the world’s elite don’t compete with other people. Rather, they make others compete with them. They set the tone and make others react to their environment.” I haven’t read that book but it is now on my list. 

I want to be unstoppable. The only thing that holds me back is myself. Let curiosity win the day and fear take a backseat. Life is full of learning opportunities that I want to explore and experiences/adventure that awaits me in the future. If I allow others to set the bar I’ll never rise any higher than it. I decide where the bar is set. The same goes for my son. If I set the bar at easy or mediocrity then that’s what he’ll achieve. Set the bar high! Go for GOLD – Surround Yourself With People With Higher Expectation than You Have, which is the fourth strategy that falls under mentorship.

The fifth strategy is Give Credit Where Credit is Due.

Despite how independent I feel that I am, I know that credit for any success starts with God and the path he leads me down. Many times the path takes some crazy twists but ultimately my thanks goes to God and what he’s doing in my life. Credit also goes to the people on your team, mentors, sponsors, or leadership. I’m not an island unto myself and taking credit for others work isn’t my style. Appreciation should be a part of everything you do and especially for where credit is due!

Number six – Think Laterally

I think this describes my whole career life. “Rather than climbing up ladders the traditional ways, they think of alternative routes. They skip unnecessary steps by pivoting and shifting.” I started the traditional route of climbing and found it wasn’t really working for me in the male laden industry I was working. Hence finding alternative routes plus a few beaten paths that lead back to the main road. I’ve worked more on pivoting and shifting with some stagnating in there as well. Isn’t that how it seems to work sometimes. The important thing is to not limit yourself. I’m on my third career and I have personal business. No limiting. Shift and pivot so you can find a way. It’s documented that men don’t feel that have to meet all the requirements to apply for a job. Women have the opposite thought process. We tend to believe we have to stick every item. Men are confident they can do It whether they know it or not. Be confident and limitless. I have the same ability to learn and grow as the guy. 

Be whatever you want to be. Achieve whatever you want to achieve. Have the confidence to be ambitious, creative, competitive and don’t let someone else’s idea of what you “should” be set the tone for what you are. I’m fearless and I’m going to be limitless because I decide.

-G.

Time

Time

I’m watching the movie Lucy – Morgan Freeman has the best voice. There are two concepts that I find intriguing in this movie. Time and Predator-Prey relationships. I’m going to focus on Time in this particular blog. I’ll get to predator-prey another day.

When we are young it feels like time is endless. It takes forever, we feel, before we’re old enough to wear make-up, stay home without a babysitter, date, drive, or not have a curfew. I’m sure I missed some milestones, but I hit the big ones. Wait…I left off drinking but that really varies in age.

I just celebrated a birthday, and I’m telling you time is flying by at a rapid rate. You think you’ll have time for everything even the things you put off in life. You don’t! Children grow up so fast that I want to make sure I don’t regret not spending enough quality time with my son. Same for friendships – there are some I don’t see for periods of time, but when we do have an opportunity to get together you would never guess we’d spent a day apart.

Back to the discussion of Time – One book I find fascinating and I’ll tell you now it’s not a quick read. It’s definitely one of those you sit and ponder on is Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. Back in the my teacher days and specifically when I taught Physics this was one of the books I assigned. Nerds-R-Us right here!

[Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly.] In the book it goes on to say that for the most part the people don’t even realize they are reliving their lives over and over. That would completely suck!  There are parts I would rather not repeat on a regular basis. As the book states ‘precisely, endlessly’….that makes me cringe thinking about it. If I had an option I’d rather it be a do-over not a repeat. On the other hand I would miss out on some pretty spectacular things. If you imagine changing one aspect of your life how does that ripple through the rest. I’ll take what I’ve got and live with it because there have been some amazing moments.

For us time isn’t circular but when you think about your past are there parts that keep repeating themselves. If so, is it worth repeating? Reflecting on our own history and having a goal or direction you would like to see your life is important. It doesn’t have to be a five year plan maybe you start with 6 months or a year. Stretch it out as you see success or determine that adjustments need to be made. I think goals are important. I create a list for myself that has personal, professional, financial and anything else I think needs a plan. Serious planner right here….I didn’t start off like that it was something I had to develop. Really anyone can grow this skill.

[Imagine a world in which there is no time. Only images.] I like taking pictures but they are one dimension compared to real life that is multidimensional. No day or night just an image of a moment in time. Seems kind of limiting. Think of how much you would miss out on. Things happen in an instant that you can never capture only experience. An image would never do it justice. I like looking at pictures, but I would never want that to be my existence.

This does make me think of the times that I’ve taken photos with me to visit my grandmother at the nursing home. She has Alzheimer’s. My thought at the time was that the pictures would help her to possibly remember the event or trigger the memory of the person, but isn’t that the same as this description in the book. Only living via images. My grandmother is more than images. She may have this horrible disease but she is a blessing to those around her. She’s a vibrant human being with memories, life experiences, hope and dreams that are trapped in her mind.  I stopped bringing the photos because it confused her and I’d rather be in the moment with her. Maybe that moment includes talking about her babydoll or talking about God. That’s okay with me because we are having a conversation and spending that time together.

My point is live life to the fullest and be in the moment, so you don’t miss the good stuff.

-G.

*Image credit: http://www.themindtrap.com/img/rooms/time-machine-5.jpg

Gettin’ on a jet plane

Gettin’ on a jet plane

When I’m traveling it’s normally uneventful, which is totally acceptable. I normally people watch in airports because there is always something to see. Humans are fascinating that’s why it’s so fun watching! 

I’ve seen some interesting choices for clothing, behavior that is questionable, I’ve met some unique folks, and I’ve seen ONE celebrity. There have been conversations about religion, hunting alligators, insurance…not real exciting, buying timeshares, and most recently about retired life. 

Let me tell you about my last flight – I got on the plane from Springfield, MO to Atlanta, GA. My seat partner (Tom) was an 83 year old gentleman that had to be the biggest flirt I’ve ever met. He was a character! Before you start singing gold digger his wife was across the aisle telling him I might not want to talk with him. He kept telling her ‘she’s talking to me’. I guess that was the go ahead that he could continue conversing. It sounded a bit like a kid asking mom for a special treat. In this case I was the treat. Sounds a bit wrong now that I think about it, but it was seriously amusing! She has got to be a saint. She also put ear plugs in and read a book the entire time. Tom would swear she reads 400 a year. She’s ahead of me only because she’s retired…oh the life.

Our conversation included discussion about retirement, politics, love, marriage, kids and grandkids, vacation spots, boating and coaching football. He really does coach football and told me that he wasn’t a role model. He thinks that is the parents job. I agree that parents should be the role model, but I darn sure expect my son’s soccer coach to be setting a good example as well. That whole thing about it takes a village to raise a child is true and if one of the villagers isn’t cooperating then you need to get on board before there’s a stake burning.

Tom being the flirt he is offered to show me a good time for about 20 minutes. I told him I would have to check off my bucketlist having a well seasoned gent flirt with me. I also told him I’d have to decline his offer….OMG. He did laugh about checking off the bucketlist, which lead to a discussion about the movie ‘Bucketlist’. One of his favorites.

He told me his younger looks were due to drinking daily. He stopped smoking at 50. He’s a real rascal obviously. This is why he’s not a role model and the villagers would be after him like Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s book.

Normally my seat mates keep to themselves so no conversation. It was a treat to chat with Tom. Do I always want to talk? No…lots of times I’m just like everyone else and keep to myself. My attitude is not necessarily unfriendly….might call it disinterested. Just moving along in the travel process. No one wants to be that annoying person on the plane – at least I don’t. 

I moved outside my comfort zone for whatever reason and I’m glad I did. I got to meet two fascinating people that have lead and continue to lead an interesting life in their retirement. 

My hope is that I live life, not sit on the sidelines waiting on life. ☺ I think I’m doing pretty good after a few false starts.

-G.

Blackhat

Blackhat

A few days ago I was watching the movie Blackhat and the villian in this movie thinks he’s pretty clever. I’m sure mostly because he’s a hacker, which means he’s anonymous and his actions are clandestine. I don’t know any hackers, but I do know some people that thought they were so clever they wouldn’t ever be caught in their own web of deceit. Oh the tangeled webs they weave. It’s when they’re wrapped up so tight like Frodo, the hobbit, in Lord of the Rings that it gets really entertaining.

I’m an observer of human nature….love people watching. Put me in an airport, an amusement park or Wal-Mart and I’ll be happy as a clam watching what’s going on around me. I also like watching movies or reading books where there is intrigue and figuring it out well in advance. Take Game of Thrones for example – I had a theory that’s pretty much on the money right away as I started reading the books. George RR Martin is a good story teller, and I like to connect the dots in his story. That’s what I do in life as well. Things that seem like they don’t go together or happen in an unusal way, well it might be they really do connect. I like figuring it out.

Anyone love strategy games? If it’s on an xbox I’ll probably die right away. Just not that coordinated when it comes to gaming systems, but a board game where you can put time and thought into it totally different scenerio. Settler’s of Catan is one of my favorites. I think my nerd rankings have shot up with this blog.

Okay back to Blackhat – the villian is also an opportunist. When you’re down they take the most advantage. Well that’s what he thought before he ended up dead. That happens to us in real life as well. People that are opportunist will look for that moment you are weak, down, not aware of deceit, and they strike. Striking with only themselves in mind. There is no thought to your well being or those around you. How do you protect yourself from that? Because staying vigilant all they time isn’t possible. I don’t really know the answer to that question. I would like to assume positive intent until I know that to be untrue. When I start seeing certain tendencies popping up in the other person, then my connect the dots behavior goes into overdrive. I don’t believe in coincidence. There is a purpose or design for everything. It’s possible that due to my life experiences I just happen to be on the lookout for it.

We all have experiences that can overshadow our lives, but it’s how we react to those situations as they arise that determine whether or not we overcome them. It’s okay to be disappointed, let down and know you’ve been lied to but we have the ability to decide if we are going to be the victim. Or stand up and say where did I have some accountability, where can I take some ownership of what happened, what blinders do I need to rip off so that I can be more successful as I continue in my life.

Life isn’t easy or perfect but we can find joy even in the hardship. It’s all about our perspective. Are you facing the future or trying to linger in the past?

-G.

*Photo credit: https://www.wired.com/2016/04/hacker-lexicon-white-hat-gray-hat-black-hat-hackers/

The Journey Class

The Journey Class

Not quite five years ago I found myself in The Journey Class. It had been years since I’d stepped foot in a Sunday School classroom. It had been long enough that I couldn’t recall anyway. They were a mixture of all ages from college level up to 50’s. Being right at 40 I wasn’t feeling like I was too old or too young. Kind of like goldilocks finding just the right porridge – I had found it in the class and the church.

The Journey class turned into more than just a Sunday gathering. They are also my pew crew, family, and friends. I couldn’t imagine how empty my life would’ve been these last several years without their love and support. We see each other through trials and tribulations. It was my pew crew that held me every Sunday during church service as I learned a new way to live. They fussed, worried and prayed for me, which I can’t thank them enough. I wasn’t  expecting to have an empty nest so soon but I did. It was tough to find my center and know where to go with my life…my world was a bit messed up. In the end I’ve survived that change in my life. It took the pew crew and being voluntold. 

Voluntold….I know some are thinking wth! Crew was needed for the hot air balloon festival in our town and my cousin needed more volunteers. I agreed and I had no idea what to expect – but what happened was amazing. My pilots were both Aggies and if you know anything about Texas A&M we Aggies tend to stick together. We were fast friends and I had a fabulous time. During our weekend of ballooning we talked about the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM. It was on my bucket list! My pilots encouraged me to come out and crew there as well, so I took them up on the offer. 

That was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself. I made the long haul out there in my vehicle by myself. The music options are terrible and the views across Texas are nothing to write home about. It’s flat! The great thing was the thinking time. I was able to consider what direction I wanted to take my life. Make decisions about my future personally and professionally. To take some deep breaths and just know that God had all these worries, doubts and concerns all taken care of for me. I could just let go of the stress! Amazing idea I know. 

I’m about to make this trek again. This time because I love ballooning. New Mexico is spectacular and I’ll be able to see people that I met last year, my pilots and friends. It’s because of The Journey class that I find myself taking a new journey in life.

I love that we get to see all the amazing and wonderful things God is doing in our lives. Our class shares in joys, concerns and God sightings. If you aren’t sure what a God sighting is well it can be almost anything but today’s example: no traffic at my normally busy stop sign, where I have no view of oncoming traffic and I’m on an incline. It was a blessing!

I’m just so thankful for my class aka pew crew, and the opportunity I have to spend the weekend ballooning with all of them. Our Sunday School fellowship is community service this weekend. They are amazing people and I love them!

-G.