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Your 3rd spot

There is a new entertainment venue near us called Your 3rd Spot. The idea behind it is we have our home, we have our work, but we also need a third spot where we can unwind and be entertained, and connect to others in a relaxed environment. The venue is a combination of everything you would look for to have fun. It includes good food, gaming, and sports, and there is a component of their app that connects you to people who have similar interests as you.

My first reaction was what a great idea because it is so easy to become caught up in taking care of home life and managing our work, but we also need to have a chance to play. We all need our 3rd spot. You might be saying that you don’t have time to play, but it has been proven that when we take time to have fun and recharge, we are more productive. We also can meet more people when we engage in recreation, and social interaction is generally good for us.

Where would your 3rd spot be? There are so many possibilities. Mine would probably be outside somewhere either at a race, in my garden, or walking in the park. The bookstore is another favorite for me, and I love good food, so any good restaurant would work. My ultimate 3rd spot would be Paris, France because as a French teacher who has lived there and traveled there many times, it is my happy place, filled with good memories.

I would love to hear where your 3rd spot would be. Send me a comment!    

The Power of Encouragement

We could all use some encouragement from time to time, but we might not realize the true power of an encouraging word. Can you think of a time when a little encouragement made a big difference for you or someone else? You might not have even realized what an impact you had. Here are a few moments where I saw the power of encouragement.

I always thought that as a teacher, one of my roles is an encourager. Teenagers usually have a million things going on in their lives, and high self-esteem is usually not synonymous with this time of life. A kind word can go a long way. Although I retired from teaching two years ago, I have been tutoring five girls in French. Their teacher is a perfectionist and because one girl has a southern accent, the teacher told her that her pronunciation is bad. I had to tell her that she was pronouncing things just fine, her southern accent was part of her identity, and The French were going to understand her. I wish you could have seen her face light up. She wants to learn the language so badly, and she needs some encouragement to build up her confidence.

I often see the importance of encouragement when I am at a race. There are so many stories and struggles out there on the road and trail. At a recent race, I had just started my kneepocalypse adventure, and I had to run slowly. When I was about a half mile out I came up to a woman with a knee brace who would run and then walk. It was obvious she was struggling. I ran next to her and said, “I’m having trouble with my knee too. Do you want to run in with me?” She said yes and I talked with her the rest of the way trying to get her mind off her knee. She came up to me later and thanked me for the encouragement, and then reached out to me on social media and thanked me again. We are friends now because I took a moment to encourage her.

As a writer, I need encouragement. I love when I see writers encouraging each other, offering some advice, or saying to not give up.

See what you can do with encouragement. Who can you lift up? I also hope that someone does the same for you.

Why I hate daylight savings

I’m usually a positive person, but daylight savings is something that I dread. I know some people say it is great in the fall because we fall back and get an extra hour of sleep, but that hour catches back up to you pretty quickly, and before you know it you are exhausted again. There have been studies that show that more people have accidents during this time because of brain fog. It stands to reason that we are probably much less productive at work.

During the first week of daylight savings, I fight the clock. The clock will say it is two, but I will say, “Oh, but it’s really one, or is it three?” By the time I figure out what time it used to be, but is not now, I’m too annoyed to care. 

If I’m having difficulty with my internal clock, what about children who have a certain sleep routine? I know if I had a baby I would not want anything to mess up the sleep routine because a new parent definitely does not need more brain fog.

It makes the day seem so short. During the summer and early fall, I love the after-dinner walks, but after daylight savings, it’s pitch black by seven.

I am going to try to have a better attitude about the time change this fall, as soon as I’m not exhausted because my internal clock has been knocked out of whack, or I’m suffering from light deprivation, or anyone can figure out a reason why we change the clocks in the first place. I swear I will…maybe.

Care less about what doesn’t matter

We have a friend who worries herself sick. She worries about what people think about her, whether she is a good parent, does she take good care of her dog, and whether is there anything she needs to fix in the house. We all worry about those things to some extent, but Liz is making herself unhappy with worry, and her list is much longer. My husband is an excellent calming agent for her because his motto in life is, “Oh well, it is what it is.” Whenever she starts her worry list, John starts shooting them down as if they are out skeet shooting. Here is the list and John’s solutions.

I worry about what people will think.

In a world where a group of people all buy the same kind of dog, not because of the breed, but because it has become the status symbol du jour, or people copy anything else from someone because they think that makes them better, don’t worry about what they think. Try being yourself and have some originality.

My child’s teacher e-mails me every day. I must be a bad parent

My first reaction is what teacher has time to write that e-mail every day with everything else they have to do, my second thought is how well-behaved is a five-year-old supposed to be. Did you sit still for hours when you were five?

How will I know if something in the house needs to be fixed?

Oh, you will know, and the expression “don’t fix it unless it’s broken” is sometimes true.

PetSmart told me the dog’s toenails are too long and now I have to go to a specialist.

Take the dog for walks on the asphalt. It’s nature’s nail file.

My point with all this is you may be working yourself into a nervous wreck like Liz for nothing. Put things in perspective and give yourself some grace.

Silence isn’t always golden

Have you heard the expression silence is golden? I think that is true when you are talking about those moments when you need the calm of a quiet moment, and silence can also be a powerful way to communicate, but there are also times when silence can be harmful. Here are a few times when silence should be avoided.

When you have been bullied or threatened

Fear can be the quickest way to silence someone, but if you live your life in fear it only means you will perpetually be bullied and threatened. Find someone you trust and tell them what has happened. Don’t accept a situation that does not make you happy and healthy. If you have trouble speaking up for yourself, realize that if you don’t do something, the bully will continue to harm people.

When you feel peer pressure

Peer pressure can happen at any age because we all want to fit into a group, so when we think we will be more accepted if we join in with certain activities, it will leave us not feeling good about ourselves. Be yourself and surround yourself with like-minded people. The question on a morning news show was how many good friends does a person need? My family all yelled, “One!” at the same time. Quality not quantity will enrich your life.

When a friend is struggling

If you have a friend who is struggling and you know you are not equipped to handle it, speak to someone who can. When my youngest was in eighth grade, her best friend reached out to me and told me my daughter was depressed. Because of that, I was able to have a good conversation with my daughter and find her the therapy she needed.

When something makes you uncomfortable

When I was in karate, our teacher used to say that if someone made us feel threatened or uncomfortable, that was enough to at least alert someone else that something isn’t right. Don’t stay quiet because you think you are overreacting. Our instincts are usually correct.

When you disagree

As long as you present your thoughts in a respectful way, we should all be able to have discussions about disagreements.

I hope these help you to see that there are times when the best thing you can do is to find your voice, and do what is best for you.

The perfect president

If we could have the best person for the job of president of our wonderful country, what characteristics should the ideal person have? We know that most politicians do well when they are well-funded and backed by the people who know how to run a successful campaign, but think beyond the campaign machine and the promises made and focus on what would the characteristics and beliefs be that someone needed to do the best job possible. Here are a few of my ideas.

Of course, any politician needs to be thick-skinned because there will be criticism from all sectors, but I would like to have a president who appreciated constructive criticism and used it to become stronger as a person or a nation. I would love to see virtual town hall meetings in different states where the president could listen and respond to citizens even when it isn’t a voting year.

I would hope the president would want to be surrounded by diversity in his inner circle so that he could hear opinions from different backgrounds, and I hope he would respect disagreement because discussions like that can inspire change.

My ideal president could present a strong image to the world while spreading messages of unity and tolerance instead of divisiveness and hate.

He or she would build back our educational system as well as build our trust in our government.

What do you think? Is it possible to have a president who can keep our country strong and work toward the right ideals, or do we have to begin to revamp our political system before we see change?

Thoughts as tools

My husband has a workshop full of every tool you could imagine. He can fix almost anything, tinker to his heart’s content, and build all kinds of tools. Having all those tools is useful in daily life, but not all of us our gifted at using machinery. What if we found a way to use a different type of tool to help us through life? What if we could use thoughts as tools? How would we wield them? Here are a few ideas.

Positive thoughts

Positive thoughts have a way of producing positive energy that can cause positive results. Experiment by seeing if positive thoughts can make a difference. When we pull into a restaurant that looks busy I always say we will get right in, and most of the time it works.

Change perspective

Keep your mind open to the possibilities. It could help your mental state to see things in a different way.

Empathy

Understanding what others are experiencing can help to understand their actions and eliminate misunderstandings.

Grace

Give yourself grace and don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make mistakes, so learn from the latest one and move on.

Motivation/goals

Especially when times are hard, make some goals to motivate you to move forward.

Tenacity

Being tough mentally can help us make it through many hard times. We all want to curl up and have a pity party sometimes, but as long as you come back ready to fight another day everything will be o.k.

Know your worth

Have you ever been discouraged when you were not invited to a certain party, or not included in a lunch with colleagues? Have you been trying to figure out why an immediate family member does not want to spend time with you? Do you feel guilty about the salary you expect? The answers to all of these and more involve your self-worth, and the strength or weakness of your self-worth will affect everything in your life. You should accept yourself for who you are, see your strengths, and work on your weaknesses. You deserve to be valued. Let me give you a few examples.

Your time

Your time is precious and should be valued. Although you have to extend grace when something unavoidable happens when someone shows up to a meeting or a visit later than it was arranged, that person is disrespecting your time and it is o.k. to bring that to someone’s attention.

Value your own time by prioritizing your day in a way that benefits you the most and helps you to accomplish your goals and responsibilities.

Value yourself enough to use some of that time for self-care.

Your presence

You don’t have to convince anyone that you are worth being with. Sometimes you can have more fun alone and be happy than feeling as if you coerced someone to spend time with you. I have a close family member who has turned down family invitations for the last two years. Until recently, it has hurt me and I have tried to understand the reason, but I have finally decided that he can choose to spend time with us or not, and although I will continue to love him, I am not going to try to convince him to do it.

Your affection

You are who you are, and people need to accept you and love you that way or find someone else who they prefer to be around. Don’t worry how many people think you are a rock star. One good friend is enough.

Your worth in money

If you deliver quality work you deserve to be paid for it. There are businesses that are trying to pay as little as possible for a service, so don’t settle for less than the standard rate for what you do.

What makes someone a writer

I read an article yesterday about writing, and I have not been able to stop thinking about it. The point of the article was that you cannot consider yourself a writer merely because you write. According to the author, a real writer has to have impeccable grammar, know his purpose for writing, and always have something profound to say. Anything less than this is drivel, and the person should not consider himself a writer.

As you can guess I had quite a few reactions to this. My first reaction was that no one should be the self-appointed gatekeeper for good or bad writing. One of the wonderful aspects of a creative process is that one person might see beauty where someone else does not. All forms of art are open to interpretation and putting strict rules on self-expression silences many of the possibilities. To say it simply, I don’t think we need to color within the lines for something to be amazing.

My next reaction was I hoped his article did not dissuade someone from writing. When I first started writing I didn’t want anyone to see what I had produced because I was sure I wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t a real writer. I continued because writing is a passion for me. It is my way to express myself, and I also hope that some of my articles can help someone. I hope as I continue to write that I also continue to improve, but whether my articles are good or bad, I am a writer.

One of the examples that the author used to prove you can only be a writer if you can check off the list of his standards was that he can run, but that doesn’t make him a runner. As an avid runner who is blessed with some speed and an ability to run distance, I never understand when someone calls me a real runner. In my mind, if you run, you are a runner, and if you write, you are a writer.

Don’t let haters keep you from doing something you love. If you love to write you should write. Break a few rules, improve your craft, and encourage other writers instead of throwing water on their dreams.   

Communicating in another country

As a French teacher, I have always told my students that a trip to France will be easier if they speak the language. I have seen the frustration when someone wants to communicate but does not know the right words to express their thoughts. I have also had people on our trips tell me that they saw that I was treated differently because I know the language. You can imagine my surprise when my husband proved my theory about needing to know the language to be false.

We recently went to Paris to celebrate 41 years of marriage, and I was a little nervous since my husband cannot say anything besides hello and thank you. I found out quickly that I had no reason to worry. He would talk to someone in English, not because he thought everyone should speak his language, but because it was his only option. If English didn’t work, he would use gestures to communicate. I was surprised at how well it worked. We were in a café where the waitress did not speak English, but when she put a huge dollop of mashed potatoes on his plate, the astonished look he gave made her laugh, and from that point on, they were teasing each other and having me translate. When we were in the Musée D’Orsay, he stood on a bench to take a photo, and instantly there was a guard telling me he couldn’t do that. He knew what she was saying by her tone, so he swished his bum around on the bench to clean up any dirt he had left. He made her laugh, and she showed us a special way to go to the top.

There was only one time that we had a small incident. We were buying some flowers for the hotel manager because she had been so sweet to us, and I was giving the florist some general ideas of what we would like. As she began to construct the bouquet, my husband started to question her choices. I almost died because criticizing a florist in France is almost as bad as saying you don’t like what you have been served in a restaurant. Thankfully, when he saw the final product he apologized and told her how beautiful it was.

I saw him approach each interaction with the joy that comes with meeting someone new and interesting. He was never nervous, but that might have been because he had a personal translator with him. I have been hesitant to visit countries where I don’t know the language, but after watching my husband’s success I would like to give it a try. I am also happy to report that my husband has been using the new words he learned. I hear him during the day saying, “Eh, voilà” (and there it is!) and “C’est la vie!” (That’s life!”) He proved to me he doesn’t need much more than that.