Looking Forward  

It doesn’t feel like the last day of the year. Really it is just another day on the calendar, but to many, including me it signifies closing a chapter and opening a new one. Out with the old, in with the new. 

A year ago, I was working out the last few days of my notice. Making plans for a new job, and heaving a sigh of relief that all of Eddie’s tests were normal. As I reflect back, it has been a year of change, a year of stress and fear, a year of joy, and a year of new beginnings. 

When cancer come back into our lives, it was one of the hardest things we have ever had to deal with. Watching someone I love so deeply go through surgery and chemo is hard. What keeps me going is how positive he is through all of this, his amazing doctors, and hope for the future. 

It has been a year of change with 2 new jobs. I have met so many people and get to do such cool things, but I also miss my team at Christian HELP and are glad we have stayed connected. I have had to let go of some things too and realize when someone takes your place, the vision is now theirs, not yours. While I miss the job and the people, I know it was time for me to move on. 

Life keeps moving toward, 1 year at a time. I can’t wait to see what 2016 holds. It will be a milestone birthday for me and I will become an empty nester. God has plans for me in the next year and I am looking forward to all it has to offer. 

Here is to a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Unpublished

I have started several blog posts that I never finished. They remain in my que unpublished. Sometimes, I go back and think about finishing them, but the thoughts from that moment are gone.

The past 2 years have been full of emotions for me and for my family. I feel like I have almost “grown up” as I have had to grow stronger. Sometimes, that strength just gives out and I find myself holding back tears as I take in the enormity of all of the things going on around me.

I remember putting together a mission statement for my life at a leadership class at Rollins. Mine was “Live life fully, love deeply, and have no spiritual regrets”. This resounds so much with me today, but in a different way. I have had to learn to enjoy the moment. I used to have to be on the go all the time. I worked 60-70 hours a week often and couldn’t sit still on the weekends. Now it is not uncommon for me to leave work behind at 5:30 when I can, lay in bed watching marathon TV on a Saturday, or just enjoying a quiet moment in prayer. It is the little things that are shaping me and showing me how precious and important life is.

So while some of my posts remain unfinished, my prayer is that my mission statement never finishes.

Reflections

I should be getting ready for church this morning, but for some unknown reason I have decided to stay in my bed. There is just a sense of peace I have sitting here looking out my window and listening to the sweet sounds of Eddie’s breathing as he sleeps. There are other service times I can go to. I just need to enjoy this moment.

When I started this blog, it was a year of change in my life. I had accepted a new job opportunity and was leaving my comfort zone and the family of collegues I had grown to love for something new. Little did I know that would be just the first of many changes this year would hold.

At the end of 2013, on Christmas eve, Eddie and I heard the lifechanging words. “It is cancer.” I can’t tell you how that rocks your world. The blow is so hard it takes awhile to absorb it. Telling your family and friends is equally as hard.

Fast forward to 2015 after successful surgery, we were getting back to normal until the tests weren’t anymore. Little blips at first with more tests to figure out what was causing them. Finally after several months, a diagnosis. The cancer was back and this time it had moved. Surgery and chemotherapy were in order.

During this time, I found myself interviewing for a new job. The one I had was a great organization, but not utilizing my skills the way I had hoped. As I went through the process, I tried to reconcile a new job and an unknown future. During all of this, I prayed for direction. The doors were opening and I walked through.

The title of my blog is positive 2015, and it is amazing how we have been able to stay positive through all of the challenges this year has brought us. Life doesn’t always go the way you plan. I was reading my timehop app and 7 years ago, I posted that I didn’t know how to relax. I felt this need to be doing something all the time. It meant working too much and not taking enough time to just stop and smell the roses. I have learned over the past 2 years to really prioritize what matters. Some days that means spending an entire Saturday in bed watching marathons of home shows so that I can be with Eddie while he rests, and that is ok.

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Decluttering

It has been months since I  have written in this blog. Starting a new job has meant learning new things, meeting new people, and taking on new tasks. In the process my mind has become cluttered with all of the newness and it has made it challenging to just relax and refresh.

The beach is one of my favorite places on earth. The sounds of the waves, the feel of the water, and the breeze rushing over me just give me such a sense of serenity.  God’s beauty surrounds me and I can hear myself think clearly. Though I am surrounded by people, I find time to be alone to recharge.

As we go through our busy lives, it is so easy to get caught up in the urgency of the day to day. Taking time to be still and to reflect can be so grounding.

I am so glad that my 2 vacations this year put me in spots surrounded by nature and beauty. A fantastic reminder to slow down, reflect, and appreciate the beautiful things around me.

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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

I was late running out the door to get to the airport because I ran out of day before I ran out of work. I jumped on a conference call a few minutes later and must have gone into auto pilot mode as I missed my exit. I could feel the stress rising as I hit traffic getting off the next exit, but it quickly cleared and I was back on track.

At the airport I was “randomly” selected to go into what I thought would be a faster track through TSA. It turned out I was in the slow lane and had to wait behind a woman getting a full body pat down. I got through and was thankful it wasn’t me.

All was well until it was time to board. I swiped my boarding pass and a big red screen came on that said DO NOT BOARD. The attendant told me to wait as he printed my new boarding pass with an aisle seat.  Immediately, I started feeling grumpy.  I have to be in a window seat where I can see take off and landing or I get stressed. The lady in the window seat was nice, but not willing to trade.

Resolved to deal with my seat switch in a professional way, I decided not to tweet nasty tweets to the airline and just suck it up. Moments later we heard we had 1 more passenger than seats. I was suddenly grateful to have my aisle seat.

It is so easy to let things bother us when they don’t go exactly as planned.  I had to catch myself a few times to keep from getting cranky about what I couldn’t control. In the end, it all worked out.

#positive2015

Ego, Agenda, and Getting the Credit

There are some things I just don’t care about. Getting the credit it one of them. I am a big picture person and if someone else getting the credit helps achieve the bigger goal, so be it. This may be a fault on my part, but as a goal setter I focus on the end game.

I listened to a friend talk about some challenges in her job this morning.  Her boss doesn’t seem to accept any of her ideas to the point where she is trying to figure out who she can share them with so they can put them forth and get them done. This is not the most effective way to do business,  but sometimes ego, fear, or insecurity gets in the way and we have to find work arounds to get the job done.

When I worked with a team putting together the Casselberry task force we determined from day 1 that we needed to set aside ego and agenda. In order to help the kids, we needed to work on equal footing. The end result was amazing as the school had a portable donated and we were able to staff it for 3 years. Another group wanted to take it over because they thought they could do more than we could. The team voted and we let the other group take it over with our blessing.

Believing in yourself, your ability and your team is healthy. Striving for excellence and perfection is good business. Delegation is a good way to lead (abdication of responsibility is not). Holding on, being controlling,  and demanding the credit is never good for the big picture. I may not care who gets the credit,  but if my name is attached to it, I want it to be the best it can be.

My advice to managers and leaders who see frustration in their team members. Ask yourself if you are helping or hindering? Do you have to get the credit? Do you listen to feedback without being defensive? 

If so, learn to let go and give others more responsibility and more credit and watch your teams bond and grow and your business succeed.

Take aways

After spending the last 2 weeks at conferences, my head is just spinning with so much information.  I wanted to write a few articles about all I had learned and didn’t know where to start. Then my boss asked 1 simple question, “What was your biggest takeaway?” Simple question,  but it helped me boil it down. The biggest takeaway was that there needs to be a coordinated system in place. The cool thing is in our area,  we get to work on the big picture systems.

What was an even bigger takeaway at that moment was how fortunate I am to be able to work on this in the Central Florida community with my colleagues and with so many top leaders and others. We can end homelessness (make it rare, brief,  and one time) but it will take the proverbial village.

Change is hard and the methodology used nationally to reduce homelessness is foreign to us in CFL,  but we have many of the key components in place. I am excited for the future.

So as I think of all the takeaways, I know I will be putting my thoughts down and the thoughts and best practices of others in order to share what I have learned so we can continue building the systems. 

Communication 101

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. -Tony Robbins

We are so bombarded on a daily basis with all types of communication.  From phone calls to texts to emails, it feels like an endless stream of communication.  The biggest challenge in all the communications I receive is understanding intent and where the person is coming from. It is so easy to misinterpret or add tone to something being said. The saying “people only hear what they want to hear” comes to mind.

I have recently observed a few interactions where people are hurt or upset because of either something that was said to them or how it was said.  The original intent of the person was somewhere lost in the mix and feelings got in the way.

So how do we make sure we communicate better?  Here are my thoughts:

Clarify or restate the question- if you are not sure what is being asked of you, or you are not sure the other person understood what you were saying, clarify.  Sometimes giving an example or making sure you are on the same page by saying the same thing differently can help.  Many times people don’t understand your intent or you don’t understand theirs and the blanks get filled in on their own often times incorrectly. Clarifying can prevent this.

Let it rest before you hit send- Never text or email mad.  Same goes with responding to a heated situation.  I used to always say (and still do) that I need to wait to respond when I can take the emotion out of it.  This does not apply to friendly passionate debates, but those should be face to face.  Words that are written or spoken cannot easily be taken back.  Be careful what you say and how you say it.  You might even ask someone else to read your reply before hitting send.

Don’t raise your voice- You always have to love the person in the room who just talks right over you or doesn’t let you get a word in.  The best practice for dealing with someone who is loud or mad is to lower your voice so they have to stop to listen.  This is a great technique with mad customers.  Many people are trained to come out yelling. Watch 5 minutes of Pawn Stars and you will see what I mean.  If it gets too crazy, there is always 911.

Listen- This is probably one of the hardest skills to master.  We are always so quick to want to have input into any conversation which makes listening difficult.  I always have to stop myself from thinking I have the answer before the question is asked.  Stopping to hear what the other person has to say and really listening makes the person you are speaking with feel valued and can keep you from misunderstanding what they say.

Of course, all of these tips are still a work in progress for me and I need to practice what I preach, but I really work on listening and understanding where a person is coming from.  Adding tone or intent never goes well.

Passion with Action

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman

Many years ago one of the Vice President’s of a company I worked for described me as intense. I believe passionate is a better description. I am a dreamer, but I am also a doer. I want to not only hear about change, but be knee deep int he middle of it.

I am so excited to have the opportunity to work with the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. Our goals and mandates are huge, but the idea that we really can be part of making a difference for the homeless in Central Florida (an maybe even beyond) is for lack of a better word, amazing.  There has been so much ground work laid and now I get to step into the mix and be part of a great team working towards tangible solutions.

I look forward to sharing the goals, the action steps, and how you can help with the process of ending homelessness as we know it. Stay tuned!

Being a Light in The Darkness

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

Yesterday, I spent the morning at a prayer breakfast where the theme was ending sex trafficking.  The event was well done and I saw people I knew, but the topic was horribly ugly.  It is hard to wrap my mind around the evil that exists in this world some days.

At the same breakfast,  I spoke with a police officer who was proud that his city didn’t have a homeless problem because they have an ordinance against people holding signs and they arrest them no questions asked. He was proud that the word got out and they only have about 10 homeless people who he says want to be homeless.

He is not a bad person. Quite the opposite,  but we had a good discussion about how research and evidence suggests that the homeless really aren’t happy on the streets and recovery starts when they have a home. I was encouraged that he listened and even started to question his thought process.

Matthew 5:16 tells us to let our light shine. We have to stand up and be the good in the world. The only way to combat darkness is to let our lights shine. Indifference and apathy are not an option.

What are you doing to shine your light?