Little Things Can Make the Biggest Difference

What can we truly count on to improve our lives without breaking down or requiring anti-virus software?

Here are some of the things I can count on 100% of the time to improve my life.

A spectacular sunset.
The sound of the ocean.
The smell of a baby’s hair.
The first daffodil of the season.
Roses blooming in my yard.
Watching puppies play.
The sight of my grandsons peacefully sleeping.
Watching my husband walk across the farm.
Time around the dinner table with my entire family.
The smell of our cypress trees after the first rainfall.
Watching a cat sleep in the sun.
Red tail hawks gliding overhead.

What are some of the things you can count on to improve your life?

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Forging Healthy Relationships

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I think all of you would agree that life is a lot smoother when our key relationships are in good shape. How do we build our relationships and keep them in good shape?I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I am a student of experts on the topic. I have gleaned much from John C. Maxwell, Susan Christy, M. Scott Peck, Oliver DeMille, Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady and a host of other experts.

Personally, I find it helpful to have what I refer to as “cheat sheets” for information I can use on a daily basis. Cheat sheets serve as my “external hard drive”. It is too easy in the chaos of the day to lose focus and slip into reactive behavior. Never a good idea when working with people!

This is one of my favorite “cheat sheets”. It keeps me on track when working with my coworkers and clients.

What personality type is the person I am speaking with?
Am I a source of encouragement or negativity?
Am I connecting with people on a professional level?
Am I focused on listening and understanding others?
Am I building trust right now?
Each of these simple questions serves to remind me of deeper questions to ask myself as I go about my day. They allow me to evaluate myself, identify where I could be doing a better job, and focus on some of what really matters.

I sincerely wish to forge healthy relationships. Unhealthy ones make the day miserable, to say the least!

How do you build good relationships?

Grateful for Dog Poop in the Kennel and other weird things

I am grateful for many things. Some of them might seem small and hardly worth noticing, let alone giving thanks, but I beg to differ. It is the “little” things that carry the most weight. So often we take the little things for granted. How often are we grateful for the simple act of breathing? How about the sound of the kids playing in the backyard? Or even that there are kids in the backyard? When was the last time we noticed that we can smell coffee or walk on our own from room to room? When was the last time we expressed gratitude for the roof over our heads or the food in our belly?

Here are a few of the things for which I am grateful.

The sound of my husband snoring. Yes, I am grateful for his snoring because his snoring reminds me he is alive and well. As does the mess he leaves in the bathroom sink, the newspapers strewn about the house and his greasy handprints on the hood of my car.

My grandsons fighting. Five years ago there weren’t any grandsons. Now there are three healthy, happy little tornados that have stormed into our lives. I’m very grateful even when they are fighting, crying and generally causing trouble. As a matter of fact, I actually find myself smiling when they are at their worst. They add spice to our lives.

The arthritis in my hands. Oy vey! Yes, I am grateful for the pain. You see, the pain means I still have my hands. Don’t get me wrong, I would not mind if the pain went away. However, it is a reminder that things could be worse, to be grateful for what I have.

Chocolate. I am definitely grateful for chocolate. Do I really need to say more about this one???

The people in my life that drive me nuts. There is no doubt I am grateful for their presence! You see, they are teaching me patience, acceptance, and compassion. Without them, I seriously doubt I would grow and improve myself.

Dog poop in the kennel. I know this sounds weird. However, from my perspective, no dog poop would mean there was no dog. I have tried going without a dog before. Not willing to try it again! Hence, I am grateful for dog poop. And, no I don’t want any of yours, so please don’t bring it over here!

My business partner, Kacy. Where do I start? This woman exemplifies patience, kindness, integrity and a whole host of other attributes I am grateful for every day. I am extremely lucky to have her in my life. When I grow up I want to be just like her!

I could go on and on, however I would rather hear about the things you are grateful for today and every day.

Living Life Intentionally

yellow Labrador ready to pounce on a ball

One day I stopped to ask myself just exactly where all the busyness was going to get me. In a year, 5 years or 20 years, was I going to be any less frantically busy? Was I going to be any closer to my goals? Oh, wait a minute! What are my goals? Aaah…when dealing with a flooded kitchen, turn the faucet off first!

Remember, the best thing about advice is that we can keep what we want and throw the rest away. With that said, I am going to offer advice on how to manage the busyness of life. Remember, if we want different results in life, we have to change something. We have to change how we think.

First, buy a pad of paper and a weekly appointment day planner. The weekly calendar should include appointment slots from early morning to late evening 7 days a week.

Next, sit down somewhere quiet. Make sure you aren’t going to be disturbed by anyone. Hide from the kids, the spouse and the chores screaming your name. Maybe in the bathroom? Now, just think about what you want your life to look like this coming week. This is tougher to do than it sounds because our mind has been taught to constantly multi-task. When your mind drifts to the dirty kitchen, the next day’s work, and the shopping list, don’t beat yourself up. Just gently bring your mind back to the task at hand. Do you want more chaos or more control over your week?

Make a list of everything you know you need to accomplish this week. Just jot everything down without judging or stressing out. The work, shopping, making dinner, DMV, car repair, doctor appointment, kids soccer practice, etc. Now, add to the list everything you really WANT to accomplish this week for yourself. Is there a lunch date with a friend that would be a treat for the two of you? How about the great book you have been meaning to start? Is there an online course on VetMedTeam you want to participate in? How about working out three times this week? This part of the list is for those things you really, really want for yourself.

Read the entire list top to bottom. Place a star next to your top 12 most important items on the list. Of those top 12, place an asterisk next to those you can delegate to someone else. Uh oh, I just heard some of you say there aren’t any you can delegate. Really? Do you want more chaos or control in your life? Could you rotate responsibility with another parent for getting the kids to their activities? Do you really need to shop for that wedding gift by running all over town or could you shop online in a fraction of the time? Here is a thought, if you were in a hospital recuperating from surgery, who would take care of all those things you think you can’t delegate? So, start delegating!

Using your day planner, write in your schedule for your job. Take a look at the list of your remaining top 12 without an asterisk. Schedule each one of them into the week. These are firm appointments you are going to keep. Include driving time in the schedule. Now you have a little bit better handle on how the week will progress!

What do you do about all the items that didn’t make it onto your top 12 list? If they didn’t make it to the top 12 list, but you still feel compelled to get them done, reassess them and decide which ones would make you feel good about yourself. Add them to your schedule without bumping any of your top picks.

Below is an example of one of my typical work days. Definitely one of my simpler ones!

  • 0500-0530Get up and get ready for work
  • 0530-0600Breakfast, feed the dogs
  • 0600-0630Listen to books or lectures on CD during commute to work
  • 0700-1100Work
  • 1100-1200Lunch break: read!
  • 1200-1600Work
  • 1600-1700Listen to books or lectures on CD during commute home
  • 1700-1800Feed the dogs, make dinner
  • 1800-1830Eat dinner, chat with husband
  • 1830-2000Work in yard and play with dogs, husband does the dishes
  • 2000-2100Read and get ready for bed
  • 2100-0500Sleep

Please notice that nowhere on my schedule is there time for surfing the net. This is a time thief! Have you ever told yourself that you would only spend 5 minutes looking at a video clip someone sent you only to discover that you have just spent 2 hours! For some reason, the Internet is addictive. I am sure there is a psychology student out there somewhere doing a PhD thesis on this very topic. In the meantime, just remember that you chose a list of important accomplishments for your week, time is very valuable, and not to waste it where value is not added to your life.

Fellar: A Most Unusual Family Member

Fellar: A Most Unusual Family Member

My husband, Sterling and I live out in the country, surrounded by beautiful mountains, a creek, and tons of wildlife. Having been a veterinary technician for over 30 years, I have had my fair share of wildlife patients. I really enjoy working with them, but I have developed some hard and fast rules about wildlife at home. I refuse to hand raise baby wild animals. No 2 a.m. bottle feedings, for me, no way, no how. I always turn the babies over to a qualified rescue organization. My husband knows this rule and has been very good about letting baby birds and such leave our farm with the rescue team – until our world was invaded by a funny little monster named Fellar.

Sterling was out mowing the weeds around an outbuilding when he saw what looked like a mouse. As he prepared to kill it (ok, we are farmers!), he stopped because the little critter didn’t look quite right. Reaching down, he picked up the strange, ugly, little bald creature and headed straight to the house to ask me what it was he found. In the palm of his hand was a 3” long, hairless creature with its eyes still closed. It was about a one week old baby ground squirrel. I could not think of any good reason for it to be above ground as the mother would never have allowed it unless she was dead. I suggested to my husband that he put the baby into the closest squirrel hole to where he found the little guy in the hopes that its mother was still around.

Less than an hour later, Sterling found the baby had crawled back out of the hole and had made it another 8 feet to the door of the shop. Obviously, the little bugger wanted someone to take care of him and had chosen my husband as his new momma. Definitely against my rules! I politely informed Sterling that I would not raise a bottle baby and that the little guy would have to go to a rescue group. Sterling quietly said he was going to take care of him himself. This from a man who never raised a bottle baby before!

Well, he patiently and successfully raised “Feller”. The squirrel became his constant companion, often hiding in the sleeve of Sterling’s jacket, peeking out at the world from his safe haven high above the ground.

Sterling is quite handy at constructing stuff. He built an elaborate habitat for Feller including a section up in a tree, a section inside the workshop and another underground. All of it connected by a raceway of pipe. Feller could travel from one area to another without ever leaving the safety of his habitat.

One of Feller’s favorite treats was watermelon. His tiny paws were perfect little hands able to grasp the bits of watermelon offered by Sterling, only he hated to get wet. So he would hold the watermelon with one hand, shake the other, switch hands and repeat while taking quick bites. So funny to watch! He also loved nuts of all kinds. Some he would eat right away, but most he would stash somewhere inside his bedding.

I have to admit Feller and I never got along. As a matter of fact, he hated me. I think he knew I wasn’t exactly supportive when Sterling had decided to bottle raise him. At every opportunity, Feller would try to attack me through the wire of his cage, growling and throwing his tiny 1 lb body against the cage as he charged at me. Did you even know that squirrels could growl? The little monster would leap at the wire of his cage, teeth bared, just to watch me jump. He also tried to charge my dogs. Brave little monster!

As it was my role to keep Feller healthy, I occasionally had to handle him to apply parasiticides, vaccinate, etc. Oh joy. I was helping to keep this vicious beast alive and healthy, despite the fact that there was no love lost between us.

I came up with a technique to avoid getting bitten, but it also happened to really tick Feller off (always an entertaining bonus, if you ask me…) From inside the shop, Sterling had run one of Feller’s pipes directly into a tiny cage in the living room. This pipe had a sliding door in it so that Feller could be confined indoors or outdoors, depending on our preference. I used to close the door so that he couldn’t get in and then tap on the pipe thereby getting him good and angry. I would then put a sock over the indoor opening of the pipe and quickly open the door. He would rush in thinking he could attack me. His headlong rush would leave him trapped in the sock! I would giggle fiendishly as I twisted the sock shut. I had him trapped where I could do his medical treatments, but he couldn’t bite me. Definitely did not endear me to him.

Feller lived to the ripe old age of 7 years. He hated me until the very end, but still trusted and respected his 6’3” tall momma, Sterling.

Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle?

 
black Labrador trying to climb out of the river

I met with a group of friends recently and somehow we landed on to the topic of odd phrases we all use, but don’t know where we picked them up. We also aren’t sure what some of them actually mean.

  • Beat around the bush. (What bush and why?)
  • Slicker than deer guts on a doorknob.(Really? Did someone actually try this one? Ewwww!)
  • Best foot forward. (We only have two. Which is the best one?)
  • Bite the bullet. (Sounds painful to me.)
  • Break a leg. (How did this become the way to wish an actor best wishes? Sounds pretty mean to me.)
  • Bury the hatchet. (This is suppose to mean that you stop fighting, but sounds more like a form of attack to me.)
  • By hook or by crook. (What are we supposed to do with the hook or crook???)
  • A shot in the arm. (Ow! How is that good?)
  • Acid test. (Sounds painful again.)
  • As happy as a clam. (How do we know that clams are happy?)
  • Bats in the belfry. (Sounds like a scene from a horror novel.)
  • The birds and the bees. (How in the world would explaining sex to a child involve birds and the bees?)
  • Brownie points. (Like in Girl Scouts?)
  • Heebie jeebies. (This is one is just odd. What is a heebie jeebie?)
  • Catch 22 (Is there a catch 21?)
  • Up shit creek without a paddle. (Very visual!)
  • The whole shebang. (Can you have part of a shebang? And, what is a shebang?)
  • Talk to the hand. (Diva move?)
  • Spill the beans. (How did beans come to refer to sharing a secret?)
  • Nitty gritty. (Fine sand?)
  • On Cloud Nine. (Where is Cloud Nine and why is it better than the other clouds?)
  • Paint the town red. (Why is red wilder than say blue or pink?)
  • More bangs for the buck. (More noise is better?)
  • Make a beeline for… (Bees never travel a straight line. Why would making a beeline be a good idea???)
  • Hunky-dory. (What exactly is a hunky-dory and why is it a good thing?)
  • Throw a hissy fit. (Adults hiss when throwing a temper tantrum?)
  • Cute as a button. (I have seen a few cute buttons but not sure I would say they are all cute.)

What other odd sayings you use?

Family

Family

yellow Labrador, cat and Pekingese lying togetherI don’t know about you, but I find that some of my family members are a little more “special” than others. Special is not necessarily a good thing. I do love them all though! I bet you have some special family members too! Let me introduce you to a few of my family members.

There is the Grand Dame. You know, the one who walks like the Queen of England barely acknowledging the peons in the room, nose slightly in the air, back straight, disdainful, prim and proper.

Then there is the perpetually young adult family member. The one everyone loves, but you have to put breakables up out of reach. Tripping over their own feet. Bumping into people, walls and furniture. Extremely happy, but oh so clueless! Distracted by every shiny object. Perpetually young and never going to grow up and mature.

We have the doddering old man who needs help getting up the stairs or remembering who you are. Such a sweetie, but time has caught up with him.

Of course, living out in the country, we have the redneck. Always bringing the latest kill home, starting fights, flexing muscles, and outeating everyone else just because.

Everyone has a grouch in their family. The one member who is never happy with anything and constantly grumbling under their breath. They have their spot and no one else dares to sit there. When they walk through the room everyone else moves aside with eyes downcast.

Some of you may have a control freak. We certainly do! The one who has to push and prod everyone else into doing things their way. Always in charge of keeping everyone together and on track.

Everyone loves the family clown. This is the one who keeps everyone laughing even if it takes extreme antics, pratfalls, or the bizarre. Think Tigger. Sometimes a little simple in the mind, but has a huge heart and flamboyant sense of humor.

Every lucky family has a soulful member. The one who looks deeply into your eyes seeking to sympathize or console you. Always offers a kind touch or warm hug. He or she makes you feel better by simply sitting close by and listening attentively.

Does your family have a hyperactive worrier? Frantically running around trying to do too much and ineffective at accomplishing anything. Announcing everyone’s arrival with fuss and bother. Makes you tired just to watch them. Ours is definitely an overachiever when it comes to anxiety!

The peacekeeper is another member everyone loves. Calm, quiet force encouraging everyone to kiss and make-up. The peacekeeper is unhappy if everyone isn’t having a good time or isn’t getting along with everyone else.

We have lots of jocks in our family. Nothing is too much of a challenge: swimming, ball sports, running, hiking. The jock is always doing something physical to the extreme.

And I am only talking about the four-legged members of my family! Don’t even get me started on the humans!