In the end, it’s your relationships that matter most. So many times I get caught up with my deadlines and what I have to get done. When you work for yourself and work from home, the lines between work and home can become significantly blurred. It works great when you have to move back and forth between kid stuff and work stuff.
But a person recently told me that successful people focus and make time for what’s important. They make sure they spend quality time having quality conversations with those who are important to them.
I used to read to my kids every single night. We got away from that and I started to feel disconnected. That small habit of reading to them, discussing the books and tucking them in each night connected us through a shared activity.
I recently watched Brene Brown’s talk on The Anatomy of Trust. If you haven’t seen it, you should take a look. She said research shows that trust is built in those small moments. I would add that connections are built in those small moments too. And, like trust, it’s built over time when those small moments happen over and over and over again.
Building Connection Through Habit
So if you’re feeling disconnected from someone, make it a habit to do something with them. Life is busy, but the people in our lives are important. In 50 years when I look back on my life, I’m not going to remember the deadline, the blog post, the client (yes those things are important too). I’m going to remember the dinners with my boys, family and friends. I’m going to remember going stand up paddle boarding with my kids and friends. I’m going to remember long pool parties with friends and family. I’m going to remember watching silly shows and laughing with my boys, taking them to sports events and all of those other precious moments of connecting with them, with my family and my friends.
We’re creatures of habit. So when you make something a habit, whether it’s exercising, eating clean, making your bed or spending time connecting with loved ones, it’s something you do effortlessly. Why not make something that brings you happiness a habit?
Scheduling time for my priorities
It really is a simple step. My first job out of college was at Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Green Country in Oklahoma. I’m grateful they sent me to Franklin Covey’s time management class and bought me a planner. That class taught me about taking a few minutes at the beginning of each workday to list out all of my tasks and then to assign a priority to them. What if we do that with our lives?
What would that look like? Would doing the dishes be an A1 priority? Or, would it be laughing with your kids? Everyone’s priorities are different, and I’m not necessarily advocating for a dirty house.
But, when you prioritize your entire life, how much time do you devote to the things that matter to you most? Do you make time for them on a daily basis? I can say that I don’t always.
I bought a journal after a friend told me about it. It’s called the 5-minute journal. It kind of combines what I’m talking about here with the power of attraction. Every morning, I write down three things I’m grateful for, three things that would make the day great and my daily affirmations. It focuses my day.
Each night, I write down three amazing things that happened that day and how I could’ve made that day even better. Sometimes, I have more than three things to write down. Sometimes, I can’t think of a single thing that would’ve made that day any better because I feel like I used my time as wisely as I could in a balanced way.
Between that and my planner, how much richer would my life be if I schedule time to connect with my boys, my friends and my family?
Building Better Connections for Better Balance
A sweet, wise friend of mine writes, talks and coaches about life balance. It’s when that balance is off that I feel the most disconnected. And when I feel disconnected, I feel lost, alone and stressed. I get frustrated more often and just out of sync with who I am. I lose my temper.
Remembering to make time for those who matter most to me and I to them is my new commitment to myself. I think that scheduling that time, making that process a habit will bring better balance, peace, happiness and the space to be me.
Happy Sunday! Here’s to building better relationships!
Austin really is one of the best places to be single and the offerings for Labor Day weekend didn't disappoint. You can't beat hanging with friends, some yummy grilled food and good vibes, but if you want to get out, Geraldine's at the VanZandt continues to make me swoon with their delicious dishes like the roasted quail and grilled squash with yummy cocktails and the almond tart, fun live music and beautiful views of downtown out by the pool. The Lustre Pearl is a fun place to get your groove on (or be a dork like me), play some fun outdoor games, quench your thirst with some yummy drinks and of course people watching there and on Rainey is hilarious. My favorite place for catching a football game is still Lavaca Street Bar while munching on their quesadillas and my signature martini. Oh, and their gumbo is gooooood, bartenders are magicians and the crowd is always fun.
Second chances. Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? As a divorced person, I believe in second chances. I believe in starting over. I believe in growing, change and learning from your mistakes.
But how do you honestly give someone a second chance especially if trust is an issue and what are some good reasons for doing so?
I recently read an article about some couples who broke up and then got back together after either realizing what they gave up, a lot of internal reflection, personal growth and some groveling.
I think if two people honestly want to give something another go, why not go for it? But the key word is “two.” Do both people truly want the other person or is just because someone is lonely or just craves company or attention?
I know couples who have divorced and remarried and made a successful go of it. I know couples who have been on the brink of divorce and worked things out. Many of these couples say the key to their success was a variety of things but open communication was consistently the common denominator.
There’s a ton of advice and articles written on the subject. Some say you should work out your problems. I think in some cases (especially in infidelity) that is certainly viable. But I think a lot of issues between couples come down to communication, trust and differing expectations or places in life.
No matter the problem, if both people are willing to put in the effort, and personally work on self-awareness and growth, it has the possibility to work. But if one person isn’t “all in” or isn’t willing to commit the effort, the possibility of success seems unlikely.
I went through an exercise of a pros and cons list to determine if I wanted to give someone a second chance. I wrote out all of his characteristics, values, habits, etc. and divided them into the two columns. It wasn’t as simple as adding up each side to see which was longer because sometimes, those things in the “con” column carry a lot of weight and are big deals.
We all make mistakes. I know I have. Sometimes I don’t communicate effectively. Sometimes I get emotional.
In the end, I determined I didn’t have sufficient information to make an informed decision.
But how do you build trust?
Truth About Deception gives some great tips on rebuilding trust:
Pyschology Today has additional suggestions:
What I learned after my divorce is to trust myself and know my own truth. After the lies, deception, cheating, manipulation and gas lighting during my marriage, it’s been hard to figure out if I’m seeing something through that filter or if something is really off. Sadly, I know many women in that same boat. Experience with dating and talking to tons of people about their relationships has helped immensely.
I believe that a person’s actions speak louder than their words and if a person shows you they want another chance and puts in the effort, then it may be worth a second look especially if their plus column is pretty long.
I think in the end, we all want someone who can appreciate us for who we are, short-comings and all. Someone who can see our weaknesses and love us because of them not in spite of them. Someone we can grow with and do life with. Someone who challenges us to be better and explore the things we love. Someone who excites us and creates energy. Someone who has a similar or complimentary vibe.
I have a sign in my house that says “we do second chances.” Sometimes I ask my boys if they want to try something again or rephrase something especially when they get cheeky. We get do-overs because that’s how we learn and get better. It seems that applying that same mind-set to relationships would be beneficial. Extending grace to someone else who is equally imperfect but still loveable seems like a win-win in my book.
After getting a divorce, I signed up for online dating sites, read tons of articles about dating and signed up for all kinds of newsletters on dating advice.
I’m approaching my second divorce anniversary (divorceary?), and I was cleaning out my junk email inbox. The many subject lines from these dating newsletters frustrated me.
“Top 3 mistakes women make that cause men to lose attraction”
“If you’d only known the right thing to say to him…”
“Can your clothes really help you attract the guy you want?”
“Playfully say this if you want him to ache for you all day long”
“A simple way to change his mind and his heart”
All I can say is, are you kidding me?
All of these emails imply that there is something wrong with women. That if we change just a bit, we can catch the man of our dreams.
Women (and probably men too) have enough criticism coming at them. I’m considered an attractive woman, and I do believe that, but there are days when I look in the mirror and all I see are flaws. Most people have those days. We don’t need someone giving us dating advice about how we need to change to attract the right man.
This advice gives the underlying message that men are perfect beings and we just need the right bait to attract that elusive fish. This advice is similar to what a girlfriend told me soon after my divorce. She said I needed to start listening to country music to catch a man, “Um, no.” (I have started listening again, but not to catch a man. I realized that, I do, in fact, like some country music after going to a few concerts with friends.)
But, I’m not going to change my clothes, my look, what kind of music I listen to, or who I am to attract any man. They would be attracted to an imposter anyway and what fun that would be?
I do believe in personal growth. We can all become a better version of ourselves. And I do take time to reflect on how I could've handled a difficult situation better whether that’s a conversation with one of my children, a coworker, friend or a someone I’m dating. But that is just life and what you should do to become a better, happier person.
I want to become a more effective communicator, a more giving person who can stand firm on my boundaries and on how I should be treated. But I want to communicate that in a firm but kind way.
And I know there are things I’ve done to push someone away and there are things men have done to push me away. But that is part of the learning process.
One guy barely communicated in a passive and passive-aggressive way and pushed me away, and another over communicated and pushed me away. It’s different for everyone. There’s no magic bullet, no secret sequence of words on how to catch a woman or man.
Heck, I can’t even tell you what the magic amount of communication is for me.
What I can say is that open, direct, assertive (not aggressive) communication with me is key. Being able to say what you want and need is critical because otherwise how can the other person know if it will ever work or if they can deliver?
In the movie Field of Dreams the voice says, “build it and they will come.” So, here’s my dating advice: Be the best version of you and the right person will come. Make yourself happy.
The right person will be attracted to you for being you. And I can tell you from experience that I don’t want to date someone who is trying to be someone else. That mask falls off eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later).
I believe in being the most authentic and genuine person you can be. That is how you attract the person of your dreams not by clicking through an email to learn exactly what to say and when. Or to try and guilt you into thinking if you had only known a few key words to capture their heart you wouldn’t have lost them.
When you show up and are vulnerable with the person you are talking to, you are giving your all, and that’s all any of us can hope for. Sometimes it’s a good match and sometimes, not so much.
“If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.” Brene Brown
When we were kids, we fell, we got up and we tried again. It is what we were taught… I had some pretty serious falls growing up and learned lessons from each of them. What I’ve realized as an adult is that I was more fearless as a child than I am as an adult.
Around the time I started elementary school, I decided that I would roller skate up a steep asphalt incline that was probably way steeper than I should have attempted. I got a couple of strides in before I fell, my knees and elbows hit first, but then I hit my chin and I bit thru my tongue. Blood went everywhere, I skated the rest of the way home for my mother to bandage me up and ask what in the world I was thinking. I learned not to roller-skate up hill, that there are better ways to fall than elbows and knees first and that some scars never go away. While the scars may remain, I also learned that you can and must learn to forget about them.
Another time, I was at my grandparents’ lake house with my cousins. We were jumping off a couch even though we’d been told numerous times not to. All of the adults were outside and we thought we could jump further if we gained enough height. I landed on the coffee table chin first and put a hole through my mentolabial sulcus (that indented part between your lower lip and chin). I still have that scar and learned a practical lesson: if you’re going to jump, the area should be clear.
Before my grandfather passed away, he decided (after much pestering on my part) to let me learn to ride a moped. I was in 4th or 5th grade. I knew how to balance and drive down the road fairly well, so I tried to turn in the street. I didn’t have the feel for giving it enough gas and turning part.
The first time, I turned too sharply and dumped the moped on top of me. That didn’t work, so the next time, I tried taking a wider turn but let off the gas too much and dumped the moped again. Take three: I took a wider turn and gave it more gas. I almost made it, but then didn’t turn sharp enough and gave it too much gas. I aimed straight for the curb and flipped over the moped. It was the first time I actually saw stars (like in the cartoons). It knocked the breath out of me and scared my grandfather to pieces. The third time was not a charm for me, but I got back up and did it right the next time.
Each of those falls taught me something. In elementary school I was more pragmatic, willing to learn and let my ego go than I am as an adult.
For whatever reason, as we age, many of us say that falling hurts more. It bruises our ego when we feel we should’ve learned a particular lesson earlier in life. The past several times I went skiing, I kept saying I wanted to learn how to snowboard, but I backed down because I didn’t know if I had it in me to repeatedly fall (fail) and get back up and do it again. I lacked the bravery I had when I was a kid. Sometimes, we don’t allow ourselves to get into situations where we are likely to fail whether it’s learning something new, going for a job or promotion we want or just making ourselves vulnerable to another human being.
In the last couple of years, I’ve learned that falling isn’t so bad after all. I still carry the scars and the lessons learned from my many falls, but the wisdom and experience gained from each one is invaluable. My friends have seen me at my most vulnerable and still love me anyway. I earned a great deal of respect from my children seeing me fall and get back up. In fact, my connections with those people in my life are even stronger.
I learn a great deal from my falls, they make me wiser and stronger. I’ve become that same pragmatic little girl who picked the asphalt out of her knees and said, “Well that didn’t work” and tried it a different way.
We just have to remember that if we fall, we shouldn't be embarrassed or ashamed about it. It just means we are trying. We are putting ourselves through growth to become a better version of ourselves. So whether you’ve recently gone through a divorce and are putting your dating stilettos back on, or learning how to parent your child on your own, or are just feeling stuck, remember that falling doesn’t mean failure. It just means that that way didn’t work. Being brave doesn’t mean doing it right the first time. Being brave is falling repeatedly and getting back up again, stronger and wiser.
I don’t have a significant other this Valentine’s Day, I have something better: I have two incredible boys and a ton of friends and family who are simply irreplaceable. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. Yes, it’s a silly made-up holiday to sell a bunch of stuff that will either die (flowers), make you fat (sweets) or just reduce the size of your bank account (jewelry).
But what I love about it is that people everywhere celebrate love. So for the first time ever, I’m making myself my Valentine this year. I love me. I love that I sing loud and off-key in the car and at HEB and really just wherever the mood strikes me. I love that I dance in the open and dance in the rain. I love that I am often unintentionally funny because I do really silly things. I love that I don’t take myself seriously. I love that I’m generous, kind and forgiving. I love that I treat my body like a temple and sometimes like an amusement park. I love that I love amusement parks.
I love that I have courage to keep my boys’ lives steady even when it would be so much easier to move home or just anywhere else and start over. I love that I let myself be vulnerable when it would be easier to say that relationships are for the birds. I love that I have values and boundaries and that my favorite word is one you don’t hear in polite company.
So for all you single peeps celebrating today solo, cheers to you! I hope you remember to love and celebrate yourself today.
One of the biggest issues in dating and relationships is failed expectations and the answer to the above question differs greatly from woman to woman as do her expectations.
For me, if I’m going to give up one of my two kid-free nights per month to go on a date with you, you need to have planned something and asked in advance: not the day of, not the day before, but at least a week before.
To me, a date is something that a guy has put his time and effort into. Hanging out is just like, “Hey, are you free? Because I really don’t care enough about you to make any plans.” If a guy isn’t willing to put any time or effort into seeing me, then I have no reason to put any time into seeing him, like at all, ever, so that’s a “no” to hanging out.
I was recently part of a discussion on this topic and someone brought up coffee “dates.” I don’t think coffee constitutes a date, but I have met someone for coffee or drinks just for an initial meeting to see if we click and make sure everyone looks like they say they do. I will say though that most of the time, those coffee dates have turned into nothing for me. I’m much more likely to want to go on a second date if the first meeting goes well.
This isn’t about money. I don’t expect a guy to drop a percentage of his paycheck on our date. In fact, I’ve been a little put off from those who have.
A date to watch my Cowboys play at a sports bar with some yummy food can be just as much fun as an expensive date out on the town or to an event. So would a date exploring Austin. A date planned while my Cowboys are playing at some place that doesn’t have a TV, not so much. You’ve clearly not done your homework. It’s about time and effort and research.
I’m not a hanging out person. I’m a date person. Show me you’re interested in putting in some effort, otherwise I won’t either. Despite the success of Bumble, this is still a guy chases woman culture, and that’s what most of us expect.
My thought is if you aren’t going to put in the time and effort into pursuing me, then things are really going to go south once we’re committed and that will be a serious case of failed expectations.
I’m a sensitive person. So far, I’ve lost my younger sister followed quickly by my mother and then my grandfather who helped raise me. As a result, I built walls, really thick, tall walls, to protect myself from being hurt.
Growing up, I was friendly to most people, but only let a few people get close. I tended to be more of a relationship person, preferring to develop close relationships with a few rather than date around. All of this was a way to protect myself from being hurt.
I wasn't aware of the concept of boundaries until after my divorce when I learned what to look for when someone crosses my boundaries. Up until then, I just built walls to keep people out.
I had set boundaries with my kids, but I didn’t think of them that way. When they whined, I loving looked at them and let them know when they could speak where I could understand them, we could talk. I held firm. I was able to do that with my children because of the way I had been raised and modeled my parenting that way.
However, I hadn’t really seen examples of that in the context of romantic relationships. The only thing I truly understood about boundaries had to do with sex. But what about boundaries when it comes to how you're treated?
I tend to learn through reading, processing and then discussing with others. One of the best books I’ve read on boundaries is “Boundaries in Dating” by Cloud and Townsend.
There were a lot of “a-ha” moments for me and situations where I found I had been on the receiving end and guilty of some things.
Some of it you read, and think, “Well, duh,” but I’ve never honestly focused on it and processed it in terms of a relationship. I haven’t analyzed relationships and what I’m feeling. I’ve had some key takeaways in forming my boundaries for future relationships. Here are some quotes that rang true with me.
Honestly, this book is full of great advice. I highly recommend it for anyone who is dating or in a relationship and interested in making it better. Boundaries are about letting the right people in. Walls just keep everyone out. Boundaries allow you to have meaningful connections with healthy people; walls do not.
I’ve heard from so many people who said 2016 just plain sucked. I have no doubt that they had bad things happen during the year (so did I), but surely there is something during the last 365 days that was good.
After all, the Cubs finally won the World Series again, and someone other than the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
I’m a firm believer that the quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our lives. When I’ve shot for the stars and put my fears aside, I’ve gotten what I want. When I’ve let my fears and insecurities creep in, my fears become reality. You get what you focus on.
Tony Robbins said, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
This plays out in so many lives. I know someone who is afraid to date again because it’s been so long since he has. I know someone who is afraid to live with someone again because it’s been so long that he feels like a loner. And I know a friend who is afraid to let go of someone who is not good for her because the fear of not being good enough is greater.
I’ve let fear rule by not submitting my work to national publications because I’ve been afraid of rejection. If I don't submit, there’s still that possibility of acceptance one day when I’ve learned more, when I’ve grown more and when I’ve experienced more. If I do submit and fail, then I have to live with that.
But what is the alternative to those fears? Why not take a chance on happiness? Why stay in the same rut? Most people tend to repeat mistakes until they learn from them. I’ve played it safe and not made myself vulnerable to failure in some areas of my life.
One of my growth goals this year is to strengthen my weaknesses. My strength is that I see the good in others. My weakness is that most of the time, I obstinately refuse to see the faults of someone I care about.
Refusing to see a friend’s faults/weaknesses, or a potential partner’s faults, robs me of an important learning opportunity. It makes it harder to create boundaries to protect myself from disappointment or from being taken advantage of. It makes it harder to pick someone who will be a true match. It also robs us of a deeper connection.
Figuring out what your weaknesses and fears are is half the battle. At my mentor’s suggestion, I took the Myers-Briggs and DiSC personality tests. It was incredibly interesting to focus on the results and become more aware of what my weaknesses are and how I can become more effective in my relationships and at work.
So what are your fears? Do you even know what they are? I would say that for my friends mentioned above, their fear is all the same: failure. They are simply afraid to fail. But there really isn’t failure. With each relationship, situation or experience, you gain knowledge. When you gain knowledge, that is not failure. It makes you wiser to try something else. You know what not to do next time.
So if you have a fear of failure in relationships or other areas of your life, surround yourself with friends and loved ones who won’t bail when you fail at something. If you fail in one area, your support system will be there.
A girlfriend of mine keeps apologizing for being a bad friend while she goes through a hard spot in her life. But as her friend, I want to see her succeed and eventually she will. What she also forgets is that she was there for me during one of the hardest times of my life. She was there with a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen to me ad nauseam about my fears, my worries, my insecurities. She was there with a cup of my favorite hot tea to comfort me. Friends don’t mind if you fail. They help you get back up or stand beside you when part of your growth is to pick yourself up.
I challenge you to overcome your fears. Whether that is coming to terms with your weaknesses, or asking that girl out, you will never succeed unless you suck it up and go for it. Want a raise? Ask. Want something different in life? Make the change.
Life is now and I refuse to sit on the sidelines of my life waiting for something to happen. Good things sometimes fall into your lap, but they always come when you work for them. Good things come when you overcome your fear and go after what you want. I’m not implying you will be successful 100 percent of the time, but I would rather try and fail than sit in fear and wonder “what if.”
So this year, I’ll submit my work. I may fail, but that’s okay. If I get feedback, then I’ll know what to change and gain experience. This year, I’ll also work at not just loving others but acknowledging and accepting their shortcomings and mine. This year, I’ll work toward achieving my goals each day and not overcome my fears and weaknesses.
So much is made about “the one.” But how I define my perfect mate probably differs from your perfect mate. That’s part of what makes dating so exciting.
Most people (including me) start out defining what characteristics they want in their potential mate (tall, dark, thin, curvy, etc.). But in my short year and a half of reentering the dating world, I’ve discovered that I’m doing myself and my date a much better favor by defining what I want by looking for values.
After a long marriage, I can tell you that having similar values is much more important than what a person does, how much money they have or what a person looks like. This seems like a no-brainer, but how often do you hear someone physically describe their perfect mate? And, I’m just as guilty when a friend asks me what I’m looking for.
Do we even know what we’re looking for? I had a friend recently (so refreshingly honest) tell me he had no idea what he was looking for in a woman. I think to know what you want, you have to know who you are.
While I took a shotgun approach to dating, it was really an exercise in figuring out what I wanted and defining what matters to me. It’s been a time of reflection and definition for myself. Because I took the time to do that, it’s given me the opportunity to define how I want my life to look like, how I want to live, who I want in a partner and yes, what I truly value in life.
A book that I love is called “50 Things That Really Matter.” It’s a great peak into my value system and what I think is important in life. This is what I want to impart on my children and what I want from a partner.
“Big homes. Luxury cars. Diamond bracelets. Digital TVs. Exotic vacations. Extravagant trips to the spa… These aren’t the things that really matter in life. Not by a long shot. What matters most is the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them; the plain values that define us as good people; the emotional connections with friends and family that fill our souls with a sense of purpose.”
But, do I love those material things? Sure, I do. They make life more comfortable. But if I don’t have those connections in my everyday life, that big home, luxury car and all of the diamonds I can wear mean nothing. A luxury ski vacation doesn't mean a thing if you don’t want to be with the person with you.
In addition to those values, I am looking for someone with certain characteristics, someone who has similar interests. But those things are more “wants” than “must-haves.” Someone with similar values is a must-have. Someone tall, dark, silly, responsible, warm and genuine is certainly someone who would catch my eye, but he has to have similar values to keep my attention.
Another girlfriend suggested that there has to be a happy medium. I agree. I doubt I will find someone who checks every single box. But I do expect to find someone who shares my values and wants to live the same kind of life that I do.
So the next time you’re asked what you’re looking for, tell a friend about what values you want and you’ll more likely find the person who you’d really like to date instead of just someone who meets those physical characteristics. As my grandmother always said, “Beauty is only skin deep and we all grow old eventually.”
I'm single and loving it. Two kids and a busy job. Life is an adventure. Being single is liberating. Life is short, spread joy.