I want to hear you say it!

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There’s a reason why this image absolutely crushes me. It’s a short exchange between my daughter’s iPod and my iPhone. The twist? I wasn’t a part of this conversation. She texted me and when I didn’t respond in a timely manner she found my phone and responded to herself.

Anyone who knows me realizes that there are no deficits of “I love you’s” between me and my children, but there are moments when they need to hear it at precisely the right time. I went and whispered this in her ear while she was sleeping but what I wouldn’t give to have sent this at 8:01 PM. This was her way of saying that she wanted to hear from ME and I intend to let her know that I’ve heard her loud and clear.

All that being said, If my son ever catches wind of this he’ll start texting himself from my phone with things like, “Hey, more video games!” I’ll need to play this carefully.

TL;DR – Pay attention to the ones you love. Gauge their love tank and make sure to fill it regularly with things that are meaningful to them.


I Name Drop… and You Should Too!

Crystal - Jovi

I asked on Facebook, “How many degrees separate you from someone famous?”  The replies I got back were fascinating! I mean, we all know a guy who knows a guy… but I found out that I was friends with someone who gets her own climatic frame in Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive video… It’s all, “I’ve seen a million faces, and I ROCKED them ALL!” – BOOM, there she is!  How she ever made it through middle-school without an entourage following her wherever she went will forever leave my mind blown.  Other lovely bits included folks who were related to the guy that wrote Human Nature on MJ’s Thriller album, an Alec Balwin plane ride, a friend who was in an undocumented Honda commercial and a couple of private messages about Jay Leno connections (I’m amazed at how many of my friends have met Jay Leno.)

I’m not sure why it’s so exhilarating to find connections with famous people, but perhaps it’s because we all want to feel a part of something greater than ourselves.  What’s even *more* exhilarating is knowing that you’re a part of someone ELSE’S story.  Have you ever met someone and they responded with, “Hey, I’ve heard of YOU!  So and so was telling me about *insert trivial fact here*.”  It’s cathartic.  It’s like that moment in Guardians of the Galaxy:

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I try to make it a practice to name drop all the time.  My only problem is that I don’t know any famous people. I DO, however, know plenty of people who are just as worthy of mention.  Take time to boast about folks that NO ONE is talking about.  Talk about how much it lifted your spirits when Cara left a special note on your car window.  Talk about what a blessing it was when Nick covered your lunch when you were short on cash.  Call them out BY NAME.  It may or may not ever get back to them, but if it does, you’re one step closer to making them feel like they’re a part of something bigger.  There’s  a tapestry being woven… a greater story being told.  We’re all connected in at least a few ways and getting to be a part of that narrative is one of the highest honors I can imagine.

TL;DR – Speak openly of people’s good qualities and call them out by name. It strengthens them and encourages others.


Confession: We Would Bury Live Chickens

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When we were little, my cousin and I thought it would be a great idea to grow chickens. I mean, seriously, can you really ever have too many? I remember distinctly going to the fridge, grabbing a dozen eggs, and taking them to the back yard.  He dug the hole, I placed the eggs.   After covering them with dirt and realizing it was 40 degrees outside, we knew we’d need a way to keep them warm.  I remember thinking that my mom’s comforter was perfect for the job so I placed it over the dirt pile. After digging the eggs up every 90 seconds and shaking them to hear the baby chickens inside, we finally gave up due to inclement weather. This is a memory I’ll never forget.  Looking back, however, the true magic was my mom allowing this nonsense to happen.  We were poor… much too needy to throw food away.  In her patience, she poured out some extravagant love and allowed us this little science experiment knowing full well that we would fail.  Was she spoiling us?  Absolutely not.  She made a calculated investment into our lives, allowing us to feel the thrill of exploration.  Everything I know about extravagance comes from a mother who refused to stop giving.  It cost her a dozen eggs, but helped us create a memory that will never be forgotten… plus, if we had succeeded… More eggs!

TL;DR – Don’t be afraid to be wasteful with the ones you love. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” -Jim Elliot


The Loneliest Number

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All of us know someone who’s alone.  We all have a friend who is conditioned to ask for a table for one whenever they go out to catch lunch.  With the seasons changing, this feeling of isolation can be consuming.  The heart-ache associated with the memory of a parent or loss of a child is crippling.  Some of us wrestle with heroes who have let us down or friends who are no longer in the picture and the whole world seems to be upside down.  If you’re a person who feels like you have it somewhat together, start being intentional about being accessible to the silent and the brokenhearted.  Be present for someone, especially as we turn this corner into the upcoming holiday season.  It’s so easy to have the intention, but the follow-up can be life changing for someone else.  Please… notice someone this week.

If you happen to be the lonely one… the one who needs friendship right now… let someone know.   Don’t hint at it with vague status updates and out-of-the-blue blog sharing.  You might be surprised how many people need a friend like you, too.  Need a friend?  Please comment below.

TL;DR – Be a friend to someone.  You probably need each other just as much.


Turn Down For WHAT?

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

simple step #4 – You gotta learn to listen, Lou.

I’ve actually learned this life lesson on accident.  I used to work where my desk sat in a high-traffic area and it wasn’t uncommon for folks to say things to me as they walked by.  I was pretty used to it and didn’t make much of it.  Eventually, passerby’s would share more and more as I passively let them vent.  I never really gave advice… I would just listen, nod my head in agreement, show empathy and wish them well.  As time went on, people would go out of their way to come by to give me updates on their wins, their losses, their struggles, etc.  I’ve since moved to another building but have noticed that regardless of where you go, if you take the time to listen, people are inclined to share their stories with you.  Try it!  Try it for the next 30 days.  No matter what people are sharing with you, don’t change the subject and don’t talk about yourself or give any advice. Let any feedback you give be an indication that the person is being heard and understood. Let them know you are interested in what they are sharing. Of course, the goal is to cultivate a genuine appreciation for others and their lives.  The discipline it takes to not interrupt and to turn down the voices in your head will cause you to be a safe person to share with.

Being present and available to listen is one of the most important things you can do to be a strength to others.  That is why THIS simple step receives Tom’s Fancy Stamp of Approval:

Fancy Tom

TL;DR – When people share, show an interest. LISTEN to understand… not to prepare a statement.


Don’t You Know Who I AM?

A friend of mine once told me, “The most important thing to a person is their name.”

simple step #3:  Remember Who You’re Talking To

It’s one thing to remember a person’s call-sign… it’s another thing to distinguish who they are as an individual. People are inspired when you call them by their name because in that moment they feel that you’re able to distinguish who they are from all the others in the crowd.

Try adding this discipline to your life: Memorize a person’s name and at least one detail about their lives. Imagine how it would make your cashier feel when you show upon Christmas Eve thanking her for helping you check out on Thanksgiving. It would show her that she was noticed and that she was remembered. It might even open doors for further conversation if there aren’t any others in line behind you. Furthermore, the effort it would take you to slow down and notice details is just as rewarding. I guarantee it will cultivate a genuine appreciation for others that will have a rippling effect in your circle of influence.

TL;DR – Take time to notice people and to let them know that they were noticed.


I’m Not Ingoring You, You’re Just Not That Important

I’ve created a new category called “simplesteps.”  I’d challenge you to add these quick, easy-to-read,  1-step practices to your repertoire and watch how much it influences and impacts the world around you.

simple step #2:   My eyes are up here!

You’re in a crowded room.  An acquaintance you haven’t seen in a while makes their way towards you.  Smiles are exchanged as pleasant “How are YOU’s” are extended.  The person talking to you seems generally excited to fill you in on everything you’ve missed since you last saw them.  During the exchange, however, your eyes shift from looking at that person to looking over their shoulder to see who else is in the room.  Because, what if there’s a conversation to be had that might be more interesting, right? In one fell swoop, you’ve turned into that girl you wish you hadn’t started a conversation with at a party.

Don’t be a statistis.

One of the quickest ways to hurt a person is to give off the impression that there are other things you’d rather be doing than giving them your attention. When you talk to someone, look them in the eye and treat them like they’re the most important person on the planet. It goes a long way towards becoming a person of influence and helping others feel like they matter. You may never realize the ripples that two minutes of your full attention will have on your community and the people around you.

TL;DR – Treat everyone you come in contact with like they matter more than anyone else in the room.


6 Ways to Winning Your Children’s Complete Trust

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“One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. ‘Oh, no,’ I said, ‘Disneyland burned down.’ He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.” – Jack Handey

My children trust me. While the quote above is funny, it’s a prime example of what not to do as a responsible parent. It matters to me that when I say “don’t move,” they freeze instantly… not because it’s absolutely hilarious when they’re running mid-stride, but because it might save their lives one day when some car comes careening through a parking lot. It matters to me that my kids don’t have to be anxious or wonder if I’ll be on time when I tell them I’ll pick them up from school. Most importantly, it matters that when I discipline them they understand it’s because I love them more than life itself. My children are responsive to me because they trust me.

If you’re new to the whole parenting game, here are 3 Do’s and 3 Don’ts – Six simple things I do to win my children’s complete trust. Some are easy, some are difficult, but all are important!

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Things NOT to do:

1. Never make promises that you don’t intend to keep. Keeping promises are a matter of life and death to a child’s soul. Don’t ever assume they’re mature enough to understand why you had to change your mind. They may learn to adjust to the disappointment, but their ability to take you at your word will erode quickly. I know life happens and we will all eventually fail, but don’t let it be because you couldn’t be bothered or because convenience demanded it.

2. Never let them see you ignore wrong-doing. If you have multiple children, never ever let them see you allow injustice in your home. Parents, if little Suzy ever hits you or breaks something that doesn’t belong to her out of frustration, every sibling in the house is watching to see what happens next. If you choose to let it go unaddressed, those watching may have difficulties learning to expect you to defend them if they ever feel threatened or wronged.

3. Never speak negatively of the other parent. I can’t stress this one enough. For all intents and purposes, parents, you are your children’s foundation – their rock. Even if you are single, unless your ex is abusive or unhealthy to be around, don’t let the young ones hear you speak ill of their other parent. It may reflect more poorly on you than you realize. From a young age, your children are engineered to see you as one governing force rather than two separate people. Any weakness you expose in your mate could easily become a mark against parenthood in general.

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Things TO Do:

1. Apologize when you are wrong. Whenever I realize that I’ve been wrong, I confess it to them. Every. Single. Time. Treat them like an adult in that regard. It doesn’t weaken their opinion of you. It reinforces the understanding that you are self-correcting and a safe person to be around. Most of the time they won’t appear to even care that you made a mistake, but they’ll take note that you’re honest with them and that they matter enough to address it.

2. Listen to them, even if what they’re saying is trivial: This quote says it all, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” – Catherine M. Wallace

3. Most importantly, create boundaries and train your children to live within them. The fastest way to lose a child’s trust is to not establish your expectations and show them that you do it because you love them. Being indifferent to your kids’ behavior tends to communicate that you are indifferent to their safety. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that children long to be corrected and given boundaries. It inevitably gives them a sense of stability and freedom and they will learn to love instruction. Most of the time, children push boundaries not because they want more than they have, but because they need to know your reaction will be one that governs and protects rather than one that turns them over to lawlessness.

Let me know what you think in the comments below! Have you learned any techniques that could help others that are reading? Have you ever broken your children’s trust? How did it happen?

TL; DR – Be consistent, be just, be gentle, be humble, listen to them and always give your child safe boundaries to roam free in. Doing these things will establish a foundation of trust that won’t be easily shaken.


Confession: I don’t treat my kids fairly

I’m not kidding! From a young age, I’ve taught my children to not expect equal treatment at any given moment. I would intentionally go out of my way to get a small gift for one and not the other when I would come home at the end of the day. It might be the boy this time… or it might be the girl. It was an exercise I would practice in order to avoid unhealthy behavior in the future. I suppose I could have just shown them this image and avoided the potential scars just in case my plan backfired:

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The result? My children have learned to rejoice when good things happen to the other ones. It’s given me the freedom as a parent to plan a trip with my son for his birthday without my other children wondering things like, “Does daddy love me as much?” I get to take my daughter rollerskating this weekend without my son sulking in the corner. They know that I love them all equally and are able to lean into that truth without insecurity. They’ll never receive a gift or privilege and have to assume, “He only gave me this because he HAD to be fair.” Also, guess what happens the one time you literally aren’t ABLE to be fair. My children are content in my love and I couldn’t be prouder.

TL;DR – Don’t let your children associate LOVE with FAIRNESS. Love will be cheapened and fairness will eventually fail.


Judge Me By Size?

Remember back when it was cool to judge? I’m talkin’ 1950’s Leave it to Beaver judging! Back when you were unequivocally justified in shunning someone simply because they adorned a checked plaid patterned suit instead of a solid black or charcoal? (This really happened in the show. Thank you, Netflix.) Those were the good ole days… but they’re in the past for a reason. There are some of us, apparently, who are determined to see it make a comeback. Unfortunately for you, embracing this urge to judge is a surefire way to quickly escalate yourself to the Beav’s DAD status… which brings us to our first lesson:

simple step #1:   Quit having ill-informed opinions.

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I’m defining “judging” as “making an irresponsible assumption about the quality of one’s character.” Understand that everyone judges.  EVERYONE.  The goal is to recognize that we do it and to make a concerted effort not to.  It’s the ones who choose to persist in their judgement that are elevated to lame status which I think we can universally agree is a bad thing.   (Unless your name is Joseph Wapner.  He was always fair and highly informational …he gets a pass)

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Here are some examples of poor judgements:

Oh, he’s a person of faith?  The quality of his intellect must be deficient.

Oh, she doesn’t believe in God?  The quality of her ability to love must be deficient.

Oh, he’s Asian?  The quality of his ability to drive is suspect. (well… I… I’m gonna let that one slide.)

Oh this person is riddled with tattoos?  They need to grow up and get a job.  (good luck, having the tattoos and all)

Oh, she spends all of her extra income on make up and fashion?  The quality of her humility must be lacking.

Oh, this person isn’t like ME?  He is incapable of being a decent human being and probably has no feelings at all.

We should not weigh in on the quality on one’s character after having witnessed NONE-percent of who they are and how they live.  This is disingenuous because each of us has the very same fear… the fear of being misunderstood.  When you judge, you immediately cut off any pathway to understanding anyone around you. You make a statement that says, “I have already peaked and cannot be helped in any way by him or her.” You stiffen your posture in life and are incapable of evolving into a better person.

TL;DR –  Don’t be too quick to weigh in on someone’s character without watching their lives… you run the risk of irresponsibly hurting others and overestimating your own propriety.


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