Video Tip: Mental Prep for Christmas Week

“It’s just another day.”

Christmas Week is coming and for many, that means there’s a certain dread in the air. While we want to see our family, it’s maybe not the easiest thing to do. If you’re alone, you might feel like you’re missing out. Instead of letting all the magical tropes get you down, consider this: you can’t make others feel happy, you can only control how you feel and if you lower your expectations, you’re likely to get through it with your psyche intact. And most importantly, remember, with a few exceptions, most people don’t intend to make you miserable. With that, you just have to get through a few days and life will get back to normal.

[And special note: I started cracking up in the video because my darn hat kept wanting to fall off!]

How it works

What: Ease-up, relax, be mindful and watch what others are doing.

When: Grab this mindset when you feel like your anxiety is increasing or you find you want to dump mashed potatoes with gravy over someone’s head. Examples: 

  • When a reasonable question provokes the crap outta you. You don’t owe them an answer but they don’t mean harm, so simply change the subject. “Do I have a boyfriend, you’re so funny. What’s your golf handicap these days?”
  • When your mom (insert any family member here) humiliates you in front of someone. “Mom’s so funny. Don’t tell her I still wet the bed after too much wine.”
  • When you’re alone and convinced everyone else is having a magical time full of love, warmth, good food and presents. “That’s a damn myth, and today is just another day and I’m just where I’m supposed to be right now.” I don’t mean this to be condescending. Instead I mean accept you’re doing what you need to be doing for yourself right now. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Not during Christmas Week.

Benefit: You may have a less stressful, more delightful day based on your values rather than everyone else’s (including those imaginary values promoted by our culture).

If you use this tip – let me know how it works! Hit me up on social media or leave a comment here. And if you like this content, subscribe on YouTube and share with your friends. Thank you.

Video Tip: Managing Transitions with Ease

“Hey honey, it’s time to go.”

Transitions can be tough. When you approach someone who is wrapped-up in an activity and need them to change their behavior to accommodate your needs, it can often result in conflict. This little tip can make those requests go much more smoothly by setting expectations and engaging the person you want to influence in a meaningful way.

How it works

What: You need someone to stop what they are doing and do what you ask.

When: Use this when you want to manage a transition without drama. It might require some negotiation, but it will generally make transitions much less painful. Examples:

  • You want to leave a party and your partner isn’t quite ready yet.
  • You need the kids to stop playing and get in the car.
  • You want a co-worker or subordinate to stop what they are doing and focus on a new task.

Benefit: Instead of demanding someone change their behavior, you’re asking them to partner with you to decide the best time for the transition to occur. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your position; instead it encourages a conversation that more often results in a cooperative outcome without fighting or bad feelings.

Did you try this technique? How did it work? Hit me up on social media or leave a comment here. And if you like this content, subscribe on YouTube and share with your friends. Thank you.

Video Tip: A Simple Way to Ask for What You Need

“Here’s what I want you to do.”

Ever need to talk to someone hoping they’ll say just the right thing to make you feel better or heard? This is an easy way to have that happen. Humans are pretty bad mind-readers. With this technique, you help them deliver what will help you most.

How it works

What: You specifically tell someone how you want them to respond.

When: Use it when you’re feeling vulnerable and how another person responds will make the difference between you feeling better or worse. Examples:

  • When you have an idea and don’t want to have it shot down immediately.
  • When you’re upset and don’t need a solution, just a friendly ear.
  • When you have something hard to say and need to be heard.

Benefit: You should shift the experience. If you’re lucky, it will be a learning experience teaching the other person a new way to respond. At a minimum, you should feel much better about the interaction. This technique tends to slow down communication and make both participants more aware of how they manage their responses.

Did you try this technique? How did it work? Hit me up on social media or leave a comment here. And if you like this content, subscribe on YouTube and share with your friends. Thank you.

Video Tip: Stop Fighting by Asking One Simple Question

“What’s your idea?”

This is a great way to avoid fights while gaining insight into the motivation of the people you work or live with. It’s easy and incredibly productive.

How it works

What: This simple question, “What’s your idea?” can reveal motivation you didn’t anticipate.

When: Use it when you’d normally tell someone no, or not now, or to do something else. Examples: 

  • When a kid starts to get up from the table.
  • When an employee hesitates.
  • When a loved one resists your suggestion.

Benefit: What happens next might stop you in your tracks.Rather than default to controlling someone, ask them their intent. You may discover they have a good idea that you can support. This has prevented a lot of squabbles in my life.

If you use this tip – let me know how it works! Hit me up on social media or leave a comment here. And if you like this content, subscribe on YouTube and share with your friends. Thank you.

Someone Get Me a Xanax, It’s Finals Time

Look closely at that photo: On Friday she was barfing her guts out with the 24 hour flu; the bucket’s still there but now it appears papers are what’s been barfed out. What a way to study! 

I think the greatest testament to the first year of high school is the fact that I haven’t blogged about it since November 1st.

This year went by at times painfully slow and on whole, remarkably fast. Today is the first day of finals (first semester finals were a joke but that’s for another blog), so today is the first “real” final for biology. And I am a wreck.

I know it’s not about me. 

I don’t have to take the darn test. But the Herculean effort I have put in to helping this kid learn how to learn all year long is coming down to two days: today and tomorrow. And this morning’s breakfast is still a rock in my stomach until 12:20 when I see Katie to hand her her yearbook (that she forgot this morning) and look at her face to see if she survived – oh, and maybe got a passing grade (because seriously, I do NOT want to do this over again).

Oh there’s so much to share about freshman year and now that it’s coming to a close, I think I will have time to reflect, record and release (you knew I had to find another “r” word because school is all about the three “r’s” isn’t it?).

So for now, this blog will serve as my faux Xanax as I wait for word and get ready for tomorrow’s second mad dash to her math final (thankfully English isn’t having one – first time that horrible teacher has done something good!).

And then I will start a list of blog topics: How I Survived Her Freshman Year. 

UPDATE: I got an excited text from her that she got 100% on her lab book – her choice to focus on that last night was a good one – and she thought the final wasn’t that bad. She’s off the lunch with friends before sweating the math final tomorrow. Whew. One down, one to go!

Workshop at the Santa Cruz Resource Center for Nonviolence

Last Monday Katie started a week of Crunchy Camp – that was her nickname for the workshop she was attending at the Resource Center for Nonviolence called Exploring Your Social Justice Community.

She really enjoyed herself. It turns out it wasn’t a youth workshop (that’s on me, I misread the description) so she was with adults and college students. There was only one other high school student there. But that was okay. She said the other participants were great people; really interesting and different from the folks she runs into every day.

At the end of the week, there was an exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Modern Art (the MAH) featuring the collaboration projects they worked on during the week. The photos from the event are below. I was kind of surprised and a little impressed. They covered a range of topics and it was fun seeing photos of Katie and crew throughout the week’s events.

A pic of the gang during the workshop.

The good news is the workshop absolutely pushed her thinking. I got a kick out of hearing about her days and the things that happened that she didn’t expect or understand. Unbeknownst to her, I kept a little diary of her comments and observations and thought I would turn them into a quick list of things I learned by sending her to the workshop. I hope you enjoy!


Consensus can lead to missed opportunity.

Katie was stymied by how many times the group had to reach consensus to decide something. The one that really chapped her was the discussion about whether or not they should break early for lunch. As Katie noted, the joke was on them because after trying to reach consensus, the opportunity had passed.

Corollary: Pacifists need hierarchy.
Decisions need to be made, someone needs to be in charge and things need to get moving. Katie’s way more patient than I am about these things, so for her to notice and be bothered by it means it was “noticeable”. One thing about those fascists, I doubt there’s a lot of time wasted on who’s telling whom what to do!

Don’t ever tell your grandmother something shocking while at Whole Foods.
I really wish this was on video. While getting dinner at Whole Foods, with my mom, Katie says rather loudly, “I think I’m a Republican.” To which my mom gasps, then screams “WHAT?!” and nearly falls over. Right there in front of the pizza guy. It. Was. Priceless.

How can gender be unclear?
Katie is super close friends with a transgender boy (I even help them with their blog). They’ve been friends through their childhood and she was with him through transition. But on gender day, when the discussion turned to individuals who don’t identify with one gender or another, this stopped her in her tracks. “I get someone identifies male or female, but how can it be both?,” she asked. Clearly there’s more to be explored here.

Lettuce leaves aren’t salad.
The workshop provided lunch every day. Katie can do vegetarian pretty well (hey – way better than I can) but she ran into some more exotic foods than she’s ever seen around here (or on her travels for that matter). But the thing that really slayed her was the bowl of lettuce leaves at the Life Lab Garden at UCSC that was marketed as salad. “Leaves are not salad,” she stated emphatically. Duly noted.

 

Free first Friday at the Museum.
Things we can do as humans to create change.
Pic of Katie hanging from the tree.
Some thinking tree.
The pic and the pictured!
One of my soapbox issues: rape culture.
Assembled art piece.
Front of her collage.
Back of her collage.
I think this is from the gender discussion.
Slide show with more photos.
Not sure if I like this – she already questions authority.
Yep, that’s the group sign! Outside the exhibit room at MAH.

 

Undercover Boss as Homeschool Curriculum – This is good stuff! (Worksheet Included!)

We started watching Undercover Boss with the very first episode. I was intrigued that the CEO of Waste Management was willing to do a “reality’ show and I was interested in learning more about their business. I mean we see their trucks all around us – what made it tick?

Katie went along with me and we watched as he tried on different roles within his company and found both the achievers and the losers (don’t we all know who those people are) and had a chance to get back in touch with the many folks that help drive his stock price and generate all that revenue. I found it fascinating.

As usual, I paused the show frequently (to this day I don’t think Katie has EVER watched a whole show without me pausing it to add comment – poor kid) and pointed out things Katie might not notice – like salary, time clocks, working conditions, attitude, teamwork, etc. Things a young kid wouldn’t know to notice or appreciate. At the end of the damn show, I am in tears (it was so inspiring) and we could hardly wait for the next episode.*

So. How could I make this more of a “learning” opportunity?

And then it hit me. I have a friend who’s father stopped her brilliant plan to drop out of school and wait tables by making her do a spreadsheet. One of those “budgets” to see exactly what it takes to live on a waitress’ salary. She had been up in a comfortable home – didn’t really want for anything – so his plan worked. After learning it wasn’t so comfy living on the edge, she backed down and got focused (she’s eventually got to work with Clinton and Gore so that tells you his efforts weren’t misplaced!).

Let’s do a spreadsheet.

So I built an Excel file and we created five “profiles” that were single, 30 year olds who: had not finished high school; had a high school diploma; some college; graduated college;  and completed grad school.

Based on those profiles, Katie got to pick her job, her housing and what she wanted to spend money on. Some expenses were mandatory – groceries, utilities, rent, taxes and a car – but some were choices and we talked those through. Everything from choosing to buy health insurance to getting a pet to contributing to savings and retirement to donating to a charity. I have loaded a copy of the spreadsheet here if you want to play with it.

It was an eye-opening experience. The immediate effect was she no longer leaves the lights on. All my years of telling her to “get PG&E out of my pocket” never made sense until now. She didn’t realize we paid for a landline phone (in addition to a cell phone) or that the Internet cost money or that she had to pay for health insurance. She didn’t know pets were expensive, that you had to save for a rainy day, that apartment renting required deposits that you might not get back and that taxes were on income, not just sales. Holy cow.

So now, when we watch Undercover Boss, the show takes on an additional meaning. She really understands the opportunities and limitations of jobs. And while she’s always been sure she was going to college, now she really understands why. And the opportunity it creates.

Home School POV: to use the spreadsheet, download it and then clear out the cells starting with housing. Then put your kid to work. Katie used Craigslist to shop for a place to live. We used our existing bills to estimate utilities. We also used the web for car payments. A few I helped her guess. We had a good discussion about charity and when it’s appropriate to take care of yourself first and when to start sharing. Have fun! Tell us how it goes! (Want more? There’s even a blog about the MBA lessons learned from the show.)

Note to TV Producers: Don’t be afraid to create curriculum to go with your television shows! There’s so much more that could be attached to programs like this that would help kids understand more about working, rules, unions, management, education, etc.

*The next episode was on Hooters and I began to get worried. I don’t have a lot of respect for the chain based on their marketing angle. But low and behold, the show actually embraced the controversy and dealt with it. Fascinating and right on!

Baby Borrowers: TV You Can Watch with the Family

Have you watched The Baby Borrowers yet?

I am not a big one for reality TV, I don’t even watch American Idol. But I had read about the impact this show had when it was done in the UK and I was anxious to see if American television would somehow mess it up.

Good news: I don’t think it did!

I am watching this show with my eight year old daughter and it has already made quite an impression. Okay, she’s clear I want to be a gramma but only if she has a great job, owns a home and is absolutely prepared to be a patient, involved parent. But after watching this show, I am not sure I will get any grandchildren.

It’s a simple premise: five teenage couples who think they are not only ready to play house, but also ready to have kids get to spend three days with a baby. Incredibly brave, generous families have volunteered their children (the kids are uber-supervised) to be the “test” babies for these teenage couples.

The teens have to shop for, bathe, feed, change and entertain their kidlets. One of the teens has to go work during the day while the other stays home. All of them are rapidly brought to their knees as they learn babies really don’t negotiate.

We have the show on TiVo and my poor child has yet to watch one episode without me pausing the show half a dozen times to “discuss” what’s really going on or to validate that it really is that hard. As the show goes on, the teens will get to spend time with toddlers, preteens, teens and then senior citizens. Imagine how overwhelming all this care-taking is on a self-absorbed teenager!

I believe you can watch episodes online and I highly recommend it.

If you have kids, it’s an interesting show to watch together. If you don’t have kids, this may help you make sure you stop by the drug store before your next date. If you get what I mean (wink, wink).