The Greeting Game- How to stop playing it and meet people with honesty.

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Q: Hi, how are you?

A: I’m feeling a little bloated; I haven’t showered today so I guess I feel kinda dirty…

Oh, you didn’t want to know all of that? But you asked how I am…

We ask the question with the expectation of getting the socially acceptable answer of, “Good” or “I’m fine”. Never do we imagine someone would actually be honest with us, especially when we extend that greeting to strangers or acquaintances. So why even ask?

  1. I actually care. I know you well enough to sincerely want to know how you have been doing.
  2. It is an attempt at being friendly. I don’t really want to know, but I want you to know that I am a nice person, and hey, maybe if we get to know each other better, I will care.
  3. It’s part of the routine. I say “Hey, how are ya?” you say, “Doin’ all right.” and then we go our separate ways with the understanding that nothing more is supposed to come from the question.
  4. We need to fill space. Saying “Hi” just doesn’t feel like enough, especially if I would like to start a conversation.

Unless you know the person you are greeting fairly well, I think it is a combination of the last three options. It amounts to being uncomfortable and needing a filler (how are you?) to add something that will make the conversation seem less superficial. Unfortunately it causes the encounter to take on a disingenuous tone. The person you meet knows that you don’t really care how they truly are, that you are just playing your role in the greeting game. They will play their part as well and you both will have lied twice to each other in the first minute of the interaction.

What if we don’t lie anymore? The way I see it, we have two options. Either:

  1. Don’t ask, unless you want a truthful answer.
  2. Answer honestly and be prepared for shocked expressions, perhaps a slow back away, or *gasp* someone who understands you.

I am not proposing that you share the details, but instead of saying “I’m fine” maybe you could say what we all know “I’m fine” means. Some acceptable, not too creepy answers to “How are you?” are:

  • Well, I had to work late so I am tired.
  • My fish died this morning, so I am slightly upset.
  • My child picked up his toys without me having to ask, so things are on the up and up.
  • I’ve lost a few pounds recently so I’m feeling really good.

These are honest answers that are also great conversation starters. The goal is to not be too awkward while giving an answer that is both honest and capable of producing a follow up question or comment. Now, if the person you are speaking to doesn’t turn and run, then you have yourself a genuine conversation, and if things continue to go well, a possible new BFF.

Let’s focus on the other option for a minute. What would it be like if you didn’t ask, “How are you?” and instead, just said “Hi”. I see how this can leave things feeling a little stunted, so here are a few add ons:

  • I like your, _________________________________ (Fill in the blank, appropriately)
  • Beautiful day we’re having.
  • My name is___________________________. (A real classic add on)
  • How nice to meet you.

I challenge you to stop the greeting game and meet people with sincerity. Don’t ask if you don’t care and be truthful with your answers. It’s going to be weird, but it could also be really funny since most people won’t know what to do with an honest answer. Feel free to record their expressions and subsequent responses and post it to YouTube labeled, “You Asked For It.” Also, I would love to hear how this works out for you so come on back and share your experience. I really mean that by the way, it’s not just my way of signing off.

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The holidays are over! Now what?

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We did it! We made it through Christmas! We looked Christmas square in the eyes and said, “I will have fun and appreciate the reason for the season no matter how many egg nogs I drink, pounds I gain, sugar fueled fits my kid has, and hours I spend cooking.” It’s all over and for some it brings relief and normalcy, but for others including myself, it signals a crash of epic proportions. I like to call it the post Christmas grumps. Only days worth of sleep, weeks spent eating salad, and hours spent by ones self can make this mood even out. The weeks leading up to Christmas are often so jam packed with Christmas cheer (or craziness) that a steep drop in that cheer is inevitable once the purpose for it is over. This is what I think it looks like:

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Dec. 1st.- It’s ok to listen to Christmas music. The 25 days of Christmas movies begins. Shoppers smile and wish each other happy holidays.

Dec. 13th.- First of many parties. Watched Elf for the fifth time and it’s still really funny. So many cookies, not enough time.

Dec. 20th.- Presents are wrapped. Blood sugar is at it’s peak. Can still threaten kids with, “Santa’s watching”.

Dec. 24th.- Everyone is excited for Santa to come. Avoid all shopping centers unless you’re looking for a fight. Day drinking is okay, “because it’s Christmas”.

Dec. 25th.- Your kids tell you that you are the best parents ever. You are just happy that you don’t have to return anything. Last Christmas party. Mimosas are flowing.

Dec. 26th.- It feels like you got ran over by a reindeer. Egg nog and peppermint are coursing through your veins. It’s possible that you are getting a cold. You cringe each time you look at all of the decorations that will have to be taken down this week.

It makes sense why we act like sleep deprived toddlers doesn’t it? I love Christmas and everything that it means, but I’m exhausted and my pants are tight. So it’s time to get back on track and the sooner the better, not just after New Years. To get out of the post Christmas grumps let’s try the following:

  1. Vitamin D- Cloudy days=cranky pants.
  2. Exercise- I need to drag myself back to the gym and shed about 12 cookies and a double dose of pretzel jello.
  3. Eat more fruits and veggies- not chocolate covered or mixed in a dip.
  4. Quiet time- Turn off the Christmas music and movies, make a cup of tea, relax.
  5. Detox- Less alcohol, more water. (Less does not mean none! The kids are on break for goodness sake.)
  6. Get involved again- This can be in anything. In a book, a hobby, a club, a class (cooking, wine tasting, writing, etc.). Something that gets you motivated and will give you something to look forward to.

I wish you a safe, happy, healthy 2015, and all the best as you read a good book while running on a treadmill with a bottle of water which you will use to hydrate and wash down your vitamins and carrot sticks. It’s going to be a good year!

Cheers!

Jodi

A little something to get you started:

And a healthy recipe:

Caprese Quinoa Casserole

Prep time: 10 min.       Cook time: 30 min.            Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 16 oz. ground turkey
  • ½ sweet onion, diced
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 8 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • ¼ c. white wine (you can substitute chicken broth)
  • 2 c. cooked quinoa
  • ½ c. grated parmesan, divided
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced or cubed (use 2% milk cheese to lighten it up)
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • handful of basil leaves, sliced thin or minced (I used freeze-dried basil this time)

Instructions:

  1. If you don’t have leftover quinoa, cook ¾ c. dry quinoa with 1½ c. water according to package directions. Continue with the rest of the recipe while this cooks.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey, onion, salt, and red pepper flakes. Sauté and crumble meat until turkey is cooked through.
  1. Add garlic, spinach, and wine or broth. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Stir in cooked quinoa and ¼ c. parmesan. Reduce heat to medium and cook until heated through.
  1. Transfer quinoa mixture to prepared baking dish. Arrange slices or cubes of mozzarella over the top, and place tomato slices in an even layer over the cheese. Sprinkle basil over the tomatoes. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the tomatoes, and sprinkle remaining ¼ c. parmesan over the top.
  1. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and tomatoes are thoroughly cooked.

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“I have to tip how much?” A guide to holiday tipping.

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The holidays are upon us. Tis the season for displaying your hundreds of Christmas decorations, blasting holiday music in the car, and for wallets that grow thinner by the day. Speaking of wallets, it is also the season for extra tipping. “Say what?” you shout. I know, I know. I had to explain the concept of tipping to my son to which he replied, “Why can’t we just say thank you?” Ummmmmmm… Kinda sucks when your kid asks a really good question that has no reasonable answer. We should say thank you, but for a person that works in the service industry, nothing says thank you better than a few extra bucks. Why? For starters, they often don’t make a whole lot of money so tips make up for that. Tips also motivate the server to continue to do good work. This is just the reality of serving and although it is part of the job, it’s important because whatever the job is, the server is doing something for you that you otherwise could not or choose not to do, so we say thank you and throw down some cash. How much? Don’t freak out, but here are some “guidelines”.

$$$$$ Tips per Service $$$$$

  • Hairdresser: Normal- 20%, unless you get a bowl cut, in which case 10%

Holiday- The amount of the service provided.

  • Teacher: Normal- Nothing, your darling child is enough.

Holiday- A small gift ~$25

  • Mail Carrier: Normal- Keep your dog inside

Holiday- $20

  • House Cleaner: Normal- Nothing, but you could clean up after your kegger.

Holiday- Half of what you typically pay.

  • Lawn care company: Normal- Nothing, they actually owe you for breaking a sprinkler head.

Holiday- $20 per person

  • Restaurant server: Normal- 15% if the services sucks, 20-25% if it’s good

Holiday- 30-35%

  • Personal trainer: Normal- Nothing, just show up on time.

Holiday- The amount of one session.

Holiday tipping may seem a bit extreme considering what else you are spending money on at the moment. Soften the blow by considering it as a form of giving. Now you have a clean house and a clean conscience, stronger abs and a stronger sense of charity, a great haircut and a great feeling of generosity. It’s possible that you don’t have the extra money for those kinds of tips so before you let your hair grow out of control, let your muscles atrophy, or live in filth, remember, it’s also the acknowledgment of the service provided that is appreciated. Write a nice note thanking them for their hard work over the year, try to make their job easier (clean up your own dog poop, help pre-bus the table, clean the hair out of the shower drain, etc.), or let them know that money’s a bit tight so you will get them back at a better time.

The holidays are stressful enough so just do what you can for those who do for you. Meanwhile, turn up the Jingle Bell Rock, don’t forget to water the tree, and wrap 2 gifts a day so that you are done by Christmas Eve. Those are my tips to you!

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It’s almost turkey day! What are you thankful for?

It’s almost here!

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The food, the football, the family, and the art of afternoon napping that is as much of a tradition as the carving of the turkey. At the heart of it though, it’s a day that we are asked to reflect on all that we have and be thankful. I know, I know, we are supposed to put down the fork, look around and say “hey, I’m really lucky.” What are the chances of that happening? In my experience slim to none, and not because I’m ungrateful, but I am usually wrapped up in conversations, food, making sure my son isn’t taking a bite of something and then putting it back, more food, and then the all encompassing turkey coma that causes me to sit and stare at the wall for a while. Sound familiar?

Oddly enough it’s the days leading up to the holiday that remind me that:

  1. I have what I need and want, and
  2. With these resources, I can help others who don’t want, they need.

This is when I acknowledge my luck and so I find myself stuffing money into red buckets, compiling non-perishables into bags, and donating some of those unnecessary “wants”. This will happen until December 26th and then it stops. Not because the need isn’t there anymore, but because there is no longer an extrinsic push to help. “Well that’s crap”, you may say. I agree and I could give a hundred reasons why this happens, but those are crap too. So as I call myself out, I will also tell you what I will do about it. What I will do, and what I challenge you to do is: everyday, think of 4 things that you are thankful for, and every month, find at least 2 ways to help others in need. This is not on a Mother Theresa level, it’s realistic for most people and I’m sure I will still find it hard, especially since I won’t have the imminent turkey eating to remind me. Mmmmmm, turkey.

Here is my start. Today I am thankful for: my charismatic little boy, my patient husband, it’s 56 degrees outside!, and my faith.

If you need some help, fill in the blanks.

  1. I am most thankful for, _____________________________________________________.
  2. I am lucky to have, __________________________________________________________.
  3. Not many people have, _______________________________. I am grateful that I do.
  4. I appreciate, __________________________________________________________________.

If you need help finding 2 ways to help others:

  1. Listen for the tinkling bells. An angel did not just get its wings, a person needs some food and those people who brave the cold outside of many stores are there to remind us.
  2. Go to salvationarmyusa.org . They accept online donations or you can go to a local store to give clothing, furniture, household items, or if you are feeling really generous, your car.
  3. stjude.org has a link for ways to help or you can purchase an ornament from both Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs. They will send part of the proceeds to St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital.
  4. coats-for-kids.org has coat drives, or you can make either a one-time donation or a recurring donation.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Go Lions! (A person can wish for a holiday miracle right?)

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Take a break and laugh a little.

How often do you jump on the internet only to be completely annoyed by what you see? Social media is used as a sounding board for peoples opinions and although a few of these issues are important and warrant some attention, I guarantee I will not read about them if they are constantly shoved in my face every time I open Yahoo, Facebook or Twitter. I am normally not a head in the sand kind of person, but I’m at the point where I feel like I have to defend my emotional well being against these depressing articles that shine more of a spotlight on how crappy life can be. And then, right when I’ve had about enough I come across this little gem on Facebook:

IMG_4042  That cow is such a jerk right? Go ahead, laugh.

This photo gave me hope for what else the internet can offer us. What a simple, poignant and hilarious way to make light of a semi serious situation. This is exactly what I needed and it made me wonder if those other serious issues could be shaken up with a little humor. Okay, probably not, but what became clear to me is that humor gives us that much needed break from the heaviness of life that follows us around not just on the internet or TV, but in our daily experiences. With that being said, the goal of this post is to offer you a respite from what might be a case of the Moondays (Office Space reference if you didn’t already know). Warning: you may experience feelings of mirth which could result in laughter and loss of bladder control. Enjoy!

enhanced-buzz-19738-1386006274-6   slide_245781_1403173_free WHAT?!

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95de122fcfa126dc4321cca21c5c5ff7  Anyone else feel this one?

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5523c075a1c5ce191520167824043f44 Alright, Alright, Alright

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e071c55052d39069eae2fcdbce1d1cf3 Have a great day!!

If you need more laughs, log on to Pinterest and peruse the animal category.

An adult bully? It happens, but how can kids stand up for themselves?

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Before my son was born, I swore that I would instill in him the values that I believed to be important. Values such as kindness, empathy, integrity, altruism, respect, and the appreciation of a dance break-down. I told myself that I would teach him the importance of friendship and how to be nice to others regardless of their differences. So far, he is doing fairly well. I have to cut him some slack as he is 6, which entitles him to lack in certain areas such as modesty and honesty, but I must admit that he is a pretty thoughtful guy. This provides hope that he will not fall into the bully trap.

Up until roughly 15 years ago bullying was considered a rite of passage, something that helped kids “toughen up”. Then we experienced a series of horrific events that caused us to look deeper into the effects of ostracism and bullying. Now we have the anti-bully movement. This colossal push to end bullying has given youth the tools they need to advocate for themselves or for others in need of support. It’s given these kids websites such as www.standforthesilent.org, www.thebullyproject.com , and www.promoteprevent.org to help them connect to others who understand what they are going through. This is what these websites say to do if a child is being bullied: (stopbullying.gov)

  • Look at the kid bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the kid bullying you off guard.
  • If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.
  • Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Telling someone can help you feel less alone. They can help you make a plan to stop the bullying.
  • Stay away from places where bullying happens.
  • Stay near adults and other kids. Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around.

What I am not seeing is what do kids do when an adult is the one who is the bully.

We teach our kids at an early age to be respectful of their elders, and as adults or parents we vow to lead by example. Unfortunately both sides are subject to failure, however, when adults fail to uphold that promise, kids are profoundly impacted. An example of such a failure can be seen on a practice field or during a game. Coaches, berating and shaming their players in hopes of gaining better performance is so ass-backward, but a method used that is right up there with verbal and physical abuse. So how do we teach our kids to stand up for themselves, in a respectful way, to an adult who may be picking on them? Can a child tell his teacher to stop, or laugh at her when being picked on? I would actually love to see that, but I’m pretty sure it equals a fast pass to the principal’s office. Can a child walk away from her coach or will that get her thrown off the team? Will a kid trust a parent or another adult enough to talk about the issue considering that it’s his/her word against an adult’s word?

Thinking of my son being picked on makes my blood boil. I want to run to his side, throw him in a child-sized Baby Bjorn, and run off to a place where he can’t be hurt. Unfortunately that’s not an option, so I am left to try the following:

  1. Emphasize the importance of honesty.
  2. Keep an open dialogue about what happens at school.
  3. Let him know that adults are fallible and give examples of when I have failed.
  4. Attach a wire to his chest to pick up all conversations within 6 feet of him.
  5. Help him identify an adult at school he feels comfortable talking to if he needs help.
  6. Reinforce the value of acceptance so he realizes that everyone is important regardless of age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc.
  7. Practice the concept of killing them with kindness. I could do the same…

Again, because there isn’t a whole lot of information available to help kids understand what to do if confronted with an adult bully. I don’t have advice or guidelines that are based on research or backed by a child psychologist. This is what I would do if my son faced this situation. It’s a touchy situation, but worthy of attention. If you have thoughts or suggestions, please start a discussion. You never know who could use the help.

image credit: blahblah4

Is it possible to have a conversation without swearing?

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I don’t usually like to ruminate, but there is something that has been bothering me lately. There is a problem with the way people talk to each other. Let me give you an example of a conversation that I had no choice but to overhear while I waited to renew my license at the Sec. of State.

Two gentlemen were having a lively debate about sports, it went something like this:

Guy #1-“No man, that mother f*@&er can’t run worth sh*t.”

Guy #2- “What? You crazy, that ni#*% ran for 45 f*!@ing yards against…”

This went on for the full hour that I waited. Oh, and there were two children sitting near by.

I occasionally find myself throwing a few choice words into a sentence, especially after a couple of drinks, but I don’t know why. What do those words add to a conversation? I can only assume that they help to add emphasis to what someone is trying to say. If you like something then you would say, “Hey, that’s awesome”, but if you really like something then I guess you would say, “Hey, that’s f*@#ing awesome.” They also serve as a means of releasing anger or frustration. What are you most likely to say after stubbing your toe or watching Reggie Bush miss a pass? Yelling “Sh*t!” is much more cathartic than yelling, “Fudge!” suggesting that the words we choose to use are related to the level of anger we need to emit.

I’m all for adverbs, adjectives, and nouns, but the overuse of these particular words is making my ears bleed. I cringe every time I hear a radio personality swear and I am surprised I haven’t gotten whip lash looking to see if my son is paying attention each time a profanity laden TV commercial airs. Call me over protective, but I wouldn’t be too happy if my son described something as “damn good” because that’s what so and so said on 95.5 in the car on the way to school. Sure, it’s funny when kids, in their munchkin voices, swear, but it shouldn’t become part of their vocabulary. Oddly enough there are some people that feel otherwise. There have been two interviews recently where celebrities are boasting about their kids swearing. I realize that it happens and, again, it can be amusing, but is it possible to take a step back after the laughter dies down to see that exposing children to profanity can be harmful? A study done at Brigham Young University found that there is a strong correlation between exposure to profanity and aggressive behavior. This relationship was just about as significant as that of aggressive behavior and exposure to violence in the media and video games. Not so funny anymore, eh?

I understand that swearing is just part of our vocabulary, making up .3%-.7% of our overall speech (Jay, 2009). We have been swearing for centuries, but our daily use of those words has rendered us desensitized to them making what was once taboo now a regular way of communicating. What I find intriguing is that we don’t write how we talk. Imagine if this post contained all of the swear words one would most likely hear in a verbal conversation. That would be f*&$ing hard to read, right? If only we could talk the way we write. Yes, based on the amount of acronyms used in texts and emails we probably wouldn’t understand each other, but I would rather have the challenge of deciphering what is said than listen to someone spout profanity. Just sayin’.

Try going one day without swearing. If it’s hard, then you may have a problem. If it’s not a problem then you sir/madam are an aberration and I congratulate you, keep up the f%$@ing good work!

Jay, T. (2009). The utility and ubiquity of taboo words. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(2), 153-161.

Image credit: SodaHead