Sunday, September 14, 2014

Rediscover the Lost Art of Human Interaction


Being Kind Counts

Recently I signed up for a blogging challenge in which I took a pledge to be a Kindness Captain. Sounds like a fancy title, right? Well, we all have the ability to be Kindness Captains. What does it entail? It's easy. Be kind. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to animals. Just be kind. During this challenge, several bloggers were tasked to come up with a kind (do good) deed. There are endless ways we can all be kinder, even if it means that you start with yourself. 

Human Interaction

My first step as Kindness Captain is simple - have more human interaction. Let me ask you some questions. When was the last time you struck up a conversation with the stranger in line behind you? When was the last time you smiled or said "hi" to a stranger? Or when was the last time you actually looked someone in the eye?

These days it's easy to be removed from any real human contact. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogs. They are all ways we fool ourselves into thinking that we are actually connecting with people. Sure, it's very helpful to stay in contact with friends and family that live far away, but how has the easy act of grabbing your phone to text someone affected how you operate from day to day?

Speaking for myself, I started to notice that I was constantly looking at my phone. Checking facebook or instagram. Texting friends. I was missing out on the people that were right next to me, even if they were strangers. I was missing my opportunity to have a human interaction.

What happens when you make eye contact?

After I put the phone away, I began to make a point of making eye contact with strangers. Specifically, I started making eye contact and smiling at individuals I'd passed by every day, without the slightest of thought. Who are these individuals? They are standing on the corner asking for your help. They are walking the streets looking for their next place to sleep. They are in parks. They are on sidewalks. They are people just like us. People on a journey.

Over the years, I became jaded. When I was in high school, I remember giving someone that was asking for money, some food and they rejected it. A few years later, I gave someone change for gas and I saw them go buy cigarettes. This isn't the norm but it was what I started to think. So I eventually stopped looking at anyone asking for change or help, to avoid the awkward turn down. 

Now that I work in social service, I've started to see things differently. Yes, some individuals will not use the help you offer. Some will not use the money for what they say. But all of them could use a little kindness, even if it's just a smile and eye contact. We all want to be seen. Why not look at them? Why not smile at them? And if possible, say "hi". 

You never know where one small step will take you

A step forward is a step in the right direction. What if your smile changed someones mood? What if your "hi" made someone feel seen and worthy? What would be the harm? We have unlimited smiles available to us. They are free and guess what?! A smile at a stranger may even change your mood.

I challenge you!

Make an effort to have more human interaction. If it's too hard at first, just start with one day a week. Let's bring back the lost art of human interaction. To think, it only starts with a little eye contact and a smile. Why not start today?

Share your story of how you reconnected with the lost art of human interaction. Leave a comment below, or share on twitter (yes, I see the irony) with hashtags #BeingKindCounts and #TeamHumankind. 


Friday, September 12, 2014

Sprouting Up Brown: Camil Bok Gamma Gamma

You know that saying, "You can pick your friends. You can pick your spouse. But you can't pick your family"? True, right? But in this age when the divorce rate is 50%, sometimes your family is chosen for you. This is true for me and aren't I a lucky girl. See at the age of seven, I met someone that was going to be my companion for years to come - my stepsister, Marlene. Naturally, when two families blend, it can be an adjustment. So needless to say, we didn't start off as two peas in a pod. Yet over the years, we bonded and our sisterhood took form.

Many people, especially family, know us as The Camillas. It's quite a story of how that name came about so I'll just save that for another time. We were inseparable. When I was scared after watching a scary movie, she would sleep in my room to comfort me. When someone would say something about me behind my back, she would stand up for me. When an opportunity arose to get into trouble, we would somehow find it together. There is a long list of things we've done that has been locked away in the Camilla vault. But isn't that what sisters do? We share secrets. We are the ones that know each other best.

Back when we were teens, we started a little exclusive club, Camil Bok Gamma Gamma. In fact, it's so exclusive, we are the only two members. I imagine that's how it will always be. We shared our aspirations and mostly dreamed about the day we wouldn't be living under our parents' roof. Sorry Mom and Manny. Really, it was our time. It was a way to say this is just for you and me.

Now that we are older, living separately, our lives are pretty busy. Now matter how long it's been since I've seen her, we always pick up with fun and laughter.

At my 30th birthday party. Always laughing.
Who is your Camilla? That no matter how long you've been apart, you always find something to laugh about.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wake Up Wednesday, Volume 3

That time I let myself down

Over the years, I've said and done stuff that I wish I hadn't. I'm sure we all have had moments like that. Most recently, I had a moment that lasted a whole week. That's right. An entire week I acted in a way that I am now very disappointed with. I heard about some changes at work that scared the beejeez out of me and it didn't set well. This from the lady that is a change cheerleader. It took me awhile to recover. I spent the remaining week contemplating all my options and analyzing everything that was said or done afterwards.

 
 
I'm still not sure why I acted this way. I guess I just wasn't prepared. But that's life, right? Some things you just can't prepare for. While I feel like I've let myself down, I'm realizing that this was a great experience. And to be honest, nothing has even changed, so why the big freak out?
 

Now I'm finally at a point that is ready to embrace change. I've always been an advocate of change, so when I didn't act accordingly, I felt like a fraud. If I had it to do today, I feel confident that I'd handle it a way that now matches my believes.

How do you handle change?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mommy Mistakes Monday: Forgetting Daddy



I think I'm safe in saying that most women have a moment of feeling like they just don't cut it as a mom. In the four short years since I've been a mom, I've had numerous moments that made me feel like an inadequate mother. Recently, I had another moment that made me feel like an inadequate wife. After having Paloma, I struggled to find balance as a mom of two children. I stopped greeting The Boof when he came home from work. I stopped cooking dinner every week night and I stopped making an effort to look attractive. (Some days, I wouldn't even brush my hair after a shower.) Initially, I knew I could get away with this. After all, I had just carried a human in my belly for nine months.

Around the four month mark, when I went back to work, I stopped having any patience for him. I was tired and having a hard time adjusting to midnight feedings and 5AM alarm clocks. The Boof was a champ. Despite my crankiness and occasional meltdown, he remained patient. Until one Saturday afternoon, when he literally snapped. Now just to clarify. The Boof doesn't get mad. He doesn't get excited. In fact, he doesn't have any outward expression of emotion. (Unless it's exciting news about wrestling.)


That particular afternoon, Presley was asking me question after question. Paloma was crying and didn't want to take her bottle. All while The Boof was trying to tell me about a book he was reading. I was at my tipping point. "ENOUGH!" I yelled. Paloma stopped crying and both Presley and The Boof stood staring at me - stunned. He took Paloma away from me and laid her in her crib. He asked Presley to go to her room. Then once they were both out of earshot, he told me rather sternly to sit down. I was already in shock. The Boof never tells me what to do. He's extremely laid-back, nothing like myself. I won't go into every detail of our conversation but he pointed out to me something I had lost focus of - him. I had stopped looking at him as my husband and just saw him as another pair of hands.



Since that afternoon, I've made more of an effort to think of him. Not as someone who will help me get the girls ready in the morning, but as the man that won over my heart. The man that I CHOSE to have children with. While our relationship had evolved, I needed to learn that I can't see him as Daddy. If our relationship was going to survive, I needed to view him as my husband. 

We started carving out time for each other. And remember that book he was trying to tell me about? Well, he finally had a chance to tell me as we enjoyed a glass of wine after the girls went to bed one evening. It's not always easy, but we both realized that it sometimes takes effort. 



Friday, September 5, 2014

You'd be Amazed What a Clown Nose can do

A couple months ago I wrote a post about a leadership conference I attended. I mentioned that there was an all star lineup and already shared a portion of the powerful message from Mr. Dick Vitale. While Vitale is an engaging individual, the speaker that had to follow his speech was just as engaging - Christine Cashen. Her sense of humor and overall zest for life is intoxicating. Wow, that didn't sound creepy or anything, did it? She had a number of useful tips. In fact the focus of her speech was to "Stop Global Whining" and boy did that speak to me on a number of levels.

"Go Get Happy" Timeout

First and foremost, she mentioned that she sends her kids on "go get happy" timeouts. Moms, I'm sure you will appreciate this. I've since implemented this with my four year old, who has always had timeouts when she acts up. However, they never end happy. Presley will stand in the corner crying the entire time and if she's quiet, she's picking her nose and putting boogers on the wall. So after hearing Cashen speak, I decided I would use her method and told Presley the next time she was sent to the corner that she couldn't leave until she was happy. Now to clarify for those of you that may have questions about my parenting style, before sending Presley to the corner I always talk to her and explain what could have been done differently. Since she's four, her usual response is "okay." I have no idea if what I previously explained actually sticks.

This new timeout method gave me an opportunity to discuss happiness with Presley. Something that I wasn't entirely prepared for. I don't think she fully understands but I will say her timeouts have been ending in a smile lately.

When life gets tough, wear a clown nose

Cashen's next suggestion is a little unconventional and, as you may guess, includes a clown nose. Yes, that's right, a clown nose. Imagine pulling alongside a car and looking over to see the driver wearing a clown nose. Wouldn't it make you laugh? Or maybe smile? I'm sure it would change your mood. Now imagine how it elevates the mood of the person wearing the clown nose. People, it works! So what if you get a crazy look here and there. It's worth it! Added bonus: Presley thought I looked mighty funny, which is like finding gold, despite the fact she kept calling me "Mommy Reindeer." 


25 Solutions

Last but not least, Cashen suggested that we should all come up with 25 solutions when we are faced with a problem that triggers a little "global whining." Listen, I know this was a leadership conference geared towards professionals, but I can't help applying all of Cashen's tips and suggestions to parenting. It's not easy to come up with 25 solutions for some problems. Five solutions can be a stretch at times, but with Cashen's theory there is no judgement just come up with 25 solutions. It can lead to quite the creative solutions. 

Let's do a little experiment. Help me come up with 25 solutions for getting Presley to eat all of her lunch at school. I'll start:
1. Make a lunch that is visually exciting. Bento boxes, for example.

Leave your solution below in the comments and if you have a chance, try sporting a clown nose around town and see what happens.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wine Tasting in Solvang, California

Wine lovers and tourist alike, are drawn to the Danish community in Santa Barbara County called Solvang. Coming from the 101 (one of California's main highways) or down the 154, it's likely that you have passed a handful of wineries before reaching the three square miles of Dane delight. As a committed wine drinker, I've been to many of the surrounding wineries including some that gained fame from a little movie called Sideways. Yet, I always avoided the cheesiness of the windmills and Danish bakeries, thinking that the Danish facade was over compensating for wine that was perhaps not up to par to it's surrounding counterparts. Let me just admit this one time. I was wrong. 



As we crept into town, I found myself snapping away, enjoying the architecture I had previously judged so harshly. It was hard to admit but I found myself acting like a tourist in a town that was just 50 minutes from home.


Perhaps I should have checked the town calendar before planning our trip, because as it turns out, a slow creep into town isn't the norm. A car show was going on. It was a nice little addition, but it distracted us from our original plan. We were going to have a cheese, grape, and wine picnic in Solvang Park, a nice patch of grass that was now riddled with parked Thunderbirds. The car show didn't prove to be much of a snag. We were still able to visit three wine tasting rooms. By the time we got to the third one, The Boof was done. (He's not much of a drinker.)


The first wine tasting room we visited was Carivintas Winery. There was quite a buzz about a recent feature of their 2012 Merlot in Wine Enthusiast magazine. Apparently, the writer deemed the wine as a great pairing with hoisin sauce, which didn't sit well with the sommelier. The Merlot was on the tasting menu and it was delicious but too mild for my taste. At the end of our tasting, we decided to purchase their 2009 Barbera. I keep kicking myself for not purchasing more than one bottle. By the end of our trip, which included Avila Beach and Pismo Beach, the bottle was empty. Out of the three tasting rooms, Carivintas had a number of wines I would have loved to purchase. Only thing I would have changed was that there was definitely a local hangout going on, of which the sommelier seemed to favor.


Our second stop, Dascomb Cellars, was the most welcoming place we stopped at all day. There were two sommeliers running the room and both greeted us warmly. Their hospitality and wine education is exactly what I want and expect when I go wine tasting. As we tasted each varietal, they told us about the grapes and what food would pair well with it. My favorite varietal was their 2011 Meritage. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'd never had Meritage before. This particular varietal is governed by a Meritage Alliance, something I found to be rather interesting.

As we bid goodbye to Dascomb, it took us awhile before we settled on the last tasting room, Royal Oaks. It's on the main drag so I imagine it gets a lot of foot traffic. However, nothing about this place excited me. The sommelier was rather unfriendly. In fact, I caught her rolling her eyes at other patrons. Total turnoff. If that wasn't enough, the wine wasn't great either. We hightailed it out of there as fast as we could.


By the time we finished with the last tasting room, we were ready for some food. And what do you eat when you're in Dane land? Danish food, of course! We found A Bit O'Denmark on the way back to our car. When we walked in I had to fight the urge to turn around, the place has been around for awhile and obviously not been upgraded. Regardless of it's appearance, we settled on a light lunch. I had Roast Beef and The Boof had Danish Sausage. It was the perfect size and rather delicious. Perhaps, that's their angle - bring your expectations down with it's appearance and surprise you with it's food. To top it off, it wasn't that pricey either, about $25 for both of us.





After lunch, we HAD to get dessert at one of the local bakeries. (I think I saw well over five as we walked through town.) I opted for a cheese danish, which was more savory than I expected. The Boof go a strawberry and cheese danish, which was more sweet. In true Boofalo fashion, he offered me his once I voiced my dislike for my pick. But I just couldn't do that to him.


The trip was a great success and I'm glad I can say I've been to Solvang. I'm not entirely sure how often I'll visit but if I do, I know one thing for sure. I'll check the city's event calendar beforehand.


Have you been to Solvang? What was your favorite part?

Monday, September 1, 2014

September Goals


How many of you are ready for the holidays? It seems like once September hits, there is no looking back. Time to buckle down and finish any lingering projects.

Main Goal: Compete in the Humorous Speech Contest for Toastmasters

The thought of giving a speech is slowly starting to feel less overwhelming, but the thought of competing absolutely terrifies me. I am rather competitive in nature and expect to do well. However, as a new Toastmaster, I'm nowhere close to the level of the other competitors. I still turn beet red and can't seem to move past it. Yet, I know that if I'm ever going to get better, I have to challenge myself and operate outside of my comfort zone.

Main Goal: Makeover my Pantry

It's a mess and quite honestly, I have no idea what's in there. In a dream world, The Boof would make me pullout shelves. But like I said, that's a dream. I see beautiful pantries all over Pinterest and just ache to have one of my own. Everything has a place, is labeled, and is in a clear container. I'm pretty sure I could accomplish that.

Main Goal: Attend my First PTA Meeting

Yes, it's true. I yearn to be a PTA Mom. Not the crazy, type-A kind. I just want to be involved as much as I can. It feels like I'm starting school because all I'm worried about is if they will accept me and allow me to help. Who doesn't need help, right?

Main Goal: Start Making the Girls' Halloween Costumes

I figure this is the last year I can get away with dressing my girls in matching costumes without any input from them. So the pressure is on to make it a good one. I have something in mind. In case it doesn't go to plan, I'll leave you in suspense.

Main Goal: Cross Something off my Bucket List

I'm not sure what it will be yet. There is something that The Boof and I have been wanting to do for AWHILE, and it looks like September might be the month. Fingers crossed!

What do you have planned for September?