Back to School Family Fun

Well, school has arrived for just about all of us here in the USA.  For many families this means crazy schedules, grumpy mornings and boring homework.  So with summer just behind us, I thought we should talk about some fun things you can do as a family even though school has begun.

First, get outside.  The fall is a great time for outdoor activities because it’s not too hot.  It’s the perfect time to go on hikes and long bike rides as a family on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.  Fall is also a great time to visit a pumpkin patch or apple orchard and sample some of the flavors of the season.  If you’re up for something different, try roasting marshmallows outside one night before bed or grab some blankets and hot cider and check out some of the stars.

Second, take time off.  Being realistic with your schedule doesn’t mean you have to be bored or not involved, it means that you pick and choose the things you’re all involved in so there’s time for kids to be kids, relaxing, book reading, TV watching, healthy food, and even time for some unexpected opportunities.

Finally, try to make school fun.  Just about every parent has the ability to help your kids enjoy and better apply the lessons they’re learning in school.  Yes, there will be homework to do, but who said that the homework couldn’t be done in a specially created castle or bat cave?   Museums and projects don’t have to be boring, they just take a little creativity to make them interesting.  Best of all, if you are able to put some fun into school lessons on a regular basis, you can be honest with your kids when they do have a really boring or difficult assignment.

What about you?  What do you do to stay balanced and have fun during the school year?

Leadership for the Future

It’s the last Wednesday of August, and our last post dedicated to leadership.  Don’t worry, there’s lots more leadership talk in the next few months, and years too.  But to wrap this month’s discussion up I thought we should talk about what comes next.  We started the month off talking about acting, guiding and listening, and how important they are for leaders, and today I want to share a few thoughts about the heart and soul of leadership.

Leaders understand fears.  The best leaders are people who truly understand what’s going on in the world and in the lives of those they’re leading.  Leaders aren’t ignorant of the emotions people, including themselves, feel.  Often it’s what they do with those emotions that make them great leaders.

Leadership takes faith.  You can’t delegate tasks and responsibilities and truly be a leader without having faith and confidence in the people you’re working with and in what you’re working to improve.

Leaders understand that money does make the world go ’round, but that leadership is about more than money.  The bottom dollar may convince people about politicians, but that’s not what truly defines a great leader.

Leadership is passion.  If you’re not passionate about the people you’re leading and the cause you’re promoting, no one will listen to you for long.  Passion isn’t always grand and obvious, some of the strongest passions are hidden beneath calm surfaces.

Leaders share hope.  True leaders don’t share false senses of security or try to cover up the bad stuff with optimism.  Rather, they’re able to see a different perspective on the situation and find the possibilities and hope that lie tangled up in problems and challenges.

Leadership begins with you.  The biggest impact you can have on the future is by training the next generation of people to be better leaders than those you’re surrounded with.  Yes, we all need to be better leaders for today, but we have to learn how to better prepare the next generation to be more ready than we were and are.

What about you?  What are your thoughts, hopes and dreams for the future of leadership?

Summer Romance Spice

Did you know August is romance awareness month?  I didn’t until I was looking for things to write about this month.  I’ll be the first to agree that it’s hard to keep up the romance if you’ve got kids running around both your feet.  What I don’t agree with is that this reason gives you an immediate and easy out for not doing the whole romance thing.  While decades ago maybe people didn’t think and talk about romance as we do today, somehow they managed to keep their relationships together better than we do today.  There are probably tons of reasons for their success, but rather than looking back, today we’re looking forward; as in what can you do to fix your romance and get your relationship in gear again.

Start by admitting where you have been slacking in your relationship, and asking your partner what they wish you two spent more time doing.  This initial communication means that you know the romance hasn’t been up to the standards you wish it was.  Neither of you should worry about excuses, valid or not, just focus on what you want and what’s missing.  Then get some ideas going for ways to spice things up.

Try new things. I’m not suggesting that you go to risque clubs or do things that neither of you are comfortable with, but don’t always go to the same restaurant, watch the same shows or talk about the same things.  Dream a little together, work a little together, put some effort into pleasing each other.

Write letters.  No, you probably haven’t hand-written a letter in a really long time, but doing this can help you focus on your partner and show them how much they mean to you.  If your hand writing is terrible, you can just write little post-its they can find around the house, or send them a romantic email (to their personal account, not the company one :)).

Make time.  There’s nothing better than dedicating even 10 minutes each day to being with each other mentally and physically.  While 10 minutes doesn’t give you much time for romance, it does give you the time to refocus and remind each other of your love.  If you’ve got more than 10 minutes, all the better!

What do you do to keep the romance alive in your relationship?

Leadership Inspiration

This month we’re talking about leadership, and today I though I’d share some of the thoughts that other leaders have shared about leadership, people and doing it right with you.

“Leadership is action, not position.” Donald H. McGannon

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” Tom Peters

“I suppose that leadership at one time meant muscle; but today it means getting along with people.” Indira Gandhi

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Steve Jobs
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” John D. Rockefeller

“How we think shows through in how we act. Attitudes are mirrors of the mind. They reflect thinking.” David Joseph Schwartz

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” John C. Maxwell

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Warren G. Bennis

“No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.” Andrew Carnegie

What inspires you as a leader?

Just Julia

Today we’re celebrating two August birthdays, those of Julia Child and Mother Teresa.  These two women have made an impact on our world in ways we’ll always be grateful for and learning from.  Julia Child, as we’ll talk about here, taught us about life and family through her cooking.

Julia was best known for cooking but didn’t develop the passion until later in life.  As parents and those involved with children we always hope that they’ll find their path, but we don’t always appreciate the time that it takes to get there.  Julia tried several things, and did them well, but somehow cooking, a lesser appreciated skill for many today, was what spoke to her.  It’s easy to say she should have stuck with one of the other successful endeavors she worked in, but that would be denying her true passion and ability.

Julia began her career in the kitchen with a couple other women and a book they wrote to bring the french culinary recipes and styles to the American people.  Right from the start Julia understood that cooking, and life, is about bringing people together.  Yes, there will always be chefs and people who will do things in grand fashion, but let’s face it, not everyone in the world lives on the stage.

Julia believed in educating and entertaining. Somewhere along the line people started a rumor that true learning must be boring.  This isn’t the case for food or for life.  As a parent you do want your kids to appreciate the quiet moments, but you also want them to learn.  The best way for people to learn is for them to become engaged and excited in what they’re doing, and often entertainment does that.

One of the biggest things I learned from watching Julia Child while growing up was about her passion for life and food.  Life is always better when there’s passion and food involved.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the quiet moments, but when it comes to family food and heart are always first.

What are your thoughts on Julia Child as we celebrate her birthday?

Leaders Act

This month we’re talking about leadership.  It’s important to recognize the need in the world for great leaders, people who are sensitive to the needs of others and have a vision for the future.  Today we’re talking about one of the most important aspects of being a leader, taking action.  As a leader it’s important to not just proclaim a vision and listen to people, but to also follow through and lead the people in action.  Are there good leaders who just cast visions?  Yes, those leaders typically have a great team of people who act behind them.  But most leaders have to do some things to solidify the importance and commitment in the eyes and minds of their followers.

Most effective action must take place regarding a cause you are passionate about.  It’s easy to show up and look good but actions speak louder than words.  If you aren’t willing to get down and dirty for your cause you should rethink what you’re working on.

Your actions set the pace for the rest of your team and your followers.  If you appear to be careless or unenthusiastic about the cause, your followers won’t believe that it’s really important. Do you have to be on fire all the time?  No, but your actions and words should convey your passion for the cause.

Finally, leaders get involved.  If you’re serious about being a leader, not only will you be involved in your cause, but you’ll also show your support to other worthy people and events.  Recently Willow Creek hosted their annual Leadership Summit, an opportunity for people around the world to gather together and hear from some of the top world and business leaders about leadership and life today.  Leaders showed up to share their insights and support Bill Hybels and his team in their quest to raise up strong, healthy leaders.

What do your actions say about your leadership?

Creating with Chocolate Chips

August 4th is the day we celebrate the humble chocolate chip in the USA.  I don’t know too many kids (and people) who don’t like chocolate, and one of the most creative samples is the chocolate chip.  Today I’ve got some fun and family friendly recipes for you to try!

Cookies:

Essential chocolate chip

Dunkers

Cherry

Oatmeal flax

Hazlenut

Gluten free

Crunchy whole grain

Peanut butter and oatmeal

Orange

Cream cheese softies

Cakes and Pies:

Bread pudding

Nut and chocolate chip tart

Chocolate chip and banana

Flourless chocolate nut

Chocolate chip and walnut pie

Pecan pie

Chocolaty ricotta pie

Bars:

Mocha cheesecake

Pumpkin

Blondies with walnuts

Granola bars

Brownie rubble

Coconut

Caramel crisp

More Fun:

Pancakes

Mint ice cream

Zucchini bread

Muffins

Whole wheat muffins

Scones

Cupcakes

Meringues

Granola clusters

What are your favorite things to do with chocolate chips?  (Eating them out of the bag is OK too!)  Share your favorite fun ideas below.

http://www.bhg.com/recipe/tarts/nut-and-chocolate-chip-tart/

Leaders Guide

Today we’re on week 2 of our discussion on leadership.  Let’s start with a question: who are some of the best leaders you know, and why?  Depending on the time and situation, there could be many reasons for a leader being great, but one of them is because leaders help to bring motion where there previously was stagnancy, laziness, or confusion.  Leaders, both good and bad, help create a focus and direction for the organization they’re working with.  What helps leaders be positively effective to a company? I think Peter Drucker said it well:

“Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level.”

If you’re able to make good decisions, decisions that are in the best interests of the business either immediately or long term, you’re going in the right direction.  As a leader, it’s your job to create a great vision for a company and/or help the company fulfill their vision. Typically leaders don’t just set the vision, they help people attain the goals they’ve set and bring that vision for greater good to life.

If you’re not a decisive individual, or you have trouble making decisions in situations with others, you’ve got some work to do!  Good decisions are based on a combination of 3 things: knowledge, experience and intuition.  If you’re making decisions without one or more of those factors, you may not reach the vision or you may reach it but it won’t be the success it could have been if you used all 3 factors.

As a good leader you’re also setting the example for the people you’re working with on how to make good decisions.  It’s important to not just make decisions for people, but teach them how to make good decisions as well.

This week I encourage you to think about the decisions you’re making, and how you’re making them.  What are your thoughts on decision making?

Simple Organizing

This week is National Simplify Your Life week in the USA.  Today I’ve got some suggestions to help you busy families get and stay organized.

First, get rid of what’s in the way.  If you don’t think, even with a professional organizer or great storage system, you can get everything off the floors, you’ve got way too much stuff.  At this point it’s essential to get rid of some of the stuff you don’t use, won’t use or could buy again relatively cheaply if you had to.

Second, get a storage system.  It doesn’t have to be a super fancy thousands-of-dollars expense, but it should be strong, adaptable and sturdy enough to hold your belongings for years to come.  It should also be easy enough for your kids and partner to put stuff away when you’re too tired, or just because it’s their stuff.

Third, store what you want to keep. This is an important step.  Label your boxes and storage units, put just about away everything.  The only things that should be kept in easy reach or out are things you use on an almost daily basis.  These items shouldn’t be lying around but can be kept in baskets or other easy to access containers.

Fourth, repeat.  The point of simplifying your life by organizing it is so that your life can improve.  You can’t do all the organizing and just expect that it will stay beautiful, you have to repeat as necessary.  Is it as hard?  No, definitely not.  It is always easier cleaning up and putting things back in their homes than getting started.

What will you do to simplify your life this week?

Leaders Listen

Happy Wednesday and welcome to August!  Today we begin a new topic, as you may have guessed, and that topic is leadership!  It saddens me that so many people around the world assume that they can’t be leaders for one reason or another.  Simply, I believe anyone can be a leader.  We don’t all lead businesses, some of us lead kids and others lead animals, yet we all have a role to play.  Throughout the month we’ll be looking at leadership from different angles, and I hope to inspire you to be a great leader to those you choose to impact.

Today we’re going to start the conversation by talking about an essential aspect of leadership that is hard for most people: listening.  It’s super hard to sit and listen when people are saying things you don’t agree with or looking to you for guidance but talking too much for you to get a word in edgewise.  But as a leader it’s your job to listen for the important keys that these people tell you so that when you do have the chance to say something you’ll be able to speak directly to their core issues.  Often the solution is found in what people aren’t saying, and as a good listening leader you can catch those things.

How are you as a listener?  Is listening the first thing you do?  Do you listen to the whole of what people are saying or do you cut in when you should let them finish?  What do you struggle with most about listening?