Losing focus on intent

 

I watched a Facts of Life episode the other day where Jo, a college student representing students at a school board meeting, was upset that the college didn’t have the funds to support new scholarships. At the same meeting, the chairperson of the board was thrilled to announce that an alumnus had just offered funds to build an expensive new scoreboard for the football stadium. All the attendees, except Jo, were excited to have the opportunity to purchase a new scoreboard. Meanwhile, most of them seemed quite indifferent to the lack of funds for new scholarship.

 

Scholarships First

 

Jo believed scholarships should be funded before a scoreboard, which she viewed as unnecessary. She could have requested that the school approach the alumus to request that the funds be directed to scholarships. However, she became focused on rejecting the scoreboard leading a campus-wide campaign to against it.

 

Under great political pressure and with the approval of the contributing alumnus, the school board chair proposed a compromise where the funds for the scoreboard would be split between a less expensive scoreboard and scholarships. Neither side would receive 100% of what they wanted, but they both would benefit. Jo, however, refused to compromise.

 

No Compromise

 

Jo had lost focus on the intention of getting scholarship funding. Instead, she was focused on refusing any new scoreboard at all. Her refusal to compromise forced the board to reject the donation entirely in order to retain other donations that had been threatened due to the controversy. As a result, the school would receive no new scoreboard and no additional scholarship money.

 

Jo was excited that she had been able to stop the scoreboard until Blair, Jo’s friend, pointed out to Jo that her perceived win was actually a loss. At that point, Jo realized her mistake. She also recognized that she had to apologize to the students who had put their faith in her to do the right thing for them. And, she had to grovel to the chairperson in hopes it wasn’t too late to accept the proposed compromise.

 

Lost Focus

 

Jo had become obsessed with the scoreboard, which really had nothing to do with her original intent. Such obsessions can happen to all of us. Our minds make associations between two things, but sometimes the associations don’t really exist or don’t exist in the manner that we perceive them.

 

The more obsessed we are with a particular outcome, the less likely we will be receptive to compromise. Sometimes we lose our ability to see clearly. This may lead to conflict that has no possible resolution. Therefore, becoming obsessed with something not really connected to your intent often results in nothing but stress and frustration.

 

Be Open To Alternatives

 

The next time you feel like there is one and only one solution take a break and rejuvenate yourself before coming back to the topic. Make sure you are open to hearing alternatives. One or more of these alternatives may result in a win-win for everyone, even if it means some compromise.

 

Civil War Era

 

 

In this series of posts, we are exploring what would happen if the world suddenly stopped and you were transported to another time in history. The previous article explored the WWII era. We will now transport to a time over 150 years ago to the days of civil unrest in what was a not-so-united country.

 

In recent years it has become clear that war is likely on the horizon. The situation, as you understand it, depends a lot on where you live. The North and the South each have their own perspective.

 

Perspective From The North

 

On March 21, 1861, just days before the Civil War would start, the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa stated, “The grand object to be attained is the preservation of the Union of these States. United in one common family, and bound together by strong fraternal feelings these States present a noble front to the world . . . We are threatened with destruction. Is it peace or war?”*

 

Perspective From The South

 

The South, however, didn’t have the same perspective. Days after the war started, the Montgomery Weekly Post wrote, “Seven sovereign States asserted their right to be free and independent – a right which no man or set of men dare to question; they erected for themselves a government adapted to their own interests and purposes. They interfered with no right of other countries or other sections. They respectfully solicited a peaceable settlement of all disputed questions with the Government of the United States; they have made every honorable effort that could be made to prevent the shedding of blood and the desolation that must ensue, and finally, after failing in all our efforts at negotiation, and all our endeavors to effect a peaceable solution of the difficulties, our authorities have courteously demanded the giving up of those positions upon our borders, held by the armed forces of the United States.”**

 

Choices

 

You have volunteered to fight for your state. However, it wasn’t really a choice that you made on the issues of slavery or states rights as much as it was standing for your land, your neighbor, and your state. Your connection and commitment starts at home and radiates out from there. The further away, the less connected you are to the people, beliefs, and land. You like your life and don’t have a desire to change.

 

The Border States

 

Like you, most people support the region where they live. Thus, although there are exceptions, most men in the North support the Union while most men in the South support the Confederacy. Only the Border States are in flux with people actually picking sides. It is here that they hear more about the views of both sides. And, it is here that the two sides collide.

 

For these men and their families, the choice is difficult. Their personal beliefs are a consideration. However, they are strongly connected to their neighbors and their families, who may have different perspectives. They are also connected to their town and state. However, their state has not picked sides. It remains with the Union, but also supports slavery. Thus, they know that they may end up fighting against their friends, family, and neighbors.

 

In Your World

 

Coming back to the present, the questions for you are: Are you strongly connected to your friends, family, city, state, and country? Do you get information on issues from multiple perspectives? Could you fight (even without taking up arms) against your friends and family?

 

In the next article “The Day The World Stopped – The Revolutionary War Era,” we will dive into life nearly 250 years ago.

*Quad-City Times, Davenport, Iowa, Mar 21, 1861, p.2, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/33965391/peace_or_war/

 

**Montgomery Weekly Post, Montgomery, Alabama, Apr 16, 1861, p. 7.
https://www.newspapers.com/clip/33966351/who_is_responsible_for_the_civil_war/

 

 

Social Media

 

 

Social media usage has risen dramatically over the last decade. In 2018, Pew Research stated that 68% of adults in the U.S. use Facebook. * A lower percentage of adult Americans use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat than Facebook. However, none of the platforms dips below 20% and the total numbers are quite significant although even considering overlap of usage between apps.

 

The reason for the rise in social media usage is a combination of general industry growth, desire to connect, business demands, and a desire for attention. The industry has grown as new platforms evolved – each with its own focus and its own attraction to various age groups and types of businesses.

 

Desire To Connect

 

The initial boom in social media – and what keeps it going – is the desire for people to connect. Although you can know what is happening around the world almost instantaneously, people are not as connected to those around them as they were 100 or even 50 years ago. Thus, people turn to social media to (re-)connect with their family and friends that are often spread around the world.

 

People also join groups of like-minded people to discuss issues that are relevant to them, such as, parenting, hiking, or genealogy. Thus, people connect with new people and often receive support for the challenges that they are facing in life.

 

Business

 

As these platforms have grown, businesses have turned to them as a way to connect to their clients. They utilize these platforms for advertising, event announcements, and client engagement. They have replaced some of the traditional marketing methods and are especially important in the coveted 18-49 market, as they are the highest users of social media. It has also allowed businesses to expand their client base in new ways.

 

Desire For Attention

 

For some people, however, the use of social media isn’t really to connect with anyone. It is simply to draw attention to themselves. They use it to dramatize their life or a life that they choose to portray. Often, they play on people’s emotions, gaining attention from people they don’t even know. One must assume that they are starved for attention in real life. Thus, they create a more exciting or dramatic life online by making sure that people notice them. As a result, they gain the attention that they desire.

 

Cause Disruption

 

Some of these attention seekers take it a step further. They purposefully attempt to anger people and create arguments. These trolls never provide real facts and are quick to make highly judgmental statements. If those don’t create enough rage, they will turn to name calling and personal attacks. These trolls gain attention for themselves, but the joy they get is in seeing other people angry. Nothing makes them go away quicker than a calm, logical response where you completely ignore their inflammatory statements.

 

As you can see, there are good, bad, and ugly aspects of social media. It is important to prop up the good. The rest is something that we all have to work together to overcome. Thus, the next time you see an inflammatory statement or post consider what is going to create a positive outcome. If we could make everything on social media positive for even one day, it could change the world!

 

 

*https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/

 

found now what

 

In the previous article “The Search,” I discussed the roller coaster ride of searching for birth parents. In this article that concludes the 3-part series, I will discuss connecting to birth families and the associated emotions.

 

Emotions All Around

 

When a person finally identifies their birth parent, they can be overcome with emotion. Emotions range from excitement to guilt to fear. Thus, taking that step to contact the birth parent (or even a half/full sibling) can be overwhelming.

 

It is impossible to know how the birth parent is going to react. Thoughts that people often have when contacting birth parents include: Will they accept me or reject me? Does their spouse/kids know about me? Are they a good person? What if they aren’t a good person? And, in the case of fathers . . . Does he even know about me?

 

All of these thoughts and concerns are valid. Some birth parents welcome their long lost children with open arms. These are the stories that keep people searching. The mother (and in some cases the father, too) that tells the person that they have been thinking about them every day and hoping they would find them often lead to amazing connections.

 

When Things Don’t Go Well

 

Other birth parents are not nearly as welcoming. They would like their “secret” to stay “secret.” In some of these cases there are extenuating circumstances and painful memories involved. Therefore, it is understandable. However, it is no easier on the person who is searching for their birth parent.

 

In many cases, however, these people have some image that they are trying to protect and have not told their spouse or children about the other child. In the worst of these cases, the biological parent threatens legal action against the person if they contact them or other family members. Although legal action may not be possible, clearly connections with the family are going to be limited.

 

In other cases, the people are simply being cautious. They are fearful of people taking advantage of them. Alternately, they are trying to protect their estate for their family.

 

Some of these people will come around. Other times, the parent’s other children are willing to build a relationship despite the parent’s concerns. However, these relationships are not the same as being fully included in the family.

 

Clueless

 

Of course, there are those that have no idea what the person is talking about. It is understandable for fathers that never knew about the pregnancy. However, it also includes mothers that claim to have zero memory of having a child. It also includes mothers and fathers that don’t claim to know each other despite what the DNA says.

 

In some of the cases, the parents stick to the story that the DNA is lying. It is hard to connect with them when they won’t acknowledge that you could even be their child. However, some of these cases, particularly fathers that never knew they fathered a child, eventually lead to strong connections.

 

Emotional Roller Coaster

 

Even when the birth parent(s) is found and starts to build a connection, the person should continue to expect a roller coaster of emotions. Some people report that they connect immediately. Meanwhile, others have a complete distaste for the biological parent. Even those that connect immediately and have a growing relationship often find that things don’t go as well after the honeymoon period.

 

Family drama is another emotional challenge for adoptees. It is rare to find a family without some drama and if there have been secrets, there is bound to be more!

 

Family connections are always interesting, especially when one or more people that are not their biological parents have raised a person.

 

the search

 

 

In the previous article “Family Connections,” I discussed some of the reactions when people learn that one or both of the parents that raised them are not their biological parent. In this article, I explore the connections and feelings that often arise during the search for a person’s birth parents.

 

Now, rare cases exist where the person takes a DNA test and immediately finds their birth family, everyone loves each other, and they live happily ever after. However, that isn’t the norm.

 

Expectations

 

A person shouldn’t expect anything other than a rollercoaster ride when looking for a birth parent.  Emotions will go high when the person sees a DNA match. Then, they will fall through the floor when the match does not respond to messages or hides all their information. This process may repeat several times.

 

Likewise, the person searching may contact a DNA match, who puts them in contact with other family members. Just when they start building a strong connection, someone else does a DNA test and it blows a hole in the theory of who the birth parent is. Now, they are left dangling.   They feel connected, but they aren’t connected the way that they think they are. In some cases, they may not be connected at all.

 

News of a mis-connection can be almost as emotional as learning that one or both of your parents are not your biological parents. This is especially true in cases where the new connections were supportive and welcoming, while the parents that raised the person are deceased or the relationship with them is strained.

 

The Process

 

The process can be lengthy and the result is not guaranteed.   It is very easy for people to become too excited, which often scares off DNA matches. It is equally as easy for people to become frustrated, lose interest, and just give up.

 

The best possible approach is a slow, steady approach where the person makes lots of connections. This allows emotions to be more even while allowing the person to build relationships with people that are related, if only distantly. Building connections with these people helps the person learn information that is useful in solving their parentage puzzle. Possibly, more importantly, these connections help the person to feel connected to family.

 

The final article in this series “Found, Now What?” will discuss the ability to connect with birth families and the associated emotions.

 

family connections

 

 

As a genealogist, I have become involved in helping people find their birth parents. It is always an interesting journey and although there are various common scenarios, each journey is unique.

 

The Reactions

 

Some people who have found out that one or both of their parents aren’t who they thought they were express no interest in identifying and meeting their biological parents. These people usually feel a strong connection with the parents that raised them. Often their perspective is that there is no need to find out who their biological parents are given that they will always consider the parents that raised them as mom and dad.

 

Other people report always feeling like they were adopted or never believing that their dad was their biological father. These people are not at all surprised when a DNA test reveals that their intuition was correct. Many of them report feeling disconnected or like something was missing in the relationship.

 

Other people fit somewhere in between these two perspectives. Some are surprised, but embrace the possibility of connecting with more family. These people still view their parents as their parents, but are open to learning more about themselves and their roots. Some people that fall into this category are people who grew up as only children. They are excited at the prospect of finding siblings.

 

Another reaction is to feel lost and/or angry. In these cases, people feel as if they no longer know who they are. For these people, learning that one or both parents who raised them are not their biological parents is devastating. It can take time and professional counseling to get through this very personal crisis.

 

Connected?

 

To me, it appears that some people sense the lack of connection all their lives. But, others want what is comfortable or desire a connection with the parents that raised them so much that they fear knowing about their biological parents. Yet others are comfortable with any and all connections. It is a very personal situation and is unique to that person.

 

If you are going through this, know that although your situation is unique, most likely there is someone out there that has been through something similar. Seek counseling if you are struggling. Also, know that there are groups of people that can help you find your birth parents if you so desire.

 

The next article in this series “The Search,” will dive into expectations when searching for your family.

 

instilling beliefs

 

Out It Goes

 

When I was young, our church had a minister that proclaimed that we must be wary of the devil’s work. He declared that we must eliminate certain items and beliefs from our households. One of those items was an Ouija board. This deeply concerned my mother given we had one of those boards. Because of this fear that he instilled in her, she took our Ouija board to the family farm and burned it. I believe there were other things or beliefs we had to purge from our home under the direction of this particular minister; however, the Ouija board is the one that sticks most in my memory. Maybe that is because I watched it go up in smoke!

 

It Is Everywhere

 

This is one example of someone influencing other people’s beliefs based on their own beliefs. Most of us regularly encounter people attempting to influence our beliefs. This behavior is very prevalent in newscasts, social media, and late night comedy. Of course, family, friends, and co-workers also regularly demonstrate this behavior.

 

People may consciously or unconsciously try to instill their beliefs in others. The stronger the connection that we have to the person; the more vulnerable we are to their beliefs influencing our own beliefs. Thus, it is not uncommon for our beliefs and values to shift based on the beliefs of those we trust. The resulting beliefs may or may not reflect our true beliefs.

 

True To Yourself

 

In order to prevent undue influence by others, it is important that we know our self and our true beliefs. By doing so, we can control our response to beliefs that differ from our own. When pressured to have a different belief, we can choose to remain silent realizing that the person has a right to their opinion. We can however, where appropriate, express a differing opinion in a caring manner. We do not have to accept the other person’s beliefs – no matter who they are or how powerful they are.

 

There are ways to check to see if someone is influencing you. If your emotions are stirred, for example, that can be a sign that someone is trying to use your emotions to instill their beliefs in you. Triggering fear and anger are common ways to make others vulnerable to influence.

 

You can also check to see how you view something now versus in your past. Has your belief changed? It is good to grow and change as long as the change was of your choosing. It is important to assess if you chose in your heart to change or if you allowed someone to “gift” you their belief.

 

Stand Firm

 

If someone tries to instill their beliefs in you, stand firm. Recognize their effort for what it is and know that you do not need to fall victim to their influence. You have the power to make your own decisions.

 

 

Memory Triggers

 

 

Have you ever saw, smelled, or heard something that triggered a memory from a long time ago? I watched a movie the other night that included a scene about a high school student losing her grandmother. It reminded me of losing my grandmother when I was thirteen. I recalled the day after my grandmother’s funeral when I returned to school. A friend asked where I was the day before. I told him that I had attended my grandmother’s funeral. He insisted I was lying.

 

I found it odd that a friend would think that I lied about losing my grandmother. This is when I realized that not all people my age had lost loved ones. They were likely blessed with having their parents as well as all four of their grandparents living.

 

Death Was Familiar To Me

 

It was different for me. My father’s mother, who had just passed, was the last of my living grandparents. Plus, I had already lost my father seven years earlier. So, death was a familiar experience for me. It seemed, however, it was unfamiliar to my friend.  

 

The Right Trigger

 

This seemingly benign incident has stuck with me for many years. All it took was the right trigger for me to remember it.

 

It’s not uncommon for us to remember something from the past that would otherwise be long forgotten when a current event provides the right stimulus. Sometimes recollection of a memory results in a simple reaction of recognition. However, many times these recollections bring up emotions – both positive and negative. Sometimes, these “forgotten” memories are the source behind a person’s current day issues.

 

It is fascinating how our minds hold onto memories from so long ago and how they unconsciously can affect us today. Even memories that don’t have significance on the surface can have a lasting impact on our well-being long into the future.

 

Responding To Memories

 

As you experience past memories that may spontaneous arise, recognize them. If they are pleasant, welcome them. If they are negative, give yourself permission to release any negative emotions associated with that memory. Releasing guilt, fear, and other negative emotions can be a great healing experience. Don’t forget to be thankful for the experience and to forgive all involved, including yourself.

 

 

meaningful relationships

 

 

Ever feel like you are living a song? I have been hearing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ frequently the last few years. When I began to notice the song, I assumed that my connection to the song was through the song title. I believed that I kept hearing this song as a way to encourage me down the path I’ve been traveling since leaving the corporate world.

 

Assumptions

 

Recently my wife questioned my assumption. She asked if the connection could be with the lyrics or meaning of the song. So, I looked at the lyrics and was surprised to find some interesting correlations with my life.

 

I’m just a city boy, born and raised in Omaha. I’m married to a small town girl. A couple years ago, we rode a midday train going anywhere (actually Georgetown, CO). We’re feeling like we’re living in a lonely world with everyone attached to their electronic devices and ignoring personal contact. And the associations go on, and on, and on. Okay, I’m sure you are now looking on the Internet for the lyrics. And, yes, I took liberties.

 

The point of this song is that we are all looking for meaningful relationships. This song suggests that the purpose in life is trying to fill an emotional void through personal connections. Sometimes we will find someone to fill that void and other times we continue with the search, going through relationship after relationship. This song encourages us to hold on to the feeling of hope that we will find the relationship that we seek.

 

Deeper Meaning

 

If I look beyond the song title, I think there is a deeper meaning for me. I interpret the search for meaningful relationships to be analogous to seeking out people I can help improve their lives. Some of these people are looking for their own meaningful relationships. Meanwhile, others are looking for ways to identify how to improve their lives.

 

On the flip side, some of those people are consciously or unconsciously seeking my assistance. When I am able to help them achieve improved clarity in their life or relief from ailments, I feel emotionally fulfilled. As such, the song both encourages me to continue and reminds me of the benefits of making such a connection.

 

The work I do is one way to help others. We all, however, have the ability to positively affect the lives of others. Sometimes it only takes a smile to establish a connection with someone. From there you never know where it may lead. Who knows, maybe there’s a meaningful relationship just waiting to begin with your next smile.

 

 

 

I have had cats and dogs at different times in my life. Like all cats, mine pretended that they were independent animals, but every so often you would see their true colors. For instance, they really don’t want you to be far away or ignore them. That is why they are always in the middle of anything you are doing. They just like it on their terms.

 

You Are Mine

 

When my sister-in-law and father-in-law were looking for a cat to adopt, they visited the local Humane Society. Many of the cats ignored them or were happy with them for a few minutes and then wandered away. Some of them clearly stated that they weren’t the right cat for them. However, there was one kitten that took up residence on my father-in-law’s lap and would not move. You could say that the kitten chose to adopt my father-in-law. She was making sure that no matter what, he wasn’t leaving the shelter without her. She had already created a bond with him before they got home.

 

Unlike cats, dogs have no restraint in showing their attachment to humans. In many cases, they are excited to meet any and all new people. However, they do bond strongest to particular people.

 

Dog Rules

 

Our dog Jaz is strongly bonded to my wife. When my wife leaves the house, our dog likes to lie by the front door or sit by the front window until she returns, which can be a challenge if she is gone for an extended period. Whether my wife is gone 10 minutes or 10 days, upon her return she is greeted by a very excited dog that demands immediate attention. My wife even has a furry little follower when she goes upstairs. The bond between them is obvious.

 

Jaz likes other family, friends, and clients. In her world, each person has a specific role or connection to her. For instance, she loves walks and any time I try to put my shoes on, she begins hovering over my feet. She is sure that means I will take her for a walk.

 

Similarly, she thinks clients are for petting her. Therefore, when we are getting ready for a client she begins watching at the front window in anticipation of their arrival. She is sad when the client meeting is via video because she doesn’t get the same interaction that she gets when they meet in person.

 

Connections

 

Pets and their humans have both physical and emotional connections. When people lose a pet, they go through grieving just like they would if they lost a family member. When a pet loses their human they also grieve. For example, when we lost my mother-in-law, the family’s dog would lay down and put his chin on the floor. You could see the sadness in his face. Somehow the dog knew my mother-in-law would not be returning home.

 

For some people, their connection to their pet is their strongest and maybe only connection they have with a living being. I’ve witness a few homeless people with their dogs. For these people, their relationship with their pet can be life saving. As their pets give them a reason to live.

 

Life Line!

 

Pets connect to people in ways that other people cannot. They are always there for us and there is no question about their devotion. They bring unconditional love into our lives and that is something very precious!