Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Shout out

When was the last time that you complimented someone on their actions or behavior rather than their appearance?
When was the last time you received a genuine compliment of this kind? How did it make you feel?
Explore this with me for a moment. We make and receive compliments all the time, but how often are they meaningful? 

Nice hair!
Cute dress.
Love those boots!
You look great today.
Wow, you have beautiful eyes

These are nice to get. Nice to give. They are easy. And rather meaningless. Think about what they emphasize... Something we all bemoan about our society. It's emphasis on appearance.  A compliment on your footwear? Really just says something about the complimenter.... She likes the same boots you like. A compliment about eye color? Something we have no control over! 

But, a genuine compliment about an action or behavior.... That can have lasting impact. 

I am sitting here thinking of the times I've been genuinely complimented on an action or behavior. I remember some of them so vividly, even from years past. But the memories are scarce.
Here's one: nursing school. ACK! It's awful, friends. Avoid it if you can. It's 2-4 years of curriculum that makes you doubt yourself in every way. But I had a gem of an experience with one instructor and I recall an incident during clinical one day. We were calculating medication doses or IV drip rates or some such and she asked me what dose I should give.  I was, somehow, able to answer her right away. She stopped and put her hand on my arm and told me she was so impressed because though it was not a difficult calculation, the ability to figure it out on the fly, in a stressful real life situation isn't quickly gained by nursing students. I was the only one to accomplish it that day. Now, if you know my math skills, you'll be as surprised by this story as I was. But it had such an impact on my confidence level! And clearly, I remember it many years later. 

Why don't we do more of this? 

I'm am challenging myself to look for opportunities to compliment people on their actions and behaviors. There are plenty of times I could. Times, like this morning when I was on the phone with "Rick" the computer support guy at the hospital. He was kind, patient, helpful and efficient. He remembered me from prior calls and didn't make me feel stupid or inferior. I was impressed. I thanked him for his help but failed to fairly compliment him for what was an unusually pleasant tech support experience.  So, belatedly, here's a shout out to Rick. Dude, you did your job so well, and I know I caught you just as you were leaving for lunch, but I appreciate your patience and your efficiency. 

Think of a time when you've been genuinely complimented for your work, or for your kindness, or for a particular skill that you have worked hard to perfect. Think how that compliment left you with a glowing feeling that lasted all day. Think about how formative these types of interactions could be if we made a point to catch people at their very best and let them know we noticed. 
Imagine the implications at work, 
or with your kids or partner.

So, I'm going to try. And I'd love it if you would try along with me. Let's notice the good and call it out. 

Thank you for reading to the end of this post!  Not everyone does, and I really appreciate you!  Now, take a moment and leave a comment.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Caving in Maquoketa

October days draw you into the outdoors

Maquoketa Caves State Park
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It was an overcast Sunday. Rob was home, a rare weekend off, and we had R and A, our favorite co-adventurers.  We headed out with a picnic lunch to do some hiking and low-key spelunking at the Maquoketa Caves. I need a day in the woods every so often.  It recharges my spirit like nothing else can.  These views, large and small scale, help to calm my mind, to bring my attention into the present. 

The state park, located just north of Maquoketa, Iowa is replete with limestone bluffs, beautiful rock formations, hiking trails and a fascinating collection of caves. Admission to the park is free.  They have park rangers available to give you a brief orientation to the park and educate you about "White Nose Syndrome" a disease which is fatal to bats that inhabit the caves.  So far, this disease has not made its way to the Maquoketa caves.
Dancehall cave.

The kiddos were in rare posing form, so I took full advantage.

Caving + water....oooh, I see cave-diving in your future, Rob!
Note the spider.

Intense focus. I'll let him lead.

Anyone who is this happy in such a tight spot should be a professional.

This is how much he loves me....there were spiders in those caves!

We made our expedition the second weekend of October. The park is closed over the winter and will re-open in the spring.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Maine and Rhode Island: in pictures

Sweet little cabin in the woods. Southport.
Hiking near Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
K. Ocean Drive. Newport, R.I.
Pemaquid Point lighthouse beacon.
Waterfire 2014. Providence. R.I. 
Sibling love in Bristol. R.I.
Family photo! Waterfire. 
Family photo. Ocean Drive. Newport. 
Persimmon! Reid State Park, Maine.
Living statue. Waterfire.
R. Crabbing.
R. Posing. Ocean Drive. R.I.
Not a postcard! Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Maine.
Must try the financiers! Portland, Maine.
Love family!

Daddy-daughter love. Bristol. R.I.
Daddy-daughter selfie!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Scuba life lessons

Dive Buddies through it all

When we have limited information to work with, we often have to make assumptions. Divers are especially prone to making dangerous assumptions about their dive buddy because communication underwater can be so limited. Part of good communication is being able to see a given situation from your partner's point of view.  If you can do this as a diver, your safety and the safety of your dive buddy will be improved.

The relationship you have with  your dive buddy may be one of the most important relationships ever: certainly it is while you are at depth.  If you are lucky, your travel partner is your dive buddy and you are evenly matched in skill and comfort level in the water.  Some lone travelers pair up with a stranger from the dive boat: but no one goes without a buddy. The buddy system is paramount to diving safety and is emphasized in every dive training program, and reiterated in the dive briefing before every dive.  Stay close to your buddy.  What is unspoken is the message to communicate with your buddy.  Staying close is no good if you are not watchful of each other, checking each others status and comfort and using body language and sign language to communicate needs, concerns or interests.

Rob has been my dive buddy from the beginning.  I admit, he gets the short end of the stick when it comes to pairing up with me under water.  He is a stronger swimmer, a more confident diver and uses his air much more efficiently than I do.  But, I keep an eye on him.  I check his gear before we enter the water.  I try to stay out of his way so I don't inadvertently kick off his mask.  I ask about his air level frequently, mostly to check it against my own as I deliberately slow my breaths and calm myself in the water to try to budget my air.  As a rule, we are conscientious of each other and we work hard to stay in close proximity and maintain good communication.

On our last trip, we had our first dive buddy fight.  Oh, it was bad.  We were both so angry, we had an actual yelling fight later that evening.  We had to go to our room and close the door so as not to embarrass his dad.

Conditions were ripe for a less than ideal diving experience: visibility was bad, only about 30 feet at it's best. And the current was strong. Our group was fairly large: ten divers and the dive master. When visibility is low, divers tend to stick closer together, so we were all feeling a bit crowed and getting agitated with each other.  It seemed like every time I turned around there was someone running into me or I was getting finned in the face. Rob had the GoPro and was hanging toward the back of the group getting video. I had deliberately swum ahead to stay out of his way and then chose to maintain a depth about ten feet above the group to stay out of the crowd and also to conserve air. On several occasions as I stopped and did a 360 turn to locate Rob, I couldn't see him.  I'd hover for a few moments, deliberating whether to swim back, against the current to try to find him and then he'd swim into view.  What was he doing back there?  I was getting angry at the way he was so obviously getting distracted with his camera and not staying with the group.  Anytime I tried to actually stop so he could catch up to me, I'd drift away....the current was pretty stiff.  At one point, he swam into view and then beckoned me to swim over to him: again, against the current.  I shook my head and motioned for him to swim to me.  I reasoned that it would be silly for me to go to him when he could more easily and with less energy/air consumption come my way just by drifting. He insisted, so I swam over, pissed off, assuming there was some pretty piece of coral he wanted to show me. But there wasn't.

As the dive ended and we began to ascend, we did our obligatory 15 foot safety stop, though we had not exceeded decompression limits.  Then I signaled and made the final ascent to the surface.  When I had surfaced and filled my BC, I looked around and Rob was nowhere in sight.  I put my head back under and could barely see him but couldn't tell what he was doing.  I knew he had plenty of air in his tank and because I was already angry at the way he had not observed good dive buddy behavior, I assumed he just wanted to keep diving.

So, we had it out later, when we got back to our villa.

"Thanks for being such a great dive buddy!"
"Yeah, you too. What was with you not staying with the group?"
"What? ME not staying with the group? What about you? I can't count the number of times you were out of sight.  Meanwhile I was in the MIDDLE of the pack!"

And so it went.  And we were both so certain that our interpretation of what had gone wrong was the correct interpretation.  I hadn't stayed close.  He'd been distracted with the GoPro.  Who was right?

Rob insisted he was with the group the entire time.  I insist that I was.  Truth is: we were probably both WITH the group, but we weren't with each other.  I put so much confidence in his diving ability, I never even considered that I was putting him at risk by swimming ahead to stay out of his way.  I made sure I stayed close to the dive master so I felt that I wasn't risking myself in doing this.  Rob feels certain the dive master communicated with him that he should make me stick closer with the group.  My take on that: the dive master was actually telling him that he should stick with me. 

After we both calmed down, we decided to turn the miserable dive into a learning experience.  The dive, though not deep or technical, had it's challenges: it was crowded, visibility was poor and there was current.  We added to those challenges by trying to get video with our new toy. We should have had a plan for how to incorporate the camera into our diving safely.  We both know that a diver can easily get distracted when diving with a camera, but we hadn't talked about it further than me saying, "You take the camera, I have enough to deal with on my own."

What we took home is a lesson applicable to life on the surface as well.  We each experience the world from our own viewpoint.  In order to understand each other, we need to broaden our vision: try to see the world through our partner's eyes.  When we insist that our version is the only valid interpretation of events, we miss out on the chance to really connect with other people. When we react to situations based only on our viewpoint, we miss the opportunity to help other people.  In diving and on dry land, we can live more peacefully, connect more fully with our partner and our dive buddy, and experience less anger if we can abandon our narrow-focus. 

Here's what I missed during that awful dive when I was so caught up in my own perspective: When we were surfacing and I assumed Rob had gone back down to continue the dive, he'd actually dropped the camera and had to go back down to retrieve it.  I made an assumption, fueled by my interpretation of everything that had happened previously during our dive, things that I had let anger me, and I assumed the very worst: that he was just abandoning me. What if he had needed my help?  I never even considered that.  We ended that dive not speaking to each other, but we learned a valuable lesson that will improve our communication as life partners and our safety on future dives.

Look at could we EVER argue?