Image

Foods that heal me

I might be awaiting the results from the COVID-19 test I took on Thursday, 4/9/2020, but I’m not going to lay down and let this respiratory illness kick my butt. My husband, Bryan, helped cook our delicious Easter dinner, but I also want to share the meals I made this past week that have been helping me heal.

Easter Meal small plate April 12, 2020. LPC

I haven’t had much of an appetite today, but I made sure my family had a delicious Easter dinner. With the exception of the turnip greens and cabbage medley, these aren’t necessarily the foods that heal me, but cooking does help me feel better. And dinner was simple because I couldn’t do too much. I’m grateful Bryan stepped in to complete what I started. Ham, potato salad, turnip greens and cabbage, Mexican corn, and corn bread rounded out a delicious meal.

Chicken noodle soup April 2020. LPC

Chicken noodle soup does wonders for respiratory illnesses. I made this soup on Friday and this one BLEW my mind it was so good. It consists of my homemade chicken broth, roasted chicken, egg noodles(bought at an Asian Market), mushrooms, onions, celery, garlic, fennel, red pepper, jalepeno pepper, and spices including turmeric and ginger. Do I really need to tell you why this soup is so nutritious? If you don’t know, look up the amazing wonders of each of the ingredients I listed. I have a big bowl of leftovers to carry me through a few more days.

When you need a spoon and a fork for your soup, then you’ve done good. LPC
Triple berry yogurt parfait April 2020. LPC

Gut health is so important because it impacts so many other areas of health that you wouldn’t think are connected to your gut. I’m no nutritionist, but I’ve learned there are many benefits to probiotics. And plain, organic greek yogurt is my favorite food for probiotics. I defrosted about 1/4 cup of frozen mixed berries, added a dab of maple syrup, a packet of stevia, and topped with organic granola. This parfait certainly gave my immune system a boost.

Sausage, squash, spinach, and peppers medley April 2020. LPC

The nutritional benefits of powerhouse greens and fresh produce in general is almost endless. I strive to eat mostly plant based foods. I was craving spinach and remembered I still had some beautiful organic yellow squash to add. This dish also has red peppers which contain more Vitamin C than an orange, and onions, garlic, tomato paste, chicken broth, and spices. This could be eaten with rice, quinoa, grits, or with no side at all. It could also easily become a vegan dish by omitting the sausage, adding extra greens and/or squash, and using vegetable broth or water.

Mango orange green smoothie April 2020. LPC

Of course, I drink a daily green smoothie, but when I’m particularly under the weather, I load up on produce with high concentrations of Vitamin C. In this batch, which produced 3 mason jars of smoothies, I added 2 cups of dethawed mangos, frozen bananas, an orange, chia seeds, flax seeds, collagen powder, ginger, almond milk, and organic spinach. My appetite was low today, but sipping on this green smoothie in the morning ensured I was hydrated and getting some nutrition. Drinking out of my cute owl jar also made me feel better.🦉

Cod sauteed with spinach April 2020. LPC

My main two choices for hearty fish are cod and salmon. I buy them fresh in large packs at Costo, then I portion and freeze in ziplock bags. We were done cooking and eating our Easter meal around lunch time. For dinner, I ate half of the portion of cod pictured above. I needed a good source of protein and Omega 3s and this cod is packed with both.

Hydration (water and teas) and sleep are a couple of other areas I’m also focusing on. I might be sick, but I’m doing all I can to get better. I’m looking forward to feeling better really soon.

What are you cooking this week? What are your favorite healing foods?

Image

COVID-19 Chronicles: I took the test

I’ve had a nagging cough for about a week. The cough has been accompanied by aggressive heart palpitations. I’ve been teleworking at home, which means business as usual – meetings all day whether virtual or conference call. The cough has been such a pain, causing me to not finish my sentences without interruption.

I doubled down on the over the counter medicine. For a little while, I thought it was doing something. Then, it got to the point where the cough was interfering with my daily activities such as talking. People were asking me if I was ok. I could see and hear their concerns. My husband, Bryan, wanted me to take off work a couple of days, but I didn’t.

“It’s probably just allergies”, I said more than once to different people, knowing full well I was tested for allergies a few years ago and tests came back negative. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t be sensitive to certain pollens in the air, the doctor had said. It is spring time.

Last Monday, I was miserable, then Tuesday, barely a cough the whole day but my mid-section, all around, was sore. The cough persisted again on Wednesday, progressively getting worse as the day went on. I decided to end my work day early to get some rest. The over the counter medications helped me sleep at night, but the cough and heart palpitations returned with a vengeance on Thursday.

I assured a member of my team that I would likely call my doctor Friday morning if nothing changed. We said our goodbyes for the work day. But I knew nothing would change so I decided to see if I could schedule a doctor’s appointment online. I think everyone else’s concern increased my concern. I’m one of those people who prefer to tough it out, but I could admit it was time for something to be done.

On the online portal, my responses to the questions about my symptoms directed me to call the clinic. I spoke to an after hours nurse at about 6:30 pm or so. Again, I could barely finish my sentences. She trouble shooted some symptoms and said it sounded like I had a bad cold and not COVID-19, but my symptoms warranted a call with the triage nurse. The triage nurse asked me a series of questions. No, I didn’t think I had a fever, but I haven’t been able to check because the sleeves for our ear thermometer are on back order.

The triage nurse gave me the option of seeing a doctor via telemedicine that evening or waiting to see my primary care physician the next day. The pain in my chest, cough, and heart palpitations were becoming unbearable. I knew I had to see someone that evening. My telemedicine appointment was scheduled for 7:30 pm, 40 minutes from then. I could expect a call from another nurse before I met with the doctor. I texted my siblings so they could be aware.

A nurse called me at 7:15 pm, asking me more questions. She assured me the doctor would be calling in a few minutes and that he did. By the time I spoke to the doctor, I had already spoken to 3 nurses and explained my situation each time. He asked about a fever and posed more probing questions about the cough and heart palpitations. He indicated I probably didn’t have COVID-19. He put me on hold for a couple of minutes, came back, and said he would prescribe stronger medication for the cough and a ZPAC. He also said he wanted me to go to the clinic to get the COVID-19 test.

At that point, I decided not to panic and was relieved about getting stronger medications. The clinic was right around the corner and so was my pharmacy. My husband and I put our masks on….pictured and courtesy of my daughter who said she ordered 6 masks (for fashion she said…???) a few YEARS ago (I question her sense of time). I may circle back around to this in a different post. When I’m better, I plan to sew in an extra layer of fabric.

Eerily, there were barely any people out in the shopping center comprised of several businesses, including the clinic, restaurants, and a gym. I was able to walk right up and check in with the lady in full protective gear sitting outside of the clinic. A man was ahead me. We were both instructed to wait. I could wait in my car or outside. I elected to wait outside.

My state of mind was calm, yet I almost couldn’t believe with all that was happening, this COVID-19 would hit so close to home. I was waiting to take the test. I told myself this is a precaution since I have a cancer history. Three of the four people in my household are in the high risk category, including myself. It was still very surreal. The test was brief – a cotton swab swiped in each nostril. I heard the nurse say I should get a call within 24 hours, but I realized later I didn’t hear the rest of what she said about the notification.

Today is Saturday and I still haven’t received a call with the results. I’ve never once panicked. I really don’t think I have COVID-19, but I won’t know for sure until I get the results. I think my immunity has been down from a cold I had in February. I checked online to see how long it takes to receive COVID-19 test results and it showed 2 to 10 days. On my online chart, I could see the doctor diagnosed me with “bronchitis”. In the meantime, my cough hasn’t gotten any better, but I did start the prescription medications yesterday.

The light in all of this is that whether or not I have COVID-19, I will be okay. I’m grateful I was seen by a doctor so quickly. Taking the test was also quick and painless. In a situation like this, I’d rather doctors be over cautious than not. I’m also very thankful that I decided to get this nasty cough checked out and that I have quality health insurance because I know many people don’t.

I’ll keep you all posted on the results. Unfortunately, my husband has been feeling sick today too. I’ve been coughing a lot so it was bound to happen. He decided to sleep downstairs. I pray my kids won’t get sick. Today, I started wearing my bandana as a mask in the house. Although it’s difficult, I’m going to try to get some rest so I can get up to view our church’s Easter service online before my husband and I cook our Easter meal. I also plan to do some cleaning and more resting after that.

If you celebrate, how will you be spending Easter this year?

Image

Cooking in the midst of ‘shelter in place’

I was made for this pandemic. As a breast cancer survivor, I believe I’ve already faced the most horrific news anyone could bare. And I survived it along with treatment. As the bread winner in my household for a couple of years, I’ve been diligent about planning our grocery shopping and meals within a budget. We will survive this COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m not gonna lie: it is a little unnerving to see empty shelves at the grocery store. There’s certainly a new normal of buying what you can find. Grocery shopping is like a scavenger hunt now. The brand of flour I like is not on the shelf. In fact, there is no flour on the shelf, except at Costco. Items that you take for granted are gone. Lysol wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, hand sanitizer (I barely used the stuff) are the highest commodities right now. Of the items noted, last week I was only able to find paper towels.

Our Grocery Cart at Costco 3-31-2020. LPC

Our grocery shopping strategy was different for April. I decided to do most of my shopping at Costco having gotten a peak at the grocery store shelves in our neighborhood stores. Empty shelves is the theme. I have the storage capacity to stock up on freezer items and pantry staples, so I took advantage. We purchased extra food. I do this type of shopping every month, so it’s not new to me. I’m just thankful I can do it.

For those who follow my site, you know I mostly cook homemade meals. Our household budget doesn’t allow much room for eating out, so we’re not missing much with the restaurants being closed for dining. However, I’m sad for all of the people who have lost their jobs, especially those in the restaurant and hospitality industries. There are many people who have lost their jobs in other industries also.

Chicken salad on naan. LPC
Sunday dinner 4-5-2020: Chunky potato soup and chicken salad. LPC

In uncertain times like these, I hone into doing what brings me joy such as cooking. I love feeding my family. My son asked me last week to make chicken salad. He actually wanted me to buy canned chicken. I was like, “NOOOO!!! Are you kidding me! I don’t make my chicken salad with canned chicken.”

Since I was craving a version of my potato soup with my homemade chicken broth, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I put a whole chicken in a large pot with water and added aromatics such as garlic, onion, parsley, celery, and spices. I let that boil for almost 24 hours. Then I removed the chicken from the pot, shredded it, and added the shredded chicken to a dressing of mayonnaise, chipotle mustard, pickled jalepenos, yellow bell pepper, diced celery, a dab of relish, and spices.

For the soup, I roasted 2 russet potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. In a stock pot, I sauteed onions, celery, fennel, yellow bell pepper, garlic, in olive oil. I sauteed about 2 tablespoons of flour in the mixture with a pad of butter. Then, I added my fresh chicken broth. I diced up the roasted vegetables and added them to the pot along with fresh parsley. I let that simmer a bit then added about a half cup of cream. I let it all simmer while I did some step aerobics.

Codfish sandwich and homemade french fries. LPC

My daughter’s school was providing free lunches to families a couple of weeks ago because school was out and they didn’t know what to do with the food. At that time, the schools were planning to reopen on 4/6/2020…so they thought. Although my daughter didn’t want to go because she doesn’t like their food, we made her go with us anyway. We explained that there is no shame in getting free food, especially since the school didn’t know what to do with the extra. We went about 2 days. There were other families too.

If you have no other options for food, I can see how this would be a valuable resource. My family ate the food both times that we went. However, we opted to not return. Other families need it more than we do and I’m conscientious of feeding my family more healthy options. I did greatly appreciate the fruit. The bun pictured on my fish sandwich is from one of the school meals. It took a matter of minutes to saute a small portion of cod to make that fish sandwich. It was so good!

In uncertain times such as these, I’m safe, surrounded by the people I love, and have endless options for cooking delicious and filling meals for my family. And I’m full…in more ways than one.

What do you plan on cooking this week? How are you coping?

Image

Bowls of self-care

We are living in strange times indeed. The COVID-19 pandemic is one for the history books. The silver lining is we’re being forced as a human race to collectively slow down, which I hope allows for lots of self-care.

My type of self-care is nourishing myself with nutritious foods. Three of the four people in my household are high risk if we somehow catch this virus. I’m focusing on our health.

The epitome of comfort in my book is a bowl of soup.  As I’ve written many times, the activity of cooking is soothing to me. On Friday, while teleworking, I made two nutritious and delicious soups: chicken tortilla and black bean. I let my homemade bone broth simmer for hours. My pantry and freezer staples helped me rise to the occassion.

Black bean soup. LPC

In these coming months, I hope you make time for self-care and whatever that means for you. I’ll continue to cook and share, hoping you get inspired by my recipes and even share some of your self-care ideas with me.

What steps are you making to care for yourself?

Image

COVID-19 Chronicles: Adventures in grocery shopping-new normal?

Plan. I planned it a week ago after my experience last weekend. Give the people one week to get the panic shopping out the way, don’t succumb to the panic, arrive at grocery store at the new opening hours (7:00 am) on Saturday morning, get one pack of toilet paper (one more pack will make me feel better), paper towels, a few other miscellaneous items, and then go home.

Preparation. On Saturday morning, I got up early and prepped my morning tonic of hot water, lemon, apple cider vinegar and honey. I threw on some warm exercise clothes because a cold front came through the day before. I grabbed my jacket, travel mug, and purse and headed out the door to my car. Randall’s, one of my favorite grocery stores, is about 5 minutes away from my home. I arrived to a full parking lot at 7:07 am. It was still slightly dark outside.

Observation. Randall’s had a lot of activity for what would otherwise be a quiet, Saturday morning. As I drove up at 7:07 am, I saw a few people already walking out of the store with toilet paper in tow. I was greeted by a mound of toilet paper towards the front of the store with a sign indicating “Limit 1”. There were also lists throughout the store with purchasing limits on certain products. Although there was a plentiful amount of toilet paper (generic brand) in the display, I decided to go to the paper product isle to see all of the available options.

Product availability. To my dismay, there wasn’t much left. Most of what was left was the “value corner” brand of toilet paper and paper towels. Most all other name brand products were gone. I’m making this point not because I’m one of those people who feel compelled to purchase name brands. I’ve had to stretch my grocery budget on one income for over two years, so I started buying more store brand products years ago. Randall’s doesn’t have the best deals on name brand paper products on a regular day, but I could see people didn’t care. People purchased most everything despite the costs. The store did not bother marking sales from the weekly sales ad either. I gratefully picked up two of the main items on my short list because there weren’t any a week ago.

Randall’s Paper Product Isle 3-14-2020

Shopping strategy. I had a short list because as I’ve shared with my readers before, I purchase 90-95% of my groceries and household items in the first few days of the month. My monthly grocery budget for my family of four is between $500 and $630 depending on if there are holidays and which bills I have to pay that month. I split the shopping between Costco, Randall’s, Trader Joes, and Sprouts (in order of amount spent at each store, highest to lowest). I had no reason to panic as it became clear COVID-19 was becoming a pandemic. Officials began telling people to purchase 2 weeks of extra supplies. I knew my family was fine since I had already shopped for the month and tend to keep a well stocked pantry.

Some products I purchased on my shopping trip for March 2020: tuna, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. LPC

Plan Execution. I actually started typing this post as I waited in the long, line that extended down an isle at Randall’s. This was my first experience of waiting in such a long line at this store. I had perused the isles to pick up a few other items on my list and could see the store was busier than normal. Some isles/shelves were bare or getting there: pasta, canned goods, dairy, eggs, meat, frozen foods, and cleaning products. The produce section was plentiful. In my grocery cart (cover photo), I purchased: Almond milk (lady was just restocking when I walked up), bananas, frozen spinach (for my smoothies), bleach, 2 boxes of Ritz crackers (on sale 1.49 each), a package of paper towels, a package of toilet paper, and a container of bleach. I felt accomplished.

Pandemonium. Upon initially learning about the corona virus, I didn’t believe that it would affect me at all. However, the news stories kept evolving and it was clearly getting closer to home. Despite posts from my facebook friends of the long lines at grocery stores, I remained calm and told myself I was not going to succumb to the panic. There’s also been a frenzy at work. I work for a large public health agency, so I couldn’t downplay what was happening anymore. My agency has since required a number of staff who can telework to do so. Schools have closed, universities are resorting to online courses, restaurants are barred from in-store dining, and gyms are closed, to name a few of the recent changes. People are losing their jobs.

High demand, limited supply. I will say, having experienced with my own eyes how people are shopping as if there will be nothing left tomorrow, is unsettling to say the least. Some grocers spoke on the news about how there is not a food shortage and they are doing everything they can to replenish items. Either people are purchasing the products so fast that they are all gone after 10 minutes of the store opening or grocers are not restocking the shelves at a pace necessary to keep up with the demand. Perhaps, it’s both. We attempted to go to Costco to pick up another 2 cases of water. The line was wrapped around the outside of the store. We also observed they were only letting a few people in at a time. It was so unsettling, we drove off and vowed to try again on Tuesday.

Think of your neighbor. My heart goes out to the people who are not able to purchase supplies, let alone extra, because of their finances. Some are not finding what they need, especially for their babies. For the people that are going overboard, I understand ensuring your family is covered, but what about leaving some for the next person, who could be your neighbor. I have to admit, after experiencing what I did yesterday, I wondered what it’s going to be like when I do my monthly grocery shopping for April. Will I be able to get what I need? Will arriving to the grocery store at opening hours and waiting in long lines for whatever products are available be our new normal for a while? I think what’s happening is a reflection of the U.S. masses not having faith in what they’re being told. At the onset, we were told this was a hoax, and now the whole nation is practically on lock down as the number of COVID-19 cases rises.

Light at the end of the tunnel. We haven’t hit the worst part yet, but I have a strong faith in God that we’ll get through this. We’ve been through so many other notable viruses and tragedies as a country, so I know we’ll get through this one. In many ways, I believe I was built for this. There are opportunities for everyone to slow down, reflect, recharge, reconnect, and start fresh. At the end of the day, the message we should all receive is preserving life is more important than all the other things. Let’s take the time to be grateful and look out for one another.

What have your experiences been with the COVID-19 pandemic? How do you plan to make the most use of social isolation? What lessons do you think you’ll get out of this experience?

Image

Make room for the sweet stuff

enlightenedsocialworker

It’s been 2 weeks since we welcomed our sweet babies, our new kittens, into our home. It couldn’t have come at a better time. My 15 year old son, Caleb, took one look at one (supposedly the more outgoing of the two) rolling around and said that kitten reminds him of a cannoli because of the contrast of the solid white on his tummy against the grayish stripes on the rest of his body. And just like that, my son proclaimed with a grin that he should be named Cannoli.  

I laughed because he is usually thinking food, but I kind of liked the name. So then my children and I agreed that their names should have a theme and since Cannoli is an Italian dessert, we’d find a French dessert name for the other.  After a quick google search, we landed on Beignet, which was PERFECT because my husband…

View original post 580 more words

Image

What makes my marriage work

enlightenedsocialworker

Next month, my husband, Bryan, and I will have been married for 21 years. We often marvel at how much time has passed and discuss how it doesn’t feel as long as it has been. I usually don’t talk about my marriage to others because I learned a long time ago that marriage is a sacred relationship between two people and you don’t want others in your business…family or otherwise, with the exception of a marriage counselor or pastor, if you so choose. I’m sharing some gems now because I believe that 21 years is no small feat, especially considering the high divorce rate.

One thing that makes my marriage to my husband work is that I fiercely protect it and I protect my husband. I remember years ago when I was dating someone, who was not Bryan, and he did a hurtful thing to me. I told my friends…

View original post 455 more words

Image

2020 Love

Mr. and Mrs. Carr 2-23-2020

Where is the time going? It’s already March! I’ve been busy CRUSHING my goals bit by bit. I’ve managed to stay so enthused about my goals because it feels great to put ideas to action. In January, I wrote about my healthy eating, fitness, and overall health goals. In February, I wrote about my financial goals of dumping debt and building wealth. For March, I’m going to focus my blog on my relationship goals.

What better way to start the month off than focusing on my relationship with my ROCK, my #1 SUPPORTER, the LOVE of my LIFE and my BEST friend, my husband, Bryan. We’ve been through UPS and DOWNS. Our marriage vows have been tested. Anyone who is married or has been married, knows that marriage is HARD WORK. You have to be deliberate and intentional.

We actually started making steps towards improving our relationship last month. Another Lifegroup is in the works through our church LifeAustin (https://life.family/). We’re in the same group as we were in the fall when we studied the Detours materials, which we’re happy about. The new study guide is appropriately named Love Talk. There’s a separate workbook for women and the men.

I’m looking forward to learning techniques to better communicate with Bryan. Something else that we’re participating in is individual counseling. Our lives have been particularly stressful the last few years mostly due to our health issues. We each have our own individual challenges that impact how we relate to each other, so we were both in agreement with exploring counseling. Attending to our individual needs in this way is self-care and will ultimately improve our relationship.

In later posts, I’ll write about how I’m approaching the other special relationships in my life such as with my children, friends, siblings, extended family, coworkers, etc. I’ll also share some of my healthy cooking because you know I’ve been cooking up some DELICIOUS FOOD!

How are you doing thus far with achieving your 2020 goals? What goals do you have set for March?

Love
Image

2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole

Hello world! On February 3, 2020, after a glorious January of drinking delicious green smoothies and crushing my health goals, I came down with a vicious, RELENTLESS COLD! I haven’t had a cold in like…YEARS. I honestly think I haven’t had a cold since some time before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. Let me tell you, I don’t want another one again!!! I believe I picked it up from someone at work and passed it on to my husband. The rest is history. It was terrible! I’m mostly better, but I’m not 100% yet.

Despite spending the first half of February fighting a cold, I’ve set other goals related to my finances. Check out a snapshot of my vision board in the cover photo. (Ignore the weird smile.) Have you ever made up your mind about something to the point where you became obsessed??? This is me right now. I can barely think of anything else.

I’m not quite sure what clicked in my head that’s caused me to become so laser focused and determined to get out of debt, but I’m glad to be here. I’ve been reading and watching videos on YouTube daily, and mostly all day on weekends, about personal finance, getting out of debt, and building wealth.

Lucrece’s Financial reading

I’ve been toying with Dave Ramsey for years. I even bought his daughter, Rachel Cruze’s book and audio of “Love Your Life Not Theirs” (not pictured). I’ve taken on some of Dave Ramsey’s principles, many of which are from the Bible, but haven’t fully committed. For example, I’ve been doing a zero based budget for years. In my budget binder, where I track our household expenses, I can see I’ve been using the budget worksheet from one of his books since at least 2007-2008. I also have a Financial Planner I’ve recently recovered and have notes in there from 2008 (when my handwriting was much neater). What I haven’t done is save for the emergency fund and start the debt snowball yet.

For the last few years, I’ve been living in some kind of alternate reality, as best as I can describe, because I haven’t put much thought into my financial goals. Sure, I do a budget every month and pay my bills, but I haven’t planned much beyond that. Retirement and insurance are automatically withdrawn from my check. My husband hasn’t worked for a couple of years due to his health issues, so my income is all that we’re working with for this period in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things working in our favor with regard to our finances such as my salary and I’m fairly organized. However, there’s much, MUCH more work to be done. My husband is on board now too. Call it mid-life CRISIS or perimenopause, but there’s a sense of urgency in getting this part of my life together that I’ve not had before. I’d like to build wealth for my family.

Like most Americans today, a large chunk of my debt is student loan debt. If I had to do it again, I would definitely do some things differently; however, I can’t go back in the past. I must move forward learning the light lessons along the way. I’m highly educated (my student loans are my receipt of this education) and am going to use the tools I already possess to reach my financial goals.

I’ve taken the time to total my debt, which I haven’t done in years and years. I think this is a sign I’m serious. I actually wrote down the numbers. The amount is mind boggling. However, I know if we (my husband and I) put our minds to it, we can dig ourselves out of this hole. You can too.

The best place to start is to: acknowledge there is a problem, decide to do something about it, decide on the best course of action, plan, and then put your plan to ACTION. Also, surround yourself with information and successful stories of people who have reached your same goals. And then often VISUALIZE yourself reaching your goal(s). IMAGINE what it feels like. How good does it feel to make that accomplishment?

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

What are your financial goals for 2020? How much progress have you made? Planning on getting a 2nd or 3rd job?

Image

2020 Communication-Can you hear me MEOW?

Let’s get clear about something in 2020. Effective communication is essential in sustaining fulfilling relationships. Yet, in communicating, it’s so easy to get wires crossed, misinterpret, make assumptions, jump to conclusions, ignore the facts, etc. I urge everyone to work on improving your communication in 2020. If you think you communicate superbly, you might want to consider further refining your skills.

What am I talking about? I’m glad you asked because as you know, communication takes several forms such verbal, nonverbal, and written. The communication styles I learned about in college as a social sciences student was assertive, passive, aggressive, and passive aggressive. (HINT: You want to be assertive.) There are many platforms of which to communicate (Ex., in person, phone, instant message, text, emails, audio, video calls, etc.) and the act of communicating can entail multiple simultaneous activities (Ex., listening, watching, speaking, processing, interpreting, etc.)

At my place of work, communication is a constant challenge because I work for a large bureaucratic agency. The volume of work is VAST. I’m flooded with emails on a daily basis. And here’s a NEWS FLASH!!! Emails are not the most effective mode of communication. Yet interestingly, many people think it is the best way to communicate. My opinion is that in person is the best way and all other modes can work to support in person communication, but not without extra effort.

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed communication problems with a member of my team. In these types of situations, as the leader, I assess where I can tighten up my communication style to ensure I’m communicating effectively. Be direct. Check. Give sufficient information – no more, no less. Check. Paraphrase what was said to ensure I understand. Check. Repeat. Check. Summarize. Check. However, despite my best efforts, communication continued to decline. We ended up having a meeting with a director to help mediate the situation. At the end of the day, it was a matter of communication styles and some other factors.

I love how my cats Beignet and Cannoli (pictured) communicate with the four humans in their house (us) and with each other. Beignet is the alpha cat of the two. He’s aggressive with his expression of love. He is constantly affirming his love for me by following me EVERY WHERE, giving me tail hugs, brushing up against my leg when I’m on the toilet, meowing for me to open the door after I purposely locked him out, winking at me when we lock eyes, laying on my chest in the early morning, sleeping on my shoes, and believe it or not, there are many more ways Beignet displays his love for me.

Cannoli does all the same things as Beignet, but to a much more tame degree. He barely meows. Yet, he will communicate he loves me by laying at the foot of the bed instead of on my chest, except for when I’m on the couch…he’ll lay on my lap. He’ll gently rub against me when passing by, but not always. He’ll give me a wink too if he feels like it. I don’t get quite as many physical expressions of love from Cannoli as Beignet, but that’s fine because they’re different cats, communicating the same thing. They love me. Message received.

When my kids were younger and we first got our cats as kittens, I taught them to “listen” to what the cats were trying to tell us by their actions. I especially had to remind my daughter, the younger of my two kids. Don’t keep trying to hold Cannoli when he’s squirming in your arms. Let him go. He’ll come back to you when he’s ready. Beignet is wagging his tail rapidly and his ears are pointed up, which probably means he’s agitated and may lash out at you. Don’t get in his face. Cannoli is rubbing up against you again, which probably means he wants you to pick him up. There are plenty of nonverbal cues our cats give to let us know what they want, but you have to be observant and discerning.

I wish communicating with other humans were as simple as communicating with pets. Despite all the tools at our disposal, communication can go haywire if you don’t pay attention. Each person is different, has different learning and communication styles, and motivations. People can use all the tools thinking communication will be better, but not necessarily. It takes effort and intentionality. Beignet demonstrates his love using all of his tools and because I’ve received his message, I reciprocate. You have to be intentional about communicating. I’ll do a later post on communicating with your loved ones.

So I encourage you to evaluate how you may need to improve your communication style in 2020. There is always room for improvement.

What’s your communication style? What areas do you need to improve upon?