Create a better future story by improving your interpersonal relationships

Many times through out my life, I have wanted better personal relationships with family and friends. At times, I have become very upset and frustrated with people near to me. This negative behavior doesn’t create more authentic and caring relationship with those I care most deeply about!

Recently, when upset and frustrated with someone near to me, I found myself guilty of finding fault with their attitude, or something they did or didn’t do, or something they said. Sometimes after getting very emotional or extremely sad and angry, I would replay their words and magnify the hurt in my mind. I would constantly believe the story (the lie) that was playing over and over again in my head. As the relational turmoil gained momentum, my mood would become more and more dismal. As my depressed feelings grew, my thoughts were dominated by more negativity as overgeneralization, “mental filter”, “all or nothing thinking”.

In overgeneralization, one arbitrarily concludes that one thing that happened to a person once will occur over and over again. The pain of rejection is generated almost entirely from overgeneralization. Or one uses a “Mental Filter” when one dwells on a negative detail in any situation and dwells on it exclusively, thus perceiving that the whole situation negatively. In “All-or-nothing thinking” one fears any type of mistake. This becomes basis for perfectionism resulting in seeing oneself as a complete loser. These are just a few of many possible distortions.

Often in extreme cases of emotional turmoil and frustration, I have turned to my friend and counselor, Jeff Teplin who shared with me that ruminating stories are usually distorted. He says all moods are created by our thoughts. He advises me to train myself to recognize the self-critical thoughts as they go through my mind. He also has referred me to a great book, Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns.

In this book, Burns shares some crucial steps. Whenever you are really upset, do the following.
1. Zero in on those negative thoughts and write them down.
2. Recognize cognitive distortions. Learn precisely how you are twisting things and blowing them out of proportion. (There are more than the three examples that I shared)
3. Remember your feelings result from the meaning you give to the event, not from the event itself.

Burns says, ” Every time you feel depressed about something, try to identify a corresponding negative thought you had just prior to and during the depression. Because these thoughts have actually created your bad mood, by learning to restructure them, you can change your mood.” My goal is to become better at this, identifying my negative thoughts. If I can do this, I can better control my moods and thus become a creator of better relationships. I will become more positive and will be spending less time dwelling on negativity and on my thought distortions. I am not there yet but I am creating better relationships with those closest to me as I self identify my negative distortions that I often play. Better relational future stories are worthy investments.

My walk in the woods has helped me clarify a way to improved relationships and thus to a better future story.

Building Future stories with Grandchildren

Vic and I continue our pursuit of an intentional life. One area of great importance is developing relationships with Grandchildren.
Having our 14 year old Granddaughter hiking with us on the AT trail, has been a great blessing and an opportunity to reflect on better practices to build better grandparent and grand child relationships.
Annica has been a great teacher, helping us to take life less seriously as making us laugh when she perches on limbs of tree like a leopard. Or when she talks about her wild hair as “lefty and righty”! Or when she asks Papa Choo Choo, “Is there absolutely anything she needs to do before getting into her sleeping bag for the night”. Or how she directs us to leap over rocks or tip toe quickly over rocks, or how to cross streams, she does so with such humor and again makes us laugh.
Her journey with us on the trail has given us time to share stories of historical significance. Things like what all our grandparents were like, what they did for a living and how they influenced us. Rich conversations that never happen in family gatherings with all the holiday festivities which is their usual time to visit.
On the flip side, she has shared stories about Focus Camp, their family vacations on Cape Cod, her special friendship with her cousin, Grace. She has shared how much she loves taking care of dogs in their family’s dog sitting service through as well as her love of homeschooling.
So as we have always prayed for meaningful relationships, this AT journey has been extra-ordinary in building a relationship with Annica. We have shared the importance of leading a purpose driven life and setting smart goals. We have heard about her new high school and her anxiety about beginning in a new school. We have had endless trail dialogs about setting goals and creating expectations for living. There is no substitute for quality time.
As we have reflected on creating better futures with our grandchildren, we developed some minimums that we deem important.
1. Share passions with your grandchildren and learn about theirs.
2. Follow minimum of one theme with each child.
3. Attend special events and memorialize if possible with pictures, cards, or Shutterfly type books.
4. Find time to reconnect in their routine. Make visits to their home, see their rooms, artwork, look at their school work. Let them teach you when possible. (Our grandchildren are iPhone experts and great teachers)
5. Send old fashioned letters with pictures.
6. Share reading a book.
7. Experience games, music, nature, fish, hike.
8. Keep it light, have fun, laugh often, smile, hug them often, and tell them how very special they are. They can’t hear this too much.
9. Have fun! Smile!
We know that building mutual significant relationships is our goal. We also know our ideas to building meaningful relationships will be dynamic and changing. Annica has taught us much. We would like your insights and ideas too. Please comment to this blog entry

Dreamers: Creators of a new future!

Doug and Priscilla Douma

Let me share with you some people along the Appalachian trail with a love of the trail and the folks who hike! These individuals have created new futures for themselves. They have seen a new course for their lives and have written new future stories.  A future story is a plan for ones life based on thoughtful thinking, setting smart goals, and implementing.
First, Hot Drinks (Pricilla Douma) and Bonzai (Doug Douma) have a passion for building relationships with hikers. Doug, an ordained Presbyterian minister and author is a pastor at local church at Barnardsville, NC near the Appalachia Trail at mile post #318 or Sam’s Gap.  He is working to acquire a building to create a Christian based Hostel where he and “Hot Drinks” can minister to thru-hikers around meals, coffee and introduce hikers to a better life building relationships with Christ and other people. They plan to call their Hostel SOLA (a Latin word that means a singularity with Christ).
Another example is Lumberjack Mack Spainhour and his wife Kelly who moved from North Carolina to Ceres, Virginia. Lumberjack Mack has hiked 2100 miles of the AT and fell in love with the people thru hiking this trail. With his wife Kelly who also has hiked parts of the AT, they searched and found a perfect spot to build a home with a Christian based Hostel attached. They not only have a beautiful setting and home cooked meals but Mack thoughtfully prays thanking God for food but also for hikers, for their safety, for the beauty of the mountains. All hikers have to sign an agreement that they won’t drink or use profanity while at their Hostel. Mack is present to show you his goats, chickens, juke box or just to talk. He has literature, bibles laying around and doesn’t push but wants to plant seeds of Christianity to hikers especially those in transition of which there are many.
There are many other examples of people along the AT who have created new future stories. Matt Hall, soon to be a Methodist minister who himself has been addicted to alcohol created a new future. Today he has been addiction free for 5 years. Soon he will be Southbound hiking the AT with a new future story of ministering to hikers with addiction issues.
Future stories create for individuals a new path for their lives. The people, I met not only had a dream, they also had a passion to help people build relationships with others and with God.

Lumberjack Mack

Abundant Life, When an ending is Just a beginning!

Today, Easter Sunday, represents a time when Mary Magdalene and Jesus’s disciples were mourning the death of Jesus only to find that he had risen and had brought new life to all Humanity. The life of Jesus living on earth as they knew it had ended but it was the beginning of our life never ending. Because of Jesus death and resurrection, all humanity can have life never ending, a new beginning.

For me, I am ending many things that have been a part of my life. I am not sure what my new beginnings will be.

We just sold our beloved Lake view Milwaukee condo (an ending) and are waiting to under stand our new life in Milwaukee. Are we going to get an apartment or live in a hotel when we are in Wisconsin?

We are selling our commercial property, Barnabas Business Center which I have devoted 20 years to managing and creating a community of tenants in a campus like setting along the Milwaukee River. We are expecting to sell this property very soon ending my career as a property manager. A void is being created and I am anticipating a new beginning.

Vic has merged Hunter Business Group into Apexx Group/Hunter Group. HBG has closed it’s doors and after 30 years is no longer in Glendale, WI. He is no longer operationally in charge. What was has ended and what Vic’s role is is going to be determined. He is going to be fostering new business prospects and encouraging younger employees into proven habits and teaching the processes he has mastered over the last 30 years on customer service and business growth.

The Hike along the AT is like a dividing line between what was and what will be. Vic and I are discussing options to create a new vision for how we want to spend next few years of our lives. We are not sure yet exactly what we are being “called” to do or what obstacles we are facing. We do know our priorities. Building relationships with family and friends is number one. I have a burning passion to continue working with Transformers finding more effective ways of truly helping those who are marginalized and struggling to make ends meet. Then it is creating a life of magic and fun at our Indiana farm to serve the community and our family and friends. And lastly, we both hope to take up something new as woodworking, music lessons, or better gardening.

Life as we have known it for the last 11 years is ending. The Hike on the AT creates a time and space to reflect and prayerfully create a new beginning. I am grateful for new beginnings in my life and I am especially grateful for the new beginning we have because of Jesus’s death and resurrection.