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Take a Compliment!

Take a Compliment!


Does receiving a compliment make you squirm or cringe? Yeah, me too. And I’m sure the rest of the world agrees with us. 

But, what if we said a simple, “thanks” and then stowed those kind observations away to examine later when we were alone?

Can you remember a recent compliment someone gave you? Maybe it was that you were funny, that you showed initiative, that you hit a homer with that work project, that you looked sharp, whatever comes to mind. Now, take those words and imagine they are a marble. Weird, right?

Now find a quiet place where you are safe and alone. Pull out one of those word marbles and examine it. Hold it in your mind and try to find the grain of truth in it. And now, here’s the really tough part, sit with that truth until it doesn’t feel ill-fitting. Then, tomorrow or next week or next month when your confidence feels low, take out that marble and remind yourself of your strengths. 

Sounds strange, right? Let’s practice together.

If marbles aren’t your thing, try a gumboil approach!

The compliment: “You gave an amazing presentation.” 

The reaction: Squirm, cringe, blush, and a mumbled, “Oh, it went on too long…thanks, though.”

The marble: I gave an amazing presentation (which I know is the truth because that person has no incentive to lie to me AND I spent ten plus hours making that presentation…well…great!)

The quiet analysis: I worked hard and it showed. My hard work was acknowledged by someone I respect.

See? Not so painful. In fact, next time you start the prep for another challenge, that marble may give you the confidence to start strong.

Assume – Makes an @$$ Outta U & Me – or maybe just me

Assume – Makes an @$$ Outta U & Me – or maybe just me

I make way too many assumptions and they’re usually wrong. Here are just a few.

Assumption #1: That aggressive driver? Oh, yeah. My bad. That pushy tailgater riding my bumper? I’m quick to assume that I must’ve made them mad with my driving. Maybe I’m too slow or use my signal too liberally. But guess what? It seems that’s just the way these folks drive. I’ve watched them zoom past me and tailgate the next car, then the next. So the ugly truth is, it’s nothing personal.

Jenn's Bumper Sticker
A bumper sticker I designed after too many harried commuteshey pass me and…. the truth is…they drive like that all the time. Yep. Inevitably they zoom past just to hug the next car’s bumper. It’s nothing personal.

Assumption #2: Salad is the healthiest menu option. Truth – not always. Add lots of cheese and dressing and croutons and deep-fried chicken and you’re eating more carbs and fat on that salad than what’re in your average cheeseburger. Read the calorie count before you order. Otherwise you’ll unknowingly eat your way back into those fat jeans.  (Do any of you remember the Seinfeld episode where the friends got hooked on non-fat froyo and they all gained weight?)

yoga pantsAssumption #3: Now that I’m middle-aged, I need to dress a certain way. Hmm. Truth – Not according to this hilarious article via the Huffington Post. Well, I guess since my expiration date is looming, I can wear whatever the bleep I want. Carpe yoga pants!

Assumption #4: I can do everything myself. Ha. Hee hee hee. What a load of bologna. Asking for help is my Achilles heel (I almost typed Achilles hell – Freudian), but I need to ask. Everything I do is better when I invite others into the process. Everything. Whether it’s planning a fundraiser, doing an art project, or writing a novel, other hands and eyes make my efforts shine. When I try to tackle stuff all by my lonesome, I end up stressed, frayed at the ends and bitter like unsweetened chocolate.

A photograph, taken and colorized by my father, Gary Riley in the early 70s
A photograph, taken and colorized by my father, Gary Riley in the early 70s

Assumption #5: I’ll be around for my next birthday. It’s something I try to control with exercise and diet, but the truth is, there is a large amount of variability in life. Any given day could be my last. That thought doesn’t depress me, in fact it helps me to live mindfully. I say my peace in real time. I let go of hurts. I hug my kids (often against their will) and I smile at my husband, letting him know that as hectic as the pace of our life is, we’re in this together. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

So, this week, I’m going to try to assume less. I’m going to give the world the benefit of the doubt and try to make that my new habit. <3

Writing My Reality: The Diversity in Four Rubbings

Writing My Reality: The Diversity in Four Rubbings

big heart
A cultural collage by Jennifer L. Hotes

Okay, readers. I’m going to let you in on a little secret about literature. Despite what the fine print on the first page of every novel states, we authors write our reality. The lawyers insist that we say, “All characters and details are fictional. Any resemblance to real life is coincidental.” Baloney.

The truth is, writers stand in the shadows of every social function and absorb the details of you, your manner of speaking, the details of your conversation (yawn!) and what you wear. We are the great secret stealers and eternal detail absorbers. Basically, we’re the Bounty paper towels of society.

Four Rubbings is no different. I have the legalese in the front of the book, but the characters I created are a quilt sewn from the fat quarters of my life and memories. So, when one angry reader criticized Four Rubbings for showing diversity in an unrealistic and overly idealized way, I balked. Okay, the truth is I had a fit. I barked at the computer, stormed around the house, and scared the cats and kids. But, a day or two later, I contemplated the criticism. Had I presented the world in an overly idealized way through my cast of characters?

Two of the four teens in the book come from parents with different ethnicities – actually three, if you include the Aleutian background of one mother. Did I present familial diversity to promote ethnic tolerance in the world?

Well, let’s turn the microscope on my life, shall we? I live in the Seattle area. If my children were to attend their home school (literally, the one closest to our residence) then their classmates would be predominantly white, but would also include families that moved to the area from Japan, Russia, China, India, Greece, Ireland, Spain and Mexico, to name a few.  They live our reality.

Not bad, but they don’t attend their home schools. My daughters attend feeder schools for Microsoft, Expedia and Google families. The palette of skin colors and cultures their school populations include is vast. I once asked our principal how many languages the families at our school spoke, and she smiled in response. Maybe she was trying to count them in her head, but then she giggled, “Wow! There’s an amazing number.” They learn our reality.

Our local grocery stores include vast amounts of what was once known as ‘specialty food,’ but seen in this bulk, the phrase becomes an oxymoron.  Kosher. Indian. Italian. Hispanic. French. Japanese. Chinese. Korean. British. In our house, I’ve been blessed with kids that will try all types of food, but constants in my kitchen include edamame, tofu, Cajun gumbo, Chinese dim sum, Indian naan with chutney, British pies, French brie, and Italian anything.  They eat the same variety of foods at school and when we travel. They eat our reality.

My youngest daughter, Bryn, proudly announced to me yesterday that her friends all have beautiful and unusual names. They reflect the depth of culture and rich ethnicity of our reality. They speak our reality.

So, for those that criticize my portrayal of diversity in Four Rubbings, my heart breaks a little for you. I’m reminded of the time three decades ago when I graduated from high school. My grandmother had come to witness the graduation from Chicago, Illinois. She was gracious and kind when she met my handful of best friends. She really was sweet to them. On the drive to the airport for the return flight home she said to my mother, “That’s the closest I’ve ever stood to a black man.” My mother did a double-take.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Jennifer’s friends. When I met her friends, I realized that is the closest I’d ever been physically to people that weren’t white.” It wasn’t said with malice. She went on to say what lovely people my friends were. But, it was an innocent observation. So if your reality is as sheltered and homogenous as hers, today let me encourage you to change your reality.

If the people you spend the bulk of the day with look very similar to you, have similar backstories and childhood memories and share the same beliefs as you, change your reality. Don’t shun your old friends, I’m not asking for that sacrifice. Instead, venture out of your neighborhood to worship at a new house of God, eat at a new type of restaurant, go to a book signing in a different district of your city, rally for a political cause in the next town over, try an exercise program that reflects a different culture than your own.

Stretch. Stretch your boundaries. Stretch out your arms to embrace this beautiful melting pot. And for heaven’s sake, if you have the means, travel to new places.

I’d love the diversity reflected in my book and my life to be yours as well. It is my love-filled Valentine wish for your life.