Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Does Everyone Know What They're Doing But Me?

The Path of Life.  Yes, I'm in a cheesy mood.
On another note, how cute is my dog?!?

I don’t know about you, but my career path has gone exactly as planned.  

A straight shot down the Road to Success.  No deviations or surprises.  Just perfection.

(Oh gosh that’s funny.  Excuse me a moment as I laugh my little butt off.  Whew.  Ok back to my point).


As a young girl, I had some admirable goals: princess, fashion designer, Ambassador to France, and my personal favorite:  Crayola Crayon Namer. (That’s a thing, right?)

Instead, I've danced a little do-si-do and a loop-de-loo
  • Subway Sandwich Artist (where I quit after 2 hours)
  • Coffee Cart Barista (where I became addicted to Frappuccinos)
  • Senate Intern (where I conducted delightful tours of the Capitol)
  • Campus Switchboard Operator (where I refused to give a reporter the number of our football team’s kicker after he botched a PAT that resulted in a loss to Nebraska)
  • Sales at MTV (where I planned fun parties, and partied a lot)
  • Marketing at Proactiv (where I traveled the world)
  • VP at a start-up skin care company (where I lost my job after a year)
In other words, an extremely strategic and brilliantly crafted career path [insert more laughter here].  

Not that my tasting menu approach was a bad thing, because many experiences quickly taught me what I didn’t want to do (I’m talking to you, Subway).  

I’ve spent most of my life chasing my definition of success: the right title, loads of money, glory and fame.

And after years of achieving and never being satisfied, it made me wonder:

What the heck am I doing with my life?

After years of wandering, I’ve finally figured it out.  I’ve realized, it isn’t about me.

I believe we’re all here on this earth for a reason.  We’re all born with a unique purpose that God instilled in each of us, and intends for us to use for good. 

Friends who have seen me during some very dark days, have recently told me that there’s something different about me.  The truth is, now that I’ve connected with what I’m meant to do, I can’t help but radiate joy.  

There is beautiful relief in knowing that my life has meaning.  As does my next door neighbor, the screaming baby on my flight, the Whole Foods cashier. 

And you.    

Have you found it? I’d love to hear from you. Please share in the comments. 

If you’re alive, there’s a purpose for your life. - Rick Warren

Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from. - Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:16

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Who Are Your Monkeys?

One of my monkeys gave this to me.
His name is George.  I'm super clever like that. 

I took (another) life-changing seminar this past week (Hello, My Name is Kalei and I’m addicted to seminars).

Since my name is not exactly easy to pronounce, without fail, these events begin with us all playing The Name Game.  For example:

New Person: Hey there [glances at name tag]…Kay-lee!

Me: Hello New Person! It’s actually pronounced [slower than honey] KUH...LAY. 

New Person: Got it, Kahlua. 

(This little scenario, which I encounter multiple times a day, is why I answer to everything from Kayla to Kool-Aid).

This particular seminar was completely AH- MAZING.

The content was incredibly powerful.  However, what excited me more was The People.  Because of the nature of the seminar, I found people just like me (this idea may be completely terrifying to my family, who I can imagine are thinking: um, we can handle just one Kalei at a time). 

Strangely, the word that came to mind while I was there was Fellowship, a churchy word that makes me think of stuffy potlucks and overflowing rice cookers (and cookies. Mmmm. Cookies.  Peanut Butter Cookies.  Ok where was I…). In this context, to me it meant learning together, listening, loving, and supporting each other in spite of our humanness.  

It was another reminder to me that hey, we’re all in this thing together. 

And apparently I think I’m pretty special, because I struggle daily with trying to do life by myself.  

And then I’m reminded, in one way or another, that no, in fact, I am not Wonder Woman.  

I need my monkeys.  

Say what??  (Bear with me.  I know I'm all over the place today but I promise I actually do have a point).

I attended a (you guessed it) seminar earlier this year where I heard a story that really struck a chord*.  Scientists put a monkey in a cage, and then terrified the crap out of it- flashing lights, horrifying sounds, the works.  They measured his stress levels, which, not surprisingly, were off the charts.   

Then they put the monkey’s friend in the cage with him.  They repeated the experiment.  

The monkey’s stress levels were reduced in half. 

It’s a simple experiment, with two profound lessons:

1. Sometimes, our buddy doesn’t need to do anything but be there with us when our cage is rattled.  

2. Choose the right monkeys. 

After hearing that story, I made sure to tell my monkeys how much I appreciated them.  

Perhaps your conversation can go something like this, but slightly less awkward.  (This is a completely hypothetical situation of course): 

Um so I learned this story about monkeys and um…I was wondering, Will You Be My Monkey?

The thing is, we were never meant to do life alone.

We all need our monkeys.  

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. - Oprah Winfrey

Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren't rubbed in but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice.  -Rick Warren

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. - Romans 12:10

*The Monkey Story was shared by Dr. Henry Cloud, and I believe is included in his book, Boundaries for Leaders.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Believe the Best

This is what bread is supposed to look like (I'm talking
to you, American Airlines): fresh, soft, warm, and swimming
in butter-- glorious, glorious butter.   

My recent flight from Paris to Dallas is now legendary.  I wish I could say this was because I had deep, thought-provoking conversations with fellow passengers while nibbling on exotic French cheeses and watching a marathon of English-subtitled French noir films. 

Oh no. 

It was a 10 hour hell ride.  

It started off well enough: I arrived with plenty of time, was whisked through to my gate (heads up: telling the French how much you love their country will expedite your airport security experience), shopped leisurely at the wonderful boutiques (mostly at Laduree, which sells my favorite, ridiculously beautiful and outrageously priced candles), and sat down to a lovely farewell breakfast of vegetable quiche and deliciously strong French coffee. 

Ahhh.  La vie est belle. 

I then boarded the plane.  I noticed as I sat down that my area was surrounded by men.  Man on my left, man on my right…you get the picture.  I didn’t think too much about this at the time, other than, huh, there are lots of men (deep thoughts, people).

Shortly after takeoff, we were served lunch, which included limp lettuce and a sad little tomato, a wheat-flavored rock, and “chicken”.  

A few hours later, I started feeling a little off.  And then, pretty uncomfortable.  


All of a sudden, I bolted out of my seat and sprinted to the back of the plane, where an all-knowing flight attendant ushered me into the bathroom.  I barely made it. 

As I sat back down, I noticed a few curious stares from people in my row.  I smiled reassuringly (Oh that?  I just really needed a 7-Up) and returned to my movie.

I was hoping I’d feel better.  Unfortunately, I continued to feel worse. 

An hour prior to landing, the flight attendant/detective appeared and handed me a giant trash bag, “just in case.”  Not surprisingly, every eye within a 10 row radius was on me.   I just smiled, said “thank you” and to comfort everyone on the plane, added: “I’m sure I won’t need it.”

Famous. Last. Words.

As we began landing, stuck in seat belt hell, with nowhere to go without a US Marshall on my tail, I emptied my last three days worth of food into the giant trash bag. 

I was slightly terrified imagining the disapproving  faces of all the men I would encounter once I pulled my head out of the bag.  I assumed they'd be disgusted, horrified.

My first thought: I want my mommy!  

My second thought: I wish I was sitting by women.  At least they’d help take care of me.

I was in for a shock. 

Jean-Pierre on my left, in his thick French accent: Would yoo like some Kleenex? 

Me: Oui.

Jean-Pierre with the most compassionate eyes I’ve ever seen: And perhaps some mints?

Me: Oui.

Having arrived at the gate, I stood up to collect my things, when Francois on my right reached out to rub my back and, very concerned, asked: 

So, you are ok, yes?

Me: Oui.

After customs, Jean-Claude, who was sitting next to Francois, bee-lined for me and asked:

May I offer you a Wet Nap?

Me: Oui.

At this point, I was FLOORED.  These lovely gentlemen could not have been kinder.

I felt a bit convicted.  

It’s so easy to believe the bad, that I forget to believe the best.  

And that’s a tragedy.  Because there’s so much good in this world.  

Sometimes I have to seek it out.  But sometimes, it’s sitting right next to me.

Love chooses to believe the best about people. It gives them the benefit of the doubt. It refuses to fill in the unknowns with negative assumptions. And when our worst hopes are proven to be true, love makes every effort to deal with them and move forward. As much as possible, love focuses on the positive. - Stephen Kendrick
*Yes, I made up the French guys' names.  Who knows, maybe they're true.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Secret to Being a Good Human

You have no idea how many awkward selfies I took
on this trip. It's seriously staggering.
What am I doing here? Oh gosh, who knows.
Also, in reviewing my trip pictures, it's become
clear that I have a
huge obsession with the Eiffel Tower.  

One of the things I love most about traveling is the people I meet—the fascinating, crazy, annoying, lovable people. I just vacationed in France so I’ve been on a shipload (why no, that’s not what I meant) of planes, trains and automobiles, meeting lots and lots of people in the process. 

While I didn’t realize this when boarding my first flight, it became clear to me that on this trip I had a very important job:  I was there to listen.  To strangers.  Tell their stories. 

Here’s what I mean: 

The Australians:  To my right, I struck up a conversation with a Mom and daughter traveling from Australia to Tampa, to seek special treatment for Lymes Disease, which isn’t recognized as a disease in Australia.  Mom was exhausted and plenty frustrated but overall in good spirits, considering she was leaving her job as a cattle rancher/teacher for 3 months to attend the $75,000 treatment her 26 year old now-wheelchair-bound daughter needed to recover from her debilitating illness.  

How do I know all this?  I listened.  I asked questions here and there, but really, all I did was sit there as this woman poured out her heart to me.

The Gangbanger: To my left, a man I was almost too scared to even say hello to.  When this  short and stocky, frowning, black hoodie-wearing Hispanic man sat down, he was listening to his iPhone through giant headphones.  Peeking from underneath his hoodie, I could see tattoos spreading from all over his body— from his chest and neck onto his face, from his arms all the way to the tips of his fingers.  Everything about him said: Go Away.

Not gonna lie, I judged.  But I was also really, really curious.

Because he kept texting.  And every keystroke highlighted letters tattooed on his fingers and ohmygosh what the heck does this tattoo say?  Of course, with my judgey-ness  in overdrive, I assumed he was texting his drug dealer.

I decided to carefully, out of the corner of my Lasik-enhanced eye, glance at what he was writing.  

Boy was I in for a shock. 

Scary Guy: Baby, I miss you so much already. 
Not Drug Lord but Probably Girlfriend?: Honey I love you.
Scary Guy Who’s Apparently a Giant Teddy Bear:  Baby you’re the best, you know I love you too. 

Um.  WHAT??!

So now dying to talk to this guy, I turn to him and say Hi.  He was a little startled, but said Hi back.  I asked him why he was heading to Dallas, and then…the floodgates opened.  

Friends, he would not stop talking.  About his job with FedEx, where he makes good money, but it’s bittersweet because he travels a lot and it takes him away from his wife, who is the Love of His Life.  No, that’s not strong enough.  She’s the Sun and the Moon and Stars and he would Die For Her.  No joke, this is all coming out of his mouth.  About the music he listens to, which is all OLDIES LOVE SONGS.  I kid you not, he actually made me write down a bunch of OLDIES LOVE SONGS to look up on YouTube.  

Besides listening, my other big lesson, as you can probably imagine: hello, judge much?  I had one of the most surprising, delightful conversations I’ve ever had, with a man I was almost too scared to say hello to.  (And by the way, I was right about one thing: the tattoo on his fingers spelled VIDA LOCA, an old gang tattoo. But that was his old life.  He's a new man because of his wife, who he Adores With All His Heart and Misses to the Depths of His Soul).  

I'm not kidding, this guy talking about his wife brought me tears. I learned a thing or two about love that day.  

Now, I’d love to say I do this all the time.  Yup, that’s me, The Great Listener.  

But that’s a load of you-know-what.

Here’s the deal: Listening is hard.

And me, the Type-A-oldest-child-fixer-problem-solver, always thinks I need to do more: What astoundingly wise thing can I say?  What thoughtful and perfect thing can I do?

And that’s the thing.  Sometimes we need to just listen
It’s a lost art, listening.  We’re so busy with our work, our phones, our lives, our overall busy-ness, that stopping to listen to someone—really and truly listen—it’s just not something we do. 
And it should be.  Because when someone takes the time to truly listen to me, I feel heard.  I feel cherished.  I feel loved. 
So now, I'm doing my best to listen better, to listen more.  And not just to strangers, but hey, maybe those people closest to me, too.
Anyway.  Thanks for listening. ;)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.  - James 1:19
The first duty of love is to listen. - Paul Tillich 

When people talk, listen completely.  Most people never listen.  -Ernest Hemingway