How to Make the Most of Your Thanksgiving: Connect With Conversation

This past Sunday, for reasons not important to this post, my family celebrated Thanksgiving early.  I had read a recent blogpost from Michael Hyatt about maximizing conversations around the holiday table.  I tried his suggestions and all agreed that it greatly enhanced our time together, so I share his insight with you, hoping it might add value to your conversations and relationships this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Maybe it’s just my family, but as much as we love each other and have a great time together, there are occasional lulls in the conversation, awkward moments where no one has anything to say, and it’s tempting to turn on the TV and stare the afternoon away.  On days like that, I leave with a feeling of slight emptiness, wishing I’d connected with my loved ones on a deeper level.

So, this Thanksgiving (remember, we did it early), I took Michael Hyatt’s advice.  I prepared a list of questions, folded each one, and put them in a beautiful, timeless family heirloom.

(Not really.  Just whatever I could find.  In this case, old Tupperware.)

I passed around the container.  “Please take a question.  If you don’t like your question, you’re not stuck with it…try a different one.”  (I didn’t want to be a Nazi about the whole thing.)  “Then tell us your thoughts.”

I’ll admit, I was a little nervous that my cool nephews might think this was the ultimate nerdy activity.  But I did it anyway, and I’m really glad I did!  Here are the questions I used:

Tell us about an embarrassing moment.

When you think about the coming year, what are you most excited to see happen (or accomplish, or see others accomplish)?

When you look back on the last year, what are you most proud of?

What new capability do you want to develop in the next year?

What are the two biggest lessons you learned this past year?

If you had one million dollars to give to charity, how would you spend it?

Looking back over the past year, what are you most grateful for?

Choose someone here today and tell what you admire or appreciate about them.

Moving into the coming year, what would you like to do differently?

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up…and how does that relate to what you do now?

What are your top three strengths…and how do they benefit others?

What is your favorite trait in other people?

The answers were hilarious, tender and affirming to others.  Most of all, they brought us closer together…and kept the TV off. As I left, I felt I knew a little something more about my relatives that I didn’t know before.  I laughed more.  I felt more connected.  I saw family members included that might not have felt included otherwise.  Instead of awkward conversations, we had a blast!

Try these questions for your own holiday gathering.  May it help bring your loved ones together and create a great memory for your family.

If you tried this, how did it go?  What other questions would you add to increase connection among family?

I’d love to hear from you!

Blending music and humor, 2014 Georgia Author of the Year Connie Carey inspires her audiences to view their challenges from a renewed perspective, Her book, Falling UP, offers healing, hope and a touch of humor for hard times. For booking info, visit



FREE Christmas Music Download!

Don’t you just love it when something delicious is cooking in the kitchen…especially at Christmastime?  Wonderful aromas fill the air and if you’re lucky, the cook will give you a taste of what’s to come.


Well, I’d like to share a taste of something I’ve been cookin’ up…my CD, “Simply Christmas”, coming in 2016!  Here’s a clip from one of the rehearsals with my dear college friend, Sandra Chandler.  Between the two of us, I think we may have dusted off all 88 keys.  Sandra, it’s fun making music with you!


Simply Christmas

The free download includes a personal message from me, the piano duet “Sleigh Ride”, “What Child is This” featuring piano and gorgeous violin (thank you, Katie Trotter!) and a fun, upbeat vocal with orchestra version of “Jesus, What a Wonderful Child”.

For a FREE download, simply go to and follow the prompts.  I hope you enjoy!


Say These 3 Things Next Time You’re Angry

In last week’s post we talked about the one question to make anger work for you:

WHY am I feeling angry?

Asking this simple question helps get to the root of anger, rather than just skim the surface.  If we don’t get to the root of our angry feelings, they’ll just keep sprouting up and eventually choke out the beauty and love in our lives.

So when was the last time you got angry at someone or something?  Do you have any idea what might have been behind your anger?  As I mentioned in last week’s post, it was shame, humiliation, embarrassment and hurt that fueled my anger on the diving board.

Here’s a list of some of the feelings that often fuel anger:                                                 hurt
dashed hopes and dreams
feeling trapped
unmet expectations
envy, jealousy
worry, anxiety
pressure, stressed out
exhaustion, fatigue
In other words, when people let us down, when things don’t work out the way we think they should, when we don’t get the respect we feel we deserve, we feel one or more of the emotions listed above. When that happens, we often turn to anger to protect those tender feelings.

Anger is like the warning light on the dashboard of your car telling you that something needs to be checked under the hood.

dash-warning-lightsYour problem is not the warning light. Your problem is what’s going on under the hood.  That’s where you need to look, and that takes courage.

It’s uncomfortable.  It’s scary.  But it’s the first step after anger lets us know something is wrong.  For example, did we feel rejected? Betrayed? Was our pride hurt?

Pinpoint and target the root cause of your anger.

Then apply this practical 3-step tool that’s made a positive difference for me when dealing with anger and frustration.  The next time you’re angry with someone try saying to them:

  1. “When ____________ (what happened),
  2. I felt ___________ (the root emotion).
  3. I would appreciate ______________.” (what we wish were different)

I might add that an important part of this equation is watching your tone and facial expression.Keep it kind…and try to work a smile in there somewhere.  If you’re mean and frown, it’ll completely cancel out any good your words might’ve done!

Let me share a real life scenario.  I lead a Bible study in the inner city of our town.  For a while, it’s gotten on my last nerve that people are up and down, in and out, while I speak.  It’s constant.  It’s frustrating.  I feel disrespected.  Yet, I’ve never said anything about it.

In our Bible study, we’ve been exploring this same topic of anger.  So a few weeks ago, I said to myself, let me give this a try.

“When people get up and walk out of the room repeatedly during the Bible study, I feel  disrespected. I feel as if my time and preparation are of little value to you.  It’s hard for me to keep my train of thought while there is constant movement in the room.  I think it’s also a distraction for others who are trying to hear the lesson.  I would appreciate it if everyone would visit the restroom before we begin.  That way we can keep our focus on the lesson.  Whadda ya say?” 

(And then I smiled!)

When I finished, everyone nodded.  A couple of people apologized, saying they didn’t realize it felt disrespectful to me.  No one, and I mean no one, has been to the restroom in 4 weeks during Bible study.  It’s been great!  I wish I’d done this a long time ago!

This may seem like a silly example, but it reminds me that sometimes we put up with issues that are gnawing at us when, if we communicated them in this simple, respectful manner, we could be done with a few things.

Listen, I know it won’t work every time.  Yes, there are crazy people who won’t respond appropriately.  And perhaps we need discernment to know when to walk away, when it’s not our battle, when to just let it go, etc.  But I encourage you to give this practical 3 step method a try.

What looks hard, uncomfortable and scary at the beginning can become liberating and life changing down the road!

A coupla questions to consider:                                                                               How effective might these “I feel” statements be the next time you’re angry?  Are you skeptical?  Apprehensive?  Why?

What’s the best that could happen?  What’s the worst that could happen?

Do you have an example of what happened when you tried this?  I’d love to hear from you!

Blending music and humor, 2014 Georgia Author of the Year Connie Carey inspires her audiences to view their challenges from a renewed perspective, Her book, Falling UP, offers healing, hope and a touch of humor for hard times. For booking info, visit


Lesson From the Hall of Fame: One Common Denominator of Greatness

Last night as I watched the Induction Ceremony of the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame, I started out simply watching for our daughter, Courtney, and son in law, Adam Meadows,  who were in the audience at the invitation of Bill Polian.  Adam played on the O Line for the Colts (1997-2003) when Bill Polian was the General Manager.

Here’s Adam (behind Polian) with teammates Jeff Saturday and Peyton Manning to Adam’s left.


And Courtney and Adam with Jeff and Karen Saturday.


What started out as just watching for the fun of seeing family on TV became a study in greatness.

As each inductee spoke, I was struck by their words.   A common thread became evident.  What I would’ve expected was some grandiose bragging and chest thumping.  Instead, to the person, each did this: they gave the credit away.

Not in a stingy way, either.  Their words were humble, not self-aggrandizing.  Their words were more about the debt of gratitude owed to others rather than themselves.

Photo credit: Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

Ron Wolfe: “Thanks for the privilege of being part of the ultimate game.”

Charles Haley thanked his ex-wife, who diagnosed his manic depressive disorder.  “I didn’t listen at the time.  Now I know, the only way to grow is to ask for help.”

And this: “My mom taught me how to pray.”

More words of gratitude: “Stand up, Coach. I had the greatest coach ever.  Because of Tommy Hart, I’m here today.  I’m truly blessed.  I’ve played with some of the greatest players ever.  I’ve learned.  It’s about team.

Mike Tinglehoff, who suffers from dementia and didn’t speak, was presented by Fran Tarkenton.  Fran, obviously moved, explained: “Mike’s a man of few words, but a lot of action.” He reflected how during the years of football, Mike had Fran’s back, both on and off the field.  Now he had his friend’s back as he presented Mike for Hall of Fame.

Will Shields:  “No one gets to the top by themselves.”  “To Coach Madden: I will always remember your kindness.  Thank you for providing my family and me the opportunity of a lifetime.”  “To my fellow offensive linemen: without you, there is nothing.”

Bill Polian:  “Everybody was important.”  “Never has one person owed so much to so many.”   He conveyed appreciation to the grounds staff, videographers, scouts, assistants, personnel executives and assistant coaches…the people behind the scenes. ” I am here because of you and I am forever grateful.”

Tim Brown: “Without Lou Holtz, I would not have won the Heisman Trophy.”  “The consistency and hard work that people talk about with me…I got from my dad.  I love you, Dad.”

Junior Seau, who died in 2012, received his honor posthumously from his daughter, Sydney Seau.  The epitome of grace and dignity, she took no glory for herself.  “This isn’t my speech to give…it’s his.” “Thank you to every teammate, fan, the community of San Diego and the Chargers for the career of a lifetime.  Without you he wouldn’t have become the player that he was, and I thank you as well.”

Jarome Bettis: “This night is not about me.  This night is about the people who have imparted to me….I’ve been blessed with the best teammates in the world.  We knew we were a family and we would get the job done.”

These Hall of Famers did what great leaders do: they made sure everyone else got the glory, both on the field and off.  You and I may not be professional football players, but we all are leaders in some way or another, through our professions, volunteering, in our churches and families. May we take a lesson from these leaders and be like them.  Give the glory away. Lavishly.  It will come back ten fold.

Blending music and humor, 2014 Georgia Author of the Year Connie Carey inspires her audiences to view their challenges from a renewed perspective, Her book, Falling UP, offers healing, hope and a touch of humor for hard times.  For booking info, visit   

Ask This One Question to Make Anger Work for You

It’s the summer of 1969, a bright, sunny day at the packed local pool.  I’m next in the long line at the diving board.  The boy ahead of me yells at the top of his lungs,  “CONNIE IS A FATTY!”, dives off the board and disappears into the water.

photo credit: istock

In a flash, I see red, feel my jaw tighten and hear blood pumping in my ears.  It’s true, I’m an overweight kid.  But I’m also a strong swimmer.  Clearly, he doesn’t know who he’s messin’ with!  Instantly, before the required time goes by to safely let divers reach the ladder, I jump off the board with all my might and crash land on him in the water.

photo credit:

(Okay, this is not me, by the way.  But it was kinda like that.)

Down, down to the drain we go. That skinny kid writhes and thrashes, bug eyes and bubbles everywhere, but he’s no match for this big girl.   And after all, I’ve got time…I took a big breath.

I wait long enough to scare him, then push off the bottom and head to the top.  I break the surface to the sound of the lifeguard’s shrill whistle and angry voice. “OUTA THE POOL!” Skinny Boy cries and sputters.  As I head to the designated “time out” spot for rule-breakers, I scoff, laugh and shout over my shoulder, “It was worth it!”  The line at the diving board cheers.  End of story.

Or is it?

What was going on behind all that anger, bravura, and so-called “laughing it off”?

How about embarrassment.  Shame.  Humiliation.  Hurt.

These emotions don’t feel very powerful.  In fact, they feel tender and vulnerable.

What my ten year old brain didn’t understand at the time (and what many adults have a hard time understanding as well) is this:  we often prefer the feeling of anger because it feels powerful and protects us from what’s at the root of our tender emotions. In other words:

Anger artificially helps us feel in control when we’re feeling out-of-control and falsely helps us feel powerful when we feel powerless.

Get to the Root                                                                                                         When John and I moved into our home eleven years ago, the edge of our backyard was completely smothered in ivy.  (Hang with me…there’s a reason I’m telling you this!)


For weeks, every Saturday morning, he was on hands and knees, digging down and pulling it up by the roots.  It was painstakingly slow, but when he finished, there wasn’t one sprig of ivy where it wasn’t supposed to be.

Eleven years later, this is what it still looks like.


Ivy free.

Had it been my job to clear the ivy, it would’ve looked like this (after eleven days!).

picmonkey.connieivyWhat’s the difference?

John got to the root of the problem.  He wasn’t interested in a quick fix with the weed eater, no sir.  Oh, that would’ve looked great for a few weeks.  But he knew that the hard work of getting the root (not just the top of the plant) would be worth it in the long run.  He was willing to dig deep so he wouldn’t have to keep dealing with the problem over and over.

When it comes to anger, many of us use the approach I did with the ivy.  Instead of dealing with the root reason for the anger, we skim over the process and try to just “control our temper”. Or like me on the diving board, we vent our emotions in destructive ways.   But if we don’t get to the root of our angry feelings, they’ll just keep sprouting up and eventually choke out the beauty and love in our lives.

So how can we get to the root of our anger?  When we feel angry we need to ask ourselves, “Why am I feeling this way?”

While I’m delighted to report I no longer jump on people and nearly drown them, I long to learn how to best express my anger in ways that are appropriate and constructive. If you’re a fellow struggler, join me next Tuesday as we explore specific emotions that often fuel our anger and a practical 3 step process for expressing your anger in ways that build, rather than tear down, relationships.

 I’d love to hear from you as we learn together!

In the meantime, be careful who you call “Fatty”.  It could be hazardous to your health!

Blending music, humor and inspiration, bestselling “Georgia Author of the Year” Connie Carey helps audiences view their challenges from a renewed perspective…all while enjoying a good belly laugh! Learn more about her book, “Falling UP”. For booking info, call 478.250.1177.