Archive | January 2013

Is it cold enough for you?

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Baby, it really is cold outside. If you’re like me, you’ve had enough of this recent cold snap that’s hitting Pennsylvania and other parts of the country – where is global warming when you need it? Even though Florida is experiencing cooler days than usual, a trip there sounds inviting. Yet if you’re like me and unable to travel to escape the frigid temperatures, you might benefit from some of these tips.

Dress for it

The other day, I saw a store customer wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Just looking at him made my teeth chatter. Most people, however, have common sense sufficient to know you need to dress appropriately in cold weather. Layers are better than bulky outer wear. A hat offers more protection than you might think, so if you’re going to be outdoors for even a short length of time – you can get frostbite in 30 minutes – make sure you have one. Here’s something I learned that will explain Mama Cat’s consternation at her naughty kitten. Mittens provide more warmth than gloves. This makes sense as your fingers are aligned close to one another and keep each other warm with body heat rather than being separated by a layer of cloth.

Drink lots

Hydration is particularly important when it is cold. Those layers of clothes you just added will cause you to perspire, and that fluid needs to be replaced. While warm liquids like coffee, tea and hot chocolate may tempt you, they’re really not the best choices as their caffeine acts as a diuretic prompting more loss of fluid.  Good, old fashioned water is best, and if you’ve just pulled it from the fridge, they say it will force your body to generate more heat. If you really are interested in a warm beverage, try heating up some apple cider, sugar water or an energy drink.

Define activities

Common sense says, “Stay indoors if you can,” and this is wise. Why go out if you don’t have to? But you live in a real world where you may have to walk to a bus, work or store from your car or a train. You may even have to work outside during bitter cold weather. If so, take precautions with frequent breaks to get warm and dry and time your activities to the warmest parts of the day. Keep this in mind for the kids playing outdoors as well.

If you’re staying indoors, add some moisture to the air. Hot air and heating systems can dry out your skin, hair, sinuses, nails, furniture, walls, floors and more. And as I have discovered, lack of humidity can even cause headaches. Placing open containers of water on a wood stove, heat registers or on the range will add a measure of moisture to your home. If you don’t mind seeing clothes hanging around the house, using a clothes rack instead of your dryer will also increase the indoor humidity without the additional purchase of a humidifier.

If Aruba or some other tropical paradise is not in your immediate plans, try some of the above tips and stay warm.

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Reflection … a day late?

Martin Luther KingSince yesterday (January 21) actually served as only an observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday and did not reflect the true day of his birth (January 15, 1929), I figured I could be late as well in mentioning one of his quotes.

This champion for African-American civil rights and Nobel Prize winner said many outstanding things throughout his life and nonviolent campaigns for freedom, but in review, this one popped out at me. He had to have said it at least 45 years ago (could have been longer), but see if you don’t think it still speaks volumes.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As one who gained my college degree later in life, I saw a new philosophy propagated that emphasized telling students what to think as opposed to teaching them how to think and evaluate situations in order to come up with a viable plan of action. Mirroring King’s description, many of the  students settled for the easy answers and half-baked solutions, i.e. what was the teacher looking for. And this to me is scary as young people, enamored with their professors credentials, listened attentively and soaked in some of the most illogical and irresponsible philosophies this country has ever heard. They engaged quickly and employed their boundless energies without considering the impact or influence on the future. With their lack of knowledge and real-life experience, these teachers could easily lead the next generation down a path to bondage and destruction both personally and nationally.

But rather than end on a negative note … Check it out for yourself and look at the verbiage below taken from posted signs and headlines. You’ll see just how the quality of thought (or at least proofreading skills) has deteriorated. If you take these words at face value and don’t engage in hard solid thinking, you’ll likely find your reflection will cause a chuckle and brighten your day. (Thanks to my son for sharing.)

Outside a restroom:

TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW — yuk, what a mess

In a Laundromat:

AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT — I hope the heat stays on, it could get chilly

Message on a leaflet:

IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS — wonder if it is like the audio greeting cards

On a repair shop door:

WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR – THE BELL DOESN’T WORK) — anything except doorbells

And these published headlines:

MAN KILLS SELF BEFORE SHOOTING WIFE AND DAUGHTER – This guy had talent he did not know about.

SOMETHING WENT WRONG IN JET CRASH, EXPERT SAYS – Really?

POLICE BEGIN CAMPAIGN TO RUN DOWN JAYWALKERS – Sounds like King nailed it here – a half-baked solution.

Is it just your job?

How-to-keep-communication-flowing-in-the-workforceHave you ever worked for a company that gave you a job description when you hired on, continued to add responsibilities but rarely let you know how you were doing unless, of course, you made a huge mistake? In other words, if the job got done, no one said anything. They expected you to do it. After all, it’s your job.

Although most businesses are moving to correct this lack of communication with performance evaluations and other forms of recognition, most managers haven’t bought into the simple concept that regularly affirming good behavior means it will be repeated. It’s not rocket science, but they must figure they don’t have time to do anything but get widgets out the door. Maybe it’s a more difficult idea to grasp than you think because so few practice it or at least do it well.  Many think this warm and fuzzy stuff does not belong in the workplace, but the funny thing is that affirming another person, even for regularly performed tasks, belongs everywhere. It builds relationships, and people from all walks of life will respond – though some to a higher degree than others. It will work at home with your spouse and kids, at school or work and even with strangers at the market.

Think about it. Most people don’t wake up in the morning planning to sabotage their day with misdemeanors. They like it when things go well, so they apply their energies in that direction. But if no one notices a job well done, some feel they have no reason to continue and will begin to slack off. It takes integrity to keep doing your best when no one seems to care, and honestly, you don’t see as much of this character quality as you used to. On the other side of the coin, if no one says that you’re doing something incorrectly, you’ll keep on doing it the same way as you have always done and again, quality will decline. Honest communication is necessary.

So how can you sincerely and genuinely affirm someone and make a difference? Catch them doing the right thing well – even if it is on their job description – and tell them so. Make sure to avoid generic sentiments like “way to go,” “good job,” or even “love, love, love it.” If they have done something outstanding, tell them specifically what it is you like and how it affected you. “Thanks so much for staying after hours to finish up that report so that it would be ready for the meeting in the morning. It calmed my jitters to know you had everything read,” means a lot more than “Thanks for the effort.” And guess what, the next time you have a project requiring a little extra effort, you know who will be willing to go the extra mile.

At home, cooking meals, doing the laundry, mowing the grass and repairing broken fixtures don’t just happen. A little appreciation and affirmation will go a long way with family members too. Again, be specific and explain how the effort added value. It’s also a great way to teach your kids without a long lecture. Ever wonder why they behave so well at someone else’s house – likely because someone there affirmed their good behavior.

Oops! I think I forgot to mention there might be a little side effect – no small print or hushed voice necessary. When you see the positive response in the other person, it will do something in your heart as well. You’ll feel good, deep down inside. You’re creating endorphins, and they’re an excellent remedy for stress. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Can you develop claustrophobia from reading a book?

jam_up_caveDid you know that 5 to 7% of the world’s population are severely affected by an anxiety disorder that stems from a fear of being in closed or small spaces with no way of escape? Many others may suffer from occasional bouts of claustrophobia and are surprised when they experience a fear of restriction or suffocation. Their palms and body sweat, their hearts begin to race and their lungs feel as though they need air … now! Why am I even talking about this? And where’s the connection to reading a book? Glad you asked because I’m about to share a weird experience.

The other evening I was reading a book by John Ortberg called “the me I want to be.” In it, Ortberg was describing his friend Danny who had embarked on a spelunking adventure. Although thrill-seeking exploits that border on dangerous were not foreign to him, he did not enter the cave alone. He had employed the expertise of an experienced guide. Ortberg described Danny’s journey explicitly.

“The man guiding took him deep underground, then said he would lead Danny through a passageway into a spectacular chamber. The passageway was small enough that Danny had to stoop at first. Then as it grew still smaller, he had to get on his hands and knees. Eventually the only way to go forward was to lay on his back and push his body forward with this feet. Then the ceiling was so low that when he inhaled he could not move at all! He had to stop, inhale, and exhale, and only then was his chest low enough to allow him to move. By this point it was physically impossible to back out. If the passageway had gotten any smaller they would have lain there and died in that cave. … He was terrified. He tried fighting his fear, but he kept picturing his dead body moldering in the cave.”

Without realizing it, I was with Danny in the cave. In fact as I was reading, I began struggling for air. In my mind, I was in that cave and everything was closing in. It was a weird experience, but good writing and so was Ortberg’s main point. As Danny finally told the guide he felt he couldn’t make it, the guide told him to stop listening to the lies in his head. He told him to close his eyes, listen to his voice and follow his instructions. “Focus on my voice.”

When Danny did so, it freed him from panic and fear. Instead of listening to what appeared to be true, i.e. he was going to die, there was no way out, etc., Danny heard the voice of one who knew the truth and would lead him out. It worked, and Danny finally enjoyed seeing the spectacular chamber and a safe return home.

Do you have lies running through your head? I often do. “Who am I to do this? How can I accomplish that? I’ve wasted my time and now it’s too late …” Can you add some of your own? When these (and others) start shouting in my head, I find that spending time in the Bible can free me from the panic mode and set me back on track. As I hear God leading me through His word and apply it to my life, it is the same as focusing on His voice. He is the way, the truth and the life. I can’t go wrong with that.

What wasn’t I thinking?

What wasn’t I thinking? No, this title question does not contain a typo, though I will admit the sentence structure is a bit awkward. I could have just as easily asked what was I thinking, but unfortunately I was not thinking at all. And the fact of the matter is I missed out on something that is really good for me because I never really took the time to “get it.” I’m not talking about a pot of gold under the rainbow or a get-rich-quick formula, so don’t run the other way. Let me explain about what I neglected. It’s so simple that it is embarrassing, but perhaps it could help you as well.

bottled-water1Of course I know about the value of drinking water, and I agree wholeheartedly. I see the health benefits. I understand the science. So why am I not drinking more of this healthy liquid? Am I just too lazy? Perhaps that’s a factor, but the bottom line to my discovery is that I’m just too cheap. Here’s what I found.

I buy bottled water to pack in my husband’s lunch. I did not purchase it for my consumption because why should I pay extra when I have water running from my tap? But the convenience of the bottled water appealed to me when I was recovering from a bad cold and truly felt dehydrated. I grabbed one of the bottles from the fridge and in no time at all had emptied it. No effort involved, and I was truly refreshed. Yet this is not the part where I “get it.”

While getting ready for the day, my thoughts turned to water – who knows why I’m thinking about bottled water? I really do have blonde roots, but I digress … again. Anyway, as I was thinking about drinking more water, I thought about how much I enjoyed being able to grab a bottle rather than getting a glass and filling it from the fridge. I considered that I would do it more if it weren’t for the cost. – Drum roll, please. This is where the light bulb went on. I could buy a whole case of water for the price of a package of cookies.

This led me to the web to see if this were really true, and guess what I found. You can buy 35, 16.9 ounce bottles of water this week at Giant for $3.99. This breaks down to a total of 591.5 ounces for $3.99.  Also this week, Giant is offering a sale on Chips Ahoy cookies. For $5.00, you can get 2 packages weighing 15.25 ounces each or a total of 30.5 ounces for your $5 bill. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover which purchase makes a better financial investment – I already knew the water was better for me than the cookies.

I can’t be the only one who makes obvious discoveries so late in life, but you have to admit, the awkward title of this blog is right on target.

Crawling with Crullers

powdered donut 89691937If you’ve ever turned to chocolate or another form of sweets after a particularly stressful day, you understand that it works – albeit temporarily – to boost your morale. Well, other than a lingering cold, I had nothing particularly stressful in my life yesterday, so why did I eat not one, but two cream-filled Dunkin Donuts? It was not because I was hungry – I had just eaten a healthy snack of almonds. It was not because they were calling my name. I really had no desire for them, but eat them I did – at least I did not eat them together.

In trying to make better eating choices in 2013, I am trying to take baby steps to move forward to eliminate sugar from my diet – especially refined sugar and the kind found in the donuts. This is one of my first priorities. I’ve already moved to using honey and other forms of natural sweeteners, so I figured this would be easy. Evidently not.

I am trying to create more self-awareness in this area, however, so this is a start. Instead of making a giant leap forward, I realize I’m not even taking a baby step. I’m crawling, and I’m crawling with crullers, no less. But here’s the real lesson I learned and maybe it is helpful to you. I realized I had no plan and without one, I would do it again.

In this particular case, I did not get into my car and go to the store to purchase them. They were brought to the house as a thoughtful gesture and special treat from someone dear to me. Yet in these moments of weakness, I definitely realized several things – it was a deliberate choice to put them on plates and wolf them down. Was I thinking about the money spent or the thoughtfulness behind the gesture that I did not want to waste these fluffy, fresh, powdered pastries? Probably yes on both counts; nevertheless, I need a plan so that these demons don’t find their way into my mouth at the wrong time again. Any suggestions you have are warmly invited. In the meantime, here are some of the ideas that came to mind.

  • Receive the gift appreciatively and wrap it in plastic, freeze and serve later
  • Cut them into smaller bite-sized pieces before wrapping them in case a treat is warranted at a later date
  • Share them with someone else

Hopefully, today will be better and I’ll take a baby step forward on my way to the giant leap of living sugar free.

Humbug to New Years’ Resolutions

Happy_Newyear_Wallpaper_2013_11Although we celebrated Christmas last week, Scrooge’s holiday greeting of “Humbug,” holds more truth in reference to New Years. At New Years’ we feel almost obligated to write down a list of resolutions that will improve our health, appearance or success, but unfortunately, most of the resolutions just don’t stick.

This year I did not write a list of resolutions as I have in the past, and based on my email inbox, a lot of others are feeling the same way. What usually happens is we see the New Year with all of its potential for a clean slate and a fresh beginning. We relish the thought of putting past failures behind and moving forward. It sounds good in theory, but by January 5th most of our grandiose ideas of becoming thinner, fitter and more productive have already been replaced with our former habits. And the list? It’s usually buried in a pile somewhere and never seen again. No matter how strong the initial motivation, it doesn’t last long enough to incorporate the work required to make a permanent change.

Developing a new habit or life practice requires an internal change. Some might call it an attitude adjustment or change of heart, but the power to make a lasting change comes from God. So that’s the first step. We start by submitting our desires to Him because He delights in seeing us succeed.

But here’s another thought. The Chinese claim that 2013 is the Year of the Snake, some of the South American countries have dubbed it the International Year of Quinoa, and the UN has declared it the International Year of Water Cooperation. I’m proposing that we call 2013 the year of the Baby Step. Instead of taking a huge leap forward, we just start moving in the direction we know we should go. Each of us can take a baby step forward to make the changes we need. We can repeat it later today and again tomorrow and the day after that. We can write it down. We can post it on the fridge or mirror, and we can review and practice it until it becomes part of our lives. The key is to make it intentional.

Once we see results, we can add a different baby step to the mix, but keep a record of the first measure of success in a prominent place. It will spur you on as the steps get harder. Hmmm – maybe the steps won’t be as hard if we’re doing them in increments. And if we fall down, we’ll get up again. That’s what baby’s do when they’re learning to walk. We have no shame in falling unless we don’t get up.

Most of all, I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.