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What a difference 7 days can make!

Last week we visited family in the Adirondacks to celebrate my grandson’s graduation – how this sweet baby grew up so fast is beyond me – but I digress. The mountains are known for delayed springs. I expected chilly weather and was not disappointed, yet when the spring snow came, however, it provided impetus to complain. Even the locals expressed their dismay. It was time for warm weather. This week, I am home in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the temperature is 84, and people are complaining that they are hot and uncomfortable because of the heat and elevated humidity. Isn’t there a better way to take action and expend our energy? Why, I wonder, are we humans so prone to complain about the weather and think it is okay?

ComplaintsAccording to Wikipedia’s Free Dictionary, the word complain is an action verb meaning to express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event and includes synonyms repine, grumble, lament and moan.

Although I have heard that several governments, including the US, are trying to control the weather by various means, obviously they have not succeeded to the point where everyone is satisfied. We still complain and regardless if we prefer cool or warm temperatures, we complain. It’s second nature to us. Yet it seems to me we are wasting our time. (Notice I’m including myself in these statements because I’m as guilty as anyone else.)

Wouldn’t it be more productive to complain about something we can change? What if we complained instead about the dirty windows in our house? We could get out the cleaning solution and rags and make them shine. Then we would have something to rejoice about. We could send out positive messages about shiny windows and invite our friends to rejoice with us. We could throw a party. If the windows were really bad to start with and obvious to passersby, we’d have no problem getting people to come. But no, we complain about something that it is impossible to change.

Perhaps we use the weather as a level playing field, a point of commonality, to initiate conversations – you know, break the ice. It does work because everyone will join in, yet grumbling and complaining are negative characteristics and instead of building people up, it drags people down. Who needs more of that?

It seems to me it will take an intentional effort to change my thoughts and expressions about the weather, but I’m going to give it a try. After all, it takes intentionality to do anything worthwhile. So here’s the deal. You have my permission to remind me the next time I complain about the weather that there is a positive aspect that I am missing. Who knows, it may filter down to other areas where I struggle to do better.

A blogger’s confession

who is a good blogger imageWhere have all the blog posts gone?

You may have wondered if I dropped off the side of the earth because I have not posted anything to the site – at least consistently – since working on my new ezine Golden Gals Only, an inbox magazine for women 50+. Now that it is officially launched and I am into the continuous improvement stage, I can get back to some things that were put on hold. You’ll also be glad to know that Columbus proved the world was not flat as the scientists of his day claimed, so you have no worries about falling off yourself. Makes you wonder what about the scientists of today, but I digress.

The encouragement to continue came from a blogging friend, who primarily but not exclusively writes movie reviews. Likely she has no idea how her Friday blog – Ramblings of a tired woman – impacted me and who knows how many others.

Experiencing a phenomena characteristic of most writers, a.k.a. writer’s block, she had the integrity to post her true feelings and let others know she was human and not a fabulous writing machine. Short and to the point, she still injected her delightful sense of humor as she further displayed her human side.

One of my goals for 2013 is to write quickly, concisely and engagingly. Not easy feats for any writer, but certainly something I can strive for. With Jane’s candor as my model, I plan to use this blog as an exercise to share some things that are important / interesting to me while working towards achieving my 2013 goals.

Thanks for letting me be open with you and don’t forget to check out janemcmaster – true confessions of another blogger.

Pride goes before a fall

pride-before-the-fallMaybe it’s because I was an only child and never had others to ask to pitch in and help me, but for whatever reason I find it hard to ask others for help. Bottom line though, it is an issue of pride, and we all know where that leads. So before I fall, I’m ditching the pride and asking for help.

For months, I have been working to prepare an ezine – an email inbox magazine – for women age 50+. Whether you recognize it or not, there are an increasing number of us, and we’re not ready to settle for the rocking chair. Yet most magazines target the 15 to 45 year olds in their topics. This leaves us feeling a bit disjointed because we have lots of things we’d like information on but eradicating acne is rarely one of them because we’ve been there and done that.

We’re looking for purpose for the second half and ideas and information about our health and wellness as well as weightier issues like dealing with aging parents, serious illness or a myriad of other topics. We also know that we’ve got a lot of experience that can be shared, but wonder how to share it; hence, the arrival of Golden Gals Only.

Here’s where I need to ask for help – there are three areas, really. Even if you don’t fit the category, there are ways you can render assistance.

  • Would you sign up for the FREE newsletter to help me out with numbers or would you pass the sign-up information on to those who are in this category and might be interested?
  • All you need to do to sign up for the bi-weekly newsletter (Monday and Thursday) is go to www.goldengalsonly.com and add your information in the blue box. You’ll receive an email with a link to click which will confirm your subscription. That’s it!
  • If you know of anyone in this age bracket with a great story or desire to contribute an article to the ezine, would you put them in contact with me via this blog or at my website?
  • Would you pray that this endeavor would bring honor to the Lord? This is of utmost importance to me.

I was touched this morning by a song sung most frequently by George Beverly Shea, who died this week at the age of 104. He is associated most often as having traveled with Billy Graham. His signature song gave me great encouragement as I venture out in what for me is uncharted waters, and I hope the lyrics of  His Eye is on the Sparrow may touch your heart as well.

How do you eat an elephant?

You’ve likely heard this riddle and may have even used the answer to inspire yourself or others to start something huge and eat one bite at a time, that is take on one small chunk of the project at a time. As great an application as this riddle provides, I think seeing someone who has not only done that but has lived an exceedingly successful life modeling this philosophy speaks volumes more.

nick-vujicicThis week I was listening to Family Talk and was reminded of the life story of Nick Vujicic. He is a man, who at this point may have crossed over into his thirties, yet he is succeeding in life and accomplishing much more than most others including me. His story is unique because of his birth.

While most parents reach for their newborn to count all of the baby’s finger and toes, in Nick’s case, the doctor hid him from his mother because not only were there no fingers to count, there were no arms or legs. Mr. and Mrs. Vujicic’s baby was born without limbs. Even ultrasounds did not reveal this possibility and everyone, including the medical staff, were taken by surprise.

The Lord had a purpose for this boy. At the age of 6, he had experienced an exceptionally difficult day at school. Kids continually bullied him so he tried to commit suicide but then reconsidered. At the age of 15, he realized that although no one else understood why he was born this way, God did. Nick decided to let God use him for whatever He had planned. And that is exactly what God is doing.

Today, Nick speaks to teens on numerous campuses and shares his story. He talks to them about bullying, directing his comment to both those who have been bullied and those who dish it out. He speaks to them about finding their identity in Christ. You cannot help but be inspired through his charismatic smile and personality, yet even more than that you’ll be amazed at what he can do and continues to do. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out this video and see for yourself.   

What happened to the best?

My daughter recently recounted an article she had read about a college professor who wanted to demonstrate the principles of socialism in his classroom. Although his students did not totally embrace this philosophy, they thought treating the rich and poor alike sounded good to them. He challenged their thinking and perhaps it will challenge yours.

College-Student2The professor announced his plan to treat everyone the same and outlined his expectations. “All of the students would come to class, listen to the lectures, do the assignments and take the tests.  That’s fair, isn’t it? Then everyone should get the same grade.”

They all agreed and nodded assent. The daily routine resembled the normal classroom experience until the professor announced the results of the first test. “Everyone received a B.”

The student responses, however, were mixed. Those who normally applied themselves, studied hard and did their best in the exam, felt they had done well. They were disappointed and claimed they should have gotten an “A.” Those who crammed the night before were satisfied with the “B,” but those who didn’t even crack a book were ecstatic. A “B” to them was wonderful. They liked the professor’s socialistic plan.

The professor announced the next test but this time the students approached the event differently. Those who previously had studied hard figured if they would get a “B” anyway, why exert so much effort? This thought process trickled down to the crammers as well, and it provided a wonderful excuse for the partiers to continue their tradition. This time the professor announced the class results. Expecting another “B,” the class was slightly disappointed to learn their score this time had dropped to a “C.”

When it came time for the next test, the diligent students were disgusted with the partiers and figured why should they study? They could go with what they had absorbed from class. The crammers also felt less inclined to cram and hit the sack at 10:00 PM instead of burning the midnight oil. The partiers maintained their course of action, and the professor announced that this time the class had earned a “D” and a low one at that.

Finally the last test of the course was at hand, however, something else had transpired. Some of the students were not only failing to turn in assignments, but now they did not always bother to attend class. When the professor announced the results of the test, everyone received an “F.” No one was pleased, but they were all treated the same.

The professor explained the same thing happens in a nation. People lose their desire to work hard if they are going to get the same as their coworker who sleeps on the job. Soon everyone becomes lazy and nothing improves and things begin to deteriorate. Soon the people don’t know anything at all and cannot think for themselves. This is when the government steps in to take over and the people become pawns in society and lives at a poverty level.

I’m not sure if the professor’s students got the picture, but I thought it was an interesting experiment.

Spring’s Redemption

Spring has sprung. The grass has riz. I wonder where the birdie is. 

cardinal-snow-snowstorm-red-bird-Favim.com-474579My son told me yesterday that he received 12” of new snow, and it was still coming down. He was expecting 6 to 10 inches more today. Not what I would have scheduled for the first day of spring. When I think of spring, I’m looking for warm sunshine, green grass, balmy days, new life poking through the ground, warm temperatures, and longer days. Did I mention warm weather?

Spring does draw my heart to consider these things, spring-flowers1 yet I think its true meaning is hope! With spring comes a full assurance I will see an end to winter with its cold and yes, snow. The daylight hours will increase and warmer temperatures will begin to lure me outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Yet here’s the looming question. If the daylight hours are increasing, will it impact the way I use my time?

No doubt spring weather also brings additional tasks to clean up from winter’s winds and wild weather. The flower beds will require planning and planting, and the lawn will need attention. Yet all of the indoor responsibilities still require time as well. Somehow it all gets done. The work level increases and yet the number of hours in the day remain static. I tend to think the difference is more of those hours contain daylight, and I can accomplish more outdoors for a longer period. Yet more likely the change comes from my perspective and the way I align my priorities. Instead of being enticed to sit by the fire and watch TV or surf the web, I need to begin now to redeem the time. If I can do it while it is still getting dark early (though daylight savings has already started), just think how much more useful I can be when the reality of spring and summer come to fruition?

Here’s what I’m learning that may also help you. When you redeem the time, it can be done in increments, and it actually works better this way because two benefits appear. First you tend to sustain your efforts because you’re not making huge adjustments, just small ones. You’re increasing a little more each day. Second, you compound your efforts, much like interest on your savings account and increase them consistently. In so doing, one day you wake up and look over your shoulder with amazement to see where you were and where you are now. The key is consistency.

I love spring and all that it entails. (My apologies to those who suffer from spring allergies. I no longer do but more on that on another post.) Today I choose to use it as my springboard to a better and more productive me. I will do better than yesterday and move forward step by step. I can’t wait to see what happens between now and the beginning of summer. Feel free to hold me accountable.

Happy Valentine’s Day

tullips t11z104aNo doubt Hallmark, FTD Florist and Hershey Chocolate stocks are up today as millions of men and women seek to honor their special someone with a Valentine. Other retailers and restaurants will also increase their business, yet these displays of affection beg the question, will my significant other feel loved as a result? In other words, does the gift given match the person’s personality and help them to feel loved?

My husband loves roses and though I don’t send him flowers for Valentine’s Day, he knows that I enjoy them, and he lovingly sent me some (Thanks, Honey! J). Valentine tradition says roses are the perfect flower to say, “I love you” and spark romance. Although I too adore their beauty, this time of year I’m looking for spring, and a bouquet of tulips perk me up. My dear husband looked at what I liked rather than what he liked and selected an appropriate gift. And, he chose my favorite color.

Dr. Gary D. Chapman contends that each person has a predominant love language that speaks volumes to his/her heart and when another person speaks their language, they feel totally satisfied. It’s like their gas tank is full and their engine is purring like a kitten. It makes sense. If someone tried to speak to you in Portuguese or Russian, you’d have little idea what they were trying to say, even if the message were critically important. Chapman lists the five languages as

  • 5 love languages communication04Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Although each person has a combination of preferences, usually they have two that stand out. If the needs in these areas are met, the person flourishes and grows. Chapman has provided a free online assessment so that you can discover your own love language or that of your spouse or children. It’s especially crucial for teens. Check it out to see if you can find your spouse, kids as well as your own special love language. Be sure to let others know what it is so that they can fill your love tank appropriately.

By the way, have a super Happy Valentine’s Day!

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.

Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff

RowhomesinPhila_sh-231x239I read my friend Jane’s blog this morning and had to chuckle at the situation which triggered fear and trepidation in her heart. She had been playing with her cousins and ran into the wrong house to escape their capture. It reminded me of a similar experience I had.

Growing up, we lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but all of our relatives continued to live in Roxborough. Though on the fringes, Roxborough is still considered part of the city. Though only around age 4 or 5, I loved going out front to play because in this row-homed community, they had sidewalks. Evidently it was quite safe in those days because my mother let me out there by myself. That said, all of the houses looked alike. I did not think that I had traveled far, but evidently I lost my bearings because when nature called, I went to the front door of what I thought was my relative’s house and tried to get in. Though the screen door was open and you could see the people inside, the door was locked. When I asked to be let in, they emphatically said, “No.”

These people did not look familiar to me, but neither did some of my family members because we did not see them often, so I did not think that part strange.  Thinking they wanted me to go to the back door because I was a kid, I told them my need and insisted they let me in due to the urgent nature of my business. Their response was the same. Realizing I had made a mistake in going to the wrong house, I promptly returned to the sidewalk and cried for my mother. She came out of the house next door and expressed her disdain for my carrying on. I was mortified. I, like Jane, was also afraid the people would call the police, but evidently they chalked it up to a mere annoyance.

Today, I look back to the situation and laugh. I cannot believe how naïve I was to think I would end up in jail for a minor mistake. It makes me wonder how in years to come I will view circumstances that I now perceive to be horrendous. As I look back, I may not find them humorous, but this I do know. I will have realized that they had limits. The situation was much smaller than I had initially imagined, and an end came to the problem. Something else soon moved into it’s place. Hopefully too, I will have learned some valuable lesson or experienced a measure of growth. If nothing else, I can realize that there is always hope, and life’s too short to sweat the small stuff.