SCHEDULE IT!

Today I saw that one of my favorite musicians, Michael Franti, released a new single. I checked out the video and was inspired with a thought. I would love to share that thought with you today. I am also going to share the video with you in a link at the bottom of this post. The song is called Good Day For A Good Day. After listening to the song, which I suggest you do to get the most out of this post, it struck me that we seldom decide for ourselves that today would be a good day for a good day.

We schedule lots of things in our lives. We set an alarm clock for going to work in the morning. We often plan what we are going to have for dinner. We plan our vacations. How often do we plan to have a good day? Often times, we allow far too much of our days to be determined by outside circumstances. Did we have a good commute to work? Did work go well when we were there? Traffic ok on the way home? Everything good with the spouse and family at home? Then we can have a good day. There are even some of us who let circumstances halfway around the country or even around the globe determine what kind of day we are going to have. Political strife in the Congo, then we are going to be upset. Crime spree in London? We are going to be upset at how terrible people can be.

How often do we decide and say to ourselves, “Today is a great day to have a great day!” Often, just placing that declaration in our minds before venturing out can do wonders for setting us up for success. Naturally, this brings up the question, what happens if I say that and circumstances are not those of a good day? You wake up, stretch and say to yourself, or better yet out loud, that it is going to be a great day. Then you walk outside to discover a flat tire, or the fact that your car won’t start. I have even had the experience, after little sleep, going into Starbucks on the way to work to be informed they were out of coffee. This is chronicled in my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People.

These situations happen to us all and we have little or no control over them. What we do have control over is what we decide they mean to us. ‘Waking up in neutral’ and letting life determine our emotional outlook is not only dangerous, but foolish. If we have no control over what happens to us, we do have control over what attitude we approach life with. If we start the day determined to have a great day and we meet challenges, we are less likely to be knocked down by them. I have personally got to the point where I find myself saying, “Ok, I am determined to have a great day and now I have to deal with this flat tire/no coffee issue. How can I work my way around this?” I speak from experience in both of those challenges. When you are determined to accomplish something, obstacles become stepping stones and not barricades. In the case of the flat tire, once I met a nice man from the tow company and he now follows this blog. As for the no coffee at Starbucks, I discovered a few new drinks I enjoyed and expanded the way I can enjoy a stop there.

The other option is to do what is advocated in the first picture, plan a good day. This may sound like a foreign concept to many of you. Take a second to ponder this. If we spend time to plan a vacation, plan what we are going to wear to work the next day and a host of other mundane activities, why not plan to have a great day? It could involve a list like the picture above, a mix of obligations and enjoyable activities, or you could do a complete 180 degree turn and plan an entire day of things you enjoy. This can be a fun activity just to plan! Pick what time you would like to wake up. Maybe have some things ready for a healthy quick breakfast, or maybe even meet a friend at a local brunch spot. You could follow up that with a stroll in the park or some fun window shopping or real shopping if your budget allows. You could meet a friend for coffee, or just schedule an appointment with a good book and a cup of coffee. Have an enjoyable movie and some fun dinner options picked out. Maybe even a glass of your favorite wine to enjoy with it? A nice relaxing bath listening to some relaxing and enjoyable music? These are just some options you could have on your list. Schedule a great day for yourself today!

Whether you are scheduling what your great day will include or if you are just determined to have a great day no matter what life may throw your way, pick a day this week and start now. Start with one day a week and build from there. Your great day is as unique as you are. Our friend in Italy I know would enjoy a day with his wife, a glass of wine and listening to the band AC/DC. Personally, I would like my lady, rum (or some good coffee) and this new Michael Franti song. That is what makes to so fun and so customizable. Feel free to share what activities you are going to make a part of your great day in the comments below and please check out the new Michael Franti video in the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE NEW MICHAEL FRANTI VIDEO “GOOD DAY FOR A GOOD DAY”

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

Today’s world is filled with many acts of beauty and kindness. There are the numerous examples of nature we pass everyday. Birds flying by our windows, even squirrels stealing from the birdfeeders with their comical gestures. The trees in the park, sun dappled paths. There is the smile or a kind word from a stranger. A beautiful painting we can notice as we are sitting writing a blog in a coffee shop. All of these things can make our world so much more enjoyable to be in.

WARNING!!!! All of these things can be taken away from us if we are not careful. If you recall from a few posts ago, we spoke of seeds of knowledge taking root in our hearts and minds and blossoming at different times in our life. We also mentioned these seeds need to find fertile ground to land on. It is here where we can run into trouble. In addition to all of the things that I just mentioned, the world provides plenty of things that will harden our heart if we are not careful. We see news of conflicts near and far. We hear about how this group of people may not want our group of people to succeed. We can even hear less than inspiring lyrics on the radio. If you work in retail, or with the public, there are plenty of things that can leave you feeling less than inspired about people and the world in general.

Even those of us who do our best to live a positive and rewarding life, can be, on occasion, overwhelmed by negative influences. Have you ever found yourself a victim of someone else’s creative driving? On top of that, this person who must have used a bribe to obtain their drivers license, waves at you…with one finger! Sometimes you are having a great day, but are witness to others that are not having such a great day. I recall stopping to write at my local coffee shop and listening to the person ahead of me berate the barista because, and I would not have believed this if I didn’t witness it myself, they had 5 ice cubes in their coffee instead of the 6 they asked for. If you open your coffee and count the ice cubes to look for something to be upset about, it may be time to reconsider some priorities. Maybe it is just turning on the news to witness people being attacked and harmed or even killed just because of what they look like or believe?

One of these events may not be overwhelming in themselves, but you experience a few of them together and it can really sour your disposition. It may be that you experience a few of them day after day. Your heart can begin to grow hard. Our opinion of the world and the people in it may begin to take a negative turn. We may begin to feel discouraged and lose the sense of hope that keeps a smile on our face and in our heart. We may not be so eager to let others in emotionally for fear of being hurt. These would all be understandable reactions. After all, I will be the first to admit there is much in the world that could use improving. That is why I write these blogs and go around speaking at different events.

The question then becomes “What can we do about this?” How do we prevent our hearts from growing hard? If they have, how can we soften them up again? The answer, in short, is in what you are reading. We cannot help many of the things I mentioned. We can’t teach people to drive with courtesy. We can’t teach people how to have respect when one less ice cube shows up in their hot coffee. We certainly can’t help what a foreign power does to their people. That is why filling our lives with as many positive influences and self-care is so vitally important. These are not things we should wait to employ until our life is going south. They are a good form of preventative medicine. If you fill your life with positive influences and practice a healthy amount of self-care and nothing goes wrong, you will just end up happier and that will spill over onto the way you treat others. If, however, you run into some of the negative examples above, you will be better equipped to understand this is only a small portion of the world, no matter how it may seem, and that there are plenty of other positive people and beauty to be enjoyed.

To put it another way, our emotional well-being is much like our physical well-being. If you just wait to think of your health until you are sick and then take medicine, you will be sick more often. The negative emotional experiences we are exposed to can be compared to the many germs and viruses our bodies are exposed to. Occasionally, they may get the best of us and we get physically overwhelmed and need to take a break or some medicine. What do we do to limit that? We strengthen our immune system. Incorporated emotional self-care and positive influences can strengthen our mental immune system. Think of positive influences and bouts of self-care you can put into your life and prevent your heart from hardening.

FINISH STRONG!

Every weekend many of us use this time to unplug and just do nothing. That is a good idea, but we must strike a good balance. Many goal-oriented people have a hard time turning it off. There is a solution for both of these groups of people.

This weekend, let us use our time productively (for my driven friends) but let us be productive in the self-care department. This means adding things like in the picture above. Schedule some silence. This may sound silly, but making time to sit in the quiet with no distractions can be a good challenge in today’s world.

Schedule some exercise. This doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym. Plan a bike ride or walk in the park with the one you love. Schedule some fun conversation. This can be a coffee or dinner date with a friend.

The point here is that we can be productive and give ourself some much needed self-care so that we can continue to serve others. It is all about striking that all important balance. Finish your week and start your weekend strong!

A POLITE REMINDER

Here is a picture I took of the clouds above the local Starbucks I was meeting my mother at. In fact, I am actually writing this post at a different coffee shop not far from this one. As the month comes to a close, I want to give a friendly reminder to all of us, myself included. In this new economy, we have switched from the problem of businesses being able to open, to one of them being able to find employees to serve the customers they have. This is something to keep in mind as you are served not only at your local coffee shop or restaurant, but also at grocery stores when the lines seem a bit longer than normal. Most of the business owners I talk to would really like to have more help to serve you, but they are unable to find some.

While we are experiencing longer wait times than usual or slower service let us try to keep one thing in mind. We are being served by the people who did show up. The ones who are often working double shifts or longer hours. The ones who are doing not only there job, but often the jobs of two or more people. If we encounter an employee who seems a little less than full of sunshine, let us try to remember they are probably working twice as hard as normal and running on less sleep as well. It would be easy for us to be filled with anger, but let us do as the Dalai Lama suggests and show our strength by expressing patience. Perhaps offer a ‘Thank you’ and some encouragement. Employees working short staffed often feel burnt out and under appreciated. They need our patience the most.

As the month rolls on, I ask you to keep in mind the struggles of the workers who are doing their best to serve us every day in all of the locations we go. Just to help with the tranquil mood, I am going to end with another picture of the beautiful sunset I witnessed outside of the coffee shop that day that I met my mother.

FARWELL TO A LEGEND

He looks a little older these days

Most of you have heard me mention my friend Curtis before. I first ran into this gentleman on a trip to the local establishment Urban Joe’s Cafe,. Throughout the years I have known this man I have watched him navigate his way through school, maintain a fitness routine, become a father all while working full-time as the face of the franchise, if you will, of Urban Joe’s. This past Saturday was his last day. Curtis, his wife and young son are moving next month to start a new chapter of their lives in sunny Las Vegas. Although the restaurant will continue to offer the mouth-watering cuisine prepared by chef Carlos, and the same charming atmosphere, it will no doubt miss the personality of Curtis.

Curtis and his wife, Danie

Curtis has done a great deal to become more than just the face of Urban Joe’s, but a piece of the fabric of the community. When people think of the city of West Allis, they can recall a visit where they received great food in a pleasant place. What made Urban Joe’s so special when Curtis was there was his ability to care for his customers. To make them feel less like a number and more like a friend. To that end, he became a pleasant part of the people’s lives that live and work in the city. I know several people who, when visiting the city, make it a point to stop and see Curtis. They do so because everyone likes to be treated with respect. They like to feel valued and cared about. Those are qualities that you cannot put a price on and ones that will surely be missed with the departure of this wonderful family.

While the city of Las Vegas is going to gain some amazing and wonderful people, the city of West Allis will have lost a great deal of it’s warmth and welcoming nature. Whatever city you are from, I am sure this has happened there as well. Great people come, bless us with their gifts of love and hospitality and move on to share it with a new city. That means a great responsibility falls on the hearts and shoulders of the people left behind. It is why we must work to provide a warm and welcoming feeling to everyone we meet. We not only represent ourselves, but the places we work and the cities we live in. We should remember how we like to be treated and feel when we go somewhere. Let us provide that feeling to others. We need to work together to make sure the light of love and welcome shines bright for all we come in contact with.

On a personal note, I know Margie and I are going to miss seeing Curtis and Danie as we consider them good friends. We wish them and their family great health and fortune in their new adventure. Margie, my mom and I were lucky enough to spend some time with Curtis on his last day at Urban Joe’s. We will certainly continue to support this local business but we will always miss the presence of our goods friends. Those who have had the pleasure of knowing Curtis and Danie no doubt feel the same.

HOW A STARBUCKS EMPLOYEE IS CHANGING THE WORLD

This is actually the Starbucks by my work

Most days after my day job at the Post Office I like to stop and unwind with a nice cup of coffee. It is rather convenient that about 2 blocks from the office I work at there is the Starbucks you see pictured above. The staff there are always pleasant and I have had many great conversations with several of them. Today’s post comes from a recent conversation with a barista named Deb. I mentioned the pleasant staff, Deb is certainly an example of that. Always greets everyone as they walk in and has a great memory for the names of several of the regulars.

Back in the days when you could sit in a coffee shop

On this particular day, Deb and I exchanged greetings. My answer to the question of “How are you doing?” that day was my usual “Living the dream!” (which if you are keeping score at home is the title for my soon to be released second book) Deb looked at me and exclaimed she was living the dream too, ‘one cup at a time’. I let that sink in. Considering we were in a coffee shop where she was serving customers, it was good to be living the dream one cup at a time. I let her know how much I enjoyed that response. Little did I know there was an even more amazing side to it. She used to work at a different Starbucks location (ironically one that was by an office I used to work at) While at that location she tried doing something a little extra. Do you remember when they used to write your name on the cups? Now it comes on a sticker, which I feel is not nearly as personal. This time as Deb was marking the cup she decided to add a little smiley face. Nothing too crazy, just a little gesture of happiness. The reaction from the customer told her that it was surely a gesture that was appreciated. “When I noticed how much that meant, I started doing it to more cups.” Deb explained to me. I thought about how I felt when I received a smiley face on a to go cup or even the bill at a restaurant. That simple gesture not only lifted my spirits, but made me feel more valued as a customer.

Does putting a smiley face on a coffee cup amount to changing the world? I began to do the math. If Deb did this to a mere 3 customers per shift and she worked 5 shifts a week, she would bring joy and a little bit of unexpected happiness to 15 people a week. If we were to multiply that times the 52 weeks in a year and throw in a few extra smiles during the holidays, we would be approaching 1000 people. How do you think the world would change with a 1000 people experiencing a little extra joy? What would the ripple effect be? Would they pass that smile on to someone else? Would they take it home to their family at the end of the day? if you work with the public, I know it can often be a trying affair. It is, however, a situation filled with opportunity! When I used to work the counter at the post office, I would often stamp a smiley face on the customer’s receipt. I was always amazed at how much that meant to my customers. It was my intent, much like Deb, to make sure they knew they were not just another customer, but a valued person and that their time and business was appreciated.

In today’s mask-filled pandemic world, a smile can be a rare and valuable treasure. If you can’t share one with your customers on your face, we must be creative and find other ways. They are always appreciated even more so now. A simple gesture of kindness can change someone’s day. You do that enough and you too can change the world.

THE ENDING OF AN ERA

As a youngster, I have memories of this place called Skelly’s in my hometown of West Allis, Wisconsin. It was a small breakfast place. When you walked in you were greeted with the smell of frying eggs and buttered toast. If you wanted something healthy, your only option was to go somewhere else. I love places like that. Warm, comforting with a little greasy breakfast. Something about a diner just takes you back in time.

When I was still quite young, Skelly’s closed for good. I don’t remember much about that except one day it was just gone. When you are young I suppose that is how things go. Things are here one day and gone the next. There was a similar place down the road a piece, called The Cup and Saucer. Same sort of food and also went out of business when I was young. It wasn’t until I grew up (physically) that I began to recall and long for a place like Skelly’s.

Then, at that same very location opened a wonderful new cafe – Urban Joe’s. I do not recall the first time that I visited this wonderful place, but I do know I have not stopped visiting since. Unlike Skelly’s there are plenty of healthy options. (One of my favorites is the Mediterranean egg white sandwich. They also serve Valentine Coffee, which happens to be my favorite local coffee to drink. (I even have a Valentine Coffee sticker on my laptop) The best part of Urban Joe’s Café is the service that you receive there. It comes courtesy of the husband and wife team of Curtis and Danie. Both treat you as if you were more family than customer. I always enjoy encounters with them both. Curtis and I can maintain what amounts to rather entertaining banter the whole time that I am there. Margie and I actually have plans to go there a week from today.

Sadly, for those of us here in West Allis, Curtis, Danie and their young son will be moving to Las Vegas in May. This will spell the end of the era of Urban Joe’s. I heard rumors it may become a taco restaurant. Perhaps it shall keep its name and format, but without these two behind the counter things will certainly not be the same.

Unlike when I was a young child, I can see and appreciate this ending coming. Although knowing ahead of time allows me time to soak in a few more wonderful meals, cups of great coffee and experiences at Urban Joe’s, it is also bittersweet. Knowing that time is limited can be a somewhat sorrowful feeling, but it also reminds us how everything in our life is transitory, if not fleeting. Whether that is a friendship, a relationship, a job, a vacation and even more to the point, our own lives, everything comes to an end. Let us not view this as a somber thought, but let us use it as motivation to live every day – no wait, every moment – to the fullest. Be present when we are enjoying all of the moments of our life. Urban Joe’s may never be the same. Curtis and Danie may certainly be leaving. That is just going to inspire me to enjoy every moment I have left in both that establishment and with these wonderful people Margie and I have been fortunate enough to befriend.

YOUR TRUTH MAY NOT BE THE ONLY TRUTH

For years I have been telling you how important focus is for impacting your life. (with language and physical movement being the other two) With today’s technology, we can find any information we are looking for. This not only comes in handy for those arguing far-fetched political ideas, but any other subject as well. The dangerous part of this is that if our primary focus is how terrible the world is, with just a click of a mouse we can find information to support that theory. It is actually even easier than that. With online news delivered right to your phone, many people wake up, roll over and read about violence, environmental disasters and other such unpleasant topics.

Here is a statement that, if we remember it, will make our world, and those in it, a lot easier to understand and deal with. If we fully understand this statement, we can have compassion for those who are different than us. The statement is this – our truth is not the truth. What does that even mean and how can understanding it have a great impact on our life? Let us start with the first part of that question, what does that mean. You would think facts are facts. Once we read them that has to be the truth right? Not so. Let me give you a quick example from a book I was reading and you will be able to better grasp what we are working on here.

Let us suppose you have been applying for months to get your dream job. Today is the day! You have an interview this afternoon. You drive a good 30 minutes to the location. You are running a little early so you decide to stop and get a cup of coffee. You are so nervous you can hardly contain yourself. You order your cup of coffee and and wait. A few seconds later you are handed a steaming cup of delicious coffee. Within seconds a young man bumps your arm and spills the coffee all over you. It is on your white shirt, down the front of your pants and scalding your leg. “Watch where you’re walking!” you yell. “So sorry.” is all the young man can say before quickly walking off. It is too late. The damage is done. Your choices now are showing up for perhaps is the most important interview for your life with coffee stains all over your clothes or trying to reschedule and interview at the last minute and hope they will oblige you. All the fault of some young kid that was not paying attention, right?

Not so fast. Let us look at this from a different angle. Instead let us be someone watching this happen while drinking our hot tea and writing a blog that will go on to positively affect the lives of thousands. We notice a man come in the coffee shop. We notice him because we saw him walk past the door, realize it and have to turn around and come back in. Once in line he seems nervously agitated. He is fidgeting as we waits his turn, clearing mentally preoccupied with something else. He orders his coffee and as he offers to pay drops his credit card. “Damn it!” he yells. Rather upset with something that doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. As he waits for his coffee his eyes seem to have a glossed over look as if his body was there, but his mind was somewhere else. Finally, he is handed his coffee and quickly turns and runs into a young man who was walking by, spilling his coffee all over himself and the floor. “Watch where you’re walking!” you hear him yell.

In the first example, when we were the young man on the way to the important interview, the fault seem to be entirely with the young man. When we were the person watching the situation unfold from in front of our laptop, the fault seem to be a little on both individuals. Which is the truth in the drama at Starbucks? The answer is both…or neither. There is an entirely different viewpoint that could be explored if we were the young man who did the spilling, or the worker behind the counter or any of the other people in that coffee shop at that moment. Imagine magnifying that by thousands, or millions of lives looking at a global issue and see how many versions of the truth their can be. All of them equally as valid as our own.

Whether you decide to Google “Why the work sucks” or “Why the world is amazing” you will find answers to both. So, does the world suck or is it amazing? It depends a great deal on what our focus is on. Remember, our truth is determined a great deal on our life experiences, our beliefs and opinions applied to certain situations. Others have different life situations, beliefs and opinions and can view the same exact situation in an entirely different light. Both are true. Knowing this we cannot only understand that our truth is not the only truth. Keeping that in mind we can hopefully develop and appreciate the fact that others have lived a different life that has been shaped by different experiences. To them their truth, although different, is just as real.

3 PEOPLE, 3 LOCATIONS, 4 ADVENTURES

In the past, I have written a good deal about the walks in nature that I enjoy so much. It not only provides a good source of exercise, but stress relief, entertainment and spiritual fulfillment as well. In this post I would like to share with you the story of a few of these walks and the things I noticed they all had in common as well as what makes each on a unique adventure in its own right. I have noticed each walk contained four of the same elements. They each had people, places, exercise and conversation.

The first adventure in our story came on a Monday morning. There is a park that I drive past daily on my way to work. It is called Falk Park. It looks quite small from the side of the road. As with most natural areas I pass, there was a voice in my head saying “That looks like fun. I really should explore there.” I contacted my regular fellow explorer, who also happens to play the role of my mother. She wasn’t quite sold on the idea of exploring what could be a small park. Weeks went by and I kept driving past thinking the same thought. I eventually looked up the park on a map only to discover that there seemed to be a healthy bit of green behind that roadside entrance. I looked at a few photos and saw wooden bridges, creeks and a host of other interesting views. As I relayed this information to my traveling companion we decided to venture out that Monday, which is my off day from the Postal Service.

When it comes to walking with my mother, exercise is generally the main facet focused upon. We walk at a good clip not shying away from hills and valleys. This is good as it keeps us healthy and able to walk further. The sad part is that often we miss some things due to the speed. On this day it was a new place and we were both excited to walk. As we set out the scenery changed often from woods to prairie and back again. We discovered one trail ended up right behind an Ikea store. Soon, there was an unscheduled break for personal relief and refueling. Stopping by our local Valentine coffee shop, we were caffeinated and ready to explore some more. The conversation consisted mainly of observing all of the new scenes we were taking in. This included a stop and comparing of notes with a fellow hiker. Four and a half miles later we returned to the car having exhausted most of the trail possibilities.

The second walk happened the following day. I was joined by my good friend Nick. The journey again began at a coffee shop on the east side of Milwaukee. Regretfully, we were on a limited time frame because of Nick’s professional responsibilities. That was just fine as any time with a good friend is time well spent. We both grabbed a delicious beverage and began what was certainly a more leisurely stroll towards the shoreline of lake Michigan. As we walked the conversation consisted a great deal of ways of improving ourselves and the state of my next book. We strolled down to the lake and the turned and walked through the neighborhood surrounding it. Nick saw several people he knew and we exchanged pleasantries. The great thing about walking with Nick is the conversation is always positive and free flowing. I leave with a great deal of inspiration and ideas for writing. I do so hope he is as least half as blessed with the situation as I am.

Our third adventure took place the next day. I had such a good time with Nick, I decided to suggest the lake front for a walk with my mom. She was up for the stroll as she had just done ten miles the day before in a state park. I picked her up and we began our journey at the same coffee shop as Nick and I had. Carrying a full cup of coffee tended to slow our travel speed a little. As we began to walk the lake front we noticed people availing themselves to the brew pub and its refreshments. It was an unexpectedly warm day in early November and it appeared that everyone was trying to make the most of it. There seemed to be an aura of joy and easy-going nature in the air.

As we walked along the lakefront we took in visions of the downtown skyline, spoke with people walking dogs, noticed how many more people we enjoying this trail than the ones in the woods that we usually travel on. The pace was still brisk, but the conversation was plentiful. We talked about other places we have walked, the weather and were we should go next. There were brief strolls through areas covered by trees, but most of the time we found ourselves on paved paths shared by walkers, joggers and bicyclists alike. It was quite a different vibe than our walks in the woods, but still a very nice one. We walked along the shoreline for a little over two miles until it ended at the Milwaukee location of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We watched and marveled at the wonderful security measures in place outside the building and then turned around to make our way back.

The last of our adventures for this blog finds me joined by a very familiar companion – me. In other words, I was walking by myself. It was again an unseasonably warm day and I could not pass the opportunity to enjoy some time outside. Just about ten blocks from my house in West Allis Wisconsin, is a small park that has a very ‘neighborhood’ vibe to it. I decided that a quick walk around there is just what was needed. As I set out I started my health app to track my distance and pace to make sure I got a small amount of exercise out of this walk. It was indeed the slowest pace of all four walks. I have a tendency to stop and take in different scenes as well as explore different things just off the beaten path. On this day I discovered a wonderful painted rock that was places by a local rock-painting club that Margie and I belong to. Fittingly, it was painted with the word ‘Love’ as I was loving this stroll. (walk may have been a little bit ambitious on this day)

The conversation on this day was mostly internal sans a few greetings to passing neighbors. I noticed that while walking by myself I tend to be very introspective. I tend to be that way in general, but something about walking by myself in nature brings it out even more so. The idea for this very blog came about as I was overlooking the lagoon. As I continued on I was struck by how many of my community were enjoying the park on that afternoon. Then I recalled that living in a place where the weather can be described as nine months of winter and three months of very poor sledding, they were probably equally as excited to enjoy the day as I. The sun made every glance look like a scene from a jigsaw puzzle. I captured a few of the ones that I thought were the best and sent them to Margie who was busy at home.

The interesting point out of all of this is that you can do the same activity and have a completely different adventure. The people you share it with, the conversations you have and the places you go can make all of the difference. Even if they are completely different, they all serve their own purpose. You can get a good workout one day. You can stop and marvel at nature the next. Perhaps even ponder life and its great mysteries as you walk with a good friend. As for the conclusion of my last walk, I found myself a little disheveled, but very relaxed. If you happen to see me and any of my walking companions out on an adventure, feel free to say hello or even join us for a few paces. You might end up in my next blog post.

FINDING JOY WHERE THERE WAS NONE

Above is a picture of a trail I was walking on this past Monday. As you can see, the trees are turning colors and many of them have already lost their leaves entirely. It is fall here in the city of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. This means temperatures are starting to dip, birds are packing their bags and flying south for the winter ( I am a little bit jealous but I will get over it ) Snow will soon cover the ground and there will be a few days when even stepping outside will be hazardous to your health. This is truly not the climate for me. I suffer from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is where feelings of emotional depression and hopelessness can creep in as the seasons change. In short, my mood tends to drop with the temperature. This has something to do with the bodies reduced exposure to sunlight they say. All I know is, for me, winter sucks.

As I continue to further my plan to become a best-selling author and move to San Diego, I am also on the lookout for ways to make living in a northern climate more bearable. My beautiful Margie bought me a “Happy Lamp” which mimics the sunlight. As a matter of fact, I am using it as I write this blog for all of you. I make sure to exercise daily, take vitamin D and do all of the other things they recommend. Still, at times especially after the holidays, I can find myself in a serious funk! As I was walking on this breezy fall day watching the leaves fall from the trees I noticed something off to the side of the trail – a mushroom growing right out of a tree!

As you can see in the picture above, it almost looked fake. My mother, who was walking with me at the time, laughed with me as we marveled at the strangeness of it. About a mile further down the trail I saw something else, a sign in the middle of some tall grass. This indicated there was some additional side trail we had not known about earlier. Although we choose not to explore it that day due to an over consumption of coffee prior to heading out on this walk, we certainly made a note of it. Here is the funny thing, neither of these things would have been noticeable if the leaves had been on the trees or if the grass had been full and green. It was only through the ‘death’ of the season that we discovered these things.

I began to ponder as we walked along. Thinking as I walked, which I so often do. This is true for the passing of the seasons, but it is also true in many other areas of our lives. When we lose a job, we not only develop a sudden appreciation for the reliable income that comes with a job we must go to everyday, but we also are forced to be creative in our search for new employment. We brush up both our resume and networking skills. Perhaps we consider taking a new course or starting that side business. We may even have an opportunity to pursue something more in line with our passions. It is only with the loss of the job that all of this is usually made possible.

Even the sad situation of losing someone we care about brings many things to light. Memories and things you may not have appreciated about that person. Love for, and the importance of, life itself. The value of the relationships we have with others. Making sure that we live our lives in such a way that we give the most to others while we are here. All of these very important, and often positive, events seem to occur after we lose someone close to us.

Could any of these things happen without the loss? Perhaps. I could venture off the path while I am walking and see what I find. We can always start our passion based business or brush up our resume while still employed. Perhaps there are also ways to more fully appreciate the fragility of life without losing someone who means so much to us. These things are possible, but are often only brought to light through a loss. It is a great lesson the change of seasons can teach all of us. Even a future best-selling author in a state with 9 months of winter and 3 months of very poor sledding could come to appreciate some aspect of winter.

The point here is that in many situations that we feel a loss of joy, there are gifts to be found. In every challenge there is the seed of equal to or greater opportunity. This winter, in addition to the steps I am already taking, I will look for additional gifts the cold weather reveals. Snuggling closer to the beautiful woman I have in my life. Appreciation for the wonderful meals I can enjoy without leaving my house. The simple pleasures of a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter day. That is not to say that I would pass on that ocean front villa in the islands, but until then I shall look for the joy where there once was none.