TRADITIONS

The Holiday season is almost upon us. At local stores decorations are starting to go up, I even heard a Christmas song on the radio the other day. With the holidays coming up we can find our minds turning toward traditions. There are many different kinds of traditions. There are traditions based on our different faiths. This can encompass many different things from fasting, praying, style of dress and many more. These traditions are very important for cultural reasons. The connect us as a faith-based community and refresh our spiritual nature. There are also different family traditions. These can include shopping for holiday gifts together, creating a holiday meal together or just gathering at a certain family members house for great times. The traditions here can be as unique as the family itself.

The tradition I would like to discuss today is more individual. It can be between spouses, brother and sister, friends or even an individual tradition. The picture I used for this blog post is one of Margie and me at one of our favorite breakfast places. We have been going there since shortly after we met. Sadly, this day we missed another tradition of ours which was an event called ‘Cider Sunday’ in which a local nature preserve celebrates all things apple. We also have other traditions that we have began. Most of them both add love to our life, as well as keeping that love fresh and fun. Do you have something like this with the love of your life? Maybe a special place you go on a birthday? Maybe an event you look forward to attending every year? Do you celebrate the first day of spring by having a picnic in the park for example?

If you do not have a romantic tradition, or would like to include more, why not get together with your love today and discuss that? This also works with brother and sisters, friends, coworkers and anyone else you would like to include. My suggestion is this, create traditions that help that relationship grow. Maybe something that fosters a feeling of gratitude and appreciation in the relationship, or perhaps a way to grow and learn together? In the case of romantic partners, use Margie and me as an example. Create traditions that feed love and keep it fresh and growing.

Personal traditions may be something that is not as familiar with a lot of you, but I think they can have a great impact on our lives. Perhaps start a tradition of keeping a gratitude journal every night or at the very least once a week. A daily or weekly meditation practice could serve you as well. They can be traditions that add joy to your life. I do things to celebrate the first day of spring and summer each year. I also attend a bicycle expo every year as it helps me look forward to spring and being able to get out and ride.

Feel free to share any traditions you have with us in the comments below. Whether they are Faith, family, romantic or personal. This way we can all inspire each other with great ideas!

 

ARE YOU CHASING YOUR HERO?

I have always been a fan of Matthew McConaughey’s movies. Usually, they are fun and his characters are always amusing to me. Recently, I saw the video of his Oscar speech for best actor. In the speech there were a lot of things I learned that I liked about Matthew McConaughey the person. I will include the link to the video at the end of this post.

The one that that I want to share with you has to do with chasing your hero. In the video someone asked him who his hero was. After some thought he said “I know who my hero is. It is me ten-years from now.” The same person saw him ten years later and asked him, “So are you your hero now?” After informing him that he was not he explained that again his hero was still ten years away.

As I am want to do, I sat and meditated on that for a while. Why would your hero be you ten years from now? What I believe Mr. McConaughey meant was that ten years from now you want yourself to be the best you can be. How that happens is by focusing on the being the best we can be every day. There will be days that we stumble. There will even be days that we fall. Even those days provide a chance to be our own hero. What would your hero do if they fell? When facing a challenge Heroes learn, grow and adapt. We can too.

Think of who you want to be ten years from now. Who would you have to be to start along that path today? I encourage you to watch this video because there are a lot of other great things in there. The importance of family, of faith and of gratitude. These are common themes throughout our time together on this site. It is always encouraging to see someone who has accomplished so much being humble enough to realize that.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO

THE IMPORTANT FIRST STEP

Recently, I have had some conversation with a new friend of mine about some stress they have been going through. Most of their stress had focused around an aspect of their job, but had been affecting both their family and their relationship. This happens quite often and can happen to all of us and at some point usually does. This is quite often referred to as taking your job/work home with you. I have even known some people who have changed their entire essence of who they are based on working in a negative environment. This can especially hold true for those working in law enforcement, first responders, teachers, the courts and any other job that exposes you to less than desirable people. It is not limited to these careers, however. You can experience stress in retail, food and beverage industry or the travel industry. It is not only costumers, but coworkers that can cause us stress. I recall early in my postal career this being true. The post office can be a stressful and negative work environment more often than not.

What helped me and what did I share with my friend to help them? I am going to share some of that with you in hopes that you too can use it or share it with someone you know who might be going through some great deal of stress. There are a few basic things I would recommend starting today, whether you are under stress or feeling good about how your life is going. Being proactive can make dealing with stress a lot easier. The time to learn to swim is on the shore and not when you are in a boat that is sinking. Remember I speak from experience. If I had known about or used some of what I am going to share with you when I began working at the post office I could have saved myself and those I care about a lot of stress and hurt feelings.

The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. According to a study done by Forbes magazine up to 70% of us are going to jobs we do not like. In our culture we have put a priority on things like money and benefits to the detriment of our own happiness. Insurance is important, but choosing one job or position you may not like because it has better benefits may end up causing you to experience more trips to the doctor than it will help you reducing your medical costs. How can that be? According to a study done by Stanford University, 80% of visits to a primary care doctor are stress related. Stress has been found to be a common denominator in nearly all medical conditions. Even if stress was not related to the onset of the condition, continued stress will only worsen every medical malady.

Great, we are all a bunch of stressed out individuals. Knowing such information can lead to little comfort, but do little to help alleviate the actual stress itself. For that we must create and use some tools to help us. One of the first things I have recommended in both my book as well as seminars is creating a happy playlist. This is exactly what is sounds like. A list of songs that put you in a good mood. I don’t care if it is the song don’t worry be happy, or the theme to the Jefferson’s television show, whatever makes you happy put it on the list. Now create a playlist on your iPod or other MP3 player. I actually have created a happy playlist on YouTube so I can listen to it anywhere I have my cell phone. Now when you encounter a particularly bad day at the office we can listen to our happy playlist on our way home so we arrive in a better state of mind. If the situation is really bad, you can find yourself in the restroom with an ear bud in. This will not do anything to directly change the situation, but put you in a much better frame of mind to deal with whatever challenge is facing you.

In addition to music, which I believe provides the quickest boost in mood, you can apply this to other media as well. Create a list of movies you enjoy watching, books you enjoy reading or places you enjoy going to eat. If at all possible, do this while you are in a good mood. Once again it is easier to think of what makes you happy when you are not already stressed out. Then when stress comes knocking, pull out your list, or just push ‘play’ on your happy playlist. I recall listening to Bob Marley’s Legend cd every lunch hour while working for a telemarking concern. I think that saved my sanity more than once.

The other thing I recommend is keeping a journal. For those of you who follow my work even a little I am sure you have heard me mention keeping a journal quite often. The benefits are many and I can’t possibly list them all here. A few worth mentioning in regards to work place stress and how to reduce it are as follows. First, writing your feelings and the facts of the situation down on paper can offer a lot more clarity than trying to figure it all out in your head. It also removes a great deal of stress from keeping all in your head. Second, it provides a great place to vent. Quite often those we love, even those closest to us, can reach a point when being a sounding board becomes too much. We must remember they are dealing with their own stresses as well. Writing in our journal can be a relieving and safe place to vent. Finally, seeing everything in black and white can bring to light solutions we may not have considered when we were in the middle of the emotional whirlwind. Reading back it can show us patterns that we go through that routinely create stress in our lives. By recording how we feel at the moment and being able to go back and reread it when we are in a better mental state can be enlightening too.

As an added bonus, I recommend doing as many of these things as you can out in nature. Being outside in the fresh air can serve as its own therapy. Add some physical exercise and you multiply the stress reliving benefits. It can be anything from an intense run, to a leisurely stroll. Motion helps emotion. Do yourself a favor and get outside and get moving. You can listen to your playlist as you do so. When you stop to rest, you could pull out your journal and write. Before you know it you will create a shield around you that no workplace stress can get through.

By all means, if you have any other great stress reduction tips to add please do so in the comments below.

 

 

TIME TO ESCAPE

This was my view at about 7:30 this morning as I prepared to go for a bicycle ride. Only a small journey from where this picture is taken is a small clearing I like to go to and think, read or just relax. It not only provides me a nice walk in the park, but it gives me a place to recharge my soul.

In today’s busy world where we are constantly surrounded by people and technology, it can be hard to escape. That is why this weekend I recommend you have an escape. If you don’t have a special spot like mine, it may be a good time to start pondering where a good place for you might be. Ideally, this place should be a spot in nature. Losing all of the urban sounds that we experience daily will give you more peace than you can imagine. Even if you live in the heart of the city, find a park like I did where you may not be able to escape the sounds of the modern world entirely, but you can lose yourself by focusing on the sounds of nature. The wind blowing through the trees, birds singing, maybe even a small brook or creek near by.

The other caveat about selecting a spot is it should be somewhere you can be alone. As you can see in the photo above, you might have some visitors from time to time. In a world filled with constant interaction, whether it be in person, or now even on social media when we are by ourselves, finding time to spend with the person in the mirror is far and few between. Isn’t it great to spend time with others? Of course it is, but without spending time alone with our thoughts we can end up feeling lost. What do I mean by this? That is a great question. Let me ask you something and you tell me if it rings true for you. Have you ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed? Have you ever walked into a room and forgot if you were coming or going?

A lot of us are so focused on giving to others we forget to stop and think of what we may need or what our goals for our life is. We are focused on giving to our families, our job and our friends. There is nothing wrong with helping others and being a productive member of society. If we do that at the expense of ourselves we can end up feeling burnt out and unable to give anything to anyone.

Take time to escape this weekend. Spend at least 30 minutes alone and preferably in nature. If you are anything like me you will leave not only recharged, but with a sense of joy and inner peace you did not have when you arrived. Begin to think of your spot today and escape with yourself this weekend. I would love to hear how it affected you. Feel free to come back to this post on Monday and share in the comments below. Even though you will be by yourself, you never know who you will meet.

TAKE YOUR TIME

I recall a cousin of mine when I was young who was always frustrated at not being able to ride a bike. It seemed they had taken longer than the normal child would to master the skills of balance and coordination needed to go forward without the assistance of training wheels. Eventually, they learned and were able to harness the freedom a bicycle affords you when you are a child.

This would not have been able to happen without their parents there to refuse to allow them to give up and quit, which was a desire my cousin expressed many times. When we are children, if we are in a healthy family situation, there is always somebody encouraging and refusing to allow us to accept no for an answer. It could be a parent, a caring teacher or even an older sibling.

When we are adults this is often not the case. If an adult expresses the desire to give up because the results they are seeking seem just out of grasp who is to tell them no? If you need an example, look no further than me trying to operate with any sort of skill on the dance floor. Another thing we seem unwilling to do as adults is to move outside our comfort zones. Quite often we stay with just what we are good at. There is some wisdom to this. If there is something you enjoy and are naturally talented at, it would serve the world best if you were to focus on that.

If, however, like most adults, you have a yearning to master a skill you are not quite proficient at don’t let the speed of which those skills seem to be coming to you discourage you. It seems the fear of looking foolish, or even not talented in front of others is a fear most of us are unable to leave in childhood. Comparing yourself to others around you will rarely serve you. As a quick reminder, the harder you have to work at something, the greater the victory when you finally accomplish it. Keep going my friend.

LOVE IS THE REWARD

We have spent the last few posts discussing relationships. How to increase the odds of finding a good one. How important it is to bring the best version of you to the relationship you are in. How important it is to respect yourself while you are respecting your partner. These are all great ideas. They are not always easy to do, but the reward is certainly worth it. What is that reward? It is a relationship that supports and adds joy to your life. Whether that be a great friendship or an intimate relationship.

Even while working hard to craft these skills, life can put us in situations that make maintaining our joyful and loving relationship difficult at best. Although it may not look like it from the outside, Margie and my relationship is no different. From the beginning we dealt with people whose self-serving nature tried their best to pull us apart. Add to that issues of family stress, working in the bar industry where the idea of a healthy relationship and the respect shown to other relationships is extremely low. Makes life challenging at times. Recently, you add the passing of quite a few people close to us, most recently Margie’s mother and my discovery and hospitalization for a genetic heart issue and you can imagine there is almost as much stress as there is love at times.

How do we, and more to the point, how can you deal with the stress of life and keep on loving? Whether it is family, friends or your spouse the answer is the same. The easiest, and to be honest, most enjoyable way to do this is to realize the little things are the big things. This sounds cliché, as many things with love can, but the reason something is said so often is because there is truth in it. How can we turn the little things into the big things? How can we take a cliché and turn it into a part of our lives? Allow me to share with you a few personal examples that may help you.

The way Margie and I accomplish this is first and foremost keeping an attitude of gratitude. When we have challenges in our relationships, or even in our life in general, it can be easy to lose sight of all that we have to be grateful for. If we are so busy with work we do not have time to sit down to a wonderful dinner together, at least we have each other and something to eat. When one of us complains, the other does their best to find something to be grateful for in the situation. It helps that both of us have this desire.

In the middle of  the whirlwind of stress we often face, there is one thing we do more than any couple I know and it makes all the difference. We love. What I mean is in the middle of a karaoke show, or last night while shopping at Best Buy, if one of us feels love for the other we show it. This can be anything from stopping for a quick hug or kiss, or even just focused compliments and words of affection. Last Friday while doing a show I happened to notice just how beautiful Margie looked at that moment and I told her. I held her hand looked in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry I know we are really busy, but I just had to let you know how beautiful you look to me right now.” The words touched Margie who thanked me and leaned over and gave me a kiss. Sadly, the grown woman who was standing next to our DJ area who witnessed this responded in what I can only describe as a immature and cynical way. She said “Eww! Eww!” and made a motion like she was going to get sick. Did I mention the bar atmosphere can often not be the best place for a couple?

In your own relationships, take time to make sure the little things become the big things. Whether it is family, coworkers, friends or the special someone you love, take time to show appreciation and gratitude. When you feel love for that person make sure you pause and take time to express that. It could be a hug, an email, a card or a quick phone call. When you see two people sharing a moment like this try and understand all the stress and challenges they may be facing. Taking time to enjoy each other, even if only for a quick hug or kiss may be the special reward that keeps that relationship working.

WHERE DID IT ALL COME FROM?

These last few days have been filled with sadness as we have been mourning the loss of Margie’s mother Ruthanne. I have always been someone who searches for the light in the darkness. There is no more difficult time to do this than when we lose somebody who means so much. If there is anything my faith has taught me is that there is always something to be grateful for.

Of course we would all very much like to have Ruthanne back to hear her sing one more song, laugh one more time with us or even just to put things in perspective the way only she could do. Thankfully we have lots of videos, pictures and memories where those moments will live on. In addition to the great lessons in life that she has left behind, there is another gift I have discovered in the midst of this somber time.

While making arrangements for the celebration of life planned for Ruthanne, there were generations worth of pictures to sift through. I am a big fan of history to begin with, but being able to see first hand the family history of the woman I love is something truly special. Of course we would love to have Margie’s mom present to go through these photos with us, especially to enlighten us as to who some of the less familiar faces may be. Yet, it is through her passing that the gift of discovery and in some cases revelation of many family facts and stories.

On a more personal note, I could not be more grateful and excited to learn more about where the love of my life came from and the people, places and events that help shape her into the amazing woman she is today. Plus, adorable baby pictures like the one above are hard to pass up. I was honored to get to know her mother and see how Margie learned a lot of the traits that make her the woman I love. I am also humbled to be the man she chose to have by her side as she goes through with what is the most difficult time of her life. It is my sincere hope that the knowledge I am gaining by listening to the stories (and Storys) and looking at the pictures will help provide me with more and better ways to help provide her the love she needs as her heart makes the long journey towards healing.

DON’T LET THE DEVIL LIE TO YOU

Ah the devil… Satan… whatever you care to call him. Some refer to this as negative side of the universe. Some just call it negativity. The name we attach to this power of evil is not important to what we are going to discuss today. What we are going to discuss is the lies we have all been fed. These come from all kinds of places, the media, coworkers, history, even well-meaning friends and family. Sometimes the voice seems to come from inside our own head.

The messages may seemed varied, but they all serve the same purpose, to lower our vibration. Whether it is politicians doing their best to convince you that a certain group of people are bad because of their skin color, religion, political belief or maybe even just based on where they live. Maybe the message is coming from the media telling you the world is going downhill fast. There is more violence than ever, there is more hate than ever. Convincing you that you have to live and walk in fear. Even our friends and family telling us not to get our hopes up about that dream we are saying or not to venture away from that seemingly safe career we have because we will fail if we try to do it on our own. They mean well, they are wanting us to be safe.

It is my belief these messages all come from the same source and are intended for the same purpose; to create a world full of fear and devoid of love. When we are divided against ourselves, when we are so busy finding reasons to hate each other it is difficult if not impossible to work together to solve the real problems that exist. Two people’s ideas put together may do a great deal to end world hunger or bring a cure to a certain disease, but if they are refusing to talk because they look different or worship or vote in a different way the world will remain darker.

I propose working together and finding the reasons to come together in a spirit of love and community to solve issues. This does not mean ignoring the problems that plague us all, but working together looking towards creating a solution instead of assigning blame. Is there more violence today or is the world better connected and we can hear about each and every incident? Are guns the problem or is it the promotion of lack of respect and sanctity of life promoted in movies, television, music and video games? I don’t pretend to know those answers. What I do know is this, by focusing on how terrible things are without an accent on finding solutions and healing the hearts and minds of people everywhere, we are letting the powers of darkness win.

So next time you hear the ‘devil’ whisper in your ear about how bad the world is, how truly bad people have become and how hopeless both you and your life are, next time you hear him whisper that you cannot withstand the storm. You need to face that demon, whether it is the media, a negative coworker or even a voice in your own head and reply with conviction that you indeed are the storm! You are a storm of love and compassion that will not be defeated. Even though you are hearing how scary and bad the world is, you will do your part to bring love and brighten a stranger’s day. When you hear about anger leading to violence and death, you can use it as a reminder to respond to hurt with empathy and compassion.

No matter what you hear about the world and people around you, the fact is that the power to change that world lies in each and every one of us. Your act of kindness and of love, no matter how small will have a ripple effect that will affect far more than you will ever know. What you may not think about is so will your anger and negative actions, even your apathy. Do not let the devil lie to you. It is you who are the storm, you who have the very power to change the world and we do so through love and compassion.

YOU FORGOT A GIFT!!

Just when you thought you opened All of your holiday gifts, I’m here to inform you that you forgot the best gift of all! The funny thing is that you have had this gift not only the entire holiday season, but your whole life! It is the greatest gift you have ever received, yet most of us have never opened it, or at least opened it all of the way.

What is this amazing gift and why haven’t we opened it? I think most of you realize that the best gifts are those that are not material. Good health is a gift that cannot be overlooked. Sadly this year I have lost too many whose health failed them. Bring physically vibrant allows us to fully enjoy the holidays. Good health isn’t the greatest gift…exactly.

The love of family and friends is one of the most precious gifts. The love I have with my beautiful lady Margie has transformed how I experience the holidays. When I stop and think of how many wonderful people I have shared and am sharing my life with I am overcome with gratitude. The love of family and friends is not the greatest gift…exactly.

Memories and moments of joy are gifts that are hard to top. I mentioned I lost several close people this year. I think of times when my uncle and I would travel to a local car show and spend the afternoon together. Although because of his passing, I’ll never experience that again, being able to share those moments with him was a gift that will keep on giving.

The joyous moments we experience both throughout the holiday season and the rest of the year are gifts that fill our soul. Whether it is a heartfelt moment with the one you love, or even the well-wishes from a stranger. They all bring smiles to our hearts and to our faces. Memories and joyous moments are not the greatest gift…exactly.

What is the greatest gift? Why do I keep saying exactly? I keep saying exactly because all of these things are part of the greatest gift – your life. Without being given the gift of life you could not experience, or help others experience, all of the gifts we mentioned above.

What do I mean about not fully opening our gift of life? Each one of us have been given special skills, or gifts that we bring to the world. Some of us can create a beautiful cake, like my love. Some of us can make people laugh. Some can make people think. Some encourage. Some inspire. Some do a little of several of these. Whatever your gift is, understand the greatest gift you can give to yourself, and more to the point here, the world around you, is to live that gift to its fullest.

Maybe your gift is to make people laugh, but you’re so busy with work and family you don’t often get a chance to do so. Take the time my friend. Start writing a humorous book, maybe start a blog of daily smiles. Whatever you have to do to live your gift. When you do you find a spark has returned to your heart and their is passion in your soul. A person living and loving life in just such a way is the greatest gift we can give to our world.

P.S. – I must give credit to my friend Michael Davis for inspiring this post.

CHANGE A CHILD’S LIFE!

Working in the tavern industry becomes less and less of an appeal to me with what at sometimes seems to be a daily pace. One of the great things about working in this industry though is on occasion you meet really amazing people. Some of them have been featured in my past blogs. Yesterday’s in fact! If you wish to read that one you can check it out here IT WORKS! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Today I wish to discuss another amazing individual my lovely lady and I have the pleasure of seeing as we do our shows. His name is Jerry Musolf, but he goes by Sonny. He is a really great friend by all standards. Friendly, helpful, always willing to lend a hand or a smile whichever is needed. Sonny also rides a motorcycle when the weather in this state allows. As such, you will often see him wearing a vest with patches of different sorts on it. One such patch on his vest looks like the one above. During one show Sonny had asked me to read a fundraiser announcement for a charity he belongs to. Always happy to help people doing good I did. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and another friend of ours was wearing a sweatshirt from the same organization. That prompted me to inquire as to the what the group was all about. I was told to ask Sonny for all the details. What he shared with me is what I am about to share with you.

What influence I have in the world as an author, speaker and the use of this website I try to use for good. One of the causes that always is near and dear to my heart is children. They are innocent victims and often there is not enough support when they need it. If you read my post earlier this month about doing the Warrior Dash to help St. Jude children’s hospital that offers care to sick children and their families.

Another area where children suffer, and often alone is child abuse. Especially if the person doing the abusing is a family member or an adult the child trusts. In addition to the terrible physical aspects of child abuse the emotional and psychological effects can be just as or even worse and last a lifetime. What children need is a sense to feel safe. They need a group of adults they can trust.

This is where Guardians of the Children come in. Let me begin by sharing their mission statement with you. “The mission of Guardians of the Children (GOC) is to recognize and react to child abuse and educate the public to do the same; to serve as advocates to provide strength and stability to families in crisis; and be the answer to the prayer of an abused child or teen for courage, support and protection.” That all sounds good, but what does it actually translate to?

I am going to share both items available in the group’s literature as well as personal stories Sonny has told me. The group partners with other child abuse agencies to raise awareness of the prevalence of child abuse. The use donations they receive for birthdays, basic needs such as clothing and hygiene supplies, literature to promote child abuse awareness as well as activities for the kids. The strive to give these children the same opportunities that your own children have, a normal life and a family that loves and cares for their needs.

The last line is what really impresses me. This group often becomes the family these children so desperately need. The go to court with the children so they are less afraid. They often supply the children with a teddy bear (one that has been hugged by all the members of the group) to hold when they are alone and feeling scared. Each child also receives their own little vest with a patch that says “Little guardian”. The group also provides safe and fun activities for these children such as Easter egg hunts, fishing trips, roller skating and so much more.

In a world where there are far too many innocent child victims it does my soul good to know that such a group exists. On a personal note, I am proud to be the friend of a gentleman who is part of such a community. Below I will share both the national 24-hour child abuse hotline as well as links to both the national and local chapters of this amazing group. It is my sincere desire and hope that many of you will not only share this post, but chose to become a part of this group either through joining or donating. Together we can make this a better world for all of the children

24-hour child abuse hotline 1-800-252-5400

local chapter of Guardians of the Children

Guardians of the children Hawg city chapter

National website for Guardians of the Children