WHAT NOW?

When I decided to be a motivational speaker I thought it would be an easy and natural progression. Taking the material in both my book and website and sharing it with people would be simple and enjoyable. What challenges could come from sharing how to live a more positive and rewarding life with others.

I have discovered being able to appreciate the beauty in others and express that beauty in the written words has bestowed upon me one of the most challenging, yet personally rewarding honors I have faced. In the past 12 months I have spoken at 5 funerals. Being asked to speak about the life of someone who everyone in attendance cared so deeply for is both a tremendous honor, and great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It has also taught me to learn and think a great deal about how I approach the subject of death. In doing so, I have discovered what will not only help ease the burden of grief we feel when we lose someone we love but will help them live on every day in our lives. I would like to share what I learned with all of you in hopes it may help you or someone you know who may be experiencing the grief of losing someone you love.

On May 8th our family experienced a great loss in the mother of my lovely lady, Margie. Shortly after her mom’s passing, Margie asked if I would like to speak at the funeral. I must confess to having cringed a little. Being that my love and respect for both of those ladies was quite high, it was an honor, but it would be an emotional challenge to deliver. Certainly, when asked to perform such an important honor, it is hard to say no. As I began to think about what I would say, a new challenge presented itself. I was about to compose words about the woman the lady in my life was lucky enough to call her mom. Nothing but the best would do. The words came to me at 3 o’clock one morning. I grabbed my laptop to capture them.

In all my writing I try to give the reader something they can use to reduce the stress, or in this case grief in their life and add some joy or positivity. Fortunately for me, Margie’s mother, Ruthanne, led life that provided most of what I needed to say.

Most eulogies include memories of the person they honor. I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to answer the question that all of us, in some form or fashion, have in our hearts and minds when we lose someone we love – now what? What do we do now that we have lost a great parent, grandparent, spouse or even dear friend? How do we keep them alive both in our hearts and the world around us? How can we help their legacy live on?

I am going to share what works for me in hopes that it may help you. I have found although honoring someone with a memorial or candle-light vigil is thoughtful, the event is over in a day. For me, the best way to keep someone alive in our hearts and in our daily life is to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I would like to explain this further by using the life of Ruthanne as an example. I must add Ruthanne gave more light in her 79 years than most people could do if given 179 years. Her life could best be summed up by recalling her last few days with us here on earth.

When Ruthanne was told her time on earth was ending, she voiced two desires. It wasn’t a fancy car or an exotic vacation. She wanted to go to the casino and karaoke one more time. She wanted to die as she lived, feeling the joy in her life, surrounded by the people she loved. Ruthanne understood that joy and peace are more important than status or wealth.

When it became clear she was not going to leave the hospital we asked her if she would like us to bring her anything. Her answer spoke volumes. She said quite firmly, “I don’t need things. I need people.” Ruthanne understood the material gifts we are given we cannot take with us, but the lives we touch and the memories we create is what will live on long after we are gone. She knew the most valuable gift we can give someone is our time and our love. That is what she wanted from us.

It was not receiving that gift that most concerned Ruthanne. Every person who visited her in the hospital asked her the same question, “How are you doing?” You might think she would lament the conditions that plagued her or the time she had left. Not once did I hear this. Instead, she asked people how they were doing. She did not do this just for conversation, but with the genuine sincerity of someone who truly cares. She asked to see pictures of babies and how their jobs were going. Ruthanne understood how important it is to let someone know they are loved and significant.

If you attended Ruthanne’s funeral or visited her in the hospital you would notice the people she surrounded herself with came from every race, culture and creed. Ruthanne may joke with you about your look some days, but she would never let how someone looked stop her from loving them. Although a Christian, she would not let believing in a different faith stop her from loving you. Ruthanne gave us the gift of acceptance.

Sometimes, those she loved let her down. They may have been in trouble with the law, developed habits or addictions they shouldn’t have, or even hurt her or the ones she loved. I think at some point all of us that knew her failed to live up to our own standard. What did she do when this happened? She loved us anyway. Ruthanne gave us the gift of forgiveness.

With all the gifts mentioned above that she gave us, it is easy to see why at the 79th birthday party Margie threw her over 100 people showed up. If I were to guess almost three times that many either visited or sent well-wishes when she was in the hospital. With that much love and popularity you could not blame Ruthanne if she would boast with the rest of them. When she was told people had to leave her room because more were waiting to visit her she would tell us, “I don’t know why people love me so much. I am just me.” Ruthanne gave us the gift of humility.

Ruthanne gave me those gifts and I must add giving birth to the most beautiful woman I share my life with. Sadly, she will no longer be here to teach me these gifts in person. It falls upon me and those she knew, in her honor and memory, to share these gifts with those lives we touch. Every time I am accepting, forgiving, every time I make someone laugh or remind them how important and loved they are, I will think of and thank Ruthanne for being a living example of these virtues and many more.

When we lose someone we truly love, let us all work together to replace the light the world has lost with their passing. It will not only help ease our grief, it will keep them with us every day we share the gifts that they gave us.

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.

1 MORE THING WRONG

Here is what inspired me today, while going down the demilitarized zone that is 60th street the exhaust on my car broke off – I laughed.

While you may all question my sanity, something I have grown used to, let me explain. After 8 terrible months with this PT cruiser, I start driving my new vehicle tomorrow. So, one last thing going wrong was almost comical at this point.

Here is the inspiring point, 2 weeks ago i would not have laughed at all about this. In fact, I probably would have selected vocabulary not fit to print here. The ironic thing is we all can choose our reactions. Sure, it is easier when you have a car ready to take its place, but I still could have responded with more frustration. It just reminds me how much control I have in how I react, and thus, how I feel

FIND THE GOOD THING

Cell phones. Depending on your opinion they are valuable tools making life more convenient, or a terrible addiction that causes many people to drive worse than they already do. I find myself somewhere in the middle usually.

This is a bit of an odd post so please bear with me here. Just to prove how easy it is to find something to be grateful for, or some positive thing to look at, allow me to share my recent experience. For those of you who may be easily offended, now may be a good time to stop reading.

My lady and I were out to breakfast at a local restaurant when I had to use the restroom. Yes, inspiration can even strike there. As I closed the door to afford me the privacy so required at said moment, I noticed something a bit rare these days, graffiti. Now I am not sure who Jay and Amy are, but it would appear they had a very intense romantic relationship. It also appears sometime later that relationship seemed to end badly. There was even contact information for one of them available should I have had the desire to check my theory out. For the sake of time, and to keep the intrigue of this post going I chose to pass on that option.

Being that I had a few private moments to my own thoughts, my mind began to wander. What happened between Jay and Amy? Did Amy receive any calls thanks to the Jay kindly providing her number for all the men using this restroom? Who would really call a number they found in a restroom? Why would anyone feel the need to express their heartache on a stall door of the men’s room of a diner?

As my time in the stall drew to a close there were two things that occurred to me. One, I did not know they made toilet paper that was that skinny and two, how rare bathroom graffiti had become. Only a few years earlier one could have expected to see some in almost any restroom you used. The reason? The cell phone. In addition to cleaner facilities, we also have the added bonus of listening to the awkward loud talker who may be in the rest room with us.

Next time someone cuts you off in traffic while watching a cat video on YouTube, just remember all of the clean restrooms.

WHO’S DRIVING?

This post is going to be very simple. This picture was captured at a red light. I sent it to my lady in an attempt to bring a smile to her face. She told me to her it looked like the dog was driving the car. To me that made the picture even funnier.

I encourage you to be on the lookout for funny scenes like this. Trust me, they are everywhere. You don’t have to take pictures of them, but you might want to so you can smile at them later. Share them with friends. This will do a few things. One, it will give you an album of pictures that can make you smile when you need it, which is always good. Second, it will get your brain in the habit of seeing the silly side of life. With reminders on every corner of all the trouble in the world, this can be a great skill to have. I bet after doing this for a while, you will see your mood get better and better!

Feel free to share what you do to stay focused on the silly side of life and feel free to share any fun silly pictures you have in comments below.

FOREVER YOUNG

I’m sure we all know some old 18 year olds and some young 80+ year olds. What is the secret to staying young? Mindset. Ok, that sounds easy but how does one keep a young mindset? This can be a challenging thing to do the older we become. Pain, heartache all can leave one feeling older by the minute.

In my life there have been three great keys to staying young. First, surround yourself with people who have a young mindset. There is nothing better than a friend who encourages you to laugh and to live. Take chances, try new things.

The second key to staying young has been learning to take care of my body. To live life to the fullest you need energy. The best energy can come from being physically fit and healthy. You do not want to run out of gas climbing the mountain of success. Incorporate a daily walk in the park into your routine. Even 10 minutes of exercise can get you on the right path. Eat healthy meals more often. Trust me, some of them taste amazing.

The third and final key to staying young may be the most important. Grow and maintain your sense of humor. There is no anti-aging product that works as well as laughter. It truly is the best medicine. Taking life too seriously is the quickest way to grow old before your time. Watch a funny movie with the one you love. Draw a silly picture. Learn one new joke a day. Just keep that smile on your face.

Feel free to share any tips you have for staying young in the comments below.

BE THE LIGHT

Often in these posts you hear me speak of finding your purpose. It is a great first step I recommend for any of us working to discover an amazing life. Knowing the ‘why’ in our lives can be the most powerful force to drive us. When I mention this to some people at my seminars or in the course of everyday conversations I am confronted with people who often times are searching for what is right in front of them.

Some of the time the problem is the fact that we are stuck in reaction mode. We are fighting an illness, reeling after a job loss, or even stuck on the pain from a bad break up we have had. Recently at a birthday party for a friend of ours I was speaking with a good friend of mine Jimmy. Let me tell you a little something about Jimmy. He is an amazing soul. When I first met him he was always making people laugh and was really the light of the party. Still is, that is when he chooses to be himself. Jimmy was in a bad break up. The lady did not appreciate or value what an amazing man he was. This should have been her great loss, but instead it is ours. Why? Because my good friend began to doubt himself. Suddenly he felt as if nobody valued him and he began to act accordingly. Sadly because he kept to himself and did not engage people the way he used to they also stopped engaging him. This only reinforced Jimmy’s belief that they didn’t want to be around him. All the while his friends were missing the Jimmy that made them smile. By sharing his gift and being himself Jimmy made the world a brighter place for everyone. Letting someone else control, and therefor steal his happiness made the world a darker place not only for Jimmy but for all of his friends as well.

There are also people who tell me they are like Jimmy. They say things to me like “all I ever do is make people laugh” or “all I ever do is help people to feel good about themselves and believe in themselves. I never can figure out what my great gift is”. Let me ask you this, if a brain surgeon was trying to operate in the dark and his friend was holding a light so he could see what he was doing who would be more important? Of course the man holding the light would not know the first thing about the complex ins and outs of brain surgery, but can you imagine trying to operate in the dark? Just couldn’t happen.

What does all this have to do with us and living an amazing life? This is a question you should be asking at the beginning of any of these posts. In regards to this one, please allow me to explain. Jimmy had a great gift of bringing people laughter. That is a very precious gift. By not valuing what he brought to the table and allowing someone else to dictate his self-worth he is not only cheating himself, but cheating his friends and all the people he comes in contact with as well. You see laughter cannot be bought, and not everybody has that gift. It can heal us from emotional and physical pain and lighten even the heaviest of hearts.

As for the second example, if ‘all you do’ is help others smile and believe in themselves you may be the most important part of their lives! I personally could not name all of the people that keep my spirits up and allow me to bring these messages to you. Whether it is my lovely lady at home, people I see when I DJ, or even the valuable souls I only communicate by phone, text or message. They shine the light on me and allow me to help others. I cannot state their importance enough.

So if you help others, if you make people smile you are a treasure. Sure it may not be as glamorous as brain surgeon, but if you can help a brain surgeon have the confidence in himself needed to operate than you are just as valuable. Even just being friendly can make the difference in the life of someone who thinks nobody cares. You never know it may even save their life and nothing is more important than that.

So please continue to be the light in the lives of others, you may never know the change you are helping to create, but truly you make all of the difference. As someone affected by your light and inspiration I just wish to thank all of you.

Feel free to share this post with someone you consider a light in your life and let them know how much of a difference they make.

YOU CAN’T MAKE OLD FRIENDS

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Here is a picture of my great friend Russ and I taken a few days back. Russ recently moved out of state and was in town to attend the Wisconsin state fair.  Constantly we can hear people say, and may even say ourselves, how little we have or what we are currently without that we would really like to have. We forget how truly rich we are. There are a few things in life that one can consider a treasure. Think of an old friend. One you share plenty of memories with. One you have both laughed and cried with. How much value can be put on a person who knows you well enough to be perfectly honest with and will tell you things you may not want to hear, but need to hear? Those are things money cannot buy. In addition, Russ and I are both working our way through our own spiritual and emotional enlightenment. Our methods and even thoughts may be different, but knowing we are both going through the process helps each other. combine that will the 24+ years of friendship we share and we provide an invaluable resource to each other. No matter how much money you have, you cannot buy memories with another person. No matter your credit limit you cannot lease experiences shared and knowledge gained with another person. These are priceless gifts that can only be earned through years of friendship.

There are two lessons I would love for all of us to take away from this. The first being if you have a friend you have had for a long time, you are indeed rich. You have something you should not trade for all the money in the world. You have a treasure money cannot obtain. You are rich no matter what your bank account may say.

The second lesson is this, if you have a friendship that now has been compromised for whatever reason, do yourself a favor and understand one thing. People make mistakes. They say hurtful things. They do stupid things without thinking. Are you without a friendship do to falling out that may have happened days, months or even years ago? Remember forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. There are some circumstances where it is best to move on and distance yourself from people who will bring nothing but pain into your life. For the most part, however, pride and hurt can be overcome with patience and understanding. Think of not only what you will gain by having an old friend to lean on, but also what you will lose by not having one. Old friends are priceless treasures. I know mine is.

A TIME TO REFLECT AND GIVE THANKS

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Today is one of the days of the year that presents more of a challenge than most. On the same day both the state fair, an event I look forward to all year comes to a close. In addition, my vacation from my day job is now over and summer which I so enjoy seems to be winding down. Every year this happens. I know it is coming and I try to find ways to make them not hit me all at once. One of the ways I have done this is to reflect on all the great memories I created at the fair this year. This year the lovely lady in my life threw me a surprise birthday party at the fair. A lot of my good friends and family were there. We had a blast. I saw a classic country artist with my sister, and a popular funk band with my beautiful lady and amazing friend. There were great new foods we tried and some fun things we have picked up.

Still, it is over now. I am full of memories, but soon it will be back to work. Soon the leaves will change, snow will fall and winter will be here. This is always a great challenge to my ability to remain positive and I am grateful for that. I am also grateful to the love of my life. Finding out quirky things about the ones we love is one of the more unique aspects of being in a relationship. If you have read my blog for any amount of time you are probably well aware there is lots of quirkiness to be had in this gentleman. My addiction and focus on attending a summer festival for 11 days straight is certainly one of them. We lost some time together and at times my focus was on watching a bird show and what new foods to try more than on ways to be romantic and loving.

So now that it is over how does this wonderful woman respond? A sigh of relief? A feel screams of “Amen!”? Those would certainly be understandable. Even “I am glad to have my man back” would make sense. She did none of those. The picture above is of a card she gave me when I came in to work late at a business we do together. She let me stay late because she knew it was the last day of the fair and wanted me to enjoy myself. So instead of being happy for all that will be better for her now that my fair addiction is over she gave me a get well card. I won’t share all of the details and heartfelt things she wrote inside. Briefly she let me know how much she understood how challenging this time period may be and how much she was there to love and support me through it. Trust me there was a lot more, but that is the general idea.

Here is what my lovely lady taught me in all of this. In times when things seem so overwhelmingly bad, when it seems like every little thing is going in the wrong direction that is the greatest chance to stand up and be loving. We, and by we I am including myself, can be guilty of the urge to run the other direction when our partners are in a funk or bad mood. My love reminds me that can be one of the greatest opportunities to show you care. In addition, for me it was one of the greatest moments I could feel loved and notice what an amazing life partner I had. So I just am going to take the next few days to reflect and be grateful. Of course pass along what comes to me here.

CEMENT BEAR

 

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Note this very scary picture above. Are you puzzled as to what is so frightening about an ordinary drinking fountain? On the surface, in the light nothing. When you can walk up, push the button and get water not even a child would have fear of such an object. Normally such things do not scare me as well.  Aside from clowns, which I am not to crazy about, I generally do not fear much. Let me share a story with you where that wasn’t the case.

One day I was camping and while setting up my tent the park ranger came by to warn of some serious problems with black bears in the area. Now let me begin by saying bears are one of my favorite animals and even my nickname. So nothing that I would normally fear. The ranger, however, was telling us that the bears had been unusually aggressive that year especially when people had food or smelled like food. I took note and made sure I had plenty of firewood to keep that going all night as well. No sooner did I get my tent set up then the rain came in. So hard I ended up sleeping in my car and not said tent anyway. It rained through most of the afternoon as well as the evening. I had fallen asleep to the sound of rain on the roof of the car which is rather soothing. I woke up somewhere around midnight with a strong urge to return all of the water I had consumed to prepare for the hike that never occurred. the good news is that is was not raining anymore, the bad news was because this was some place remote and it was late at night, there was nothing open and the only bathrooms available were the not so clean camp bathrooms that were a short distance up a walking path that was not well lit at all. When nature calls, however, we must answer. So I grabbed my flashlight and half awake I began to walk. Upon cresting the hill I froze. There, at the top of the hill right in front of me I could see the silhouette of a black bear! I could see his muzzle, his ear sticking up. I recalled how I must smell like the campfire I had cooked over. I waited nervously and waited for the bear to make its’ move. I waited for what seemed like an eternity. No such move came. Finally I slowly had the courage to raise my flashlight. What I saw was amazing. The muzzle slowly turned into a bowl with a button on the side. That ear sticking up? The very top of….yes, you guessed it, a drinking fountain. Oh come on, look at the picture can’t you see it?

Even if you think I am nuts, which on occasion I may be the first to agree with, what is the purpose of our story here today? Other than camping with Neil can be a comical affair. This is the point. After hearing the ranger’s words of warning I had been on the lookout for bears. Every sound became a bear waiting to pounce. Even a drinking fountain almost caused me to not quite make it to the rest room. which I did, but it is really hard to walk and laugh out loud at yourself while you really have to go to the bathroom. Here is my point. At sometime in our life I think all of us had a cement bear. If we go into situations with a fear, or worse yet, some sort of prejudice, quite often we will trap ourselves into two different outcomes. One, it will be a dooming self-fulfilling prophecy or two, we may see things not as they exactly are. When you find yourself looking a bad situation in the eye, ask yourself is this really something to fear or hate or is it simply a cement bear? If you are not sure, shine your flashlight on the situation. learn as much as you can and quite often you may discover it is no scarier than a drinking fountain. Every time I see one of these now I laugh and recall how I let my fears and expectations turn something so harmless into one of north Americas largest predators. Do yourself a favor, be on the lookout for cement bears.