THE RIGHT VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT

Above is a graph on Valentine’s Day spending. As you can see, men spend an average of $200, women spend an average of $100. The average is not too hard to figure out, $150 a person. In total, over $20 billion dollars will be spent on Valentine’s Day this year. Yes, that is billion with a ‘b’. If you read my blog you will know that I advocate investing in your relationship 100% of the time you are in it. Still, taking time to just celebrate your love like you would the birth of someone, should be a fun and enjoyable experience. What are we spending all of this money on, you ask? Let us take a look.

Jewelry is far and away the number one investment we make to express our love. Not a bad investment. It can make your special someone feel beautiful and valued. Clothing is second. That is good I guess. We all need to be clothed. Ironically, if there was a day to be clothing optional it would be Valentine’s Day. Evening out rounds out our top 3. That is a good one. Creating memories is one of the joys of having a loving relationship. Some other items are flowers and candy. Seems like a good stimulation for the economy. If every year the world makes a $20 billion dollar investment in love, what is the return? That brings us to our next graph.

So this is a sober statistic. On average, over half of marriages end in divorce. There are over 100 divorces an hour. Well, at least we learn from our mistakes as we go along, right? We take the mistakes from the first marriage and learn from them. Wrong again. The divorce rate jumps nearly 20% for your second marriage and another 13% for the third. How can this be? We are investing record amounts to express the love we have for our partner, yet the divorce rate is higher than it has ever been. The problem is not the money we are spending. It is what we are spending it on! Imagine spending $20 billion on concrete looking to cure disease. I am not a doctor, but I don’t think this would get us very far.

We take this same approach to love. Whether it is on Valentine’s Day or any other day. When we think about investing in love, we should consider the ROI or return on investment. If you buy flowers, they may cause a good amount of joy for the moment, but what will the return be? Will it bring the two of you closer? Will it help you to get to know your partner on a deeper level? Will it help you get to know yourself better so you are better able to serve your partner? These are the questions we should be asking when investing in our relationship. Discovering your partner’s love language or how they express and receive love, do you think that would come in handy? Finding ways to help your partner discover their own inner beauty would make an amazing gift.

We spend a great deal of time and effort to invest in our homes, our cars and our retirement. When it comes to love we somehow imagine after we are together it will somehow take care of itself. Much like a business, we need to invest in research and development. This investment can impact every area of our life and offer great returns. While shopping for the love of our life this year, let us choose a gift that will be an investment in our relationship.

30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE (DAY #18)

Welcome back to our celebration of 30 days of gratitude. Each day we will focus on one area of our life to be grateful for. If this is your first day doing this I invite you to go back and do the days before this. You can do them in your head, write them down and home, but it is my hope you decide to share what you are grateful for with our community here on Secret2anamazinglife.com. There are no rules. Do one day or do all 30. Let us now look at today’s area of gratitude.

This question could be tricky. As with most of these items of gratitude, I find that I am grateful for a good many pieces of art. Also, much like the other questions in this series, I do not often stop and think of art and what I am grateful for. This has been the most pleasant surprise in all of this. Something I do not take time to think of, when I do I realize how much art there is that I am grateful for. The word art can be defined in so many different ways. Recently, I heard there was some work of art that amounted to a banana taped to a wall valued at $120,000. I also heard a comedian ate said banana…it is a strange world we live in. 

What art am I grateful for? I am a really big fan of music. I think it is one of the art forms that has the strongest emotional connection for me. There are certain movies I enjoy as well. Recently, I have been watching biographies of famous classic entertainers. Everyone from the Marx Brothers, George Burns to Liberace. I am interested in people who put their heart and soul into their creations. Being an author I would be remiss if I did not mention some of my favorite books. I am a big fan of A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. (side note, I sent Mr. Bryson a copy of my book as a thank you for creating such a great work of art…no response thus far)

Art often defines moments in history as well. I recall hearing of stories from World War II in which the Nazi government made a bid to gather all of the art in the countries they invaded. A good portion of that was recovered. Sadly, a good deal of it was lost or stolen. Art can be used as propaganda. Jim Morrison, lead singer of the band The Doors, is quoted as saying, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” He was right. We can get a jingle stuck in our head from the latest television commercial.

Art can also be used to inspire. The paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has inspired believers of Christianity for as long as it has been there. Houses of worship of all beliefs are adorned with art to induce a feeling of reverence and to tell a story of that faith.

Art can be local. I am fortunate enough to know many artists of all different kinds. I have a friend Travis who uses his ability to put lyrics together to entertain. My friend Nicole does drawings that are amazing. She invited Margie and I to a party she had at her house where other artists displayed crafts, pottery and many other amazing creations. Of course, no discussion of art would be complete without discussing the love of my life. Margie creates so many different kinds of art it is almost impossible to list them all. She creates cakes that leave people’s hearts soaring and their jaws dropping. She made me a great necklace. (she took it back to adjust, I am hoping to have it back soon) She makes flower arrangements for weddings, funerals and because she likes to. She draws, she paints, she makes scarfs and a million other things. I heard rumors she even writes forewords to amazing self-improvement books, but I cannot confirm that at this time.

What art are you grateful for? In my life I have learned that there are so many things that are art. When I order a Chai latte at the local coffee shop, my friends Curtis and Danie create a masterpiece. When I visit West Allis Cheese and Sausage shop owned by my friend Mark, the dishes I am served are works of art. I have friends who cut hair that are great artists. I am grateful for all of these! Is there an artist you know that has created something you are grateful for?

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THE BEST ACCESSORY 

Last year people spent over 55 billion dollars (yes that is billion) on cosmetics. Jewelry and fashion were both multi-billion dollar a year expenditures as well. We spend time and money reading and perusing fashion and style magazines. Presidents and other leaders in both politics and business pay people to write speeches for them and even pick out what they are going to wear. Why? Everyone, whether you are a leader or a follower wants to look good.

Still, the number one thing we can do to look good is often over-looked and does not cost a thing. What is this accessory? A smile. When we meet someone and they are wearing a smile we are more likely to believe what they have to say. We are more likely to trust them. When you are wearing a smile people are more receptive to your ideas and what you have to say. Not to mention wearing a smile feels good and makes those we come in contact with feel good.

With all these benefits why is everyone not wearing a smile? It’s free, it is emotionally and physically healthy, it encourages others to listen to you and makes them more receptive to what you have to say. You would think every job interview, every first date, every important business deal and appearance by a public official would all contain many smiles.

Why do more people not smile? I guess there are several reasons. One, is they simply don’t realize they are not. I used to be guilty of this in the past and to some extent are still in the present. We get lost in our thoughts or what we are doing and may unintentionally find ourselves wearing a blank look, or even worse a scowl when really our inside emotions do not match. Eventually our physical actions affect our emotional well-being. If you are feeling down, try putting on a smile and leaving it there for 2 minutes. Slowly you mood will begin to shift. Try also looking at pictures of people (or animals) smiling. I have several pictures of people smiling on my phone. My screensaver is my lady wearing a bacon hat with the biggest smile on her face. Looking at these pictures will also help bring you out of that funk.

Another reason I have heard people do not smile is they are afraid. Afraid of smiling? You bet! Why would people be afraid of smiling? I have been told they are worried people will think they are up to something. To me this is foolishness. We are all up to something and if us looking happy makes people nervous that is on them. I’ve also been told that “I’m afraid people will take it as an invitation to start talking to me.” Yes, this sometimes does happen. As long as you do not make it a habit to smile at the strange man on the corner in a clown suit holding a knife what is the worst that could happen? In fact, some people are lonely and looking for someone they can share their stories with. You never know, sharing a smile with someone may even save their life. When you feel that nobody cares a smile from a friend, or even a stranger can turn your day, and your world around. Think of how you feel when someone shares their smile with you, why would you not want to give that gift to others?

So let us all do our part to share a few more smiles. Still nervous, uncomfortable or afraid? That’s ok start slowly. I suggest begin with the person in the mirror. Give yourself a smile every morning with a positive affirmation like “Let’s make this a great day!” Then, begin to branch out. Start with loved ones, maybe move on to friends, coworkers, the person helping you at the coffee shop? When you see how good it makes people feel and how they react to you, trust me, you will be tempted to share more. Also try practice wearing a smile while you are engaged in work. I have started this when I am writing and notice I feel a lot less tired when I am done. I am going to close this with a quote from the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln “Every man over forty is responsible for his face.” I am sure Mr. Lincoln meant to include woman in that statement as well.

I would love to hear about your experiences sharing a smile in the comments below!

valuable treasure

“Just because a treasure is not valued, does not make that treasure less valuable.”

-Neil Panosian

Ok, yes I did it. I just quoted myself. Am I having a fit of narcissism? Am I running dangerously low on material? The answer to both is no. If you do have any other ideas you would like to add to the secret2anamazinglife website please feel free to let me know. This is just one of those statements that came out of my mouth once and I had to take a step back and go “Wow, that is so true!” Let me explain the meaning behind the quote. Quite often if we lose a lover, a friend or a job our very first question may be “what is wrong with me?” That is not always a bad thing as it helps us look at our role in the situation. Were we not attentive enough lover? Did we take our friends for granted? Did we not do our best at our job? These are all good questions, but there is something more to remember. Sometimes we have done nothing wrong. Here is my honest opinion, each one of us is a treasure. Not only because you are spending your valuable time reading all these words I write, but you are either doing so because you are genuinely interested in discovering ways to improve your life or you are a really good friend of mine who is just that supportive. Either way, you are amazing. When you “fail” in a situation and you start to feel a little shine has been taken off your apple, remember two very important things. One, the shine on apples is usually from a wax that is put on so you are better off without it. More importantly, maybe everybody was full.  What do I mean by that? Let’s use another analogy. When you think of treasure what do you picture? Jewels? Diamonds? Gold? We are each diamonds to the world in our own way. Very valuable, priceless. People pay their life’s savings for diamonds, yet what good would a diamond be to a starving man on a deserted island? Sometimes our treasure is just not as valuable to the situation. Other times the other person can’t understand the true value of the treasure. If you showed a diamond to a baby they would appreciate it no more than any other sparkling object. So when someone doesn’t appreciate the treasure that is you, just remember it doesn’t make you any less valuable, They may just not know any better like the baby. Take your shining diamond somewhere it will be appreciated for its full value. You are all treasures my friends!