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.

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.

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.

JUST PUSH THE MUTE BUTTON

The other night we tested our new equipment while DJing. I am still learning all of the buttons, knobs and controls. One of the controls that I have figured out is the button you see lit up in this picture.

What this button does is mute whatever channel is operating. In this case happens to be my microphone. When you push the button and the red light comes on you cannot use that channel. In this case even if I had the microphone on and the volume all the way up you would not be able to hear me. That is beyond my regular projection.

This would be about all to this post if this was a blog about being a DJ or sound equipment, but it is not. It is a blog about improving your life and steps you can take to do so. Sometimes improving our lives involves a mindset change. A different way of looking at things. Here is how these two items correlate.

During the course of our show I spoke to two of my friends about negative people in their lives. One of them spoke to me about how they feel some people who perform rather well judge her. Certainly, we do everything at our shows to make sure the focus is on fun and enjoying yourself. A night out with friends should be just that. Personally I do my best to find something nice to say about everyone who performs. The goal of myself and my lovely lady Margie is to have people feeling better when they leave than when they came in. We do our best to make sure our shows our judgment free zones. You are welcome to come and perform no matter what your level of ability. We also encourage everyone to…well…encourage everyone. We hope people will think of our shows as much for the karaoke aspect as much as an opportunity to make new friends, have fun and be supported.

The other touched on an aspect that we also work very hard to limit and do without at our shows – gossip. She informed me that is why she prefers to come to our shows verses some others she has been to. When you work at several local bars there is always some amount of “He said/she said” or “Did you hear what she said about her?” kind of thing. It can creep into the act of merely trying to put on a good show and I must confess can be frustrating when you try to deal with it. We are blessed that Margie and I have made it clear that we want nothing but positive vibes at our shows and that gossip is not welcome. For the most part we are fortunate that most people respect that as well.

What does all of this have to do with a new mixer? Most of all the little red light and mute button pictured above? This is where it gets fun! Sometimes having a picture or analogy in your head can serve you quite well. In my case, when people around me start speaking negatively about someone, or gossiping in my head I push that button and the little red light comes on. In effect, I mute them. After which time no matter how much they tell me, or how loud they choose to tell me I simply can’t hear it.

I shared this idea with the two ladies I spoke with and now I am sharing it with you. When someone comes to you with an earful of gossip, or some negative conversation I encourage you to simply push the mute button. Do not let any of that to even enter your mind. The good news that the mute button on the mixer, as well as the one in the mind can be pushed again, allowing them to be heard, provided the person stops with the negative input. Just like a poisonous plant will only grow if it has access to food and water, negative conversation will only grow if it has an audience. Sure, there will always be people willing to listen to such nonsense, just make sure people know you are not that person. Watch the joy in your life increase tremendously.

I welcome any analogy or ideas you have for limiting negative people and their influence on your life. Please share with our readers in the comments below. I can assure you that there are a lot of people who are struggling to deal with this very topic.

PROOF YOU CAN DO IT!

This is a tattoo on the arm of my lady. It says “sing”. Recently she has faced some pretty tough personal challenges that have left her not only drained, but wondering if she can even make it through. We were laying down discussing this idea when I noticed her tattoo. What does her tattoo have to do with her daily challenges? Let me catch you all up to speed.

These days my lady and I work together 4 nights a week as DJs. Not only is she a wiz with the computer and the sound equipment, but she can sing like an angel. There are several songs she sings that take my breath away. In fact, often people will request she sings certain songs because they like her singing them better than the original. It was this very skill that stole my heart and brought us together in the first place. Here is where things get interesting. One fine evening I inquired as to how she began her career as a DJ. As we discussed how she began she told me an interesting story about the first time she sang. A good friend of hers, who was “Looking out for her best interests” told her that she was terrible and should not sing again. Thankfully she did not listen because not only would we not have fallen in love, but she would not have been able to bring the joy that she has to countless of people with her voice.

Let me tie this all together and give you something you can use immediately to grow your confidence and help you make it through any challenge you are facing. So my lady’s tattoo says ‘sing’ if she would have listened to her well meaning friend she may have never discovered one of her most amazing talents. She worked through the criticism and nervousness that she faced the next time she sang. By doing so she gave life to one of the most beautiful things about her. I told her whenever she doubts she can make it through something to look at that tattoo and remember how she turned what seemed to be a failure into a great skill and success.

So what does this all have to do with you and I? Each one of us has had challenges we thought we could not make it through. In fact, you may be going through one as you read this. The fact that you are reading this means you have made it through every challenge you have faced in your life so far. This can be very difficult to remember when we are going through something emotionally and/or physically trying. That is where a symbol comes in. In my lady’s case it is her tattoo. What is it in yours? Perhaps a trophy you earned? A picture of a goal accomplished? A talisman from a meaningful place you have been? Even journal entries come in play. By reading your thoughts as you went through a challenge in the past, perhaps maybe even one you thought you were not going to make it through, you can see the parallels to what you are currently going through. More to the point, you can see that you did make it through.

So pick your symbol today! Carry it with you as a reminder of how strong you can be. Then when a challenge comes you can look at it and remember you can do it. Feel free to like/share and comment on this. Show it to anyone you know is facing a challenge so they may have the strength they need.

THE JOY OF BEING WRONG

One of the most unfounded fears in our society today is this, the fear of being wrong.  It amazes me the great lengths some people will go to in order to not have to admit they were wrong.  Let us be honest, raise your hand if you have ever made a mistake.  I’m sure that almost all of us reading this, and the one writing this have their hand in the air.  Ok, now put it down because if you are staring at your computer with one hand in the air people may begin to point and whisper.  So what is the point here?  We are all aware that everyone has made mistakes and that we are not the first one.  So why the big fear of admitting it?  Some people are afraid it will make them appear less intelligent.  I have even heard it mentioned that some people feel inferior to others when they are wrong. Well today we are not going to discuss how to get rid of those feelings.  We instead are going to focus on why being wrong can be such a good thing.  Let me begin by sharing a story from my own life.  One of the many times I was wrong was when I was asked by the owner of the bar I work at if we should bring in karaoke.  Now, I first let him know it is his bar and I would respect any decision he made.  That being said, I was dead set against it.  I pictures having to listen to hours of the worst singers I have ever heard.  I thought every Friday was going to be like the first night of the TV show American Idol.  Not only that, every karaoke show I have seen was led by a man who seemed half used car sales man, half Las Vegas lounge act.  Showing how much my opinion mattered, or how set in his mind he was, we started karaoke.  We also started it on Friday, the only night of the week I am behind the bar.  Well, I will be the first to admit how wrong I was.  Starting with the singers.  They are some of the most fun and passionate people I have had the honor of meeting.  A few of them have gone on to become friends.  The terrible screeching I feared is more the exception than the rule.  Business has picked up, as has the atmosphere of the bar.  The people who run the karaoke?  Not only do they not try to sell me cars, they are some of the most creative and fun people I have had the honor of working with.  They also truly care about the people who come to sing with them.

Here is the point of that story.  If I had been right, there would have been no pick up in business.  My ear drums would probably be bleeding right now, and I would have lost out on working with and meeting some of the most amazing people I have met in a truly long time.

When we are wrong, it frees us up to consider life in a whole new light.  The greater the conviction we had about what we were wrong about, the more freedom and freshness it can bring to our lives.  Sometimes I say to myself “if I was wrong about this, what else could I be wrong about?”.  So just remember, don’t always be so afraid to admit you are wrong.  It can turn out to be one of the greatest blessings, and bring a whole new look to life.  Also remember that others share your same fear of being wrong.  So when a friend, spouse or co-worker find themselves to be incorrect, be encouraging and inspiring.  Just remember, being wrong can actually be something worth celebrating.  I am reminded of that every Friday!