THESE GIFTS ARE THE BEST

Look at this fun and amazing item! It is a candle that my dear sweet Margie bought for me with our picture on it. When it is burning our picture will be backlit and look even more impressive. When the candle is gone, I can use this as a memory jar or and other fun, romantic idea that will come to mind.

Adding the extra touch of personalizing a gift makes things oh so special. I am so grateful that the lady in my life is not only beautiful, but thoughtful as well. I enjoy having special reminders around of the times and love we share. If you are looking to increase the love in your relationship, or just leave your significant other a pleasant reminder of how much you care for them I would recommend a personalized gift. It doesn’t have to even be something extravagant. It can just be something that lets them know you care and are thinking about them.

The great thing about this is it does not only have to be for romantic relationships. It works great for parents reminding their children how much they love them whether they are away at school, or even living in another country. It also works great for friends and other family members.

It doesn’t even have to be a picture. It can be a keychain engraved with a saying that means something to both of you. Maybe something with an inspirational message just for them. I enjoying giving copies of my book with a person message written on the inner cover. Pick someone special today and find a fun personalized gift you can give them to let them know how special and loved they are. Take it from me, it will make them feel on top of the world. I know mine did.

FREEDOM TO BE LOCAL

Here is a picture of the local July 4th celebration in West Allis Wisconsin, where I live. I believe the group is called ‘The dancing Grannies’. I think it is awesome that seniors continue to be active and it was even better to hear people applaud and cheer for them as they went by. In this country July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day, or the day in which this country began its self-rule.

Here is me enjoying the parade with my mother and her husband. I had such a good time and do not remember enjoying a parade that much since I was a child. It got me thinking about individual freedoms we either take for granted or choose not to take advantage of. Such as who we share our time with. Ideally, this picture would have included my lovely Margie, not only would that have added to the joy I was feeling, it would have added beauty to the picture as well. Alas, she was not able to join us due to prior obligations. I could have watched the parade by myself, or even with any of the great friends I ran into. I chose to watch it with my mother because lately we have been going for walks in nature and sharing some great conversation and fun times. The freedom of who to spend your time with is a very important one to exercise.

Here are pictures of the food truck and the tasty treats that I enjoyed from it. Do you realize how many more options we have when it comes to what we eat? Only 100 years ago small local grocery stores carried a handful of options. Now, we have stores that have thousands of items to choose from. Some from halfway around the world! We can choose to eat healthy or we can choose to eat…well…pizza. Even when cooking at home recipes and even videos guiding us through how to make exotic dishes are at our fingertips.

These are pictures of the party they held at a local park after the parade. There were things to eat as you saw in the above paragraph, as well as a band, children’s games and beverages. This brought up one of the most important freedoms of all. In a world that has headlines dominated by terrorism, racism, hate and violence, a lot of people are afraid to walk the street. Sadly, that is exactly what those committing violent crimes wish for. It is my belief that one of the best ways to combat a world that seems filled with division is to get out and meet your neighbors. Holiday celebrations are a perfect place to do so. On this day I met great neighbors such as Kristin, the mayor of our fine city, my neighbor Dan and lots of others. Do yourself a favor. As you are enjoying that hamburger, sweet corn or even that frosty beverage, take a second to introduce yourself to neighbors. If you happen to see Margie and me out enjoying the holidays, feel free to introduce yourself to us.

SITTING ON A BENCH WITH JESUS

Years ago I used to ponder why the world was as it is. Why, if there is a supreme being, is the world filled with hate, jealousy, racism and the like? Why did I find a lot of those things in my life as well? It was on one of my darkest days in which I finally received the answer. I wasn’t sitting on a park bench like the man in the picture above. I was in a library trying to find a book that would give me some advice on turning my life around. Some books were way to metaphysical for me at the time. Some were very complex and involved psychological phrases you would need a degree to decipher. While getting frustrated at the lack of a book for the average Joe to turn their life around, a voice in my head spoke to me. “If you can’t find one, write one.” From that day forward I have continued to find tools to help the average individual live a more positive and rewarding life.

What led me to this dark and dreary day in the life of Neil was a lot of circumstances. Professional, personal and my surroundings. By surroundings I mean things such as some of the music I was hearing, shows on television I saw, what I read in the newspaper and what I witnessed people doing to each other around me. Again, I began to wonder how the spiritual powers that be would allow such things.

The answer to that question was very similar to the first question I asked, except this one was a riddle of sorts. (yes, even my own head doesn’t always give me a straight answer) “How do you change a dark room?” This may sound foolish until you look at it in the terms of the world as a whole. If you want to lighten up a dark room you do not work on ‘removing the darkness’ you simply add light. If your glass is half-full you do not try to remove the air you just add more water, or rum, or iced coffee, but I digress. If we all remained focused on removing the negativity from the world we would create a vacuum that could very well be filled with…well…more negative things. The only way to decrease the negativity in the world is to add more positivity and love.

Another shocking revelation is that either one of these situations, love or hate, mankind does to itself. We make the choices. If we sit back and do nothing to counter the troubles we see in the world we are allowing it to happen. If you see someone hungry give them food. If you still watch the news and hear about some group being discriminated against, do something to make someone feel more loved and accepted. As the saying goes, “God helps them who helps themselves.” This is not just true for one person, but for all of us everywhere and the world as a whole.

WHAT ARE YOU TAKING TIME FOR?

When I first read the above picture I had to take a second and appreciate how profound that actually is. Sure, we all like to vent and sometimes that is very helpful, but how far is too far when it comes to venting? If you find yourself spending more time finding ways to complain and share your pain and unpleasant emotion state with the rest of the world than actually working on a solution to change your situation, that is too far.

If you look at the above example we could learn a lot. The first thing, feel like sh*t, some people like to just stay in this state. I could never understand that. If I am upset, angry, sad or any other unpleasant emotion I will do anything to change that state.  If it doesn’t work, then I will do something else, if that doesn’t work… well you get the idea.

The second item is complaining. Again, venting is one thing, but dwelling on it is certainly another. Les Brown, one of my favorite authors and speakers put it this way, “Don’t bother telling other people your problems. 80% don’t care and 20% are glad it’s you.” This sounds cynical, but it is true. Unless you think the person you are telling your problems to can help you, tell them something you are grateful for instead. It will help both of you feel better.

The third item, checking social media. If you are already in a bad mood adding the drama of others, or reading any unpleasant news would only serve to bring you down further. You would be better served visiting a motivational website, or reading a good book.

Let us look at the solutions they offer. Meditate. It can help you feel more relaxed and think clearly. It can offer a different perspective on your situation. It brings down your heart rate, releases ‘feel good’ brain chemicals and creates an overall sense of well-being. Going hand in hand with meditating is writing in your journal. Anyone who knows me even a little knows how much of a fan of journaling I am. A journal is like a therapist that is always open and does not charge a great amount of money to listen to you. Much like meditating, it can offer clarity and a sense of release.

Writing down what you are grateful for and your goals can work in two amazing ways as well. Focusing on what you are grateful for can change your feeling from lack to abundance and from sadness to joy quicker than just about anything else I know. Goals will not only change your focus on whatever crappy situation you are in presently to the fabulous situation you want to be in, but will also get you moving. Instead of focusing on where you don’t want to be, which is feeling bad, you can focus on where you want to be. By doing so actions that will bring you closer to that will come in to focus as well. So, next time you find yourself tempted to do any of the first three things on the list, try instead to do one of the last three and notice the difference.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM JIMMY JOHN’S

Did you ever stop to think about the decisions you make, or do not make and how they affect your life? What may seem small or insignificant at the time, can make all of the difference. I equate it to hitting a golf ball. If you change the approach by just a few millimeters and hit the ball over the length of the ball’s flight it will make a profound difference.

When we are faced with a decision to let someone walk away, or whether to be honest with our feelings or keep them inside, I say go for it and do so freaky fast. As we look back on our lives it is the things that we did not do that we regret far more than the mistakes we made. Sometimes by failing to act you could deny yourself the greatest opportunity. If you wait to tell that special someone how amazing they are and how much you feel for them, you may never have the chance. Even if the moment may have passed, telling someone what a beautiful soul they are can do a lot of good.

There are two caveats when it comes to this. First, if you have an urge to tell someone something in anger that is a moment you may wish to pause and reconsider. When we are angry we do not often word things in the most constructive language. For years I struggled with this myself, but by forcing myself to wait and approach the matter when emotions have not taken over has led to a lot healthier and productive resolutions.

The other thing I ponder is this, sometimes I feel the universe has other reasons for what happens. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion because you were to receive a better offer later? Maybe as amazing as dating that person sounds you need them in your life in another capacity? These don’t always feel well at the moment. After all, who wouldn’t want to date someone they think could make their life magic, or earn more money in a more rewarding position? This is where faith comes into play. We must learn to trust the process and be grateful for our life the way it is now. Plus, we never know what the future holds.

FLIP THE SCRIPT

Bad days, we all have them. One day both the air conditioning and driver’s side window in your car decide to both stop working. You have just worked some overtime and are thinking how best to enjoy the extra cash you worked so hard for when your license plate renewal notice comes in the mail. You are at the gym training for a 5k charity race you have coming up and next thing you know you are laying in the hospital on the brink of open heart surgery. It is highly unlikely all of this would happen to one person in a single week, but it happened to me… last week.

It would have been easy to think of throwing in the towel at some point and feeling depressed. To be honest for a second I did. That all changed on a rainy day hot day after I was discharged from the hospital. Wanting to take a break from the fabulous cardiac diet I was enjoying at the hospital, my mother, lovely lady and I all went for a taco pizza at a local establishment. On the way there I say a man dressed for a warm sunny day standing in the rain at the bus stop. There was no shelter and he had no choice. Hopefully after being drenched and having to get on a cold bus, he was on his way home to change into something dry, but I cannot be sure of that. Suddenly, my car troubles did not seem that bad.

The more I thought about that the same applied to all of the other challenges my week had thrown at me. I had a job to pay the extra bill that came in, I was still around after my heart scare. It is more than just finding the light in the dark though. How often have we all sat and thought extensively on what it is that is wrong or lacking in our life? I am know I have and I am guessing you may have too. I always use the analogy at my seminars if you are on a all expense paid vacation with the one you love and then you get a toothache things can go from great to bad in a blink of an eye.

Here is what I am going to ask you to do this weekend. It is a challenge for you and for me. This weekend let us pick two areas of our life and focus on everything we love and are grateful for. Let us do this for 24 hours for each one. To make it even more powerful you might even want to write them down. At the very least, write down what particular area of your life you are focusing on that day. Is it your relationship? Sure, it might not be perfect, but there are reasons you love it or you wouldn’t still be there. Maybe your job? It would be easy to complain about how we wish we were paid more, had more time off, better hours or even a better boss. How often do we do that? For at least 24 hours, let us solely focus on the good about that. Keep it in the back of your mind for the entire day. Ask yourself at various times throughout the day, “What do I love or am grateful for about this area of my life?” Maybe carry a small notebook around and write down your answers? Feel free to come back to this post on Monday and share how you felt and what, if any, results came of doing this.

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.