AN INSPIRATIONAL STORY DURING A TRYING TIME

The above picture is from the intersection of 60th and Burnham in the city of West Allis Wisconsin, where this writer happens to live. Although this picture was from a few years ago the scene looked much the same this past weekend. In Wisconsin we are prone to freezing temperatures and large amounts of snowfall. This Friday/Saturday we received what I am guessing was around 8 inches of snow.

As you can imagine by looking at the picture above, this makes travel difficult. A simple trip to the grocery store that would normally take ten minutes can take at least twice that. It also adds an element of danger as roads become slippery and vision becomes reduced. On top of all of this is the inconvenience of having to clear snow, put down salt and other steps to make your path safe and easy to travel.

On a personal level, I could do without all of this. I am not a fan of winter and would prefer to live somewhere much warmer. Until that happens, I am left to face these conditions with the best outlook I can muster. On Friday I worked a 16 hour day between two jobs. On the way to job number two, DJing at a local establishment named Limanski’s, Margie and I had to drive through the main portion of the snow storm. The roads were slippery and several drivers were using questionable judgement. On the way home at roughly 2 a.m. the roads had only gotten worse and there was a batch of freezing rain to make the drive a little more exciting.

The following morning we needed to attend the funeral of a very dear friend’s mother. That meant having to clear out our driveway and a path to the car prior to departure and allowing extra time to get there. From the moment I stepped out of the house, the day began to shift. The weather was fairly warm (around 34 degrees) There was the hum of snowblowers and the scrape of shovels working to clear the results of the night before. I grabbed my shovel to join masses in our labor. The snow was heavy and one had to be careful not to lift with your back. After clearing a path to the car and the snow the plows had left in front of our driveway we were ready to go.

I was concerned as to what the conditions of the roads would be. The concern was unfounded. Roads that only hours before had seemed unpassable now were completely free of snow. We witnessed several trucks working to plow and salt the streets on our way to the funeral.

After the funeral, Margie needed to complete one of her amazing cakes for a customer. I knew she had not had any breakfast and volunteered to grab her a nice breakfast sandwich. After dropping her off to work, I began to drive to get a breakfast sandwich from Kwick Trip. It is a gas station with a rather expansive convenience store inside, featuring breakfast sandwiches amoung other things. On my drive there I witnessed countless people shoveling, using their snow blowers and just doing their best to navigate the streets and sidewalks.

Normally, this would be a rather depressing sight to someone who loves and wishes he lived in the tropics, but not today. Each person I saw seemed to be wearing a smile. I saw neighbors helping each other. I saw a family building a snow man  and children playing with sleds. It would seem everyone today was making the best of the situation and not letting it dampen their spirits.

When I arrived at Kwik Trip, I realized the price of gasoline was quite reasonable and decided to top off my tank. When I went inside to pick out some food for Margie and I as well as pay for my gasoline, I was greeted with the most pleasurable service. I was asked if I needed help finding or picking out anything. When I arrived at the counter I was not only reminded to enter my rewards card number, but asked if I needed any beverages to accompany my food purchases. The whole time I was greeted with a smile.

On a day when most people had an excuse to be irritable, it was great to see most everyone in my community doing their best to keep a smile on their face and share it with others. Just a good reminder that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. I would love to hear any positive winter stories you have to share. 

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SMILE, IT IS TAX DAY!

Today in the United States it is Federal Income Tax day. Generally, a somber day for most. After paying what seems like the bulk of your earnings out of your paycheck, you have the dubious honor of paying some more today. Even if after paying your required amount every check, you get a small portion back, you still face the prospect of filling out time-consuming paperwork that can often be very confusing. At the least, you are going to pay someone to do this for you or face penalties for not doing so. This time of year we are also supplied with many facts of the not so logical way our government chooses to spend our hard earned dollars. Not very inspiring or motivational.

Before I continue, allow me to let you know I do not work for the IRS, nor am I a fan of tax season. That being said, today I stopped and pondered all that our tax dollars give us. Yes, there is lots of waste and mismanagement when it comes to government spending, but let us focus on what does get done. As I write this mid April has brought my city freezing rain and snow. The roads are currently being plowed and salted. I cannot imagine what it would be like if that were left up to the public to do. We can look at the sidewalks for an example. Some people shovel and clean them off, some do not. Imagine if the roads were the same. How would we get around? How long would we have to wait? How about sanitation? Imagine having to deal with your garbage daily. Would you take it to the dump on your own? Would there even be a dump? How about the public library? Free education for anyone regardless of race, religion or social status.

For a lot of us, tax day will always be a painful experience. By focusing on what we do receive from the money that is unceremoniously taken from us each paycheck, we may ease the pain we feel. If we look hard enough, for every story of the government buying a $200 hammer, we will find one of a young woman who studied at the public library and went on to become a doctor who saved many lives.

Could and should the government do a lot better? Absolutely and we can and should keep voting to make sure they do. In the meantime, let us be grateful that we do not have to bury our trash in our own back yard or clear the snow of the street in front of our house. While we are at it let us rent a movie from our public library and enjoy some of the tax day deals that some companies are offering.

FIND A FEW. ..

It is winter currently where I live . That is me in the picture above. Even though the holidays come around this time of year and there is lots of gathering of family and friends it can be stressful for a lot of people. For me, add the condition known as ‘seasonal affective disorder’ in which the lack of sun and general terrible weather seem to have quite an effect on my mood. This can be hard for others to understand as well. Sure we are all happier when it is sunny and pleasant, but winter here can really take a toll on a few of us.

The odd thing is, in general I am a really happy person. I love my life, my friends, my lady. I feel really quite grateful. These thoughts are harder to grasp it seems during this time of the year. Even if you do not have this condition, the stress of the holidays, driving in bad conditions and dealing with people who are less than cheery can be challenging at best.

So what to do? The answer is in this crazy picture above. Find things that make you laugh, smile or that bring you pleasure. In my case two of them are penguins and pizza. So much so that I almost capitalized both of those words. In periods you know you are going to be challenged, prepare ahead of time. Have a list of movies that put you in a good mood. I playlist of songs you enjoy. Also, surround yourself with images of things that make you smile. This picture was at a movie theater and my wonderful Margie pointed it out and insisted I take a picture by it knowing how much I enjoy both of those things. I couldn’t take the sign with me, but on a day like today that seems to be a bit challenging for me with all of the snow outside even seeing this picture cheered me up.

So if you know you are entering a challenging period, whether job, weather or anything else related, prepare by gathering up your ‘medicine’ of things that make you happy and laugh. Take it from me, it can be a lifesaver.