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.

COFFEE WITH NEIGHBORS

I belong to a website called “Nextdoor”. It was designed to be a site you foster a feeling of being neighborly. In that spirit, I decided to share most of my tips for positivity I share on here with my neighbors. It was my hope that would lead to a neighborhood full of people who knew how to reduce stress, increase joy and become the best versions of themselves. In short, to a more positive and healthy neighborhood.

Sadly, there were a few jaded souls who did not enjoy seeing my daily offerings of positivity. These folks were so appalled by my free motivational and inspirational offerings they reported them and attempted to have them removed. It got so bad that I decided to leave the Nextdoor community.

It was with good fortune, however, I remained in contact with a few select individuals from that site. Specifically, one named Jon. Jon owns a local bar/restaurant called Johnny Hammers. He decided it would do a great deal of good to gather the people in the neighborhood who spoke online in a personal setting. So, he set up an afternoon gathering of coffee with the neighbors.

I had that great pleasure of attending my first one. There I met wonderful young ladies named Judy and Jesica. My neighbor Shane. Later we were joined by Kristin and her sons Chris as Tyler. Kristen is one of the leads on that Nextdoor site and was able to explain ways in which we could all use the site to more positively interact with each other.

In addition to this fine group of people we also met a couple who were reopening a local church in the area. They were kind enough to share their plans for the community.

Although I still have great misgivings about the cliquiness and malevolent behavior of some people on Nextdoor,I do see where it could be a great service to the community. I am also very grateful to Jon for setting up the in person meetings. I look forward to meeting more neighbors in the future. If you see such meetings in your neighborhood I would encourage you to attend them. If you don’t, I would encourage you to start one.

WHAT YOU ARE MISSING

I live in a nice city called West Allis. I work in a different city about a 40 minute drive away. This can make for some exciting days especially in winter. In many ways I have learned to relish the drive as it gives me time to think, or listen to audio books. I love learning and am grateful for the time the drive affords me to do so.

Recently, I have been listening to the book The Power which is the sequel to the popular book The Secret. Both are books on the law of attraction. I recommend both of them. Not to ruin any plots for you, but The Power is about the power of love. Not just of the romantic variety, but how to apply and reap the benefits of the power of love in your own life.

One of the fun things the book advocates doing is finding what you love about certain situations. In doing so you remain more present and aware of your surroundings. One of the ways they mention in the book is asking yourself the question “What do I love?” Asking questions is a great way to take control of your thoughts. Giving your brain a question to find an answer to can give it direction and keep it from going somewhere you might not want it to go.

I was interested in giving my brain the positive task of finding things to love and bring me joy. The 40 minute drive to my day job at the Post Office seemed like the perfect time to give this idea a try. Certainly, the prospect of showing up at work in a great mood was appealing. Let me voice a disclaimer here. Although the idea did appeal to me, I had never really made a conscious effort to do this and kept an open mind. I figured it may be rough going at first and I may find it difficult to find things to love. I could not have been more incorrect! One thing after another seemed to leap to my attention and I could not notice them fast enough! Despite the unexpected nature of this, it was not the most surprising development on that trip.

Every day I take pretty much the same route to work. I reached my decision on 60th street, which at the moment closely resembles a demilitarized zone. Here is what I found so surprising. Even though I take that street at the very least 5 days a week, I was amazed at how much I miss! I decided to try again on the way home. The same result followed. Even just being on the opposite side of the street a whole world I had been missing unfolded before me.

When I got home I began to ask Margie, “Have you seen that building on 60th with the multi-colored bricks?” and a million other things. After taking a few moments to make sure I had not stopped off for some rum after a hard day at the Post Office, Margie had to confess that she too had missed most of these things as well. I then began to tell her about what I have been doing and how the idea came from the book I was listening to. It is here I must tip my hat to Margie. While she also loves to learn, she is very patient and does not complain about the seemingly endless stream of audio books I have playing in the car as we travel here and there. She has even given me the gift of one of my favorite audio books A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors.

Here is my suggestion for you. As you travel along today, ask yourself, “What can I find that I love on this journey?” You will be surprised at how much we miss. I have found new restaurants I would like to try, stores I would like to shop at and even a nature trail I would like to hike on. I would love to hear your results in the comments below.

DROP YOUR BUCKETS 

“Neighborhoods are going down hill.” “things aren’t what they used to be.” How many of us have heard, or even said things like this? Do you believe these statements to be true? Accepting these statements as true can leave us with a feeling of helplessness and despair. After all crime is on the rise in a lot of both rural and urban areas. In my own fabulous city of West Allis Wisconsin homicides went from a mere one in 2015 to 6 last year. Burglaries were up almost 100 in the same time frame. That is what the news will tell you. Still, in the same time robberies fell by 37%, assaults fell by over 14%, and theft of vehicles by 11%. So the news is both good and not so good. There is also news of them adding a new off-road ambulance and several businesses with more on the way.

Is this about seeing the glass half-full when it comes to your home town? In a way. It is also reminding us to look a little deeper when we are given certain facts, they may not be the whole story. (see the crime statistics above)

This is but a small fraction of what we can do to restore our faith and outlook in our hometowns. I highly suggest contacting your local government and finding out what their plans are. In West Allis for example, the mayor coupled with other local politicians and business leaders have launched a strategic 5 year plan to improve the quality of life in the city. Knowing what is being worked on behind the scenes can often give you a feeling of hope for the future.

What happens if you are not satisfied with what you discover the local government is doing to improve your fine city? What can you do? That is the very question you should be asking, but let us type it in a slightly different way. What can you do? Sure we can all find things maybe we think local law enforcement could be doing better, but how many of us would be a part of a neighborhood watch program? People are quick to complain how rundown their neighborhood may look, but are they keeping their own property up to serve as an example and to inspire their neighbors? If you really want to make an impact, perhaps you should consider becoming a part of the solution. By that I mean becoming a part of your local government. Something I plan to do in the near future. Not only will it allow you to have a bigger impact on positive change, but also allow you to see the challenges the city faces from angles you may not have considered or knew of.

While speaking to a local alder person I learned one of the best things you can do to improve your neighborhood. Sit on your front porch. Really? I can hear you ask. Yes, by making a presence you will be able to not only better observe things that might need attention, but also get to know more of your neighbors and create more of a sense of community. One of the major complaints people voice is that neighborhoods are not as close as they used to be. It is up to all of us to change that. Attend local block parties or inquire at your local chamber of commerce. Most of all support and frequent local businesses. I do most of my writing at coffee shops located in my fine city because I want them to succeed and to continue to employ the fine people they do. I also DJ 2 out of 3 nights at places located in my hometown.

John F. Kennedy once said the famous line “Don’t ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” This is true at the local level as well. It is only by working together we will reclaim and improve our communities. Feel free to share this post as well as share your ideas in the comments below.

EVERY LIFE MATTERS


Yesterday the world lost a great, and one of my favorite actors. Gene Wilder was a comic genius who happens to be from my hometown. So how did this man change the world and what can we learn from him and the life that he led? Born in 1933 he was coming of age just as a world war was coming to a close, the depression had just ended and the economy was just starting to pick back up.

Mr. Wilder chose to live his gift in that circumstance and give the world what it needed, a reason to laugh. He stared in and co-wrote movies with Mel Brooks both of them showing through comedy the virtues of a race that had just been persecuted. Gene Wilder was good and living a role and developing the characters he played. He stared in several of my favorite movies and has brought joy to several of my days.

Here is the point I am making, some people may look at this man and say “All he does is make people laugh what is so special about that?”. Perhaps people say something similar about you, or maybe you even find that you say that about yourself? I have heard things from friends and people at my seminars like “I’m just a stay at home mom.”. Just a stay at home mom? You are raising the next generation and you somehow have been lead to believe that is no big deal?  Are you a good friend? Do you help around the house? Do you serve customers with a smile? Everyone is good at something and that something can change the world. Maybe it just will change the world of those you know, maybe your actions will have a ripple effect and go on to change lives you may never know. My point is the best way of doing this is living the person you are at the very core. If there is something you enjoy and are naturally good at that is where you should go. It is there you can make the biggest difference.

So let us all use the passing of this great talent to remind us that we are all great talents. We all have something great to bring to the world. Feel free to share or tag anyone you know has a great talent to remind them that they change the world.