NEVER CUT DOWN A TREE IN WINTER

This is a very important statement to ponder. You may even wish to print it out and keep it somewhere as a reminder. As I write this I am sitting in a newer Starbucks that has windows almost everywhere. This normally would be ideal, except it is like winter in Wisconsin where I live. Add to that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what this disorder, more commonly known as S.A.D., is allow me to explain. S.A.D. is a condition that physically changes a person during the dark dreary months of winter. There are changes in hormonal levels that cause irritability at best and can bring on seasonal depression at worse. 

As you may imagine, this can be quite a challenge for someone who lives for inspiring and encouraging others. That challenge is compounded by living in a state that seems to have winter 9 months out of the year. We are working on changing that. (San Diego stay tuned) I can be in moods that are less than ideal in the coming months. Fortunately for me, the passion I have leads me to look for solutions instead of just acknowledge the problems.

It has also instilled in me a passion for controlling my emotional states. This can be helpful all year long. It is often tempting to make a decision when we are in an extreme emotional state. Especially when we are angry. The adrenaline these emotions give us can leave us feeling more powerful and motivated. Generally, this is a positive aspect of life and can be great if we use it to go to the gym and have an intense workout for example. This is why it is so important to have a healthy way of dealing with anger put in place before it occurs.

Extreme emotional states can twist our perception of reality. We tend to see things different than they really are and very often worse than they really are. Remember just as we have days that are meant to challenge us and make us grow, so do others. A good portion of the world has not learned to use challenges for growth. Sometimes their ignorance may manifest as poor treatment of you. Instead of getting mad and treating them harshly, why not use their treatment of you as an example of how to use challenges for growth. In my past, I did not always respond to challenging situations in a healthy way. It was those who responded with patience and understanding that taught me far more than those who responded with anger of their own.

Here is another reason, albeit a bit more selfish one, to not respond in anger. It saves you from looking like a fool. We all know a couple that personifies this. One day they are posting how terrible each other are on social media. They next day they are madly in love. Not only does this make you look silly, it weakens your relationship and calls into question the integrity of your character. Although having it in black and white for the world to read is pretty dramatic, the same holds true for what you say in person. If you are having a disagreement with someone be it your friend, spouse or coworker and you proceed to share the details and bad mouth them to everyone you see, it does not reflect as poorly on them as it does on you. Imagine what the person you are talking to will think when you have a disagreement with them? Fight to master your emotions. It will serve you, it will serve those who are in your life. 

A WAY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE


Recently, I entered a poetry contest for my city of West Allis, Wisconsin. First of all, I would like to say that I thought this was a great opportunity for citizens to become involved with the city. In previous posts I have mentioned the mayor and the good programs he has put forth. This program came from the West Allis Public Library Board of Directors and I am so humbled that they chose me as a winner. There are two points that this event made me think of and I wanted to take this opportunity to share them with you.
The first is that this is just another example of the steps that West Allis is taking to improve both the city and the quality of life for its citizens. It shows a commitment to excellence and resurgence for a city that many left for dead when manufacturing jobs began to disappear. It is a good reminder not to give up on your city. With some forward thinking, and creative initiatives a city can begin to become vibrant and full of vitality again. It is also a good reminder to search out and get involved in programs your city might offer. If you cannot find programs such as these in your city it presents a great opportunity to speak with elected officials to begin to set some up. Elected officials are not just the only ones to turn to either. There are community groups, senior centers, clubs and organizations that have many chances to become active in your city. Contests and activities like this foster a sense of community. In doing so they help neighbors get to know each other which can reduce crime and increase a safe atmosphere in which to raise a family and spend your days.
The second point that this contest brought to mind was an opportunity to both inspire my fellow neighbors as well as promote the good things that happen in the city. A quick glance in the newspaper or on social media will supply you with plenty of reasons in which you may NOT want to visit and/or live in a city. It is always a good idea to balance those out with promoting good events that are happening as well. In my city there is a neighborhood walk to encourage physical fitness, a monthly coffee with the mayor in which citizens can relax with a cup of coffee and hear exactly what is happening in the city from the mayor himself. There is also a new dog park being planned and built as well as roughly $200 million worth of new developments in various stages. There are what seems like a thousand other great things I could mention here that are going on as well.
Maybe your city is not as fortunate as mine, but truly there is something great going on in your city as well. Make it known. Get the neighbors involved. Like in my poem below, it is by becoming the best citizens we can that we create the best cities possible. I encourage you to promote all the good that is happening in your city. While you are reading this, feel free to check out my winning poem, along with the other 5 winners that I am honored to be joined by. At a future date all of these poems will be placed in concrete to honor the authors. Still another great event to look forward to in West Allis.

WHY EVERY MAYOR SHOULD BE LIKE MINE.


I live in the small city (pop. 60,000) of West Allis, Wisconsin. In this town we have a mayor by the name of Dan Devine. He is the man standing who is ironically facing away from the camera. Those of you who follow this blog with regularity may recall mention of him this past July in a post titled Secret to a Healthy Community. In which the mayor led a neighborhood walk to encourage the community to engage in a healthier lifestyle. To me it was a great example of a person who leads by example.
The picture above is from an event I attended this morning called ‘Coffee with the mayor’. The premise is a simple one, the mayor chooses a local business and meets informally with anyone who shows up. Not only does this offer a unique chance to connect with the community for those who may be too intimidated to attend meetings at city hall, but also brings a lot of business to a local establishment. In this case the venue was Urban Joe Café and Bar. Although their questionable decision to have minimum staff on such a busy morning, the young lady who was working named Tina, did a marvelous job keeping everyone happy.
Through the course of this gathering, the mayor informed us on the status of ongoing projects as well as new developments. As you can imagine the people attending ranged in age from young to old. They also ranged from being cheerful and excited to jaded and generally full of complaints. What impressed me most was that Mayor Devine not only subjected himself to some conversation that bordered on unpleasant, but responded to everyone in a cheerful and encouraging fashion.
When the scheduled hour was up the mayor still gave time for those in attendance. He was also joined by an alderman and the fire chief.

The reason for me sharing the story of this gathering is to show what is possible when leaders genuinely care for the people and seek to engage them from many different angles. We have a city website, newsletter and formal meetings of course, but this informal gathering really gave the citizens a chance to feel included in what is happening in their city. Not to mention our good friends at Urban Joe Café & Bar were introduced to several more customers.
It is my sincere hope that leaders in other communities take this example and bring it to their cities and towns as well. In addition, I hope citizens take advantage of such opportunities to have their voices heard and become more engaged in the community. I find myself feeling very grateful that I live in a city with leaders who care and are willing to work to make a difference.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE OTHER POST ABOUT THE MAYOR

IT’S WHAT YOU LEAVE BEHIND

With all the talk of the enviroment and recycling there is a lot of talk on what we leave behind.

Ironically, this thought is little transfered into our personal lives. There is so much importance placed on the here and now, in instant gratification that the absence of what effect we will have on the future is understandable. I have even heard people say, “What do I care about how I will affect the future? I’ll be dead.”

I take a view more akin to one of the great leaders of the Sioux nation – Sitting Bull, who said, “Let’s put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.”

In knowing you have done something to make the world a better place for having been here, I think that goes a great way to fostering an inner peace.

Recently, I entered a city-wide poetry contest. I, by no means, am a poet. I am a self-improvement author specializing in stress reduction. Still I wanted to leave a positive mark on the city for years to come. That was fitting because the winner will have their poem stamped in the sidewalk.

My poem won! Which of course fills me with a great deal of pride. What is more important to me was the content of my poem. In it I explain what makes a city great is not the buildings or streets, but the people that fill them both. If our desire is to live in a great city, one of the most important things we can do is to be the best person we can be.

I urge you all to think of what legacy you wish to leave behind. What will your life bring to future generations?

SECRET TO A HEALTHY COMMUNITY

The man on the far right, with the megaphone, is the mayor of my fine city. Every year he holds a 30-day challenge to have members of the community be active for 30 minutes a day. This year the challenge was kicked off with a one mile walk that the mayor led. In politics there is too often examples of “Do as I say, not as I do.” It is refreshing to see a leader who leads by example.

Not only was this an example of a leader walking the walk, but of one who truly cares about the city he leads. Wanting the people who live in the city to be both healthy and happy is an extra step that most officials would not take. The position of mayor is filled with lots of obligations and responsibilities. Arranging both a walk and a 30-day fitness challenge creates a lot of extra work. Including, but not limited to, setting up police presence to make sure the course is safe. Working with sponsors and allocating prizes to be given away, t-shirts printed and what is sure to be countless other details I am forgetting.

Sure, setting up such an event can help you during reelection, but so could just being a great mayor. Why take all of the extra steps? That answer was made clear as we walked along. The mayor did not discuss politics, or as some national politicians are wanting to do, discuss how great of a mayor he was. No, today as we walked along he discussed his son’s love for sports, his family’s like for vacations in northern Wisconsin and an eventful trip they had made to Disney world. Most importantly, the mayor listened. Another sign of a great leader. He listened patiently as people voiced their concerns about aspects of the city, but also when they shared stories of their families as well.

After the walk had concluded, there was a small gathering where water, yogurt and prizes were handed out. Sadly, I did not win any of the State Fair tickets that were up for grabs. I did win, however, by being part of this great community.

I had the great pleasure of talking to wonderful neighbors like Jon and Robin who are also working diligently to foster a sense of community. Even though she wasn’t able to attend, there were plenty of discussions about my amazing neighbor Linda and what a caring neighbor she is. To make the day even better I was able to finally meet several neighbors I had only previously interacted with online including Denise and her fabulous husband. I look forward to chatting more with all of them as we work together to foster a greater sense of togetherness in West Allis Wisconsin.

If your community offers programs such as this I encourage you to join. If they do not, work with leaders to begin some. They not only do a great deal to reduce crime and increase a sense of community, but bring people together for positive and healthy reasons. Leaders, take mayor Dan Devine’s example. Caring about your constituents runs deeper than success at the polls and does not go unnoticed.

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.

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN

Fear not. This is not a picture of me. As I write this the temperature outside is a pleasant 60 degrees. Very warm for Wisconsin on the 4th of December. As you are reading this, however, the reading will be 30 degrees less. Yes a drop that big in the space of 24 hours. What is really challenging is the fact that the week ahead features high temperatures in the 20’s and 30’s. Those are average for this time of year and living here most of my life I should be used to that by now, but I am not.

As a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder, my mood tends to dip with the temperature. Knowing this can fill me with a sense of tread as the days get closer to the end of the year, but it also gives me time to prepare. I know I am not likely to see a day like the one we are having today until the month of May. So what can I do for the next 5 months to avoid slipping to a further degree of insanity than my normal state? One cannot certainly change the weather. Closing my eyes and chanting “I think it’s warm” over and over again wouldn’t get me very far either.

If cursing mother nature doesn’t help, what does? When you are faced with challenges you cannot change, then the only option is to change yourself. I am going to begin to plan fun things with the love of my life. Being the budget of an aspiring world-famous author doesn’t include money for many tropical vacations, I plan to visit the local horticultural building here (called the Domes) where there are living plants all year around. There will be more movie nights indoors. Maybe a bundled up adventure in the woods. While this does not replace the joy of riding my bike in the sunshine, these activities will bring me great joy.

Another option is to plan for when the weather is warm in order to make the most of the nice weather. Trips we want to go on. Maybe a road trip when the snow and ice is off of the roads. Getting in shape so I can better enjoy the warm weather when in comes. I have a calendar that I actually mark each day I go to the gym. It will keep me motivated in the cold weather.

The point is this, even if you are faced with a challenge that seems to be insurmountable you can always find ways to adjust. Winter will never be my favorite season, but that does not mean I cannot find ways to discover happiness while it is here.