Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Joy Jar and The Birth Day Present

12 31 14 NewYearNotesWhen 2014 began I heard about a practice to do during the course of the year. Every time there is a happy event in your life, write it on a slip of paper, date it and drop it into a large glass jar. Hopefully by the end of the year the jar will be filled to overflowing! On New Year’s Eve sit down and pull out the slips one by one; read and remember all those great moments. You’ll be surprised about how many happy moments you had! Then get your jar ready for the next year.

People love the time of the New Year because it gives them a specific point of reference in which to start over and create a new life. However, we have the power to make every day a New Year’s Day; we don’t have to wait for once a year to change our life.

I was talking this week with a friend who is a life coach and we were talking about my recent birthday. We came up with the concept that really every day is a “birth day.” Every day we are reborn to new possibilities and every day gives us a chance to meet our resolutions. Every day we can wake up with the excitement of a birthday!

I said to her, “Yes! Today is my birthday and I have presents!” Actually the truth is that the true present is the present moment. The day is a gift to create whatever we want with it. We have the power. There are 365 days in the coming year. 365 birth days. 365 sunrises and sunsets. A single decision made on any of these days can change the course of your future. It’s up to you to decide how you will approach these days.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” Bill Keane

Take time on New Year’s Day, set up your “joy jar” of memories and get ready to fill it with great things. Set some goals for yourself on what you want to achieve, but remember it’s also the journey as much as the destination.

Can’t wait to tip my jar tonight!

Happy New Year 2015!

Season of Light

12 22 14 SolsticeYesterday marked the December Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest, darkest night. It makes me think of the phrase, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures are getting lower. The winter nights become darker and longer, yet December points us towards a season of light, hope and renewal. The coming of a new year gives us incentive for recommitting to our goals.

When a year is ending, we focus on new hope, and our homes and cities become adorned with lights that celebrate this hope.

Since ancient times, this pivotal time in the heavens has been cause for celebration, even for the mere fact that daylight would become longer each day. Depending on your culture or faith, there are the celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and others.

But no matter what your culture or faith, we can all partake in a time of quiet and stillness to find the presence of our inner light. No matter how small or insignificant we may feel, we have the power to brighten the path for others whose experience of darkness may be even deeper than our own.

How can we shine our light this season to brighten the lives of others?

We can do so much more than we think. Just the simple act of a smile to a busy cashier (especially during the holiday!), letting that car into traffic, holding the door for another shopper, all these have ripple effects. That person is going to feel so much better for your kindness and will most likely pay that forward.

It doesn’t take money to express the spirit of the season. Respect, kindness and love are the best gifts.

It’s not all about the lights we hang on our tree, our house, our city streets and parks. It’s the light that we bring to others – now and into the New Year.

Let your light shine!

Start a New Tradition

Christmas 2013eWhat is your holiday tradition? This is a time of year  filled with personal tradition, no matter what aspect of the holiday season you celebrate.

Ever since I moved to Florida and experienced the spectacle of the Disney Candlelight Processional, attending that event became one of my holiday traditions. Of course it falls upon a poor Disney employee to get all their family and friends into the parks at holiday time!

I make it a special party by having one or two other friends tag along. After all, it is a birthday party, since December is my birth month! The lights are for me! So it is with great appreciation to my friend Ray, the Disney cast member, that I dedicate this blog.

Each year the excursion is different depending on when we get there and what we do; we may catch a theme park ride, see the early Processional, go to the Disney Studios to see the millions of Osborne lights on display and maybe catch the Illuminations fireworks on the way back. Simply throw ourselves into the ambience of the season surrounded by lights, decorations and Christmas fireworks. Sometimes the Christmas spirit gets an assist from a cold front visiting Florida, as was the case this weekend!

After the early Processional was over, Ray, my friend Jerome and I decided to catch the 6 PM show at American Adventure. There is usually either a store or restaurant at the exit of every Disney show, in this case it was a restaurant and we were hungry. After the gentleman treated me to a birthday dinner, it just so happened that the second Processional was ending. We got to hear the Hallelujah Chorus for a second time! Amazing!

We hopped into the boat to go see the Osborne Lights, but to our dismay, (mostly my friend Jerome’s), the boat driver announced that the park would be closed by the time we got there, so no light display! (No worries, I have Osborne light photos from past years to share with you, on this page and the home page.) Instead of viewing the lights, we enjoyed a leisurely, one-hour boat cruise through Disney property. I love boat cruises, so I was happy!

That got us back in time to hear the third Hallelujah chorus of the evening and see fireworks. A Hallelujah trifecta, hat trick, triple play? Simply unheard of! Certainly it is an omen of good things to come in 2015! My night was perfectly topped off with a Starbucks Chestnut Praline latte. Hallelujah!

What is your holiday tradition? Just like the saying, “batteries not included,” you could say, “family is not required.” You can create a tradition unique to yourself, by yourself. It’s your choice. Whether it is a Christmas Eve adventure, visiting a festive winter display or special holiday spot, watching a Christmas movie, create something that is “your own.” Here is a hint: it doesn’t even have to be about “you.”

I have always wanted to visit a retirement home at the holidays and give them some holiday cheer. This year marked the first time that my friend Jerome and I led a karaoke Christmas sing-along at a retirement home. Now, that is the spirit of the holidays! I hope we can do that every year from now on, and even visit more than one home. I want to visit the same home on Christmas Day. There may be residents who have no family or visitors on the holiday – what better gift is there to give but the present of “presence?”

You have ten days left to create some Christmas magic. Start a new tradition in your life by finding a new way to bring joy to your world and the lives of others.

Speaking of traditions, one thing I do know, it’s two weeks after Thanksgiving, and it is time to make the traditional turkey soup!

Be Your Whole Self

12 8 14 Cranky cat“Because I’m Happpppy!” Well, what if you feel crankyyyyy? Do you ever feel guilty because you are constantly told that you should be “happy” but you are not always?

Some experts think the most toxic idea in the happiness movement is that you should always feel good and run from feeling bad. So maybe it’s okay to feel cranky once in a while?

Dr. Todd B. Kashdan, scientist, author and professor of psychology at George Mason University, was a featured speaker last week on the December Wake Up Happy series.

Todd’s recently released book  The Upside to Your Dark Side discusses our ability to access our full range of emotions and behavior—not just the “good” ones—in order to respond most effectively to whatever situation we might meet. Appreciating our entire psychology makes us whole.

What does wholeness mean? Although we know that we have a multi-faceted personality, we tend to focus only on the positive aspects, and shy away from the difficult sides of our personalities. When we prematurely discard other sides of our personality, we’re not whole.

How can we harness the dark sides of ourselves instead of trying to hide them or ignore them?

While it might be useful to avoid uncomfortable feelings, what are the consequences of this? Anger and anxiety are not necessarily debilitating. By always striving to be happy, we get anxious about “being anxious!” We create negative feelings “about having these feelings.” The only thing to fear… is fear itself!

All emotions and thoughts are tools.

Which tool is right for the situation I’m in? Kashdan says we need to get rid of the notion that being happy is good and being unhappy is bad. In this way, we are applying a “moral judgment” to happiness that perhaps does not belong there. Sometimes people who are a little “too” happy have less perseverance. Kashdan’s point of view is very interesting because it seems to contradict some of what we’ve heard elsewhere.

Sometimes we will be happy and sometimes we won’t. If we are so afraid of painful emotions, we will not take risks. Don’t make a bad mood even worse by judging yourself and criticizing yourself for “being” in a bad mood. Create a climate where all emotions have value.

Have we as a society tried too hard to banish negative emotions, when in fact they could bring us closer to other people?

Do not try to force yourself to be happy when evolutionarily, we are meant to feel emotions such as sadness. If we acknowledge that sadness, we can ask for help and connect with other people. Let your emotions be present in the moment. Acknowledge. Move on. Don’t wallow.

There are many effective ways to boost ourselves out of a bad mood. Talking to a friend about your emotions, even if they are negative, will be helpful. Even being on the receiving end of anger, 76% of people say that because of that anger they understand themselves better. Check out Dr. Kashdan’s website at http://toddkashdan.com to learn more about his controversial work.

Where is the line between acknowledging and expressing negativity and wallowing in despair? It’s all about energy. Mix in three bits of action for every negative thought. Action will counteract your “wallowing.” Those actions will help you get out of your head and into your life. 

Here is an example and a confession. The other day I was cranky and I got an idea. I was driving in my car and put in my CD with Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and tried to rewrite the lyrics as “because I’m cranky.” It was impossible not to smile with glee as I tried to sing words counterintuitive to the music! Result: I was no longer cranky!

Accept the dark side, as well as the light. Acknowledge. Move on. Only then can we be fully whole. 

Now go. The next time you get in a bad mood, I double-dog-dare you to sing: “I’m cranky.” 🙂

Disconnect and Discover

12 2 14 ChairsAre you good at keeping promises? I’m sure most of you just thought, “Of course I keep my word when I tell someone I’m going to do something. I respect others!” But that’s not the type of promise I’m talking about.

Do you keep the promises you make to yourself?

“When I get that project done I’m going to treat myself!”

“Next month I will go to the spa.”

“Next year I really am going to take that cruise!”

You may even have a “Vision Board” of the things you want to do. Do you keep those promises to yourself? Or do you let it slide because after all, it’s just yourself that you are talking to!

Do you treat others better than you treat yourself? It’s time you started being good to yourself.

Eight years ago I discovered a location that became a favorite reoccurring vacation spot. I made it a point to return every year. Then when the economy got bad and I had to make choices over whether to travel to visit family or travel “for me”- family won out. I promised myself I’d go the next year, but something else always came in the way – and I didn’t go.

This year I made a serious promise to myself. (Aren’t all promises serious?) No matter what, I would take that trip!

A few months ago when I went online and found a fantastic lodging opportunity and booked it, the feeling of joy that came over me was amazing! If I could have had a conversation with myself, my “self” would have talked back and said, “Thank you! It’s about time!”

Oh, but then there were the roadblocks that started cropping up. The unexpected car repairs. Twice.

A restaurant that was hosting my favorite band decided to close, meaning I would only get to see them once! What?

You see, one of the best parts of the vacation is strategically booking it so that I can see “my band” at least twice. Once is not acceptable! But, since I have connections, I saw them twice after all! I got into the private party!

“Vacation” means to “vacate” your usual space for a different space. Vacate your regular routine for a routine of rejuvenation.

I’ve read much recently about limiting the use of electronics during vacation. This was my first vacation with a smart phone in hand and I found this absolutely true.

When you are on vacation please limit use of electronic communications with the universe beyond where you are! It disrupts your flow! I told my best friend not to text me unless the world ended, and he texted me bad news anyway. Thanks!

Also, resist the urge to share every moment via text, Messenger, Facebook, etc. It is an interruption to the experience. Settle back, savor the moment. How long can you go without touching your phone?

View your space through your own eyes, not the eyes of your electronics. When you have your eyes on the world around you, you can make eye contact with angels in the guise of people, start conversations, establish friendships, recognize opportunities. You will attract adventure into your vacation. After all, you can always post when you get back home!

I met a lady this weekend who told me I was courageous to take a trip on my own. I do not call it courage, simply the desire to not let anything impede me from enjoying life to the fullest.

My advice to you – make time for some “me” time, rejuvenation time. Cancel those electronic impulses and observe the world around you. Open yourself up to chance encounters and new adventure. Disconnect and discover. I promise you’ll be glad you did.