Category Archives: RELATIONSHIPS

Love Lifts You

loveliftsyouI have heard it said that there are only two emotions in our universe, not good and evil, love and hate, but Love and Fear. Fear is the source of hatred and prejudice, as man fears that which is different from him. How do we rise above fear? I’m reminded of the Scripture in 1 John 4:18 which says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives away fear. … The one who fears has not been perfected in love.”

Love lifts us above our fears. Love is like a hot air balloon that lifts us above all our earthly and imperfect fears, doubts, hatreds and prejudices. Love is fueled by our actions.

I had the joy of taking a hot air balloon excursion several years ago, and I can be afraid of heights in some situations! For some reason, I had no fears at all while in the passenger basket, even looking straight down at the treetops thousands of feet below. I think one of the reasons was that the whole experience felt totally surreal and as if I was floating in the heavens with angelic creatures! 2-14-2017-treetops

 

In this case, the most important angel was the pilot who was in charge of controlling the fuel that kept us aloft! The balloon has fuel and the pilot adjusts the fuel according to the situation, the winds, the temperatures and the atmospheric conditions. Likewise we need fuel to keep our emotional hot air balloon aloft as we sail through the clouds of life.

2-14-2017-balloon-fuelWhat is that fuel? Daily acts of love. Humanity tends to sink emotionally with the pull of the gravity of the circumstances that surround us from day to day. (You’ve heard that phrase: “The gravity of the situation.”) When we receive daily acts of love that act puts fuel into our “hot air balloon.” Likewise when we give daily acts of love, we get the fuel as well. Remember how good it feels to give as well as receive?

Today is Valentine’s Day and the media pulls most people into the “buy flowers, candy, jewelry, etc. routine.” But what about the other 364 days in the year? Valentine’s Day is not about making up for what failings you think you may have had the rest of the year. I read a blog today where the author said that her idea of a romantic Valentine’s Day was to clean the garage with her spouse! She wrote: “True love is getting up in the middle of the night to take care of sick kids.” Yes, isn’t it the small things in life that really count? All those little things that you do for your partner, friends or family on a daily basis. Being there 365 days a year is “true love.”

Hey, I’m certainly not against taking a day to orchestrate some romantic evening  (or morning) – but does it necessarily have to be on Valentine’s Day? That’s when it’s expected! Sometimes a surprise on a random Wednesday evening (“Hump Day!”) or any non-holiday can really put a smile on a face. And please, yes, more than once a year!

The love fuel is not necessarily restricted to doing for family and friends. Some of the best fuel can be when we do good deeds for others, especially anonymously. Today I was sitting on my patio drinking my morning tea and writing my blog, completely out of sight behind the wooden slat privacy fence. A sudden breeze gave me a sudden and very loud sneezing fit! Then I heard a voice from a passerby on the sidewalk outside the fence call out: “Bless you!” That put a smile on my face! I have no idea who it was, but she was inspired to call out a sneeze blessing! I smiled thinking, this is exactly what I’m writing about. Anonymous gestures.

So before the day is over, when you are driving on your way home, let that car ahead of you into traffic. Say a prayer for that person driving erratically (they may need it to save their life!). Tomorrow, hold a door for someone who looks different than you, and may not expect it. It may make a big impression. On Saturday, if you see some trash on the ground, pick it up. (I had to do that today, as I have no idea how a candy bag wrapper got in front of my gate – blown by the wind?)

Make it Valentine’s Day every day. Put some fuel into your hot air balloon of love and soar above all the fears that would drag you down. The air is great up here!

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Make Every Moment Count

damien-miller-79-16When was the last time you contacted your friends? I don’t mean write them via Facebook Messenger app, although if the person lives overseas that Messenger sure comes in handy! When have you actually spoken to them or seen them? “I need to call so-and-so, it’s been a long time since we have been in contact.”

I really don’t believe in text conversations unless they are necessary for a valid reason, but on the night of January 11, I was having a VERY funny text conversation! Then my phone beeped with a Messenger alert. A close friend from the Bahamas, Elbert, had written me, “Sad news.” I thought, what now? I figured it was something mildly “sad” – but not tragic. He then proceeded to write that the body of a mutual friend of ours, Damien, who I’ve known more than 10 years, had been found beaten to death in Nassau! What??? I immediately texted my first friend that I would continue our conversation later! I went from giggling to being stunned, shocked and overcome with grief. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I dialed Elbert for more details – this situation required real conversation! Messaging was too cumbersome.

I met Damien Miller years ago, as we were both members of Toastmasters International’s District 47, composed of Florida and the Bahamas. Damien is from Nassau, Bahamas, a sweet young man whose smile would light up a room, a business owner, and a dynamic, award-winning speaker and leader in his Toastmasters District. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, since a past Toastmasters Conference, but we were in contact during October 2016 when Hurricane Matthew ravaged both our countries.

damien-at-eyeJust before Thanksgiving weekend, Damien contacted me to say he would be in Orlando that holiday weekend, so let’s get together! I was preparing to leave town so I didn’t have much time to spare, but we got together for a few hours on the afternoon of Sunday, November 27. Damien was so excited to see me! There seems to be an extra joy when visits happen unexpectedly. I wanted to take him to Universal CityWalk that night, but I did not have the time. Now, I wish I had made the time. He said he would come back in 2017 and we’d go! We also talked about some of his future plans and he said that he wanted to wait on some until his financial situation was better. I said, why wait for life? Seize the day! We parted ways with hugs, promising each other to go to CityWalk on his next visit.

Damien celebrated his 37th birthday on December 20, 2016. He was last seen on the morning of December 28, 2016. I don’t know when they found the body, but it was decomposed to a point that identification took until the second week of January 2017. Thanks to Facebook and other means, the news was spreading among Toastmasters friends the night of January 11, 2017.

I have known people who have died from cancer, but that you can see coming and prepare for. I have known people, actually two co-workers, who passed away suddenly from health issues, two weeks apart. Talk about a department being traumatized, we found out about the second death on the day of the first’s funeral! But to know a young, healthy person in the prime of life cut down by violence, was more than my spirit could take. I found myself sobbing over the senselessness of it. What made it even more bittersweet was that I had just seen him only six weeks earlier! I am grieved that he suffered this horrible death and hope for the guilty to be caught.

I am so glad that I saw this young man in November. The irony was that we had been talking about future events and future plans, that now were not going to come to pass. I regret not somehow finding the time to go out to CityWalk with him.

damiens-memory-bookDamien’s funeral service was yesterday and Elbert, along with many Toastmasters District and Regional leaders, attended the service. Elbert shared with me the pastor’s sermon message: “Make the most of your time on this earth for a fruitful life! Make every moment and day count. Live every day as if it’s your last.” Damien did that for sure.

I echo this message and remind you now: cherish everyone and every moment every day and not put off the joys of life until a future day that may not come. Seize the day!

I also learned that I need to check Facebook more often. This past Thursday night I logged in to discover that another friend, a former hairdresser of mine, had been found dead of a heart attack last Saturday! I had missed his funeral service, which was during the day on Thursday. Rennie would have been 59 next month.

What??? This is not the way to start a New Year!

I decided last night to call one of my friends to see how he was and tell of the recent events. My New Year’s resolution: I’m going to be making a lot more phone calls!

Take time to appreciate your loved ones and make every moment count. Seize the day. It is a gift and why we call it – the present.

Go for the Gold

Olympic blogNewsflash: All Americans agree on a topic!

What? That’s a big statement, especially during election year!

But it’s true. All Americans root for the USA Olympic teams. (I certainly hope so, I have not Googled “anti-Olympics” and don’t intend to.)

This was an Olympics where the United States achieved the third most medals ever won: 121; and 46 of those Gold. How proud this makes us!

This was 17 days where many of us found ourselves glued to the television, internet or social media cheering on our national teams. I have to say my favorites were “The Final Five,” the US women’s gymnastics team! Special mention to our track and swimming teams!

Through the wonders of technology, I even “virtually watched” some events along with a Bahamian friend of mine as we chatted via Messenger. I laughed at his exuberance as his country’s athletes triumphed! Another friend of mine laughed and told me today that he feels like he hasn’t gotten anything done these past two weeks. Good thing the Olympics happens in 4-year intervals!

Congratulations to my Team USA! Congratulations to all Olympians who competed – whether you went home with a medal or not, you are winners by virtue of being there. And a special shout-out to my Jamaican and Bahamian friends, for the individual and collective achievements of your teams! 🙂

There are three main lessons I believe we can learn from the Olympics: to strive for personal best, to learn to work together as a team and to practice the spirit of the Olympic games.

Watching the Olympics highlights tonight, it was just mind-boggling to see the personal, Olympic and world records that were broken! Phelps, Ledecky and Bolt especially come to mind. Ledecky is at the early stages of her Olympic career, while Phelps and Bolt are ending their careers in blazes of glory.

But it’s not all about winning. Not everyone will go home with a medal. Some came so close but missed by a fraction of a second or were disqualified. It is important to learn how to lose graciously, without enmity and resolve to keep trying and doing one’s best. Focusing on personal best is something we all need to do, whether we are an Olympic athlete or not.

Teamwork is also key in life. The Olympics should teach us something profound right there. Working together for a common goal.

I think of the track and field relay race and how important split-second timing is to this event. There is a science and strategy to how they place the runners, on which leg they place them. They are placed where their strengths can be used to the best. The runners need to be attuned to each other to complete the handoff without error. What better metaphor can we use to compare to how life should be lived?

North SotuhWhich leads me to my third point: practicing the spirit of the Olympics, by going not just for the gold, but for The Golden Rule. “Do to others as you would have done to you.” While in other parts of the planet people are killing each other, in Rio, countries put aside their political ideologies to compete in the purity of sports. They treat each other by The Golden Rule, living and working with one another in harmony. One golden moment reported during TV coverage was when two women athletes, one from North Korea and one from South Korea took a “selfie” together. How poignant! This is what Olympic spirit is all about.

There is so much that we can learn from the Olympics. Why can’t this be practiced 365 days a year? Every year, not just in 4-year intervals. There’s no reason why we can’t. It’s the personal decision of each human being on this planet.

Go for The Golden Rule. Incorporate these three goals into your life: reaching for personal best, practicing teamwork and living The Golden Rule. If we all do this, we all will win far much more than a medal.

Step Outside Your Box

Power2ImprovI’m checking off another Bucket List item! This summer, I’m learning how to do improv theater! Trust me, I don’t aim to be at the level of Wayne Brady and his colleagues, Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Those men are pure genius, but local level improv is something I’ve always wanted to do.

I found an improv theater in town that offers classes, but they were a bit too expensive for my taste. I put that Bucket List item on the back burner for a far off future date. Then by sheer luck, this spring I found a free class! Thumbs up! That’s more like it!

It’s an 8-week class meeting once a week, and at the end of the sessions we will perform a public show! By no means are we practicing routines as hard as what they do on the TV show, but the exercises and games are really forcing us to think outside the box. During some classes I’ve almost felt like my brain was turning inside out, which may have been the sensation of new neural synapses being built. Of course there are the times where a fellow student will do something that makes you laugh so hard that you have an uncontrollable giggle fit that brings tears to your eyes.

Performing in class is one thing, it’s the thought of the public showcase that does give me a little trepidation. I am very familiar with being on-stage and being a public speaker having been in Toastmasters International for so many years, and I have no fear of that, but that’s when I knew what I was going to say. Improv is totally spontaneous. I want a life-changing experience? Wait until that showcase! That will really push me outside my “box.” Of course when the curtain rises, I won’t have time to think about being nervous, I’ll just have to, “Do or do not,” as Yoda would say.

How often do you challenge yourself? How often do you challenge your brain or body to do something it’s never done before? How good at you at improvising when the unexpected happens?

Most of us prefer it when life goes by smoothly without major challenges, such as flat tires, traffic tickets or an unexpected injury. However, we can’t expect life to always be smooth. Even a conversation can have its twists. Imagine your significant other popping the Big Question, or your spouse asking for a divorce, or announcing: “We’re pregnant!” What happens when your boss or a client puts you on the spot?

It’s time to develop some improv style thinking!

The beauty of improv theater is that there is never a wrong answer. As long as you are confident and can sell your answer, you are correct.

That is not going to happen in real life – usually there is a right or wrong answer. How you react could make all the difference. This is why you need to develop your thinking skills.

There are some students in my class that I was puzzled upon meeting. They were so quiet and shy! What were they doing in an improv class? Obviously they desired to push themselves and step outside their comfort zones, and so should you.

Yes, I suggest you to Google if you have any improv classes in your local area, but if there are not, look for some venue where you can stretch your brain and think outside the box. For example, join a Toastmasters club!

I will miss my improv class so much, I may do the class over again! Hmm, maybe I should wait until after the showcase!

What’s on your Bucket List? Be brave, enlarge your comfort zone and step outside your box!

Choose a Seat, Find a Friend

4 30 16 ReservePersonal space – part two! Last month I wrote about the battle between the human need for personal space and privacy versus the human need for connection. I used as an example that people tend to put space between each other when choosing seats at events. Now there is a new technology forcing us to sit close to one another!

There are new types of movie theaters where moviegoers are required to choose their seat at time of purchase. It’s the same principle as assigned seats at performance theaters and sports events. If you really want that third row/center seat for your favorite summer blockbuster you can even reserve it online days ahead of time! Just be prepared to pay a small fee for that!

I really don’t know why this is a trend for the new deluxe movie theaters; I need to ask! Maybe it’s a “luxury theater” sort of thing. My local theater went through a massive renovation recently, including BarcaLounger type seats and instituted the reservation policy at the time.

I like to sit close to the screen and in the center. The first time I visited the theater my ideal spot was open, but next to some seats marked “taken.” It turned out to be an elderly couple seated in the seats to my right. (By the way, I found this fact eye opening and amusing since the movie was the final installment in The Hunger Games series. Never judge a person by their age! They just might appreciate the “Young Adult” genre!)

I was trying to figure out how to raise the BarcaLounger footrest. Observing my quandary, the woman seated next to me showed me where the button was. Already there was a positive to having someone close by for help! We had friendly conversation before the movie started, and that was that.

Since my last blog, I had another encounter at the movies. I was at the concession stand getting my indulgent popcorn bucket when the cashier asked the man in line next to me what his order was. He quickly chuckled and said, “Oh no, we’re not together!” to the cashier. He and I continued to make small talk while the cashier fetched my popcorn.

Before going to the theater section however, I decided to make a stop at the restroom (it was going to be a long movie!). Afterwards, upon entering Theater 20 and looking for my seat, I smiled to myself to see that same man seated two seats over from mine! He looked up and started laughing. “What were the odds on this?” he chuckled. It would have really been funny if he had the seat next to mine! (No, we’re really not together!) We continued our conversation about the new seating process and about the movie we were about to see.

After a while, another man came in, laden with popcorn and soda, and proceeded to sit in the seat in between me and my new friend, Robert. This made it a little difficult to have further conversation! The second man was checking his cellphone and was unconcerned about our conversation. Interestingly, he got up halfway through the movie and never came back.

When the movie was over, I said to Robert, “I wonder what happened with this guy? He even left a nearly full bag of popcorn!” Robert theorized, “Maybe he was called away for an emergency.” We’ll never know. It was interesting that there was a stranger who had intersected our circle of personal space and we had curiosity over his life and fate. We would never wonder about such things if the person had sat elsewhere.

This intersection of lives happened only because of the choices of the individuals involved. We all had wanted to sit third row and center and we did not care if there would be anyone next to us. Prior to this reservation system, we probably would have moved subtly over a seat or two.

We are an obedient species. When told to select a seat, we do so, and sit in that seat, regardless if there might be another human being next to us. Oh my goodness! What if we dared to move into another seat? Would the theater police come and arrest us?

It’s interesting how technology is bringing us closer, and we don’t seem to be minding it. I’ve only had pleasant encounters so far, and I certainly hope all future ones are pleasant! What repercussions could this new system have? Could people make new friends? Could people find their significant other? Could someone make a contact that will give them a lead on a new job? What if you are forced to sit next to someone of a demographic that perhaps you might have bad opinions about? Will you sit there in peace? Will it give you a new perspective? The possibilities are endless.

So to whomever you are who invented this new system – thank you! Thank you for bringing us closer and maybe breaking down some of the barriers between people. We all know for certain that there are plenty of people right now trying to create division and animosity, let’s not stoop to hate and fear.

Maybe the answer to world peace is – go to the movies!

Enjoy the show!

Personal Space: Crash or Connect

3 28 16 chairsHappy Easter! Happy Spring!

I visited a new church this Easter Sunday. Walking down the aisle, I had my eye on a particular seat, but a gentleman got there before me. Impulsively, I did the one thing that most people wouldn’t do – I entered the row and sat down next to him, while at the same time smiling and making the quip, “Oh, I was scoping out that seat! But you beat me to it!”

Why was this unusual? People in our American society like to put at least one space between them and a stranger. When we go to a movie theater we have our row that we like to sit in, but what if someone is in our territory? Do we compromise our desires and sit elsewhere or fight that isolationist instinct and sit next to or close to the stranger? Hey, they’re really not a stranger, they are another Star Wars fan who likes to sit up close to the screen too!

I remember years ago when I rode the bus back and forth to work, each seat would be filled and people even stood, hanging onto poles or straps. Then, the luxury of isolationism fell away. Of course now wherever you go, whether on public transport or in public places, people shut out others by wearing ear pods to listen to music or talk to others on the phone. (As if I really want to hear your private conversation, lady!)

We put up “walls” all the time, while maybe deep inside we wish we could feel free to touch another human in kindness. A very sweet woman who I met at the art museum last month ended our conversation by giving me a little hug, a kiss on the cheek and said: “I’m Latina! I hug!”

Was that an explanation of her actions as way of excuse or a strong statement about her nature? What made her feel the need to say that? I knew she was Latina and knew that was characteristic of the culture. I loved the warmth of her expression. It needed no excuse or reason.

Each culture is different as to their etiquette on personal space. There is no right or wrong, no global standard, so we must be aware to respect those differences. Suffice to say that whatever enables human beings to relate to each other with openness, love and trust – that is the way to act. Be culturally aware of acceptable behavior and how personal space is defined, but don’t feel like we always need to fear interaction.

In the powerful 2006 Best Picture Oscar-winning movie “Crash,” the term “crash” is a metaphor for the collisions between strangers in the course of day-to-day existence; a social commentary on the interconnectedness of life in the big city of Los Angeles.

In the opening line of the movie, a main character reflects: “It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

Do we crash into each other? Not in cars, but in outbursts of rage and emotion because we keep so much emotion unexpressed and we feel out of touch? Are we surrounding ourselves with a bubble, not of metal and glass, but of chair spaces and social media obsession?

We can Tweet and Link and Friend, but do we really spend quality time with each other? The human psyche yearns for a true connection. Science is now proving that real human interaction, touch and compassion is nearly as vital to healthy existence as food and water. Human touch is scientifically proven to change physiology.

I cringe every time I see a family or group of friends at a restaurant table and everyone is on their cellphone instead of conversing with each other. Don’t we all need some human touch?

There is so much fear and violence in the world now. Just this weekend with the Easter bombing in Pakistan added to the recent bombings in Europe, I was shaking my head in disbelief.

We need to overcome our fear that masquerades as shyness and reach out to our fellow members of the human race. Show a genuine interest in the book your fellow bus passenger is reading. Surprise someone by buying the coffee for the person behind you in line. Take your nose out of your smart phone and look at the beauty around you and the people around you. You could be in line at Starbucks and catch the eye of a cute guy or gal in line – but only if you: “Put the phone down!”

People are hungry for human contact. I wonder about all the people committing crimes against humanity and wonder when did they last feel love, feel compassion, or receive a hug?

Let’s stop crashing through life and make a real connection with our fellow brothers and sisters on this planet.

As Albert Schweitzer wrote: “Man can no longer live for himself alone. We must realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe.”

The Gift of Extra Time

2 29 16 Twenty nineWhat would you do with an extra day?

Everyone always says that they wish they had more time to do all the things they have to do.

Corporate employees and entrepreneurs alike seek time management courses, but ultimately everyone on the planet has 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, and 365 days a year.

If you had the gift of an extra day, what would you do with it?

Tomorrow, February 29, you do!

Every four years, an extra day is added to February in order to keep our calendar and clocks in sync with the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Well, there’s actually another rule about what happens on the century mark, but most of us don’t have to worry about that!

It’s Monday so most people will be working, but if you really had the choice what would you do with this time?

Would you do something for yourself? Take a spa day, enjoy a favorite meal or have a Netflix binge?

Would you do something with your family or loved one? A day in a theme park or a romantic getaway?

Or would you devote that time to community service, volunteering that day to help others less fortunate than you?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Leap Year Day was a holiday where everyone could choose to use this gift of time according to his or her choice?

If you think about it, each day you have a choice of how you will use your time. Time is one thing that we cannot get back.

I recently read an anonymous quotation that impacted me greatly: “Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again.”

Don’t take time for granted, on Leap Year Day or any day. Make the best use of every hour.

Carpe diem. Seize the day.
I like the more literal translation of the Latin: “pluck the day as it is ripe.”

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy the moment and make it count.

What’s Your Intention?

1 31 16 Intention ChartOne month of 2016 has gone by. How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming along? I’ve been thinking lately about the use of the word “intention” as I hear so many people proclaim: “I live a life of intention!” What does that really mean?

Maybe intention is not “the big deal.”

Consider this, a New Year’s resolution is something you intend on doing. It’s an intention. Yet how many resolutions fall by the wayside by the first quarter of the year if not sooner?

The definition of the word “intend” is “to have in mind.” Yes, this is where all creation begins. Some even say, “Thoughts become things.” Where I see so many of us fail is when we proclaim intentions both to ourselves and to others and then not follow through.

Let’s begin with ourselves. Have a long-term intention, but break it down into smaller pieces to make it actionable. It can be something as simple as: what do I want to get done this month? This week? Today? You can “intend” all you want, but if you don’t have an action plan … you won’t get anywhere. It’s just like taking a road trip without knowing which roads you need to take to get to your destination.

Action plans allow us a way to measure progress. I have read about the benefits of written “To Do” lists, which allow us to list our tasks and then mark them completed. The visual impact is powerful. Personally, I love writing a list on paper or dry erase board and then and drawing a line through the completed item. Yes, I also put them in my smart phone and then delete them, but then there is no visual reminder of what I have accomplished.

Do you ever feel as if you have not accomplished anything over a certain period of time? I recently sat down and wrote down all the things I needed to get done in the next month. At the end of the month, I looked at it and saw all the checked off items. That felt good!

Now that we have a way to bring our personal intentions to life, what about others? Do you tell people of your intention to do something for them or with them? Do you follow through? Do you tell your friends casually, “Oh, we must get together soon,” but never do?

How good is your word? There is an old saying, “A man is only as good as his word.” I learned a saying from a friend 20 years ago that I have since adopted as my motto: “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, the First Agreement is: “To be impeccable with your word.” Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.

A failed intention towards others is basically an unkept promise. Consider how you feel when others do not keep promises to you. If you say it, do it. As Yoda would say, “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

What is your intention? Make a plan. Do it. Keep your word.

Set your goals for February.

Here’s a bonus: this year you get an extra day in February to reach that goal! Happy Leap Year!

The Present of Presence

12 31 15 ChristmasIf you participated in the whirlwind season of shopping malls and traffic jams trying to find the best present to give, or if you got smart and let Amazon.com do all the hard work, I’m sure on New Year’s Eve you are breathing a sigh of relief! Bought it, wrapped it, gave it, done!

Did you get what you wanted? Were you like Ralphie in the 1983 holiday classic, “A Christmas Story,” yearning for his Red Ryder BB gun? Did your wish come true?

I had a thought today while I was debating, “What will I eat today?” It occurred to me that some children are probably wondering, “Will I eat today?” Their daily diet probably consists of the same food, while here I was thinking chicken, fish or beef?

Not everyone is concerned about the latest video game, the biggest, curviest TV screen or the hottest fashion. Some on this planet are more concerned with the basic necessities of life.

A girlfriend of mine sent me a birthday card this month that was the most unique card I’ve ever seen. Made by “Me to We,” the back of the card read: “This card makes a positive impact on the world. We Give Farm Seeds. Because of you, a farmer in a Free The Children community was given the seeds to grow food, helping ensure their family is nourished and healthy.”

Also on the back of the card was a numeric code. One could enter the code on a website and it would show you where the life-changing gift was delivered. I logged in and saw that my card’s gift went to the Narok South District of Kenya. Reading the story of the life of a typical farmer, I felt a sense of connectedness and joy. We can buy gifts for those we know, but how often can we positively impact the life of someone we will never meet?

Actually we can impact people every day, with a smile, a kind word, holding the door open for a stranger and yes, letting the car that has been waiting patiently into our traffic lane! (Remember, someday we are going to be the one wanting to get into traffic!)

Sometimes people don’t realize the impact they can have on another simply by their presence. Or conversely, by their absence over the holidays. Mariah Carey says it perfectly in her classic Christmas song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” She didn’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree; she just wanted to be with the man she loved.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, author and activist says it perfectly:

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When our mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

When it comes down to it, sharing the love of family, friends and loved ones is the true spirit of the season. Presence not presents.

Last year, my friend Susan and I had visited a nursing home on Christmas Day to bring cheer and song to the residents. This year, my friend Josh and I visited an ailing friend, Joseph, who was in a nursing home after suffering a stroke. As I clasped Joseph’s hand upon leaving, I could sense that he didn’t want to let go of my hand. The visit probably meant more to him than I realized. I felt a lump of emotion welling in my heart. As we walked out, I said to Josh, who happens to be one of my will executors, “Don’t ever let me end up in a place like this alone!”

Presence not presents.

Give love above all. If you make any resolution for the New Year, remember to love yourself and then to let that loving kindness spread out into the world every day in every way.

Happy New Year 2016!

P.S. Update: Five days after visiting Joseph in the nursing home, I received a text from a mutual friend that Joseph had passed away that morning. My reaction was, “What?!” I was stunned. It had not seemed that he had only 5 more days to live when I had seen him. I immediately called Josh to let him know, as this was breaking news. Josh and I both agreed that it was certainly kismet that had led us to visit the week before. It felt so gratifying to know that we had brought a little bit of joy to his last days.

This only reinforces my message. Don’t wait to reach out to your friends. You never know what they are going through, and they need the “present of your presence.” Love NOW.

 

Trick or Treat Yourself

10 27 14 CatTrick or treat!

Yes, it’s that time of year again, where often, people may confuse treats with things that actually are tricks. Oh no, what is she going to tell me I’m doing wrong? Believe me I am all about fun, and if you don’t believe me, yes, that blog photo is me!

But how often do you reward yourself by saying, when I get this project done or that goal accomplished, I am going to treat myself with a big bowl of Rocky Road ice cream? Or at the end of the workday or work week I am going to indulge in several Happy Hour drinks? Or buy something I really can’t afford and end up paying more for it in credit card interest in the long run?

Are these really treats? They may feel good momentarily, until you get the stomach ache, hangover or the bill!

Let’s talk about how often we really “treat” ourselves. How do we treat ourselves? A little play on words here!

How much negative self-talk do you practice? If your best friend talked to you the way you talked to yourself, would they still be your best friend? Look yourself in the eye in the mirror and repeat to yourself out loud “I love you” – compliment yourself – it may be harder than you think.

Do you make time to rest your body and spirit on a daily basis? Most people probably don’t, they get caught up with the daily hustle of work and obligations. But in the same way as your Outlook calendar or your smart phone calendar or Siri will remind you of your constant “to do’s,” why don’t you use them to schedule some time for yourself?

People always say they don’t have time, but how long is 10 to 15 minutes? Those 10 to 15 minutes in a day can be more valuable than you think. I used to say the same thing: “Oh, I can’t take 10 minutes at the beginning of the day to do a focused meditation!” Now, if I don’t do it, I notice that my day does not go as well!

Here’s one way you can find 10-15 minutes for yourself. Do you know that an hour-long TV program has 15 minutes of commercials? If you record your favorite program and then watch it in playback mode, fast-forwarding through the commercials, you will gain those 15 minutes back. If you have six weekly favorite TV programs that you usually watch live, by recording them you can gain yourself back one and a half hours! You can do a lot with an extra 90 minutes a week!

Instead of reaching for the ice cream, how about 15 minutes watching the sunset, taking a walk, taking a bubble bath, doing some relaxing yoga stretches or tuning in to any one of the many meditation videos on YouTube. Treats such as these will have a more lasting and transformative effect on you. If you have a spouse or children, sharing 15 minutes with them in some relationship building activity will have benefits for your loved ones as well – but that’s another blog!

If you do partake in any Halloween parties this weekend, enjoy yourself and party safely! Remember to always treat yourself in the best possible way; your body and spirit will thank you for it.