Friday, January 31, 2014

History Repeats

I've heard people say that sometimes history repeats itself. Often your child will look just like you did at their age. Or as we get over we'll find ourselves channeling our parents and saying things they used to say to us (gosh, I hate when that happens ... it's like a giant 'I told you so!'). But sometimes history repeats itself in the most unique ways.

A few years ago I was at a Dollar Tree store with my daughter picking up some party supplies. An older woman of a different ethnic origin was looking through the greeting cards. Her English wasn't bad, but very broken. She was having a difficult time reading the words in the cards. She asked us for help. My daughter helped the woman go through several holiday cards and pick out perfect ones for her adult children. She smiled and thanked us.

Today I was in the same store picking up a few things. I wandered over to the greeting cards because they had a Valentine's Day display. Low and behold who should be standing next to me but this same woman from a few years ago. It was like a case of deja' vu. She was looking through the cards, smiled and handed me one and said, "Is this a good card for my son?" I read through it quickly and told her it was very nice and a good choice. She handed me a second card and said, "Is this a good one for my daughter and her family? Or should I give her the same one as her brother?"

A clear case of history repeating itself. Anything like this ever happen to you?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Staying Warm: Style vs. Function

Admit it – most people want to feel stylish these days, like they have a pulse on what’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’. But then the frigid temperatures roll in and grab our necks like a loose-fitting noose. The question then becomes ‘Is it all about style vs. function?’ OR ‘Can we have both?’ Perhaps wearing the required dress khakis and a nice blouse to the office changes over to a warm pair of cords or jeans with a classic winter sweater. Maybe the stylish shoes need to temporarily get replaced with wool socks and a pair of boots. Is it really about the style and looking good for everyone else or can we find a way to please both those around us and stay warm at the same time? I’m certainly not suggesting that we wear sweatpants and baggy sweatshirts to the office. Even I don’t think that conveys professionalism.
The bottom line is that we should feel confident in the work we are producing at work, but be smart enough to stay healthy while we do it. Hopefully the Polar Vortex will soon be nothing more than a distant memory. In the meanwhile, if you’re a supervisor, try to show your employees some grace. Understandably some jobs require uniforms (airline pilots, restaurant wait staff, medical personnel, police officers and firefighters, and ‘yes’ even circus clowns); but if you’re a teacher in a drafty classroom or work in an isolated cubicle … I suggest warmth (space heaters under the desks, scarves around your neck, and a big mug of hot tea). After all – a warm camper is a happy camper.
What are you doing to stay warm these days?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dealing With The Winter Blues

Some people love the winter season ... the cold, the fresh fallen snow, the pristine crispness of the white fluffy landscapes ... others - not so much. When I was a child I remember having snow blanket the ground from December til March. We would build a snow fort and a snow man and they NEVER melted. Just when they would begin to shrink a fresh snow would fall and we'd build them back up again. But this winter seems to have been one of the harshest so far that I can remember in a long time. We've had snow, we've had ice, we've had sub-zero wind chills, and the kids have had their share of snow days from school. The ironic part of it is that it's still only January.

I know many who are anxious to get away to some place warm and sunny where they don't have to look at sloppy, slushy, dirty snow or be on the look out for pot holes. Are you one of the many who've taken the 'Taco Bell' approach and 'run for the border'? Or are you still here with the rest of us trying to make the best of it?
It's understandable that being cooped up for the last few weeks could be depressing for those you aren't able to get out because it's too cold or too slick. I can't imagine not getting out at some point just to get some fresh air at least. Last week I stopped off to pay a visit to my mother as well as a friend from church, neither of which are able to get out in this weather. I brought birthday flowers to one and some laughter and conversation to the other.

How are you dealing with this winter so far? What has helped you to maintain perspective? The easiest thing I can think of is communication with others and sharing laughter. Go ahead and make jokes about the pot holes, the snow, the slow commutes in traffic ... whatever helps. They say that laughter is the best medicine. I saw a photo posted recently on a Facebook page for 'Make Macomb Your Home'. I don't know who the photographer was to give them the proper credit, but their picture certainly made me laugh.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's A Numbers Game

Everything in our lives seems to revolve around numbers. Pardon the pun, but numbers seem to be the common denominator. Society today seem to always say 'quantity matters'. There are the routine equations we're all used to like 'you need 12 to equal a dozen' or '10 pins to equal a strike'. There are the milestone birthdays we all know: 'you become a teenager at 13', 'an adult at 18', those 'decade celebrations', and 'the age you can retire'.

In business it's all about increased sales and meeting quotas, in houses it's about the square footage, for some brides it's about the number of the carats in an engagement ring, in social media it's about the number of followers and 'likes' you have, and in budgets it's hopefully about ending in numbers that are in the black. Numbers can be big and numbers can be small. We like smaller numbers when it's referring to our weight and larger numbers when it's our income. Some numbers make us competitive; knowing that the most goals, runs, baskets, and touchdowns will win the game.

Like anything else, opinions and priorities will differ for everyone. Not everyone wants the biggest house if it means heating and cleaning it or the highest paying job if it means being away from their family. Don't be pressured into thinking more is better. Decide what is right for you. What (and how much) makes you happy?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Pot Holes Of Life

Whenever I drive anywhere these days I have to be very strategic. Like everyone else I’m playing the ‘dodge the pot hole’ game. They’re everywhere AND they’re deep. I imagine if a Smart car were to fall in on a Tuesday it could easily be Friday before they’d be discovered. My analogy for the day is that pot holes are like rough patches. They’re irritating and an inconvenience, and unfortunately our lives are not immune to them.

Most of you know that I enjoying writing blogs, but I also enjoying reading them. I recently read a guest post on a blog that I follow. It talked about the resolutions we make on New Year’s Eve. The writer said, “We’re so determined that it’s almost like we’ve already lost the weight, got the raise, run the marathon, and raised the money to cut the record. But – reality check – we haven’t. It’s still January!”
We need to make our dreams and goals a reality, not just a New Year’s resolution. But how do we do that? Perhaps we need to take into account that it’ll take more than just our good intentions to get us through the other 11 months of the year. Perhaps we need to set our sights on more realistic steps to take. Rather than say, “I want to lose 25 pounds before my son’s wedding this summer” … maybe I should say, “I should start eating smarter and make better lifestyle choices now so that maybe I can lose a few pounds before the big day and that way I’ll feel better about myself.”

It doesn’t matter that I have good intentions, what matters is how I proceed. If I set more realistic goals for myself then my eminent chances of failing should lesson. Sure … I will undoubtedly hit rough patches along the way … like Super Bowl Sunday, the friend’s birthday cake that I’ll be offered, or the bottomless candy bowl that’s in the nearby desk in my work office. There will ALWAYS be temptations and pot holes, but if I become more aware and start looking for them it’ll hopefully become easier to dodge them.
What big ‘pot holes’ are you currently dealing with? And, more importantly, how can I help?


Monday, January 13, 2014

Keeping It 'Old School'

I'm all for improvement and change ... when it's needed, but sometimes I think 'old school' is still best. So, what do I mean by 'old school'? Well, let's see. There are classic cars, simpler and quieter times, less technology, better made products, and even manners and etiquette. I'll admit that I sometimes get a bit frustrated with all of the rush and chaos of today's world. Everyone seems to be in a hurry and often times it seems people act as though they're in their own little bubble where nothing can touch them.

Every day I witness people cutting others off in traffic, honking their car horns because other people choose to obey the speed limits, and then not using their turn signals (as if the rest of us are just supposed to guess that they planned to suddenly turn left).

With time comes progress and technology, and yes even change. We see change everywhere ... in our schools, in our jobs, and in our grocery stores. It seems just about everything these days comes with an 'app'. Everything is supposedly made easier, where with the click of a few buttons you can order your dinner, renew your license plate tabs, pay a bill, or do your Christmas shopping. But I have to wonder ... with 'progress' supposedly making our lives easier do we sometimes forget the things that really matter?

I think some students learn better by actually taking notes in class with a pen and paper rather than just recording a lecture. I think some children are able to show their creativity better by coloring in books with old-fashioned Crayola crayons rather than using Paintbrush on a computer screen. I think some people retain more of what they read by turning the paper pages of a book. I'm not suggesting that all technology is bad. As much as I love the feel and smell of an actual book I would still like to someday have a Kindle - they're small and efficient and save A LOT of space. I imagine they would be wonderful for traveling.

Then there's my memories of 'old school' manners, the kind I grew up with. When I was young I learned the importance of writing thank you notes. My mother always said, "If someone takes the time to buy you a gift, you should take the time to properly acknowledge them." The progress in that today could easily be sending a thank you 'text' or 'email', which is fine. It's the acknowledgement that matters, but many times people just seem to expect gifts they're given (which I think is sad).

To me there's something to be said for still having a landline phone, or playing records on a record player, or being respectful and polite. It's so refreshing when a young person actually takes the time to hold a door open for a stranger. To call any of this 'old school' isn't progress - it just means the world has gotten too busy. If we could all take some time to remember the things and behavior that made us who we are and pass on those good qualities ... that would be progress.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow Day or Not?

The last couple of days has brought much of the country to its knees; whether it be from massive snow accumulations or frigidly bitter temperatures. Many of the kids were just about to venture back into their school routine after a long Christmas holiday only to have classes cancelled for today and many already for tomorrow. The question is who is happier about receiving a snow day? The children who are majorly bored by this point (especially when it's too cold to go outside)? The parents, many of whom are scrambling to find fill-in childcare? The school bus drivers who won't have the added responsibility of keeping thousands of students safe on the roads? The teachers who have an extra day to prepare (although my son is a teacher and he woke up this morning to find his front door FROZEN SHUT ... so he couldn't get to school even if he wanted to)? Then there's my college student who moved back into her dorm last night, had all classes cancelled for today and had the thrill of being woken up at 2am this morning because the fire alarms were going off in her dorm building. Throwing on your warmest clothes, boots and coat and rushing out into the cold because some ignorant guy was smoking in the 'smoke-free' dorm I'm sure was not as exciting as it sounds. Then there are the adults who have jobs to get to. Do you dig out your driveway and try to get to work when you don't know what the roads will be like? Do you say stay home anyway?
As I sit here on my couch in my warm house looking out my window at all the white fluffy stuff that is mounded up to my window sills, it's obvious I took the 'snow day' route. Perhaps I could have may it out of my driveway, but would I have made it through my subdivision without getting stuck? Perhaps the main roads would have been drivable, but would the parking lot at work have been plowed yet? I tried that a few years ago and got stuck in the parking lot and had to be dug out to go home. Yes ... the decision has been made. It's a snow day for me. Call me a chicken, call me a wimp ... but I'll call myself  'safe' and 'smart'. Some things just aren't worth taking chances for. In the grand scheme of things, today is just one day. One small piece in the puzzle. Will I be behind at work tomorrow because I didn't go in today? ... probably, but then there's work on my desk every day (snow or no snow). Tomorrow will come soon enough and I will deal with my snow choices then.
What about you? Is it a snow day for you? Was the decision made for you or did you make it yourself?