Sunday, March 30, 2014

Get Excited About Something!

In a world where we can't control everything (actually there really isn't much we can control), the important thing is to learn to control our stress. How do we do that? By creating a balance in our lives. We need to have a hobby or at least find something that relaxes us. We need to get excited about at least one thing. Today I took a walk on what seemed like the first nice day we've had. While I was out I heard kids laughing as they pretended it was summer, they rode their bikes and shot some hoops in their driveway. Neighbors walked their dog. People had their front doors open to let some light in and some people even attempted to take the last of their Christmas lights down. That's no small thing considering the kind of winter we've had.

Get excited about a glimpse of spring weather, watch some college basketball with your friends, get pumped about the Detroit Tigers having their home opener tomorrow, read a good book, watch a movie, bbq, or spend some quality time with your family.
Find what makes you smile and indulge. The ice cream will taste great and maybe your shoulders will feel a little lighter. It's all about creating the balance. What relaxes you and helps you to maintain a good perspective?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Couponing: Can You Really Save?

Anyone who knows me well knows that I will occasionally watch Reality TV. There’s one show, though, that really makes me wonder … Extreme Couponing. A few years ago I had a co-worker literally laugh at me for cutting coupons. They said it wasn’t worth the effort and was basically a waste of my time since I wouldn’t save that much. People who know me also know that I love a good challenge. To prove my point I vowed to keep a ledger for 1 year to see how much I actually saved. I didn’t want to be obsessed or go overboard so I divided my ledger into 3 columns based on my shopping history and where I shop. The 1st category said ‘Kroger’ (which would tally my amount saved when using my Kroger Plus card – easy since the amount is printed on the bottom of each receipt). The 2nd column said ‘Coupon’ which referred to any monies saved as a direct result of a cut out paper coupon (this could be a 50cent coupon for paper towels or even a buy 1 get 1 free at a local restaurant). The 3rd column said ‘CVS’ which referred to my Extra Bucks and 20% discounts received as a result of using my CVS scan card. Three simple columns focusing ONLY on places I was already shopping at and items I was already purchasing. So … what were my results? That first year I saved in excess of $2,000! I was so pleased with my numbers that I continue with the process today. It doesn't take a lot of extra time and it's easy to record my savings. There’s something very gratifying about saving money; money that can be used for other things like paying bills, college tuition, or even gas for my vehicle.
Back to the Reality TV show Extreme Couponing. I really have to wonder if having a storage shed in my backyard filled with items I either don’t use or shouldn’t use would be worth it. On last week’s episode 2 wives dared their husbands to make the shopping trip for them. They wrote out their list and gave them the exact coupons they would need. Their goal was to acquire $600 worth of groceries for under $100. If they could save the $500 they would have the money they needed to trade in their backyard storage shed for the larger model that would hold more. My question though is WHY would they NEED 64 2-liter bottles of pop and 36 cans of Pringles potato chips? If I was going to go to those extremes I would be donating the food to a local food pantry or sharing it with family and friends, but many of the people showcased on this show don’t do that. They buy things they don’t need just to say they saved. Diapers, toilet paper, Kleenex, cleaning supplies … perhaps, but buying 87 boxes of sugary cereal because you can get it for free just doesn’t seem smart. Don’t they realize it will go stale before they can eat it all?
How about you? Do you cut coupons? What’s the most you ever saved?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Acknowledge the Good

We all have our ups and downs, our happy and sad, and our good times and bad. We have the times when we feel uplifted and the times when we feel dragged down. It's normal to at some point feel like you have the weight of an anchor tied around your feet pulling you down deeper. We wouldn't be human if we didn't have a mix of emotions all throughout our lives. If you ever feel envious of someone else because they 'appear' to have everything under control - look again and look closer. None of us are that perfect and none of us are without blemish, BUT we do have the ability to look for the good in almost every situation.

If we are lucky others will be there to support us in our less than good moments; when we're not feeling well, we're feeling sad or anxious, or feeling lonely. On the same token we'd hope to be able to share the good times with those around us. When something good happens don't keep it to yourself - embrace it and share it. Don't be afraid to be grateful and happy. Others won't be jealous or think you're gloating, as long as there is a balance. Show your vulnerable side from time to time and they'll genuinely be thrilled for you when the good things happen. Don't just share the good without the bad; likewise don't just share the bad without the good.

Whatever obstacles life throws at you, look for the good in them or at least the good that can come out of them. I never asked to come from a divorced family, BUT in doing so I realized what I wanted to strive for in my own marriage. I certainly never wanted to have breast cancer. I can stand here today as an 8-year survivor and say that my having cancer was probably the worst and the best thing that ever happened to me. The worst being I was scared and really sick for the better part of a year. The best being that the experience showed me the love and support of family and friends and helped me get my priorities in order. Some things we just have to learn the hard way, but in the end we are stronger for having endured it.

Try to look for the good in every situation, even if it's not overly obvious at first. Be persistent. Look again and again and again if needed. You or someone else could ultimately learn from your obstacle, your less than desirable experience, or your pain and discomfort.

What's been one of your toughest moments that went full circle and turned into something good?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life's Report Card

I often find myself jotting down a little nugget or two while listening to a Sunday sermon at church. I make a few notes and then find them an hour or even a week later. I'll look at them again and think about how they may apply to my life just then or even just life in general. What was today's nugget that got me thinking? It was about whether or not you live your life with a report card.
Thinking back to when you were in school and got your report card, did you do just enough to get the passing grade or did you really apply yourself in hopes of learning something and being able to apply it later? What is your approach with how you live your life? Do you do good deeds because you think you'll make bonus points on your heavenly report card? Do you do barely enough and just what's expected  - doing just enough for the passing grade? Or do you not care about the report card and do what's right because it's what's right and good? There is no score chart or report card for getting through life. We should live each day trying our best to respect each other, treat others the way we would want to be treated in return, and lending a helping hand whenever possible.
What's your approach and how are you doing?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Famous Last Words

The opening statement and the conclusion are the 2 most important parts of a speech. If you don’t grasp the audience’s attention with the first few lines, more times than not you’ve lost them. If you can hook them, reel them in, and leave them with a lasting nugget of wisdom then you’ve succeeded. Will we remember an entire speech? Maybe yes maybe no, but if you’ve got some good solid lines in there – I can almost guarantee you that those will be remembered.
How many of you can recite back the lines of your favorite books or movies? There are memorable lines from Shakespeare plays, Godfather movies, musicals, song lyrics, poems, and speeches. There are famous quotes that stick with me, as well as the non-famous (like the things my parents or grandparents said when I was growing up).
On any given day you can watch a reality TV show and still walk away with a line that will stay in your head to the point that you’ll say it in sync with whoever is saying it. (Please don’t judge at the number of reality shows I like to check in on.) You might smirk when the Bachelor is on because you KNOW the host, Chris Harrison will walk out to remind you ‘…Ladies, it’s the final rose … when you’re ready.’ Or Jeff Probst on Survivor will say, ‘I’ll go tally the votes.’ One of my favorites is when the host of the cooking show Chopped lifts the lid on the losing plate and says, ‘Let’s see whose plate is on the chopping block.’
Think of your words carefully (whether spoken or written) and always share your wisdom and laughter with others. You could unknowingly inspire, motivate, lift a spirit, or remind someone they’re not alone all with a well chosen word.
Today I’ll leave you with something I heard this week while watching this season’s premiere of Dancing with the Stars. One of the show’s judges, Bruno Toniolo, said, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’ How good is that?
What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Referrals Are Golden

If you want to hire a contractor or find a restaurant or a new hair dresser, you don't go through the phone book (assuming you still have one of those yellow covered books with the microscopic print in it). Ads can be deceiving; they tell you what the company wants you to know. No ... instead you get a 'referral'. Referrals are better than any fancy website, magazine ad, or electronic billboard. Sure those avenues will grasp your attention for a minute, but a referral from a real live breathing person will tell you the degree of integrity, knowledge, and trust of the company or service provider.

Referrals, good or bad, are the cornerstone of building any business. They can make or break a reputation in an instant. They keep businesses in business, it's that simple. So do your friends and yourself a favor and share your connections. If you're happy with your dentist, your car mechanic, your hair dresser, or your doctor - share them. Them staying in business will keep you, and them, happy for a lot longer.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

It's Easy To Cross The Social Media Line

Everyday I read Facebook posts, Internet headlines, and hear about Twitter and Instagram. People share the good and the bad. Sometimes too much. Do you go too far? Do you find yourself 'crossing the social media line'? There's a saying when doing home improvement projects that says you should 'measure twice and cut once.' The same theory applies to using social media but in a bit of a different way. We need to be our own editor. We need to write, then read the words twice - once with our own eyes and the second time as an unknown reader. That's when we should tweak our words if needed, maybe even not post them. If you're ever not 100% sure of your content then stop and ask yourself a few questions.
  • Is what you're posting TOO private?
  • Could what you're posting be offensive to anyone? (I suppose if that doesn't concern you then that's your business, as unfortunate as it would be.)
  • What will you gain with your post? Will your words inspire, make someone laugh or smile, or prevent a hardship? Or will your words tear a person down, intimidate, or hurt someone else?
None of us are perfect. I know I'm not. I've posted things at different points that I may have regretted later, but I never hurt anyone (perhaps only embarrassed myself). Being aware, being responsible and being honest with yourself is half the battle. These traits can give us the tools we need to do better. That's all any of us can ask of ourselves. I love the possibility of words, but they can also be an obstacle.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

And The Oscar Goes To ...

Tonight is a big night for Hollywood. It's the Academy Awards show where we will hear over and over again, "And the Oscar goes to ...". As entertaining as the Academy Awards are with all the popular people, the fancy clothes, the shiniest 'bling', the well-dressed interviewers, and the applause ... we will most likely never see televised award shows for the average people. We won't hear about glamorous awards and acknowledgements for the policeman, the grocery store clerk, the 6th grade teacher, the auto mechanic, the firefighter, the retail associate of the year, the church secretary, or even the blogger.

Why do you suppose that is? Most likely because these people don't perform their jobs in the hopes of being idolized and adored, they do them to earn a modest living and hopefully make a difference. Don't get me wrong I know that the actors and actresses and directors and producers are obviously great at their craft ... I know I could never do what they do, but then again they probably couldn't do what you or I do either. So why do we idolize them? Why do we put them on a pedestal so high that as soon as they do something human and normal they're knocked off and become yesterday's news?
I would imagine that they must be under enormous amounts of pressure to have to go to work and be watched by literally millions of people and scrutinized over every little thing they do. Everyone tries to impress their bosses and the people they work with, but most of us will at least have a private life that can remain out of the limelight.
Keeping these observations in mind I have 2 questions for you. 1) 'Who' are you wearing? and 2) If you were to be awarded for the work you do what would your acceptance speech sound like? Who would you thank?