Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Let's Start Again

New Year's Eve is a great day to reflect; about what has been and what can be. Sometimes I like to look back at my blog one year ago (to the day) to see where I was and see what I've been able to accomplish since or better yet - what I've learned. Below is my blog post from December 31, 2013. Most likely I will write a new one later today for this year, but looking back in retrospect can be enlightening. Where were you one year ago?

December 31, 2013

2013 is drawing to a close. I have to believe that we've all had some high points and low points this past year. Every year is similar in that way. It's how we handle the highs and lows that changes. 2013 has been another memorable year in an ongoing list of many. My youngest graduated from high school and went off to college and my oldest relocated back to Michigan for a teaching position, not to mention recently getting engaged. I'm thankful my children are doing so well in the changes life has presented them with. I'm proud to have another cancer-free year under my belt and happy to be married 30+ years. Yes, life has its ups and downs, but luckily more ups than downs.

There will always be the BIG things in life that occur, those monumental moments that create memories for a lifetime. Then there are those stresses that sometimes press our nerves and test us on a daily basis. Some are BIG, legitimate stresses like health and finances and some just gain momentum and seem bigger than they really are. A few days ago I drove out of my way on my day off to pick up some flowers for work. It was after Christmas and there was a lot of traffic. I got there only find the lights off and the front door to the florist locked. Bummer. I called and left a message for them. They called me back about an hour later with plenty of apologies. I went a second time the next day. The store owner offered me more apologies and a free bouquet of flowers (which I politely turned down). I know she felt bad for the mix up and my second trip, but the flowers were beautiful. She kept saying, 'What can I do? I feel so bad.' I told her, 'You've already done it, you apologized. Don't worry about it.' Things happen. That's life. It's how we handle it that matters. It was a minor inconvenience.

Two weeks ago my debit card was 'compromised' thanks to a certain merchant. My bank called me a few days before Christmas to give me the news. Talk about bad timing and a major inconvenience. Unfortunately for me my bank (unlike my daughter's credit union) canceled my debit card and issued me a new one ... that part was fine, but the part that included a new lost card and nearly a 2-week delay was the inconvenient part. Today I got my new card (woohoo) and my independence back. So what did I get with my new card? A few more apologies and a really nice 2014 calendar. Things happen. That's life. Again, it's how we handle it that matters. Inconveniences are just that ... inconvenient AND the past. The best way to handle them is with grace. Accept them for what they are and move on.
So, as we flip the calendar to a new year let's close out 2013 and begin 2014 the same way - with grace. It can make everything a lot easier to handle. Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What Makes You Stronger?

We all wish we were as strong as Superman, as charismatic at Batman, as swift as Spiderman, and as stylish as Wonder Woman; but truth be told ... they're not real. They're just made up characters in comic books and on the big screen. We are human beings who deal with everyday realities. Sure, we wish we could do it all on our own and never need anything or anyone's help, but that is never the case. We all need to find an inner strength that will help get us over the unexpected hurdles or sometimes just through the day, but it won't always come in the source of kryptonite or a golden lasso.

Finding strength isn't easy. The source may be different for everyone. Just last night my laptop needed to perform 3+ hours of updates to gain it's strength. (BTW ... it's running much better today.) People, though, aren't as predictable, don't come with an instruction book, and certainly can't be compared to machines. 

So, what makes YOU stronger? Is it reviving your faith? Your family gathering in moral support? Or physical exercise making your body stronger? I suppose the first step is to get to the core of the issue. It could be mental, physical or even spiritual. We need to understand that wanting to be stronger doesn't mean that we are weak. It just means we want to be stronger, more solid, and more stable. We can do and be our best when we feel our best. When we feel strong, we feel confident. When we feel confident, we feel capable of more. We should never limit ourselves and should never settle for 'good enough'. We should always strive for more. We deserve to be strong. We deserve to feel invincible. We deserve to feel like a super hero.

When was the last time you felt your strongest? What was your source of strength?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Mystery of the White Elephant

Tis the season for social gatherings, catching up with old friends, and even making new ones. It's a time for office parties, family events, and a one-on-one lunch with a bestie. Dare I say which element is my favorite? Hands down it has to be the traditional 'white elephant' gift exchange. No money can be spent, but the 'treasure' must be wrapped to entice its sometimes unwilling recipient. It's the once-a-year opportunity to discard of the something you have at home, that perhaps embarrasses you, or the thing you received as a gift but really aren't quite sure why.

This weekend I attended 2 of these functions with my husband which gave me the golden opportunity to choose 4 such beauties. One of my gifts was a no brainer ... I'd been waiting an entire year to wrap it. I won't say what it was for fear the original giver might be reading, but we'll just say it was out of left field and I'm really not sure why the giver thought it was the perfect gift for me.

The white elephant gift exchange isn't really a mystery ... it's a time honored tradition in some circles. The mystery lies in the thought process that goes into it. There will be the dust-collecting trinkets that won't embarrass anyone when unwrapped, but there will also be the singing bass, the farting pig, or the poo play-dough. And there will ALWAYS be that one gift that is of a questionable nature that NO ONE will ever admit to bringing. Yes, the mystery lies in the giver and their thought process. It's kind of like the person that wears a character suit at a theme park or a mascot costume out on the football field. Their identity remains a mystery. No words are ever spoken. The quiet, shy person can be the life of the party without ever uttering a word.

Some people will be intimidated by the gift exchange and others will go with the flow. It's generally all in good fun and just meant to be the ice-breaker of all ice-breakers. Have fun with it. Take the social process for what's intended: laughter and lowering of blood pressure brought on by holiday stresses.

What's the wackiest white elephant gift you ever received? Better yet, if you'll admit to it, what's the craziest gift you ever gave away?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hold Tight To HOPE

It's the Christmas season; a time for family and friends, making memories, laughing, and buying someone that one special gift that will make them tear up with joy. For many though it is also a time of stress, family chaos, and often mourning and loneliness.

In a time when carols are playing on the radio and outdoor lights are twinkling in the neighborhoods, there's also a lot of tragedy in the world. Just this week I've heard stories of unthinkable situations; shootings of innocent children, beatings, robberies, and hostage taking. So how do we hold on to HOPE when so many destructive obstacles are being thrust into our paths? If I had the absolute answer I could relieve a lot of anxieties, but unfortunately many things are out of our control.

In the midst of all the bad, we must push ourselves to search for and hold on to the good. Still embracing Christmas and all it stands for doesn't mean that we are careless about the tragedies. We should still plan our holidays, bake our cookies, and enjoy our family gatherings. BUT we should also take a step back and consider what is most important; it's not about how much we spend on the gifts or how much food we pile on the table for the Christmas meal. It should be about embracing the blessings that we have and praying for those that have been less fortunate. We should pray for peace and mornings where children around the world can wake up with smiles. We should pray for an end to senseless violence. We should pray for safety for our military troops. We should pray for a growing consciousness and sense of morality. 

In the end I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year. My prayer for you this holiday season is one of love, joy, peace, and HOPE.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What is it about this time of year?

What is it about this time of year that has our emotions on a roller coaster? One minute we're up and excited and the next we're crashing down out of control.

The season is undoubtedly busy; it has it's share of hustle and bustle and pressures. There are the highs that we've grown to expect ... festivities with friends, twinkling lights, decorations, tasty and fattening foods, and Christmas tunes. But then there are the lows; the ones that have people spiraling at times from stress and overwhelming moments.

I'm sure there are many explanations; different for everyone. There are those who are feeling blue because the Christmas season will be different this year due to a divorce or separation, the loss of a loved one, or even not having all your children home for the holidays. It's understandable that many, given their current situations, will find it harder to feel merry and bright. There are the many college students who are anxious and overwhelmed with getting through their final exams and scrambling to pack to come home for a few weeks in between their semesters. And then there are the pressures at work to try to fit 60 hours worth of work into 40 so that your To Do list will be manageable and allow you to take that much-needed time off over the holidays.

It goes without saying that there are those unmentioned expectations during the season; whether to send out Christmas cards, bake cookies, host a holiday gathering, shop for those special gifts, and 'yes' ... even whether or not to decorate a tree. You may think it's the 'other' people in your life that are applying the pressure when it reality it's probably you. We all tend to push ourselves too hard and expect too much; whether it's to please us or the other people in our lives is a question that only we can answer.

The bottom line is that we get get choose what is most important to us; it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks. Our lives all have different seasons. My Christmas this year will be different than it was last year AND probably different than it will be next year. I decorated my tree and I chose to send out cards, but I'm going to support a local cookie walk this weekend allowing myself to bake only one batch myself. That's right, 'I' get to choose what's most important to me. Once we give ourselves permission to do that we can start to lesson some of the pressure and perhaps enjoy more of the 'highs' of the roller coaster.

What are some of your priorities this year?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

And So I Ate A Donut

Have you ever had one of those weeks (or even a day) when things just did not go as planned? I get them all the time. Last night I knew I needed to be up early this morning so I was sincerely hoping for a good night's sleep. Seems like my body (or most likely my busy mind) had other plans because I've been awake since 3 a.m.

Life gets busy and chaotic, especially during the holiday season with so much on our plates, that even the slightest change of plans can throw off our schedule. Today I was bringing my vehicle into a dealership for the 3rd time to fix a warranty issue. Knowing that I plan A LOT on my day off the dealership offered to provide me with a free rental, for which I was grateful. Unfortunately the rental car company on site only had 'one' vehicle and as Murphy's Law would have it - the driver seat could not be raised and I could not see over the dashboard. Dumb luck I suppose or perhaps just my 'vertically challenged' genes giving me a hard time. I waited for more than an hour for another vehicle to be sent over.

So how did I handle this minor inconvenience? I wandered around the showroom, I watched an old rerun on the Game Show Network, and I found the complimentary box of donuts. Eating a donut isn't something I often do, but when I opened the box out of curiosity the chocolate covered donut was practically calling out to me, 'Pick me! Pick me! I'll make your day better.' Well, I caved and that little delicious calorie-filled donut was right. I was able to regain my perspective and get on with my day.

We will all have days that throw us unexpected curve balls and we will all end up with To Do lists that carry over to the next day, but in the grand scheme of things we must remember to not sweat the small stuff.

When's the last time your plans didn't go as planned? What helped you to regain your perspective?