Monday, May 31, 2010

Motivational Monday #5 - Remembering Those Who Fought For Us

Today is Memorial Day. As a country we have a lot to remember on this day.  We have soldiers fighting right now all around the world, and we have hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have fought before.

Our nation is relatively young, and yet our armed services have been called to protect and serve in countries large and small.  They follow orders given by elected leaders and they offer their lives as collateral for our ideals and principals.

Discussion on the validity of war is not appropriate on a day we honor the sacrifices our armed forces have made. Our support or lack of support does not alter the importance of their actions.

Today I challenge you to remember the servicemen and women in your lives.  You may have family who served, I know I do. Take the time to say thanks to those who still live, take the time to honor the sacrifice of those who died.  Take the time to learn a little more about the world we live in and the area they served.  The more we understand the conflicts past and present, the more we understand their service.

While Memorial Day may include picnics and parties, may it also include remembrance and thanks.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Is America Too Big To Trust?

Today I was listening to the radio and I heard a segment about the lack of confidence people have in America's big institutions such as corporations and government.  The presenter said surveys have shown a steady decline in the trust we put into our government and the companies we do business with.

As I thought about it, I think I know why...well at least a few of the reasons.

When was the last time you thought of our government as personal?  Do you know your banker personally? (Who are we kidding, how many of us actually have a personal banker???)  Do you have a personal connection with the grocery store you shop at, the clothing store you frequent or the station you buy gas from?  Are you loyal to them, and are they loyal to you?

As a small business owner I know the name of every person who orders from me.  If you write me, I recognize your name.  If you have a problem, I have a vested interest in fixing it, and I have the authority to do that.

If your local grocery store stops carrying the foods you want, the manager has no authority to order it.  If the bank doesn't offer the loan you need, the manager has no power to change the terms.  If you notice the price of your gas is up from yesterday the clerk can't tell you why.

We have become separated from the people we interact with.  If no one has the power to fix a problem, right a wrong or even explain a change, then how can we trust them?  They don't have the power to stand behind their actions or words.

Trust is something you earn by demonstrating integrity and honesty.  We have plenty of examples of people being dishonest in business and government.  In fact much of our current financial situation can be boiled down to a lack of integrity.

When our business system has grown to the point that owners and CEO's no longer need to be accountable to the people they serve, I suggest lack of trust is inevitable.  When I look a person in the eye and ask them if they are doing the best they can, they have a choice to tell me the truth, or lie.  They have to make that choice and they know their decision is important.  If no one asks that question no one will ever know the answer.

I suggest that if we want to trust the companies we do business with and the government we elect, then we need to find a way to interact personally with them.  The "how" will depend on the company, the government office, and the community. Being big isn't an excuse for being impersonal. 

Trust is important.  It is the foundation of civilization.  It is part of our humanity.  America can't afford to lose the trust of the people.  Not now.  Not ever.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summer is On Its Way

I know some of you have had snow as recently as this week, so I'm sure the thought of summer is a little ways off for you.

I on the other hand am dealing with really hot weather and the onset of summer far too fast.  My garden is droopy, my grass is crispy and my energy is waning.  The sad part is it isn't even June!

As the kids start to get out of school and the days heat up, it is hard not to think about the lazy days of summer.  Who am I kidding?  Summer is crazy!!! Activities, trips, changes in routine, crazy sleeping hours...summer is an exercise in craziness.

So take a deep breath, hold on to your hat, and get ready for the change in season.  Don't worry, it will be fall again soon enough...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Motivational Monday #4 - Clear It Out

Over the weekend I had the chance to attend my sister's garage sale.  It was a little odd to arrive at her home to see her life spread out on the driveway with casual passers-by sifting through memories.  I recognized so many items, and it was a little hard to see it go.

As I watched her sell some important things I realized how much lighter her house looked, and how much lighter she looked.  It was very interesting.

I started to think about the things in my house I don't need but hold onto anyway.  The more I thought about it the heavier I felt.  I appear to have a ton more stuff than I need or even want.

So here is your assignment for this week.  Look around your home.  Identify the things you do not need and do not use.  Decide to either sell them or donate them.  Give yourself a date and get with it.  Not only will you reduce the clutter in your home, you will feel better too.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Container Gardening

Every so often I let my pastimes take center stage.  Today is one of those days.  I was asked a few months ago to write an article about container gardening.  I did and they published it.  Who knew I could get published anywhere other than my own blog?

Anyway, here is the link Scroll to page 16 and enjoy!

If you have never tried container gardening I hope you are inspired.  If you have...well then tell me all of your secrets,  I always want to learn more.

P.S.  The pictures were taken by my good friend Gail Kronick.  She did an amazing job and I am so proud of her first published work.  Way to go Gail!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You Get What You Get...

Years ago when my son started preschool he came home with a new expression he learned from the teacher.  "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit..."  I laughed as he applied this new found wisdom to every aspect of his life.

As adults we have often been told to strive for more, to never settle and to push the limits put before us. Being happy with what we have is considered some sort of defect or unacceptable personality flaw.

So when is it okay to be happy with what you have and when should you push for more?  I am sure that question is on the list of eternal unanswerable philosophical conundrums.

There have been a few moments in my life where I am content with what I have, where I am and who is around me.  There are other moments I would trade my life for that of the next guy I see get off the bus.  It truly ebbs and flows.

So if we live by the preschool philosophy, "you get what you get," how can that make our lives better?  Are we supposed to be thrilled with less than we wanted?  In a short answer, yes.

As a culture we spend a lot of time and energy looking for more.  We want more peace, more wealth, more toys, more vacations.  We want better jobs, better services, better options.

When was the last time you stopped and looked at what you had and were happy?  So here is the challenge for today.  Everything that comes your way today is a good thing (trust me...) so find something to be happy about.  If your car gets a flat, enjoy the time away from work.  If your window is broken, enjoy the breeze.  You can worry about it later... if you want to.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Motivational Monday #3 - We Are What We Eat

I always hated it when people told me "You are what you eat."  I have never been, nor do I ever intend to be a twinkie.  (Just in case you wondered.)  I have eaten so many weird things in my life and I haven't grown horns or turned green.  I do have to clarify that the orange color was more about the fake tan than the insane amount of carrots I consumed...

Anyway, as I age I realize they were right (darn it). If I put good stuff in, I get good stuff out.  My energy is better, my attitude is better and everything down to my hair and fingernails looks better.

So I took a look at my food storage.  OH NO!  I am doomed.  My storage is a good size quantity but I am going to feel like the creature from the blue lagoon if I eat it all.

Here is today's motivation.  Find a healthy food you can add to your emergency supplies that will give you the nutrition you seek at the same time the flavor you desire.  You can do it...I promise.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Desire To Be Good - It Is What It Is

Most of us want to be good...well at least most of the time.  We want to be nice and kind and do the right thing.  I have not met many people who wake up in the morning convinced they are going to do horrible things that day.

With that said, we all do horrible things.  Some of those things are accidents, some of them are mis-communications and some of them are just error.  We hurt people, we blow opportunities and we anger people we care about.


When this happens it can be hard to get back on track.  Feelings of self doubt can be overwhelming.  They can even be debilitating. Wondering how others will see us and how awkward our interactions will be can keep us from reengaging in our lives.

As bad as that can be, the times we blow it and let ourselves down can be the worst.  Disappointing myself is the worst.  I can't justify it, explain it or hide from it.  I know what I know and it can be haunting.

So how do we go from a desire to be good to the realization we screwed up? More importantly, how do we get back on track and move on?

I am not a therapist but I know there are many reasons we do dumb things and even more reasons why we hold on to dumb things.  One of the phrases I tell myself is this: "It is what it is...nothing more, nothing less." It may seem like the end of the world, but it really isn't.

At the end of the day, I tired to be good.  I tried to be kind, I tried to be understanding.  If I missed the mark I will try again tomorrow.  It is what it best effort.  Today that was enough.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Whipping Wind

Have you ever sat inside your home and listened to the wind howl?  I am not referring to a small gust of wind, but the distinct sound of wind whipping past your home, trees bending and structures groaning.

It has been very windy here for a few days.  Every tree in my yard has been stripped of weak leaves and every piece of trash in the neighborhood is somewhere in the mountains by now.  The wind caused neighbor's trees to snap, patio furniture to relocate and children's toys to scatter. It was an intense wind storm.

As I sat in my house I realized the sound of wind can do two things.  It will either cause you to worry, wondering about your home and damage, or it will cause you to relax because you know you are safe inside.

A few months ago I would have been worried.  I knew my roof was damaged and any wind could have make it worse and left us exposed.  Now I know my roof is solid and my home is secure.

The difference in feeling is intense.  I have looked around my home and known we were safe from the storm.

Feeling safe from the storms around us is an important part of emergency preparedness.  That is really why we do all of the things we do to prepare.

I know some people who think they will deal with it when the time comes.  You can not fix a roof in a wind storm, you can not gather food in a shortage and you can not save for a rainy day when it is pouring.  Preparation is all about doing now what you may not be able to do later.

I suggest you pick an area in your life you would like to feel secure about.  It could be your home, it could be your food supply, it could be your paperwork and documentation or it could be your skill set.  Whatever it is that you aren't completely comfortable with, now is the time to change it.

While the wind has calmed at my house I am not afraid of the next storm.  I look forward to the chance to sit on my couch and enjoy the sounds of nature instead of fearing the destruction in my life.  Preparation is good...oh so good.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Motivational Monday #2 - Upcoming Vacations - A Time To Prepare

I know it is early May, but vacation time is just around the corner.  Hopefully each and every one of you will have a little "away" time...even if it is only a mental break from the ordinary.

Vacations, while usually fun, come with their own challenges.  Their are bags to pack, items to get ready and schedules to shift.  If you are planning to travel there are also documents to gather.  Depending on where you are going this may mean getting your passport out and dusted off, or maybe just finding your birth certificate and driver's license.  Either way, this may take some time.

Use the time between now and your scheduled departure to collect the documents you will  need including passports, birth certificates, maps, attraction information and packing lists.  Doing this slowly and while you have the time will eliminate stress down the road, and who wants stress during a vacation?

P.S. Now that I have given you vacation advice I need to live vicariously through your vacation plans.  Let me know where you are going so I can celebrate your intended fun.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Blanket Fort - How My Limited View Led to Amazing Adventures

I have fond memories of blanket forts.  I remember using every chair, dresser and box in the vicinity to construct a blanket castle to enjoy. I would imagine being a princess in a palace, a fair maiden in a tree fort, an explorer on a ship, or a time traveler waiting to discover the mysteries of the universe.  Let's face it...I wanted to be Dr Who, I just didn't know it then.

As I have watched my kids grow I see the same fascination.  For some reason life is more exciting under a blanket. Imagination is brighter, stories are scarier and sleep more peaceful when carefully cocooned under a blanket fort.

I wonder if this really has to do with the change in perspective.  When covered by a blanket you can't see much of the world.  Your view is limited to what you can see between the stacked side walls.  My fort never had television and in truth, not much light.  I spent my hours imagining where I was, why I was there and what adventures I was about to encounter.  My limited view of the outside world gave me an increased ability to imagine my way to great stories.

Do we give ourselves the same chances now as adults?  I find that I spend most of my time expanding my view of the world.  I read the news, I watch TV, I absorb information from all sides.  Rarely am I content to sit in a box and imagine my way to excitement.

I think I may have lost something in the process of growing up. I wonder how to get it back.

The days I spent in my fort were an important step in getting to know myself, my hopes, my dreams and my fears.  The solitude helped me learn about myself.  As an adult I don't have any activities that keeps me in touch with what I learned.

I have to be honest, I have no desire now to sit on the floor under a blanket.  I would much rather relax on a plush mattress and fluffy pillow.  If I don't have the advantages of the fort how do I recreate that feeling and excitement?  How do I limit my world view for a few hours and imagine my way into adventure?

The adventures I take today will look a lot different than they did 30+ years ago.  I think a spa day sounds like a wonderful thing to imagine, as I have learned being a fair maiden in a tree fort has its limitations.  I also think I will spend time imagining silence instead of white knights rescuing me from a tower. Silence just seems so more scandalous somehow.

Anyway, as I try to reclaim the joy and innocence of my blanket fort days I will remember to let my kids steal every blanket in the house if they want to.  I don't know a better way to encourage imagination, advance personal growth and foster a sense of self worth.  Who knew a blanket could do so much?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Awareness Takes More Than A Telethon

It appears in the news all the time.  You see awareness pushes for autism, depression, cancer, childhood diseases, adult diseases and mental illness.  There are walks, there are telethons and there are auctions.

Millions of hours are donated every year to raise awareness and research funds for a menagerie of diseases and disorders.  It is awe inspiring to see how much can be done by the families and friends of those with issues.

The other side of the coin is the group of people who do not want anyone to know they have a problem.  They feel embarrassed, shamed, or just uncertain.  These are the people we do not see on the television or in the paper.  They are the ones who either do not admit there is a problem or do not want others to know there is a problem.

I am no stranger to illness.  My medical records would take a fork lift to pick up if you added everything from my surgeries and hospital stays to my doctor's records and lab results.  I am sure I have paid for more than one trip to the Bahamas for my doctors over the years.

I know firsthand how hard it is to be different.  I know what it is like to see others running and jumping and playing when you can't.  I also know what it is like to be made fun of.  As a child my medicine made me gain a lot of weight.  I didn't have a choice really, it was breathe...or not breathe, so I took the medications.

As I have become a parent I have faced new medical challenges with my family.  Maybe it is because I know what it is like, or maybe it is just my personality, but I choose to tell people what is going on.  I give them details, resources and ways to help.  It takes the stigma out of the situation and makes it easier to work through.

As I have spent time educating people about the issues my family faces I have found compassion, support and even relief.  As I continue to share my experiences with others I realize my choice is not the choice of every family.  There are those who are not ready to take that leap.  They are not ready to expose the tender underside of their emotions to others.  That is okay.  Everyone is exactly where they are.

As a society we may forget there are those who are not exactly like us.  For every family who is athletic, there is a family who is bookish.  For every healthy child there is a sick child. For every outgoing person there is an introvert.  Please remember that when you meet someone who doesn't meet your criteria of normal.

There are children who are rude, not because their parent's never taught them manners, but because they are autistic and don't understand social rules.  There are adults who are too blunt because they are struggling with mental illness.  There are women who take risks because they live their lives to the fullest after surviving cancer. We never know where their journey has taken them and the brief view we have into their lives is not enough to draw conclusions.

I guess what I am saying is there are a lot of people out there and we can't possible understand them all.  Many of those individuals, be they adults or children are struggling with medical and mental issues we may not understand.  It takes humility for them to open up about their needs, but it also takes humility for us to be gentle and nonjudgmental.

While we may see awareness increasing in our society we need to remember we are surrounded by those in need.  They need compassion, understanding and sometimes space.  They say you never know a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.  If we are going to raise awareness for anything, maybe it should be for that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Motivational Monday #1 - The Safe Place

I am the kind of person who needs to be motivated.  Sometimes I need a small push, other times I need a bolt of lightening.  I thought you might be the same, so I am going to start having Motivational Mondays.

Here we go...Motivational Monday #1

I know a lot about my "Safe Place."  I know it must be huge to hold all of the things I put there.  I also know it must be secure because everything seems to stay safe.  What I don't know is where it is.

You might think this is a problem, and it is.  My "Safe Place" is a great abyss for which I put important items and never see them again.  I theorize that everyone has a safe place and that all safe places eat items just like mine.  It is kind of like socks in the dryer.

So I am challenging you this week to identify a NEW (not so mysterious) safe place to put your documents.  If it happens to be your copy of Prepared Binder - Home Edition, great.  If not, find a location and start a new safe place.

Here is what makes this safe place different from your other safe places.  You are going to document where it is.  Yes, in fact you are going to write it down. Put a note in your blackberry, add a note to your calendar, send a text to your phone.  Anyway you want to do it, you are going to remember where this safe place is.

As you find other safe places with stashes of important information you are going to relocate things to this new and improved safe place.

If nothing else in your life gets organized I want your safe place to be something you can find.  I know it is a small step, but an important one...You can do it!