Monday, December 29, 2014

Handbook for a Better Year

            It’s hard to believe the year is 2015.  It sounds too much like a futuristic science fiction movie but in reality, it really is 2015. A message sent to me by my mother-in-law gave me seven handy hints for a great new year: one to remember each day of the week.

            One: Drink plenty of water. This is a great tip for a healthy body.  It’s common knowledge now that we should all drink at least eight glasses of water every day to feel healthy.

            Two: Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.  I would say most of the time those unkind things you hear from others are not true and if they are you shouldn’t repeat them.  Life is too short to waste time in passing on unwanted news.  You have no idea what the other person has gone through so don’t pass on any gossip.

            Three: Live by the Three E’s: Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy.  All that you spend your time doing can either uplift you or drag you down.  Calling your family often, doing something good for others and forgiving others of any inconveniences can be of great worth in living by the “E’s” of life. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

            Four: Make time to pray.  The world would tell you that praying is a waste of time, but I don’t believe that.  No matter what religious sect you belong to, there is always time to pray.  You can pray while driving to work or cleaning the house or before eating breakfast.  It helps the day go by much better and you will find that enthusiasm and empathy stay with you longer.

            Five: Play more games.  This reminds us how fun life is or is supposed to be.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy so find time during the month whether weekly or every other week to play games with your friends and family. 

            Six: Read more books than you did in 2014. Reading is so good for the mind and it can take to far away places which makes it less expensive than taking a trip to Europe.  Reading also helps you ponder the challenges you face every day while also giving you an escape.

            Seven: Take a ten to thirty minute walk daily, and while you walk smile.  I learned something very profound from my own son last week.  His secret to a happier life was to smile all the time.  I was very surprised to hear him say that as he has not always been a happy kid.  No one is in charge of your happiness except you. While the walking is physically good for your heart, the smiling is emotionally good for your soul and everyone else around you. 
            So there you have it, seven helpful hints for a better 2015. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Reason for the Season

Kindness During Christmas

Here is a great way to remember kindness during Christmas.....

14 Ways to Cultivate Kindness
  Frank Lipman   (

Sharing a Pear
To cultivate kindness, first you need to have a sense of what it is. For me, it’s about giving of oneself freely, for the pure joy of giving without an expectation of reciprocity or strings attached – and admittedly, that’s not always easy!
For many people, the challenges of the last few years have made kindness a bit of an afterthought – we seem shorter on kindness now than we were back in ’07. Though we can’t turn back the clock or control what will happen next, we can find ways to replenish our kindness reserves.
To do that, here are a few thoughts on how to get your kindness groove back – and spread it to others who may need a dose just as much as you do. Not only will you help make your corner of the world a better place, but your kindness will also give your body and mind a health-enhancing boost – a wonderful side-effect, so let’s get started:

1.) Have a better morning drive— let someone cut ahead

Give that aggressive driver a genuine smile, a wave and let it – and him – go. He gets that small victory he’s clearly so desperate for and you can enjoy the feeling of not being quite as wound up as he must be!

2.) Connect with others, even if it’s just for a moment

On the commuter train, look up from your Blackberry/iPhone/ iPad/Gameboy and pause for a second to actually look the conductor in the eye when he takes your ticket. Smile and say “Thanks.” Your simple act of acknowledgement and appreciation may be the highlight of his day.

3.) Share a laugh

Be it with the guy who sells you your weekly lottery ticket, the cashier at the grocery store or your elderly neighbor, breaking the monotony of the day with an unexpected laugh is a simple but powerful act of kindness, humanity and connection.

4.) Smile like you mean it… and eventually you will

Though sometimes it may seem like a Herculean effort, the simple act of smiling is an instant mood booster and attitude re-adjuster for you and those on the receiving end, be they a total stranger or close friend. In other words, everybody wins, so why not?

5.) Stop and smell the gratitude – the kindness will follow

The kindest people I know are those who are truly and profoundly grateful for even the smallest blessings in their lives. Some have gone through enormous difficulties to arrive at that place of gratitude while others have not, but regardless of how you get there, it’s almost impossible to be unkind when you are grateful and appreciative.

6.) Be aware of your power

Granted we all have bad days, but be conscious of your effect on others. Know that a grumpy response barked at a subordinate can ruin their day in an instant –that’s not very kind, is it? In other words, don’t take your frustrations out on innocent bystanders – and if you do, be swift with an earnest apology. An awareness of how your behavior impacts others can help keep the waters of kindness flowing – in both directions.

7.) Learn to listen

When a friend or loved one is in a difficult spot, one of the kindest things you can do is simply listen. Though you may not be able to ease their pain, you can give them the chance to be heard, which sometimes is all that’s needed. If they ask for your opinion, by all means give it, but tread lightly and be diplomatic in your responses. Use “tough love” sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.

8.) Connect live, in person – not on Facebook

Anyone can post to Facebook but, a true act of kindness is giving of your time, talents or showing up physically to lend a hand. With all due respect, simply “liking” an organization or person on Facebook doesn’t go quite far enough.

9.) Put down the boxing gloves

Plenty of people are kind to others but brutal to themselves, relentlessly beating themselves up over past mistakes. Learn to show yourself kindness by forgiving yourself, learning from your mistakes, righting wrongs when possible and moving forward.

10.) Just do it…and zip it

As in keep your kindnesses to yourself. Kindness isn’t about showing off or telling the world what a sweetheart you are. Just do it quietly, without fanfare. Recently I found out (somewhat accidently) that one of my patients has been quietly delivering meals to homebound people several times a week for over a decade. Turns out not even his closest friends know about his volunteer work and that’s just the way he likes it.

11.) Know your limits

Kindness is not about martyrdom. It doesn’t mean being a doormat or allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. When it comes to kindness, it’s just as important to know when to say no, and how to say it with kindness. For those who have trouble turning people down (as well as those who don’t), the most useful phrase in the English language is “I would love to but…” – it’s kind, gentle and firm – and enables you to put boundaries in place when needed.

12.) Practice unconditional kindness

Judging who is worthy or deserving of your kindness isn’t really kindness at all. True kindness is a gift that’s given freely across the board, whether someone appears to “deserve” it or not. Everyone is “worthy” of kindness and respect, even if you don’t particularly like them.

13.) Put yourself in their shoes

Empathy and kindness go hand-in-hand, so learn to cut people a little slack. They may be going through a rough patch, so there’s no need to pile onto their pain with harsh words or aggressive responses. In the words of Plato, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Keep this in mind to inspire your acts of kindness every day.

14.) Don’t hold back

Experiment with letting compliments flow. They don’t have to be over-the-top or effusive – just a simple positive comment will do – but do get into the habit of earnestly complimenting others. Praise your assistant for handling a problem well; tell your significant other that you appreciate their putting the kids to bed; thank the delivery guy for being so quick, then throw in an extra tip. There are so many small ways we can surprise people and spread a little joy with an unexpected kindness or compliment, there’s little reason not to – so don’t hold back.
And one last thought on kindness – you’ll get better with practice, so remember to flex your kindness muscle every day.

Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

A wonderful Tribute to the Baby Jesus

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The True Meaning of Christmas

            The Christmas lights are glowing everywhere and people are still driving with trees on tops of cars.  The thoughts of those pecan pies from Thanksgiving are still in our heads but we press forward as we are in full swing in the Christmas season.
            Black Friday has past with little or no fan fair but as you remember a couple of years ago the news reported that a 34-year old man was trampled to death by Wal-mart shoppers trying to get into the store. I have heard only good reports of kindness to others on that day. Maybe we have improved our behavior.  Maybe we can remember the true meaning of this time of the year.
            As Christmas has at times lost its meaning in years before maybe as a people we can realize that the number and cost of gifts isn’t as important as being with their family.  Maybe we can remember that a few gifts to our friends and family are the tokens of what is really the true meaning of Christmas.

            There are so many wonderful events that are fun and do not cost much to help us remember the true meaning of Christmas.  Christmas concerts and parties, festivals in the park, parades, night excursions to Christmas lights and baking Christmas cookies at home are just some of the memories we can create for our children.

            Agnes Pharo says it well: "What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace."

            We are alive on this earth and can do good for others.  If we all had a glimpse of what George Bailey saw in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”, we would appreciate what we have so much more.

            This is the season of love and giving to others.  We should all learn what it truly means in giving of ourselves to others.  Not just in buying material possessions but in spending time and using our talents to share with our friends and family.  That is the true meaning of the Christmas season.

Christmas: It Shouldn't be a Love-Hate Relationship

Through our all my years of marriage, I have always had this love/hate relationship with Christmas.  I love Christmas because it is the celebration of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I hate Christmas because our culture is so commercialized, our ideas of what Christmas should be is so misconstrued. So there is this battle going on in my head keeping Christmas low key.

Harder said than done. Children have a hard time dealing with the lack of gifts.  I always wanted to give them more but could never afford it.  Just nice gifts that are a little more pricey.  It was always a scrimp and buy what you could to have gifts under the tree. The dollar stores were good for that.

But that's not what Christmas is all about!!  Christmas is about celebrating the life of the Savior. Service to others.

What I did do almost every year was bake cookies and other goodies and prepare plates for our neighbors. My children would take these plate full of goodies and secretly drop them off at each door step in our neighborhood.  It brought us great joy.  It also was fun for my children to ring the doorbell and run like crazy to hide and peek at the reaction to our neighbors opening door.  This was probably one of the highlights of their Christmas holiday.

I just need to get it in my head that the gift giving doesn't have to be big.  It does not have to be expensive. Our modern day culture's shopping habits have gotten so deranged. Not only do people give up Thanksgiving to wait for "Black Friday" but they sleep out in parking lots and store fronts just to buy stuff that doesn't really matter by the end of January.  It's incredible what is going on in our country.  How can we celebrate a holiday of gratitude if we are trying to be the first ones in the store to buy stuff?  We can't.  The one track mind of a wolf seeking its prey is one who cares only about what they can get out of life, not give.

For my blog this year I want to post each December day of how we can keep the "Reason for the Season" and motivate myself and others to remember to be kind at the check out stand. Be considerate of others while shopping and help others in need.