National Cookie Cutter Week

The first week of December is National Cookie Cutter Week. Which is obviously an exciting moment, as it means somewhere in the world, there are cookies being shaped and baked just for me. The end of the year holiday season tends to center more on food than any other time of year, so this celebratory week is absolute perfection in my opinion.
Having said that, I cannot help but see the parallel between this week and the struggles I see over and over in so many people’s lives. While we certainly do love a cookie cutter with regards to our desserts, when did it become the norm for our lives? At what point in time did we collectively vote to make one version of success, happiness, and life?
I hear you shouting “We didn’t”! I can picture the indignant look on your face at that statement. For we all know that there is not just one version of life. However, I see you in the malls, at the restaurants, and driving along the highway. I see the look of complacency everywhere I go. I see it, but I know better. I know that deep within each of us is core knowledge that we are our own person. We have within us special gifts, insights, abilities that the world needs. We have a form of greatness resting within our fleshy walls that has yet to be tapped in to.
It’s December 1st. We are nearing the end of another year. You will pop a label on the year for all of eternity. It will be regarded as a good year, a bad year, or just another year. For some of you, you have already labeled it and are looking towards January as a beacon of hope. You see the shiny new numbers as a promise of fortune and peace. Just as you did last year, and the year before. 
Every year millions of people resolve to do better, resolve to make great things happen, resolve to launch. The sad reality is that too many of us have accepted a cookie cutter version of life, and we don’t dare break the mold. We have created our own prison of mediocrity. We have made the determination that we don’t deserve what we dream of. We tell ourselves that we are satisfied. We convince ourselves that we don’t really need what’s out there. We sell the idea of safety to ourselves rather than open our eyes to see our own imprisonment.
We chain ourselves to a lifestyle that over works us, and under pays us; not because we lack ability or skill, but because we lack the courage to go and do something new. We saddle ourselves with debts for a life that we don’t even enjoy living. We allow our bodies to sit idle and become stagnant because the idea of moving and stretching frightens us. We are the evil warden of our own Shawshank.
Cookie cutters are fantastic for what they are designed for. They make incredibly beautiful cookies. Cookie cutter, however, were never meant to be applied to your life, or your dreams. My wish / desire / hope for each of you who takes the time to read this is simple: I want you to break the mold you have created. I want you to use this holiday to reach for something you fear – success. I want you to look yourself in the eye and speak to the dreams and hopes you have hidden in solitary confinement. 
🍪 You can accomplish so many great things. 
🍪 You are the answer to so many issues in the world. 

However, if you remain locked up in fear and complacency – you rob the world of experiencing your gifts. More importantly, you rob yourself form experiencing your life. 

So, today – grab a pen and some paper. Declare your intentions to yourself and the world. Really open your eyes. Move your body. Experience every moment of your day, and begin the transformation right now. Be bold and courageous. Be confident, even when you fail. Realize that every wrong turn you take, eliminates a direction that doesn’t bring you to your destination. You are no cookie cutter, my friend. You are a one of a kind, masterpiece handmade and designed by God for greatness. 

Break your mold, and never let the cookie cutter lifestyle attach itself to you again.

Better Conversations Week

Better Conversations Week Starts Now
 In the US, we are gearing up to celebrate Thanksgiving. Traditionally, this holiday is marketed as a time of celebration and family comradery. In reality, this holiday tends to have people taking more Xanax than prescribed and relapsing on their health goals. In many houses, the focus will be more on football and turkey than the actual living breathing people in the midst. This year in particular, I have heard of more election related shenanigans than in any year prior, such as:

  • I will not be going to Uncle Bob’s house because they voted for so and so
  • I will be boycotting the dessert Aunt Betty made because she voted 3rd party
  • I will be poisoning cousin Richie because he didn’t vote

Aside from being very afraid to mix up my glass with cousin Richie, this hurt my heart.  I am -by nature- a peace keeper.  I don’t like to be in or around volatile situations.  If friends are arguing, I tend to try to mend the fences for them.  I like to make sure the introverts and extroverts are getting along in social situations by navigating the conversations.  This year, the election has given me way more than I can handle in terms of smoothing wrinkles.  So, when I stumbled upon this beautiful topic, I felt the universe give me a hug.

 Folks. It’s time.

 We can still be mad at Richie, we can still disagree with Aunt Betty, and we can even lack total understanding of Uncle Bob’s decision. We can still have all the feelings, but we cannot let the feeling and emotions run the train off the rails. We cannot wait until a eulogy is being read before we realize the importance of those around us. We are better than that.

 Now, more than ever we need each other. We need to connect. We need to be with the ones we love, and even the ones we only tolerate once a year. We need to find a way back to real connections. Connections that are not dulled by prescription numbness. Connections that are not diluted by alcohol and sugar overload. We need to connect, and feel it. Some connection will be warm, soft, and amazing. Other connections may be painful, and raw. In every instance, however, there is a connection and a lesson; something to take with you, and something to leave behind.

 This week, why not begin to allow the healthy connections you already have in place grow by celebrating one another through conversation? Why not take the time to really listen, to really see whom you have with you? Why not take this opportunity to speak. Let those who are with you and for you know their place of importance in your life. Let those who you cannot imagine a life without know that they matter to you.

 Amazing things happen to plants and relationships when they are nurtured; they thrive. Conversation is the fertilizer to your relationships. It enriches them. It brings value and energy. Conversation binds us together. Isn’t that the point? Don’t we want that? Without depth, our relationships are more like a silk plant. While pretty to look at, they don’t bring anything else to the table. They don’t provide anything. They simple exist. Real relationships give as much as they get, just as plants provide us with food, oxygen, and more. 

By nituring and caring for the relationships that matter, you will also begin to recognize the ones you can live without.  That doesn’t mean I think you should cut Uncle Bob out of your life for good.  It means that you need to learn to surround yourself with the necessary so you can avoid, or endure in some cases, the unnecessary.  

 So, let’s honor this week by being proactive. Reach out to your loved ones. Begin to cultivate the relationships you hold near and dear. The rest of the stuff will work itself out. The universe has a tremendous ability to recover, and so do we. 

Push Button Phone Day

On this, my triumphant return to the land of blogging…because the internet and I had a fight.

I bring you: Push Button Phone Day

This holiday actually made me laugh aloud. I was born in the late 70s, so I grew up in 80s and 90s when technology took off. The fact that a celebratory day has been created around the push button phone is comical and endearing all at once. I hold the push button phone in high esteem, as it was the very vehicle that cemented one of my most amazing relationships. It was literally my most valued connection tool.

As a young girl, blessed with the gift of gab, I spent many hours connected to a telephone while growing up. My best friend was blessed with the gift of indulgent listening, which is why we are still friends. Without that telephone, my memories – and the way my youth was shaped – would have been dramatically altered. 
For one thing, that phone allowed me to connect to the one person in the world that I felt truly understood me. She listened, laughed, chastised, and encouraged me with our talks. We sat in silence as we watched the same T.V. shows together connected via telephone. We screeched with indignation when anyone attempted to use the phone while we were talking. The telephone was indeed, the connecting element of our friendship.

In life, I have had the pleasure of meeting and entertaining thousands of people. I have a wide net of friendships now that all mean something special to me. Some revealed themselves to be temporary. Some revealed themselves to be fake. Some have even revealed themselves to be life changing. However, the one I formed in the back bedroom of my home on A Street is the one that sets the bar. My best friend, as I call her, is as unique as the Aurora Borealis. Her personality and calm presence are a remarkable sight. The tragedy is that we do not get to see each other very often. Life has gotten in the way.

Let me be clear, that time and distance does not alter our friendship, for it was formed long ago and has deep roots. However, I would be dishonest if I did not admit that the disconnection is painful. There are times I long to go back in my old bedroom, plop on my pink canopy bed, and let hours of conversation take me away. Unfortunately, that is not a reality right now.

What is a reality, is appreciating her for all the years of friendship, and making sure she knows it. Silent appreciation is very hard to convey. Words, actions, and deeds will always let your appreciation message shine through. So often we are thankful for those in our lives, but we neglect to tell them. Many times we think of all the things we should have said when it is too late. Absence of appreciation or kind words can erode even the strongest relationships. A neglected relationship can sneak up on you too. One day you mind goes back, and you realize it has been days, weeks, and months since you last spoke. Awkwardness ensues, and you leave the sleeping elephant in the room. I say – wake the elephant up. 

Is it better to address the relationship’s need or live with an awkward pachyderm in your space? Call, tweet, email, blog, write, go…whatever fits best. Address the importance of your relationship. Celebrate the past, embark upon the future, and above all – make your feelings known. 

Otherwise we risk having important people become a memory, like the push button phone. We remember when it is too late to appreciate. We wait until the time has gone by. Let’s not do that this time. Let’s relive the push button phone and all of its grand memories with our loved ones. Let’s connect. 

The narcissist always smiles

Narcissism is by far one of my favorite topics to learn about, and write about. I’ve said it many times before that I believe in “me time” and making things all about you every so often. I know the importance of putting yourself first, and demanding a certain amount of attention from the world. That is called Self Care and it is very important.   Narcissism, however, is not to be confused with taking care of yourself, or having a high self esteem. I think I enjoy discussing narcissism so much because those who are truly narcissistic in nature either fully embrace the label, or are completely oblivious to it. Many times the very subject of my musing will comment and agree without ever noticing that they fall into the category. 

 I mean, aren’t we all guilty of that? Don’t you always notice the flaws or weaknesses in others before you see it in yourself? That’s the way our minds are wired. We cope with our own needs by seeking to see similarities in others and magnifying those weaknesses, so that by comparison we appear to be in a much better place. Basically, we operate in forced denial. 

So let’s discuss some of the identifiable attributes of a narcissist. 

  • Overly Ambitious
  • Overly Competitive 
  • Grudge Holders
  • Faultless
  • Addictions

These are easier to notice, but there are a few sly ones as well:

They must be the center of attention – “Narcissists dominate conversations,” says psychotherapist Joseph Brugo, PhD, the author of The Narcissist You Know “They feel compelled to talk about themselves, and they exaggerate their accomplishments.”

 In fact, many times if there is a story being told, they will be able to top it. They cannot resist stepping into the spotlight again, even if you are currently center stage. This happens as a result of creating and idealized version of themselves. It comes from a fear of being inadequate, which the narcissist cannot let you see.  In friendships they need to be the best friend.  Sure you can eat lunch with Sally…but guess who’s taking you out for steak dinner and posting it on Instagram?   Sounds lovely, until the narcissist feels slighted.  It is then you will be the villain in their twisted plot.

No Follow Through 

Here is another common trait of our friend the narcissis.  You can see a pattern of not following through when you review their history a bit.  Agreements made and obligations stated don’t faze them. This can range from skipping appointments and tasks, to abandoning major responsibilities. Being self-centered and conceited, the narcissist will generally meet his or her obligations only when they suit their agenda.  Basicallly, of the idea benefits them they will follow through with gusto, when it doesn’t they tend to move on to greener pastures. 

They use people

Chronic narcissists do not relate; they use. They talk a good talk, but often fail to back it up. Research and writings have linked high narcissism with traits such as unreliability, infidelity, manipulativeness, and overall lower levels of trustworthiness. When you have something they need, whether it’s physical, emotional, or monetary – they will be there for you. However, once that need has been fulfilled, or they can get it fulfilled by another, you are yesterday’s news. They often cannot have multiple friendships at the same time. Inevitably, they find a newer, shinier friend and abandon the old ones until they are necessary again. What the narcissist uses a person for varies.  Money, power, and fame seem the likely choice, but using someone for attention is just as likely.  I’ve seen the narcissist use people to prove they could pull apart friendships, so there isn’t a limit.

They give unsolicited advice…all the time.

Is there anything worse? Probably, but this is really annoying. Receiving advice that wasn’t sought out makes us feel as if we should’ve been able to figure it out.  It makes us feel as if something is wrong with us for missing the obvious. The truth is that most of us mean well when we prescribe the cure to our friends.  Maybe we had the same problem, maybe we read a cool article, we just want to help.  Sharing in honesty is caring.  But the narcissist is in it for another reason. They are seizing an opportunity to demonstrate their superior knowledge and insight Brugo explains:”Narcissists are always a little more in the know,” he says. “They seem to have the inside info on everything.” By acting more sophisticated than everyone in the room, they bolste an inflated sense of self—unfortunately at the listeners expense.

Charmers

I’m Here for You / I Care About You / I Love You!”

Narcissists have the ability to be charming and charismatic when they choose. Like a master salesperson, they know how to say the right things to entice your attention, and steer you into believing their sugar-coated ­persuasions. In interpersonal and/or romantic relationships, narcissists are often quick to profess their admiration of and attraction for you, usually without bothering to really know you as a person. In reality, the narcissist wants you to feel special not because they really care about you, but because they want something from you. Sweet talk is a form of emotional manipulation calculated to seduce and exploit. In romance, the narcissist is often more enamored with the seduction process than he or she is with you, for you represent a “conquest” to them. Like a master con artist, they will hook you in, get what they want, and then leave you hanging out to dry. You’re left picking up the tattered relational pieces, perhaps wondering whether YOU did something wrong.  Worse is when this is done in the name of friendship.  A call out of the blue, an invitation to join them for an event, special attention to all of your musings. When we look at that list as whole it seems great, and it would be if the end of the line wasn’t attached to the narcissist.  However, when a fair weather friend is suddenly overly interested in your well being, red flags should go off.  Many times this attention is the result of ulterior motives.  
It’s all your fault/ you let me down

Pathological narcissists often demand constant attention and sacrifices from those around them, for such placating makes them feel important. When someone in the narcissist’s manipulative orbit has the courage to be independent and chooses her or his own priority, the narcissist will often become highly agitated, sometimes fly into a (narcissistic) rage, and accuse the other person of being “selfish”, “disappointing”, or “not here for me”. In reality, the narcissist is simply throwing a child-like tantrum for not getting his or her way. 

If you find yourself on the receiving end of these accusations, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I being treated with genuine respect?
  • Are this person’s expectations & demands of me reasonable?
  • Is the giving in this relationship primarily one way?  
  • Ultimately, do I feel good about myself in this relationship?

 If one or more of your answers to the questions above are in the negative, the truth may be that the narcissist is actually the one who’s not there for you
They are two faced

In a group setting a narcissist can laugh, hug and chat with just about anyone.  When you scale down the party a bit you may get a glimpse of who they are.  Narcissist love to dish the dirt.  They will have a wonderful assortment of stories to share about the attendants, mostly negative.  In fact in a narcissist mind, everyone else comes up short.  They will fill your ears with wonder and excitement getting the reactions they need.  What you don’t realize is they will be doing the same thing regarding you.  We are all fair game to the narcissist .  They will exaggerate the truth, rearrange some of the details and in many cases, just lie about the events.  The story will always cast the narcissist as the good guy and bring you deeper into their web.

Because narcissists often operate on inauthenticity and falsehoods, the consequences of their actions may eventually catch-up to them, and exact a heavy price. These are the moments of life-crisis for the narcissist, which may include family estrangement, marital separation or divorce, trouble with the law, damaged personal and/or professional reputation, etc.

During these moments, some narcissists will dramatically profess their wrong-doing, promise to change their ways, and ask for forgiveness.  After all, they need to control the situation.

I’m sure you felt guilty checking off one or two areas on the list.  We all have a few areas we should be aware of.  And if you fear you could be confused with the narcissist, make changes today.

But if the face of someone in your life popped up, maybe you need to do some serious evaluation.  Relationships with narcissists are only beneficial to one side.  I found myself trapped in a friendship with one such person.  I felt as if I was the most important person in the world.  We had dinner, we shopped, we shared, we were friends.  What I didn’t realize was I was only a friend when it benefited her.  When she needed something, when she wanted to know something.  It took longer than it should have to realize it.  In fact it took hearing an awful story about a mutual friend to make me realize she used personal information as a weapon.  She shared things confided in secret to me in an effort to make me angry.  Instead I felt aware.  I knew then that she would manipulate every conversation we had ever had, she would twist words, she would leave out context.  She would do the same to me as she did to her friend. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I backed away.  I declined the invitations. I screened the calls.  I removed her power over me, and as a result I became the villain.  The stories make their rounds and give me a good laugh every once and awhile.  The beauty of living an authentic life is that the people around me know who I am, and no sensational story could sway them.  Those who believe the stories, are not my concern.  I chose to place my value high, and as a result I don’t settle for phony friendships anymore.

I suggest the same for you.  Really evaluate who you are allowing to speak into you life.  Give yourself permission to let go.

🐾It’s National Dog Day🐾

I am definitely a dog person. I’ve lived my entire life with dogs. I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have a dog in my life somewhere. I have had a couple of cats join the mix, and a few birds spent some time with my family as well. Yet, my connection to the dogs in my life was far more profound. 

Psychology Today posted an interesting article detailing the differences between Dog People and Cat People that I wanted to share. According to their studies:

🐕 74% of their test group preferred dogs to cats

🐕Dog people were generally about 15 percent more extroverted and 13 percent more agreeable than cat people

🐕Dog people were 11 percent more conscientious than cat people

🐕Being married, living in a house, and having children living in the home, are all factors that are more likely for dog owners than cat owners.

🐕Of the people who grew up in a house with cats as pets, 47 percent were likely to have cats today, while only 11 percent of people whose childhood years were spent in a house with a dog have only a cat as a pet.

🐕People who own only cats tend to be relatively introverted (low on extroversion) and also reasonably cool (low in warmth or agreeableness)

🐕The general pattern that comes out of both studies is that dog owners are more social, interactive and accepting and cat owners (who own cats exclusively) are more introverted, self-contained and less sociable

Now, as a lifelong dog person, I can’t say the findings of this study are shocking. I fall into just about every dog person trait. However, I am certain that there are exceptions to the general mold formed in this study. I guess in my case, the dog person label applies.

I love how a dog seeks me out for company…though being stared at in the bathroom is a bit of overkill. Having dogs with me during my childhood gave me companionship, and comfort during some very dark times. Taking care of their needs taught me great lessons in responsibility. And cleaning up dog poop taught me that there will always be unexpected and unpleasant events in our lives. In fact, my dogs taught me a great deal:

My Cocker Spaniel Misty taught me that sometimes you have to go to great lengths in order to get your point across. How? We lived in Michigan when we added Misty to our family. At his time, my mother decided that she was too hairy to be an indoor dog, so she was relegated to the outdoors most of the time. It was her refusal to go into her doghouse to escape the cold that finally convinced my mom to bring her in. (And she never left.)

My Boston Terrier Huey taught me that holding on to my childhood was important. He developed a habit of sucking a stuffed animal in the same manner that he nursed as a puppy. When he was upset, tired, or bored he would find his toy, and settle onto the floor and nurse. This was the same dog that got into violent dog fights with the other male dog in the house. One fight was so bad that my brother lost a piece of his finger trying to separate them. Huey was my gentle giant. He was large for a Boston Terrier, but a lover to the core. He was my comfort during breakups, my friend when I was lonely and in some ways my first child. He developed lymphoma in his late life, and eventually lost his battle. His passing devastated me, and taught me how to deal with grief in a whole new way. Around that same time I had adopted another Boston Terrier, Chloe, who was just a puppy when Huey passed. She is one of the reasons that I made it through his emotional passing. A puppy requires a whole different set of skills and non stop attention. Whether it was getting into a box of rat poison that my landlord left out, or breaking free from her leash and running through a busy intersection to get some chicken wings from the park, she kept my life full of adventure. She communicated her needs more clearly than any animal I have ever encountered. During her days with Huey, he would occasionally look at me as if to question my sanity in adding her to the mix, given her panache for dramatic events. Most notably when he had his stomach pumped and it was determined that he had not partaken in the rat poison tomfoolery. His look of irritation and annoyance was priceless when the vet brought him back to me after that trip.

Chloe has since passed, as have her two puppies. In fact, I’ve said hello and good bye to 4 other dogs since Huey passed. Each one taught me something, and each one will forever be treasured in my heart. In every one of my dogs lives we had joy, and pain. We have far more happy memories than unhappy, which is the way it should be. My dogs taught me how to enjoy life by celebrating the small triumphs as much as I do the big ones. 


I now have a beautiful two year old boy who calls me mommy. He lights up my life and teaches me more about myself than I ever thought possible. I show him pictures of all the dogs that have passed through our home, as well as teach him how to love and care for our newest edition Sugar. My dog and my son fill our home with life and entertainment. I celebrate Dog Day everyday. So today, on National Dog Day I appreciate all of our canine friends who enrich our homes. Today is definitely one for the dogs – and that’s fine with me. 

Choosing Forgiveness Can Change Everything 

It’s National Kiss and Makeup Day!

What a great day. In fact, I personally suggest celebrating this holiday every day, but we will start with today.

Why should you celebrate? 

According to John Hopkins University: Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age

The Mayo Clinic writes:

Forgiveness can lead to:

❤️ Healthier relationships
❤️ Greater spiritual and psychological well-being

❤️ Less anxiety, stress and hostility

❤️ Lower blood pressure

❤️ Fewer symptoms of depression

❤️ Stronger immune system

❤️ Improved heart health

❤️ Higher self-esteem

I would say the health based evidence is an obvious reason to celebrate today’s holiday. When we choose to hold on to our anger, hurt, and resentment; we choose to harm ourselves. Being hurt by someone is not a choice. We cannot anticipate the actions of others with great success. Allowing ourselves to remain hurt is our choice.
We choose every day how we are going to proceed. We are not spinning tops on a table aimlessly twirling. We are souls filled with choices. Every choice requires an action. Every action produces a reaction. We have the ability to change the direction of our lives at any moment. Yet, for many, we remain stagnant and immobilized in our fear of decision making.

We would rather blindly follow. We prefer the decision made for us. We enjoy the comfort of not being the one to blame. However, that is all a lie we tell ourselves. We pretend that the decision was made for us, but neglect to realize we chose to comply. Our actions were decided by us, even if the suggestion was made by another.

Let me give an example of this. Once, my husband and I were out with friends (the newlyweds). We were traveling to another town, and opted to carpool. Moments in to the journey we both knew we should have driven separately. From the initial exit of the driveway the couple we would spend the day with began to argue. He commented on her lack of navigational skills, she pointed out his inability to obey the speed limits…it was an amazing time. At the end of our long journey, we came to the destination. I was never so happy to see a parking lot in all my life. I knew that we were moments away from escape. Then it happened. Our fearless driver turned to her verbal sparring partner and said “Where should I park?” Keep in mind; we are in a parking lot with thousands of available spots. The building we were arriving at had one entrance. This was not a decision that needed a vote. My husband and I glanced at one another with confusion. Her husband merely shrugged and said “Anywhere”. I will never forget the next moment. Her fingers tightened on the steering wheel, and her glance became furious. From deep within her thirty year old throat, I swear I heard a growl. She again asked “Where should I park?” At this point I was contemplating leaping from the car and running for my life. Her husband again, though slightly more irritated, said “Anywhere.” Then the most curious phrase crossed her lips. She stopped the car, fully turned her body and shouted “WHY CAN’T YOU MAKE A DECISION?!?” I felt the tune of the Twilight Zone creeping into my mind. Was she serious? Were they joking? Wouldn’t the parking decision fall on the driver. What was I missing? At this point one of the most passive aggressive arguments ever witnessed peaked and the two began pointing fingers, shouting, and lacerating one another with their words. At some point, she parked and we exited the vehicle. We spent the day in an awkward segregation. My husband and I would talk to her, then him, but never both. The animosity was tangible. To this day, when my husband and I pull into a large parking lot we smile and say “Where should I park?” For the record, my friends are still married, and still have the same arguments. We never carpool anymore though (partly because we live in different cities now)

I share this example to illustrate what we all do in one way or another. We make it a habit to give our decision making away. We like to say we had no choice. But just as my friend was in control of the vehicle, we are in control of our choices. We decide to allow things to fester, and burrow in our lives. We decide to let our emotions dictate our days. We decide that the words and deeds of another supersede our own desires. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can use today’s holiday to free ourselves from the bitterness of withholding forgiveness. We can walk out of the prison we locked ourselves in. We can choose to forgive those who deserve it least. In the end, it is you who benefits from forgiveness the most.

So my request of you today is this: Decide today that you value yourself. Decide that no matter what the wrong was, you are big enough to forgive it. The beauty of forgiveness is this. It requires no effort on the part of the guilty. We simply make a decision and follow through with action. Forgive someone today. Make up with someone you love. Let go of the resentment and hurt. Kiss and Make Up.

Opening Up is Powerful 

Today’s national holiday is…

What was once one of the most popular ways of shopping is remembered each year on August 18th as it is National Mail Order Catalog Day.

Why? Because today marks the anniversary of when, in August of 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward, of Chicago, produced the very first Montgomery Ward’s mail order catalog. It was by buying the goods and then reselling them directly to the customers that Aaron Montgomery Ward removed the middlemen at the general store and to the benefit of the customers drastically lowered prices.
The very first catalog consisted of an eight by 12 inch single sheet of paper which included the merchandise for sale, the price list, and the ordering instructions. Montgomery Ward’s single page list of products grew into a 540 page illustrated book selling over 20,000 items. 
It was soon after that the Montgomery Wards catalog was copied by other resourceful merchants, like Richard Warren Sears. The first general Sears catalog was mailed in 1896. Many others entered the field, and catalog sales grew. By 1971, catalog sales of major United States firms exceeded more than $250 million in postal revenue.
Ah catalogs. At one time these beloved treasures were a highly anticipated mail item. We would get excited to take a peek and see what they had this month. At some point however, catalogs became a little overwhelming. Your name was put on a list, and now when you open the mail box, 10 lbs. of glossy booklets fall at your feet, all filled with junk you wouldn’t give as a joke. I routinely receive a catalog for elderly sleepwear. I know at the ripe old age of 39, I should start thinking of my future more, but slip and fall resistant pajamas are not on the top of my list.
This made me think about how we come across to others. When we meet others are we a catalog of usefulness, or a dreadful mashup of clutter? 
We all hope to be the useful kind. We expect people to be excited when they meet us. We want them to realize the treasures we have within. Yet, for many, the initial introduction isn’t a clear indicator of that. What usually happens is we keep all of our uniqueness under wraps. We only open the pages to those we know and trust. Otherwise we feel exposed, and vulnerable; feelings that most humans find excruciating. Being open allows others to see us. It allows them to make judgments about us. It takes away the power we assigned ourselves. Or does it?
If I remain closed off to the world, how am I in a power position? Howard Hughes is one of the most well known examples of what I call a confusion of power. I won’t go into the deep history of this man, or dismiss the mental crisis he was facing. I will simply state this: A man with wealth and fame at his fingertips was hiding himself away from the world in a literal manner. He stayed behind locked doors and didn’t allow anyone to enter it without just cause. Behind those doors he felt he was in control. He couldn’t be touched, or hurt. To him it was a logical choice.
From the outside however it was crazy. People told stories, some true, some made up completely. They talked about him, judged him, and ridiculed him on the other side of the door. The control was never in the locked room. The control was locked outside in the hallway where everyone could manipulate it. The same thing happens when we become so closed off and afraid of being hurt by the world that we lock ourselves away. We convince ourselves that we are safer alone. After all, we can’t be hurt if they cannot touch us. The truth is we can be hurt even more when we isolate ourselves. When we keep ourselves hidden away, we leave our story to the imaginations of others. We lose the power of telling our own story. 
When I look at one of those catalogs, they tell me everything I need to know. I know if there is food, tools, bathing suits or cars inside. I make a determination based on that fist impression as to whether I go any further. Some I keep, some I toss. The catalog doesn’t care. The catalog has not failed in life if I don’t open its pages. And neither do we. 
Opening up to the world and showing who we are is the true power move. Allowing yourself to remain vulnerable and open to possibilities is empowering. If someone isn’t looking for what you have to offer, life goes on. Those who are attracted to our gifts and talents will be drawn to us like metal to a magnet. Those who need something else, will not. The key here is to open up. Let others see you. Engage with people you don’t know yet. Be open to making a new friend, acquaintance, or more. Be proud of what you have to offer…even if it is elderly sleepwear. Someone will be better for finding you in their life.

Celebrate what makes you different

August 13th is “Left-Hander’s Day.” Launched in 1996, this yearly event celebrates left-handedness and raises awareness of the difficulties and frustrations left-handers experience every day in a world designed for right-handers
Today we celebrate the 10% (ish) of the population who use their left hand primarily. While socially acceptable now, there was a time when being left handed was forbidden. Here are a few left handed facts:
✍Between 10-12% of people on earth are “lefties.” Women are more likely to be right-handed than men by about 4 percentage points.
✍At various times in history, left-handedness has been seen as many things: a nasty habit, a mark of the devil, a sign of neurosis, rebellion, etc. It has also been seen as a trait indicating creativity and musical abilities.

✍Some scholars note that left-handers may be one of the last unorganized minorities in society because they have no collective power and no real sense of common identity. Additionally, left-handers are often discriminated against by social, educational, and religious institutions. Social customs and even language set the left-hander apart as “different” and even “bad.”

✍Many sources claim that left-handers may die as many as nine years earlier than right-handers.

✍The word left in English comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lyft, which means weak or broken. The Oxford English Dictionary defines left-handed as meaning crippled, defective, awkward, clumsy, inapt, characterized by underhanded dealings, ambiguous, doubtful, questionable, ill-omened, inauspicious, and illegitimate.

✍Phrases in English suggest a negative view of left-handedness. For example, a “left-handed complement” is actually an insult. A “left-handed marriage” is not a marriage but an adulterous sexual liaison, as in a “left-handed honeymoon with someone else’s husband.” A “left-handed wife” is actually a mistress.

✍Research has shown a link between trauma during gestation or during birth with an increased chance of being left-handed.

✍Tests conducted by St. Lawrence University in New York found that there were more left-handed people with IQs over 140 than right-handed people. Famous left-handed intellectuals include Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin.

✍Mothers who are over 40 at the time of a child’s birth are 128% more likely to have a left-handed baby than a woman in her 20s.

✍The German for “left-handed’ is linkisch, which means awkward, clumsy, and maladroit. In Italian, the word is mancino, which is derived from “crooked” or “maimed” (mancus) and is also used to mean deceitful or dishonest. In Russian, to be called a left-hander (levja) is a term of insult.c

✍In Latin, the word for left is sinister, related to the noun sinistrum. Ambisinister means “clumsy on both sides.”

In my circle of friends there are several southpaws. It hasn’t affected the dynamics of our friendships one bit. I often think about archaic or outdated thought patterns and wonder how the thoughts became commonplace. For instance, I always wonder why someone decided that covering one’s mouth when yawning would protect us all from evil spirits? Why not just tell people the truth? We don’t want to see that much of your mouth. But alas, where would our fun stories be if honesty prevailed?
I do enjoy some of the traditions of old, that are now understood to be completely made up. I enjoy them simply for their whimsy or entertainment. Being left handed came with a hefty price socially, and in some cultures it still does. But today, we celebrate the left handers, and recognize their importance in history and our everyday life.

On left handers day, aside from celebrating, I wonder if we could use this day to accept something about ourself that we have always felt wasn’t “normal”? Maybe it’s the way you speak, or walk. Maybe it’s a physical difference. Maybe it’s your humor, or seriousness. That thing you keep trying to change.
My hope is that we will be able to look at what makes us different as an interesting attribute rather than a disadvantage.  

The world is full of people whose differences have made them who they are. If we embrace what makes us different rather than hide it in an effort to be seen as normal, we allow ourselves the opportunity to thrive. Our differences unite us, whether we acknowledge them or not. My strengths are showcased by my weaknesses. The things I want to ignore and hide usually end up helping me in another area of my life. In the same way, my gifts are strengthened by your gifts. Imagine I am a great musician, but have no instrument. Imagine you have instruments but don’t know how to play them. Separately we both long for something we don’t have. We merely exist. I don’t brag about my talents because no one can hear me play. You don’t talk about the instruments because no one understands why you have them. But what if we met? That’s when the music would happen. Using what we both had, we would be able to create greatness. The same applies to life. Using our talents together will achieve greatness. It will unlock places within us. It will free our souls. 
Go out and showcase who you are. Be bold. Be proud of your individuality, and see who you attract to you. They may be the key to finding your music. And if you can…do it left handed!

Are you more than a label?


Today we celebrate the Jan Bradys of the world. It’s Middle Child Day!
I come from a family of three kids. Our family dynamic pretty much cemented my thoughts regarding birth order. Each of us play our part well. In every story, there is a stand out character. For my family story, it has to be my brother – the middle child. Every story that involves a crazy twist at the end usually involves him. He was (and is) the risk taker, the story teller, the rebel, and in some situations the notorious one.
I remember walking into a history class and being greeted with a scowl by the teacher due to our relation.  

If there was a dramatic event, he was usually suspect number one, which usually made me either informant or accessory…depending on the day.  

He has made my life more adventurous just by his existence. Have there been times his behaviors caused a ripple in the family dynamics? Absolutely. Is that because he is the middle child? Nope. I know that because the first born has also caused a ripple or two. I’m the baby, so obviously I haven’t caused any problems. 😜

What makes my middle child brother the man he is, isn’t his birth order. Although that may have played a part in how he evolved as a person. His character traits and personality came from his own experiences in life. Just like mine and just like yours. In my family, though each of us grew up in the same house, we are 3 completely different characters.  And none of us are merely a result of birth order.

So, what do they say about middle children?  
Here is a list of popular traits attributed to middle children:

🎈Flexible

🎈Easy-going

🎈Independent

🎈May be an excellent mediator or negotiator

🎈May feel that life is unfair

🎈May feel unloved or squeezed out by siblings

🎈Can be highly adaptable

🎈Often generous and sociable

🎈May try to differentiate themselves from the eldest sibling through behaviors and interests

🎈May perceive that the oldest or youngest child are the parents’ “favorites”

🎈May be rebellious

🎈Engage in attention seeking behaviors

🎈May be extremely competitive

Looking at that list, I can easily see my brother. But I can apply many of those same characteristics to my husband (a first born) as well. The same can be said about temperaments attributed to ethnicity, immortality attributed to being a natural ginger, and other gems we all repeat. We love a label. Some good, some bad, but all applicable for various scenarios.
My question is this: Have you assumed a label for yourself rather than create an identity?

How many times have you heard (or said)? 

“I can’t do that because I’m ________.” 

The _______ varies from Irish to left handed. Now, we can all appreciate absolutes.  

I absolutely can not levitate myself, because – gravity.

I absolutely can not keep down seafood, because -allergy.

There are restrictions for everyone. We have limitations due to absolutes. However, many of us have decided that a label that we, or society, have assigned ourself is an absolute.  
“I can’t dance because I have two left feet”

🤔 Um…No, I’m pretty sure you don’t.

Using a label to avoid life is common. We have all done it at some point. (Usually to avoid something we perceive as hard or difficult)

When that label (excuse) keeps you from living with purpose, however, it is time to make a change.

Middle child syndrome is a fun way to blame behaviors and habits on something deemed uncontrollable. The truth is, no matter where we line up in birth order, we are responsible for our actions and reactions. We decide our path with each step we take. We determine our successes and failures with every choice we make.  

So, today I ask you to celebrate the middle children in your life. Tell them how wonderful they are. Let them know they make the world a little more special, not because of their birth order, but because of their presence in your life.

Then, I ask that you reevaluate the labels you are operating under. Don’t allow yourself to be limited by a label or diagnosis. There is greatness within each of us. Don’t restrict yourself with a label.

Lazy Days Can Change Everything

It’s Lazy Day.  Ahhhh! 

Doesn’t that just make you want to climb into a hammock and nap?

What a fun day to celebrate.

However….

Sometimes we can over celebrate this holiday. Oh I know what your thinking…Not Me! I’m too busy to be lazy.

Most people can explain how busy they are to anyone who is listening. I hear it all the time from people I am working with. They don’t have the time to do this or that. They haven’t had a vacation is x amount of years. They have kids, pets, etc. They are too busy.

The question isn’t : are you busy?

The question is : what are you busy doing?

Are you spending every waking hour working hard just to make money?

Are you spending all of your time on the chores of life? 

Are you missing out on your own dreams because you have filled your calendar with obligations that don’t match your goals?

 My guess would be- yes.

How do I know this? Because I see it everyday. I see people who fill their days with everything except what is important. 

I see people overly focused on making money. People chasing bonuses and promotions with all their time. And in the end, they have their money, but no life has been lived. 

I see people obsessed with material things.  Closets packed with clothes, shoes, purses, belts, and other trinkets that are stored but not used. Garages filled with boxes of odds and ends, forgotten and tucked away.  A house full of things, but a life empty of purpose.

I see people who spiral deeper and deeper into debt.  Using credit, borrowing from their future, spending checks that haven’t been sent; all in an effort to keep up with a lifestyle that perpetuates spending.  The end result: a bank account so strained that the unexpected expense will cripple them.  

So what does this have to do with Lazy Day?

Sometimes we fill our days with so much stuff that we cannot attend to what is important.  We cannot enjoy a true day of nothing, but instead call hiding from our obligations our escape. 

We overfill our calender in order to Avoid responsibility.  We make more work for ourselves than necessary;then berate ourselves for failure.  Then we continue the cycle.

But what if we decided to use Lazy Day as an inspiration.  We could declare that our lives from this point forward will be lived.  We will investigate ways to make our days productive, rather than redundant.  We’ll face our mounting debt and come up with a plan of escape.  

We’ll tackle the unused boxes clogging our garages, attics, and sheds.  Cathartically purging the excess.  

We will make our lives a product of our design rather than hold the scraps in our hands with no purpose.

Once we learn how to live a life that is full of purpose, and direction; we can learn the art of embracing the right kinds of Lazy Days.  We can practice relaxation and self care in its true form rather than settle for a day lounging in our PJs, avoiding our own life. That’s not being lazy; it’s being irresponsible.  

Let’s take responsibility for our lives, our dreams, and our goals.  Once we begin living our lives completely, we can enjoy a Lazy Day the way it is intended to be enjoyed…Fully.