Friday, December 28, 2007

Why Winter is a Good Time to Slow Down.

Blue in Yellow by tlindenbaum

Well Christmas is over, with all of its lights, fanfare and celebration. One last party to go on New Year’s Eve. Then it’s back to the daily grind and our normal routine. It’s a great time to slow down your hectic pace and take some time for yourself. Winter is the ideal time of year to reflect on our current path. With the early nights, cloudy weather and chill in the air, it’s a perfect opportunity to relax in the warmth and security of your home while you evaluate your life.

Use this extra time indoors to do more inner reflection. Start a new activity like journaling, meditation, Yoga, or another stress-relieving activity. Eliminate any unnecessary commitments and take a “winter break.” Start slowly if you need to, by simply scheduling in a 2-hour weekly vacation. Take the time to do something just for you. Visit the local park for a quiet walk, read a leisurely book, or take a nap.

Slowing down from your busy life works best when you do it daily. Give yourself 15 minutes of quiet every day - even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom to get it! Time alone is especially important for anyone who is overworked. You need that time to slow down your heartbeat and breathing, and calm your racing thoughts. Most people start to realize what an energy boost it is to do nothing for just 15 minutes a day. Those short few minutes help you feel rested and invigorated.

From there you can start looking for additional ways to add more downtime to your day. Look for opportunities when you’re restless. That’s a good sign you’d rather be doing something else. Delegate more chores to the kids, leave your work at the office, and cut down your Internet time. Freeing up even a half-hour a day can result in fantastic changes in your life.

With that half-hour you can simply relax. Listen to some soothing music, read a self-help book, take a short walk, learn acupressure for those headache hotspots, or simply write out a plan to tackle those tasks you’ve been putting off. Use the extra time to focus on yourself, to get organized and reconnect with your spirit. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Funny videos.

For anyone who is stressed out from the holiday hoopla, or if you just want a break and a good laugh, here are some great videos brought to my attention friends and family alike. Enjoy!

White Men Can Dance – watch this and see one do amazing moves!

Japanese Illusionist. Watch this guy from Japan do some really cool tricks.

Baby Giving the “Evil Eye” – too funny!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Adventures in extreme braking; holiday travel fun.

Tow Truck by DavidDennis

Since I’m lucky enough to be at home and not traveling for the holidays I thought I’d share a few tips to prevent road rage and crankiness for those of you stuck on the roadways this holiday season:

  1. Give yourself extra time. This one eludes many people, but is so effective it needs to be first in line. When you give yourself that extra 15 minutes to get started, you can take the time you need to gas up, stop at the bank and get on the road by your original time. You’ll start your drive on a positive note and feel more relaxed.
  2. Bring easy-to-eat snacks. When you’re on the road and trying to make good time to your destination you don’t want to stop and wander around a convenience store looking for something to eat. Plan ahead to bring things that aren’t too messy and are easy to hold. Maybe some apples, a banana, granola bars, etc. . . Don’t get chips, trail mix or peanuts that are easily dropped and hard to clean up.
  3. Bring music or audio books to listen to. Music you enjoy, a good CD of your favorite comedian, or an audio version of a book you’ve been wanting to read will make the miles fly by much quicker, and you’ll be less tempted to glance at the movie your spouse or children are watching.
  4. Drive during your peak time. Some people are naturally awake during the morning, others late in the evening. Pick the time that you feel most energized and awake to do the bulk of your driving. You’ll be more alert and focused and not as easily irritated by problems.
  5. Signal your intentions. With so many people on the road, be sure to use your turn signals, brakes, headlights and if necessary your horn. Too many people simply slide in and out of lanes without using their blinkers. If it’s raining, use your headlights so people know where you are in the dim light. You’ll be safer and so will everyone else on the road.
  6. Enjoy the journey. If you like quiet time to think while you drive be sure to supply everyone with their own set of headphones. They can use them to watch movies, listen to music or play games. It will keep them occupied and keep the noise level down. If you’d rather have an interactive trip, plan a few car games, or just spend the time catching up with each other. Plan the ride to suit your particular style and you’ll arrive in a positive frame of mind.
  7. Take stretch breaks. Many people often underestimate the re-energizing quality of a quick break. When you get gas, stop for food or a rest stop, don’t forget to stretch and take a few deep breaths. Even on the best drive tension builds up. Just moving around and working the kinks out can help you wake up and feel more comfortable on your drive.

Of course the best thing to bring on your trip is a healthy sense of humor. Problems will arise as they often do in the midst of hectic holiday travels. The most effective remedy is the ability to laugh off the quirks, slip-ups and malfunctions that inevitably occur in heavy traffic. Take it easy, plan ahead and you’ll arrive with your body and mind in good health. Drive safely everyone!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Car That Hated Vanilla Ice Cream.

Here’s an interesting article I found on the web that gives a wonderful example of how open-minded and creative thinking can help you find solutions in even the most bizarre situations. This is a brilliant example for customer service reps that shows how even when a customer makes an outrageous complaint there may be a grain of truth in it.

The great part is that although it took logical and rational thinking to solve the problem, it also took a willingness to suspend disbelief to find the truth of the situation.

This is a real story that happened between the customer of General Motors and its Customer-Care Executive. Please read on…..

A complaint was received by the Pontiac Division of General Motors:

‘This is the second time I have written to you, and I don’t blame you for not answering me, because I sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of Ice-Cream for dessert after dinner each night, but the kind of ice cream varies so, every night, after we’ve eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. It’s also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my trips to the store have created a problem….

You see, every time I buy a vanilla ice-cream, when I start back from the store my car won’t start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I’m serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds “What is there about a Pontiac that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?” The Pontiac President was understandably skeptical about the letter, but sent an Engineer to check it out anyway.

The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful, obviously well educated man in a fine neighborhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It was vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car, it wouldn’t start.

The Engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, they got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.

Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: He jotted down all sorts of data: time of day, type of gas uses, time to drive back and forth etc.

In a short time, he had a clue: the man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavor. Why? The answer was in the layout of the store. Vanilla, being the most popular flavor, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pickup. All the other flavors were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer to check out the flavor.

Now, the question for the Engineer was why the car wouldn’t start when it took less time. Eureka - Time was now the problem - not the vanilla ice cream!!!! The engineer quickly came up with the answer: “vapor lock”.

It was happening every night; but the extra time taken to get the other flavors allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapor lock to dissipate.

What a gift flexible thinking and an open mind can be! Next time you have a problem that seems to have no solution, remember this story and look at it again. There’s an answer there somewhere, if you know how to look.

To help you creatively solve your problems read the wonderful book “A Whack on the Side of the Head,” by Roger von Oech, and check out his web site here. This book made a huge difference in my thinking, and its 25th anniversary edition is coming out in May 2008. I’d also like to thank Naveen’s Journal where this great article originated.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fun Christmas Videos!

Here are some funny Christmas videos. Hope they add a little fun and cheer to your day!

Batman– Twas the Dark Knight Before Christmas

Santa and His Reindeer sing “White Christmas”

Charlie Brown Christmas Song

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A happy person’s guide to conflict resolution.

AAAaaahhhh!!! by
Beard Papa

All of us have times when we need to resolve a conflict with another person. Whether at work or at home, they are times when we find it hard to be rational about our problems. Perhaps we can’t admit our fault, or we are blind to good qualities in the other person. Maybe they just rub us the wrong way or push our hot-buttons.

Whatever the reason, we all find ourselves in need of tools to come to a fair and equal solution to a quarrel or problem. The best way to do this is rationally, thoughtfully, with a positive attitude. So here are a few tips to get you started on cooperative problem-solving:

  1. Take a deep breath and smile. Start your interaction off on the right foot. Let the past stay in the past and imagine today going smoothly as you both work together to achieve your goals.
  2. Look for mutual interests. Search for the areas where you both agree. Once you know where you’re both on the same page, you can consider how to reach a compromise on the other issues.
  3. Take a humor break. If you are in a conflict that grows heated, or you are at opposite sides of the field, take a short break to calm yourself and relax. Problems are resolved more easily when people are open to listening. Try asking them their favorite funny commercial or their ideal pet. Anything to diffuse the tension and relieve stress.
  4. Improve your listening skills. Listen to the opposition’s argument as if you have to win a debate from their side. Focus your attention to find the valid points in their concerns. This will help you find common ground and work together more easily.
  5. Ask questions. Clarify the positions of others. Ask them, “What do you see as the biggest difference in our positions?” Or “How do you think we can fix this problem?” Asking specific questions on topics that are unclear to avoid confusion.
  6. List several possible solutions. Choosing more than one solution leaves room for cooperation and flexibility. It also suggests that more than one person can be right. Work on the one you both like, perhaps with pieces of the remaining solutions to improve it.
  7. Outline your key points. Whether you are dealing with a problem at work or at home, preparing an outline helps to gather your thoughts and keep you focused on the topic of debate. Your key points will keep the conversation on track and keep confusion and misunderstanding to a minimum.

Mutual, respectful problem solving doesn’t happen overnight. You have to work at it and practice. Bringing a positive attitude and an open mind is the best starting point to having constructive, honest and open communication.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Link Love

Here is a list of recent blog carnivals I’ve posted to. They are very good and full of interesting articles. Check them out for yourself.

Carnival of Inspiration and Motivation at Positive and Successful Life Style tips.

Carnival of Observations on Life by Anja Merret.

Doing it Differently at Today is That Day.

All Women Blogging Carnival at All For Women

Canine Carnival at Pamibe.

Monday, December 10, 2007

8 Ways to Deal with Negative People.

All of us deal with negative people at one time or another. They come in many different varieties; the constant complainer, the whiner, the loud-mouth, the rude jerk and the boaster among others. In some cases we may have to deal with it to the best of our ability. At work it may be our boss, at home it could be our spouse, or even our mother. But there are ways to lessen the impact these people have on our mood.

Because negative people are always around, it is important to have strategies to deal with the behavior that affects you most. We all have different hot-button issues, and knowing what yours are and how to deal with them can help you more confidently and effectively interact with the negative people in your life.

Here are a few strategies:

  1. Evaluate their worth. Note whether you are dealing with this person because you choose to or because you are required to. Even if they are a relative, you don’t put up with inappropriate behavior. You may choose to limit your time with them, talk to them on the phone versus in person, or communicate by email and greeting cards. If you decide the relationship is totally one-sided and unhealthy, you may even choose to end it.
  2. Change your tactics. Try to change up your own behavior when working with negative people. If anger doesn’t work with a complainer, try indifference or a smile instead. If patient listening doesn’t work, interrupt them with a shift in subject or leave the room. Be flexible and open to new techniques.
  3. Reward yourself. If you deal with negative people mostly in your job, perhaps you can reward yourself with something on those really tough days. It could be stopping by the park on the way home, your favorite comedy movie, or a hot bath with no interruptions. Make a list of your favorites activities and keep a “stress kit” ready when the complaints don’t stop.
  4. Pretend they are dying. Sometimes when people are frequently negative and complaining, we start to tune them out. Then when they have something useful and positive to contribute, we overlook it, making them feel ignored and adding to their victim-hood. Today pretend they only have a little longer to live. What things do they like? What good ideas do they have? Take a minute to find their worth.
  5. Praise them often. Many negative people are crying out for help. They are insecure, lonely, and lack confidence in themselves. Make a point of noticing when they do a good job. Compliment their cooking, praise their report, or commend their meeting notes for their attention to detail. Let them feel appreciated and valued.
  6. Excuse yourself for an errand. Some people get so caught up in their criticisms and complaints; they don’t realize how long they’ve been rambling. Take the initiative. Have a ready-made list of office activities like copying, or home chores like the dishes as a ready-made excuse. When the complaining has gone on long enough, simply excuse yourself to do your work. It gives you both a break when you need it most.
  7. Enjoy the lesson. Although this is a hard one, it can be very enlightening. When you have a very negative person around you, see if you can see what you are doing to attract their energy. Are you complaining too often? Do you correct other people’s mistakes? Are you overworked and acting tired and cranky? If you can see you own “bad habits,” or problems you are on your way to solving them. Mentally thank the person for the lesson and let them go. (By the way, I have actually done this a time or two and the irritating presence left after I figured it out. It does work.)
  8. Ask them to come back with some solutions. Catch the complainer or criticizer off guard by asking for their feedback. Say, “Hmm, you may be right. Can you think about this and bring me back some solutions to this problem?” No matter what happens you’ve made them think, stopped the attack and bought yourself some peace.

There’s no “cure” for negative people, but there are ways to lessen their impact on you. Focus your attention on the positive. Make sure you have at least as many positive influences as negative. If you don’t have friends or family that can help, look to self-help books, counselors, mentors or coaches.

Train yourself to notice the good news in the local paper, or the heroes in the reports of tragedies on the TV news. Stop your own negative thoughts and words whenever you become aware of them. Look at these annoyances as a chance to improve your own behavior so you don’t add to the problem. Do your best not to let a bad attitude bring you down and you’ll have won half the battle.

Here are two more useful links:

How to Deal With Negative People

How to Help Negative People – Steve Pavlina

Friday, December 7, 2007

Good News is Always Welcome.

Freddy’s Happy by Rob Lee

The everyday world sometimes seems cold and unfriendly. Newspapers and TV are full of information on murders, fires, car accidents and more. As you listen to the statistics of crime and see the images of men and women beaten and attacked in their homes, you begin to feel grouchy and irritable. “The world’s a mess,” you say. Suddenly you find yourself feeling inexplicably depressed for no understandable reason.

There is hope. You need a good old fashioned dose of positive thinking and optimism. Good news is out there. You can scan newspaper articles and find heroic 8-year-olds whose phone call to 911 saved their mother’s life. You can watch TV and find Holmes on Homes, where Mike Holmes fixes the construction, plumbing and electrical mistakes that others have made. You can find the good out there if you just make the time to look.

Putting in that extra effort is worth it. As you start to notice the good people and organizations that are dedicated to helping others, your day will brighten and your cynicism will fade away. You’ll recognize the goodness in mankind is out there, it’s just being ignored. You’ll read about people who promote random acts of kindness, whether it’s something as simple as smiling at a over-worked mom, or purchasing a meal for the person behind you at your favorite fast food restaurant. As you read about the kindness people share with each other, the beautiful generosity of the human spirit, you’ll be moved and inspired to share the joy.

You’re outlook will brighten through the uplifting stories of hope and selflessness. After book marking a few “Good News Only” web sites, you notice you’re view beginning to change. You’ll feel more comfortable around strangers, and find yourself singing as you work. This more balanced perspective will help you find life more of a joy, and help you not to lose hope in the future. People around the world are working hard to make a positive difference. The world is a good place to be.

There are people working to help the poor, improve the environment and give back to their communities. Read the story of Dave, who studied the “natural recovery from MS,” program and went from wheelchair to bicycle in less than 3 years. Or watch the You Tube video about Hybrid Solar Lighting that was shown on Discovery channel. See the miraculous rescue and inter-species hero when a dolphin saves a surfer from a shark attack.

Share your own good news stories with friends and families. Change your own focus to the positive and uplifting and watch as your perspective and view of the world shift to a more upbeat outlook.

To help you get your search started, here are a few of my favorite good news and happiness sites:

Good News Network

Happy News

Happiness at Work – The Chief Happiness Officer

The Positivity Blog

Free Hugs Campaign

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Snow Day – Time to Play!

Well, we’ve been snowed in pretty good here in West Virginia, and there’s more on the way. I have to admit, my first thoughts when seeing all that beautiful white snow was “Let’s go play!” We took a walk this morning through the pristine whiteness. It snowed 4-5 inches in 5-6 hours. It was literally a winter wonderland. Everywhere snow lay like vanilla frosting, covering up the bare tree limbs and dull brown grass with beautiful fluffy white.

I have great childhood memories of snow. I remember how puzzled I was the one year a blizzard came through. While my parents complained of being “stuck at home,” because of snow piled against the door, my brother and I tunneled our way out. I think we were out of school for 3-4 days. The whole block came out to play. We made snow forts, tunnels, had snowball fights, made snowmen and snow angels. It was a blast!

Here are a few pictures I took on my morning walk:

Here’s the road to get off the mountain.

Here’s a view down the hill – want to go sledding?

This was the morning blizzard!

Me and the dogs having fun in the snow.

I did find a little downside to all the fun. My poor little dog had the snow stick to her warm fur. It began piling up more and more as she walked. Check out this photo snapped at the end of the walk. We had to give her a warm soaking to melt all the snow off of her. Too funny!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Help Me – I Can’t Meditate!

Meditation Retreat by The Philosophy of Photography

Many people I speak to about the serenity and calming effect of meditation tell me that they can’t sit still, or that it doesn’t work for them. They are not alone. While some of us find meditation easier than others, it’s a skill almost anyone can learn. Meditation is less complicated than you think; it is simply the calming of your thoughts, deep, relaxing breathing and relief from daily stress.

Don’t think that just because certain thoughts keep returning or you feel fidgety that you’re not good at meditation. That happens to everyone! It takes practice and a little patience, but the results are worth it. When I first started I struggled with the same problems as everyone else. The intention is to keep your mind focused on one thing and to gently let go of the overwhelming amount of thoughts that swirl through your head. Think of it as a mini mind-vacation. Here are a few of the techniques I use to help me focus my attention:

  1. Counting backwards. This technique is highly effective for focusing your attention. Whenever you lose your place, simply start over again. Even if you don’t make it from 100 to 0, you will still feel a calming of the mind and body. Picture a neon sign with numbers counting down. Take deep breathes that raise your belly and exhale slowly. This technique can be done any time.
  2. Tense and relax. When your muscles are tight and stiff, this will help them un-knot and loosen up. Take a few deep breaths to relax the body. Now tighten your left leg muscles for a count of five, then release. Do the same with the right leg, then both together. Progress up the body, making sure to tighten and release shoulder and neck muscles, as well as your face. Your body will feel softer, warmer and less sore. If you’re really tense try repeating the exercise twice. You’ll notice yourself really picking up on places of discomfort and pain and breathing more deeply as well.
  3. Listen to music. Music helps to block out the ordinary house noises that take your concentration away from your meditation. You won’t hear the dog barking, the car next door, the hum of the refrigerator or other annoying intrusions. Music style varies by person. I suggest instrumental, Native American or African drumming, Tibetan bells and gongs or even nature sounds like ocean surf or birds singing. Allow yourself to follow the melody into a different world, where you can escape the demands of your day.
  4. Guided meditation. This is one of my favorites. Unlike music alone, guided meditation will give you step by step guidance, reminding you to breathe deeply and relax each muscle in your body. The soft music lulls you into a calmer state while your mind follows on each exercise to rid your body of stress. Because your mind is creating a picture based on the spoken words, I find this a highly effective method for those new to meditation.
  5. If you fall asleep, it means you needed it. Many people believe that if they fall asleep during meditation it means they’ve failed. Trust me, it will happen to you. When I began meditating I would lay down with my headphones on, and promptly fall asleep 10 minutes later. I usually slept anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. It is simply your body’s response to releasing all that tension. As you practice you will stay awake more often. (Also, sitting up during meditation does help with this somewhat.)

Remember that even small bits of meditation, say five or ten minutes can make a big difference if done on a daily basis. Don’t believe that you can successfully stay in a “perfect, peaceful state,” without lots of practice. After years of hectic rushing, the mind is not used to the slowness of this exercise. Give yourself time.

Recognize that interruptions will happen, and be patient with it. Trying for two short 10-minute meditations may be more realistic for you. Don’t feel you have to sit for an hour at a time. This is simply time for you to collect yourself and unwind. Don’t pressure yourself with expectations, other than this is your time to have a break. Enjoy the peace!

Here are few web sites that have helpful instructions for a beginner:

Beginning Meditation – A Zen Primer.

Beginning Meditation Podcasts.

Getting Started With Meditation (what to expect).

The Basics of Buddhist Meditation.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Split personality – work hard or do nothing?

I’m sure many of you suffer from this same condition. For fans of the movie Office Space, you know the pure enjoyment that comes from doing nothing. It’s almost like there are two separate people vying for control. One wants to learn new skills, earn money, and test their abilities. The other says that life is right here, right now, you just have to slow down to enjoy it.

So what is the right answer? Do I work hard to get ahead while doing my best to enjoy that journey? Or do I relax, let go, and experience the world in the now; alive, vibrant and infinitely interesting? Both options intrigue me, excite me and fill me with energy. Both help me explore the world, learn and grow, and get in touch with life around me.

Right now I seem to be stuck in the middle. I get excited about an idea or project, but after the initial excitement the energy starts to run out. I hit a roadblock or two, my determination falters and I slow down. In that slower state I notice the sunlight filtering through the green leaves of the trees, and the birds singing and think “Ahhh, this is the life.” My work comes to a stumbling halt.

Both types of being have their advantages, but how does one bring balance so these opposing forces work harmoniously together? How do we find that delicate equilibrium that allows us to honor both sides of ourselves without sidetracking our plans and goals?

For myself I find that it usually helps to follow my own moods and emotions. If I’m tired, rest – for an hour, a day or even a week. If I don’t pick it back up then it’s probably not for me anyway. Also, a good balance of rest and work helps. By not overdoing either one, you get more benefits from both.

This past year as I’ve been out of work it was a real eye-opener to discover how much I actually crave the demands of work and everyday interaction with people. I even recognized how being around people who annoy and irritate you on a daily basis can give you great insight for dealing with similar problems at home.

At the same time I absolutely LOVE the quiet and solitude of the mountains. I am captivated by the stars so vast and distant and so plentiful. It fuels the imagination to imagine other planets, solar systems and galaxies and the type of life that may have formed there. I am enchanted by the vibrant green blades of grass and myriad array of insects; from ladybugs and butterflies to bumblebees and beetles.

How do you balance these two sides of yourself? What strategies do you use and how well do they work for you? I look forward to hearing your comments.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Harry Potter School is Cool!

I love to see innovation and creativity, especially for children. Thanks to the Good News Network, I recently came across a story of a school in Nottinghamshire, England that used the power of magic to interest children in learning. A school in the bottom-ranking has used themes to help teach children in every subject. Previous themes include Titanic, Africa and Princes and Princesses.

By implementing the new Harry Potter theme into art, history, geography, English and math children are stimulated by subjects that previously were dull and boring. As a result grades have improved as well as student behavior. I hope this inventive atmosphere will catch on and inspire more schools to adopt a more playful and flexible teaching style. To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fun Christmas Videos.

Yes, I know it’s not even December yet. I just can’t help myself. I love Christmas, the glitter, the music, the singing and fun. This year Thanksgiving was an entire week before December, and I’ve already seen two Christmas specials. The stores are stocked with merry little twinkling lights and I’ve even had snow flurries – it just feels Christmasy out there.

Check out my other article A Guide to Christmas Specials, so you don’t miss your favorite shows. They even have a list for the food shows and decorating gurus. You’ll be feeling warm and fuzzy in no time at all.

Now here are a few little fun videos to put a little twinkle in your eye. Enjoy!

Christmas Lights:

Creature Comforts – Merry Christmas:

12 Days of Christmas Animated:

Monday, November 26, 2007

12 tips to stay in touch with friends and family.

My grandfather, the cowboy by KateMonkey

During the holidays I always think of friends and family that are far away. It brings to mind the miles between us and the lack of time we have to keep each other abreast of what is going on in our lives. This year I am making a list to stay in touch and better connected to those I love. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Email. Don’t just forward a funny email or joke. Although these are great, a short, typed note about what is going on in your life will have much more impact and generally result in a better response.
  2. Greeting card. These are fun to send for no reason at all. Send them on the more unusual holidays like 4th of July, Halloween, or National Friendship Week. Everyone likes cheerful greetings instead of another dreaded bill.
  3. Telephone. Use your time wisely. The cell phone is available all the time. Try to call one far-away family member or friend each month. Rotate as needed. Or set aside one night a week to make as many calls as you can in an hour. Even a 15 minute chat is fun. Don’t put it off.
  4. Time differences. Many of us have family around the country or around the world. Take a minute and set up your own personal World Clock. This will let you add areas where family members live and you can easily check the time with a mouse click. Definitely makes keeping in touch easier.
  5. Pictures. If you have children or get yearly family photos, don’t forget to send them to everyone. Many times people will not ask for the pictures because they think you don’t have enough to go around. If you have leftovers, make a list of people you think would enjoy them. It’s always fun to watch families grow.
  6. Digital cameras. If you take lots of pictures at home, on the road, or of the kids; share them with friends and family. Email your favorite five, or send Grandma pictures of the kids opening her presents. It gives a bigger impression than just words and makes people feel like they were there.
  7. Cartoons and jokes. Everyone likes something that makes them laugh. If you see a cartoon or joke that makes you think of a particular family member or friend, cut it out and send it to them. Keep a manila envelope to store them until you’re ready to send. It’s a great way to let someone know you’re thinking of them.
  8. Movies. Do you know a mom who is too busy to find the time to shop for herself? Do you know a friend who loves horror movies or comedies? Purchase a movie and surprise them by mail. Or send them a home movie of the family saying hello. You can easily make copies for everyone.
  9. Calendars. Make sure you have a nice big calendar where you can see it every day. Write down a month or two ahead of time when to call someone, or a birthday reminder. Use your computer to remind you too. Take one day a month to write down your “person of the month” so you don’t forget.
  10. Newsletter. Involve the whole family and write your own monthly or bi-monthly newsletter. It will help you communicate the most important events, and friends and family alike will enjoy it. There are great templates available, just write and go.
  11. Flowers. Send a bouquet for a special occasion. They make a great Christmas gift, for birthdays, Mother’s Day and more. Try for a great fresh floral arrangement you buy online. Flowers definitely say I love you.
  12. Flash drive fun. If you’re family or friends are more computer inclined, send a flash drive full of information. You can add your favorite pictures, jokes, letters and more. Let one person keep it for a month, then send it back.

The great thing is the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Take a short movie of your snow day up north and send it to your friends in the south. Use a tape recorder to put your voice to tape and sing them a birthday song. Bring along a picture of your mom when you vacation and take a picture of you holding her picture to let her know you wish she was there. Be creative, be inventive. Above all, have fun.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Family fun and holiday tips.

Hello again everyone! I’m happy to say that though I missed writing my articles and hearing from all of you, I had a fantastic holiday week. I was lucky enough to be visited by some family members, some I hadn’t seen in a very long time and we had a blast! Talk about the brighter side of life. I love family reunions, even the small ones, and it’s so fun to have all those different personalities bumping around together. It makes some real laugh-out-loud moments.

I hope that all of you had just as much fun with your families. Since I write about fun, joy and adventure, I just couldn’t bring myself away from the excitement long enough to write more posts this past week. I did try. I sat down at the computer a few times and tried to come up with something, anything, to write about, but my mind was a blank. It just kept flashing the faces of everyone through my mind, and after a half hour or so, I decided to let it slide for the week and just enjoy myself.

One of the things I noticed most was how a little shake-up of your every day routine is good for you. Having a different change of pace either makes you appreciate your every day schedule or causes you to realize you should change it. Also, with so many people around you invariably learn new things. I got cooking tips, new recipe ideas, and enjoyed the Wii game system for the first time.

To make the most of your next holiday gathering here are a few more tips:

  1. If a particular person is rubbing you the wrong way, politely step away and find someone new. Usually you can find someone to laugh with or talk to. Once you’ve cooled off the annoying person won’t seem so bad anymore.
  2. Take pictures, or assign someone to do so. My one regret this time around was that we didn’t take enough pictures and everyone is already gone. Some people had problems with their camera or just forgot them, so planning ahead will really help. Pick a time and place and even name someone “holiday photographer extraordinaire” for great memories.
  3. Have everyone pitch in. Let each person bring a dish or two so one person doesn’t do all the cooking. Have different people set-up the table, wash the dishes, put away leftovers and clean up. These dreaded chores are much more fun with more than one person helping.
  4. Mingle more. If you can, having different areas set up for talking, watching TV and something for the kids. People tend to move around more to check on each area and it keeps conversation and interest going as people come and go.
  5. Take breaks. Sometimes you get caught up in the rushing and running around. Take breaks in the morning, afternoon or evening – whenever you can get away. Even 15 minutes that are chaos-free can help you recharge. When you feel refreshed you can enjoy all the noise and commotion more easily.

I hope you all had a great time too. I’d love to hear about the ups and downs you had as well as your own tips for a smooth and enjoyable holiday. I sometimes think of Thanksgiving Day as the initial warm-up. I’m already looking forward to Christmas. Happy holidays everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

We all make mistakes, and lots of them.

Always check your work by Don Nunn

This is a truth I sometimes tend to forget. Whether because I want to be as poised and confident as my friend, or as knowledgeable and brainy as a coworker. Most of us are not born as geniuses, and we have to work hard to get ahead in life. In the process, we’re going to make mistakes.

Even now, with all I know about life, I am still afraid of looking stupid in front of someone else. I guess it’s that natural tendency to criticize ourselves more than others. We can easily laugh off the goof-ups or errors of someone else, but we re-live our own blunders over and over.

It’s important for us to remember that mistakes are part of the growing process. We learn something new from every mistake we make. We stretch our limits; learn what works and what doesn’t. I remember learning to ride a two-wheel bike for the first time. I vividly recall the scrapes and bruises I got. But because I wanted that freedom so badly, I kept going. Then when I finally became great at it, I tempted fate. I rode a bike race with one of my friends and we crashed. (Big surprise right?) I ended up in the hospital that day, but that didn’t keep me off of my bike.

As an adult many of us don’t receive the support we need when learning new things. Somewhere along the way from childhood to adulthood many of us learn that we have to be the best at all costs. The next time you are trying to learn something new and messing it up, remember the bike. If it’s something you really want to do, then keep going until you get it right – the effort will be worth it!

Another important truth to remember, is that many wonderful inventions resulted purely by accident. Where one invention fails, another is born. What a wonderful idea! Now we can be the Pee-Wee Herman’s of the world and say “I meant to do that.” Call it experimentation and exploration if you want. That’s how most of us learn best. Don’t pressure yourself to get it right the first time. Let everyone know you’re searching for a better way to do things. Who knows, you just might find it.

Above all, don’t let mistakes, blunders, or slip-ups keep you from reaching your goals. Next time you mess up look around for the nearest baby. Babies learning to walk have almost as much fun falling, as they do crawling. I’ve seen many babies that would laugh like crazy when they fell on their butt, and then they’d just get back up and try again. Have fun with your screw-ups and laugh them off. You’ll feel better, and probably learn more along the way.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Let out your inner peacock.

El Macho Uploaded on March 12, 2007 by ellhoisa

When I look around at nature, I see so many beautiful sights. The silver drops of rain glistening like diamonds in the sun, the emerald green grass, and the elegant white swan. I’m captivated by the songbirds who sing such beautiful songs, enchanted by the bumbling flight of the butterfly amazed at the magnificent colors of the Peacock.

Nature abounds with beauty, grace and wonder. I think all of us have the same qualities within all of us. We only need to look inside and find what makes us light up with excitement. Can we cook? Do we sing? Are we skilled with a saw and hammer? You don’t even need to quit your day job (though many of us would like to,) in order to share your happiness with others.

Print and frame family photos for a family member who doesn’t have the skill. Use your computer to make personalized greeting cards. Install a light and paint the living room for your mother. Find the skills and abilities you enjoy and use them to make memories with families or friends.

Or volunteer and share your talents with those who need it. Be a mentor for a child, read to the elderly or cook at a soup kitchen. Teach the local shelter dogs some manners, or offer to spice up the web site of your favorite charity. We all have gifts that make us smile and strut, that leave us full of happiness and satisfaction. Find that gift or ability that makes your heart happy and bring a smile to your face.

Though we sometimes forget, we are as much a part of nature as the glamorous orange and black tiger. Some of us shine brightly like a brilliant yellow rose; others are sturdy and strong as a majestic mountain. All the variety and splendor of nature resides in each and every human being.

Look inside and find the deepest and best expression of yourself and share it with everyone around you. Not only will you find joy and fulfillment in connecting to your inner self, your happiness will flow and touch others, expanding the bliss to even more people. What could be better? And to think this entire subject started with a glance at a beautiful little peacock.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In honor of World Kindness Week.

Condesa Sastago PSE Uploaded on March 22, 2007 by KaCey97007

Ever since the first time I found out there where entire web sites dedicated entirely to kindness, I’ve been entranced by them. For myself, even though I want to live a more generous, giving and kind-hearted lifestyle I often find myself lost as to where to start. Usually I start at home, giving an extra long hug, doing a chore someone else dislikes, or just sharing a smile and a compliment.

But when you want to take your kindness a step further where do you look for ideas? Time after time I turn back to the same web sites again and again. There are kindness newsletters, kindness calendars, kindness bookmarks and more. The best part is the stories that are shared. Some are everyday, ordinary kindness like holding a door open or baking cookies for work. Others are big, broad-minded, school-wide, city-wide, state-wide and even world-wide projects.

These ideas inspire me and help me think beyond my usual limits. It reminds me of the basic goodness inside each person and focuses my attention on the good deeds being down around the world by wonderful people. Kindness makes me feel good and connected to a community of people taking small steps to make the world a more beautiful place.

Here are just a few tips I’ve picked up from various sites. Try a few today and feel the joy a good deed gives you. Don’t be surprised if you become addicted to being a do-gooder.

  1. Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you.
  2. Donate unwanted items to a nearby shelter.
  3. Take a friend to the movies.
  4. Leave a book at a café, bus stop or airport lounge.
  5. Buy flowers for your mom.
  6. Give your seat to an elderly person.
  7. Say hello to someone new today.
  8. Tell a friend what makes them great.
  9. Say I love you to a family member.
  10. Be a “secret Santa” for a needy family.
  11. Clip positive news stories and make an album to leave in your doctor’s office.
  12. Do some fundraising to help cure juvenile diabetes.
  13. Read to the elderly in a nursing home.
  14. Clip your favorite cartoons and share them with a niece or nephew.
  15. Give a free hug to anyone who wants one.

I’d like to give a hearty “THANK YOU!” to all my readers, old and new. I’ve truly enjoyed sharing my thoughts and ideas with you. It is truly a blessing to exchange ideas, share good news, positive thoughts and fun and laughter with all of you. Thanks for taking the time to visit. I hope you’ll come back again!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Proof that age is all in your head.

My dog Precious is now 15 years old and getting older every day. Being a gray and white dog you can’t see the age on her muzzle, so her years don’t always show. However, she doesn’t hear like she used to and her joints pain her a bit, making her move slowly and walk stiffly.

Her hearing is the worst problem. She can’t hear low-pitched words like regular conversation or even yelling. She can still hear me whistle – but only if she’s paying attention. When her mind is on a scent or something intrigues her, she doesn’t notice me at all. We live in the country so this usually isn’t a problem. However the few people that drive by often do so at high speeds. Since Precious can’t hear them coming, she doesn’t know to get out of the way. I really have to keep an eye on her these days.

So here’s the interesting part. Though she moves slow and can’t hear, she has more energy than ever! I believe it’s because she saves it all up for one quick burst. She’ll sleep for hours a day, then when I go outside she’ll run around in circles and jump up and down like a new puppy! Just the other day she turned and ran down the driveway so fast it was a blur!

And don’t let those slow movements and supposed frailty fool you either. If you have a piece of chicken or cheese she can snap awake out of a deep sleep and be by your side in a heartbeat. Her nose still works perfectly fine of course. She also invariably knows when it’s time for a walk, even though the only noise is me getting the leash. And no matter how stiffly she moves in the house, once she’s out on that walk her body springs to life and she prances and dances all around, ears up and tail wagging.

That’s how I know age is all in your head. When Precious is home and sitting around with us, she’s bored. But take her for a car ride, a walk, or any of her other favorite activities and she comes alive. To me, this just proves how important it is to know what makes you happy and what activities you enjoy - - you’ll need a list to give the old folks home later so you too can feel young again too, at least from time to time. :0)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What I learned from Negative Nelly.

Grumpy Bear Uploaded on January 23, 2007 by ckirkman

I have only one day left to answer the challenge from Middle Zone Musings. What have I learned from. . .anything at all? The first thing that pops into my head is all the negative people in my life, many of whom I refer to in my mind as “negative Nelly.” Over the years these people have taught me the importance of having fun, enjoying life and taking chances.

My first thought when I’m confronted by a negative, pessimistic, cynical person is to try to change them. I admit I generally still try. I try to cheer them up, find out their interests and likes; see if I can discover the passion in them. Sometimes it works and they “wake up.” Sometimes they look at me as if I’ve grown a second head.

My second thought is still “What is wrong with these people? Why can’t they enjoy the positive things in their lives and not dwell on the negative?” And my third thought is “Why do these people keep popping up in my life?”

After about 5 years of this, I’ve come to realize the reason I am still coming across so many of these people in my life is because I’m still learning from them. Each time I see a grouchy, grumpy person who looks dull and lifeless, it reminds me to have some fun, do something I enjoy, basically to make sure I don’t turn out the same way!

Sometimes they actually make me laugh out loud. I mean when you see someone so grim and serious, even at an amusement park, a busy restaurant or at the playground, you can’t help but be amused. I think I’ve learned how to be positive and upbeat enough to get these people out of my life for good, but then they just pop up again.

Luckily I can say that I’ve come a long, long way. I bounce back more quickly than I used to. I can find more things to be grateful for in one week of looking than I used to acknowledge in a whole year. I’ve found wonderful people in my personal life and on the Internet that bring joy, peace, laughter, and serenity into my life. Today there are more happy, positive people in my life than ever before.

So if I’m not yet on the verge of being a successful, motivated, happy person able to teach others how to do the same, at least I can enjoy the process and find the upside in looking at so many sourpusses day after day. I can find the light when I’m in the dark, and the sun still shines on the gloomiest day. I’m learning every day, and that’s never a bad thing.

Link love.

Here is a list of recent blog carnivals I’ve posted to. They are very good and full of interesting articles. Check them out for yourself.

These will be coming out this week.
Carnival of Life, Happiness and Meaning at Life Insurance Lowdown
Personal Power at Pinkblocks
Happiness Carnival at Think Happy Thoughts Happiness Blog

Here are last week’s (I was a little late updating).
Engineer your own happiness at The Lemonade Stand
Happiness carnival at Think Happy Thoughts Happiness Blog
Positive thoughts by Chris Stevens

Friday, November 9, 2007

Smile file: Quote fun

Happy animal face Uploaded on January 14, 2007 by Alicia Yeah

Cleverly Disguised As A Responsible Adult.
(T-shirt quote)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Every day perks not to be missed.

Sunshine, lollypops Uploaded on November 7, 2007 by pinkazalea09

As you go through your day, take notice of what is happening. Don’t let opportunities for enjoyment, fun and pleasure pass you by. Be alert and aware of the short-lived joys as they happen. As you add them up you’ll feel happier and find more joy in the little things each day. (This is a great reminder for me as well).

  1. The fresh smell of clean clothes.
  2. A front-row parking space.
  3. A steaming hot shower on a cold morning.
  4. A clean kitchen.
  5. Savoring your favorite meal.
  6. The freedom owning your own car brings.
  7. Learning a new skill.
  8. Laughing so hard your stomach hurts.
  9. A message from a friend.
  10. Good music.
  11. A comfortable pair of tennis shoes.
  12. The smell of fresh-baked cookies.
  13. Making someone smile.
  14. Giving or getting a hug.
  15. The smell of your favorite perfume.
  16. The quiet of the neighborhood early in the morning.
  17. Green lights all the way home from work.
  18. Sunflowers and yellow daisies.
  19. A soft cuddly blanket to snuggle in.
  20. Fuzzy warm socks for your feet.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

10 unusual ways to have fun cleaning.

Picture by holliesanders

Okay we all know that most of us don’t like doing our chores. They are repetitive and boring, there are always other we’d rather be doing. So in an effort to make the drudgery a bit more palatable, here are a few unusual ideas on how to have a little fun while you work.

  1. Dance while you work. Make up your own dance moves in the privacy of your own home. Most of like dancing but we have no time to practice. Warning: This can be highly addictive; don’t be surprised if you find yourself dancing in the stores to the overhead music.
  2. Read. If you never have time to read, try listening to an audio book each night as you make dinner, wash dishes or pick up.
  3. Race yourself. Time yourself to see how fast you can complete your chores. Try to set a goal that’s faster than usual but not so fast you don’t do the job properly. Reward yourself if you can do it faster for a week by purchasing a small gift for yourself.
  4. Talk to friends and family. If you never have time to call people you want to talk to, try to do it while you do your weekly cleaning. Put on the headset that came with your cell phone and get two things done at once.
  5. Watch a movie. Do you have a few favorite movies that you know almost every line word for word? Put one of them on while you exercise or dust. Even if you miss a few moments you’ll know exactly what’s going on.
  6. Make faces at yourself. I’ve done this one as well. Sometimes you just don’t want to do those chores. Maybe you’re tired, or had a frustrating day. Whatever the reason, look in the mirror and make the grumpiest, grouchiest face you can think of. Do this every time you pass a mirror. You’ll find yourself giggling and chuckling at your own silliness and soon your bad mood will be gone.
  7. Pretend. Imagine you are a fairy princess being kept as a slave by an evil sorcerer. You must get everything spotless or he will destroy your family and the man you love. Sure it’s silly, but sometimes a little imagination goes a long way. (You could also imagine the look on your mother-in-law’s face when she can’t find a hair out of place on her next visit.)
  8. Music. Put on some of your favorite CD’s or a favorite radio station. I did this just the other day with my MP3 player and was amazed at how fast I finished everything. I didn’t get to all the songs I wanted to.
  9. Aroma therapy. I have noticed that when I use products with a citrus smell such as orange or lemon I like the smell and enjoy using it more. I used to have a Rainbow vacuum that used water and you could put in different scents to fill the air as you vacuumed. Using more natural products or at least ones that smell good can make your cleaning chore more pleasant.
  10. Bless your things. This is a great gratitude exercise. As you wash your favorite glass, put your favorite sheets on the bed, or mop your new tile floor, notice what you are doing. Give thanks for the wonderful things you have and the beauty and joy they give you daily.

While not every idea will work for every person, I hope this will give you something to work with. If you have an idea you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Be more generous without spending a dime.

Loose change Uploaded on October 30, 2007 by asilva

I have to admit, I don’t think of myself as a generous person. I tend to horde things I love; books, toys, pens, quotes and most of all money. One of my goals is to be more generous and giving. To stop keeping all the cookies and chocolate to myself, but rather to share it with friends and coworkers. To give away books I’m done reading to others who might enjoy them. To return to those kindergarten lessons we learned so long ago: share, be nice, and treat others are you would want to be treated.

While I may not be as generous as I'd like, I try to share my time and skills with others whenever I can. If I can fix a computer problem for someone who is new, or do an errand to help a busy friend, I’m glad to do it. I love to point someone in the direction of a good restaurant, mechanic or store sale whenever I get the chance. Finding that hard-to-get toy for a niece or nephew is an adventure and long lines and busy stores do not deter my determination.

So why do I feel uncharitable and stingy? One reason is reading kindness web sites, biographies of great people, and self-help books. These stories of people who literally give away their last dollar and the shirt off their back fill me with inspiration and hope, but also a vague sense of guilt.

I resolve to make a plan to share my own type of generosity. As I’ve received kindness newsletters and surfed the Internet for ideas, I’ve come across many easy-to-do and cheap projects. One of my favorites was to put all your extra loose change into the candy, toy and gumball machines in a busy Wal-Mart for children to find and use. I remember as a child wanting one of those trinkets with great longing. This is an example of something that is easy to do, fun, and that will make me smile even if I’m not there to see the results.

Start today making your plan to be more generous. Don’t stick to only the conventional examples of giving gifts or money. Generously give the prime front parking space to the elderly person across from you. Donate your time to baby-sit for a busy family, offer to carpool with a coworker who doesn’t like to drive. Let the mother with three children plus a crying baby ahead of you at the checkout line. Join me in redefining what generosity is. Share kindness, share joy. Share a smile and make the world a better place without spending a dime.