2014 in review

December 30, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Thanks everyone who visited in 2014. I’m enjoying writing for you and I hope that you’re enjoying reading what I post.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,900 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

What star are you following?

December 29, 2014

“Even with the best maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.”  (Gail Pool) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Most of us can explain where we’ve been (although there are a few nights from my younger days that are still a mystery to me); however, none of us can really predict or chart our futures. We can have hopes, dreams and plans; but life has a funny way of throwing detours into our plans, some small and some nearly impossible to follow. People who are really able to maintain focus upon their goals deal with the changes in plans that come at them and stay on course. Others look back on their twisted journeys and wonder, “How the hell did I end up here?”  Sometimes those are once successful and maybe even wealthy people who are now homeless or living in shelters.

From ancient times sailors have relied upon the stars to guide their journeys. They learned how to read the skies and find the right stars by which to set their courses. We are currently in the period after Christmas that has traditionally been associated with thestar of bethlehemjourney of the wise men (the Magi), who followed the Star of Bethlehem to visit the new born King of the Jews – Jesus. I have a large, illuminated star of Bethlehem displayed on the second floor of my house and one can see it from a good distance. Even when I stop lighting up the rest of my Christmas display I leave the star lit at night for the two weeks after Christmas. I love seeing it lit up as I’m cresting the hill about a quarter of a mile from my house.

I think one could do worse that to fix that star as a guiding light for life. Even with a strong commitment to goals in life, that start can provide an anchor to insure that you don’t wander too far off course. Perhaps if one had such an anchor in their lives they would stop, look at it, and ask, “What the heck am I doing?”, before they got too far into the weeds. Certainly, if they have wandered off course, that is the best star that one could use as a guide to get your life straight again. There is also a case made by many that we already have the best roadmap book for life in the Bible; and, that is good advice, too. I’m not a literalist when it comes to the Bible, but it can and does provide the best philosophical base that I know of for the decision making processes of life. It’s certainly a better place to turn than asking Siri or Googling for an answer when life throws you a curve ball.

So, the bottom line may be that we can never know exactly where we’ll end up in life, but if you base your life and the decisions that you will have to make on following the right star and reading the right map book, at least you can be sure that you’re going in the right direction. Have a great week ahead and fix your life’s direction on the right star.

Do you see what I see?

December 25, 2014

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  – Henry David Thoreau.

This time of year we hear a Christmas song with the question – Do you see what I see? I think Thoreau really had something in mind like that when he penned the line in today’s quote. One often hears in stories about crimes that police have eye witness reports that are all different, in other words the various people did not all see what the others saw. How can that be? Do you see what I see?

Without getting deeply existential about it, what we “see” when wedigital thinkinglook at something can be completely different than what another witness to the event saw, because we are both seeing it from different, personal perspectives. Perspective, in this case, is not about camera angles and instant replays; it’s really about how our life experiences and knowledge base filters and colors what we observe into what we “see.” That’s what the question is valid – Do you see what I see?

One witness at a shooting sees a man trying to surrender, while another sees the man making an aggressive move. Which is right? Maybe neither, since both are filtered and colored by the background of the observer. There are such great gulfs in cultures that a gesture made in greeting or friendship in one culture may be crowdtaken as threatening or disrespectful in another culture. Cross-cultural differences often result in awkward moments when decisions about whether to shake hands or give a hug are being pondered when someone new enters the room. I’ve experienced that a lot in family gatherings with our in-laws. They are from an eastern European background, where greetings with a hug and kiss are the norm. More than once I’ve been awkwardly expending a hand while they were approaching with open arms for a hug. We eventually get it right and I am more careful to watch now for their signals as to whether this will be a shake for a hug greeting. Do you see what I see?

But culture isn’t the only influence on what we “see” in our day-today living. The experiences that we’ve accumulated during our lives and the knowledge (hopefully wisdom) that we’ve built up also act as filters for what we see, hear and experience as we go along. There are saying about the loss of innocence as we grow up and that loss is because innocence (or ignorance, if you prefer) is supplanted by experience and knowledge. Some of that knowledge is based upon direct experiences, but quite a bit is based upon the experiences or knowledge of others that is passed down to us. Wetededy bears don’t have to experience a mauling by a real, live bear to “know” that the bear in the zoo is not the same cute and cuddly playmate that our first Teddy Bear was. We begin to “see” bears differently and we attach a certain caution about the potential danger when we observe them, especially if we ever saw them in the wild. Do you see what I see?

Unfortunately, not all of the “wisdom” that is passed between generations is good or even valid. We are not born with prejudices against people of certain color or ethnicity. Prejudice is something that we “learn” from the talk and actions of others (usually our parents and friends) and it impacts how we “see” the people that we have been conditioned to see differently. Are there caution flags that pop up in your mind when you see a person of a certain color or race? How did those get there? Do they always prove to be true? If not, of what use are they for you and how do you get rid of them? Do you see what I see?

It can take quite a bit of effort and time to retrain you mind so that it does not immediately attach false warnings or prejudices to the things that you observe – to see them differently.  A cute little article in the paper on Christmas Day focused upon a question from a child about the color of Santa Claus and an explanation santaused years ago on a TV show to explain how Santa can look like whatever he needs to look like to allow the observer to see what they what to see. Calling upon the magic of the season, the explanation given was that, as he came down the chimney into each house, Santa changed in ethnicity and color as was appropriate for that house. All the children just “saw” Santa. In this explanation, Santa was the perfect answer to the question – Do you see what I see?

But the real story of Christmas is about something that is impossible to observe with our eyes, but which can be seen if we look at it the right way. After all, how does one “see” pure love?  We may be able to observe the birth of a child, but not “see” the pure love of a God willing to sacrifice His only Son for the baby-boy-playing-with-his-footforgiveness of our sins. So, look past all of the decorations and the presents. Look beyond the trappings of the seasons and the staged events both secular and church-oriented. Peer deeply into the eyes of a newborn baby and “see” the pure and unadulterated love that is there. Do you see what I see?

Let your mind loose to play…

December 23, 2014

“Your mind wants to play” – as seen in an ad for Lumosity.com the brain training site.

I’ve written here often about letting your inner child out to play, though actions, dreams or just creative thinking – see “Can I come out and play” or “Let the child out to play again”. Today’s quote from the folks at Lumosity.com reinforces the need to let your brain mapmind have the freedom to explore new ideas, maybe through play and games like those used on their site. The mind needs to be exercised through challenges and play, in order to stay vibrant.

I play a little word game called Bookworm on my iPhone every day and have several other word games that I play on occasion. My wife loves word games, too. We both find that they keep our vocabulary sharp and provide great mental exercise as we get a little older. I think that word and number games exercise a different part of the brain than action and first-person shooter games and maybe help keep us mentally healthier.

Do you have a way to let your mind play? Maybe you don’t sit around doing word or math games, but do you dream or day women dreamingdream? Even that can allow your mind to get out from under the day-to-day toil of dealing with life. It’s not a vacation; more like a trip to the gym. It lets your mind wander off in different directions and that’s a good thing. Most people live life way too literally and way too “tight”. So loosen up and let your mind out to play.

Put on a happy face…

December 22, 2014

“When I see someone who’s grumpy, or looks like he or she is having an awful day, why not brighten their day with a positive song?”  (Ellis Kalomiris) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I’m not sure that me bursting into song would brighten anyone’s day (maybe after a good laugh); however, I’m pretty sure that putting on a smile and offering a cheery girls hugginggreeting will at least force them to pause from their grumpiness to respond. The same can be said about offering a cheerful “Hello” and your hand to someone who might look lost or afraid at a social gathering. There’s something about seeing someone who is smiling and who looks happy to see you that is disarming and can change your outlook (at least temporarily). So, like Dick Van Dyke in this movie clip, put on your happy face and make someone’s day a little brighter.

If you are the person who is having a bad day, let those in who are trying to help. These are people who love you enough to try to cheer you up, so don’t fight themlistening off; let them help. Drop your defenses and let their smiles or songs and cherry greetings wash over you. Maybe they’ll wash away the thoughts that were making you unhappy.  If nothing else they may be able to get you to look at things from a slightly different perspective and you will realize that you are not alone (which is where being in the grumpy or unhappy dungeon puts you).

Grumpiness, unhappiness, and sadness are all states of mind. Remember this saying from Seneca – A man’s as miserable as he thinks he is.  So, if you can think yourself into misery, you can think yourself out of it, too. Let the people who love you help you find a way out of your unhappy thoughts.

girl with smile pictureA side benefit from sharing your happiness with others is that, the more of it you give away, the more comes back to you. Your happiness will actually increase as you share it with others. Soon you will be surrounded by happy people and what a great place to be. Put on your happy face and share it with others today.

Have a great and happy week ahead!

Last minute Christmas gift idea in the Huron Valley

December 19, 2014

We are in the final week of the Christmas gift buying season. If you still have some people on your list that you don’t have gifts for this Christmas, here are some great gift ideas. We tend to focus upon giving things, but some of the best gifts that I’ve received in the past involved services rather than goods. These are not things that might come immediately to mind, but which could end up being the best presents that you’ve ever given to someone; and for the most part, you don’t need to worry about wrapping them.

For the younger people on your list, consider giving the gift of a better future by getting themMathnasium_logo signed up for help at the Mathnasium of West Huron Valley located in Milford. Math skills are the absolute base for many good career paths, whether or not the student goes on to college or just joins the workforce out of high school. Modern “common core” curriculums are leaving many student struggling with math, but Jeffery Levine at Mathnasium can get them up to speed give them those competitive skills. Can Mathnasium at 248-676-2971 or go to their web site http://www.mathnasium.com/westhuronvalley for more information. This is a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.

Perhaps your youngster is artistically inclined and needs help and direction to bring out and nurture that skill. You should check out the programs at the Village Fine Arts Associate’s Susan VFAA_logo-2Haskew Art Center (SHAC) at 125 South Main St, Suite 700 in Milford, Michigan 48381. You may be able to sign them up and pre-pay for classes to help develop that latent talent. You can also call or email Andrea Perry, SHAC Director of Development: shac@milfordvfaa.org , 248-797-3060 or Susan Gollon, Milford VFAA Executive Director: contactus@milfordvfaa.org, 248-421-3337

For those who need the encouragement, programs and structure of a workout club, I’d recommend the one that I go to – Anytime Fitness of Milford. Located at 141 South Milford Road, Milford, MI 48381 (the old Farmer Jack’s Shopping mall), this Anytime Fitness location has all of the machines and weights and other “stuff” that you need for great workouts, plus a anytimne fitness logogreat staff of personal trainers who can customer tailor a workout program for you. They have a free trial period offer, so that you can see if this is for you. Call Willa Danowski, Club Manager, at 248-685-8373 and arrange a time to go in and talk to her about joining. If you like to workout early in the morning you are likely to see me there most days. Their web site is http://anytimefitness.com/gyms/1020/milford-mi-48381. One nice thing about joining Anytime Fitness is that you can use any club, any time anywhere in the U.S., so you can find a place to work out on vacations.

One of the best gifts that my wife has given me in the last few years was a gift card good for 60
esential massage logominutes of massage at Essential Massage and Wellness Center – 1641 S Milford Rd, Suite B,   Highland, MI 48357. Essential Massage has a number of different types of massage, from relaxation focused sessions to deep muscle pain relief sessions and everything in between. They also have an acupuncturist on staff  who can use that alternative medicine approach to pain relief. You can go on-line to order you gift card or to arrange an appointment or call 248-714-9901 and ask for Tammy or Cindy. Tell them that Norm sent you. I had two wonderful sessions to deal with some pain that I have in my shoulder fro a fall last winter and they both left me feeling great.

A family portrait makes a great gift and is something that most families don’t think of buying for themselves anymore. Call Bill Abram of Memorable Moments Art toll free at 877-640-8150 to set up a session. We still have our family portraits from when our kids were growing up and display them in our home. The grandkids in particular get a kick out of seeing mom or dad as youth. I recommend getting one done every few years, so that you document the family during the grade school, middle school and high school years. They can make great Christmas card material, too.

If you, or someone that you know, struggle with depression this time of year, you may benefit from the advice and tools that Norma Nicholson of Wise Owl Enterprises can equip you (or them)  with to fight off that depression. Norma is an author and private consultant and Wise owl graphic as jpegworkshop facilitator in the area of healing depression the natural way. Give her a call at 248-684-7987 or email norma786@comcast.net to arrange for a confidential consultation. She is in the process of setting up her web site. I will admit that I have not used Norma’s services, but I have known her for quite a while and know that she is a good, honest and caring person who developed many of her techniques and tools as mechanisms for coping with things in her own life. This is another gift that will keep on giving for years to come.

If you have someone that needs help with a fear or phobia or maybe just riding themselves of a nasty habit, call my friend Nichole Merline of MTU Hypnosis at 248-568-0831 or visit her web Nicole Merlinesite at www.mtuhypnosis.com. Nicole helps a wide variety of people with issues or problems in their lives that they want o overcome. For the young it may be a fear or test taking or an inability to focus upon studying. For adults there is a wide range of issues that Nicole can help with from fears and phobias to stopping smoking, losing weight or feeling more at ease in social settings. The human mind is a powerful thing and Nicole can help you put yours to work for you, instead of against you.

If you have an elderly parent who has been stubborn about making the transition into a senior living environment, perhaps Julie Haskins-White can help. Julie is the principal in Creative Eldercare Consultants, LLC. Julie may be reached at 800-355-8932 or 248-842-4980. What Julie and staff bring to the process is over 30 years of Senior Care experience and a very deep knowledge of what the alternatives are based upon each unique situation. Julie can work directly with your senior or with the family to assess what the best course of action and placement option might be.

Finally, if you are totally stumped and none of the above seem to fit, go to the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce office at 317 Union Street, Milford, MI 48381 and buy them some Chamber Bucks. Chamber Bucks are cash equivalents which can be used in most local restaurants and many local stores. To see where they are good, click here.

So, I’ve kind of wandered through a variety of gifts for the young and the elders in your life. Most of these aren’t things, they are services (some may result in things, such as the family portrait) that you can buy or pre-pay for someone on your list. Most involve things that they might not do or buy for themselves, but they’ll be glad that you did.  Have a great and Merry Christmas!

Don’t get stuck…

December 18, 2014

“You are not stuck where you are unless you decide to be.”  (Wayne Dyer) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I like today’s saying on Jack’s blog, because it helped me get unstuck here. I haven’t posted much lately because I got stuck waiting for the right inspiration. I suppose that I also got a bit busy and distracted with the things going on leading up to Christmas – shopping, wrapping and the like. All I really had to do was look around to see things that should have inspired me to write something. I guess I decided to be stuck for a while.

It seems to me that sometimes we aren’t even aware that we are allowing ourselves to become stuck. That can apply to things like your job or your relationships. Of course we have developed euphemisms to substitute for the term “stuck”. We may say that we are in our “comfortdissapointed lady zone” or perhaps use the phrase “go with what you know.” Sometimes our relationships settle into a kind of rut because we allow ourselves to become stuck. It’s not that this is necessarily bad; but, at the same time, if that comfort zone becomes a “boring zone” or worse a “dead zone”, then the relationship can whither and become unsatisfactory. That happens a lot in marriages if the couples don’t explore reasons to love each other beyond just the sexual attractions that may have fueled the relationship initially. They get stuck.

Getting stuck at a certain level or in a specific job at work can also be bad. We are creatures who thrive on learning and challenges. In most jobs there is an initial learning curve and then a sad looking manperiod of building experiences enough to master the tasks involved. Once you get to that level, people normally look for new challenges. If the current job doesn’t provide for those new challenges and growth, people move on to another job and new learning curves. There is, of course, much to be said for job security; however, keeping jobs interesting and workers challenged would seem to be a key to successful companies.  Don’t let your workers feel like their stuck.

The last half of the little opening quote is the important part for all of us – unless you decide to be. A key to dealing with any issue in your life is to accept that only you really have the ability to change how you deal with it. You have the ability to assess whether you are stuck and it’s time to move on to a new and more challenging job. You have the responsibility in your relationships to decide that your actions and reactions aren’t going to be the things that keepout on limb you stuck in a less than satisfying state.

What you do, once you accept the responsibility for getting yourself unstuck doesn’t mean that you go right to the boss and quit or that you go ask your spouse for a divorce. It means that you plan a course of action to get yourself out of the rut that you are stuck in. That may mean signing up for some classes to learn new skills for a new career or it may mean doing things with your life-partner that you usually don’t do – maybe signing up for ballroom dance lessons or something as simple as sitting down after work and talking with them for a while about your relationship or a small thing like going to church with them. What needs to happen is something that wasn’t happening before, something out of the ordinary, something that will help you get unstuck.

Men seem to have a much harder time getting unstuck in their relationships ruts, I suspect thnk about itbecause it requires that they first admit that there is a problem and that they may be a part of the problem. Almost all of the TV ads that we see that are focused upon men seem to be focused upon sexual performance and none deal with emotional performance – the ability of the man to drop his guard and let his partner into his soul. That’s not considered to be manly. The problem is that we become stuck in that macho stereotype and can’t get out of that deep rut. Those who do find a way to get unstuck are able tosunday walk
forge the deep, lasting relationships with their life-partners that you see depicted on 50th anniversary cards.

The challenge for today is for you to examine your own life and see if you can identify areas of it in which you are “stuck.” Once you can do that, the challenge becomes doing something about it and finding a way to get unstuck. Life’s ruts are not lined with Gorilla Glue. It is possible to go in new directions, to experience women dreamingnew challenges and the new joy of meeting those challenges. Get unstuck today. You’ll be happy that you did.