Sorry Mom

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

It took me into my gray hair years to finally realize what it means to have a good relationship. It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn, but today I build new memories by living in the moment and trying to enjoy being in the present.

You see, when I was much younger, I’d visit my mother in a nursing home.  Today they have much fancier names, like senior retirement centers, but you know what I mean.  Every time I’d visit her, before I even walked in the door, I’d be thinking about when I had to leave.  I’d greet my Mom with:

“Hi Mom, I have to leave at 3:00 so I can get to my next appointment on time.”

OR

“Hi Mon, I have to leave at 4:00 so I can avoid the traffic.”

Throughout my visit, I’d keep one eye on the clock, making sure I wasn’t late for whatever was happening next. For whatever seemed so important at the time.

Now, 17 years later, I can’t visit my Mom anymore.  She’s no longer here for us to share a laugh or a hug or even something as simple as watching her favorite TV show together.  I can no longer feel her sitting next to me.  And as I think back to our visits when I was always in such a hurry – I can’t even remember what was so important that I didn’t take the time to truly BE with her.

That was a hard lesson to learn.  And because of that, today I am more aware of being in the present.  More aware of enjoying the time I have with the people I love.  Making time to have real conversations; to ask questions – and really listen to the answers.

It’s a whole new ballgame for me.  I work hard at being in the present each and every day.  And on those days when I fall back into my old habits, I get up the next morning and try again.

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If You Had Only One Wish…

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Have you heard of this?  An Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware, recorded the top five regrets people had during the last 12 weeks of their life.

She actually recorded their final wishes and found that some of the same thoughts kept coming up over and over again.  When I read this study, it really made an impact on me.  So much of an impact that I’d like to share it with you.  After each wish, I’ve shared some of my thoughts:

  • I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. It’s natural to want the people we love to be proud of us, but sometimes we lose ourselves in the process.  Take a minute and ask yourself what makes you happy.  What brings a smile to your face?  Then go after it with a vengeance.  Make sure you are one of the people you are trying to make happy.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.  How many times have you heard the phrase: no one writes on their tombstone that they wish they spent more time at the office?  Try every day to balance your personal and professional life.  Some days it will work, and on those days when it doesn’t, get up the next morning and try again.
  • I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.  Sometimes we learn to keep anger and sadness to ourselves.  We bury any thoughts that are difficult or scary. Although it may be hard to do, try to be honest with others and especially yourself.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  In this day of Facebook and instant everything, it’s easier than ever to reconnect and stay in touch with friends.  Then life gets in the way – responsibilities at work, with our family, and overall stress creeps into our pours.  So how do we find the time to stay in touch with friends?  One call at a time, one email at a time, one text at a time.  Just to let them know you are thinking of them.
  • I wish I had let myself be happier. This last one breaks my heart.  How sad it must be to get in the way of your own happiness.  Being happy is a choice, and you have the power to make that choice each and every day. We all encounter challenges during our life.  When that happens, be “curious” and see it as an opportunity to move forward to your next adventure.

Reading this list has helped me become more aware of my own life, and it also helped me better understand the older people that surround me.  I now smile a little more and complain a little less.  I hope that by sharing this, it will do the same for you.

If you’d like to learn more about Bronnie Ware and her study of the 5 Regrets, check out her blog at: http://www.bronnieware.com/blog/regrets-of-the-dying.

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Are They Wrinkles or Are They Laugh Lines?

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I love being an older woman.  You may think I’m crazy, but it’s true.  With age comes freedom.  I have finally figured out what I like, what I don’t like, and I have stopped making excuses for either.  I finally have the freedom to be myself; to live my own life and not the life that others think I should.

This lesson did not come easy for me.  It took years, actually about 60 of them, before I arrived at this place in my life.  You see, I grew up at a time when everything around me said I had to be domestic.  You know, cooking and cleaning and that kind of stuff.  For years, I tried – I really tried, but I hated to cook, every minute of it, and I just didn’t want to do it.  My family and friends truly wanted to help and refused to give up on me.  They were convinced that if I just knew HOW to cook, I would like it, so they gave me cook books, videos of famous chefs, even cooking classes.  And you know what?  I STILL hate to cook.  But now I don’t make excuses for it anymore. With age, I have learned to embrace my own uniqueness.

Yes, I have wrinkles, and yes, I have more pounds on my butt than I’d like to admit, but I have earned every one of them through experiences, some good and some not so good, that led me to where I am today.  And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

True beauty is ageless, and to find yours:

  1. Surround yourself with confident, kind and interesting people who encourage you to go after your dream
  2. Stay “curious” about life and never let your age limit your possibilities
  3. Take some time to discover who you really are and not what someone else wants you to be

Once you find the answers, you will begin to experience life like you have never known it before  You will see things with an excitement and a passion that you have never felt before  When you look in the mirror, you will see a confident, vibrant, mature person looking back at you.

Aging is inevitable – it’s not going away  So take control of your life and find more time to do the things that make you smile.  After all, it’s not the number of your age that matters, it’s your attitude and the way you look at life.  A positive attitude is something no one and nothing can ever take away from you, not even your age.

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No Excuses – Not Today

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

For weeks I heard about this “once in a lifetime experience.”  The eclipse on August 21 was an event not to be missed.

So I asked several people where the best spot was to view this amazing phenomenon, and this is what I heard:

 

You won’t be able to see it because of the clouds

If you travel, the hotel rooms are outrageously expensive

The whole thing will only last two minutes, so why bother

 

I started to doubt if it was worth all the trouble.  And as I allowed everyone else’s “stuff” to get in my way, I started falling into the trap of doing nothing.  After all, it was easier!

Then my husband mentioned that Bascom Hill on the University of Wisconsin campus might be a good place to view the eclipse.  After all, they had an observatory there and it might be an interesting spot. So at the last minute, I thought: “What the heck?”  And off I went.

And what a sight to behold!!!

There were so many people all gathered together for the same reason, sharing the same interest.  People I didn’t even know graciously handed me their special glasses so I could get a peek at the eclipse, and others were anxious to share their knowledge and stories of other eclipses they had seen in the past.  Everyone was unified, smiling, laughing and enjoying a common experience.

What a disappointment it would have been to have missed it.  What a lost opportunity.

And as I drove home, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I missed a moment or a connection because I listened to others and I chose to take an easier route?  How many times have I allowed my own fears and doubts to get in the way?

I’m so glad that today wasn’t one of those days.

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Tick-Tock Tick-Tock

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My good friend’s father just passed away unexpectedly.  He was only 72 years old.  This really hit me hard because I have two brothers who are older than 72.  And I wondered:

What if I knew they had only a short time to live?  Would I do anything differently?  Would I spend more time with them?

The obvious answer is “yes.”  But I wasn’t so quick to come to that conclusion.  What really came to mind was to spend intense time with them, not necessarily more time.  When we are together, I’d like to do more of the things they want to do, listen more intensely to the stories they want to tell, spend more time in their world.  I’d like to hug a little longer and actually say the words: “I love you.”

It’s not always that easy.  We all get caught up in our own worlds, our own challenges.  And in this day of instant everything, we feel pressured to get more done.  Something is always ringing, buzzing or dinging, demanding our attention.  It seems impossible to shut off all the sounds and the alarms that demand our time.

So this week when I visited my brother, I listened more intensely to his golf stories, laughed a little longer at the video he wanted to share with me, and put down my phone to look at pictures of his grand kids.  I doubt if he noticed any difference, but I feel comfort in knowing that I was more aware of the time we shared.  And more grateful I had another memory I could tuck away for future reference.

I am truly sorry for my friend’s loss.  I have no words to console her – only time can do that.  Soon her tears will be replaced with smiles of the memories she shared with her father.  And now, I too will have more intense memories of the ones I love.

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Music for Your Soul

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I LOVE music.  It makes me laugh, cry, dance and shout out loud – often at the same time.  It has helped me through some of the darkest challenges in my life.

For instance, when the 2008 recession hit, I lost just about everything.  It swallowed my business, my home, my relationship and my self-confidence.  I found myself sitting in an empty apartment, alone, scared and wondering what the hell just happened.  Then one day I heard this song on the radio: I Ain’t Settlin by Sugarland

It made such an impact on me that I ran out the next day and bought the CD (this was 2008 – remember???).  I played that song over and over again, singing at the top of my lungs.  I didn’t have any furniture, so I took advantage of the open space in my living room. I put on thick socks, ran and slide across the floor while shouting:

” I ain’t settlin’ for just getting by

I’ve had enough so so for the rest of my life

Tired of shooting too low so raise the bar high

Just enough ain’t enough this time

I ain’t settlin’ for anything less than everything”

It actually helped.  If even for a few minutes it made the emotional pain go away.  Even when I listen to that same song today, when my life is so much better, I still get tears in my eyes.  To me, the message is powerful and inspirational and funny.

Nine years later, I now have a new business, a new home and a new husband.  I’ve come a long way and I’m still shouting at the top of my lungs: I AIN’T SETTLIN’.

Do you have a favorite song?  One that makes you smile and feel like you can conquer the world?  Share it with us.  We’d love to sing along.

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How to Keep Your Sanity While Delivering Superb Customer Service

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In the last three blog posts, I’ve shared some tips on how to deliver excellent customer service.  I call it the Three C’s of Customer Service: Clarity, Character and Cultivate.  

All good stuff, but what about you?  How do you deliver superb customer service, day after day, and keep your sanity in the process?  How do you take care of yourself?

Well, here are some thoughts to get you through the craziness of your day:

  1. Frame your favorite quote and put it in full view so you can see it every day.   Choose one that actually calms your nerves and puts a smile on your face.  Mine is pictured here in this post.
  2. Challenge yourself, or your teammates, to post a “thought of the day.”  Maybe a joke, another quote, or something funny that your team can relate to.  If doing this every day is a bit too often, try once a week.  Pretty soon, people will begin to look forward to it.
  3. Hang up your favorite picture.  Maybe it’s a photograph of someplace you’ve traveled to, or someplace you want to travel as soon as you get that next vacation.  It could be something you accomplished that you are very proud of.  The important thing is that it shifts your mood to a calmer place. 
  4. Do something that makes you feel good before you leave for work – like pet your dog or go for a walk or hug your kid.
  5. Bring a mirror to work, hold it up, look into it and smile.  Even when you force a smile and it feels unnatural, it still sends the message to your brain that life is good.   It helps to relieve stress and keeps depression at bay.

Take some time to experiment with these five suggestions, then practice the ones that resonate most with you.  The key is to start with at least one.  Some may sound a little hokey, but you never know until you try.  It just may make you feel better.

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Grateful Memories in Spite of…

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Have you ever dreamed of something –  hoped for it, saved for it, imagined it – only to find out it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?   That’s what happened to me on my recent trip to Italy.

You see, years ago I heard about an area called Cinque Terra.  It was described as a rugged portion of the coast on the Italian Riviera with five villages built into the cliffs.   It sounded so romantic, and any photo I saw of the area was breathtaking.  I just had to go and experience it for myself. 

So I saved and waited and saved some more.  And when I arrived, this is what I saw!  Hordes and hordes of tourists – so many that you could hardly move.  I learned later that each of the five towns has about 400 residents each, yet every year they have 1.2 billion visitors.  That’s billions with a capital B.  You had to fight your way to get on the trains, and sometimes the hiking trails were so crowded you were at a total standstill.

So much for my vision of sitting at a local cafe, sipping a cappuccino with the Italian residents. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It was still beautiful – just not the way I had imagined it.  So what do you do?  How do you handle a situation like this?

For me, I made a conscious choice to see the beauty that surrounded me.  I remembered the words of Mary Engelbreit:  “If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” 

I knew I would probably never be in this part of Italy again.  So I embraced the craziness and started conversations with visitors that surrounded me.  And then I ordered a bottle of wine – the local wine that you can’t get anywhere else.  I began to embrace the uniqueness of this area.  It didn’t happen immediately, but every time I found myself getting annoyed with the crowds, I simply said: “I am grateful for ________________.”

Now it’s your turn to fill in the blank.  No matter what is happening around you, good or bad, there is always something to be grateful for.  What memories will you choose to make?

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Discover Your Adventure

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

I walked into a sporting goods store the other day and saw this poster.  It stopped me in my tracks.  Not because of the picture – my idea of camping is spending the night at my friend’s house instead of in my own bed.  But the words “Never Stop Exploring” really hit a chord with me.

What a great concept!  Can you imagine waking up every morning with the attitude that every  day is an adventure and something to be discovered, explored and experienced.

The good, the bad and the ugly.  No matter what is waiting for you.  Reach out to taste it, feel it, and learn from it.  I wonder if this would have made a difference when I was going through a really dark time in my life.  I wonder if it would have made it easier to get up and look for that new job, search for a new home or sit across that desk from the bankruptcy judge.   I wonder if thinking of the day as a new adventure, no matter what it was, would have made that journey of my life a little easier.   

I’ll never know, but you can be sure that there are more challenges yet to come.  Life is a roller coaster and you never know what’s around the next curve.   So all we can do is hold on tight and

 NEVER STOP EXPLORING

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Smiles for Sale

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

How do you keep going, day after day?  How do you pump yourself up when you don’t even want to get out of bed some mornings?  It’s hard.  It’s really, really hard, but on those days when you just don’t think you can face another challenge, try this:

Choose to smile!

I’m not kidding; this really works.  And on those days when you just can’t muster up a smile of your own,  here’s a couple of helpful hints:

Mimic some sounds that force a smile, like making the long “e” sound.  It causes you to stretch the corners of your mouth and it comes close to the real thing.  This concept was actually proven by Robert Zajonc who did a study on how smiling can affect your mood.

Another trick is to look at pictures that amuse you, touch your heart, and make you smile no matter how crummy you feel.  What would it be for you?  Pictures of babies?  Pictures of puppies?  Pictures of shoes?  It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it warms your heart.  This video just may help get you started: https://binged.it/2r9sjxR.

Choosing to smile – it sounds so simple and even a little bit hokey, but the key word here is CHOOSE.  There is only one person who can truly make a difference in your life and you already know the answer to that one – YOU.  So make a choice – will you choose to be miserable today or will you choose to take one step towards happiness.  It’s all up to you.

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