Your Holiday Obsession

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

The holiday season brings out a part of me that surfaces only once a year.  The creative side!  I find this hysterical because… I don’t have a creative bone in my body!  I don’t knit or paint or cook or anything even close to that!   But for some reason, I LOVE to wrap gifts.  I have no idea why, but I actually look forward to it.

Several years ago, I took a gift wrapping class at one of those adult education sessions.  I learned all about wired ribbons, how to twist and turn them into the perfect bow, and especially how to add the finishing touches by putting a bell or Santa or something holidayish in the middle of the package, making it all come together.  In a recent trip to downtown Chicago, I even found myself taking photos of Macy’s window display so I could get new and improved ideas for wrapping this year’s gifts.  At home, during my gift wrapping sessions, I emerge covered with glitter from head to toe – it’s everywhere – and I love it.

Do you have a holiday obsession?  Something that brings you great joy, and something that happens only this time of year?  Decorating cookies?  Putting lights up outside in the freezing cold?  Or something totally out-of-the-box.  I’d love to hear it.  Please share with us your own uniqueness and individuality that brings a smile to your face during the holidays.

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How to Cope with the Shorter Days

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

It’s 4:30 at night and already I have my headlights on as I drive home.  The sun is nearly gone, and by 6:00, it’s so dark outside that I feel like it’s time for bed.  The early darkness makes me feel confused and bored and a little disoriented.

Sound familiar???

I’ve heard so many people complain about the longer evenings, about how much they hate it.  And if I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m one of them.  However, the short days are here to stay for the next few months – and there is nothing we can do to change that. 

So, how can we deal with it?  How do we find a positive twist to something we can’t control?

As you already know, I give presentations on how to keep a positive attitude in any situation.  I often refer to “flip the switch” and offer suggestions on how to find something good in everything that surrounds us.  And as I was driving home, I found it!  I figured out a way to deal with the darkness.

There, surrounding me, around every corner, houses and yards were lit up with beautiful colors.  There were homes with red and green lights twisting around the fence; I saw a Santa’s face all lit up smiling at me;  and a snowman family seemed to wave to me as I drove past.

That’s when it dawned on me – the early darkness gives me more time to enjoy all these beautiful holiday decorations.  They light up my route as I drive home and actually make me smile.  In fact, the lovely deer pictured here greeted me as I pulled into my own driveway.  What a beautiful sight!

So now, I look forward to the darkness so I can see what new decorations are in my neighborhood.  This weekend I’m heading to Zoo Lights.  And who knows what else?

Take a look around and tell me what festive decorations surround you.  What are your favorites?  Which ones make your darkness a little brighter?

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How To Tame a Negative Nellie

Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow and everywhere I look, I see articles on gratitude.  Now don’t get me wrong – I’m a HUGE fan of gratitude.  Keeping a gratitude list actually helped me turn my life around several years ago when everything was crumbling around me.  In fact, I wrote a series of five blogs on the topic of gratitude and being thankful.  If you’d like to read them, start here then scroll through the next four: https://nancydepcik.com/blog/page/13/.  They’re pretty insightful.

But today I thought of a little twist.  What about all those people who aren’t moved by gratitude – don’t know what it really means, how to use it or even care about it.  Do you know anyone like that?  Maybe someone who complains a lot, or isn’t aware of the amazing things that surround them.  Do you sometimes have to share the day, whether it’s a holiday or not, with a Negative Nellie? 

How do you handle that?  How do you keep from getting sucked into their bad mood?

Here’s an idea – give them a compliment!  Yes, you heard me right.  In the middle of all their complaining, moaning and groaning, tell them you like their shoes, or you like the color of their shirt, or the cake they brought is absolutely delicious.  Derail them!  Make them stop in their tracks and figure out how to absorb something good in their life.

I’ve tried this a few times and it works!  Maybe not all the time, but when it does, it’s amusing to see the look on their face.  It’s a good feeling to know you’ve turned their attitude around, even if it’s only for a moment or two.  You’ve made them stop and take notice.  Besides, it keeps you from reaching for the aspirin. 

Try it – what have you got to lose?  Watch the impact you can have on someone else.  Then you can go back to having a lovely day of your own. 

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Paint by Number Life – Is That You?

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Do you sometimes feel like you have a paint by number life?  All the 1’s are blue, the 2’s are white, so on and so on…  You’ve gotten into a routine that’s almost robotic.  You drive the same route to work every day, and on some days, you don’t even remember how you got there.  You think: Did I really drive through town?  Did I stop at that red light?  But somehow you get to work without remembering anything along the route that got you there.

So if you should find yourself in a ho-hum, almost boring phase of your life, try these simple tips to help you add a little spice to your life:

  1. Check out the community board at your local coffee shop, grocery store or restaurant and see what’s going on around town.  You will find a variety of activities, anywhere from who is giving music lessons to the latest movie festival.  The photo I posted here was at an Einstein Bros. Bagel restaurant in Naperville, IL.  Lots of options!
  2. Did you know that many local high schools, junior colleges or universities offer adult classes?  Many times they offer topics that are quite interesting at a very reasonable price.  I personally have taken some on traveling, decorating or how to make the best martini imaginable.  All of these classes were just for fun.
  3. Don’t forget your local library.  Many of them offer free programs.  I’ve been to some that show free movies, offer cooking classes and even share simple lessons on how to use your computer.  YES – this and more programs at many libraries.  If yours doesn’t offer any classes, check out the one in the next town or suburb.

Sometimes we find that we are living a life filled with no risk, no creativity – and no mess.  If your life or your job looks like everyone else’s, and you’d like to shake it up a little, try one of the three tips above.  It sounds simple, but it’s not easy.  Because guess what?  You are the only one who can do it.  You are the only one who can shape your life into what you want it to be.

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Flip the Switch

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

The older I get, the more reflective I become.  That phrase “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” has become my daily mantra.

The way I see it, there are three C’s in life:

Chances

Choices

Changes

Every day you are faced with choices; and many times you are forced to take a chance that will make your life change forever.  Change is hard, especially if we like our life the way it is right now. But we don’t always have an option to keep change at bay.  Sometimes change enters into our life and we don’t even see it coming.  It could be a simple check-up that brings a diagnosis we’re not ready to hear, or a spouse who wants to move in a different direction (without you), or a boss who has to downsize his team and you were the last one hired.  Overnight, your life can change.

So how do you cope with it?  How do you keep putting one foot in front of the other?

Know that you have a choice.  Maybe not over the situation, but certainly over your attitude.  Once you can finally accept the change, finding the best way to deal with it becomes a whole lot easier.

Think of a light switch; now picture yourself flipping the switch.  That’s what I like to call it.  When I am faced with a new challenge – one that I just don’t want – I mentally flip the switch.  I try to think of the best outcome possible or how this change can help me discover something new about myself.  I know I’m making this sound easy – and it’s not.  It’s really hard!  But sometimes the only thing we can change is our attitude and it helps us keep our sanity.  It helps us get out of bed the next morning and try again.

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What Would You Be For Only One Day?

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Today is Halloween.  A time to dress up as anything you want to be – anything at all.

I can still remember when I was a kid, my mom would let me pick my own costume.   I was always a princess.  Every year l would pick just about the same outfit.  I had a sparkly gown and a tiara and sometimes even a magic wand. I’d get all decked out – and every year it was the same – FREEZING outside!  We lived in Chicago and the weather was quite unpredictable, except on Halloween.  You could always count on it to be cold and windy.  My mom would make me  wear my heavy winter coat over that magical outfit.  But I didn’t care because deep down I KNEW I was a princess – if only for one day.

So now, many years later, I find myself thinking: what would I be if I could choose just one thing for today – if I could allow myself to be a kid again.  Who would I be?  The possibilities are endless.

This time around, I’d like to be a dancer.  I mean the jumping through the air, graceful, costume flowing behind me kind of dancer.  Whenever I watch them in a live performance or on TV, I always marvel at their carefree spirit.  Yes, that’s what I’d like to be for one day – a dancer.

What about you?  What would you like to be for only one day?  Throw all caution to the wind.  Become a kid again.  Who or what will you be today?

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Life is Like the Changing Leaves

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

I am amazed and awed and humbled by the beautiful colors that surround me.  It’s that time of year – autumn.  And here in Midwest there is a blaze of color everywhere I look.

As I turn around and gasp at the beauty, I can’t help but compare the leaves to my own life.  A life that has certainly known many colors, dimensions and phases.

This is the way I see it:

Some of the leaves are still a very healthy and green, just like some of the phases of my life.  There have been times when I have lived without any doubt or fear and everything seemed to be going my way.  Kind of like the way it is right now.  I have a new husband in a new town and my new business is taking off to new heights.  Every day is lived with excitement and anticipation.

And then there’s the leaves that are turning yellow and red and orange.  They remind me of the changes I’ve faced that were just as beautiful.  Things like finally buying that dream house, or getting that hard earned promotion, or finally bridging the distance between myself and an old friend.  Those beautiful colors remind me of the good changes in my life that I have welcomed with open arms.

But let’s not forget those brown, dark and dried up leaves, ready to fall to the ground.  Just like those terrifying changes that crept up behind me and socked me in the stomach so hard I could hardly breathe.  Changes I certainly didn’t want and couldn’t control.  They were here to stay and, like it or not – ready or not – I had to figure out a way to deal with them.

So now, as I sit back and marvel at the changing trees, I also marvel at my life and all the ups and downs, in and outs, and everything else I have survived.  All of them, good and bad, bringing me to where I am today.  I understand that the changes will be constant.  My hope is that I will always find the beauty in every single one of them.

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It’s Time to Give Back

Professional Speaker-Positive Attitude-Personal Development

Do you volunteer?

I have found that whenever I take time to help others, asking for nothing in return, some unexpected and amazing things happen.

For instance, several years ago I volunteered for a group called Chicago Greeters, obviously located in Chicago.  They offered free tours to anyone visiting the city and matched them with a knowledgeable tour guide – that was me.  It’s an amazing service: http://chicagogreeter.com/.  If you are ever visiting Chicago, I highly recommend it.

Well, during the two years I volunteered there, on one day, and one day only, I worked with a young woman and we became instant friends.  Now, ten years later, we still remain very close.  Her friendship was worth any amount of money I could have been paid.  And as the commercial says – our friendship is PRICELESS!

Another great experience I had was with an organization called H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly) also located in Chicago: https://www.homeseniors.org/.  They asked me to help a 90 year old woman who was depressed and she needed someone to keep her company.  They asked me to read to her, play a game with her or simply visit and keep her company.  I spent three years with Geri Franklin before she passed away, and in the time we spent together, she shared with me a love and wisdom that has literally changed my life.

So now I have moved to a new city.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found a place to volunteer and I’m getting antsy.  It’s time – time to give back and make a difference in someone else’s life.

So that’s why I’m asking you – do you volunteer?  What experiences have you found to be the most valuable?  What organizations would you recommend?   What are your stories of volunteering?  I’d love to know.

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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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