New Phrases for Our Changing World

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We now have a new vocabulary. Think about it. Just four months ago we never heard of elbow bumping, social distancing or self-isolating. Now, they are part of our everyday language.

And, as time goes on, we are developing new habits, whether we want to or not. Every single day, our lives are changing and the hardest part, at least for me, is not knowing when this will end. So, I entertain myself with admiring the creativity and adaptability of others. We now have:

  • Patio parties where people stay at a safe distance, yet socialize with family or friends.
  • A baseball field that has turned into a drive-in movie.
  • A bar with individual bumper tables.

You’ve heard it a million times: The only thing constant is change. Well, now is the time to prove that theory. Now if the time to accept change as best we can, embrace the creativity of others and acknowledge and appreciate the endurance we have discovered within ourselves.

I think this quote by Charles Darwin says it all: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

There is always a bridge that will take you to the other side – you just need the courage to keep looking for it.


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It Only Takes Two Little Words

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During this pandemic and self-isolation, we can all feel a little edgy at times; maybe even a bit unappreciated. Well, here’s an easy tip on how to lighten the mood. Each day, take a moment to reach out to others and let them know how much you value them.

A simple “thank you” can work wonders. It makes someone feel appreciated and know that they actually made a difference. To make it even better, say “thank you” for one specific thing that they did, like:

  • Thank you for making dinner tonight…
  • Thank you for taking the garbage out…
  • Thank you for buying my favorite chocolate…

OK, maybe that last one was wishful thinking, but you get the idea. Try it tonight and I bet the favor will be returned. After all, with all the challenges we face in today’s world, wouldn’t it be nice to add a little brightness to someone’s day? I promise, it will come back to you over and over again.


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Pandemic Partners

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Seriously, how are you holding up? As time marches on and we find ourselves spending more and more time isolated with our family, are you feeling closer to them – or like you want to strangle them? If you are honest with yourself, it’s probably a little bit of both.

We all know that connecting during this time of crisis is so important, yet it can be so challenging. Although I am enjoying some quality time with my husband, and Zooming with friends I haven’t seen in years, I find myself extremely lonely. I want to – no, NEED to – hug again. I want to feel comfortable moving through a crowd of people without reaching for my face mask or worrying about standing six feet apart.

So, I patiently wait for tomorrow, believing it will offer a new start. Hoping that the challenges we face today are part of the preparation we need for what lies ahead. I truly believe that the emotional exercises we are learning now are getting us ready for a stronger tomorrow. I know that I have learned to put many things in perspective and there is so much I will never take for granted again. Knowing that I picked the perfect Pandemic Partner is one of them.


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Tragic Optimism Can Help Even on the Darkest Days

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It’s a mess out there right now. With the pandemic, riots, looting and killer bees on their way, it’s like we’re trapped in some sci-fi movie. The only difference is – we don’t know when this story will end. So how do you deal with all the fear and confusion and anger.

Something that helps me is knowing that there is a choice. Every morning when you wake up, you get to choose how you will spend that day; you get to choose if your emotions will consume you or enlighten you. Make no mistake about it, you are the only one who can make that choice.

Yes, there are days when it is hard to find the good, I’m not denying that. Other days when it’s beyond difficult to find a reason to get out of bed. On those days, remember the words of the famous holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl: “tragic optimism”. He said that to survive the concentration camps, it helped him and others find meaning in every single day.

Now, I’m not asking you to deny your emotions. In fact, I encourage you to feel the anger and the sadness and the pain. Just don’t let them consume you. No matter how dark a situation may be, look for that flicker of light. Make a choice to find meaning in every single day and ask yourself each morning: What can I intentionally do today that will bring meaning to my life.


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Find Your Strength in Others

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“You can succeed when no one believes in you but you have no chance of succeeding when you don’t believe in yourself.” Lou Holtz.

And what a difficult time this is to believe in anything. With our world spinning out of control, how do you maintain some sort of sanity through all this mess.

One simple thing that helps me is to focus on the good that is in this world. I try to visualize the image of people cleaning up after the destruction left behind by looters. As my heart breaks for the business owners, my spirit is lifted by seeing people come together to help each other. Here in Madison, we have several groups that are organizing to rebuild our city – rebuild our lives. I guarantee that you will see me amongst those sweeping and restocking and supporting in any way I can.

Take a look at how you can help others, no matter how small or minor it may seem to you. In the process, you will find that the good you do for others returns to you ten-fold.


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No Matter How Much Things Change, They Still Remain the Same

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It was terrifying. My palms were sweating and my heart was racing. I kept telling myself: Feel the fear and do it anyway.

What was causing all this distress? I was going to the dentist. Was it for a special procedure? Nope, not at all. Just a routine cleaning; a procedure I have gotten hundreds – no, thousands – of times before. So, what made this one so stressful? It was the first time in three months that I ventured outside my home. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been self-isolating and this is the first time I’ve tried to return to some sort of normalcy in the past 90 days.

In one way it felt good to believe that this whole experience was behind us; in another way I was fearful that we have not seen the last of it yet.

As I entered the dentist’s office, there were some obvious changes. Hand sanitizer at the door, required face masks for everyone who was in the room, plastic panels separating me from the people who sat behind the desk. After my temperature was taken, my dental hygienist entered looking like someone straight out of a Twilight Zone episode – hair wrapped in a turban, face mask and head gear with a shield just like a welder would wear.

Once I got used to this new look, and we started talking, everything seemed normal again. There were stories told and lots of laughter. The surroundings may have changed, but the people did not. As I left, the women at the front desk waved and I wished them a good day. It made me realize that even though so much has changed in the last 90 days, some things will always stay the same. I got great comfort in realizing that my world of friendliness and compassion and hope was still there. My world was still filled with great beauty.


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Escape Boredom

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Is boredom setting in? Or has it already tightened its grip on you and just won’t let go. In the beginning, about eight weeks ago, many of us welcomed some down time so we could finish that book or try that new recipe. But now? Its feeling like Groundhog Day where every morning is the same. I know this sounds crazy, but some mornings I actually miss those traffic jams. Anything to bring a little variety to my day!

So, how are you keeping your sanity? How are you maintaining some sort of normalcy? And please don’t tell me about another game night or family gathering on Zoom! My butt can’t take any more.

Here’s one idea. Carve out some time – I mean actually put the date and time on your calendar – and do something, an activity, that you really enjoy. Not one that Aunt Suzi said you should try or one your Mom said is perfect for you. But an activity that really makes you happy. Make sure it has a clear beginning, middle and an end. That way it will give you a sense of accomplishment. Remember, these are not “have to do” activities, but something you really LIKE to do.

Personally, I don’t cook, I hate to clean my house and gardening is marginal. But the one thing I do love is talking on the phone. So, every day I pick one person, family or friend, who I carve out time to talk to and find out how life is treating them. I pour a cup of coffee or glass of wine, and just enjoy some girlfriend time. It gives me something to look forward to, catch up with people I haven’t heard from for months, and just feel good about the relationships I’ve nurtured over the years.

So, what will it be for you? What will you choose to do that makes you happy? Now, go schedule some time and just enjoy.


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Yes, We Will Hug Again

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I long for the old days. No, not the ones from 40 years ago but the ones from 4 month ago. It’s hard to believe that just this past January I was in Florida at a conference, in a crowded room, shoulder to shoulder with strangers and not giving it a second thought. Today we are wearing masks, afraid to talk to anyone and staying as far away from each other as possible. Sometimes I wonder if we will ever hug again, even shake hands again.

As this time of self-isolation continues, we need to find the tools that will help us navigate through this craziness and maintain some sort of sanity. We need to reclaim some sort of balance. And that will be different for each of us. What works for you may not necessarily work for the person standing next to you. So, ask yourself: “what brings a smile to my face – even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.” Find something that gives you some relief and remind yourself that this too shall end.

Yes, it WILL end. Someday soon we will all step out from behind our screen door and we will hug again. We will click glasses and be surrounded by fiends. We will jump for joy and laugh again, never to take our time together for granted – EVER!


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We Have Faced This Fear Before

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He was only 31 years-old, his wife was a young 29. After eight years of marriage, they had three sons: 6, 2 and a newborn. That’s when the bombs started dropping. It was 1941 and the U.S. entered into World War II. What followed was fear of the unknown, confusion over how to survive and not knowing what the future will bring.

The family I describe above is mine: my parents and my three brothers. I never thought of it before, but the terror my parents faced must have been horrific. They never talked about it, and to tell you the truth, I never put two and two together until I faced our current pandemic. It was only recently that I realized the nightmare my parents survived.

You notice I use the word “survive” because that’s what it was. Somehow, they found a way to feed their family, have another child (me), and never show any bitterness or anger at what they faced. I wonder now if they ever stood in a food line, did they have enough money to pay their mortgage, did they find comfort in their family and friends.

My parents are both gone now and I will never know the answer to those questions, but one thing I do know for sure – they showed me how to be resilient. Before now, I have never seen empty shelves at the grocery store or people wearing masks, but our world sure has experienced this several times before. And each time it has survived and come back stronger than ever. Our world and our people refused to be beaten by war or disease or hunger. That is what keeps me going – that is what gives me hope. Knowing that we have been here before and have survived. Knowing that my parents have faced unsurmountable fear and would not give up.

So, as I face a world changed by COVID-19, I take the lessons I learned from my parents and refuse to let it break me. I refuse to be beaten down.

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Is That a Light at the End of the Tunnel?

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Today, in our world of uncertainty, we often feel like we have lost control. Like our life is spiraling – and it is. The trick is to stop, take a look, and notice HOW it is spiraling. It is downward or upward? More importantly, who is in control?

I have to be honest – some days I’m not sure. I personally crave some sort of permanence at a time when nothing looks familiar. When can I go back to work; eat at a restaurant; go to a movie? When can I do something as simple as hugging my brother or walking next to my friend without shouting over six feet of distance?

The key is to notice and believe that all things, good and bad, come to an end. And I promise you, this, too, will also come to an end. Soon, VERY soon, we will see that light at the end of the tunnel and know that WE are the ones in control. We choose our own destiny and decide how we will spend our day. Sometimes we may feel a little stuck, and that’s ok, because tomorrow will give us another chance to begin again; to make sure that our life is spiraling upwards.

We have faced change so many times. Think about it. Haven’t you moved into a new house, calling it your forever home, until you move again? Maybe you’ve faced divorce swearing you will never love again – until you do. And each time, with each change, you have seen and trusted that light at the end of the tunnel.

So right now, take a look and squint. I swear I see a flicker.


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