Superstitions & Traditions

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Superstitions!  Whether my parents really believed in the superstitions they passed down to us or not, I’ll never know. But what I DO know is that they still stick with me today – more than sixty years later.

To this day I can still hear my Mom saying: “Nancy, if you put your shoes on the table they will pinch your feet.”  So, the other day, after returning from DSW Shoe Warehouse, my husband didn’t understand my yelp as he placed that box of shoes on our dining room table.  Yes, some superstitions from my childhood still follow me today even though I am well aware they can’t possibly be true.

Along with that comes the traditions I grew up with.  You see, I am 100% Polish and was raised in a VERY ethnic neighborhood.  Polish customs were part of my everyday life, especially at this time of year.  One of the traditions I remember very clearly is the oplatek.  It’s a Christmas wafer with a religious scene imprinted on it.  Every Christmas Eve we would sit at the table, break off a small piece, hand it to the person next to us and offer them health, good luck and great fortune for the upcoming year.  It was a sweet gesture filled with smiles and friendship and love. 

Do you have any customs that have been passed down from generation to generation?  Are you creating new ones of your own?  What do you hope your family and friends will remember in the years to come?  Now that I’ve asked you those questions, I need to take a look at my own holiday celebrations.  What can I create so that sixty years from now my friends and family will remember me – just like I remember my family sharing the oplatek.  Thanks Mom and Dad.

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You Want Me to Do What???

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As I already mentioned last week – I LOVE the holiday season!

Cooking!  Decorating!!  Shopping!!!  I enjoy every single part of it.  At times, it feels like you can barely catch your breath.  So, what I’m about to tell you next may not make any sense…

Find some time this holiday season and try something new!

Yes, that’s right.  I’m challenging you to STOP, take a break, don’t worry about everything and everyone else, and find some time for a little fun.  Carve out a few minutes to enjoy a little laughter. 

Every year I promise myself that I will try one new thing during the holidays.  This year, it was Caroling at the Cave in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.  It’s an actual cavern that you can tour year-round, and during the holidays they feature a women’s acapella group.  With the cave glowing with candlelight and the beautiful voices echoing holiday tunes, I felt like I had been transported to Europe.  It was quite magical.  There was even an appearance by Santa Claus at the close of the program.

It appears as though Caroling at the Cave is quite popular and you can find these events in a number of different places.  Check it out – Google it – and see if there is a Cave Caroling close to you.  And if this doesn’t tickle your fancy, find something else that does.  The point is to take a “time out” from all the holiday craziness and find something that makes your heart smile.

And please, share your experience with us.  We just may be able to add a few new things to our list for next year’s season.

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Magical Memories

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It’s that time of year again.  Yep, the holiday season is upon us.  And with all the stress of shopping and decorating and wrapping gifts – I LOVE IT!

Every time I open another box of decorations, it’s like I’ve discovered a new treasure.  I unwrap something I forgot I had, or even better, something that brings back a flood of sweet memories.

What is your favorite holiday memory???

One of my greatest is decorating the Christmas tree.  It seemed like every year we had a different style.  Let’s see – there was the silver aluminum tree with a round light that turned to shine four different colors on it.  Then there was the white flocked tree with huge orange ornaments and an orange light illuminating that one.  But my favorite was the live Christmas tree.  That’s the one we would decorate with tinsel.  My Mom would make us hang each strand of tinsel perfectly until they flowed over and around each branch.  It was beautiful – that is until our dog, Daisy, would crawl behind that tree and knock it over.  Yes, every single year you could count on it.  Everyone screamed as the tree crashed to the ground, ornaments shattering everywhere, and Daisy running to hide under the bed.  Looking back now, it was quite a hoot.

So this year, as I decorate my home, sans a dog, I can’t help but smile at the craziness and laughter that always surrounds this time of year.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

So please, take a moment and tell us about your favorite holiday memory.  I’d love to hear it.

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Listen to Their Stories

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I just read that November 23rd is the National Day of Listening.  This intrigued me so I turned to the almighty Google to learn more.

It appears that the Friday after Thanksgiving has been declared a day to listen – actually LISTEN to the people who surround you and hear their stories. It’s a time to record and/or video interviews with your family or friends or even stories about your community.  What a fabulous idea!

You know, it sometimes seems like the people we love will be with us forever, and there’s always tomorrow to listen to their stories, but as you get older you realize that life doesn’t always work that way. 

One of my greatest listening memories was with my Mom and helping her sort through hundreds of photos that she stored in shoe boxes.  Yes, that’s right, shoe boxes!  You see, this was a time before cell phones or computers, so we actually printed our photographs.  My Mom had three shoe boxes overflowing with photos.  Neither my brothers nor I had any idea who the people were smiling back at us in these photographs.  So, for several afternoons in a row, I sat with my Mom as, one by one, I held up a photo and said: “Mom, can you tell me who this is?”

Now, by this time, my Mom had developed dementia and couldn’t remember what she had for lunch, but she could remember with great detail what happened fifty years ago.  And so I listened to her stories.  I never thought of recording them, and to this day, that is one of my greatest regrets.  One thing I do have, though, are those wonderful memories, sitting on her patio with the warmth of the sun shining down on us, hearing the stories of her best friend, Ann, and the fights she had with her sister, and how she met my father.  Those moments we shared together are priceless and those memories will stay with me forever.

So now we come to today and this age of technology.  All we have to do is pull out our cell phone and hit the record button.  Young and old, we all have stories.  Here’s to capturing some of them.  I can’t go back and record my Mom’s voice, but I sure can start today and gather a lifetime of memories with the people who still surround me.

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Friendsgiving

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Friendsgiving – don’t you just love that word? 

Next week is Thanksgiving and for years my family celebrated this holiday with kids and grandkids and parents and everyone within our circle of relatives.  But as I grew older, I wasn’t always able to travel home and be with my family.  It was a lonely time and I did not look forward to spending the holiday alone.  And that’s where my friends came in.

At a time that could have been very empty for me, my friends would welcome me into their dorm room or apartment or house and invite me to join them in an evening of eating and drinking and laughing.  Some of my fondest Thanksgiving memories are with Mike and Christine and Destany and so many others.

So that’s why I love the word Friendsgiving.  It’s a time to be thankful to the many friends that have entered my life.  Some have stayed while others merely passed through, and all are a huge part of who I am today.  Because of them, I hope I welcome others into my life and make them feel welcomed, whether it’s a holiday or not.

So to everyone who is reading this post and to all the lives that you touch, I wish you a sincere Thanksgiving, a heartfelt Friendsgiving and a life filled with all the happiness your heart can hold.

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What’s On Your Bookshelf?

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Have you ever read a book that was so compelling, so captivating that it took you deep into the night with your book light on because you just couldn’t put it down?  For me, it’s this book: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.    

I have to warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart.  It follows three women during WWII and how their paths cross, sometimes good and sometimes not so good.  Now, I’ve read other books and seen movies about the concentration camps during that time, and I’ve even visited a couple which was an extremely chilling experience, but nothing consumed me like this book did.  Maybe it’s because one of the characters is from Poland.  Since I’m 100% Polish, it made me wonder about my ancestry and how they were affected by these atrocities.  I never heard any stories from my family, but somehow, someway, someone from my family must have been directly affected.  It’s a terrifying thought. 

Now that I finished this book, I’m taking a little break.  I don’t plan on picking up a new book for a couple of weeks.  However, today, I am heading to the local library.  I just want to sort through the piles, touch a few books, thumb through the pages and see what jumps out at me.  Do you have any suggestions?  Anything I just HAVE to read?  Pretty soon I’ll be ready to take my next adventure through the power of reading.

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What Path Would You Take?

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What would you be?  Diving deep down into your imagination and digging into your “alter-you,” who would you be that is different from who you are right now.  I mean, throw all caution to the wind and don’t worry about talent or money or practicality.  Who or what would you be?

Now, my life has led me down many different paths.  Let’s see…I started out as a teacher, then an advertising sales rep, then a real estate developer, and now a Professional Speaker.  In between, I was also an owner of a Quizno’s Sub, a manager of a bridal department and also led the visitor services team at Millennium Park in Chicago.  WHEW!  I better stop there.

So, when my husband asked me the question: “What would you be that is different from all the other things you have done,” I surprised myself when I shouted out, without hesitation:

“A dancer!” 

Yes, that’s it.  I want to dance across a stage with my dress flowing behind me, arms waving in the air, as graceful as anything you have ever seen.  Why???  I have no idea.  Except for winning four dance lessons at a local Fred Astaire Dance Studio, I have never been involved in professional dancing in any way.  Yet that’s my answer – my final answer: “A dancer!”

So, what about you?  What would you like to be that is different from who you are right now?  If you let your mind wander, you just may discover a different part of yourself.

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Fury Frozen in Time

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

When I first told people that I was traveling through the state of Idaho for a week, most responded:

Why?  What’s in Idaho???

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t exactly sure myself.  I had driven through it several times and was always awed by its beauty, but I wasn’t sure what else it had to offer. 

But off we went, my husband and I, on an eight-day vacation.  Before we left, I researched “Top ten things to do in Idaho” and at the top of the list I found Craters of the Moon National Monument. 

I had never heard of it before. And after exploring it for a day, here’s what I learned:

Craters of the Moon dates back 15,000 years when lava erupted from a series of deep cracks in the earth.  They formed these massive lava fields and lava tubes which are similar to caves.  During our visit, we hiked over fields that reflected the fury of the lava, yet it left behind a beauty that cannot be denied. 

That’s when it came to me – that’s when the lava fields reminded me of the challenges I have faced in my own life.  It reminded me of the times that my life erupted in fury, spewing changes that would crack my foundation and make me doubt all that I had worked for – all that I had become.  Then, with time, that fury froze.  With time the scars and cracks and fierceness became something beautiful and fulfilling.  It created paths that would lead me to a new life. 

Just like the hot lava, when we are going through changes, we need time to see the beauty that can come from it.  It’s one of the hardest things to do, but once accomplished, the most rewarding.  It’s a map of where we have been and of all that we accomplished.  It fills in the pieces of the puzzle that were missing, changing the scenery along the way.

The fierceness and fury flows to a new beginning, waiting to be discovered.

If you’d like to learn more about Craters of the Moon National Monument and see its beauty, check this out: https://www.nps.gov/crmo/index.htm.  It truly was a treasure to find.

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Me and My Pink Ukulele

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Yep – I am now the proud owner of a pink ukulele.  Now I’m sure you’re wondering what’s the big deal.  Or more importantly, WHY I want a pink ukulele. 

The real answer?  I’m not really sure.  About 1 ½ years ago, I saw a Christmas concert where the performer played a ukulele while singing the song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.  I was quite taken by it.  Then about a month ago, I opened the class schedule for our local college and there it was – beginner ukulele lessons.  The opportunity presented itself to me and it just sounded like an interesting thing to do.

Now, I’ve never taken any kind of music lessons before.  And I have no idea how to read music or even what a musical note looks like, but I’m willing to give it a try.  More importantly, I refuse to tell myself “no.”  You know what I mean:

  • No, you have no idea what you are doing
  • No, you have no musical talent – at all
  • No, you’re too old to start something new

I’ll have none of that.  My first lesson is on October 31st and runs for six weeks at two hours per lesson.  I’ll be there proudly holding my pink ukulele up high.  And I must give a shout out to my husband and send a HUGE thanks his way.  He actually listened to me talk about this crazy idea and gave me that ukulele as a birthday gift.  It’s always great to have someone in your corner.   

Now watch out for my next presentation.  You just may get serenaded on my new toy.

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Oldies but Goodies

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What do these songs have in common?

They are all on current commercials.  Yes, Lollipop is now an ad for Kohls, State Farm Insurance has A Bushel and a Peck playing in the background, and The Wanderer is used by Toyota.

Now, I realize that many people never see a TV commercial.  They watch Netflix or Hulu or whatever else offers commercial free programs, but I actually enjoy them.  Yes, you heard me right – I enjoy watching commercials.  I find many of them amusing, and now that some are using old songs that I grew up singing, I enjoy them even more.

It led me to wondering why – why are so many old songs being used on television commercials today?  The only thing I can think of is they are targeting my age group.  I can’t believe that anyone under the age of 40 would even know any of these songs, let alone relate to them.  But for me, it brings back lovely memories and warm feelings.  It actually makes me stop and take notice. It makes me remember their product and gives me a good feeling about it.

Well, at least that’s my theory.  What about you?  Why do you think commercials are turning to oldies but goodies to sell their products?  Never noticed?  Check it out the next time you’re watching your favorite show.  You just may hear a song that brings back memories you’ve long forgotten.  Who knows?  You may even begin to enjoy watching those commercials like I do.

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