My Beacon in the Night

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It was my beacon in the dark, my light at the end of the tunnel, my Taj Mahal. What am I referring to??? The Super 8 hotel in Hampshire, Illinois. No, I can’t even tell you where Hampshire, Illinois is, but what I do know is that when I hit an unexpected, fierce snowstorm, everything came to a standstill. The expressway was totally covered with snow and ice and slush so thick you could not see the lines on the road. I had no idea if I was in my lane or not. With the whiteout conditions, I could barely see five feet in front of me. Then, almost like an apparition, I saw a sign on the side of the road that read Super 8. I could barely see the exit ramp and even made a wrong turn as I tried to find the hotel.

Finally, I made my way to their parking lot and my only worry now was: do they have a vacancy?

WHEW – they did! As other travelers lined up behind me hoping for the same result, I got the key to my room and was happy to be safe.

I had no idea where I was but that didn’t matter. I was warm and safe and on the other side of the window that protected me from the blaring storm outside.

It’s interesting. I drive this route at least once a month. That means I must have passed this specific Super 8 hundreds of times, yet I never noticed it. I’m curious how many other places I’ve missed because I’ve been so consumed by whatever is happening in my life at that moment. I remind myself to make more of an effort to stay in the present. With all of life’s distractions, this is really difficult to do. I promise myself I will try harder tomorrow.

In the meantime, a huge thanks to the Super 8 in Hampshire, Illinois and to the day and night managers for giving me a safe place to lay my head.

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It Only Takes One Little Word

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One small word – only three little letters – can make all the difference in the world. Yes, it’s the power of one word, and the word I’m talking about today is yet.

My good friend and colleague, Roger Wolkoff, taught me this trick: The next time you feel like you can’t do something, just pause, then finish the sentence with yet.

I can’t find a job – yet.

I don’t know how to do this project – yet.

I have no idea what I’m doing – yet.

Get the idea? For me it’s learning to play the ukulele. A couple of years ago I went to a concert where someone sang a lovely song while playing the ukulele and it looked like so much fun. So, I asked for one for my birthday.  When I got my ukulele, I immediately signed up for lessons. OMG – what was I thinking??? I have never played any kind of instrument before and wouldn’t know a musical note if it hit me in the head. So what did I do? I immediately went to:

“I can’t play the ukulele!”

Then, I remembered the trick of using the word yet, and I changed my sentence to:

“I can’t play the ukulele – yet!”

It makes all the difference in the world. That one three letter word opens all sorts of opportunities to you. It helps you flip the switch and begin thinking about what is possible.

So, give it a try. The next time you tell yourself you can’t do something, pause, then add the word yet. It works wonders.

 

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Sorry, What’s Your Name Again?

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How many times have you been in a meeting, an event or even a family reunion and you forgot someone’s name. This happens to me all the time. How embarrassing! So, I wanted to ease my pain and get better at remembering names for more than five seconds after I met the person.

Here are a few ideas that have helped me and may help you as well:

First, really focus on the person and concentrate on their name, nothing else. As you shake their hand, repeat their name and make sure you are pronouncing it correctly. Saying their name once will do, otherwise it can get a little creepy.

Second, make a mental connection with someone you already know. When I recently meet a woman named Anna, I immediately pictured my niece, Anna. It really helps me remember names. If there is no connection with someone you already know, try visualizing. Find something about their face or what they are wearing to remind you of their name. For instance, Carla may be wearing colorful eyeglasses. Hence, Colorful Carla.

Third, introduce the person to someone else using their name. You get double points for this one because not only do you remember their name, but you are also helping them with a meaningful introduction.

People who are good at remembering names probably don’t have a better memory than you do. They just work harder at remembering names. Check out this short video and see if this helps you: https://binged.it/2WGwHEi. Now go out there and meet some new people trying out these techniques. Let me know how it works for you.

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My Perfect Facebook Life? HA!!!

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My life is not Facebook perfect. Personally, I don’t know anyone who does live a Facebook life. Yet it seems that every time I open my page, the whole world is on vacation or celebrating something special. There are lots of smiles and hugs and sunsets and rainbows. Be honest, don’t some of those photos and messages just drive you crazy!

For me, Facebook is one small snapshot of my life. Along with that comes stress, feeling overwhelmed, and yet another pair of pants that just don’t fit. However, we don’t post those images on Facebook. We don’t tell the world about our struggles and disappointments. Heck, that wouldn’t be as much fun to read about.

So, I caution you about Facebook and the messages you read there. Yes, I know it’s a great way to connect and share messages, but please be aware that everyone else experiences the same anxieties and doubts as you do. You are not alone. So, if you find all those accomplishments and perfect selfies depressing, I encourage you to close your computer, put your phone down, and call a friend. Find some comfort in the knowledge that you are human and everything does not have to be perfect in your life. I could not have said it better than the insightful Steve Jobs:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

 

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Lean Into Joy

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

How do we bring more joy into our lives? How can we feel more fulfilled?

That is the 64 million-dollar question. And it’s a difficult one to answer because joy means something different to all of us. One thing is certain, though: I’ve never known anyone to experience joy unless they find purpose in their life.

You know, we all have jobs that pay the bills. Some of us are lucky enough to find passion and purpose in our career. But if that’s not you, then you need to find something that does bring you joy in addition to your work. If your day job feeds your family, you must find something that feeds your soul.

Here’s an example: for years I went to a chiropractor. She helped me recover from a car accident and cured me from a neck pain that I thought would haunt me for the rest of my life. She was the best darn chiropractor I ever had. Then one day I noticed her earrings and complimented her. She said she made them herself, then led me into her back room that was filled with beads and wires and clasps. THAT is what she loved doing in her spare time. Her chiropractic business fed her family; her hobby of making jewelry fed her soul.

The website Etsy is filled with homemade wares that fill someone’s purpose. I’ll bet you that most of the people selling their handcrafted items have full time jobs that are not related to what they are selling on Etsy. Yet they have found a way to cultivate meaningful work. They have found a way to bring purpose into their life. And if arts & crafts isn’t for you, what about volunteering? What club or organization can you become involved with that brings joy into your life.

So, maybe it’s time to let go of “supposed to.” You’re supposed to be miserable at work or you’re supposed to work only at what brings in money. What else can you do, in addition to your day job, that makes your life meaningful.  What else can you do to lean into joy.

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I Salute You, My Dear Friend

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I didn’t want to write this blog. I mean, I was really trying to avoid it. I didn’t want to talk about that life lesson we’ve all heard a million times. You know which one I mean:

Hug the people you love because you never know if this is the last time you will see them.

No matter how many times we hear it, we all seem to fall back into our old habits of taking each other for granted.

So that’s why I didn’t want to write about my dear friend, Jill Morganthaler.  I didn’t want to fall into that old cliché.

But I couldn’t help myself because I can’t seem to think of anything else…

Some people told me I screamed when I heard the news. Jill had suddenly and unexpectedly died while scuba diving.  She was on vacation with her husband. I refused to believe it, even after someone showed me the Facebook message that her brother posted.

“It must be a mistake,” I said. “Someone is playing a sick joke on us.”

But my kind, caring friend, the one holding the phone up for me, shook his head slowly, whispering: “It’s not a joke.”

Jill was a retired Army Colonel who served 30 years in the Army. She was an Iraq vet and had a stare-down with Saddam Hussein as he was leaving the courtroom. She was one tough woman. Over the years I heard stories of her triumphs and her defeats; of her happiness and her fears. We shared victories when we won the Toastmasters contest together and drank martinis before heading to our meetings. She was powerful and forceful – you always knew when Jill was in the room. She was bigger than life itself.

So, I’m not going to tell you to hug the people you love – you already know that. Instead I am just going to be content with the memories and lessons that Jill has etched in my heart. She lived life to the fullest. Even in the last hour of her life, she was doing what she loved – scuba diving. Even in her death, she is leaving behind a story to be told. We are all better for having known her.    I know my life will never be the same.

Rest in Peace, my Dear Friend.

 

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The Power of the Mind

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Last week I talked about dealing with the unpredictability of life.  For me, it was my husband’s surgery and waiting to hear how my life could possibly change.  I’m so happy to report that everything turned out fine.  It seemed like the anticipation and the “getting ready” phase were far worse than the actual surgery itself.

Now that I can finally breathe a sigh of relief, I am reminded once again of what helped me through this very difficult time.  Like all the other times before, it was my friends and family who were there for me.  With their constant calls, emails and texts, I never felt alone.   

One day, as I talked to a friend in a frantic voice, she calmly asked me: “How do you envision it?”   

Without hesitation, I answered: “That everything will be all right.”

Now, as I reflect on that conversation, it reminds me of this picture I have hanging on my bedroom wall.  It was created by Jason Kotecki and I love the possibilities it holds.  One box, the same box, can be anything you want it to be.  You can picture an outcome that you can work towards.  This concept truly helped me keep my sanity during an extremely stressful time.

So, take a minute to look at this picture, embrace all the different possibilities, then ask yourself:

“How would I fill in the blank line at the end of this picture?  How do I envision my life?”

 

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Hello – Is It Me You’re Looking For???

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I don’t get it.  I mean, I truly don’t understand what is so important that everyone is constantly on their phone.  And I’m not just talking about the young people who grew up with this appendage attached to their ear.  It’s also the “older folks,” people my age, who can’t seem to survive 15 minutes without checking their phone.

Now I know I sound like an old lady – like a GET OFF MY LAWN old lady – but I can’t be the only one who feels this way. 

A few nights ago, my husband and I planned a “date” night.  We chose a lovely venue that offers a unique dining experience called The Vignette Dining Club.  The idea is to make you feel like you are dining in someone’s home.  They entertain small groups of approximately 16 people with an intimate atmosphere that celebrates good food, connecting with old friends and making new ones. 

As we were all seated and enjoying the delicious food, I turned to my right to hear what the chef was saying.  He was describing the dish that was in front of us and how he prepared it.  To my surprise and irritation, there were three people who were on their phones.  REALLY!  The teacher in me wanted to grab the phone from the woman next to me and scream: “You’re being rude!”  Of course, I restrained myself, but it was really, really hard.

I truly understand that there are valid reasons that people need to be available – babysitters, aging parents, and many more.  But checking your emails when someone else is talking is not one of them.  That blaring light from your phone affects the experience of those around you.  Can you go one or two hours without checking your email?  If not, maybe you should stay at home.  (Yikes – there, I’ve said it!)

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Find Your Safe Space

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We are having an artic blast in the Midwest.  I’ve been born and raised in Chicago, so you would think I’d be used to the cold.  But I swear, it has never been this frigid.

As I sit in my home, wearing flannel everything and still feeling chilled, I couldn’t help but think about my trip to Churchill, Canada.  I traveled there a couple of years ago to see the polar bears emerge from hibernation and meander to the Hudson Bay, looking for food.  It was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Looking at the pictures, I was extremely touched by this one of a mother bear and her cub.  They both seem so content and comfortable and trustful.  Yes, that’s the word I’m looking for – trustful.  They have both found their spot where they feel safe.

That’s what I wish for you – and for me.  To find your safe space, your snuggle-up-and-believe-everything-will-be-alright space.  It’s nothing that can be ordered on Amazon or researched by Alexa.  It’s a place you have to discover on your own.  One that makes you feel all cozy inside with a belief that all is right with the world.

Yes, that’s what I wish for you on this cold and frigid night.  Along with a hot chocolate and a belief that warmer weather IS coming.

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Starting with a Blank Page

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed with all the possible choices we have.  Think about it.  There was a time when you ordered a cup of coffee – that’s it.  Coffee.  Now??? We have an infinite number of decisions to make.  Let’s see: I’ll have a blonde latte with soy milk and only one pump of vanilla, please.  And that’s considered an easy order.  I’ve heard others that are far more complicated.

And it doesn’t stop there.  We make choices when it comes to color and price and health and so much more.  It’s no wonder we get overwhelmed and often paralyzed with the infinite number of possibilities we face every day. How do you get past this? 

Here’s the way I see it – When we start with a blank page we can create anything at all , we can decide on whatever is possible, and that can be very daunting and downright scary.  Everything, both large and small, is a decision to be made and we become paralyzed.  So, to help get through this, I’m trying to limit my list of choices.  I’ve decided to pick three of whatever it is.  Three – that’s it.  Then I research those three and make my decision at that time.  It’s tempting to check out everything that pops up on the internet, but I’ve gotten a lot better at hitting that delete button.

So, the next time you are planning a vacation, deciding what to make for dinner or researching a new car, pick three, limit your choices, and research those.  Don’t allow yourself to get bogged down with all the details.  See if that works for you.  It might make all those decisions a little bit easier.

Now, back to my blonde latte with soy milk and only one pump of vanilla.  This barista even wrote my name in the foam.  Nice choice!

 

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