Giving thanks in Confusing Times

Consider this column a holiday public service.

family reunion

Consider it an aide memoire of what really matters. Consider it anything you wish. However, I wanted to take these moments, particularly at this time of year, to remind us — me — of some reasons to offer up thanks. After all, despite what sometimes passes as common belief, Thanksgiving is not a caloric competition.

With beheadings and renewed violence in the Middle East, an exaggerated Ebola scare; a frightening escalation of global warming; vitriolic hyperbolic, unproductive, childlike exchanges among “our leaders” about everything from affordable healthcare to immigration; a still-shaky standard of living for far too many; gridlock in Government, and — oh yeah — the worst drought in centuries here in California, we’re having quite some time of it all.

In times such as we find ourselves, it is vital to recall the words of Francois de La Rochefoucauld,

“Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors.”

The future will be better; be assured. Yet, while we are still chopping though the rough seas of today, some reminders might be in order.

Nonetheless, what really matters is that many of us will be surrounded by family and friends, people who support and guide us.

When we are off course, they redirect us. When we are on track, they congratulate us. When illness ravages our body and beats our spirit, they, like angels, sit by our side and heal us. When we are overwhelmed, they hold us near. When infused with joy, they join us in song. What a blessing, in the midst of seas of swirling, chaotic, pandemonium, to find islands of protection where we can have a rest and reclaim our souls. To say to them, “Thank you,” is woefully, pitifully, inadequate. Yet, it can do no harm.

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Five Step Plan to Stay in Control Over the Holidays

I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news.

good-news-bad-news-cartoon

The bad news is it’s commonly believed that the average person can put on seven to ten pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The good news is that several studies now show that the actual number is more like one pound. (Incidentally those same reports found people who are already overweight tend to gain five pounds or more during the same period.)

The bad news is, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medication, that although the average is only a pound or so, most folks will never, ever lose that pound. Moreover, since the average weight gain during adulthood is about one to two pounds a year, much of our long-term weight gain as grown-ups can be attributed directly to the excesses of the holiday season.

The good news is one can avoid falling victim to these statistics.

Ever the helper, I provide five simple tips to help you prevent from looking like Jolly Saint Nick come January first. [Read more…]

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Choose Your Identity

We have multiple identities.

woman-without-face-holding-face-on-mask

Lest you get concerned and think I’m talking about hearing voices instructing to do evil unto others, let me expand.

I’ll use me as an example; the identities I cannot change include:

  • Son
  • Father
  • Born of Jewish background in Detroit, Michigan in 1954 to Ruth and Symore (sic) Marcus

No matter what happens, nor how long I live, those will always be correct. But, they alone don’t make me who I am.

Therefore, my “core” must be found by other manners in which I identify.

  • 60-year old
  • Man
  • Husband
  • Resident of Eureka, California
  • American Citizen
  • Writer/Speaker/Consultant

These descriptions, while accurate, are more fluid than the first set.

I mean, we know for a fact that I can only identify as a “60-year-old” for this year; but do I change who I am if I change my marital status, residence, or even my gender? I think we’d all agree, that I would still be me. [Read more…]

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Action list for Habit Change

Just because the holidays are rapidly approaching does not mean that we get a free pass on changing bad habits.

Fat man holding a measurementIf you’re trying to change your lifestyle, don’t make the mistake of waiting until “after the holidays.” After all, they’ve been going on for over 2,000 years; they’re not stopping anytime soon.

So, for those dedicated souls who wish to enter next year without regret about having “blown it” during the last two months of the year, here are several strategies to navigate your way to a new you in the new year.

Be “sparklingly clear” about what your definition of success looks like.

How will you know you’ve arrived if you don’t know what it looks like when you’re there? It’s true; the result might look different than expected. However, one doesn’t begin a trip without at least an idea about where he’s going.

Describe success in as much depth as you can. Use numbers whenever possible while also focusing on the feelings that will result from your hard work. Use concrete descriptions in defining your goals.

Instead of “I will lose weight,” try (for example) “I will wear a perfect size ten comfortably by January 15.”

Take ridiculously tiny steps.

Small steps done regularly will always generate more results than large steps done intermittently. In other words, it’s better to walk a block and really do it than to swear you’ll run a mile and never get around to it.

If after saying, “I will do (whatever),” you’re not 100 percent absolutely dead-on totally confident that you really will do that, then that goal is too large. Make it small enough so that you have no excuse to not do it.

By the way, a good indicator is that if your inner critic is telling you’re not doing enough, you’re probably on track.

Embrace the rough patches

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Birthday Cake Ban

I hate being one of those crotchety old people who hears a story, shakes his head in disgust, and says, “When I was a kid…”

grumpy-old-man-with-caneYet, I find myself in that position (hopefully I am not crotchety however).

“When I was a kid…” I don’t remember parents bringing birthday cakes or cupcakes to classrooms. I just don’t think it was done way back then; maybe they melted on the stagecoach ride over. Who knows? Yet, times change and it appears to be standard operating behavior for parents to do so nowadays — that is, unless you reside in Northern Kentucky.

Burlington Elementary School in the Bluegrass State revised its wellness policy.

The end result is a ban on food for school birthday celebrations. We’re not just talking about cakes; rather — in the interest of promoting healthier food choices — ALL other snacks are now verboten. Non-food “treats” such as pencils, balloons, erasers and book-marks are suggested. (“Happy birthday Johnny, now blow out your bookmark!”)

The intention is laudable; they’re actually doing some-thing to combat the ever-burgeoning obesity crisis and attempting to shift the focus of celebrations away from food. Good on them for that. And there are indeed health concerns involving food allergies; not to mention, I imagine it’s purt’ near impossible to school a child redlining on a sugar buzz.

Yet I have concerns.

[Read more…]

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