Thank You Barbara

If food is what sustains the body, gratitude nourishes the soul.

Today I am well fed.

Having lived in the same community for over 30 years, I believe I carry a relatively high, (hopefully) positive reputation. Within minutes of my home, I can stroll among the redwoods or along a rocky — albeit cold — beach. My house is not a palace, yet it’s not a cardboard box either and my “commute” to work, when not on a plane, consists of four stairs. When subjected to the hassle of airline travel, I often visit beautiful, wondrous locales and speak to and with fascinating people from all walks of life. I am nurtured by strong friendships and even though — like any long-term relationship — we can drive each other crazy, I am still deeply, teenage-style, crazy nuts in love with my wife. My hair is thinner, the brown has been replaced with gray; I grunt a bit more when I move than I did in younger days, but, even if I am forever watching my weight, my health is generally holding up, thank you very much.

I am beyond fortunate — although I forget far too often.

my coloumn on refrigeratorLast night, I was reminded when a reader of this column reached out to me on a social network site and sent me a photograph.

After the passing of his aunt, her family assembled at the house. On her refrigerator, among the collection of magnets and drawings, was an article I had written many years ago called “Five Words to Change Your Life.”

I do not recall if I ever met his aunt, but looking at the refrigerator magnets framed in the small snapshot, I know she had grandchildren and perhaps liked birds. I assume she traveled to Alaska, and she had a fondness for the iconic Dr. Seuss character, the Cat in the Hat (or more likely her grandchildren did). She was most likely a tidy woman. (I make that deduction because my article was cut with clear straight lines and hung level and centered on the refrigerator door.)

Although not directly posted on her refrigerator, like each of us, I know she had dreams, possibilities, and plans; although I do not know what they were. I hope she realized them before she passed.

I also know with certainty that she was loved and that she loved in return.

She could have been my aunt, or yours. Maybe she was.

Although my messages are posted in print near and far, and I am given the privilege of the speaker’s platform, each of us, whether as pebbles or boulders, is tossed into the same lake, spreading ripples in all directions. We touch and we are touched. Should we face final judgment, I am convinced the ultimate criteria will be how we affected those with whom we connected during our lives. For some day in the future, each of us will exist only in the memories and words of the ones we left behind. It is they, not we, who determine our legacy. Paradoxically, we create it, and do so in the present; right now, today, this instant.

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Don’t you dare bring me donuts!

My mother, Ruth, who battled obesity for her first 69 years, re-arranged her habits to shed 80 pounds over the next three years.

With the exception of those who knew her previously, she refused to speak of this noteworthy accomplishment. One doesn’t forgo favorite foods, increase (or begin) exercise, deal with tamped down feelings, and in general, upend one’s entire lifestyle unless the result is deeply desired. It’s a lot of effort to revamp mind and body; therefore most folks find it worthy of recognition. As I said, “most” — not all. “Why don’t you let people know about your weight loss?” I wondered. Her answer: “I should have never let myself get so out of control that I weighed that much in the first place.” My mother was incredibly understanding of almost anyone’s shortcomings — except her own. “None of us are perfect,” I replied, “The thing is you tackled it. Many people your age would have just given up. You didn’t.”

“I did what had to be done, which I should have done a long time before.” Once my mom made up her mind, there was no arguing.

Three years to lose 80 pounds, even when accomplished in a healthy fashion, is still slower than the norm.

In part, that pace was the result of the parameters upon which she insisted. Although she took a practical approach — smaller portions, daily walks, group support — her speed was retarded because she refused to sacrifice desserts. In mom’s world, one always saved room for dessert. (Hmmmm, might this be a window in why I had my own weight problems?) “I don’t mind losing a tenth of a pound a week,” she affirmed, “as long as I can have dessert.” Knowing how strong however was the temptation to go overboard with goodies, she banished from her home the most problematic caloric treats, and compensated by buying sugar free or low calorie. However, she continued to have dessert after every meal. Enter Joe; a white-haired, mustachioed, elegant, dapper widower — who might have been lifted from a Fred Astaire movie. [Read more...]

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Attitude Calling

At the dawn of my sales career, a co-worker gave me a cassette: Zig Ziglar’s “Secrets of Closing the Sale.”

audio-cassette

Reluctantly plugging it into the tape machine, I expected to eject it (and the ideas) immediately after the slack on the tape was absorbed. Instead, I became a fan of the old-time motivator from Yazoo City who postulated that health, wealth, and happiness are the natural results of treating others well and that attitude is essential in doing so.

Years have passed, and unfortunately so has Mr. Ziglar, but I still remember vividly a scenario he used to illustrate how fluid is our perception. (I’ve altered the concept, but felt it important to give credit to its origin.)

Picture rising on your “average” day, nothing exhilarating or dreadful is on the agenda. As you rub the sleep from your eyes and swing your bare feet from the softness of the bed to the hardness of the floor, using a one-to-ten scale, think about how you’d rate your attitude. Sure, some days barely merit a “one;” others are heavenly, generating a “ten.” But — on the run-of-the-mill everyday — what ranking would you choose? (FYI, based on a long-term survey I conduct, the majority of respondents end up at 7.9.)

Attitude locked in place; you interact in usual fashion with friends, families, and vendors. As the day fades into history, you retire, expecting to rise again tomorrow and repeat the process. Not meaning to cast our existence as mundane; but, it is most of what life is in present-day America.

So, let’s shake it up.

Again, imagine the ordinary morning. However, this dawn you are jolted into consciousness by a ringing telephone. Glancing at the clock and noting the early hour, your first thoughts are concern, “Who is calling this early? What’s wrong?”

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Yes Dear, Whatever You Say Dear…

I’ll admit it; I’m wimpy when it comes to confrontations.

man-coweringI don’t like people getting mad at me. So oft times, I go out of my way to pre-appease them; assuming they won’t like something and sidestepping the issue all together. Yes, I realize I’m co-dependent and yes, I’m trying to stop; I even tried to form a support group for co-dependents but no one would give me per-mission. (Insert rim shot here…)

What this means is that I become concerned that my politics or opinions might show through my writing, resulting in me being harangued by internet “trolls” who have nothing better to do than spend every waking hour scouring the interwebs waiting to pounce on anything I write. (Self-importance much?)

In fairness, my concern is not without basis.

I’ve been flamed because of my views on guns, political candidates, and even negative communication styles (obviously missing the irony). The column that garnered the most hate mail was a humorous piece where I postulated the theory that, based on a trip to New Orleans, the only foods allowed in the south must be deep-fried. (I was even accused of trying to re-ignite the civil war; really.)

Anyhoo… my concern with attempting to avert these curmudgeons can — at times — cause me to pick and choose my topics and words with extreme care. After all, someone a thousand miles away, reading my piece two weeks after I wrote it might feel awkward and shoot negative vibes toward me. Goodness knows! I wouldn’t want that to happen.

Like I said: co-dependent.

This piece however might cause a ruffle or two much closer to home, including in my own household so I now begin to tread in dangerous places.

New and recent findings, published in the journal Emotion, show that long-term marital satisfaction depends on wives — more so than husbands — regulating their emotions during arguments. Researchers from two major universities found that the happi-est marriages, in both the short and long-term, were those where the wives were able to regain their self-control quickly after disputes erupted.

The lead author of the study (whom I point out is a woman) said, [Read more...]

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