Thankful to be Alive

Second chances are a powerful thing. This week we learned that the boys and their soccer coach who went missing while visiting a cave in Thailand were still alive. They were in the cave for 9 days before they were found, and in the days since then people from around the world have been providing the expertise they have in caves and engineering to try to help and get the kids out before they run out of oxygen or the cave floods. Of course many of us are reminded of the Chilean miners who were trapped in a cave for 69 days in 2010. It took a serious effort to get them all out, and while the situation is different, it’s no less overwhelming or scary for the family members of the children and the soccer coach.

I believe that blame does have a place, but not here and now. It can come after we know how the story ends, hopefully with tales of rescue. This week for the kids and parents has been an opportunity to reconnect and share messages that may never have gotten out if they weren’t found. It’s an opportunity for them to talk again and see each other again.

Every day we deal with tragedies, and the loss of people who are killed accidentally or intentionally. There are very few cases of people who have absolutely no one who will miss them, there’s almost always someone left behind who will have to deal with the loss. In so many of those cases there wasn’t the opportunity for last messages, for apologies, for anything except to deal with the loss. But these families have had the chance this week to reconnect, even if it’s with a lot of earth between them.

We’re not guaranteed anything but today. You can’t predict or control what others do, you only have control over yourself. Don’t make light of second chances. Live and love today not because it might be your last day, but because you’re alive today.

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Summer Victories

This week begins my favorite season: summer.  Summer is a great opportunity for making victories in our lives, especially those that have to do with health.  So today I thought we’d talk about 3 of those healthy victories we can work on this summer.

Summer with the warmer weather and longer days makes for a great opportunity for us to get together with friends and family, giving us the time to work on those very important relationships. There’s something about these days and nights that makes us want to gather with friends, have a BBQ or just hang out by a crackling fire and roast marshmallows. The memories made during these events may be some of the best of your life, I certainly have some good ones from these types of events, and they’re great for building friendships and relationships that last.

It’s also a great time to take advantage of the weather and do more outdoor exercising and playtime, whether that’s walking, swimming or playing Frisbee.  There are lots of opportunities and activities that can get you more physically involved in the summer, from the very casual to the very physical, whether you want to do it alone or with friends. Many bike groups and swim groups meet seasonally, so it’s another opportunity to get connected in your community while getting healthy, too.

My final favorite source of victories in the summer comes from all of the fresh local fruit and produce that’s available.  Yes, we can get fresh fruit and vegetables all year long, but in the summer it’s much easier and cheaper to get local produce, and support local farmers.  I have a market I love going to all year ’round because they’ve got fresh, healthy foods at great prices, but in the summer I make the extra effort to stop at the roadside stands or pick up the produce in the stores that are labeled as coming from my local area. It’s even a little more fun to cook and eat because I know it’s local!

So with summer officially a few days away, what are your plans for victories this summer?

Stronger Together

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is strength. There’s been a lot of talk and news about social media lately, and a lot of it has been negative. I’m a supporter of social media, I feel it does more good than harm, that more families and friends have been brought together through it than hurt has been done. Of course I don’t make a point of interacting with or checking out the negative stuff, but just like the nightly news I know that there are things on there that I would rather not see, and should not be done to others. If anything I think social media has helped raise awareness and forced the assitance timeline on dealing with issues like hate, violence and bullying because it’s harder to hide them and a lot easier to talk with someone about what’s going on.

Social media has allowed us to have those special family moments even though many of us are on opposite sides of the country or somewhere in between. Even though it’s not astronomically expensive or difficult to travel anymore, we still have lots going on in our lives so we don’t make those trips as often as we could. But through social media we’re able to develop close relationships with extended family and share the special moments and adventures of our lives with them.

Social media does allow us to connect without having to go anywhere, but I think it’s important to spend time physically with others too. Summer is a great time to do so, because towns and cities across the US have special events like food truck nights, town wide garage sales, fireworks and concerts. For those of us who live in the center of town or near the locations that frequently host events it can be a bit of an inconvenience, but seeing the joy, excitement, happiness and connection of the people that attend is usually worth the temporary inconvenience.

I believe that by taking the time to interact in positive ways with others, as well as come together in times of tragedy we’re able to build not only stronger relationships but a stronger, healthier, happier country. Make time for your community this summer.

“We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.” Desmond Tutu

Small Business Success Smarts

It’s Small Business Week here in the US and I of course want to encourage everyone to shop with small businesses because they can offer some really great products/services and have put their hearts and souls into their businesses. The big businesses want you as a customer, but small businesses need you as a customer. Small businesses typically don’t have customers waiting in the wings to swoop in and take your place when you move on, so your business really matters. But let’s face it, there’s usually a reason why people move on from being customers of a small business. So today I thought I’d address a few of those issues and share some things you can do if you’ve got a small business to be (more) successful.

Information is one of the things that can make or break a business. Small businesses have tons of things to manage, often there are more balls they have to keep moving than they really can. So things fall by the wayside or just aren’t tended to as well as they could be. This includes updating all written information, including websites, brochures, posters, social media, signs, packaging and menus. By not updating your information people think you’re outdated and can get frustrated when things just aren’t lining up or making sense. Devoting just an hour or less a week to giving everything a once over can help to avoid some of the most unnecessary issues, and help you know what to delegate to others to take care of fixing.

Community is something else that can make or break a business, and a small business is in a great position to tap into community. Whether you’re a small business that has a physical store or not, you as the owner has a physical location where you live. So whether you’ve got a physical store or not, you’ve got a community that you can invest in and share about what you offer in. You don’t have to have a physical store to invest in the local community, and you don’t have to have a huge online selling platform to invest in marketing online. Most communities have fairs or carnivals or farmers markets during the nicer months, all of which are great opportunities for you to host a booth or have an ad, and some also have local news papers or TV stations that are in need of experts to share information for stories.

Finally, do what you do best. Small businesses are by name, small. You’re not expected to have every single product in an industry, or offer every service known to man. Focus on offering a variety of quality services and/or products that you are passionate about and are knowledgeable about, and some things that are unique to your small business. If you’re afraid of not having sufficient offerings for people, you can offer a service that you source products for people that are in line with your business, even if they’re not products you typically sell. For example if you sell coffees and teas, you don’t have to have every single variety in your store (physical or online), but you can clearly post that you can source a coffee or tea at customer request (and probably get a better deal than your customer would if they were to just buy it because of your industry connections).

These are just a few insights to help small businesses be successful. What are your tips for small business success?

Holidays of Unity

This week a topic I’m thinking about is unity. We’ve got some holidays that many people will celebrate over the next few weeks and a couple of others that not everyone will celebrate that all are about bringing people together. We’ve got Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day and Memorial Day plus the National Day of Prayer and Ramadan all being celebrated this month. During each of these events people will be gathering with family and/or friends to take time to celebrate, remember, gift, and tell stories honoring the men, women, families and cultures that each of these events are remembering.

They’re simple opportunities that bring people together, events that let us put aside other issues and challenges we’re facing, and just be together. Life has plenty of challenges, challenges that aren’t going to go away anytime soon, but days like these are great reminders that we aren’t going through life alone, and that together we’re stronger and more able than we are trying to do it on our own.

We talk about teamwork and the importance of our relationships often on this blog, but often what we’re talking about are the challenges and how we can work through them, and not celebrating the great steps and strides forward we’re making. This month there’s all these opportunities to really celebrate the people in our lives and the people who have stood for us, and to let them know that they’re not forgotten but that they’re appreciated and valuable to us.

So as we begin this month I want to challenge you to make at least these 3 upcoming holidays days that you work towards unity (Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day and Memorial Day). If you’re up for a big challenge, make it your goal this month to unify and work on your relationships with as many people that are in your life as possible, in whatever relationships you have with them, whether they’re personal, work, or religious. Together we can make the world, and each of our lives, a better place.

Creative Earth Day Celebrations

Sunday is Earth Day, and while I’m not quite ready to get out there and enjoy spring, with today being an unseasonably cold 42 degree day, I’m still looking forward to doing some earth-friendly things this week and weekend. If you’re looking for some creative ways to honor the earth and still do things you enjoy, here are a few things to add to your list.

Garage sales and estate sales are a great way to buy new things that you want and need while still helping the earth. Many people sell gently used items or even brand new ones that they haven’t used or don’t want but are still in great condition. These types of sales are also a great place to find stuff that just isn’t made anymore, or isn’t made in the same way or with the same quality that it used to be made with.

Farmer’s markets and roadside stands are a great way to support the local farming community. Eating vegetables and fruits is a great way to care for our planet in the first place, making the extra effort to do it locally not only gives you the opportunity to support the local growers, but also to know exactly where your food came from. Also, you typically have the chance to talk with the people who grow the food, which means you can find out exactly how they were grown and what, if any, chemicals were used.

Giving the gift of a potted plant is another great way to think more about the earth while still giving flowers or a plant that will make someone smile. Even if the person you’re gifting to doesn’t have the greenest thumb, most people can still keep a potted plant alive for far longer than cut flowers, and the potted plant often can go outdoors and last for months or years depending on the type of plant. And if you’re gifting to someone who has a home, things they can plant outdoors are almost always a blessing, including small trees and shrubs.

What ways are you planning to celebrate Earth Day this weekend?

Easter Egg-Citement

Today is the official celebration of Easter. You’ve probably seen the ads and your kids have probably begged you for Easter candy, even if you don’t celebrate for religious reasons. Growing up one of my favorite activities was the Easter egg hunt. Yes, we were a religious family, but there’s something special about looking for hidden eggs, just like there is about Santa at Christmas. Why have an Easter egg hunt with your kids?

For one, it’s fun your kids will want to do more than once. You’ll be filling and hiding, or at the very least hiding, eggs for the next few months. It’s one of those gifts that keep on giving. If you don’t want to fill individual eggs you can give the child with the most eggs found a prize.

If you’ve got slightly older kids who get easily bored or don’t have the same interest as younger kids in looking for eggs, just hide a few, maybe even some of the same color, around the house. It will be a bigger challenge for them and keep them interested for longer.

I do have a vote for the religious aspect, even if you’re not very religious. Giving your kids the knowledge, or letting them choose whether to believe or not, is empowering for both you and them. It’s great to be able to say to your kids “because [God] made it that way” when they ask you a particularly tricky question that you just don’t have an answer to. It also helps kids understand why things don’t always go their way and why not everything makes logical sense. Knowing there is something bigger, stronger and loving out there can help allay fears and provide reassurance of answers when there don’t seem to be any.

Finally, I love the whole concept of eggs. You’re looking for something, you’re discovering what’s inside and you’re celebrating that discovery. Just like kids learn, discover and grow as they get older, these steps are important for them to be aware of, especially in this instant age. Sometimes the good stuff is wrapped in a little mystery, surrounded by a little work, but no matter how you get there, it’s important to celebrate what you learn.

This Easter and this week ahead, hide some eggs with your kids, and discover the fun you can have together.

A St. Patrick’s Day Legacy

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! I’m excited as always, it’s one of my favorite holidays each year. Over the last day or so I’ve been checking out some Irish companies and looking at products made in Ireland and was struck by the care, consideration and effort that’s put into each product. No, no company is perfect, but when you think about truly Irish products and companies many of them have stood the test of time and consistently offer fantastic products. I’m not one to spend tons of money on things like jewelry or clothing, but I’m willing to spend those extra dollars to get such a quality product and support the families who are behind them.

No, this post isn’t really about running a business or offering a quality product, it’s about the quality and character of the people behind them. As parents and those in charge of the next generation we have a choice in what we want to teach the next generation, and hopefully what they’ll learn from us. Do we want to teach them to value the world, put their best foot forward, take pride in their work, leave a legacy that can be appreciated for a long time, and make a positive impact on the world? I know that’s what I want to teach the next generation and encourage them to value life and their talents.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a sweater or piece of jewelry from your local big box store, I’ve got some of them that I absolutely enjoy very much and were on low clearance prices even (prices that couldn’t get me anywhere near something from Ireland). So there’s nothing wrong with finding shortcuts and doing a quick job of something (as long as it gets the job done), but there’s value to be found in being a person who does more than just meets the status quo.

No one else can be who you are, no one else can be who your kids are or will grow up to be, no one else can be the neighborhood kids or who they will grow up to be, each and every one of us are unique and have the ability to bring something awesome to the table. In the case of the many families in Ireland who craft gorgeous products those families are teaching their next generations about leaving a legacy, honoring your heritage and sharing who they are with the world. What are you teaching your kids?

Time for Changes

In thinking about Daylight Savings Time that the US adjusted to this past weekend I thought we might talk about the idea of it being time to make changes. I never can quite remember which way the clocks are supposed to go when they switch, I’m very thankful for technology that does it by and large for us now. Sometimes change is like that: we just feel the need to make changes but we’re not really sure which changes to make. So today I thought we’d take a look at some changes you can make if you’re not sure what changes you’re in need of, and until you’re certain of what changes need to be made in your life.

Clean and organize: many of us are blessed to have lots of stuff and lead busy lives, but with lots of stuff and busy lives it doesn’t always leave a lot of time to clean and get organized. Many of us just do the minimal to get by each week and end up one day with a big pile of stuff that needs to be gone through and more dust bunnies than real ones hopping around. Cleaning and organizing is one way to clear out some of the old and make room for the new, a symbolic welcoming of whatever changes your life is bringing.

What you eat: there’s never a bad time to make a decision to eat healthier, and today is no exception. But you don’t just have to change to healthier food, you can choose to change and try new foods and recipes too. There’s nothing wrong with having some go-to foods that you love, but it’s often fun to try new foods and recipes and mix things up a bit. Maybe it will give you the chance to learn a new cooking technique or try an ingredient you’ve always wondered about but never really knew how to put it in a dish, and this would be the chance to do either or both.

Consideration for others: one of the biggest areas of our lives that could use some changes for most of us are the relationships we have and ways that we interact with others. Maybe you’ve gotten in the habit of being on your phone at the dinner table, you think or say really nasty things about the other drivers on the road, you talk with your mouth full, you don’t give your significant other much of your attention, you ignore employees under you or belittle them, or you haven’t made time for making new friends and relationships or learning about other cultures. It’s not about being best friends with everyone but about respect, learning to listen, being open to others being different than you, and doing better at sharing the space we all live in.

What changes are you feeling inspired to make in your life?

Love for 2018

Today I was inspired to share a quote from Maya Angelou:

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it destination full of hope.”

This is what I want for the rest of 2018. I want a year that’s filled with hope, where we all encourage and love each other, and aren’t driven by fear of the world ending or massive destruction. Of course, as long as we’re all still human the best we can do is strive for that goal, since none of us can be loving all the time. We’ve certainly hit our fair share of walls in 2017, so it’s my hope that 2018 can be the year that we bring down or challenge many of those walls.

So what can we do to make the rest of 2018 great?

First, it starts with an attitude adjustment for many of us. Our attitudes determine the thoughts we think, words we say and can even influence the actions we take. Our attitude is one of the most important things to work on, yet it’s often the hardest because we’ve had these beliefs drilled into us since we were kids, and now they’re part of who we are. But if we truly want to live in a better world, we have to learn to release prejudices, hatred, anger and even apathy.

Second, we have to start showing people we care and they matter. If we all acted a little more responsibly for ourselves, those who rely on us (like kids, partners and parents), and towards the world as a whole, there would be less tragedy and fewer situations which tear at our social fabric. If we were even 10% more responsible with our actions than we are now, not only would our neighborhoods be happy places to live, we’d all enjoy life more.

Finally, we have to choose to live with love and hope. Love doesn’t overlook the bad stuff, it helps find solutions to fix the bad stuff, or figures out the role bad stuff plays in life. Love gives all of us second and third chances, and helps us make good decisions about how we treat others and the world around us. Hope helps us stand again when the bad stuff gets overwhelming and makes us willing to work through the changes, even when they seem to take forever.

I hope that you’ll join me as we discover what it means to live with love and hope, and how many more victories can be achieved in each of our lives when we choose to love that way.