Friendship for the Next Generation

Today, August 4th is Friendship Day in the US. Friendship is about having fun together, having people you can turn to at any time, people you love to go places with, people who you can just hang out with and do absolutely nothing and it be a great time. Social media and technology like mobile phones have empowered us to build friendships with people around the world, not just those we went to school with or who live in our physical area. People with good friendships tend to be happier, healthier and more at peace with the world.

Friends are important because they’re relationships we choose to make. For some people they’re closer than family, either because someone doesn’t have family or they don’t feel comfortable with their family or their family aren’t people they want to be around. But like romantic relationships, we don’t always navigate them well when situations of change pop up in our lives. It’s one area that we haven’t done a great job with teaching the next generation, one that is easy in some ways to do better with, but in other ways it’s not so easy.

One of the best ways to teach the next generation is by showing them healthy friendships, which means having nights out with friends, getting together with other families and doing things with them, and making new friends so kids see the process. It’s also not so easy because it means you have to get out there and work on those relationships with friends and potential friends. We don’t always find we have time for everything, and to think about adding another thing to that list might be a bit overwhelming.

The “easier” way is by encouraging them to read books with friendships and watch movies and shows with friendships, to have play dates and hangouts with friends, to have birthday parties and attend them, and of course to talk about the friendships (and challenge with friendships) at school. Best of course would be to do both, teaching by example and encouraging their friendships.

Even when our friendships don’t last, they’re some of the most rewarding and positive memories and experiences, which makes them worth the effort we have to put into them. What have friendships that you’ve had and have seen taught you?

Celebrating Summer Birthdays

Birthdays are funny because some people really don’t enjoy them while others want them celebrated in a big way. One of the more interesting times to have a birthday is in the summer because it’s a lot harder to celebrate because people are taking vacations and off doing a myriad of different things and not in their usual places. Even adults have less predictability in their lives during the summer. I’m not a summer baby but I know several people who are, so today I thought we’d talk about ways to celebrate them, ways that also work for those who have a birthday on Christmas or Christmas Eve.

Go ahead and celebrate anyway. Your birthday is about you, so maybe you don’t get to have a big party because not everyone can attend, so go ahead and do what you want. Maybe it’s a special dinner or other meal, maybe it’s sleeping in, maybe it’s hanging out with just one special person, maybe it’s doing something special with just your immediate family. Make your birthday what you want it to be.

Celebrate your half birthday instead. Celebrating your half birthday means that it would be during times that people are around, and maybe even looking for something to do in the rather tame months of January and February. Of course if you celebrate your half birthday with your friends and your actual birthday with your family it’s like having two birthdays!

Pick a day, any day. Yes, pick another day that appeals to you and make it your honorary birthday. Maybe you really hate celebrating your birthday so you make your honorary birthday February 29 so you only have to celebrate it every 4 years. Maybe you love your Irish heritage so you celebrate it on March 14. Maybe you love all things spooky so you make it October 31. Maybe you like the idea of starting with the calendar so you celebrate on January 1. Regardless, you’ve got lots of other days to choose from.

What about you? What fun and creative ideas do you have for summer birthday celebrations?

New This Spring

Spring seems to be taking its sweet time showing up where I am this year, which is a little frustrating. We’ve had a few tastes of it and then it goes back to being like winter. This week looks like we might more firmly move towards spring but I won’t hold my breath. Instead I’ll focus on the other things that spring brings, and that’s new life. Just like the New Year inspires us to make changes in our lives, spring inspires us to think new, fresh and alive. So today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on bringing new life to your family and relationship.

Spring is a great time to get organized and purge your belongings. It’s a great time to work together as a family, especially on rainy spring days when you’re stuck inside anyway, and go through all of your clothes and get rid of those that are too worn or don’t fit anymore. You can also take this time to pack away clothes that you all don’t use for the warmer months if that’s something you do. It’s a great time to go through all the items in your kitchen and bathroom and get rid of things that are expired or you don’t use anymore. Finally, you can go through all the other stuff and gear you’ve got (sporting, books, toys, gear etc.), and get rid of what you don’t use any more. All of the stuff you’ve decided not to keep can be great for a spring or summer garage or yard sale, or are great to donate to charities (as long as they’re not broken or ripped and the food isn’t outdated).

Spring is also a great time to try a new hobby or try out some of the new stores, restaurants and venues that have set up shop over the late fall and winter. Lots of towns and cities have evening courses at local community schools and other locations that you can take to try something new or learn about something you’ve always been curious about from business to food to languages to arts and crafts. I don’t know about you but I don’t enjoy seeing the local stores empty, so if we want them to stay occupied we have to shop from them. As we get out of winter and are more interested in being outside and doing things, it’s a great time to visit some of those new places and at least check them out and recommend them to a friend who we know might have more interest in them than you do.

Why do something new or make room in your life? Because sometimes our lives get stagnant and there’s a reason why the statement ‘out with the old, in with the new’ is so popular. It’s not about old being bad (it’s not), or about trying every new thing (not possible), but about being open in life, being willing to try new things, and especially about accepting growth and new life in your journey. New can be good, especially as a tool to keep your family, relationships, work and health thriving. What new will you try this spring?

Are Your People Healthy?

One of the biggest keys to health are the people in your life.  Those people will make or break the healthy habits you’re trying to create.  And even if they don’t purposely try to hinder you in creating those habits, they can inadvertently do things that will make it harder for you.  Let’s say you’re all going out to eat.  No, they don’t have to pick a restaurant everyone can eat at when you all go out, although it’s the polite thing to do, but with the way that we typically rotate who has the final say or who comes up with ideas so that we’re not completely bored and going to the same places all the time, it’s likely that someone will be unhappy or not thrilled with the selection each time.  If we’re truly considerate people, if we truly care about the people that we’re with, we will make a real effort to compromise.

The person you choose to be your romantic partner is usually more influential than your friends, coworkers and other acquaintances. So getting into a committed relationship with someone that you don’t think has good habits, isn’t considerate of your needs, doesn’t prioritize alone time for you two, doesn’t make you happy, and you don’t enjoy making them happy, is probably not a good idea. I’m not necessarily talking about finding THE right person, as in there’s only one right person for each of us, but I am talking about finding someone that respects and supports you, your needs and desires and you can respect and support them and theirs.

A toxic relationship of any kind can have long lasting damage on you, your health and your life.  It can take years to get over the physical or psychological damage that has been done to you or happened as a result of the relationship, and not all of it is their fault.  My intention with writing this post isn’t to scare you that all your relationships are bad and you should only be friends with certain kinds of people (after all we all have a couple of bad days).  Instead I encourage you to be and work on becoming the person that it’s worth being in a relationship with.  Don’t be the person that others regret hanging out with or avoid.  It’s not about being the center of attention or the person that everyone wants to be.  It’s about knowing that you did the best you could with your life, you treated others right and because you made choices that you felt supported you, you can someday die happy.

Are you Faithful?

This month one of the topics we’ve talked about is faith, and as we wrap up this month today I wanted to talk about being faithful.  Are you a faithful person?  Are you faithful to the decisions you’ve made and people who you’ve chosen to let into your life? Do you have faith in other people?  Are you faithful to yourself and your needs, dreams and desires? Do you follow through on the commitments you’ve made?  Can people trust you? Do you trust yourself?

I know these are some challenging questions, and those we may not like to ask very often.  We don’t like to believe or discover that we’re not the person we should be, the person we think we are or the person others think we are.  It’s not exciting to most of us to discover that we’ve got work to do on ourselves and the areas we’re lacking in.  But faith and faithfulness are qualities that people look for in each other, and the reward of taking the time to do the work is usually better than we could imagine.

With summer comes lots of opportunities to be with family and friends.   Family and friends are the people typically who know us the best and who we put the most faith in, and the people who have the most faith in us.  Yes, sometimes your faith will be misplaced and you’ll need to reevaluate, but most of us don’t get into relationships or have kids (or make career choices) without having faith, or at the very least hope, in how things will turn out.

So as you spend time with others this summer I encourage you to step up and be the person that your friends and family have placed their faith in.  Be the supportive friend they need, be the guide they need, be the leader they need, be the disciplinarian they need, and/or be the comforting shoulder they need.  But don’t forget about being faithful to yourself and your needs and desires too.  Carve out some time each week, or even each day if possible to be faithful to who you are and want to be.

Together for Christmas

I hope you’re as excited about the upcoming holidays as I am!  As we consider Christmas in a few weeks, this celebration of life, love, family, and so much more, you’ll be hearing a lot about the stories of Christmas, the messages of Christmas, why you should give, and why it’s a special time of year.  There are many good answers to those topics, but one of my favorites is said well by Taylor Caldwell:

“This is the message of Christmas:  We are never alone.” 

Yes, it’s simple, but it’s the truth.  No matter what story you’re looking at, it all comes down to the fact that we’re all here together.  There was Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Wisemen and more.  There was Santa or St. Nick delivering gifts to many.  There’s Charlie Brown putting on a play with his friends and decorating the tree.  There’s a Christmas Carol where Scrooge learns that merry and kindness are the right things to do.  Those are just a few of the stories that are watched, told and remembered at this time, and all have to do with the fact that no one is alone and no one can live their life without impacting someone else.

This weekend and in the weeks upcoming as you go about your life it will be easy to remember that you’re not alone: there will be all the mall traffic, emails from stores, holiday cards coming in the mail and family and friends calling up to say hi and meeting to share gifts.  Know that in these moments it’s not an exercise in frustration or annoying holiday sweaters, but an opportunity to be reminded that you’re here to help others and they’re here to help you.  You don’t have to go through anything alone in life, nor can you abdicate the responsibilities you have towards your fellow man.  Let’s celebrate together.

Social Health

Social is a word that’s used regularly in our culture thanks to the daily use of social media for most of us. Social media, starting way back when with MySpace and now with dozens of sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube, has made our world seem a whole lot smaller than it used to be. It’s made it possible for us to have much healthier long distance relationships, stay connected with family members no matter where they are in the world, and network around the world rather than just as far as we are willing to drive to.

Personally I’m both for and against the concept of social media. I love how it has connected us, I love how we’re able to share easily with friends, family and fans, I love that it encourages us to be social, I love how it encourages us to be open and honest about our lives and our businesses, and I love the power it’s given us to sharing about important causes and needs. However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We can go overboard with sharing, including details that people don’t really need to know because they’re too personal or they’re not really important. Many of us have yet to find the balance between the gift of social media and the curse or addiction.

What is social media really about though? It’s a reminder that we’re not alone in the world, we don’t have to bear our burdens alone and that life is better when we’re together. Generally social people are healthier and happier, it’s when it becomes a competition or insatiable impulse that things begin to spiral down.

So what’s the verdict on social media and living in a social culture? It’s an essential part of our lives if we want to be healthy and thrive, but even the most social of us need to make time to be alone too. I encourage you to make time for both this week!

A Strong and Supportive Relationship

It’s not easy to make a relationship work.  Any time you have more than one person involved there’s bound to be some disagreement, fighting, miscommunication and disappointment.  One thing I think makes a big difference is having multiple points of connection.  In other words, if all you have keeping you and your partner together is the fact that you made a kid together, you’ll have a lot more challenges than those who have similar interests, enjoy spending time together, like similar foods, enjoy similar movies, have kids and both like to travel.  There will always be differences because you’re two different people, but if you have a strong and large foundation to work with you’ll have a better shot at success.

I’m always amazed by the stories of people who say they met and knew the other person was ‘the one’ instantly.  I mean if this was a perfect world where no one had ex’s, trouble at work, health issues or financial worries it would be more believable, but in this day and age it seems almost like a fairy tale rather than reality. But with as many people are as in the world it seems more likely than ever that we would be able to find our ‘one,’ which is good news. However, sometimes we’re not ready for something that permanent.  And sometimes we discover that the person we thought we were with isn’t who they really are, even after knowing them for years.

So what’s a person to do?  I say start with friendships.  Have friends, meet new people, get out and live life, don’t jump in too quickly but don’t be afraid to make a decision, try to work things out when they get difficult but don’t stay with someone who is abusive, don’t assume that there’s someone better out there just because you’re afraid of doing the work it takes to make a relationship work, and don’t avoid relationships because you’re worried it won’t work out.

“Experts on romance say for a happy marriage there has to be more than a passionate love. For a lasting union, they insist, there must be a genuine liking for each other. Which, in my book, is a good definition for friendship.”
Marilyn Monroe

Memories of Summer

Over the past week and a half we’ve talked a lot about memories, and this month we’ve talked about family a lot too. When I think about family there are two things that most often come to mind: holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Halloween, and summer, because that’s when we spend the most time with our families. As we’re approaching another summer and wrapping up this month’s discussion on family I thought we should talk about the value of those memories.

First though let’s address the obvious: not all memories are good. I’ve got some memories of some Christmases with illnesses (it’s no fun spending holidays alone with a bucket), and not all family is awesome. Every family has issues, some more than others, since no one is perfect and everyone has their moments of failure and issues. So if that’s the norm rather than the occasional, you’ve got lots of catching up to do to the rest of us who do have good memories. As we’ve said before, if that’s you make your own family; a family of the heart not the blood.

Memories really are gifts though, with my grandmother sinking into worse Alzheimers and not able to be part of our lives in the way we would like, all that is left are the memories. It helps to remember the special times we had as a family years ago and the special place she had in my life when the days are not so good with her health.

But as much as memories are of the past, they’re also a big part of the future. Those memories have encouraged me to spend more time with family and friends, to talk about the past and to add traditions like baking cookies, hanging stockings, visiting the beach and being there for grandchildren if I ever have any. Memories are what you make of them, what do you make of your memories?

“My first outdoor cooking memories are full of erratic British summers, Dad swearing at a barbecue that he couldn’t put together, and eventually eating charred sausages, feeling brilliant.” Jamie Oliver

There’s Life After Graduation

Another year of college has wrapped up for many students, and another year of graduates joins the workforce full time. I’ve read lots of great advice for these new graduates already this year and I’m thankful that so many people are embracing and encouraging them rather than ignoring them and discrediting their ability to make a great contribution to the world. So if you’re a new graduate or you feel like you’re graduating the place you’ve reached in life, my advice for you is simple: don’t forget to enjoy life.

First and most obvious what comes to mind for people is partying and being with friends when you hear that advice, and that’s definitely part of it. It’s important to give yourself a break from the stress and responsibility of work and life and just have fun and hang out. These relationships that you develop and nurture every time you hang out are important for creating a support system you can depend on when life presents you with changes and challenges, which it will.

The second thing to remember is that you don’t know when your life will end, so enjoying life is about making the most of your life too. Whether you get a disease or get killed in a freak car accident death could come at any time. That’s not a reason to live irresponsibly and only party, but to make sure that you’re in a job and hanging out with people you care about and would put your life on the line for more often than not.

Finally, yes, enjoy achieving success. Maybe success for you is being a stay-at-home-dad, maybe it’s running an internet company, maybe it’s running a restaurant, and maybe that’s just what makes you happy right now. The economy has changed so that most of us will not stay with the same career for our entire lives, unlike just a few decades ago. Now, most of us will change jobs several times. Take advantage of that and move when you’re miserable and the passion disappears after being with a company for a few years, or if you like your company approach them with ways that will make you enjoy your job again (and I’m not just talking money).

Life is too short to be spent being miserable, choose to be happy.

“If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.” Billy Joel