The Blessing of Surprises

This weekend I was thinking about the topic of surprise as I was working on my newsletters. Some of us are good with surprises but others of us hate them. I’m kind of in the middle, I like having and knowing plans and things, but at the same time it can be fun to get a surprise free gift with an order or be surprised by what a restaurant has for specials that day. If we really think about it just about every day has at least one surprise in it, there’s almost no way we can fully predict our day from start to finish. Sometimes those surprises are good, and other times they’re challenges to us or become obstacles in our days.

One of my favorite surprises to have in my life are kids and animals. Both can bring some pretty crazy antics to the table, and while they do have some predictability, you never really know what they’re going to say or how they’re going to play or the things they’ll get into. I think having these types of simple but active and life-affirming surprises in our lives are an important aspect of keeping us young, adventurous, curious and healthy.

Getting old is a fact of life, but just because our age says we’re older, it doesn’t mean that we have to feel and look older. There are some very active senior citizens in the world who experience more joy and freedom in their lives than adults do because they’ve got things going on in their lives that keep them active physically, but just as important, and maybe more importantly, keep them active mentally.

When was the last time you let a little surprise into your life? I know it can be challenging, especially for the control freaks out there to let go and let a surprise into their life, but there comes a time in all our lives that things are out of our control, no matter how hard we try or what we do. So I encourage you to open yourself up to a little down time each day to let things happen as they will. You may find that they’re the best and most rewarding moments of your day.

Start off Good

I was recently reminded that things don’t usually start off with problems and issues, they usually start of good and with peace. Relationships don’t begin with the end in mind, you are busy enjoying each other’s company. You don’t join a job thinking about how soon you’ll quit or be fired, you’re trying to do your best or make the most money possible. You don’t get a pet thinking about when they’ll die or run away, you’re excited to have a new best friend. You don’t buy a phone thinking about the next one you’ll get, you are excited for this one. You don’t start a business thinking you’ll sell it for big bucks or it’ll fail, you start off excited about providing a needed product or service with passion. I think you get the idea: almost always things begin for us on a good foot.

So what happens that things don’t work out as planned, fail, hurt and become screwed up? I think part of the issue is that we get overwhelmed by everything that goes on in life. It’s not really possible to avoid all that goes on in life, there are pressures that we’ll face and changes that we have no control over but impact us all the same. A big part of the issue though is we lose sight of the good that we started with. Yes, we will change as we go through our lives so it’s not about keeping everything the same or constantly reliving “the good old days”, but learning how to evolve the good we started with. The sooner you work on bringing those elements of good into your life and various situations on a consistent basis, the better everything will go. You’ll also be developing some really great habits that will help make your life more fulfilling and rewarding.

If you’re able to develop the habit and life skill of intentionally developing the good, it doesn’t mean that you won’t fail, have bad days, divorce, or experience loss; these things are part of life. But if you’ve got that core your likelihood and frequency of failure, bad days, divorce and some types of losses can dramatically decrease, and your overall happiness, fulfillment, and enjoyment of life can increase. How do you get started? For a relationship it could be as simple as sitting down with your significant other, talking about what you’ve enjoyed in the past and why you fell in love with each other and discuss how to bring those feelings and types of experiences to life on a more regular basis now, and actively working on incorporating those feelings, actions, words and experiences into your lives today. It’s not a magic pill but can certainly make some of those tough decisions and discussions a lot easier and smoother because you’re not worrying as much about the foundation and able to work on the actual, present, issues.

So let’s start the discussion: what did you really enjoy in your past that you don’t do or have or feel as much or at all anymore?

Having Fun with the Family

This week I’ve been thinking about being yourself, and one of the places we should be able to be ourselves is with our families.  So today I thought we’d take a look at 3 things that should happen as a family.  I realize that not every family situation is ideal, and that you may only have fun with the family you live with and not your extended family, or only with the people you call family but not your blood-family.  This post isn’t about dealing with those types of family complications, instead we’re thinking about this month’s theme: fun!

Family should have fun together.  Family should be a place where we can laugh, joke, play, and generally enjoy life. Family should be there for each other through thick and thin, but more than anything family should come together to make great memories.  My family wasn’t really the annual-summer-BBQ-everyone-comes-over type, but the few times I did see extended family over the years were special times.  Of course now we’re able to connect virtually in many ways that weren’t available years ago, but those in person get togethers are something special that can’t be replicated online.  After all, no one makes that special favorite food dish like that one family member, or has the best stories like that one family member, or always brings special gifts like that other family member.

Family should be able to be silly together.  You’ve seen those videos where the mom or dad is making faces at the baby and talking in a really funny voice and you think that would never be you, only when you have your kids you’re doing the exact same thing with very little or no shame?  That’s what family should be!  We should be able to be silly and goofy, and yes there will be laughter, but you’ll all be laughing together, not at each other.

Family should be the place you’re safe to be yourself.  When you share news with family yes, they may have a surprise reaction initially, but when it comes down to it, they should support you with whatever decisions you make in your life and whomever you are (unless of course you’re planning to hurt yourself, then they should guide you into getting help). But there shouldn’t be any judgment if you want purple hair or a tattoo or work a farm for a job or or like techno music or adopt a child even if you’re not married or with a partner.

As we gear up for Memorial Day weekend here in the US and the start of summer, I encourage you to make time for fun in your family, especially if you’ve been working through heartache recently.  What fun do you have with your family?

Expectations of Something More

Do you get up every day with a list of expectations for yourself, the people in your life and the world around you? Lately I’ve been taking time to consider my expectations of the world and think about what they might be and what I really want out of my life.  Part of it has to do with the passing of a family friend, part of it has to do with the hate I’ve been seeing some people share, and part of it has to do with wanting more out of life because life’s really not worth wasting.

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of fun and I think fun has an important role to play in making sure we make the most of our lives.  It can be both a motivator of encouraging us to get the work done so we’ve got the resources to have fun as well as one to make the time to have that fun and take time off as well.  We do have an expectation of making sure we care for our families, and I think it’s an important one to uphold.  There are people around the world who don’t make decisions in light of how it will affect the people who matter the most to them.  But in the same conversation we do have a responsibility to be part of our loved ones lives, and not at work all the time trying to provide for them.

So what’s a person to do? If you’re at work working tons of hours because you’re not making enough per hour/day to support your family, it’s time to upgrade and update your skill set.  If you’re at work all day because you work on a fantastic cause, it’s time to get some new people involved.  If you’re at work all the time because you don’t want to be with your family, it’s time for a serious evaluation of and conversation about your life.  If you’re spending all your time on fun and avoiding the work there must be a reason why.  Maybe it’s because you really don’t enjoy your work, or maybe simply because reality hasn’t smacked you yet.   Whatever the case is I encourage you to take a look at your expectations for your life present and future and see if where you’re at and how your days currently go line up with that expectation.

Fun for Moms

This month one of the things we’re talking about is having fun, and of course today in the US we’ve got Mother’s Day. Some of us don’t think about Moms being fun, they just try to ruin our fun, right?! And if you’re a mom you may be having difficulty trying to remember the last time you had fun, or the last time you had some adult fun.  Whenever a kid is brought into the world it’s someone’s responsibility to care for them, whether it’s their biological mom and/or dad or a family member or an adopted family.  You know I’m a supporter of having a village raise a child and not just depending on the human or humans who brought that child into the world.  One of the reasons is that it’s more fun for the child when they get to interact with other children of the “village,” but it also gives the parents a chance to be parents and have adult friends and get a time-out from being a parent on occasion.

If you’re a mom and it’s been a long time since you’ve had fun I want to encourage you to start making that a part of your life.  Maybe that means drinks (coffee/tea or alcohol) with the girls once a month.  Maybe that means reinstating the weekly date with your partner.  Maybe that means hiring a sitter to give you a couple of hours off each week so you can shower alone, shave your legs or do food shopping without “helpful” second opinions.  Maybe it means watching another family’s kids for a few hours and they watching yours on another day so even more moms get a few hours off.  Maybe it means being more creative and getting the kids involved in your preferred hobbies and interests like gardening, painting, garage sale shopping or car repair.

If you’re feeling guilty for wanting a little fun, let’s get some perspective.  First, everyone needs to have fun and take a break from the challenges, disappointments, hurts and frustrations that come through our lives.  Second, if all your kids see you doing is stressing out and being unhappy, what do you think they’ll think about life?  I wouldn’t want to grow up if all it meant was that I’d be miserable and unhappy.  Yes, you need to teach them responsibility and how to care for themselves, but I believe that part of that is learning proper stress relief and that it’s OK to have fun as part of your life all life-long.  What fun will you have this week?

Focused on Fun?

One of the things that makes this world go ’round is the fact that we’re all different, yet we’re all similar.  I believe everyone can find something in common to talk about with someone else in the world, but at the same time we’re all so very different in so many ways, whether it be where we live, how old we are, what we eat or what we do with our lives.  I read a great quote recently that got me thinking.  It was from a conversation between James Altucher and Jon Morrow.  If you’re not familiar with Jon, he’s been paralyzed from the neck down since birth.   Just about anyone you ask would say that that makes him “disabled” (or some related term or phrase).  However, they made a good point during their conversation that “Everyone in the world can’t do something as well as someone else… So everyone in a sense is disabled.”

Recently on the Life and Spirituality blog I posted some thoughts about grief and loss, as a close family friend is entering the last part of their journey.  Hearing this interview between James and Jon got me thinking about this friend again and about how we live our lives.  I’ve seen enough of the TV and the news to know that all of us could live our lives saying ‘woe is me’ and be absolutely right.  We’ve all got problems, whether it was that your sandwich got eaten by the office munch or you don’t have clean water to drink.  Most of us could list a bunch of things that aren’t right in our lives at this time.  As important as it is to recognize the issues, the question is do we just see the issues or do we look for a way out or how to fix them?

Jon is one example of many who choose to look for a better tomorrow, just like my family friend always has.  I’m a huge dog lover and have always admired them for their ability to love and play, while often still knowing when it’s time to be serious.  Countless dogs around the world are working dogs, whether they sniff for drugs or help people who have mobility issues or other disabilities, or even just love on those who are sick.  But it’s those same dogs who work very hard who also teach their humans what it means to see more to life than just what’s right in front of them.

The question we’re really discussing this month as we talk about fun is whether we’re able to find balance between the work (and difficulties) and the play in our lives, or maybe if we’re really willing to.  Yes, there will be times when a push or extra hours at work is necessary, but there comes a point that you will burn out.  No matter how seriously you panic over or focus on the incoming burn out, it’s unlikely that you can avoid it or recover from it if all you’re focusing on is the burn out.

So today I challenge you to evaluate your focus on life.  What are you really focused on? Are you focused on the ways you’re failing and not succeeding (I know they exist, we’ve all got them), or are you making a point to improve in at least one way every day and have at least one period of fun and really live life every day?  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to get to the end of my life and be looking back thinking what a miserable person I was and how much of life I missed out on.  What about you?

I Choose Fun

A new month has arrived and this month we’ll be talking about a very important topic: fun! Of course there will be lots of fun ideas shared on the creativity blog as always, but we’ll also be taking a look at applying the concept of fun to our lives, families and businesses on this blog as well. We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the more serious stuff and about improving our lives because it’s important, and through that success we can have more resources to spend on the fun things of life. But sometimes we let the serious stuff take over our lives and we forget what our real goal is in all of it, and why we’re working as hard as we are.

Yes, we’ll talk about some more serious topics as they relate to having fun this month, but I really want to encourage you to work on finding more balance in your life. Why? Because as adults I don’t think all of us really are as intentional about having fun and really enjoying life as we should be. We have a ton of responsibilities and the constant changes in the world around us may encourage us to work when/while the money’s good.  And that’s a valid point because I do encourage you to have financial reserves, build them up when you’re not spending a lot and also plan for the future.  But when we don’t take any or enough time for fun our productivity and ability to succeed can suffer.

So the place I would encourage you to start this month is with your attitude and being open to having fun.  Don’t feel guilty if you take a day off to go on a field trip with one of your kids.  Don’t kick yourself for taking one morning off from the gym to be with your partner instead.  Don’t look at fun as an option somewhere down the road, choose to make fun an active and consistent part of your life today.

Christmas Carol Classics: Frosty the Snowman

“Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children know
How he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That Old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh and play
Just the same as you and me.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That Old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

Frosty the snowman
Knew the sun was hot that day,
So he said, “Let’s run
And we’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away.”

Frosty the snowman
Had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
“Don’t you cry,
I’ll be back again some day.””

Frosty was first recorded by the famous Gene Autry (with the Cass County Boys) in 1950.   The year before Autry recorded Rudolph, which was also a big success.  As a result of the song’s success there were lots of TV shows and books and other materials made.  One of the things that made this song stand out and be so successful was the concept of it.  We’ve all made a snowman that we wished would come to life, or at the very least thought about how cool something like that would be.

While most versions never talk about Christmas, we typically think of it as a Christmas song, probably because of all the magic in it.  After all, how else would a snowman come to life? When it comes to this time of year it does seem like there’s a little extra sparkle in the world, a little extra something showing up in our days that just makes them a little better.  Maybe it’s all the cheer, maybe it’s the goodwill, or maybe it’s just the desire not to get caught doing bad things before Santa makes his famous run.

But the song ends with Frosty saying that he’ll be back again some day.  I love that the song ends this way because it’s a great reminder that as much as life is made up of individual days and moments, there’s a lot more to life than just the individual moments.  Each day is an opportunity to build on what the previous day accomplished or start over because you’ve realized a mistake you were making.  Of course there are special moments that come each year like Christmas and Thanksgiving that are important reminders to celebrate life and gather together.  So whether you’re anticipating the magic to return, leaving the magic behind for the time being or dancing and singing with that magic, find a way to add a little magic to your day.

Christmas Carol Classics: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

This month one of the things we’ll be doing is looking at Christmas songs (we’re looking at some too on one of my other blogs).  Today I thought we’d start with a fun one, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus!”

“I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night
She didn’t see me creep
Down the stairs to have a peep
She thought that I was tucked up
In my bedroom, fast asleep

Then I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night

He saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
I did! I really did see Mommy kissing Santa Claus
And I’m gonna tell my Dad

Then I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night

Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.”

Did you know that this song was first recorded in 1952 by Jimmy Boyd who was 13 at the time?  Even more amazing, it reached #1 in December of that year as well.  One of the most famous recordings was by the Jackson 5 (you can listen to it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PITCmngiMfA ).

The big controversy over this song is whether Santa is dad or if the writer of the song (Tommie Connor) is actually suggesting that the mom in the song is cheating on the dad with Santa.  Since we’re given the perspective of the child who believes in Santa being real, it’s not easy to tell which it is.

Regardless of what you believe or think the writer was getting at, it’s a good reminder that sometimes kids don’t understand things and we have to be careful as the adults to set a good example for them, especially in high pressure situations or in times when they may be extra sensitive (like with Christmas and being on the hunt for the stash or shaking presents under the tree or staying up to listen for reindeer hooves).

But, if like many people believe, the Santa is actually dad in disguise, it’s a good reminder to couples to find time to play and make special moments even if things are hectic and crazy like they are during the holiday season.  Yes, there’s a lot going on and you’ll probably be getting sitters for the parties you have to attend, but one of the best gifts you can give yourselves as a couple is to take a night to be alone (if money’s a problem there’s probably another family you can swap kids with to give them a night off too).  The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and coming together with those you love, so make sure to commit some of your time this month to your partner.

The Mess of Christmas

I’m a bit of a neat freak.  It’s not that I believe everything should be put away at the end of the day or perfectly neat and tidy, but I do like things cleaner and everything always has a particular home it belongs in.  As we head further into the month of December and the holiday parties start happening and we work our way to the actual days of Christmas and Hanukkah I’m thinking about one of the things that makes this time of year special: the mess.

I don’t know anyone who really enjoys the mess of the mall or the cars on the road, but there is something special about everyone bustling about looking for those special gifts for the people they care about, and being stuck in traffic this year makes me think of holiday road trips in years past to visit family, something that was always favorite part of the season.  Of course there are the messes of baking cookies and other Christmas treats like edible presents for friends, teachers and coworkers, not to mention the mess that’s made each night of Hanukkah or around the tree on Christmas as presents are gifted and unwrapped.

Yes, it’s a lot of work to clean up, yes it’s a lot of work to think of all the presents and recipes and pick up the ingredients and the gifts, but there’s something satisfying in the whole process.  As adults we don’t do the whole “rip the paper off and throw it everywhere in excitement” thing like we did when we were kids and our kids do today, gift giving is a lot more civilized than it used to be.  But I’m reminded this holiday season that the mess is part of the joy and that there’s something satisfying knowing that you made all those cookies and you can see all your efforts around the kitchen, and there’s something satisfying in the scattered paper having seen the smiles and hearing the shrieks of joy when wanted presents were opened.

This holiday season give yourself a break if you’re a bit (or a lot) of a neat freak.  Take time to enjoy the emotion behind the mess and the people you’re celebrating with, I know that the mess will be there for you after the celebration.

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”  Andy Rooney