Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for December, 2013

Pat Yourself on the Back!

It is time to say goodbye to 2013 and look forward to the new year. I can’t tell you why but I just feel like 2014 will be a better year. This is a perfect time to take a moment to reflect on our successes and our near misses.

What are the three things that you are most proud of that happened in your life this year – the things for which you are most grateful? Add to those thoughts the one thing you will choose to handle differently in the future. What did you learn from each of them? It is often said that we learn more from our challenges than our successes. That may be true, however, everything we do has an inherent lesson in it. I believe that we have a greater chance for personal growth when we recognize and build on the lessons we learned from the successes we experienced. It helps to reassure us that we are capable of personal change. Thus, the three positives and one growth opportunity ratio makes sense to me. When you think about it, if each of us improved in just one area during the upcoming year the world would be an even better place. I believe in a focused approach to improvement. Choosing one thing to improve upon for the new year is doable. Less is more – it allows us to grow with confidence and ease. This type of year end review may seem counterintuitive but I believe it offers a stronger approach to self improvement.

When we take the time to reflect back on the year it is not for the purpose of beating ourselves up with thoughts of ‘I should have…’ but rather with thoughts of ‘the next time I intend to …’ The former statement basically causes us to find fault with ourselves but the later encourages us to turn the kaleidoscope ever so slightly and see the beauty in the fact that we survived the challenges as they were presented and learned from them. It also forces us to take the time to pat ourselves on the back for the lessons learned. A habit few of us practice on a regular basis. The year 2013 had significant challenges for many of us and yet we are able to say to ourselves that we made it through in one piece – we survived – and are as a result both stronger and wiser.

Before you go to bed tonight think about the three things for which you are most grateful and the one growth area you are willing to commit to in 2014. Remind yourself to revisit them on a weekly basis throughout the year. The repetition of thought/intention is important since the Universe delivers to us what is foremost in our thinking. Next year at this time you will be amazed at your feelings of even greater strength and self confidence.

As a post script I wanted to add that I am grateful this year to the thousands of readers of my blogs and the feedback I have received along the way. In my small way I believe I am offering ‘food for thought’ specifically on the topics of loss, grief, and lessons learned. The greatest lesson of all, of course, is that ‘All is as it should be,’ which allows us to face the challenges presented in our lives with a greater sense of confidence and assurance.

Happy New Year!

The Gift of Teenagers

It’s 3 days before Christmas and the malls and streets are packed. Yet, for the most part, people are actually being quite civil. Makes a person feel that the world is improving one person at a time. Call me an eternal optimist but I think this year civility will last longer than December 25th.

Civility – politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech and basically showing concern for others makes a positive difference in the world. It is not innate but a learned (taught) behavior. Even as adults we can work at demonstrating a little more politeness in our exchanges. But when I see it in action in teenagers especially, I think to myself ‘Some mom or dad applied their parenting skills to the ultimate. They took the time necessary as their children were growing up to be sure they learned the importance of manners and respecting the rights of others. Basically, they taught their children to make the world a little better place.

I have had the chance to watch two 17 year olds over the last few months – up close and personal – and I just sit up a little straighter and smile a bit more broadly when ‘older folks’ comment to me about what great teenagers they are…l respond with a polite thank you and add, ‘Yes, their Mom did a great job.’

It is so easy to make assumptions about teenagers in general. Yes, they have interests different than our own. They listen to music we may not relate to at a decibel level that may cause us to wonder if they will end up with permanent hearing damage but…beyond all that… they are just trying to grow and become loving human beings. They are like the stages of a butterfly, they grow from a caterpillar, shedding their skin, through the chrysalis stage in which they are pushing at the confines of their environment to the ultimate beautiful butterfly stage where they begin to think of migrating and starting their new adult life. Each stage offers challenges and opportunities for lessons of love along their life journey. These life stages are so challenging for them. Yet, patience, love and understanding go a long way to help them on their path.

The next time you get a chance to observe our younger generation watch them and remember they are struggling to make sense of their ever changing world. Many hold the door for others…step aside for a family and somehow remember to say thank you even when they are viewed with questions. Like everything in life, what we look for and the assumptions we bring to the table we usually find!

I have seen civility in action with this younger generation and I am so grateful for them.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Giving from the Heart

Having difficulty thinking about the perfect gift to give someone on your Christmas list? You might consider the following. It is entitled ‘Four Gifts That Don’t Cost a Cent’ but I assure you once given will be better than anything you could ever find in a store.

The Gift of Listening
But you must REALLY listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Just listen to them over a cup of coffee or tea and then tell them how much you appreciate them for who they are and what they are trying to do in life. Even the strongest among us appreciates recognition from time to time.

The Gift of Affection
Be generous with hugs, kisses and pats on the back. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends. Think of it as giving them a little of your boundless energy. It may be just the little ‘pick me up’ they need most at the moment.

The Gift of Laughter
Clip cartoons or funny articles or pass on an email that just caused you to laugh out loud. Laughter really is the best medicine and welcomed by all. Your gift will say, ‘I love your sense of humor and I love to laugh with you.’

The Gift of a Written Note
It can be a simple ‘I love you’ or ‘thanks for the help.’ If you really want to make an impact try writing a few paragraphs telling the person what they have done that has been an inspiration to you. Everyone wants to know that they have made a positive difference in someone’s life. Your personalized note can be just what a particular person needed to hear at the moment.

The reason the gifts listed above are so powerful is that they show gratitude to a fellow traveler. Recently there was a study about the importance of showing gratitude. Those in the study were asked to write a few paragraphs about someone who was an inspiration to them. All participants were able to do so but the next step – the really important one – was when they were then instructed to call that person and read to them what they had written! Can you just imagine getting a call from someone who says, in essence, ‘thanks, you made a significant difference in my life?’ As you might guess, the study went on to find that the ‘happiness index’ of both the givers and receivers of the messages shot up as high as 19 percent. An increase in someone’s happiness level, even for the moment, is a gift worth giving! And just think it didn’t need to be wrapped or placed under a tree because it was too big, too important ever to fit in a confined space. It was so big they only place it would fit was in someone’s heart.

Have a great few days!

The Lessons of Nature

Most everyone has seen a Saguaro cactus either up close and personal or in pictures of the deserts of western North America. I see them daily and marvel at their uniqueness. Each one offers a distinct silhouette against the backdrop of an otherwise barren landscape. These amazing plants can tolerate temperatures over 100 degrees in summer yet can perish from long periods of below freezing weather. Their root systems are shallow so they can be toppled from what one would think would be a good thing in the desert – rain. It seems that too much of a good thing – heavy monsoons that happen occasionally in late summer – can topple even some of these huge plants that weigh over eight tons. Their growth is slow but steady taking 75 years to grow their first arm.

The thing that strikes me is how these cactus serve as a metaphor for human existence. Each of such is unique – we are truly one of a kind with our own strengths and differences. We all have our prickly side that can, at times, keep others away. Maybe it is self protection or maybe it’s simply fear but we can be quite good at it. Each of us has a distinct look, behavior and growing experience. We too can tolerate extremes but for us it is in behavior. At times we are able to withstand the slings and arrows of life and continue on growing and developing. Yet, just like the freezing temperature renders the cactus lifeless, we too, at times, can be rendered helpless or hopeless from life experiences. We have learned that it is true…there is such a thing as having too much of a good thing.

The major difference, in seems, is that when a cactus has fallen it is simply and completely done. There is no opportunity to raise it to its once majestic form. For humans, on the other hand, we can find a person, place or situation that can help to renew our broken spirit. We may be down for the count but we are not out. We can once again not only survive but thrive from the care and concern from another. When others offer their hand to us in our time of greatest need everyone benefits. The safety net of another’s heart allows us to stand upright and move on with grace.

Nature offers so many examples of the commonalities and differences that exist in our world. We are dependently independent on the uniqueness of each other. When we accept that each of us plays a definite and unique role in making the world a little better place we reflect the lessons of nature. We survive not in spite of but because of each other. How fortunate we are to be alive and living on planet earth and aware that, All Is As It Should Be.

Have a great few days!

Lend Me Your Ear

This is the season for giving, a season that challenges us to be our very best selves. When we pass the Salvation Army volunteers ringing the silver holiday bells with the small red buckets swinging on their stands we remember to dig into our pockets and give a little extra to help another. This type of donation is visible. It makes us feel good just knowing that in our own small way we are helping out a more needy soul.

There is another, equally important, type of donation… the fully giving of our self through our time and attention when someone needs a shoulder to lean on or an authentic ear to listen. After all, to be silenced or ignored by others is not due to the lack of a voice but rather the lack of a listener. It is the toughest form of rejection. When we care enough to fully engage ourselves in listening to another we honor and validate them – maybe even ease their burden ever so slightly for the moment. The very least that can happen when we take the time to stop what we are doing and listen is that a little time will elapse and a greater understanding will be imparted between fellow travelers. Sometimes that moment of exchange can make a world of difference. When we hear the uncomfortable stories from others who seem to be living uncomfortable lives do we really take the time to respect them as human beings or do we rush to judgment thinking to ourselves, ‘if they would just do this or that their lives wouldn’t be so difficult.’ Maybe so – maybe not. After all, we don’t walk in their shoes and are not carrying the same set of burdens or lessons to learn. We are busy with our own. Is it possible that these human beings just need a moment of our time to be heard and recognized? It is a small price to ask and even smaller price to pay.

Each of us benefits from a listening ear, an unglazed eye, and a genuine interest in what we have to say from time to time. It is the universal need that unites us as humans. Truly being heard is the highest form of recognition we can give to others. The Hallmark company used to have a saying about their greeting cards which speaks volumes, ‘When you care enough to send the very best.’ When we apply this thought to our daily encounters with others over the next few weeks, caring enough to be gentle, thoughtful and patient -to give the very best of who we are even in the midst of a stressful season that requires a million and one tasks to accomplish we make a huge difference and elevate the vibrations of our world.

Have a great few days!

A Poem For Your Heart Health

I received an email recently from a wonderful person who had read my book and suggested that I write a blog that included this poem from it. She said she wanted to copy it and place it in a place where she would remember to read it daily as a soothing balm for the deep seated hurt in her heart. The Christmas holidays can be an especially difficult time for those of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Her suggestion made me feel that both the book and blogs are helping others, in a small way, work through this heart wrenching journey. I told myself that if even one person was comforted by the book I would be grateful. So to all of you who have felt a measure of comfort from my writings, thank you. The following can be found on page 125 of my book.

“You can shed tears that she is gone or you can smile because she lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she will be back, or you can open
your eyes and see all that she left you.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her or it can be full of
the loved that you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live in the yesterdays
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember only that she is gone
or you can cherish the memories that let her live on in your heart.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
or you can do what she would want you to do…smile, open your eyes,
love and remember the great times you had with her and go on.

You can grieve that she is gone or you can learn how to hear her because…
She is just ” Behind the Door.”

To my own family who, once again, has recently experienced the loss of a loved one who seems to have left us much too soon please remember what Ronnie told me in the book, “All is as it should be.”

Thanks again to all of you who take the time to read, remember and work so hard to move forward with grace.

Have a great few days!

Giving with an Open Heart

Giving with an open hand and open heart makes all the difference! How many times have you heard someone tell you all they have done or given to others. The list seems to get longer every time you listen. There is a pattern here to be discovered. This type of ‘giver’ seems to be fixated on the dollar amount of the give…missing the emotional impact and significance behind it. They may even be complaining that the needs of others never seem to stop. Exactly! As you begin to observe their lives it seems they, indeed, are constantly being called upon to open their wallets. Until they break the cycle of feeling put upon it continues. If each time they are called upon to help out someone and they see it as an imposition and are mentally calculating the dollars involved the Universe gives them more lessons of the same. How can we break this cycle?

When we truly give from our hearts in time, concern or money it has no price tag. The value of doing for others can’t be bought or sold. It is one of those rare intangibles that just is… it makes the world a little better place. Amazingly, when you find joy in doing the little things that results in a brighter light in someone’s world, the light shines brighter in your own. Knowing that is powerful.

The next time we are presented with an opportunity to give of ourselves and we don’t feel we have the time or where-with-all to do so maybe we can remember that this, in fact, is the exact time, the perfect time to put our own schedules aside and just make it happen. You will know if you have achieved the true joy of giving because you will feel a smile radiating from inside out. You will feel a sense of purpose and positive energy because you adjusted your own schedule to help a fellow traveller on his journey. This ‘inside out’ kind of feeling is the spark that makes all the difference in the world.

It is not the size or amount of giving that makes the difference but where the feeling originates from – our heads or our hearts. When it is from the heart it is pure love – the highest form of energy. This is the season that brings out the best in all of us. Let’s envision a time in the future when we will be able to manifest it for more than the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now that is truly something smile about!

Have a great few days!