Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fill Your Soul with "Batman Begins"

When is the last time you watched something that opened your heart and filled you with pure joy?  That was the feeling I had after watching the charming documentary, "Batkid Begins," in Kendall Square this weekend.  It tells the story of five-year old Miles Scott, suffering from leukemia, who, with help from the Make a Wish Foundation and numerous other volunteers, gets to be "Batkid" for a day.  San Francisco is the setting for Gotham City by the Bay.  This wonderful 90-minute feature depicts how it all came together from a simple idea that grew and grew, with outpouring support from thousands of strangers.  In our jaded world where it often seems that everyone is out for something, this was an extremely pleasant change of pace.

The movie restored my faith in humanity.  People just wanted to be a part of this fantastic event and were not seeking anything in return.  Miles got to be Batman's sidekick, save a damsel in distress, and foil the Riddler and the Penguin along the way.  And although it may sound like a sad flick, that is not the case.  Sure, it may bring a few tears to your eyes -- but they will be tears of joy.  You can watch the movie with your guard down and fill your soul with what we all hope mankind can and should be.

After the movie, you will want to volunteer for a cause, donate to those in need, and/or come up with a crazy idea that can turn into something truly wonderful to help others.  If there is only one movie you see this year, make it "Batman Begins!"  I only wish the theater was as full as my heart was after the movie -- so please spread the word so others can appreciate this wonderful, unique experience, too!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Got a New Attitude!

With the constant snow and cold this past winter, maintaining a positive attitude has been quite difficult.  Even as I write this during the first week of spring, temperatures are well below what they should be, and the frigid air makes it tough to look on the bright side when your eyes are watering from the constant chill.  I keep reminding clients to seek out fun in warm places like Russell's Garden Center in Wayland, an indoor tropical paradise, or to rise above it all by walking in the air at the BeanStalk Adventure Ropes Course inside Jordan's Furniture in Reading.  But let's face it, outside distractions can only take us so far.  It is what is on the inside that really counts to help us face those gloomy, tough days.

You've heard the expression "attitude is everything."  True, it is hard to get motivated when you're down and things have not gone your way.  There is comfort in one's misery - similar to wearing your favorite worn-out sweatshirt. Wallowing in self-pity has its perks, such as eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's or binge-watching Lifetime movies with a box of tissues next to you.  But after being there for more than a day, we often still feel lousy. Taking time for yourself to recuperate and relax is a good thing.  But holding onto a belief system that we should remain inside our own head, feel like the world owes us, or think we deserve to be treated badly, is far from healthy.  That is when your attitude really matters most.  The key is remembering we have a choice as to whether we want to make it better or remain instead in that worn-out, pitiful sweatshirt desperately in need of a wash.

Take this example from the movie, Skeleton Twins.  Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader, play brother and sister going through extremely tough times.  In this particular scene (click for the Youtube video), Wiig is frustrated that life isn't going her way so Hader tries to gear her through song in a different direction.  He tries unsuccessfully for a few minutes, but eventually she breaks down and joins him, realizing that if just one person cares, that is all we need.  "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship, a wonderfully upbeat, cheesy 80's ballad, transforms the situation. Unrealistic? Exactly the opposite.  She certainly could go back to self-pity right afterwards, but that, again, would be her choice.  And where is that going to get her?  Not very far from her couch.

Attitude matters and can make all the difference -- along with just one person (or pet!) who cares.  Our attitude is determined by the choices we make and vice versa.  We CHOOSE our attitude.  It is not always easy but you're in great company - trust me!  Having the courage to change, risking failure, leaving your mark on the world by finding your own meaning, not taking yourself too seriously, making another person's day, and incorporating play into your everyday world are some specific ways to stay afloat in a what can be a weary world.  Life is an adventure where sometimes things go in your favor and other times not so much -- but it is what you make of it that truly counts.

All of these ideas are part of the FISH! book philosophy by Stephen Lundin.  It is a very short book, worthy of your consideration.  It also is this year's Community Read book choice for the Flint Public Library in Middleton so they have plenty of copies on hand.  Stop in and borrow one.

For more ideas on how to incorporate the FISH! philosophy into your everyday life and work, join me on Monday, April 27th from 6:30pm to 8pm at the Flint Public Library, One South Main Street in Middleton, for my motivational talk entitled "Finding Inspiration and Sharing Happiness: Enjoying Life with a New Attitude."  The talk is free and open to the public. And as anyone whose attended my talks knows, the night is always filled with humor and chocolate!  Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Taking a Chance on Friendship

My forever friend Steven and me when he
 competed in the Special Olympics
When I was in ninth grade, I tutored a sixth grade boy named Steven.  I visited his school once a week and helped him with his assignments.  He wasn't like most students and he often got made fun of by others.  But his sincerity and loyalty endeared him to me.  I believed in him and he never forgot that.  We remained in touch throughout the years, typically through letters and cards, which always ended "Friends Forever." I am happy to say that 35 years later, he is still in my life.  When we saw each other for Christmas this year, we gave each other a gift.  To our shock, when we opened them, we had bought the same ornament for each other - a snowman with "Friends Forever" on it.  Of all of the millions of gifts in this world, ours was the very same one!  Incredible and magical -- just like our friendship.

That's the thing with friends.  You don't really know how special that person is going to be in your life.  You find yourself chatting one day with someone new and years later, that person has a special place in your heart.  You take random chances, trust, and hope against hope that you find others similar to you but with new perspectives.  We long for others who will care about us and help us on our path in life.  Those who have had similar experiences and survived.  And those with differing angles to open our mind when we need it most.

One of the most common complaints I hear is that good friends are tough to find.  We think because we are in the same grade or live on the same street, that we should be "besties."  But that is often far from true.  Great friends are often found in the most unique circumstances.  But because they may be inconvenient and take extra effort, we sometimes let them slide.

Take for instance, when we were on vacation in Tennessee a few years back and my son met a girl similar in age as well as her family at the hotel pool.  We chatted for a long time and enjoyed their company.  My son and the girl exchanged emails, not imagining it would go very far.  Emails turned to FaceTime, and since then they have become dear friends.  We have met them on three more vacations since then, even spending time at their home in Georgia.  We truly enjoy their company and are so glad we didn't toss their email in the trash because they lived too far away.  Today's technology and a little persistence changes that.

When the universe puts people in your path, pay attention.  They are there for a reason.  Follow your heart -- if someone connects with you, then spend some time trying to make it work, even if it is a bit inconvenient.  Sometimes "forever friends" are right in front of us, but we look past them.  They are often different and unique but their heart resonates with yours.  And that is exactly why you need them in your life.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Technology Off, Fears Aside, and New World On

Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire), Sao Miguel, The Azores
My family and I just returned from a wonderful trip to the Azores, more specifically the island of Sao Miguel, part of Portugal.  My husband and I haven't traveled together overseas in a very long time (before cell phones!) and for our son, this was his first trip abroad.  When we reserved a rental car without the need of a credit card, we knew we were stepping back in time.  And when we learned our cell phones did not work overseas, although a bit horrified at first, we were able to quickly remember a time when they never existed but we got along just fine. This was going to be us acting like explorers, conquerors, and just a plain old family looking for fun on vacation.

Yes, we had the privilege of traveling throughout Europe many moons ago without a cell phone or GPS in hand.  We could certainly tackle this little island without them.  "But what if something happens and we need help?," our son earnestly asked.  "Then we will find someone and ask for help, just like we did in the old days," I replied.  Hint to self: don't say "old days" to a teen to avoid having him see you as one of the passengers on the Mayflower.  "You'll just have to trust us," I said, smiling, praying that I was right.

Our adventure began as we stepped into our tiny rental car and took off through the beautiful countryside, surrounded by the gorgeous Atlantic.  The weather was perfect, we were free from responsibilities, and couldn't wait to explore a new world.  Our rental cottage, surrounded by stunning gardens, was incredible, perhaps except for the few three-inch cockroaches we discovered the next day that are native to this land.  I met my inner ninja when faced with "it is either these huge bugs or you!" -- my own National Geographic episode, while my husband was in the shower and my son stared at me aghast.  Never in my life did I think I would conquer such an unexpected situation with style, calm, a big broom, and my husband's size 12 sneaker (I have to thank my son for that brilliant idea).

Over the next few days, we would swim in a thermal pool heated by volcanic waters; ride waves on beaches with black sand; explore volcanic craters that are now lakes; walk mountains so steep that Maria von Trapp would have been impressed; and drive on roads so narrow, you breathed in when the car on the opposite side passed.  I drove over 100 kilometers an hour with wind whipping by, feeling like Mario Andretti (before doing the math when we got back and realizing this was just about 60-mph).  I was thankful for seeing "SOS" call boxes on the roads, a great back-up to our lack of technology, although we never needed them.

We learned that "scoot, scoot" means highway in English when trying to get directions from someone who only spoke Portuguese.  While we couldn't speak the language, we met the sweetest people who tried to help us understand, hand signals included.  Our son learned that he didn't miss his text messages as much as he thought he would and I was able to let go from the ties that bind us to a world where we are supposed to be attached to our cell phones.  You never know what you are capable of until you try, and we have the Azores to thank for this.  Consider putting down your cell phone, embracing your inner Columbus, and going on an adventure where you have to trust in the good will of others.  No need to travel all the way to the Azores to try it (but if you can - enjoy!).  You'll soon be saying "obrigada" or thank you as you discover new abilities you never knew you had.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Capturing a Special Moment Every Day

Taken by Harrison Davis in Gloucester, MA
What do you do during the course of your day that is truly for you?  I don't mean showering, eating, or calls of nature.  Neither do I mean working, errands, or chores.  But rather something that adds value, hope, and a feeling of satisfaction or dare I say, even happiness to your life. Too often we are all caught up in what HAS to get done instead of what we'd WISH we could do. Yet, it only takes a few minutes a day to change your perspective and mindset.  Up to the challenge?

Each night as you lay in bed, take a moment to review what you will be doing tomorrow: the day's tentative events.  Then immediately begin to think about what in your day may bring a smile to your face.  Yes, you may have to go to work or school tomorrow -- but is there something that you will enjoy?  To get even more specific, what moment or event in your day would you photograph to add to a vision board or album of your life?  Make yourself commit to one vision each day (and more if you can!) that means something to you. Maybe it will be a wide smile from someone you helped, the promise of spring among the frost, a wonderful meal or dessert, beautiful sunset, or fun event.  Then take a picture with your mind's eye -- or even better, camera/phone.  The more you train yourself to think about the good, the more positives you'll notice in life.

The "One Photo Challenge" as described by fellow blogger Courtney Carver may be the quickest way to get you thinking differently in the right direction.  She strives to have others live life with purpose and suggests to post one photo (unedited) on Facebook each day of what you want to remember to help clear through the noise and distractions in everyday life.  Then review your photos over the end of 30 days.  Where have you gone and where are you going?  Are you pausing enough to look at what is truly important, and even capturing a remembrance of it?  You just may find yourself thinking a whole new way, for the better.   

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Angels Among Us Healing Grief - Part 2

Two years ago, you may recall reading one of my most popular blogs to date, Angels Among Us Healing Grief.  It had to do with our family feeling we received a sign from my grandmother who had recently died. I suppose it is only fitting that two years later, another wonderful sign would return.

Around the anniversary of my grandmother's passing, my mother (her daughter) won tickets to an early premiere of "Despicable Me 2" and my son couldn't wait to attend it with his grandfather.  It was held in Boston and the theater was packed.  A mother and daughter sitting behind my son asked him if he wouldn't mind watching their seats while they went to the bathroom before the movie began.  He said "of course" and they returned a short time later.  They thanked him profusely and the mother handed him a dollar bill and a mini Twix bar in exchange for his assistance. What they didn't know was that this is what my grandmother would give him every time he visited her.  Although my son didn't want to accept their generous reward (he was happy to do it), they insisted and he smiled knowing that Nani Jay was sending her love to him.  It immediately reminded him of her, without any prompting from an adult.  He couldn't wait to come home and share the story that Nani Jay said hello.  It brightened our families hearts and reassured us that she is looking after us.

What my son didn't readily share, however, was the fact that he gave that same dollar bill to a gentleman asking for change sitting outside of the theater.  "He needs it more than me, Bee," he told his grandfather as he walked past assuredly.  Thus, the circle of kindness and good deeds continues, adding a ray of light to what was just a typical day.

Never take for granted a small act of kindness or a quick conversation with a stranger.  Messages lie in wait around every corner if you are open to receiving them.  Whether they assure you that you are on the right path, not alone, or that better days are coming, remains to be seen.  It is up to you to find the meaning.  Don't be too busy to notice or too skeptical to accept them. Days can get pretty dark sometimes.  Momentary connections like these add meaning to life and make all the difference.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Epic Fail: A Cure for Anxiety?

Taking a tough exam.  Going on a date with someone new.  Meeting with your nit-picking boss.  Expensive home or car repair.  Things you can't change and have no control over.  Feeling anxious yet?  Probably -- and that is a good thing.  Being nervous over life's predicaments or challenges is common and expected.  You are supposed to feel butterflies in your stomach before a job interview or a big game.  Stressful events can leave you feeling unsettled.  Knowing you're in good company might help.  It is a part of life that we ALL go through and cannot avoid.  Yet sometimes we spend more time trying to fix situations to avoid anxiety that we end up with other problems, including depression, instead.

Life is difficult.  Failure, at times, is a certainty.  We've all struck out when bases were loaded, sang the wrong words to a song, didn't get the job, or waited for a call that never came.  Yet experiencing failure is what makes us able to tackle anxiety and learn that even though we failed, it was not the end of the world.  "I'm still standing," sang a wise Elton John.  You will not get every job or accolade in life.  The person you have eyes for may not have eyes for you.  And you most likely will not stay in the same career or relationship (including getting along with all of your relatives, not just your partner) for your entire life.  So why spend every day trying to have the perfect life and family when it is not how life is supposed to be lived?  When you realize this and lower your expectations a bit, anxiety often dissipates, too.

People with the best coping skills have experienced trouble and learned they can get through it - on their own.  Yes, we long for a comforting shoulder or ear to listen to us, but we want to be the one who ultimately solves the problem.  When parents or others try to take over, the result can be depression, making us think that we are incapable of doing things on our own without someone else intervening on our behalf.  Allow your child to learn from mistakes without trying to prevent them from happening all the time. The phrase "Epic fail!" was developed for a reason.  Just pick yourself up and try again.  The more you do, the less anxious you will feel.

So be prepared to fail once in a while and be ok with it.  Your nerves will thank you for it.  Trying again is the key.  Kids are born resilient and they will develop into resilient adults if parents let them.  Don't breed anxiety and depression by trying to prevent what is a crucial part of life.

To read more on this topic, including how overparenting can lead to anxiety and depression for the entire family, check out the article, "A Nation of Wimps" in Psychology Today.