The Chex Mix of Life – Are you Absorbing the Marinade?

Check MixAre you Absorbing the Marinade? – This is one of my shorter Ramblings, in part because brevity can be a great tool for setting the stage for a more meaningful discussion; a primary objective (and, I hope, outcome) of my Ramblings.

One of my all-time favorite snacks is CHEX MIX, you know that breakfast cereal of Cheerios, Corn and Wheat Chex, pretzels, and peanuts, all covered in a buttery, salty concoction and baked to crispy perfection! It’s always been a favorite.

Not all the individual cereals are my favorite. However, each adds to the love for the totality of the treat, each adds its own unique value. Each has it owns texture, taste, and ability to absorb the buttery marinade. Without absorbing the marinade you would lose much of the value of this deaconate snack. In essence, each unique ingredient adds significant value if the marinade is obsorbed!

As a kid, I remember picking and choosing what I wanted to eat first, last, and how I was going to navigate the snack. I remember that regardless of the order, I wanted more—of all aspects of the mixture. I recall taking the pretzel sticks and stringing Cheerios on them to make an interesting combination of taste, or eating only the wheat-or corn-flavored Chex in a single handful to get the full flavor of that singular ingredient, or saving the Cheerios for last as they seemed to have absorbed more of the buttery marinade than some of the other cereals.

I tried (unsuccessfully I may say!) to rationalize to my mom that this buttery, salty snack, made up of breakfast cereal, was a great breakfast and a healthy snack! Why not, it was cereal!

Regardless of the likes and dislikes of the individual ingredients, I loved the entire mix—the diversity of tastes and textures.  The savory marinade that is absorbed in each of the cereal ingredients. This is much like life: I must admit I may not always appreciatepeople diversity the uniqueness of everyone around me, at least not at first. However, I have learned that first impressions are most often not correct and that getting to know someone’s heart and soul adds to my life; like the ingredients of Chex Mix. I need to absorb the marinade of the relationship to create a relationship that has the potential for significant value, something that I did not do well in the past, or at least not in a transparent manner.

I cannot imagine a Chex Mix with only one ingredient or without the marinade. I cannot imagine a life that did not have diversity, as it adds so much to life whether it’s friends, opinions, perspective, personalities, cultures, nationalities, or political beliefs.

These differences:

  • Add interest and depth
  • Add to and broaden perspectives
  • Solidify (or possibly alter) my own beliefs through respectful challenge

As with my Chex Mix, one element is always constant: Each ingredient may be very different, however each are good for what the value they add.

On the value of diversity, I’d like to add this caveat: Not all diversity has value, or does it? For me, it all depends on the respectful nature diversity is handled.  A worthy thought worth conversation for those who can be respectful and maintain civility in the conversation and discussion of differing perspectives.

As I wrote in a recent Rambling;  Gratitude & the Lost Art of Disagreeing

“. . . I am not implying that everyone has lost the ability to kindly express opinions and objections without being snarky or causing someone to feel they are “walking on egg shells.” Nor do I believe everyone has lost the ability to be thankful or filled with gratitude. What I am attempting to express is that far too often we fail to object and express a counter opinion in an agreeable fashion and to express and demonstrate thankfulness and gratitude. Sometimes we may go on the offensive, think we have “won” an argument or discussion, only to later discover we lost a great deal, perhaps even a relationship.”

 Like Chex Mix, the value of the uniqueness of the ingredients in our lives is in large part impacted by our ability to appreciate with respectfulness, civility and gratitude, others’ perspectives (different than agreeing) as well as others’ appreciation , civility and respectfulness of our perspectives and the manner in which they are expressed. You know, absorb the marinade to the ingredients to compliment the unique characteristics of those around us.

Here’s to EMBRACING THE CHEX MIX OF LIFE and ABSORBING THE SIGNIFICANCE of the MARINADE!

 

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Connecting the Dots – Reflection and Challenge

Recently, as I was flying home from Naples, Florida, I caught myself reflecting on where I am in life and started to connect experiences I’ve had and actions I have intentionally and intuitively taken in the past three years—you know—connecting the dots. I am a bit amazed at what I am discovering, the questions answered, and the questions remaining. Since I cannot predict the future, many questions may go left unanswered. However, I like this path and the dots that are being connected as well as the dots being erased or repositioned.

I challenge you to do the same. Do so with a great deal of intentionality, look for and connect the “Dots of Life.” What do you see? Do you need a #2 pencil with an eraser?

Connecting the dots is not always easy, and at times, the dots can seem so random—o r Connecting the Dotscould it be we’re not paying attention to where they are taking us? Do we realize we have the ability to influence the dots we have in our lives and not take them for granted? Or do we brush things off with, “It is what it is!” I believe we do have a choice as to the dots that make up our lives and how we connect them. What’s more, each of us have a special #2 pencil to remove, re-arrange, and add dots to the design of our life.

Maybe you’ve tried to connect the dots but it feels too random; or you’re not #2 Pencilunderstanding what the dots are “telling you.” Could it be you’re not engaging with intentionality? Sometimes, for many of us, it’s simply easier to shrug and go with, “It is what it is!” What do you think? It could be a fun conversation don’t you think?

As I was reflecting on the plane ride home from Naples, I realized that in the past few years, despite an apparent randomness to the dots (experiences) in my life, they are taking me in a direction—a direction that makes me smile and have peace. I am still not sure what the final picture will look like as we are all a work in progress and life will continue to add dots for us to connect. Those dots may involve detours that could change (or at least tweak) the outcome. Despite all of the uncertainty of life, I am feeling that the road ahead is becoming clearer, amazing, and rewarding. I have asked myself, “Bob, what are the dots of your life, how have they impacted you and what are the connected dots telling you?” Here are a few life changing discoveries I’ve made as I’ve “CONNECTED DOTS:”…What Dots have you discovered you have connected?

  • I was hurt to the core (by something) and vowed to make a change to make sure it Be Patient God is not donedid not happen again (at least for the reasons it happened)
  • I discovered the power and personal growth that comes from reading
  • I discovered the work and writings of Brené Brown and paid attention to what she said, learning to stop hiding behind my amour of shame and guilt
  • Intentionality opened my eyes as illustrated in the PowerPoint I shared earlier
  • To be selfless and more patient
  • I committed to explore and deepen my faith and its relationship with my life
  • I realized that my work is not done and I’m grateful for the help of others

When they were young, I remember taking the kids to Disney World and going on the Disney Speedway phototrack to let them drive a “race car” (with me in the car of course). The good news is the Disney Race Track had a guide rail that kept the car somewhat in control and within the lanes yet retained the feeling of freedom of the driving experience. Thank goodness for the guide rails!

We all need to have “guide rails” to help us stay on track and moving forward. We all need to recognize that even though we want absolute control, we are never in total control and we should embrace this fact and rejoice that others are there to help.

What are the dots and experiences that help shape our lives and serve as our guide rails, help define who we are, and assist us in developing the depth of relationships we have and will have in the future? Here are a few guiding principles that have emerged for me: (What are yours?)

  • Learned(ing) the power of patience
  • Learned(ing) that control is way overrated and more often than not an attribute that is not a strength
  • Loving and embracing reading. My diverse book list (over the past few years) is far too long to list, however, here are a few books that were impactful for me: (What’s on your list and why are they there?)
    • Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout (I’m in the middle of it as I write this Rambling) by Rick Rigsby, Ph.D.
    • Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye by Michael R. LeGault
    • 9 Attributes of a Man – Resolute Men’s Bible Study
    • The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
    • A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron
    • Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King
    • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
    • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
    • The Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff, Alex Tresniowski, and Valerie Salembier
    • Talking with God: What to Say When You Don’t Know How to Pray by Adam Weber
    • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
  • Being an open listener and considering counsel from others
  • Learning to communicate vs having conversations
  • To be proud, not prideful
  • Learning to belong, not just fit in (Thank you, Brené)
  • Taking risks and being vulnerable and real
  • Digging into my faith and understanding that we are not here by accident
  • Living and growing in my faith

Think about all of this, if our dots seem randomly placed, be patient and explore what they are telling us. If we do not like where we are heading, take the #2 pencil out, erase a dot, and perhaps add a few. And finally, no matter what our dots are telling us, know that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.

 

Meanwhile while you have your # pencil connecting your dots, enjoy the ride and don’t forget to demonstrate and express appreciation for those supporting your dot connecting journey!

cat and bike

Taking Off the Mask & Make Time for Hygge

 

Phantom MaskI attended a performance of The Phantom of the Opera over the Christmas holidays and was struck with the image of the Phantom and his mask. As I watched, I caught myself thinking, “Am I wearing a mask? How many other people are doing the same?”

Is there a part of yourself, your behavior, your persona, the way you interact with others that you use as a mask to conceal the real you? Granted, there are times that keeping things to ourselves is best to remain socially acceptable, corporately astute, socially mobile, and engaging just as there are times to be open (and revealing),. Here are some of my thoughts on distinguishing when we should put aside the mask (or our public persona):

  • When something or someone truly matters
  • When a relationship matters
  • During collaborative and/or serious business planning
  • In a mentoring environment
  • In counseling 🙂 . . . however that is defined and engaged
  • In the development of “Marble Jar”

Note: The “marble jar” is something I learned from reading Brené Brown’s work. Marble jar friends are great, intimate friends we trust, share our secrets with, and really care about each other without judgment.

 

And of course, there are those times you do not want your “thought bubble” to be visible to others at least not until you’ve had a chance (a “5-minute pause,” perhaps) to properly formulate your thoughts before they are laid bare.

Fitting in Versus Belonging Isn’t it true that life calls on us to be true to ourselves and not try too hard to “fit in” but, rather, belong? I used to think these were the same—however, I’ve discovered there is absolutely a difference, and based on the situation they both may be appropriate!

 

 

“Fitting in” or “belonging” is, in part, analogous to whether or not you wear or remove your mask.

Have you ever found yourself masking who you really are in order to fit in with others? Do you suppose this has ever caused others to wonder who you really are, what you stand for, what guides your soul?

Conversely, in my opinion, to “belong” is to be accepted for who we are: People know us and feel that we are true and real, it is apparent to others what our guiding light is, what we believe and maybe more importantly what we do not believe. There is meaningfulness in conversations that include transparency as to your beliefs, that helps define who you are. I realize it is not critical to agree with everyone on everything. In fact, it’s healthy to have your own thoughts and beliefs as long as you can embrace the “art of disagreement” (something I wrote about in a previous Rambling) and disagree appropriately (what may be appropriate in one setting may not be in another).

The lesson for me, coming out of seeing The Phantom of the Opera, and reflecting on the types of masks we may wear, is centered around being ourselves and comfortable in accepting who we are. In fact, I have come to realize that knowing and accepting who we are is more fun, more meaningful, and more critical to building strong relationships than any mask we can wear.

Embrace the Hygge Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take this Rambling in a different direction. Do you know what hygge is? According to Wikipedia, it’s “the Scandinavian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.” It’s an approach to the cold and bleak long winter days (not necessarily limited to winter). Originated by the Danish, it’s pronounced “hoo-guh.” Hygge is a quality of coziness, comfort, warmth, and well-being, not just with others but with yourself. It’s nurturing joy (not just happiness!). Think of it as spending a snowy evening snugly nestled in an overstuffed lounger chair, by a flickering fireplace, wearing Nordic (ethnicity not required) slipper socks, wrapped in a fluffy fleece-lined blanket, with a nice glass of wine, a really good book, your favorite music playing softly and/or with that someone special having a great fun, flirty, meaningful, and honest conversation.

As we start a new year, make 2018 wonderful and meaningful! Try to make it a point to find time for hygge and removing the mask!

Lessons from a Recovering Norwegian Being true to yourself and those around you

As I prepare for a morning talk for a west suburb Rotary, I landed on a Rambling posted back in December, 2016. As I read, it struck me that this Rambling was worthy of reposting……….

December 20th, 2016 –  This is one of my more transparent, personal, vulnerable and honest Ramblings. There is a core message around transparency in this Rambling that I hope will trigger reflection in the event that any of this applies to you, my reader.  

As with most of my Ramblings, this Rambling came about as a result of the newfound enjoyment I have in reading and learning about a variety of subjects. I’ve also become more observant about what is going on around me. Recently, I ran across an article on the different types of conflict and how they can show up in our professional and personal relationships. Whatever differences may exist among the various stresses of life, there is one popular theory that the human body reacts similarly to all stresses by igniting either a “fight or flight response” in an effort to maintain an internal balance. (For those who have followed previous Ramblings, the two different EKGs that I used to have as discussed in the “This could save your life” Rambling is reflective of this theory.)

In the past, for me at least, the fight response would have revealed itself as a snarky (a little strong, but the adjective I will use today) defensiveness and the flight response would have involved ignoring the realities of a situation by retreating into a shell and hiding with shame and guilt. I used to do both depending upon the situation. I could totally internalize something, react in an aloof or guarded manner, or even try to avoid something altogether (a mechanism of the flight response). I have discovered that in fight mode, my past “snarky” or defensive comments caused those closest to me to feel that they needed to “walk on egg shells” if they encountered this response.

Both of these reactions shielded me from meaningful communication and created internal stress, something that is destructive to a meaningful and healthy relationship. I have now come to discover how freeing and wonderful it is in being honest with myself and those around me.

Chasing meaning As a recovering Norwegian, I have discovered that chasing meaning is better for your health and relationships than trying to avoid discomfort. Perhaps there are others out there who can relate to this. (You do not need to be Norwegian to experience this, however in my case, I will place responsibility on my heritage and to a lesser degree my family of origin.)

Recently, while at my ongoing Monday morning men’s group, I was reminded of something that I have learned in the past year: It’s about a trait (a behavior) that I never really understood or practiced to the level that was needed. It is rather shocking to me to accept that I thought I knew this, but never properly refined the skill, or practiced as I do now. This past behavior is something that created a quiet, subtle barrier, an armor, so to speak and tension in meaningful relationships. Here’s what I’ve come to understand:

It is not all about ME or what someone does! The key to meaningful relationships is to really get to know the other person, to really get to know yourself, and to have serious communication (dramatically different than conversations) as to the strengths, traits, habits, needs, support, dreams, beliefs, failures, struggles and values that are critical to yourself and those that are important to the other person. The ability to ask questions and then truly listen to others is a critical and powerful tool. It helps to remove the focus from oneself and instead place more focused and deliberate attention on the other person. For instance, now I say, “Tell me about you” and then shut up and listen intently without judgment! truth

To really get to know another person you need to embrace totally non-defensive, collaborative communication that creates an environment of comfort, trust, and openness. This does not mean you always have to agree on everything. Think about how boring it would be if your closest relationships were based on saying “yes” to everything. You would be basing a relationship on something that wasn’t true and honest. I’ve come to understand we should do our absolute best to respect and honor the other person’s opinions, beliefs and input.

Understanding and respecting other perspectives, opinions, and insights expands our emotional bandwidth, strengthens relationships, and builds a broader learning curve. In the long run, it makes our relationships more interesting, healthy, and fun which is quite different than simply agreeing with another’s perspective. Living a full engaged life and developing meaningful relationships (personal and professional) means we must be true to ourselves and to those around us.

Say what you mean and mean what you say This phrase hasn’t always resonated with me. Sure, it sounds nice but in the past I did not fully digest the words and the meaning. Inot-everyone-is-true lost the substance of what was being said. However, I have discovered how freeing it is to live this mantra.

It pains me to acknowledge my past behavior and failures as they have cost me so much in my personal life. However, I’m excited about what I’ve learned! Change is possible, yet difficult and takes incredible work and desire. Thank you to all who have helped me in developing this ongoing maturity. (You know who are!)

I remember a dinner I had with a couple whose husband I did not know well. It did not take long for him to talk about their son’s challenges and struggles. There was none of the superficial bragging about “the world’s greatest kid” that we’ve all experienced at some level. Rather, it was a fully candid and open discussion and that child and his dad became real to me. As a result, the evening was more relaxing as we all could talk honestly without judgement as opposed to maintaining the superficial “egg shell” of polite chatter.

I have learned that slowing down and chasing the meaning and substance behind real opinions, conflict, stress, comments or feelings is far better for our physical, emotional, and relationship health than avoidance.

In conclusion, there are some key words that I want to briefly react to as I reflect on what I’ve discovered, It’s been an amazing learning curve!

I have discovered that an attitude and life of service, a life that is humble, a collaborative life of not being perfect, of accepting my weaknesses and flaws and living a life of being true to who I am, not who I am supposed to be all helps in building resilience to stress and maximizing life itself and the relationships around me.

How about you?

Convergence of Experiences

Convergence of Experiences As we are doing our final preparation for the Christmas holiday and approaching the end of another year I find myself, once again, reflecting on the past and looking to the future. I do not think I am alone in saying that the year has had its ups and downs, disappointments, and successes. My perspective on normal life roller coaster is summed up in a post on Facebook:

“I never lose, I just gain from experiences or learn from experiences. Either way it was a personal WIN (personal commentary; made even sweeter because no one has to “lose”)!

This Rambling is the result of the convergence recently of five experiences (gifts, really) that have been relevant, meaningful, and interesting—particularly because they all came to me at the same time.

1)   Someone suggested I read the book, Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye, by Michael R. LeGault (which, I’ve started). LeGault espouses the value of critical thinking;

2) I came across an article on LinkedIn by Rakesh Jain entitled, The Forsaken Art of Thinking;

3) I participate in leading a weekly Adult Class at Wayzata Free Church. During a recent gathering, we listened to Peter Hollens’ stirring rendition of, “Mary Did You Know?” https://youtu.be/hSfHXWjzqu0 Please take a moment to listen to it;

4) I finished the book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcom Gladwell. Gladwell talks about the choices and decisions we make instantaneously, relying on our intuition to guide us;

5) I was sent a video clip of the Scarecrow, in The Wizard of Oz singing, “If I Only Had a Brain.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nauLgZISozs&sns=em  Listen to all the wise things the Scarecrow says he would do if only he had a brain to think with.

I challenge you to think about this (and do something with it) as I have, I’m learning that contemplation, intentionality, and engagement through conversation, reading, and observation adds depth and meaning to life and relationships. Living with intention can help us respond to life’s challenges with a sense of calm and helps us be more thoughtful when engaging in a healthy debate—respecting and really listening to the perspectives of others. I encourage you to hone an attitude of intentionality that works for you.

The 5-Minute Pause

I discovered there is an ART TO THINKING, (and definitely different styles!) particularly when you’re having a conversation where differing opinions are being expressed, or perhaps varying levels of emotion. For me, the art of thinking helps me in keeping an open mind, not making judgments too quickly, and really listening to what is being said as well as the “color” or nuances behind what is being said. The idea (and power) of a 5-minute pause gives us time to digest the full nature of a discussion, temper our emotional responses, and absorb the significance of what is being said. This pause, before responding, may open you up to adjusting your personal perspective. It certainly can help the other person feel he is being heard. In the spirit of intentionality and minimizing misunderstandings, let the other person know you’re using the 5-minute pause and why.

A Recovering Norwegian A few years ago, I vowed to be less guarded, or rigid, whether it was in what I chose to read, or my perspectives, reactions, attitudes, feelings, or the way I communicated. I vowed to be a “Recovering Norwegian.” If you’re a Norwegian, I trust you know what I mean. I remain proud of my heritage, yet try not to be prideful or let the persona improperly define me. I smile when I remember how I used to refer to my “inner Norwegian” style as a hallmark of who I was. However, I discovered it was actually a hindrance to finding meaningfulness in relationships, both personal and professional.

Whether you’re a Norwegian or not, when you reflect on your life do you experience a sense of wonder, disappointment, or perhaps, amazement as to things that happened in the past? For me, there were also mistakes made that remain very painful. There were times when I truly didn’t know how to embrace a situation or relationship. At times I was poor at communicating. And, there were times when I just plain-old blew an amazing life changing opportunity

There’s another aspect of the Norwegians worth contemplating: The VIKINGS.

Norway-Viking-Wedding-Photographer-68-1100x525                  Norwegian Vikings

The Vikings’ were anything but shy, reserved, controlled, or guarded: They were full of adventure and knew how to express themselves! A few years ago, I decided this was a side of my heritage that I needed to re-discover! A change occurred.

 Change is possible if it is important enough to you.

“Mary Did You Know?” This is one of my favorite pieces of music. Have you listened to the clip I provided? No matter how many times I listen to it, it always deeply touches me. There have been times when I looked back on my life, that, like Mary, I couldn’t perceive of what was before me.

I believe Mary did know her son was something special, not only the moment son was born, but before, when the angel visited her. What Mary may not have known was the lasting impact her son, Jesus, would have on the world. As Jesus worked to gather and teach his flock, He was willing to stand true to his beliefs and calling despite the ridicule and immense challenges He faced. He did not flaunt his power with arrogance, but demonstrated the power and grandeur of his father and why He was placed on this earth. Jesus was sent to teach the unbelievable wonder of love and to sacrifice himself for the benefit of others.

Mary was a proud yet a humble mother as she watched her son walk the path of his creator with absolute conviction, compassion, and passion. The next time you listen to “Mary Did You Know?” let it touch your heart.

We do not always know the impact we make on people with our behavior, attitudes, and communication. If you’re like me, you hope there’s something about you that has a positive impact on others.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year. I challenge you to add more contemplation and intention to your life in the year ahead and see where the journey takes you—whether your approach is that of “Think” or “Blink.”

Gratitude & the Lost Art of Disagreeing – The 3 C’s—Challenge, Choice & Change

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I write and post this Rambling. I wish everyone of my followers a very Happy Thanksgiving. Check out this short video on gratitude and seeing the “beautifully” things in life.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nj2ofrX7jAk&sns=em

 If you were to wear a t-shirt with your personal motto for how you try to live your life, what would it say?

Here’s mine. I would leave it at that with the hope that an inquisitive soul with something on their mind other than the weather or sports would ask me about the 3 C’s.

T shirt moto
Thankful, Gratitude, and 3 C’s

 

Challenge, Choice, and Change

I am very thankful for many aspects of my life: my children, my health, my extended family, my friends, and the service of those around me who are selfless in their acts. This is not to say my life is perfect—as I (like most people) have been dealt some cards in life that I would not choose. However, I do have a choice as to how I will live my life despite adversity and challenges.

I believe life deals us cards that God knew were going to be dealt. I also believe he watches with anticipation as to how we actually respond as compared to how we should respond.

Over the past few years I have learned about the power of intentionality, thankfulness, and gratitude as they are at the core of who we are and who we become. What do you think?

As I sit here this morning, I’m reflecting on this very aspect of life and how I do my best in responding to life’s challenges and the cards I’ve been dealt. My response may be dramatically different than how others react. I need to be true to myself and do what is right, whether someone is looking or not. I believe we must stick to our beliefs and our values. Isn’t that one of the great things about life? Everyone is entitled to have opinions of their own, however, the ways we react and express those opinions impact ourselves as well as how those around us view us.

This brings me to the 3 C’s:

  • We all are confronted with Challengesthat’s part of living a wholehearted and engaging life. We are dealt cards not expected, we are confronted with outcomes we may not agree with, yet not everything outside our “personal desires” needs to be a challenge, some are great opportunities.
  • With a challenge we have a Choice as to how we react and behave. With an inquisitive mind and by asking questions we may learn another perspective. If we can master the ability to be agreeable in what may be a disagreeable situation we do not alienate others. In fact, if we can find a way to express our personal perspective which may disagree with others, in a respectful manner, we may alter the other’s perspective whereas if a disagreeable reaction is done in an argumentative and attacking manner it only alienates the relationship. We have a choice!
  • Change becomes an option to consider, not easy to do, but clearly possible. You can change your perspective, change how you engage in a positive, respectful manner. Although you may disagree with something or someone else, portraying an open mind brings the relationship closer. There are times that agreeing to disagree is alright as we don’t need to agree 100 percent with others to maintain a robust, intimate, and caring relationship

All too often, thankfulness and gratitude have become a lost value and art.

 I am not implying that everyone has lost the ability to kindly express opinions and objections without being snarky or causing someone to feel they are “walking on egg shells.” Nor do I believe everyone has lost the ability to be thankful or filled with gratitude. What I am attempting to express is that far too often we fail to object and express a counter opinion in an agreeable fashion and to express and demonstrate thankfulness and gratitude. Sometimes we may go on the offensive, think we have “won” an argument or discussion, only to later discover we lost a great deal, perhaps even a relationship. Have you ever been in a situation where the recipient of a gift reacted in a way, either verbally or nonverbally, that said, “this is not what I want”? Perhaps the message even went as far as to say until they got what they wanted, the relationship would not move forward. We have all been told, “life is not fair.” Fairness is most often in the eye of the recipient. However, I believe what is truly fair is the choice that God has given us to act with grace and gratitude. God sits back to watch if we have chosen to accept these gifts or reject them in the spirit they were given. Far too often people are so inward, so self-centered, so entitled, that they win the battle but lose the war as a recipient of opportunities. To live as though everything has to be done our own way or to our own liking, I think, in my opinion, is an incredibly sad way to live life.

During this Thanksgiving week, I wish all of you a Very Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. May you find time to reflect on the gifts you have been given, to be thankful for the bountiful blessings you have, and to look outward and demonstrate with gratitude how fortunate you are.

Your Most Valuable Currency

When it comes to currency, what are you carrying around with you every day? If someone asked you to empty your pocket, brief case, or purse what would they see? What might those items reveal about you as a person? If you don’t mind, dig in now and see what you find. Think about these items and the importance they hold in your life as well as what they say about you. When you leave the house for the day, what do you make sure you bring with you?

Think about each item and ask yourself, how important are each of these items?

Debit or credit card: Yes, that piece of plastic can bring about instant gratification for our wants as well as the necessities. How many do you have in your wallet? What if you were without your “cards” for one day. Would you survive? Most likely you would.

Cash: Like your debit or credit card, cold hard cash facilitates our daily wants and needs. What is your philosophy about how much you carry with you? What does the amount you carry say about you?

Driver’s license: What does your ID say about you? While it shares some personal information about us (hair color, height, weight, home address) it would be hard for someone to learn much about us simply by looking at it. It certainly says nothing about how we live our lives or what we believe.

Address book:  Perhaps you have an actual address book, is yours full? Or maybe your phone serves as your address book. I’m guessing it includes contact information for your good friends, family members, colleagues, your doctor, your barber or hair stylist, and more. Some of these individuals know you well. Are there a few that truly know who you are at your core and understand your values? Or, perhaps in place of an address book someone could look at your Facebook page to find a list of your friends. Our address book and/or Facebook friends can offer a glimpse into who we are as we often associate with others who have values similar to our own.

I received this on my Facebook page a few months ago. . .it does make me smile. facebook 

A book: We may choose books that challenge our intellect and expand our perspectives, or perhaps they relax or entertain us. Books allow us to dream, think, and reflect. Books add substance to life, to conversation, to relationships. Books can open up the world for us and take us outside our “bubble.” The books we choose can help define (and in some cases, refine) who we are at our core. An acquaintance once suggested, “Give me five minutes to walk around a person’s house, see the books on their shelves and what they read, and I will tell you a great deal about who they are.”

Cell phone: Depending on how it is used, our cell phone may hold greater value than we truly appreciate. Yes, we can contact others quickly with a call or a text. And while many of us may feel we’d be lost without our phones, in truth, our phones, like the other items listed above are simply tools, impersonal forms of “currency.” While none of these items are critically important in defining who we are, they are, arguably, necessary for making our 21st century living a little easier.

I believe there is another kind of currency that brings relevance to our lives, a currency that is far more valuable than anything else referenced, a currency that, like a brand, reflects who we are in the world.

What is the currency that defines who we truly are, not just what we do or have—What currency reflects what is at our core and can positively impact those around us?

IT IS THE CURRENCY OF: INTEGRITY, TRUST, LOYALTY, PASSION, FAITH, and COMPASSION.

Integrity – Do you do what is right regardless of whether there’s someone watching?

Trust – Do you do what you say and say what you do? Do those around you know you can be counted on?

Loyalty – Do you stand by those around you, are you an ardent supporter of your friends and associates? Will you tell them when they are right and when they are wrong?

Passion – As defined by Encarta, passion is “the object of somebody’s intense interest or enthusiasm.” Are you committed with enthusiasm to a person, purpose, cause, or idea? Are you eager and enthused to see results and to help others succeed? Can you express yourself through an attitude, behavior, or intense action?

Faith – Do you believe in a higher power? Do you believe what you cannot touch and have faith that we are not in absolute control? Do you have a belief that guides your attitudes, behavior, decision making and how you interact with others?

Compassion – Compassion, according to Encarta can be defined as having “sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help. I may challenge the word “sympathy” as it can portray a negative connotation, I feel that “empathy and active, intentional care” is a better way to define it. To have compassion is to have a caring heart that is selfless and outward in how we live our lives.

Lastly, I would like to add LOVE to this list of currencies that define, shape, and reveal who we truly are at our core.

Fill your pockets with real and lasting currency! Are you happy or content with the amount of currency you’re carrying around with you, the kind that defines and shapes who you are? What could you do to increase it?

The Art of Letter Writing to Keep Relationships and Our Memories Alive

I was reading through some of my past Ramblings and rediscovered this post from 2016. I find it is still relevant to me today. I’ve edited it a bit and would like to re-share it with you. Perhaps you’ll find something of interest in it as well.

Repost from 2012 and 2016 – I was recently in New York City and visited the 9/11 Memorial located directly across Remembering 9-11 Coverfrom where the World Trade Center towers once stood. During my visit, I came across this book, Remembering 9/11. The memorial and the book triggered a flurry of memories of that tragic day. I was moved by the items at the memorial that represented all those people who lost their lives that day. Moreover, I was touched by the letters from family members and friends whose lives were forever changed by the tragedy of that day. Those letters stirred up memories from my own life, particularly memories of my dad, who passed away in 2006.

Not long after this NYC visit, I ran across the letter I had given to my dad three months before he lost his battle with cancer. I had written to him as I reflected on the great Strommen Forgivness and Grace Photo- Dadmemories I had and I wanted to thank him for who he was and how he had impacted my life. That letter became the foundation of my talk at his funeral. As I re-read the letter I found the deep emotions of his loss surface along with many wonderful memories of him. The letter brought back into clarity these important memories and I recognized the power of the written word to help keep memories and feelings alive in my heart and fresh in my mind.

This was again reinforced on Mother’s Day when I was in Naples visiting Mom. We were having brunch with our pastor, Rev. Steve Wigdahl. He mentioned he had written his mom-and-bobmother a letter and mailed it—not that a phone call would not suffice, but he thought a letter would be something that she could touch and read time and time again until he saw her again. As Rev. Steve said, this is the great aspect of letters that we have forgotten and lost in this technology-focused world of ours.

These experiences have helped me to be thankful for my life and memories, both the good ones and those of events I wish had not occurred. I was blessed as a child growing up. I was blessed during the years my own children grew and developed. I remember the wonderful times of our family camping trips and experiences and of being engaged in my children’s activities and their career development as they matured into the great people they are today. I treasure these times and am constantly reminded that while the details of these memories may fade a bit, they cannot be lost or forgotten. We need to remember the wonderful nature and importance of family.

I encourage you to sit down and write your parents a letter if they are still living and thank them for all they have done over the years. Write letters (and mail them!) to your children reminding them how important they are to you and how proud you are of them (regardless of their age). As the Caribou Coffee slogan says, “Life is short, stay awake for it!”

“Cherish your memories and write a letter to those you love!”

 

Finding Happiness Knowing When to Say “No” and When to Say “Yes!”

walk outsideI’ve recently had two remarkable experiences that are so closely tied together in an absolutely unintentional way. Were they an accident? Probably not.

This Rambling was inspired by an article I came across recently in USA TODAY about “happiness.” It caught my attention because I’ve personally been reflecting on the idea of “joy.” I believe happiness can come and go so quickly while joy or joyfulness seems (to me) to be the bedrock of a wholehearted and fulfilling life.

What is the difference between “joy” and “happiness”? Here are some thoughts on my perspective:

Happiness is a temporary state of mind about how we are feeling; it’s short-lived. Happiness is like hunger: When we are hungry, we eat and are no longer hungry. A sense of happiness needs to be continually fed. Don’t get me wrong, I love being happy. When we are happy it activates our endorphins, which makes us feel good. But happiness can be fleeting and temporary. It is triggered by something we see, someone we are with, a great experience, a personal accomplishment, or seeing the accomplishments of a family member or someone we care about.

Joyfulness is far deeper, far more meaningful. I find it tends to linger longer than moments of happiness. It adds substance and resilience to our life. The depths of joyfulness can carry us through those times in life when we are experiencing sadness.

When I was younger and in the earlier stages of my career I was driven to succeed. I kept my calendar crammed full. I would always make room for one more appointment, one more opportunity to engage, one more opportunity to prove to myself and others (including my friend and mentor, my dad) that I could do it! It was nearly impossible for me to ever say “no.” What I have since learned (that was also highlighted in the article) is that I was cheating myself: I was not giving those around me the quality time they needed. I just wanted to “get it done” so I could move on to the next thing. I felt good, I think I was happy, yet I did not have a foundation of joy.

I just returned from my first ever solo vacation with Backroads, a travel company that organizes biking and hiking tours for like-minded professionals. I signed up for a bike tour through California wine country including Sonoma and Redwood. I made the decision to do this over six months ago as a way of saying “YES!” to Bob and “NO” to a work schedule. I made the decision to embrace life and to expand my experiences, including meeting a new array of friends. I wanted to leave my comfort zone and add to my inner perspectives on life, culture, and people and to challenge myself to do something new and fun. I found not only happiness, but built a stronger base of joyfulness from this experience. I said “NO” to a few days of work commitments and “YES” to my soul, my heart, and my mind. I came back better as to who I am, what I want to be, and with a new commitment to embracing others and life experiences.

As I was sitting having a leisurely breakfast before leaving Sonoma to return home, I was reflecting on my experience and how I was feeling. I opened the USA TODAY newspaper and there was an article that popped up in a section I normally do not read: “Finding Happiness through NO.” I smiled at the coincidence of my just completed experience and the article that landed in my lap. This article tied my past few days together and reinforced that this will not be my last experience to wholeheartedly expand BOB, to embrace life, and to embrace new friends around the country. I’m glad I took the time to read the article as it added so much to my engagement with those I’d met on the trip.

So, I’ll share with you some of the questions that I ask myself:

  • Do you experience happiness? How do you define it?
  • How do you handle sadness and disappointment?
  • What are you doing each day to strive for happiness? How focused are you on the negatives?
  • Where do gratefulness and grace fit into happiness?
  • How do you define being joyful?
  • Are you intentionally striving to have an inner feeling of joy and if so, what are you doing?
  • What else can you do to enhance happiness, build on joyfulness, and be more resilient during times of sadness?
  • How do you think you carry yourself when happy, when sad, and when you have joyfulness?
  • Have you ever thought about the lasting and powerful impact on wholeheartedness and intentional living when your bucket is being filled with a deeper and more meaningful feeling of joy?
  • Are you thankful for your gifts and blessings? If not, get out in the world and experience the others, their lives, problems and joys. By doing so, your paradigm on life and your blessings will dramatically change.

Be happy, yet strive for being joyful and thankful for all the blessings and gifts you have been given, earned, and learned through intentional and wholehearted living

Civility

I was given an article found in the Mpls Star and Tribune this past weekend from a very good friend that struck a cord that is the basis for this rambling.

“6 Steps to Make America Civil….and a little greater”

This is not a very creative personally thought out Rambling. I feel that rather than attempting to make my own creative commentary on these “6”, I am proving a copy of the article for the substance of this Rambling as I feel the article expanded enough on the “6” that it created sufficient insight for all of us to consider as we live our lives and engage in those around us.

ENJOY……

Civility 3Civility 4Civility 2

Keep these “6” posted on your refrigerator, on your computer, in your thoughts as civility leads to such great outcomes!