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40…

Does that number bring some special meaning to mind?  Maybe the number of Girl Scout cookies you ordered?  (Or ate over the weekend?  Egads!)  Perhaps it’s the number of wins an NBA Eastern Division team will need to make the playoffs?

Back in 2011, Jodi Sawyer, RN posted this little ditty for women on the Dr. Oz website;

 “Making 40 the new 30”

Maybe you’re turning the big 4 – 0 this year?  Maybe 2013 is your 40th high school or college reunion year?

Round numbers like 40 tend to stand out, yes?  And that’s true for me, too.  You see tomorrow is my 40th wedding anniversary.  40!  Egads!

I’ve written about my wife frequently.  It’s one of those fact-greater-than-fiction tales; high school sweethearts; eloped (she was still a teenager, Egads!); raised a family; going strong 40 years later.  Now, I know why I’m still married to her; but why she’s kept me around – well that’s quite the puzzlement.

Oh, we’ve had our ups and downs.  But here’s a little known fact:  she has never, ever, even once, raised her voice to me.  Much as I have given her good reason… Egads!  Really; never.  I on the other hand, can not count avoidance of voice-raising as one of my “features”.  I’m still trying to learn life’s key lessons from our favorite, Unknown Sage:

Pratter’s Prayer 

Lord, make my words as sweet as honey, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.

I do think we communicate well.  That feature seems to be working.  Maybe I somehow mastered Harlan Miller’s advice:

Often the difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one consists of leaving three or four things a day unsaid.

Over the years like so many couples we have changed our residence; changed our lifestyles; changed our interests.  Maybe it’s been her discovery of the enjoyment from horses that has helped her keep me around?

My husband said if I don’t sell my horses, he will leave me.  Some days I miss him.

Unknown Sage

Egads!

She comes from a family of long-lasting marriages.  I knew her parents and her maternal grandparents well.  Her sisters have long and successful marriages going on; my brother, too.  My Mom and Dad would likely have enjoyed a long-lasting marriage if not for the cancer that took my Mom’s life when she was just 56.

Difficult one might ask?  Maybe.  But I’m not sure when in a relationship what the relationship is between difficulty and longevity.  Here’s one point of view:

The difficult we do immediately.  The impossible takes a little longer.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Many of you are in a long-lasting relationship, too; many have been married longer than we.  When you find that special person, it’s not difficult is it?  No, I don’t consider maintaining a lasting relationship to be difficult.  (My wife’s point of view on the other hand?  Just kidding – I hope!).

Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we know that life is difficult – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

M. Scott Peck 

So I suppose the thing that matters most is simple and obvious:

Love is a rock against the wind.

Etheridge Knight 

Happy 40th Anniversary Dear.  I love you.

GAP

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Business Fun…

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and their manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.  They rub it and a Genie comes out.  The Genie says, “I’ll give each of you just one wish.”   

“Me first!  Me first!” says the administration clerk.  “I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.”  Puff!  She’s gone.   

“Me next!  Me next!” says the sale rep.  “I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Peña Coladas and the love of my life.”  Puff! He’s gone. 

“OK, you’re up,” the Genie says to the manager.  The manager says, “I want those two back in the office after lunch.” 

Brenda Morris 

Sound like your Manager?  Sound like you?  Question:  How much fun are you to work with or work for? 

I’ve often felt that a primary role of our business leaders is to keep their followers appropriately entertained so the followers will solve the big, business challenges the company has for our leaders.  In short, I expect my manager to incorporate “Business Fun” into our day. 

“Business Fun”; what’s that you ask?  Look, if we have to work for a living + put in the extra hours + bring our work home from the office + be available seemingly 7×24 via cell phone; then at the very least we should be able to have a little fun doing it, don’t you think?  

I’m not implying the, “whistle while you work” kind of cartoon fantasy fun.  I mean, it’s nice when our Manager surprises us when she offers to make a Starbucks run at 10:00 am; or tells us, “take the afternoon off and go see your kids”; or simply has something nice to say to us each day. 

Yes, yes, I know – we get paid for our work.  Some say that should be good ‘nough.  Sports fanatics and media state that case often when complaining about some star athlete who is not starring.  “So and so should be dominating the league – after all, he’s being paid $20 Million a year!”  Yea well, how’s that working for you?  When you’re having, “one of those days”, do you merely think about your coming paycheck, and that makes it all better?  Me either. 

That’s not how comp plans work in the first place: 

The purpose of a compensation system should not be to get the right behaviors from the wrong people, but to get the right people on the bus in the first place, and to keep them there. 

Jim Collins 

I would offer, once you get the right people on your bus, a little “Business Fun” helps to keep them there.  For leaders – like it or not – talented people can get a job anywhere.  So even in a down economy, if you think your people should be thankful you gave them a job, beware.  That theory only applies to the untalented!  Just ask our favorite, Unknown Sage: 

Among the chief worries of today’s business executives is the large number of unemployed still on the payrolls. 

So come on, business leaders; lighten up!  We’ll get the job done.  Believe me; it will be easier on you if you think about ways to lift our spirits.  Otherwise, we can always entertain ourselves by making you the brunt of our amusement (while spending company time looking for another job, that is).  

GAP 

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Moms are special…

My Mom was – I bet your Mom is, too.  This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day.  In mind; in memory; or in person; be sure to make it a special day for Mom, OK?

My wife is a Mom.  She maintains a close and active relationship with our children.  And she continues to lovingly mother our grown boys even while their father asks, “Will I ever get these guys off the payroll?”  But I digress.

Moms have special skills.  Ashley is the mother of my grandson.  She’s currently an unemployed waitress with a college degree – making her one of many college graduates who can’t find suitable employment in today’s tough economy, yes?  However, she is the love of my older son; and a loving, patient, and skilled mother of my grandson. 

Ashley’s efforts remind me of the skill (and success) the parents who raised me and my generation had.  Those Moms had special skills to care for and raise their families.  Their skills were valued just as much as earning a paycheck.  Because of Ashley’s work – my grandson will benefit tremendously.

 Our Moms have a sense of humor – just ask our Unknown Sage:  

A wife invited some people to dinner.  At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?”  I wouldn’t know what to say”, the girl replied.  “Just say what you hear Mommy say”, the wife answered.  The daughter bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”

Our Moms are teachers.  My daughter-in-law, Sierra, is a great teacher (among her many other motherly skills).  With my younger son’s support, Sierra does an excellent job of teaching her teenage children by example; perhaps the highest degree of difficulty when teaching teenagers – do as I say and as I do!

Yes, Moms are teachers.  I bet you remember many of the life-lessons you learned from your Mom.  And our Mother’s lessons last a lifetime, yes?  Back to our Unknown Sage: 

            What my Mother taught me: 

My Mother taught me logic; “Because I said so, that’s why.”

My Mother taught me irony; “Keep laughing and I’ll give you something to cry about.”

My Mother taught me about the science of osmosis:  “Shut your mouth and eat your supper!” 

And our Moms have an immeasurable reservoir of power.  I bet your Mom has power; my Mom did: 

I watched my Mom’s great power, which she needed in order to deal with a new cancer treatment in the late 1960’s that was so unimaginably harsh – that the administration of this treatment was solely based on the primitive science of trial and error – where the doctors’ routine consisted of observing how much of a dose could she tolerate without dying from the treatment.  It was an experimental treatment back then; offered only as a last resort for terminally ill cancer patients. This wasn’t a cancer cure; just a radical option to extend one’s life another year or two.  It was due to her staying power (and that of many other patients like her) before she finally succumbed in 1974, that has helped pave the way to the development of the commonly used, life-saving cancer treatment we all know today as chemotherapy. 

Sunday is Mother’s Day – make it special for your Mom if she’s living; make it special for you through your memories of your Mom if she’s not. 

GAP 

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August 6, 2011…

It was an event one dreams about, and: 

Who wants a dream that’s near-fetched?

                                  Howard Schultz 

Memories of this day will last a lifetime – my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding.  And their wedding day was definitely not near-fetched. 

An August wedding; hot; in the mid-90s; nothing exceptional about that.  An outdoor ceremony at Boettcher Mansion on Lookout Mountain; for the Denver area, that was not unusual.  The reception was at our house (as you might already know from my earlier posts about our home landscaping project of the decade.)  Pretty near-fetched, so far. 

The bachelor’s party was a little different, I suppose.  We bought a shopping cart of ammunition at Wal-Mart and twelve of us went to shoot in the national forest for the day.  Although it was far from my personal comfort zone (I’m not really a “gun-guy”) it was a lot of fun for my son, and after all, it was his bachelor’s party.  

The morning of the wedding had scenes played out like most weddings.  The bride was up before dawn to get ready; photographer on hand to capture the moments.  Her hairdresser arrived at 6 a.m.; she had to wake her family and friends – guests at her house (many hung over from the rehearsal dinner the night before.)  You know – all the usual stuff. 

My son?  When we roused him and his hung-over groomsmen (who had slept over) they headed back to Wal-Mart to buy T-Shirts.  (A far-fetched, wedding tradition?)  A second photographer was on hand, – but let’s say their immodesty was not a great fit for their future family wedding album.  Boys will be boys, but again, still near-fetched, yes? 

Their wedding was an Irish-Cowboy kind of theme – kilts for the wedding party; and a cowboy hat for the preacher.  My son is 1/4th Irish (with rumor of a Scottish horse thief in his ancestry) and I’m 0/4th’s (but look pretty good in a kilt).  They had a bag piper perform at the ceremony; while the gazebo was decorated with beautiful green and white flowers coupled with their cowboy hats; ropes; and chaps – leaving the realm of near-fetched. 

Before pronouncing the couple wedded, the bag piper added in a quake; ever hear of that?  Me either.  It’s a 2-handed, triple-sized “shot”, filled with Irish whiskey, that the bride and groom took turns downing and then holding the quake upside down over their heads as a sign that they properly completed their vows.  And the preacher?  He is also the hay hauler my daughter-in-law uses for the equestrian center she manages.   (You can’t make this stuff up!) 

Immediately after the ceremony, it was lunch at the A&W in Golden.  We stopped in Golden so the wedding party could walk through the monthly antique car show.  (Doesn’t everybody?)  

Arriving at our house for an afternoon/evening reception – it wasn’t actually in our house.  The only building large enough for 100 guests is our riding arena, which provided welcome shade from the afternoon sun.  Our horses hung their heads over the gate to join us (naturally).  

Of course, this Irish-Scottish-Cowboy-Car Show wedding was catered by – who else?  – the Giggling Greek.  And dessert was provided by their friends who baked an “elk cake”; chocolate frosting on the outside; blood-red cake on the inside; just like any other wedding. 

Yes, the details of their occasion were a bit far-fetched – just like the kind of dreams that a lifetime are made of. 

GAP 

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Filling our hands…

This summer, I found myself waving to my neighbor every Saturday and Sunday morning; and again in the late afternoons.  He was headed due east to the country club and a round of golf.  

I was facing due west (back to the bright sunrise), waving to my neighbor from the working end of a wheel barrow.  My son’s wedding was August 6th and we hosted the reception in our back yard.  This is the same back yard that I had conveniently neglected for the eleven years since we moved into our house – I used to head south and play weekend golf. 

Of course, if you saw my golf game you’d agree that I often lost my way, too: 

A golfer, searching for a ball lost deep in the rough, asked the caddie, “Why do you keep looking at that pocket watch?  It isn’t a watch”, the caddie said.  “It’s a compass.” 

Unknown Sage 

So this summer my wife and I undertook the home landscaping project of the decade.  Thankfully, we had help; friends, family, neighbors; contractors.  Yep, we were the busiest house on the street.  And it was difficult.  To offer a hint at the difficulty, we shoveled over 130 tons of stone – 260 thousand pounds – all different shapes and sizes and colors.  Brought memories of golfers and their attire – all different shapes, sizes and colors. 

The feel of a shovel in my hands also reminded me of when I used to swing a golf club.  (Shovel vs. club – maybe that was the root of the problem with my game!)   I could never seem to hit the ball in the direction I was aiming.  Did I need to carry a compass?  It used to upset me, but not as much as some golfers: 

Golfer Tommy Bolt is known for his sweet swing and foul temper.  While giving a clinic to a group of amateurs, Bolt tried to show his softer side by involving his 14-year old son in the lesson.  “Show the nice folks what I taught you”, said Bolt.  His son obediently took a 9-iron, cursed, and hurled it into the sky.

                                  Thomas Roswell 

Nope, no foul tempers at our “club”.  I did mention once to my wife that for all the money we spent to get ready for the reception, we could have given our son and new daughter-in-law a destination wedding at an exotic golf resort (and paid to fly everyone there for the celebration!).   But she reminded me that our landscaping investment will last a lifetime – so, too our son’s marriage.  

I had to agree.  In the long run it really doesn’t matter how difficult any project is.  As M. Scott Peck offers about life (and it applies to golf, too): 

Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we know that life is difficult – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.   

Yes, marriage (and golf) is much more important than difficulties.  I doubt I’ll return to weekend golf.  But I’m sure we will find something to fill our weekends; our hands; and our marriage. 

And for the married golfers heading to the club next weekend; may the compass for your golf game (and for your marriage) always know where to find true north. 

GAP 

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please check it out Subscribe.

Pursuing happiness

Posted Mar 3 2011 by in True North with 4 Comments

Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.

                                                                           Unknown

It’s amazing how hard people work today.  Extended business hours during the week; taking work home on the weekends; accepting increasing levels of stress; truly amazing.  And with our smart phones, we never get away from the office, yes?  It seems that there is no place to hide.  I see people with their phones while working out; in the grocery store check-out line; checking messages while in the bathroom; on the golf course; everywhere.  I have mine on too.

Rationalizing this phenomenon, some people defend these extra efforts.  “My company cut staff, so those of us left have to pick up the slack.”  “I need to pay off my college loans.”  “I have kids’ college educations to pay for.”  “I have to do this to compete for my big promotion.”  Others simply respond, “What do you mean?  This is what I’ve always done.”

And families?  I listen to the schedule some kids carry (with their parents usually in tow) and it’s even more amazing.  Advanced placement classes; extracurricular activities; sports leagues; instructional sports leagues; traveling sports leagues – WOW!  I can’t remember the last time I saw a group of kids in the neighborhood playing a pick-up game of softball.  Do you remember Hide-and-Seek; Statute-Maker; Red-Light-Green-Light?  Now studied by college students as a part of their anthropological history and ancient cultures curricula, I think.

Here’s another example – the circus.  When was the last time you went?  Me?  Well, as I write this little ditty, I’m looking in the mirror.  Guilty as charged!  So here’s my pledge:  The next time the circus comes to Denver, I’m going.  (And I’ll write to you about it too, OK?)  Now before raising any excuses or objections, let’s take heed of what Robert Fulghum said:

When the circus comes to town, go see it.  It’s the circus – does everything need explaining?

Agreed; making a living today is challenging.  There are also many, many exciting, rewarding and fulfilling pursuits that can really rev our engines up, too.  If you’re like me, you love your work.  Sometimes we might exaggerate the burden of our stress, the extra hours, and our extra effort when speaking to others because in our heart-of-hearts, we love our work.  We love the fruits of our labors, too: traveling; nice cars; beautiful homes; clothes.  Yes, we are blessed to be living in such a time of wealth. 

But how are we living?  What is the condition of our health, for instance?  It seems that I have more and more friends and colleagues my age and younger that are suffering from serious health afflictions; in some cases, life-threatening.  Even those of my friends that are workout nuts (more disciplined and in better shape than I ever have been), often look aged beyond their actual years.  Their talk of future goals now includes hip and/or knee replacements. 

Finding peace, happiness and fulfillment can be quite the mystery sometimes, don’t you agree?  When I think back to the last time I truly felt relaxed, content, secure, healthy, and fortunate – well, I think that was the last year I went to the circus!          

About Life:

Why do we work?  We work to make a living.  So if we aren’t really living, what is all this work for?

                                                                          Amy Robertson

Here’s to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – just what Amy and our Founding Fathers had in mind.   

                                                                           GAP

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