Enough walking in a winter wonderland!!!

Winter in the Midwest this year has been especially harsh. The cold and snow started the beginning of December and as we near the end of January, there is no end in sight. It has been constant.  This morning we wake up to another fresh blanket of snow with a cold blast coming in right behind it.

The weather gets the headlines in the news. With it comes a transfer of wealth. Those plowing the snow, operating the tow trucks, replacing furnaces are gaining wealth. Many others face unanticipated costs for damaged vehicles, hospital stays, moving snow, replacing plumbing and heating systems.

Nothing demonstrates the need for an emergency fund more.  A credit card is not an emergency fund. Credit gives you the opportunity to pay two to three times the original cost of the loss.  An emergency fund in a savings account or a money market fund of three to six months of expenses can help you sleep better than any sleeping pill on the market. 

If you are on the benefit end of the weather systems, use that additional income to build your emergency fund (and don’t forget the government expects their share).  You can bet that one day the shoe will be on the other foot.

If you are trying to recover from damage by the storm, you may have to grab a shovel and earn some cash by shoveling out some driveways or finding other ways to take these lemons and make lemonade out of them.  There is a place for people to go when they are broke – to work.

I leave you with a quote from Anne Bradstreet:
   “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” 



Great minds dis…


Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Gossip has no place in a business and it has no place in a home. In his book EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey tells the story of how he arrived at a “no gossip” policy in his workplace. Gossip is when you talk negatively about somebody in their absence. If you have some constructive criticism for somebody, go to them with it. Don’t discuss it with others behind their back. At Dave’s place, you get one opportunity to make this mistake, you will get an education on why talking people down to others is a really bad idea, and the next time it happens, you are gone. The rule is negatives go up (to the people who can do something about them), and positives go down.

Most parents have unconditional love for their children, and misguided as it may be, some invite their children to come to them soon after the wedding to “help” through any rough spots in the marriage. “Come, tell me about how horrible your new spouse is. You know I never thought they were good enough for you in the first place.” Now it does not all go like that. Some parents understand what it means to respect their children’s boundaries.

By the same token, no parent should ever be disrespected to their child, even in a divorce situation, maybe especially in a divorce situation. Children are not pawns in a chess game or any game for that matter. Parents, like physicians, should subscribe to primum non nocere, “First, do no harm”. Yes, we can avoid doing permanent, irreparable damage to our children.

In their book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend discuss a phenomenon called triangulation. “Person A is angry at Person B. Person A does not tell Person B. Person A calls Person C and gripes bout Person B. Person C enjoys Person A’s confidence and listens whenever A wants to play the triangle game.”

To complicate matters, “Person B, feeling lonely, calls C, and, in passing, mentions the conflict with A. Person C becomes the confidant of B as well as A. Persons A and B have not resolved their conflict, and C has two ‘friends’.”

Triangulation is the failure to resolve a conflict between two persons and the pulling in of a third to take sides.” Prevention is the best medicine. If somebody comes to you to complain about somebody else, refuse to participate. “I see what you are saying, but shouldn’t you really take that up with /enter name of offending person/.” To promote a healthy atmosphere within the family or in the workplace, stop the gossip.

Learning to cope in a distracting world.

Simon Sinek is an amazing leader, thinker, author in today’s world.  He has written an article (actually an excerpt from his book Leaders Eat Last) “How Baby Boomers Screwed Their Kids – and Created Millennial Impatience”.  Well worth the read here bit.ly/1942pBn .

I admit that I was a little disappointed on first read that he would be willing to label entire groups of people as he does with Boomers, Gen-X, and Gen-Y.  After all, labeling in groups is the foundation of prejudice. But then, as a fellow writer, I realized that this is a convention we writers use to help our audience identify with the problem and solution we are trying to present.  So all is forgiven keeping in mind we are talking issues, not people, here.

I believe Sinek correctly identifies the fault in our thinking that we can “do our work, check our phones, write a paragraph, send a text, write another paragraph, send another text” without doing damage to our ability to concentrate. He states, “Generation Y thinks that, because they have grown up with all these technologies, they are better at multitasking.”  Sinek submits that what they are better at is being distracted.

He suggests that at least a portion of the spike in diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD – up 66% between 2000 and 2010) may actually be an addiction to distraction. “An entire generation has become addicted to the dopamine-producing effects of text messages, e-mails and other online activities.”

The antidote to the Sinek syndrome is focus. Not necessarily for everyday, but whenever you are working on a goal or a major project, set the distractors away where they are out of sight or sound, and feel the refreshing invigoration of actually being able to concentrate.  And note that the project gets done in much less time, leaving you time to check your e-mails and messages.  That dopamine hit can actually become a reward for your better behavior.

And here is how this all relates to family … when you hear a voice, set the distractors aside and pay attention.  I don’t care who is waiting for your response, the most important person in the world is right in front of you. If that is the way you treat them, that is the way that they will treat you. At dinner, you will have a conversation, not a game.

The best kind of magic …

New year’s eve is the best kind of magic. The slate is wiped clean, all that was, no longer is, and the horrible things that happened during the year can now be put behind us. Here is to a better 2014. The symbol of the newborn fits because the new year is all full of hope and promise.

In that light, we promise not to drag the same old self into the new year, to take better care of ourselves. We will lose the weight, handle our money better, and set new career goals for ourselves. By golly, it is going to be a better year! 

Sometimes it doesn’t take very many steps into the new year or even a new day until we get a sign that maybe the day or the year is not going to be all that we had hoped.   Here comes Debbie Downer.  Frustration appears, the stress level rises, a monkey jumps on our back and screeches in our ear.  Sometimes it is our own monkey, sometimes it is a monkey delivered by somebody else.

Wait a minute. Take a breath. This is life.  The feeling that the new year would go along swimmingly with everything as planned was an illusion.  When you dumped 2013 for all of the promise of 2014, did you dump the good moments with it?  Can you think back to a happy moment in 2013?  If you can’t, then you are setting yourself up for failure because you are living in darkness, recalling only the times and feelings of despair. You need to retrain yourself to savor the good times like a butterscotch.

So now you can think about the new year with eyes wide open. There may have been loss last year, be it a person or a pet or a favorite thing.  There may very well be loss this year. There may have been a disaster that you are still cleaning up. Keep that mop and  bucket close at hand.  Somebody or something may have ripped a hole in your heart. Apply needle and thread. Your heart will not be the same, but you will go on.

It’s time to start that new journal, to begin the diary to record every thing that you laugh or smile at. Every time you taste the butterscotch, enjoy it and write it down. On your next new year’s eve, you can enjoy the best read of your life.