Archive | May 2012

Thank You


Where I work we have a relatively new process for informal thank you’s. What I love about this program is that it creates an atmosphere of appreciation AND connection.

Here’s how the program works:  When you receive one of the official thank you cards you drop it into a common box. Once a month we have drawings from the box and the prize is a free lunch for both people involved – the person who thanked them and the recipient. This has a two-fold benefit. First, the program rewards the appreciative behavior. Secondly, it creates time together, in an informal setting. The pair benefits both on a professional/business level as well as on a social/networking level. The program is a great success. The thank you’s are sincere and thoughtful. And the whole process changes the tone of the business. We are now a group of people who are more aware and more vocal in our appreciation of our co-workers. Nothing changes a person’s perspective quite like a little appreciation. They feel valued and noticed for their hard work or going above and beyond.

I share all of this because I see it making a shift in the “smell of the place” as they say. Even in times of uncertainty; even in days of intense business pressures and changes, we feel and build the positive connections. It’s one more reason why I love the Company I work for and the people I share my days with.

I challenge myself and my readers to thanks someone today. But don’t just say it – write it. It’s powerful to have those tangible kind words to remember and review on off moments. And … if you really want to make someone’s day – take them to lunch as well.

Be grateful and be blessed!

 

Just Speak – original poem


JUST SPEAK!

From stem to stern and back again.

Top to bottom, without end.

Your cells know the energy of a positive flow.

Your words bellow forth with new life.

The sentiment of your heart changes the air.

Every part of you responding to the beat of your cares.

With heavy heart the day goes dark.

With lightness of hope the day glows.

It isn’t the outside that colors your world.

But the rainbow of thoughts and words.

With practice your mind can shift your view.

Allowing the breaking of dawn.

Brushing aside the darkest of thoughts.

You harness the power of control.

With it comes swift changes to your world.

It’s your words that speak your thoughts to life.

As your energy entwines with others.

A thought, a word, a positive shift.

Is all it takes to change your path.

From slowly slipping away with regret.

To a warm embrace of belonging.

It only takes one act from you.

You have the power within.

To shift the story of who you are.

Just speak your life to your dreams.

It changes everything.

~ Barbara Bernard Miller

CELEBRATE!!


“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…
get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. 
Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. 
To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

~ Abraham Heschel

What a great quote this is – and an even greater philosophy on living! To truly be present to the miracle that life is may be the greatest gift of happiness we can give ourselves. Look around in your world today and seek for something to celebrate. Is it the smile in the face of a child that you longed to hold and love for so long? Is it the fabulous job that you wished and prepared for over years of learning and experience? Is it the health you have either by hard work or good choices? Is it simple pleasures like a lovely sunrise, I calm and relaxing dinner, a wish come true or warm bed to comfort you after a long and difficult day?

Whatever it is – big or little. Allow yourself to celebrate it. Find a great place to frolic and play. Dance when you are all by yourself, or better yet – be contagious and start a dance of joy in your family. Allow yourself to relish the abundant beauty that is your life. Get out the good china. Enjoy your favorite meal. Treat yourself to your favorite book or movie, bobble or bling. Write a thank you letter. Smile at a stranger. Pass you good fortune along in a random act of kindness.

You are spectacularly created. You are Divinely blessed. You are incredibly talented. CELEBRATE!!!

I celebrate YOU! Be blessed as you bless me too.

Value of One Word


We all know that a picture paints a 1000 words. But what picture does one word paint?

We are multi-dimensional beings and have many gifts to bring to the world. Our lives have a purpose and we are on the path to the fulfillment of our greatest self and our journey home to the Divine.

If you were to quiet your mind today, what is the one word about yourself or your journey that is coming to the forefront for you? Whatever word comes to mind FIRST is the one you should notice and share. It’s the one that is calling out for your attention.

For me it’s:  CONNECTIONS

Be you and be blessed!

Perceptions and Change


Many of my friends are going through significant life changes these days. Some are by choice, but many are being pushed, prodded, cajoled, or even forced into it.  Perhaps it has always been this way … but I think it’s happening more and more. Well, that’s my perception anyway. The beautiful thing about perceptions is they can be changed with  more facts and more experiences.

What I’ve been observing is that even though change is change, my friends’ perceptions of it makes all the difference in the world. My question is – does it have to be this way? The  “how” you came to be in the midst of change (voluntary, involuntary, dreams, or the end of dreams) … should that really change our interaction with the shift? No matter the “why”, the “what” is still the same.

The stages of change are still the same. The things you can and cannot control are essentially the same. The connections with friends, family, and networks is identical. The steps to take from “here” to “there” are virtually indistinguishable. What is different is the perception of the change. Because of that, I think we hold the key to smoother transitions.

I learned long ago to tease apart the facts of the matter from the story we tell ourselves about the fact. Facts are neutral. They are simply the details of what happened. But the stories are where our paranoias, fantasies, dreams, suspicions, and imaginations come to life. For example, when I was 3 I was ordered by the Courts to be a ward of the State and was placed in an orphanage. Everything in that sentence is a fact. However, I spent years telling myself the story that I must have been one really unlovable child because no-one loved me and I didn’t have a family. WOW! That is a 3 year old’s story based on what I could see and what I could understand and what I could possibly imagine. And, in reality it wasn’t true. Clearly I was loveable – I had lots of friends at the orphanage, I had brothers and sisters at the orphanage, the nuns used to tell me they loved me, and a wonderful family adopted me. And yet, for years (into my 30′s) I repeated, and believed, that I was unloveable. Once I learned this whole concept about how we create barriers in our lives by our storytelling (fact vs. story) it stopped me in my tracks. Because I had made up the story, I could revisit the facts and tell a different, more plausible story. I wasn’t in the orphanage because I was unloveable, or frankly because of anything I had done at all. It was because of the actions of my parents and the decisions of the judge. Changing my perception of the facts actually freed me from fears, self-doubt, and anger. And it happened in a moment. Not in a week, not over time, not through therapy and not in lingering bits. It was instantaneous. And that was the moment I stopped giving away my joy, my worth, my purpose and my self-esteem. That’s how powerful our perceptions are.

And over time, I continue to relook at my “truths” and stories to re-evaluate the facts. It has been the single most healing learned wisdom in my life. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to learn it in my 30′s vs. in my later life.

So I ask you, are you in the midst of change? What are the facts (who, what, where, when, how)? What stories are you telling yourself (why)? Are you assigning intent and blame? Are you suspicious and fearful?  What if … in this very moment … you changed your story from something that was “done unto you” with maliciousness or for negative reasons, and retold it as a shift in opportunity, or a divine intervention, or simply as a season ending. What if you have learned and received all you need or can from that circumstance. What if the future is brighter than the now. What if the “why” did not drive your reactions or how you go through the change. What if …

I pray for those who’s change is upon them. May it be a smooth, gentle, positive adventure. And may you be blessed on the journey.

Remembering …



As we move into the U.S. Memorial Day weekend, I find myself pausing and thinking of my Grandpas who both served in WWII, and who are now passed away.  These two men (along with my Dad who I’m blessed to still have with me) are the face of patriotism in my life. I feel compelled to speak of them for a moment.

My Grandpas were part of the “Greatest Generation” as it has become known. My paternal Grandpa, Jim Miller, was an accountant. He was smart, patient, and quiet. His passion was playing cards and I have so many memories of family Euchre games in his basement. My maternal Grandpa, Juel Bernard, was a foreman for the gas and electric company. He was tan and fit from working outdoors. He was quiet but had a fantastic sense of humor and could fix just about anything. He was the man who taught me to dance a proper slow dance. He also had this half whistle/half hum that he would do that still is so fresh in my mind when I think of him.

They had such different personalities, skills, and backgrounds, but they had some very important things in common. Both had a gentle way about them and were kind men. I never saw either of them exhibit anything but love and generosity. They were honorable beyond question. Their word was their bond. If they said it, they meant it, and they did it. There was no room for them to turn away from family and all they committed to. However, the greatest common trait with these true gentle men was their bravery. I knew little of their service other than that they were in the Army and where they served,  because they kept facts close to the vest. I know that they saw the most horrific things and felt the extremes of emotions and yet neither would burden their loved ones with details.

I remember one Memorial Day I was at my maternal grandfather’s house to celebrate the holiday. We were sitting around the table enjoying the grilled delights as we always did. I asked Grandpa about his service. He was a medic in the Army and said that at the end of the war he was in one of the groups that went into one of the concentration camps. I wish I could remember which one he mentioned but what happened next dimmed that detail. I told him that I was so proud of him. And I said I bet the people in that camp were so thrilled to see him and the other Americans roll in to save them. And in that moment, I saw the tears surprise him as they sprung into his eyes before he could fully turn and walk away so no-one would notice. I always knew he had been profoundly affected by the war, but that was the moment that I saw that the war he served in had forever torn a hole so deep into his heart that he would never, even as an old man, be able to articulate it. That was the only time in my life that I saw my Grandpa cry. It changed me forever.

It changed how I looked at our servicemen and women. I have always respected them. I have always had a deep sense of patriotism. But that was the moment that my heart knew there are no words strong enough to adequately honor the bravery of spirit that was required for these two young, Godly men to leave their loves, families, and friends in order to face imminent threat and possible death. I cannot imagine the horrors that their eyes saw, nor the terror that their hearts and minds lived through.

All I can do is say “thank you”, “I love you”, and honor their sacrifices and their memory by leading a life worth fighting for. I hope I am successful in that mission.

I hope that all those you love who have or do serve their country can sleep each night and know, with unshakeable certainty that they are loved, respected, and honored. Not just by the people they know and love. But also by those, like me, who do not know them by name but recognize them by character. Always remember their bravery and their actions. I honor and pray for all those who have served our country. I bless them and I bless you!

Your Best


I had a saying that I taught my children, “Give your guest your best.” It’s actually a quote from a children’s book that I have long forgotten the title to. But the concept was a simple one that really helped my children to share their best stuff, give the biggest cookie, or the best seat, or the  longest turn to their friends. But it’s not just about giving your best stuff, but also your best effort, your best attitude, and your best self.  I think it served my family well. My children still hear me say it or parrot it back to me from time to time.

I like to carry that concept into the workplace as well. There are so many times that I get interrupted for a question, advice, shoulder to cry upon, to wage a complaint, for a last-minute “favor” or any number of other things. I’ve decided that HR is the “all other” folks. If you don’t know who to ask, well, by all means go ask HR. I don’t really mind, but I must say, we get some strange and wacky requests because people think that way.

By living the concept of giving my guest (or my customer) the best, it stretches me to be 100% present for them in the exchange. Trust me, it isn’t always easy. I know I’m not always successful. But having the mindset and making the effort is what I think helps me put the HUMAN back into the Human Resources. This is the work I have chosen to do. The is the person I strive to be.

So I ask you – do you give your guest (boss, family, customer, friends, yourself) your best? What’s stopping you? What’s helping you. In all these things, be blessed.

End of Longing – original poem


                                  “End of Longing”

In the hustle and bustle of the busy world

You appear, gradually moving forward.

The perspective of time is askew with

Regular movement appearing as slow motion.

Change is so rapid and adjustment is crawling.

No amount of anticipation allows you to draw closer.

Patience and perseverance are the order of the day.

I see you, and keep my eyes affixed

As you are the desire of my heart.

I have been in this place before.

Longing to move toward you with grace and speed.

My heart quickens at the fear that you will remain

Afar and fixed outside my grasp.

And yet, I know that even the sluggishness of time

Will pass and I will stand looking at you within reach.

Calm, and unshakable, your attraction grows stronger.

I pray the ticking of time makes it inevitable.

For me to have you and you to have me.

And contentment will settle in around us.

Wrapping us in the glow of knowing.

For you are the fulfillment of a promise.

I stand in awe wishing for that day in my future.

You are the prize of the game.

And then the realization crashes in around me.

All of this is just a figment of fancy.

There is no distance in this hall of mirrors.

Time neither rushes nor slows.

There is only the perception that you are distant.

In an instant I know that you are here.

You have been available to me in every moment.

I pushed you away in fear and anxiety.

I ignored you in the busyness of my day.

I shut out the call you made to my soul

Because distraction seemed so urgent.

And instead I chose longing over achieving.

This game called life created an illusion.

This gift called peace that I have been craving.

Well, it is already mine.

And with a heavy sigh I allow the dream to end.

I breathe in the knowledge that this peace

Is not around me but in me.

There is nothing that is missing.

There is no action that is needed.

I settle in knowing that I have what I desire.

I mourn the wasting of my time.

I rejoice in the end of the struggle.

I am grateful for the sudden wisdom.

I am at peace.

~ Barbara Bernard Miller

Breath of Life


Today at work our women’s network had nationally recognized self-defense speakers Debbie and Mike Gardner. They were excellent and I highly recommend them. She’s a former police officer and I believe he’s still a current officer.  They teach the “really-really” message of how to prevent and/or survive an attack. Excellent stuff but not the same old messages of  fear. This is the gritty stuff that you need to know. But most importantly – it was filled with courage coaching and how to enable yourself to do what you need to do.

The first thing they teach you is why people “freeze”. It’s actually not freezing at all – it’s holding our breath. And when we hold our breath we cannot think, walk, or react because the blood and oxygen aren’t there. There was so much info packed in the 2 hours but it was surprisingly easy to remember.

What really strikes me is, once again, it’s a lesson on not holding our breath as a foundational lesson. It brings another level of awareness that the “breath of life” is indeed not just for stress reduction – it’s for survival. As Debbie says, “The last one breathing wins!”  Here’s a link back to my previous posting/poem related to breathing - Shifting.

There is a repeating message in my life these days. I can shift my life by breathing. I can relax and calm myself by breathing. And now, I can save myself and others by breathing. I’m excited to know that it STARTS with something as simple as this, now the hard part is remembering it and following through with the rest.

And this reminds me of a song … and another “breath” I cannot live without. Take a listen to Amy Grant singing “Breath of Heaven”. 

Breathe my friends! Don’t forget that this simple thing is the key to so many things we need to live and to survive. Breathe and be blessed!

Spring Night in Cincinnati


Last night was a dreamy, warm Spring night here in Cincinnati, and I’m happy that I got to spend time with one of my dearest friends. Since we’ve moved roles at work and live on opposite sides of town we don’t get to see each other very much. But we have fun when we do. And last night was no different although there was a festive spirit in the air to make it even better.

We had a wonderful dinner at a great Brazilian restaurant, Boi Na Braza. The food was excellent and the “gouchos” who brought the 15 varieties of meat around were attentive, friendly, and had a never-ending supply of their gifts. As my friend joked, it was like eating our way into a tasty meat coma. It’s pricey but it was a feast for the senses that makes for a nice treat every once in a while.

We had a show with our meal as well. There was the live music going on inside the restaurant accented by the parade of prom dresses that passed by the window where we were sitting. We had a free fashion show and enjoyed watching the young girls teetering around in their 5 in heals with their matching dates and floating material of their ball gowns flowing behind. We saw lovely cinderella-esque gowns, slinky short numbers with puffs of tulle, and the barely there sexy numbers with cut-out sides, and lots and lots of sequins. There were colors of every variety as the young couples strutted toward their long-awaited Prom night or whisked around Fountain Square in a decorated horse-drawn carriage. There was romance in the air for sure!

After the meat feast we decided to walk it off a bit and meandered around the square and around a few blocks. The fountain is such a lovely landmark that is the heart of many memories from my home town. The warm spring breeze was just perfect and people watching was again at its optimum. The little ones were having fun running around as their parents visited and kept an eye on them all. A “friendly” gentleman stopped by for a brief chat – couldn’t decide what made him stop by to flirt but we appreciated the compliments. He was harmless and friendly then he glided into the night. The mounted police stopped by to water their horses at the fountain which brought squeals of delight from the kids who came running to pet them. It was the perfect spot to sit a spell and chat about old times and memories.

To top off the night there were fireworks popping a couple blocks away lighting the sky over the mighty Ohio river. We took a quick walk just in time to see the colorful grand finale of the show. Our spontaneous night out turned out to be the perfect, slow-moving evening. I could almost image what it would have been like 100 years ago – much the same with the mounted police, the families celebrating a beautiful night, and lots of people watching. It was just exactly what I needed to connect with my friend, my city, and enjoy some respite from the  craziness of the work weeks lately.

I am blessed. Be blessed too!

 

The things I could do …


It’s true … the days are getting longer.  As we get closer and closer to summer the light is lasting longer. It’s wonderful to go to work and come home from work in the sunshine. I’m not a fan of the coming heat, but the light is a welcome companion.

And yet, even now there’s so much I want to do, need to do, must do that the days still seem short. I know we cannot extend the number of hours in a day. And frankly, I wouldn’t want to because I’d fill those up too.  But now as I see so many of my friends leaving work to retire, my mind day dreams about what I could do without work taking up most of my waking hours.

I was talking to a friend about this yesterday. She’s retiring in June and we chatted about her next steps. She’ll continue to be a chair person for some of the volunteer activities at the big tennis tournament that comes to town each year. She’s thinking about working with dogs and training them to be both adoptable as well as training them to be healing pets. What wonderful aspirations.

I know I’m just a tad bit too young to be ready for this step but I know I’m creating my list of what I’d do. I want to learn photography, volunteer in a variety of places that require workday help, pick up some artsy classes – painting or stained glass making or pottery. There’s so many possibilities. I know I want to continue with my writing. By then I hope to have my 2nd book finished and maybe working on a 3rd.

All the books I’ve wanted to read would become my daily friends. The places I want to go all over the world with people to meet, and cultures to experience would take much of my money but leave me with an investment in connections and discovery.

Yikes I better stop day dreaming for today or I’ll find myself taking a leap I’m not quite ready for if I keep this up. What are you day dreaming up if time was abounding and plenty? Be blessed!

 

Any way the wind blows …


Okay, so I’ve had some of the lyrics of this song stuck in my head all night and all morning. I think the only way to get rid of it is to pass it along.

Rock out … anyway the wind blows, and be blessed!

It’s the Little Things


I’ve always believed that it’s the little things in life that make the day-to-day living memorable. Yes, big vacations or life altering events are remembered and are captured in film and talked about. But those are far and few between. They mark time. But they are not really part of the ebb and flow of every day living.

What I’m talking about are the things that happen in a flash – some spontaneous and some planned that give us daily pleasures. Here’s some little things that have made my life’s list of silly little pleasures:

> When I was about 5 my big brother used to hold my hand and walk me along the really long driveway at the orphanage until he found the “perfect” spot to lay in the grass and watch the clouds. We would look for animals and shapes and daydream about a future outside the orphanage. He would tell me stories of how he was going to ride a bike really fast past the gates and “escape”. Then he’d sneak back at night and climb the balcony to help me get away too. He was sweet, protective, and always dreaming up ways to save me.

> When I was about 9 I remember playing Monopoly with my next door neighbor. It was the game that never ended. We kept coming back to it for several days. It’s a fond memory of my neighbor and one of the reasons to this day that I never want to play Monopoly.

> As a young adult, I remember fondly the time my friend and I went to a double feature movie on a Friday night.  We got the giggles in the middle of the 2nd movie and thankfully were in an almost empty theater. We did get some looks but then finally the other patrons started giggling too. We were out so late we got slap happy and started another fit of giggles at home. We laughed so long and hard I actually started to hyperventilate. While meaningless in the grand scheme it is one of my favorite memories with her.

> When heading to one of my friend’s home after a girl’s dinner out we saw a rainbow – well actually what we saw was where the rainbow ended in a field in front of her condo complex. It was the only time I’ve ever seen where a rainbow ends and I slammed on the brakes to see it. What a beautiful sight and one I’ll long remember.

None of these are anything “special” and yet they are some of my fondest, most precious memories of these friends. I know you can think of a million examples from your own life. My friend Patricia always shares how she begins her day saying: “What glorious, joyous surprise does God have in store for me today.” I think that’s the best way to start a day and a really wonderful way to bring attention to the “little things” that are some of our greatest blessings.

Count your big and little blessings and watch them multiply!

Paradigm shifting … again!


Today is the next level shift to my paradigm on age and time. I remember when I realized that the new hires in my company were born the year that I started my career. That realization shifted my universe way more than any milestone birthday for me. I could see the big 3-0 coming. I could see 40 coming. I never saw “those” newbies coming and it shook me up a bit.

But today is the next level. We have an intern coming to work who will be reporting to me. And she’s the same age as my youngest child. Can it really be? In essence I am now the manager of my daughter! YIKES! I did not give permission for this to happen. I am not ready for this. I feel like I should be her friend, not her mother-aged manager! Where has my youth gone? Father time is a thief and I am not pleased. Another shift. Another mental “aging”.  I sure better retire before I’m grandma-aged. Oh, the horrors just thinking about it!

Good thing my daughter told me that I’m a “cool mom”. Maybe I have a shot at being a “cool” manager. I can only hope. I think this is a good occasion to delve into some ice cream!

Join me in a scoop and be blessed!

 

Itty Bitty Changes


I have long lamented the overwhelm I feel when it comes to getting big jobs done. Whether it’s weeding, cleaning my house, managing the mountain of mail or emails – it doesn’t take much for a little bit to become a huge undertaking. Add a couple of kids (no matter how old they are) and well, you get the picture. I used to swirl and fret about the fact that I can’t get it all done in the limited time available to me. So I did the avoidance game and felt worse about it. Part of that is my bent for procrastination, part of it was lack of energy to tackle the whole job.

So, I’ve been adjusting my approach these days and I feel sooooo much better. I’ve taken to 2 different methods, depending on the day, my mood, or the time available.

1) 10 minute sweep – When I have a wee bit of time I use this method. I might set a timer or just do a watch check. I give myself 10 minutes of intense organization or cleaning. I always start with the biggest impact items to maximize the effect. And for 10 minutes I do all that I can. A sense of urgency and speed enhance the process but I try not to sacrifice efficiency. When it’s over it’s always amazing to me what a difference a short sweep of 10 minutes can make. It’s not done. It’s not perfect. But it’s usually presentable.

2) Graze as You Go Method – This is my “don’t sweat about it” approach when I have no time to tackle a specific task. Basically I just make sure wherever I go I’m not going empty-handed. So if there are shoes on the floor I grab and go. If there are glasses sitting in the bedroom or living room I grab as I go by on the way to the kitchen to leave. When I walk the dog I grab a handful of weeds. It’s only one or two items at a time. But I’ve learned, there’s a million back and forth trips we take in our homes. Whether it’s to pre-heat the oven, grab a drink, go to the bathroom, get dressed, etc. You know how it is – we go back and forth with a singular purpose and I’ve just added a second purpose to a path I’m already taking.

Neither of these approaches are going to get the job done when it comes to completion but it helps me to make an impact or maintain and improve without taking the time to do a big job. Since I’ve started doing these things I find a couple of things have happened. First, I get momentary satisfaction that things are improving. Whether it’s noticeable in the grand scheme (10 minute sweep), or just a satisfaction that I’m taking the million bites out of the elephant (graze as you go), either way I feel better about the overwhelm.  Second, it helps me manage the chaos in a way that doesn’t let it deteriorate further.  Last, by the end of the week or the end of the month I usually find that some major, overwhelming jobs are either done or can be finished in my next 10 minute sweep.

I’ve taken to appreciating these small enlightened improvements in my journey as micro methods for me to manage stress and live a happier life.

What little changes have you made that help you make progress or decrease stress?

Be blessed!