Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Traffic Jam...A reptilian response we can all identify with

www.autoevolution.com
To get to the grocery store, I have to make a left turn onto a busy street, filled with a combination of motorists doing their own thing regardless of the rules, and jaywalkers crossing willy-nilly, not caring apparently, if they live or die.

I’m not really sure why I thought going to the store on a Saturday afternoon was a good idea. I usually shop on weekday afternoons. I was not prepared for the amount of people I had to sidestep or crawl over. I was not in a bad mood when I left, but I sure was when I came back.

What should have been a 2-minute drive, turned into 5-10 minutes of stopping and gunning the engine to pass people taking an inordinate amount of time to make their next move. Everyone was driving erratically.  You could almost smell the adrenaline. [or maybe it was something else, I don’t know]. It was tough to make rational, well-thought out decisions, because there just wasn’t time.

It was kill or be killed, so to speak.

Amidst my angst, a surprising moment of clarity emerged. This is exactly what it’s like when you are thinking with your reptilian brain.

We live in the modern jungles of panic, hurry, and fret. It is hard to stay clear-headed, to not to get caught up in the frenzy. While we are not foraging for our next meal...actually, I guess I was in this instance...we are foraging for comfort. Anything that gets in the way of those basic comforts should beware.

I came back from the jungle unscathed, thankfully. But it worried me. Many of us, myself included, are making important life decisions under these conditions. Thank goodness I didn’t happen to be at this time, because I was running on automatic. My options for how to deal with these stressors were limited to fighting them or fleeing them [or just freezing].

The other motorists and shoppers were doing all of those, actually. Some were driving their car or their cart aggressively, daring people to get in their way. Some were paralyzed to a standstill, some were just speeding off to get away.

Next time I find myself in a reptilian moment, or just a traffic jam, I will not join the lizards, I need to slow down...think...and breathe through it.




c. 2014 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

No Worries

The Pack
c. 2014 J. Kurant
I was as much dreading this trip as I was excited about it. This was our first trip as a “pack,” Adam, Baileys, and I. It would be Adam and my first long trip as well.  I rarely travel. I don’t like to fly and I’d just as soon stay home rather than plan and execute  a trip However, in my older age, I’ve been experiencing some wanderlust. I was excited about seeing Vermont again, excited about driving through part of the country I had not been in before. I was excited about driving as a pack with Baileys.

We had stocked up on some water, sandwiches and snacks at the grocery store a few days before so we wouldn’t have to stop.

The first leg of the trip went smooth. We rented a cute lime green Kia Soul with a wicked blind spot. [We didn’t tell them we were bringing our excessively shedding Husky when we got the car].

After work on Thursday, we hit the road. The first leg was easy enough. Despite a few misleading Starbucks signs, which set us back a little, we managed to make it to Allentown Pennsylvania, pretty late.  We stopped at a Sleep Inn. It was the first place we saw, and serendipitously it allowed pets. A free breakfast was served at 7:30am.

Adam went down first, while I stayed with Baileys in the room. We were on the third floor with the smokers and other pets. It was a floor you could only get to by elevator, not by stairs. Kind of like that hidden floor in the movie Being John Malkovich. We slept great.

He came back raving about the breakfast. “You will be in heaven,” he said. “There are eggs as far as the eye can see.” [He knows how much I like to eat.] I’m still a bit fuzzy. I’ve not had coffee yet. So I stumble down to the elevator and there are a bunch of other travelers eating breakfast.

I’m not thinking clearly yet, but I see no eggs as far as the eye can see. I see cereal, danishes, bagels and fruit. A really perky lady from what sounds like Wisconsin asks me if she can help me. I zero in on the coffee. First things first. Maybe then I can make some sense of this.

I decide on cereal and a cheese danish. Still no eggs. It was a really nice set up, and the lady running it was really sweet.

We started the second leg of the trip. I was still full of anxiety as to what lay ahead. I needn’t have wasted so much energy worrying. It was great! We stayed with some family friends  on their house right on Lake Champlain. They had the biggest vacation home on the property.

We had dropped Baileys off at this close-by kennel that has the dogs run all day everyday. It is the first time Baileys has been apart from us. She handled it much better than me. She seemed really excited when she heard the other dogs. I cried though.

The rehearsal dinner was just for the wedding party, but they had a little dessert get- together for the rest of us. We realized that we needed real food, so we skipped out and drove to a cute little pizza place in downtown St. Albans.

We were so close to the Canadian border that some of the road signs were in French. It made me feel so international. We turned in early because we were so weary from traveling.

The next day was the wedding. We went sight seeing beforehand.[Adam wanted to show me Burlington]. We helped the family set up some of the wedding stuff. We walked past Adam’s three uncles struggling with the kerosene bottles for the lanterns.

“Can we do anything?’ Adam asked.

“These things are sealed shut. Can you try?”

“Let her try,’ Adam said, nodding at me.

The three men kind of chuckled, having all tried, unsuccessfully.

“Actually, I’m pretty strong...”

“Seriously, give her a try,” Adam said.

They were all pretty impressed when I opened them all. [hee hee].

The wedding was beautiful. It was outside, right on Lake Champlain. The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful. To everyone’s surprise, the bride’s uncle presided over the wedding.  It was a perfect touch to a close, family wedding where everyone felt like a part of the family. Everything was so beautiful. [I did cry].

On the way back, we visited my aunt and uncle in Rutland. We were having a hard time finding where they were, which increased my stress. I just knew we were going to get lost or destroy the rental car somehow. We found them finally! We had a great visit. They had made sandwiches and all kinds of food for our journey home.

This was really such a great trip. And to think I was tempted to bail out because I was stressed...

c. 2014




Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A review of Steps to Salvation, by Shlomo Attia


c. S. Attia
Don’t let the title deceive you. I can almost guarantee it is not what you are thinking. This is not your mother’s salvation book. The salvation is referring to our country. This intricately woven tale merges with history and current events seamlessly.

Set in the futureSteps to Salvation talks about a time when society was ruled by their reptilian brains. It is both chaotic and scary. Personal freedom is replaced by corruption in all areas.

Thrown out of his Jewish school, in Tel Aviv, Israel, for questioning, Shlomo Attia was born inquisitive. Successful in business, he felt the calling for something more; an itch that needed to be scratched.  

At the time, he probably didn’t think the tragic accident that nearly took his life would bring him any closer to his purpose. He was actually pronounced dead by two different people. But as they were prepping him to go to the morgue, they saw a faint pulse. They hooked him up again. During this time his subconscious transported him on a whirlwind trip to the beyond where he spoke with many historical figures.

He sits in on Mr. Bauer’s history class, tucked away in Arusha, Tanzania in the year, 2412. Mr. Bauer knows that the only way to make our futures better is to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Knowing our proclivity to do just that, he embarks on a mission to redeem our future.

Mr. Bauer teaches his students “Salvation Time” in an interactive event they will not soon forget. “Salvation Time” is not simply a future event to be looked forward to. It encompasses the past and present.

Mr. Bauer’s class is no ordinary class. It includes the descendants of Adolf Hitler,  George Bush, Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, Ava Braun, Mao Tse Tung, Paul Rothshchild, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, among others; all of who are embarking on the large task of atoning for their ancestors’ sins and restoring their earthly images.

Their elitist ancestors had all contributed in some fashion to the creation of hell on earth for some, in order to make themselves wealthier and happier.

It is through this journey that Shlomo realizes what things need to change. He goes through the "higher-brained" steps, which we as Americans need for our own salvation to save ourselves from this probable future if we don’t heed the lessons from our past.

It is riveting and guaranteed to make you think. Whether you agree with it or not, you will be glued to the page.

c.2014


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Happy @ Work

c. Jim Donvan
Jim Donovan truly lived a roller coaster life. He went from working for two major TV networks as well as entrepreneurship, to living on the streets of New York. Sometimes you have to lose it all to realize what’s important. Happy @ Work wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t found himself in a hospital bed, emotionally and financially spent and bankrupt. That was what drove him to start seeking answers.

Many people have found themselves in similar situations. Rags to riches stories are certainly nothing new. What makes his story so special is not only how relatable it is, but how fixable it is.

Happy @ Work is a very short, step-by-step guide, packed with 60 very do-able, seemingly simple steps that you might not think would make a difference, but I can attest firsthand that they do. Some of my favorites include:

"One of the reasons that so many people are unhappy is that their lives are out of alignment with their core values." Jim Donovan. Happy @ Work (Kindle Locations 588-589). New World Library.

It’s important to know your own values so that you’ll make decisions that make you happy. It’s important to know other peoples’ values so that you can communicate with them, making them happier.

 One of the underlying themes in the book is the importance of self-talk and how it can empower you to realize your values and dreams. The actions he’s advocating are simple but powerful thought tweaks. It requires a purposeful change in thinking, breaking embedded thought patterns. Anyone can do this, but not everyone will.

Whether you are at your dream job, still in school, a stepping stone, or someplace so far out of the realm of what you ultimately want to be doing, know that you are where you need to be right now. You owe it to employer and customers [and yourself] to do your best work.

• This starts with letting go of limiting beliefs. I could never do that job...make that salary...run that company.

Jim Donovan will tell you, “I guarantee that the salesperson in your company who earns ten times the average does not work ten times harder. Rather, he is operating from a different set of beliefs and guiding principles, using different strategies, and taking different actions.” Jim Donovan. Happy @ Work (Kindle Locations 1386-1388). New World Library.

He talks about telling yourself a different story. Citing the law of attraction, we attract what we think about, he encourages us to think about and talk about what is going right in our jobs. 

• Become a “goodness finder.” Catch people doing right things and praise them accordingly.

Our thoughts are powerful, simply by doing a mental shift where we think of
challenges as opportunities, rather than problems. You will find work more enjoyable when you emphasize the good things. You will be more enjoyable to work with as well.

You might be asking, How will I address what’s wrong and make improvements if I’m only focusing on the good? I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “I didn’t make a mistake, I just found out how not to do it.”

A better way to deal with problems is to ask,

• “What’s working?” Instead of “What’s wrong?”

When you find what’s working, you do more of that action. Routines and values must change before actions can change. This takes focus. Focusing on the negative is just so, well, negative. If you are focusing on what is working, you will see more success.

• Remember that any “menial” work [or part of our lives, for that matter] is a part of something bigger. We can reframe how we feel about and respond to it. As a result we can

- Advance confidently, not fearfully
- Endeavor to live the life you have imagined, you were born to live. Do your best.
- You will meet with success. Yes you will.

He emphasizes how important it is to set goals. While you may find it crushing to not meet goals, even if you fall short of the goal, you are still better off than if you had not set the goal.

 “Show me a stock clerk with goals and I’ll show you a man who can make history. Show me a man without goals and I’ll show you a stock clerk.”
JC Penny

“One year I set a goal to deliver fifty live seminars and talks. That would have meant I’d be speaking an average of once a week, an ambitious undertaking for most professional speakers. In reality, I delivered only thirty-five talks that year. Did I fail? I think not. Without that goal, how many times would I have spoken?” Jim Donovan. Happy @ Work (Kindle Locations 437-439). New World Library.

It is very easy to set goals. It is much harder to actually fulfill them. He advises to attach actions to our goals, Otherwise it is easy to just leave them in our dreams. When we assign even small daily steps to our goals, they are so much more manageable. Before you know it, you are meeting them!

He encourages us to stretch beyond our comfort zones. That is the only way we’ll truly excel. We can find out what works and what doesn’t.  It is also very empowering. When we meet that goal that we never thought we would, it’s quite a rush. When we don’t, we have a frame of reference for the next one. This didn’t work, but I survived. It is exciting and scary, but so rewarding!

The number one deterrent for not realizing your dreams is FEAR. When dealing with fear, He says, “Remember that FEAR, or False Evidence Appearing Real, is just that — false evidence. You have no reason to fear attempting your most audacious goals, so why not just go for it? It is likely that if the goal is big enough and important enough to you, you will find a way to accomplish it. If your desire is strong enough, you will be guided to the right resources, people, information, and actions to reach your objectives.” Jim Donovan. Happy @ Work (Kindle Locations 487-490). New World Library.


The importance of priorities. Priorities are just as important as goals. Don’t do anything else until you have completed your priorities.

You can find out your priorities by asking yourself good questions.

"If you want to...be happier and more productive at work and in your life overall, begin to formulate better questions. We human beings are conditioned to ask and answer questions...I believe that one of the problems individuals and companies have is the habit of asking small, uninspiring questions that, in turn, produce small results. Jim Donovan. Happy @ Work (Kindle Locations 718-719). New World Library.

Asking questions like, “How could I do this better?” “ What could I do this month to add 12 new customers?” Even something as simple as, “Why am I here?” will cause your mind to spin with ideas that will reinforce your success.


There is so much more that I’ve left out. I’ve only touched on my favorites, lest I give away the whole book. I found myself so inspired after reading this, that I feel like I want to read a part of it every day before working, just to get my energy going in the right direction.  I'll let you know what happens!

c. 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Work/Life Balance and my [fictional] trip to Paris

http://missmillmag.com/

Jim just sat down to dinner with his family. They were enjoying a nice relaxing conversation, catching up.

“So I was telling you about my the ballet....”

She was interrupted by a loud BEEP! emanating from Jim’s pocket.

He looked at the number. Work again! Every time he sat down with his family, which seemed rare these days there was some crisis at work that needed his assistance.

He used to look at it as job security, but seriously! It was getting so old.

All hours of the day...he wasn’t even on call!

“I guess I have to take this, honey...”

Her face fell. “I know, I know...” she said with visible disappointment.

This could be a typical dinner scene here in modern America. The antithesis of the Ozzie and Harriet scenes in the ‘50s. [Although, I seem to remember Mr. Nelson being distracted by the newspaper a few times.]

The lines of work and play are so blurred, they are almost indistinguishable.

France has decided to do something about it. Actually, they did something about it in 1999. They passed legislation that work hours are work hours and non-working hours are to be non-working hours. Back then, the law stated that employers are not to call between 9pm-6am, under the threat of a hefty fine. The emergence of Smartphones changed all of that, however, and employers were still bugging employees on off-hours. So they amended it to 6pm.

Meanwhile we here in America [and other places in the world] are taking work phone calls, checking work emails, making work decisions at all hours of the day, even ones we’re not paid for. Even if we are not doing any of that, chances are, we are worrying, fretting about our work off hours.

So it would seem we are on our own. We can’t control the pressures from work, we can only change how we respond to them. If it were me, I just wouldn’t answer the phone. I’m not sure how realistic that is, though.

I am curious as to how this will all work for France. This might seem a little too good to be true. There are things obviously not being considered. So I am planning a fictional trip to France, using Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Miller, et al as my tour guides while researching how this will affect the everyday person’s life. Will it make their work-life better? Will it make their family life better? I’ll keep you posted on what I find.


I’m curious about your thoughts on all of this, as well as some Parisian book recommendations.

c. 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dr. No

c. www.mycomicshop.com
“Having a positive mental attitude is asking how something can be done rather than saying it can’t be done.”  Bo Bennett

“That won’t ever work,” I say in my uncannily 17-year-old, too cool for school, voice that seems to emerge when confronted with a new idea I can’t see working. 

 Then I will list every reason I can think of that it won’t work; some valid, some, not so much.

It happens quite often, in many situations. At work, at home, with authority figures, with people of my own ilk....

I can remember several times when new routines and methods were presented at work. I would fight them with all of my being because I can’t stand change. I am quite comfortable in my own routines.

 Uh HUH,” I say “knowingly” when they appear to encounter hitches, or maybe it doesn’t work out the way they had originally planned. Then I feel superior because I was right.

But is this negativity a merely a protection for myself? So I can justify not doing it? We are designed to fight threats, no matter what the size. It’s easy to have the “right” opinions on just about everything, safe in our protective bubbles. Unless my very life is being threatened, I’ve found I need to open my mind a little. I can guarantee that very seldom is my life in danger, least of all by an idea. So that means I need to open my mind a lot to new ways and methods of doing things.

It has even been proven that new routines are good for the brain, making us smarter.  Who doesn’t want that, right?

My fears are more vague than concrete. But what if I get slowed down and everything backs up while I’m recovering from this mess? What if I am criticized for causing it all to happen? Instead of using those fears as deterrents, just notice them and keep moving. I’ll deal with them when or if they come up.

I have found that nothing can be negative unless I react to it as such. Believe me I have incredible power. I have turned many good things into really, really negative things. Likewise the way I have reacted to many bad things have actually turned out to be really good. I just tend to forget this a lot.

Instead of spending my energy griping about things, I will try to use it to find solutions....and to remember everything gets better with practice, and a fair chance.


 c. 2014 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Narratives

                  c.fuelyourwriting.com
She’s so stupid...why would she do that?....Why did I do that?...Why did I say that?...This is going to turn out so bad...I knew I couldn’t trust her. I’ve got to hurry up and get this done...

Every minute of every day our minds run narratives, like an audiobook or a talk radio station that we can’t turn off. We may think that these thoughts are for our protection or for our good, but their incessant rambling threatens our sense of serenity and ultimately our well-being. They’ll put us in defense mode, which will stunt productivity.

Are you holding onto grudges? They’ll be thrown into the mix as well, affecting how you treat others. So and so didn’t treat you as the wonderful person you know you are? Damn them to hell, and treat them thusly.  I guarantee your day will be on edge.

I have spent several days with inner monologues so loud and dominating that it’s been hard to concentrate on the tasks and conversations at hand. So what if they are stupid? So what if they don’t do things the way I would. How does that really affect me?

I completely agree with Amanda Enyati, as she said on Facebook:

Here's my working theory. It may be correct or not. But I believe that our awareness of the extent to which our personal narratives may be impacting any given scenario in our lives is the hallmark of good mental health, perhaps even spiritual well-being. 

And one way to assess that well-being is to see how many times a day we are offended by others. Now I'm absolutely not talking about matters of fairness, equity or social justice. I adore and admire the lion-hearted activists who help bring about change with both minute, every-day acts of bravery and grand, systemic ones. I'm talking about a different sort of offense: personal offense. “You did this and I’m offended” or “You said this and I’m offended” as a rough sort of meter for individual mental state and well-being.

The best way to change our narratives for the better is to detach from the situation and make ourselves an observer in the story rather than the object, which is more than likely what we are anyway.

c.2014