Category Archives: Attitude

Bocce Ball and the Joy of Learning

My birthday was a little over a week ago, and my husband actually got away with setting up a surprise party for me.  I went to the party location under the guise that we were going to use a “Happy Birthday” coupon for a free dinner.  It was wonderful to see the many people who have meant, do mean, and always will mean something important to me (and the cake and dancing were great too)!

I want to mention one particular gift:  a bocce ball set.  I sent out all my gift “thank yous,” and when it came to the bocce ball set, I said something like “”Thank you so much for the bocce ball set.  I don’t know how to play it, but, heck, learning yet another sport is a great idea!  Ha ha ha!”

I added the “ha ha ha” because I hike, I play tennis and badminton, I shoot pool, do yoga, race a sailboat and work out…and do at least one of these daily.  But then I thought about my “joke” and realized it IS a very good idea to learn yet another “whatever” all the time.  Part of the joy of being alive (and a large part of what keeps your brain and body healthy and your mood positive) is having purpose in your life and learning something new all the time.

People who don’t continue to grow, be challenged, learn and be involved in activities tend to “contract,” have depression problems, and compromise the quality of their aging and actual life span.

So, while this blog is not an ad for bocce ball, it is a suggestion (and don’t forget who’s making it!) for you to constantly challenge yourself with everything from crossword puzzles to chasing butterflies.  The more you are invested in the opportunities of living, the more you will enjoy it and be alert and happy.

When Others Are Hurting, Can You Still Have A Good Day?

A number of people have expressed to me that they feel somewhat guilty that their lives are so blessed and/or peaceful right now while people are being blown up in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other places – and by their own countrymen!  Or that people are suffering and dying by the tens of thousands in Haiti in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.

“How [they ask] can I dare to have a good day when all of this is happening?”

I think that’s a good question asked by decent people. 

The answer is simple:  what choice do you have?

Shall you undermine yourself and those who count on you by crumbling under the awareness of this cruelty of people and nature?  Does that add to the miserly of the world?  YES.  Does that minimize the misery of the world?  NO.

Your job is to do and be your best and to bring light into darkness in your own mind and home, and among family, friends, and community.  Where you have the wherewithal and the expertise to extend that to deserving people and places, do so because all humanity benefits by your action of caring – if not aided directly, then at the very least inspired by your example.

Where you can’t extend yourself to some place around the world, be cognizant that compassion and love in a circle around you has a ripple effect to help perfect the world for whatever moments of bliss might exist.  They add up. 

Whether close at hand or off to a distant land, when you extend mercy, you do an act which magnificently defines humanity.

Lessons Learned from Shooting Pool

I thought I’d continue with the theme of new beginnings during the first week of the new year by telling you a “biggie” for me – something I had to learn at a deeper level than just on an intellectual level.  I took up the game of pool about a year ago.  And like everything I do, I jumped into it “full bore” and with ferocity unmatched by any other living creature.  I practiced hours every day in this mad-like rush to conquer this goal as soon as I possibly could.

In general, my enthusiasm and full commitment pay off in learning and conquering new goals, but there are some that actually require a dispassionate approach.  That was tough for me.  I got thoroughly emotional whenever I missed even one shot!  I quit several times out of utter frustration. 

Fortunately, I have a great coach/teacher who keeps trying to get me to be quite robotic.  He has me do what amounts to a ritual routine with each shot:  look at the shot and imagine it happening as I put chalk on the cue tip.  Then, put the chalk down and I pretend I’m doing the shot once or twice in the air, then get way down on the table and do practice motions up to the cue ball and then fire.

Once I am down, no more thinking, moving, judging…just faith that my mind and body have this covered. 

This took the better part of a year to learn.  But it works.

The too easy frustration with myself comes from a most critical father’s constant berating of me, and taking up pool has helped a tremendous amount with getting rid of that knee-jerk response. 

I was setting up my weaving loom the other day, and everything was going wrong.  The set-up looked seriously trashy.  But instead of getting down on myself (like I would have done before), I just smiled, leaned over, cut it all off the loom and threw it away.  I walked away feeling quite accomplished!  Why?  I just accepted that sometimes it doesn’t work – thrown away yarn is not the end of the world – and having the calm to make that decision to come back and loom another day is a big victory!

I hope this story helps you.

The Best Way To Make New Year’s Resolutions

I was asked the other day what New Year’s resolutions I’m making.  I couldn’t come up with any, not because I’m in denial about having to change anything about my life, but because it’s just that I live each week, much less each day, already making those changes that I choose. 

I like the idea of frequent “small course changes,” rather than abrupt, major alterations in one’s life.  I find that the latter kinds of changes are harder to keep, since they are such a divergence from normal reality and routine.

So, I’m not trying to talk you out of losing that 100 pounds, or finishing the roof on your house all by yourself.  I just believe that it’s unrealistic to put yourself in front of a 100-foot-tall pile of whatever with a spoon and told to “go at it.”

If it’s weight that you want to lose, forget about that, and just decide not to have salad dressing loaded with fat calories, and just decide to walk 1 mile with music in your ear – iPod-style.  When that gets too familiar (or starts to feel “old”), then decide that you have to eat smaller portions and ride your bike for 1 mile each day (but I recommend doing that without the iPod, in order for you to hear traffic). 

Get it?  Small things are easier to stay with, because you get instant gratification, which we all love.

The weight?  Don’t get on the scale more than twice a month.  Just revel in those small changes.  The weight will take care of itself.  And then, you can go shopping for new clothes (yay)!

Five Ways to Be Happier

At the beginning of the new year, people tend to make lists or resolutions.  I have five tips for you to help you be happier in the coming months.

1. You may have to recognize that you inherited some propensities which are counter to a happy attitude:  less emotional stability, less social activity, less physical activity than others.  However, you may have also grown up with people who “bounce” or “squish,” and you’ve learned to deal with life through parental example – good and bad.  So, some things you’ve learned might have to be “un-learned” or consciously worked against in order for you to be happy. 

2. After performing good deeds, people are happier.  That’s a fact.  And when many of you feel “mulchy,” you tend to withdraw from people or just get downright nasty.  That’s counter-productive at best.  Coming out of that dark place you’re in to bring light to someone else shines back on you.

3. Winston Churchill said that a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, but an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.  Attitude is everything.  I’ve taken people from “yuck” to giggles during three minute calls on my radio program just by using humor and getting them to “remember” a blessing or chuckle in their lives.  You can simmer on “negative” or try to replace that with something “wonderful.”  It’s your choice.

4. Physical activity diminishes cortisol (the adrenal gland hormone secreted by angry or scared people which also increases blood pressure) and increases endorphins (which are natural, free and legal mood elevators, and give you a natural “high”).

5. Maturity works in your favor.  As you spend more time on the face of the earth, you learn to endure and filter out the negatives, while focusing on what you truly enjoy.

Happiness takes some time and some work…and it is worth it.

A Kind Gesture for One In Uniform

Since this is the season of giving, I thought I’d share with you a letter I got from an Army Captain who was the recipient of a kind deed from a stranger:

Dr. Laura:
I am an active duty soldier stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.  I am not a regular coffee drinker, but after a week of unusually early mornings and late nights, I pulled into the drive-thru of a popular coffee chain this morning on my way to work in need of a caffeine kick.  As you would expect, I placed my order and waited behind a few cars until it was my turn to pay and go.  When I pulled up to the window, the cashier handed me my cup and informed me that the lady in the car ahead of me had noticed my uniform and graciously paid my tab.

I’ll never be able to thank that lady personally for her kindness, but perhaps she is a listener of yours, and I hope a short note of appreciation can articulate what these kind gestures – no matter how seemingly small – mean to us in the service.  I am always moved by the gratitude and patriotism of strangers, and I never forget a simple word of thanks or the enduring impact that it has. 

Thank you for everything that you do, Dr. Laura, for us in uniform.  I subscribe to your podcast so that I never miss a minute of your wisdom and insight no matter where in the world I find myself these days.

Airborne!
Captain W.

The Opposite of Bridezilla

Six days before Teanne Harris of Chicago was to walk down the aisle in a glorious white gown, her fiance called off the nuptials.

When Harris and her mom went to the catering hall to cancel the reception, they were told that their deposit was nonrefundable. 

Now, between being dumped at the altar and not getting her money back, I would expect a screaming meemee, locking herself in the bathroom, ripping up every picture of the two of them, screaming to all her friends, getting drunk, not showering – you know, the usual melodrama.

Not Ms. Harris!  Leaving the catering hall, she noticed the Asbury Court Retirement Community across the street.  So, instead of letting her Halloween-themed wedding reception go to waste, she decided to move the party to the retirement home, where more than 300 residents attended the party.

Harris had her bridal bouquet placed in the retirement home’s chapel. 

She also went on the Hawaii trip anyway…the trip that was meant to be her honeymoon.

All I can say about this story is that she is a magnificent, spiritual human being, and the joker who left her did her a favor.  I’m sure she’ll find a real man worthy of her mature and generous spirit.

Inspiration from a Teenager

The Hartford Courant recently published an essay by Justin Verrier on a Connecticut female teenage swimmer.  “After swimming laps at a recent practice in the Glastonbury High School pool, Rachel Grusse told her coach, Suzi Hoyt, her shoulder felt sore.  Hoyt responded as she always does to such concerns by her swimmers, instructing Grusse to put on flippers and ‘kick for a little while’ to rest her arms.  ‘I just looked up at her and told her, Um…I don’t think I can do that, Grusse said, smiling.”

Remember the word smiling.  When Grusse was 16 months old, it was discovered that she was born without a spleen, and she contracted a form of bacterial pneumonia that cut off the blood flow to her extremities, which resulted in the cutting off of her legs at the base of her knees, as well as the last joint of her fingers.

Now, many teenage girls with just a few pimples would hide in their bedrooms, but not Rachel.  With the help of prosthetic legs, she has participated in all types of sports, including soccer and, most recently, wheelchair basketball, but swimming is her passion.  Since she has to rely on her upper body for swimming, she does a lot of upper body strengthening, like…walking on her hands!

Her comment?  “I’ve just heard some people say that I’m an example to other kids.  But to me, I don’t feel like I’m any different.  I’m just doing what I can, and doing the best that I can.

She swims against “normal” swimmers and rarely wins, but she loves the sport anyway.

She swims against others who are disabled and often places, but not always, and she loves the sport anyway. 

Since she has no memory of having had legs, for her, it is kind of “normal” – the real amazing quality of hers is her attitude to just do what she can and do the best that she can.

Disabled or not, that is the winning attitude in life that ultimately brings you happiness.  She does what she loves and does the best she can at it.  Period.  There is a lesson in that for everyone.