Did Sister Hugs Nail It?

sister hugs

We see many worthy quotes on Facebook. Some inspire us to be kind not only to others but also to ourselves. There are those that remind us that we’re never too old to dream big. Some make us smile, some provide encouragement, and a few make us think.

One of my favorite Facebook sources for inspirational quotes is a site called Sister Hugs. They don’t write all their own material; sometimes they repost from other sites. For instance, on October 23 they shared from “Hippie Peace Freaks” a photo of brilliantly red autumn leaves with this statement: The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.

I do believe their October 27 post is my favorite. It packed a wallop of a message in eight one-syllable words: “One Day or Day One…it’s your choice.”

I know. Ouch, right? We all have these goals, dreams, projects, plans, and ideas floating in our heads. And one day, we will get to them. We hope.

Throughout my life, there have been countless times I’ve said, “One day I’m going to…” And yes, some of those plans and dreams have become realities. But because I said one day instead of day one, I missed out on the full range of enjoyment of the accomplishments. There is no making up for lost time. And the older we are, the truer that last statement seems.

Since I strive for honesty and transparency with my readers, I need to confess that there are plans and dreams still on my one day list. As in, one day I would like to create podcasts of my blog posts so my readers can listen to them in addition to reading them. And one day, I want to publish the two children’s books I wrote years ago.

What exactly changes our path from one day to day one? Is it commitment? Getting rid of excuses? Goal planning? Learning what you need to know to start? Having the time/energy/health/money to take action? Following Nike’s advice and just do it?

I never have all the answers and tonight is no exception. The 7 Steps link below has some good ideas, and I would love to have you comment on what has worked for you.

And then go hug your sister.

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Interesting Podcast Statistics

7 Steps to move forward with your dream

 

The Soft Skill of Writing Thanks

My sister Barbara told me today that it’s up to her and me to save the lost art of writing thank-you notes. Although our other sister Beverly and my best friend Betsy are just as diligent at sending hand-written thank-you notes. And I know there are well-mannered others out there, but let me ask you something: When is the last time you received an honest-to-goodness real thank-you card in the mail?

Often in today’s electronic communications, we don’t even see the word thanks but rather just TY. What, our fingers are so tired we can type just two characters instead of six?

Last year a business friend attended his younger cousin’s wedding. The cousin couldn’t afford a videographer for the event so my friend (who is very good at filming videos) recorded the event as well as many highlights of the reception. He then spent much time editing to produce a lovely memory of the special day. My friend mailed it with a card saying he hoped his cousin and her new husband enjoyed the special gift.

He never heard one word back.

When I managed a department and interviewed applicants for an open position, those who sent me a follow-up sincere note of thanks citing some portion of our conversation earned two bonus points. Those who emailed me a run-of-the-mill “thanks” got half a point. And those who sent nothing? Well, how much stock could I put into their resume claim of “excellent written and verbal communication skills”?

In January the site FrugalFun4Boys.com posted a list of “40 Old-fashioned Skills for Kids Today.” The list of “how-to” items included: find a book at the library, ask questions to get to know someone better, sew on a button, balance a checkbook, read a map, and yes…write a thank-you note. A link to the complete list is below.

A heartfelt thank-you note means so much. I encourage you to join the sisterhood/brotherhood/personhood of thank-you note writers and help recapture this art form.

Oh and thank you very much.

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Forty “Old-Fashioned” Skills for today’s children

The Sisterhood of thank-you-note writers

A teacher’s perspective on hand-written thank-you notes

Writing is a soft skill that can help you professionally

 

The Hostess With the Mostess

Hostess of a dinner party

An episode of the old sitcom All in the Family had Edith very nervous about her role as hostess of a Tupperware party. She fretted about the embarrassing role she had played in a Christmas pageant as a third-grader. As a manger cow, her one line was to have been, “Moo moo, I hear people coming.” But while waiting to deliver her line, she looked out into the audience and saw her little brother picking his nose. Her spoken line turned into, “Moo moo, my little brother is picking his nose.”

I’ve linked that specific show below for you. Fast forward to the 20-minute mark if you want to see how Edith does as hostess of the Tupperware party. Let’s just say it’s not pretty.

Fine hosting is an art skill that leaves each guest feeling as if he or she is the most important person in the room. It’s not about having gourmet food or fine wine; the key is helping your guests feel welcomed and wanted.

I’ve known perfectly nice and intelligent people who make lousy hosts.

A few years back my husband and I attended an outdoor informal dinner that began at sunset of a gloriously warm fall day. But as the sun left us, it took its warmth with it. While I wasn’t actually cold, I was uncomfortably chilly, having given my wrap to another guest who had recently recovered from an illness.

After a while, the host excused himself from the table to go into their house. He came out with sweaters. But just for his wife and himself. It took every ounce of my good manners to restrain myself from saying, “Are you kidding?” Even if the couple didn’t want others wearing their sweaters or jackets, he could have offered blankets, throws, or even large towels for the guests to drape around their shoulders.

More recently we attended a party at a local restaurant. The host and his wife were retiring to Florida and had invited 30 or so friends from various aspects of their lives to gather together to say goodbye. When we arrived, our hosts were deep in conversation with one group. So no one welcomed us or provided any structure as to how the evening would progress. Guests were left to wander around asking each other the same question: “So how do you know Stan and Marcy?”

Appetizers arrived after forty minutes but with too few plates and no napkins. Since our hosts weren’t front and center, another guest spoke to the staff to remedy the situation.

As people began to leave, the hosts extracted themselves to give hugs and say goodbye. My less-than-ladylike comment to my husband when we got to the car was this: “That was one weird-ass party.”

At church the following day, I had to just smile when Father Ben preached on the topic of Jesus shaking up the status quo at a dinner party. WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) indeed!

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All in the Family Series 5, Episode 8

Father Ben’s Sermon Sept 1, 2019 “Who is At Your Dinner Table”

Say It Again, Sam

word laziness

image by Timothy Paule II on Pexels

I received my weekly report card from Grammarly yesterday. If you don’t already know, Grammarly is (according to their own website) “an online grammar checking, spell checking, and plagiarism detection platform for the English language developed by Grammarly, Inc.”

Even though I consider myself above average in spelling, punctuation, and word usage, I use Grammarly as a second set of eyes.

But you know that little dog that you just can’t trust NOT to nip your fingers or ankles? That’s how I feel about Grammarly. I use it, but don’t trust it 100% since sometimes the suggestions it makes are flat out wrong.

My recent report card (which compares my writing to every other person who uses the program) stated I was:

92% more productive, 82% more accurate, and that I used a whopping 95% more “unique words.”

I’m most happy to see the percentage of unique words. Why? Like many people, I can slip into being a word-lazy person in my writing and speaking.

As I wrote in my June 2018 post Searching for Just the Right Word, it’s oh-so-easy to slip into our own private reservoir of words we’re comfortable using. (Did you notice how the phrase reservoir of words was more entertaining than if I had said group of words?)

Some years back there was an article called Is Google Making Us Stupid? The jury is still out on that one, but I believe the Google keyboard for Android (called Gboard) is adding to our word laziness. This is due to its predictive nature. It remembers phrases you’ve used before and offers them up for you to choose instead of typing the actual words.

As an example, if I am texting someone and type “I hope that you are” it offers a choice of next word(s) of “having” or “doing well” or “well.” When I choose “having” and add “a” then it offers the adjectives “great” or “good” or “wonderful.”

No wonder our messages sound like blah-blah-blah.

With the recent back-to-back mass shootings, some people were upset with those who posted the phrase “thoughts and prayers” in response to social media articles about the horror. While thoughts and prayers is a sincere response from many, the rampant overuse of the phrase has made its online response seem meaningless.

You don’t need to be a professional writer or speaker to pepper your spoken or written words with out-of-the-ordinary ones. There are some how-to suggestions in my former post I’ve linked below.

I’m going to issue a challenge to my readers: The next time you want to wish someone a happy birthday (whether in person, or on social media, or by an actual birthday card sent in the mail), say or write something other than the words Happy Birthday. And no, the happiest of birthdays is not an alternative.

Even if you say or write just one sentence, make it personable; say something fantastic.

And by the way, did you know the original late 14th century meaning of the word fantastic was this: existing only in imagination.

So yes…make it fantastic!

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Lifted Up post “Searching for Just the Right Word” from June 26, 2018

Understanding predictive keyboards

Grammarly’s post on the top ten overused adjectives

Graphic from GrammarCheck.net

Five Bucks, Two Hours, and Three Minutes

Five Bucks Two Hours Three Minutes

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Legendary Stanford professor Tina Seelig posed the following assignment to teams of students in one of her classes: How profitably can a team run a (very) short-term business with $5 in seed money?

The team could spend as much time as they wanted in the planning stage, but could actually “operate” the business for a total of just two hours. They had from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday evening to complete the project because by Sunday night Seelig expected one slide from each team detailing what they had come up with.

At Monday’s class, each team had three minutes to present their project to the class.

After you read the question in bold, I want you to stop and close your eyes to consider your response: What would YOU do to make money with five bucks, two hours, and three minutes? (Go ahead. Close your eyes and think creatively. I’ll be right here when you get back.)

If we’re being cognitively lazy, we might say to use the $5 to buy lottery tickets and hope for the best. (The older we are it seems the easier it is to jump on the first answer that comes to us.) Seelig says another common response when she poses the question to adult audiences is, “Set up a lemonade stand.” But how much lemonade could you sell in two hours? There’s not much profit there.

The creative responses from her students will blow you away.

One group, recognizing the frustratingly long wait at college town restaurants on Saturday nights, booked early reservations for two at a number of the restaurants. As their expected arrival time got close, they’d approach couples at the end of the line and sell their reservation for $20 each. If the restaurant had handed out pagers to the folks in line, the team now had another spot to sell to people who were farther back in line. Within the two hour period, this team generated a few hundred dollars.

Knowing how many bicycles are used on campus, another team bought a tire pressure and a pump for air. Setting up in front of the student union, they offered to check bicycle tire pressure for free, and if it was low, charged $1 for adding air. Then when they saw how grateful students were to have this service so handy, they asked for donations instead. They too made a few hundred dollars in the two hours.

The highest profit generated by one team was $650. Before this team did anything, they evaluated what resources were available to them: five bucks, two hours, and three minutes. They determined that the $5 and the two hours would restrict them; both are very limiting. The students recognized that the most precious asset in their hands was the three-minute timeslot.

They “sold” the three-minute slot to a company that wanted to recruit the students and created an infomercial for that company. That is what they played during their three-minute presentation time.

Seelig says she used this exercise to demonstrate what you can do with an entrepreneurial mindset. But she wanted to make sure her students learned that financial reward isn’t necessarily the primary value over everything else. So the next time she ran the exercise, instead of $5, the students received ten paperclips. (She had been inspired by the story of Kyle MacDonald, link below.)

If you want to read how her students assigned amazing value to paperclips, you’ll just have to buy Seelig’s 2009 book What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.

~~~~~

Seelig’s website

Kyle MacDonald story

Hocus Pocus, Can You Focus?

focus

Image by Pixabay

Last Saturday’s post centered on multitasking being a myth. If you missed reading that post, there’s a link to it at the end of this article. I have since found two great quotes on multitasking; one is from last year and the other is a couple thousand years old.

“99 percent of us cannot multitask.” ― Daniel H. Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

“To do two things at once is to do neither.” — Publilius Syrus (born in 85 BC)

For those of you who remain adamant that you are successful multitaskers, I hope you tried a test similar to the one mentioned in Molly Fletcher’s post. As a reminder, here’s what she said:

“Around this time, I was trying to defend my multitasking habits to a friend who is an expert about how people use energy for success, and she interrupted me.  “OK, Molly, try this,” she said, handing me a notecard.  “Write the alphabet while you give me directions from your house to your daughters’ school.” I got past A, B, and C, but after that, my brain was scrambled. By D, I was done.”

One of the scariest aspects of multitasking involves using multiple devices. (For instance, watching TV while working on your laptop) In research conducted by the University of Sussex, MRI brain scans were performed while people used multiple devices simultaneously. The theory used to be that cognitive impairment from multitasking was temporary, but this latest research proved otherwise. These multitaskers “had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.”

The last point I’ll make is that multitasking can become addictive. We can get so accustomed to doing this, then moving to that, then switching to something else, that when we actually need to focus on one activity for an extended period, it can feel boring. We get twitchy. We need something else to do! Well, not really, but our brains have gotten used to the “excitement” of jumping around inside our heads.

Have you ever wondered why I place my links to additional reading, studies, videos, etc., that support my blog AT THE END of each article? I’m trying to help you pay attention; I’m not creating any distraction that will take you away from my post. It’s true:  I don’t want you to multitask by leaving my post and going to other websites when really, what you want to do is read and absorb my words.

I realize that doing this likely looks odd or non-techy if you compare my post to nearly everything else online, including the Forbes link below. Other writers insert links throughout an article to support various points. Remember the green light/red light analogy from last Saturday’s post? You stop reading the initial article when you click on a link. And that linked article likely has its own links, so you may end up forgetting about where you started.

Clicking on one link after the other is going down the proverbial “rabbit hole.”

We need to stop the mental running and just focus.

Compare the power of the sun to that of a laser used in surgery.

We are able to survive the sun’s tremendous energy effect on our planet because that energy is spread over our spherical earth with a total surface area of about 197 million square miles.

From MedlinePlus.gov, a laser is a light beam that can be focused on a very small area. The laser heats the cells in the area being treated until they “burst.”

Focus gets things done.

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Last Saturday’s Post Multitasking (is) for Dummies

Multitasking changes your brain

GE video called The Power of the Sun

Multitasking (is) For Dummies

multitasking

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

The ability to multitask is usually portrayed as a badge of honor. On the job seekers website Indeed.com, there is actually a category titled Multitask Jobs.

LoveToKnow.com, provides this description of a multitasker:  “People who are able to multitask have the ability to perform several tasks nearly simultaneously. If you watch someone who is a multitasker, you’ll notice that the person has a certain rhythm to her work and is capable of changing tasks without a break in that rhythm.”

Well, gosh. Who wouldn’t want to hire THAT person?

Much like an urban myth, multitasking isn’t a reality. It’s that we’ve heard it talked about in such a positive way for so long that we’ve just come to believe it’s a good thing.

Study after study now shows that we don’t really perform multiple tasks at the same time; we simply shift our focus from one activity to another, and then back and forth. One expert calls it a “green light/red light” switching activity done over and over again.

There are many problems associated with this constant shifting of focus. A primary one is that when we fail to focus on just one activity at a time, productivity suffers. When we temporarily stop doing activity A to do part of activity B, there is lost time as we make the switch. Then when we go back to A, there’s another loss of time. It may not seem like much but think about a typical workday that is spent starting/stopping between multiple projects. Listen to how we speak to ourselves when we switch: “Now, where was I?”

People believe they’re getting more done by multitasking when the science says not only is less done but it also produces lower quality work.

In his book Learn Better, Ulrich Boser advises that multitasking while trying to learn something hinders your ability to absorb the new information because it “drags on short-term memory” and keeps us from gaining an understanding. So it’s a bad idea for kids to listen to music (or text or check social media) while doing homework or studying for a test. Boser also cites a study where adults who took online classes WITHOUT any background music absorbed 150% more of the information than those who had background music playing.

This ties in with my own public speaking recommendation regarding PowerPoint or other visual aid. When (as the presenter) you show a slide to the audience and you’re still talking, the audience is hovering in that no-man’s land between listening to you and taking in what’s on the slide. Asking our audience to multitask means either they don’t hear us or they can’t absorb the slide 100%.  My best advice is to shut up and let the audience soak in the meaning of the slide. Then change the screen to black as you resume speaking.

About the only time we can do two things at the same time is when one of them is passive, one is mundane, and there is no risk involved. Here’s a good example: I listen to fiction through earbuds while I’m standing at the sink peeling potatoes. The task is mundane, the listening is passive, and I’m not going to hurt anyone with my potato peeler.

My word counter tells me that when I completed that last sentence, this post was at 586 words. Since Mr. Boser says we learn better in smaller doses, I’m going to continue this topic in part two on Tuesday.

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Great article by Molly Fletcher

Self-test on switchtasking

Article from Entrepreneur.com

Article from Forbes.com

Article from Inc.com

The Woman Was A Saint

Saint

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

I firmly believe God has a sense of humor. Because why else would he have created one in human beings? (Well, in most of us, anyhow.)

So here’s one of my favorite religious-related jokes. In a quick search, I can’t find it online so no attribution is given. It was from the early 1990s, I believe. It went something like this:

My greatest fear is not of dying, but rather getting to Heaven to find that Mother Teresa is the person in line ahead of me. Her life story has been put forth in this HUGE volume. Saint Peter turns page after page, reading about her dedication to helping the poor. Coming to the end, Saint Peter looks up at Mother Teresa and asks, “So…what else have you done?

Mother Teresa died in 1997 but was not canonized (officially declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church) until September 2016 by Pope Francis. It turns out the process to be declared a saint is neither quick nor easy.

In the first place, before the process begins you have to be dead. And usually you have to be dead at least five years, although that time restriction can be waived by the Pope.

Step two is that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints needs to open a case. They investigate and review the evidence for the person having been a servant of God.

If said Congregation for the Causes of Saints comes to the conclusion that the person lived a life of heroic virtue, they send along the recommendation to the Pope.

Then if ONE verified miracle can be truly attributed to prayers to the deceased saint-in-waiting, the person can be declared as beatified. In the Roman Catholic Church, this means the deceased is in a state of bliss in Heaven and is able to intercede with God. Congratulations! You’ve just overcome the first hurdle to becoming a saint.

But the deceased needs TWO verified miracles attributed to prayers to them in order to seal the deal on sainthood.

I warned you that the process wasn’t quick or easy.

I had no inkling that being declared a saint depended on miracles that occurred due to people praying to you after you were dead.

Is it just me or do you find that odd?  Well, maybe not odd, but unsettling somehow.

Mother Teresa was considered by most people to be a caring, selfless, woman of God who worked with the poor, the disenfranchised, the forgotten. To me her entire life seems like it should be the basis for sainthood.

Here is my favorite Mother Teresa quote: “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

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Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

 

Auto-Signature Revisited

auto signature

Image by Andrew Martin on Pixabay

If you’ve ever had a business email account, it’s likely that you’ve used an auto-signature. People set up an auto-signature so that every time they type an email, the system inserts the text they have established as their “signature” at the end of each email. Typically, you would want your full name, your title, the company name, the best phone number to reach you,  your company’s website URL, and your email address.

The last company I worked for was extremely strict about the auto-signature for its employees. We were instructed in EXACTLY what to say, what font to use, and the font size for each line. The auto-signature had to be in the specific order that the corporate office dictated. We were not permitted to add any inspirational sayings or photos.

It was truly a one-size-fits-all signature. Corporate gave a deadline for when the new look needed to be in place. Those who did not comply were called to the principal’s office (HR).

I remember that among the last holdouts was one of the highest-grossing salespeople at the division. His auto-signature consisted of his name and the other usual stuff, but after his actual title, he added a list of nearly a dozen of his (questionable) achievements.

I really wish that I had kept one of his emails so that I could share it with you. But the list consisted of titles something like this:

1999 Shuffleboard Champion on the Top Sales Cruise

2004 Coach of little league team

2007 Winner of Sales Contest, prize was trip to Paris

2008 Member of winning doubles team in city ping-pong playoff

And so on…

He fought long and hard to keep his unique auto-signature, but in the end, he had to comply. He eventually left the company, and now I’m sitting here wondering if he ever got over being upset.

The topic of auto-signature is fresh on my mind because a few days ago I added one to my text messages. Since I don’t text professionally, 99% of my texts go to family and also to friends that I love as though they are family. So my new signature on my texts is XO and a blue heart emoji. Kiss and Hug and I love you.

In case you’re unaware, the text signature doesn’t populate until you send the text. So it’s not like you start to compose a text and there waiting for you is your signature. Nope.

When I was applying for a car loan at the local community credit union yesterday, one of the questions that took me by surprise was: Can you provide the name and phone number of a personal reference?

My first thought was, Wow, how quaint and how sweet. I haven’t heard that question for a while. And my second thought was, Just whom should I name? My priest is on sabbatical, so I provided contact information for Randolph, the assistant priest. Just to be polite, I texted him as a heads-up in case they contacted him.

I hit send too quickly just as I realized that auto-correct had changed a word. Ready to send a correcting text, I saw that XO blue heart emoji was there at the bottom of my message. So I typed an I’m really embarrassed text, explaining about the 99% family reasoning.

Randolph’s response was classic for him—“Happy to be a reference, Happy to be included.”

I was all set to remove my new text signature so that this didn’t happen again. Like when I respond to a text from a landscaper who texted that he’s running late for our appointment. Or people for whom I dog sit very occasionally. Or an old boss who prefers texting to email.

Then I thought, but what if everyone who gets my XO blue heart emoji feels the same reaction as Randolph did: “Happy to be included in the group of people you love.”

And the world needs more kisses, hugs, and I love you messages. So for now, it’s staying put. If someone ends up thinking I’m a kook, who cares?

~~~~~~~~

Good advice for creating an email auto-signature

Billy Joel Nailed It

Billy Joel Nailed It

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

I want you to label your friends. No, not in a bad way. Take some time and think deeply about your core group of friends and pose this test to yourself: Identify the aspects that each good friend possesses that prompts you to hold them close to your heart.

Ponder this for a while. Don’t let yourself settle for a quick non-specific response such as, “He’s just so nice,” or “She’s a great person.”

And then tell each friend why you’re so happy they are a part of your life.

Yes, even if you’re NOT a mushy-gooey person who enjoys sharing deep feelings, you need to do this. And here’s why.

Linda, a very close friend of 50+ years, is in the midst of an extremely serious health crisis: ovarian cancer. Besides having a dedicated husband and loving family, she is blessed with a wide circle of friends from her librarian/teaching days, neighbors from both their Florida and Pennsylvania homes, people who know or work with their grown children, and many other outlets including a group of high school friends of which I’m a part.

Linda recently shared that the one bright spot in this scary situation is that so many people in the circle of her life have reached out to her with cards, calls, texts, emails, and visits. She said she was completely unaware of how much she means to all of these people, and how wonderful it is to actually know it NOW.

Another friend made the same type of comment after a healing service for her was held at church. How amazing it is to be told what you mean to many “someones”! One person commented that too often we wait for someone to die and then we tell those appreciative words to their surviving family. Yes, at a loved one’s funeral it’s comforting to hear, “Your mother stepped in to help me when I really needed it.” Or “Your father once gave me advice that changed my life.”

But it’s sad when the words have gone unspoken to the persons themselves.

Linda is one of my most faithful blog fans. So publically, here’s what I’m telling Linda:

Linda, no one has ever made me laugh like you do. You make every story funnier. Even though it takes a long time for you to finish telling a story (because we’re both laughing so hard), you are my favorite storyteller ever.

You remember what’s important to other people. Even now, at a time when it’s not easy for you to even take a breath, you remember how much my dog Riley meant to me and you ask how I am doing without him. 

You are a source of encouragement and inspiration. The night before you left for college and I was staying behind, you convinced me that I could learn to cook by walking me verbally step-by-step in the dark how to make mashed potatoes. You are a big part of why I blog. On a Christmas card some years ago, you encouraged me to write a book. I didn’t get that far, but from reader comments, my writing means something to others. If it weren’t for you, this blog wouldn’t exist. 

I love you the same as I have loved you all these years, and I pray that the cancer is on its way into remission even as I type these words. 

Yes, Billy Joel nailed it; you have a way about you. And everywhere you go, a million dreams of love surround you…everywhere.

  ~~~~~~~

Billy Joel singing live “She’s Got A Way About Her”