It’s Many Things, But Painless Isn’t One Of Them

suicide

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Suicide is no stranger to our family. Both a nephew and a nephew-in-law took their own lives at relatively young ages. Then a few years ago my husband’s brother used a gun to end his own life. And even though my son’s death was termed an accidental overdose, in Tim’s own words he was “killing himself one day at a time.”

When a celebrity such as Robin Williams, Kate Spade, or Anthony Bourdain dies by suicide, it brings the tragedy to the forefront of our collective consciousness. But when someone close to you has taken his or her own life, that becomes very much a part of your own life. And sadly, suicide is no longer a rare occurrence.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. The 2017 figures show that over 47,000 Americans took their own lives. That same year close to a million and a half people attempted suicide.

There are many reasons why people take their own lives: depression, mental illness, loss, chronic pain, social isolation, to name a few. And many veterans– suffering from PTSD combined with inadequate (or sometimes non-existent) counseling help– are killing themselves in record numbers, sometimes on the properties of Veterans Administration agencies. I’ve included a link below to a story on that.

The warning signs of someone considering suicide are varied as well. Be sure to check out the comprehensive list on the link below.

I recall when I was trained as a Stephen Minister at my church that a suicide threat was one of the few occurrences that called for us to break our confidentiality agreement with the care receiver.

I’ve mentioned previously that often I don’t know what I’m going to write about until the day a post is due. An article in a magazine at a doctor’s office prompted today’s blog. I’ll tell you more about that in Saturday’s post; this is part one of two about suicide.

PLEASE…if you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). This is free, confidential support that’s available 24/7/365.

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USA Today- personal story of attempted suicide by a veteran

Warning signs that someone may be considering suicide

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 

Tools for Thought

Cool Tools

Image courtesy of Deborah Breen Whiting on Pixabay

Daniel Pink, one of my favorite non-fiction authors, was interviewed on an episode of Cool Tools. If you’re not familiar with the podcast, the formula is simple: the founders interview famous people and ask them to talk about four “somethings” that the person likes and uses a lot because it makes their life easier or more enjoyable.

We’re not talking about profound issues here. Apparently, people talk about gadgets, software, kitchen tools, books, websites, etc. For instance, Pink’s four cool tools happen to be:  a brand of earplugs, a fat pencil, an online class, and a terrific fish spatula. I’ve included a link below if you want to listen to that podcast later.

So the concept got me thinking. What is a cool tool for me? (Note, as usual, I place all the links at the end so you don’t get distracted while you’re reading this post.)

Here is my list:

1) Gel seat cushions   I have a minor condition of bursitis in my “sit bones” which causes pain if I sit very long. To help ease that pain, I own two Purple cushions. No, not the color purple (although they are actually purple). It’s the brand Purple which is a gel cushion that’s great for travel. I use one at home, and I’ve taken one with me on planes and trains. They fold in half so they fit in the travel bag I carry. I’m sitting on one right now as I’m writing this blog. You have to be careful about car use as leaving one in a hot car during a summer heat wave may cause melting. (Of the cushion, not your rear end.)

2) Ecard services   If you’ve been a reader very long, you know I like to send real cards through the mail. But I also subscribe to two paid ecard services and one free one. Ecards are great for immediate contact or when you learn of someone who could use a “thinking of you” note right now.  Considering that paper cards run about $5 each these days, the $30 fee for two years of service seems quite reasonable for both Jacquie Lawson and Blue Mountain Arts. Through them you can send unlimited cards and the sites maintain an address book for you. The free service is through Gratefulness.org and while they do appreciate people who choose to make a donation from time to time, they don’t pester you for money.

3) Free Photo Sites   One of my readers says she can hardly wait to see what photo I’ve chosen to go with each of my posts. While occasionally I do use a photo I’ve taken myself, usually I choose one from two photo sites. The sites allow you to use the photos commercially and without attribution. They are easily searchable. Although (as I’ve mentioned previously), you can waste a boatload of time looking at the interesting, gorgeous, quirky, inspirational photos. And sometimes the search results make me laugh out loud. For instance, I was helping a friend put together a promotional piece for a gathering of single moms. One of the photos it brought up in a search of “single mom” was of a painting of the Madonna and Child. I guess technically Mary was single when Jesus was born, but still.

4) Glad® Press ‘N’ Seal®  Hey, I warned you that this post wouldn’t be anything profound. How many times have you cussed at traditional cling wrap as you tried to pull off a piece to cover something? This product is worth the extra money, trust me. I’ve included links to two videos; one that demonstrates the product and the other that shows some creative uses.

I haven’t actively asked for comments for a long time. But I’d enjoy hearing back from my readers about a favorite cool tool or two of yours!

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Purple seat cushions

Ecard Sites

https://gratefulness.org/connect/send-an-e-card/  free

https://www.bluemountain.com/   2 years $30

https://www.jacquielawson.com/  2 years $29

Free Photo Sites

https://pixabay.com/

https://www.pexels.com/

Glad® Press ‘N’ Seal® video 1

Glad® Press ‘N’ Seal® video 2

Podcast with Dan Pink’s choice of four cool tools

Pick A Card But Not Just Any Card

postcard

Image by Pezibear on Pixabay.com

When my children were young, my sister Beverly traveled extensively with her husband as he performed custom brick-laying across the country. She usually mailed my kids postcards from each new town.

And before cell phones changed everyday life, when we vacationed at the beach we’d troop to the closest store to buy postcards to mail to family and friends.

When’s the last time you bought a postcard? And did you actually mail it to someone or did you purchase it as a souvenir?

Why would I need to send postcards of the amazing place I’m visiting via the US Postal Service when I can post 37 photos on Facebook or Instagram and/or email and text the photos directly to the recipients within seconds of the shots being taken? And all for free.

There is no need, of course. But a recent story in the June Real Simple magazine caused me to rethink postcards.

The precursor of postcards occurred between 1848 and 1870 when envelopes with pictures on them were popular. Then in 1873 the federal government produced postal cards without envelopes that could be mailed for one cent of postage. Private producers of similar cards could not use that designation, and the postage for non-government cards was two cents.

In 1901 the two-word term post card was allowed, with an image on one side and room for the address on the other. Personal message writing was not permitted. Then in 1907 the divided back came into existence so that a person could write a short note on half the back with room for the name and address on the other half.

Postcards currently cost 35 cents in postage and to be officially considered a postcard, the size must range from 3 ½ x 5 up to 4 ¼ x 6 inches. They have to be .007” thick which is about the thickness of an index card.

Many businesses that still do direct mail advertising use postcards. And custom printed postcards have come into vogue for use as invitations and announcements.

But Jeff Gordinier, author of the noted magazine article titled Postcards: A Love Story, was talking about actual, honest-to-goodness postcards. He had used postcards earlier in his life as a way of keeping in touch with friends after college.

So years later when he realized he’d fallen in love with Lauren just as she was moving across the country, he worried about the problems inherent in a long-distance relationship. His job was keeping him in New York. Yes, of course, they could be in constant contact via calls, texts, emails, and FaceTime, but where is that romance in that?

So he fell back on the practice of sending postcards. Lots of them. And every single one was different. Lauren received at least one postcard a day. Jeff traveled all over the world as a food writer and he said he hoarded local souvenir cards by the dozen.

He chose randomness as his personal messages as well; he wanted to “keep the element of surprise alive.” So sometimes he’d write an observation of something he’d seen, a few lines of remembered poetry, memories from childhood, a favorite short recipe, a quote, something he’d overheard, a sampling of song lyrics, and so on.

To quote from the article, “The point wasn’t to say anything profound. The point was to express, in a form so compressed that it flirted with haiku, the very core of connectivity.”

Isn’t that deeply romantic? Forget the flowers. Give me a man who speaks to my soul.

So did the postcards keep their long-distance relationship alive?

I’ve included a link to the online article. You can read it for yourself to find out!

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Here’s the Real Simple article in full

 

Beautiful Sounds Are In The Ears of the Hearer

Ears

Image by Skeeze on Pixabay.com

To paraphrase a favorite line of poetry, “Even after all this time, I can still hear the sounds of him not being here.”

When a family member, a favorite someone, or even a beloved pet dies we remember him or her in countless ways.

Many people believe that sight is the strongest sense. And considering the studies of learning styles that indicate over half of us are visual learners (65%), I lean toward believing that sight does indeed play a huge role in how we remember people, events, places, and things.

We look at photographs or view videos of the people we miss. We continue to scan their Facebook page or other social media accounts, recalling what it was they posted while alive. We stare at the “things” they left behind, wanting to remember always the significance of each object.

Yes, the sense of sight plays a huge role in our remembering someone who has passed from this earth.

And even though I am part of that 65% group who leans heavily on vision skills for learning and remembering, sound is also pivotal to my recalling the essence of the person.

My son Tim’s joyous laughter and the way he would draw out the greeting, “Hello, Mama!” as he bounced through the door…

The harmony of noise my mom Bertie made as she worked in the kitchen whipping up simple but delicious meals and baked goods…

Beautifully sincere conversations my aged mother-in-law Rosalie had with God as she lay in our guest room bed…

The sound of a spoon hitting an empty peanut butter jar as my brother Bud finished that last tasty bite of his favorite treat…

My elderly Aunt Gerri opening her door and announcing to my sister and me, “I don’t know why you girls keep wanting to visit an old lady, but I’m so glad you do!”…

And yes, even the sound of Riley’s tags as they jangled together when he trotted along and the snuffling sounds he made as he scavenged the ground for early morning smells…

All these might seem like ordinary sounds but to me, they tie together precious memories.

And then I started wondering what sounds people will remember about me after I’m gone. That’s probably a good exercise for everyone to consider. Because I sure as heck don’t want anyone to recall me as constantly complaining or as someone who spewed negative words about others.

I’m pretty sure that keeping this idea about the sounds I’ll leave behind will help me be a better human being.

How does that sound to you?

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Inc.com article on learning styles

An interesting concept that Researchers found out that different music frequencies stimulate the human brain and the outcomes are incredible. In this video, the frequency of 48 Hz might stimulate far memories and also crying.”

NOTE: I had a better experience just listening to it rather than watching the letters float by on the screen since typos got in the way of my just releasing myself to it. Yes, I am that person.

Do The Hustle

Hustle

image courtesy of Tnarg on Pexels

Hustle is one of those words whose meaning has evolved from a negative one to a positive one in the business world.

The original meaning implied a fraud or a swindler or forcing someone to move fast and unceremoniously in a direction they may not have wanted to go.

In a new comedy currently playing called The Hustle, Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star as female scam artists.

In the mid-70s, the hustle was a term that collectively covered numerous disco dance moves. And of course, Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony’s song Do the Hustle topped the Billboard Pop Singles chart in July 1975.

But in today’s business world hustle is viewed as a must-have attribute. Various experts have their own favorite meanings of the word. Here are some I found: tenacity, high energy, being an effective self-promoter, do whatever work it takes to create value, an ability to solve problems faster and better than anyone else, dream big and make it happen, risk takers, serve others, eliminate distractions, think way outside the box, be authentic, improve in some way every day.

I saw a hustler this week. I was standing in the meal pick-up line at Panera during a tremendously busy time. Over the medium-high counter where completed orders are placed, I could watch a few of the employees getting the orders together.

One young woman was simply amazing. Clearly, she was juggling getting the components of half a dozen orders just right. Looking up, down, sideways, requesting various people to pull this or that, she was a model of hustling efficiency.

I know I would never want that job because I could tell the work would stress me out after about two minutes. But that young woman seemed to be enjoying herself.

When my order was ready, I stepped forward to grab it and got the woman’s attention. I told her, “If my company was hiring, I would steal you from Panera because of the way you hustle.”

She beamed at me for about a second and a half and then went back to hustling and getting orders pulled together correctly.

So maybe we should each develop our own positive definition of hustle. No matter whether we work at a job or career or do volunteer work or take care of our grandchildren or pets…whatever our daily “work” is, let’s do it with joy and enthusiasm and pride.

Do the hustle.

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Medium.com article on why being a hustler is imperative to succeed in business today

Jon Acuff’s take on those who use hustle incorrectly

Van McCoy and Do the Hustle

 

I Don’t Deserve This

Accept Award

Image courtesy of WikiImages on Pixabay.com

Have you ever considered the impact of an effective acceptance speech? Too frequently we watch people accept an award who don’t have a single clue on what to say. I have seen recipients mumble “thanks” and race back to their seats, and I’ve seen others who blather on and on without saying anything of substance.

Being recognized for something we’ve done is a fantastic life event! And an appropriate acceptance speech should follow the award. It’s not that difficult to turn an acceptance speech into a memorable, appropriate short speech.

The two main purposes of an acceptance speech are to express gratitude and to help the audience feel good about having you chosen as the winner (even if the audience present didn’t actually have a say or a vote in the choice).

Here is my best advice on how to make that happen.

  • Assume you are going to win and prepare a speech ahead of time.
  • Just as in any speech, begin with something amazing. Don’t start by thanking the person who presented the award to you or talk about the organization’s goals (as recommended online by QuickBooks). Have a good “hook.” (See my prior post on hooks.)
  • Know the requirements for winning to help you draft the speech.
  • Comment on your “journey” to the winner’s circle by telling a story with examples of how “meeting the requirements” helped you grow or enabled you to help others or some other positive outcome.
  • Actually say “thank you.” Express positive feelings about the award without gushing.
  • If you are aware of other candidates, you may say something gracious such as, “It was an honor to be included with those who were considered for this award.”
  • If others truly helped you meet the requirements, you can thank individually by name if less than three people. But if it’s more than three, group them by saying something like, “I’m so fortunate to have a talented customer service team, and I want to thank them for their support in helping me win this award.”
  • Never ever say something like, “There were others who are certainly more qualified than I am.” Or “Gosh, I really don’t deserve this.” They picked YOU, so be grateful. Don’t lead them to wonder if they made a mistake!
  • Be genuine. Be humble AND realize you do deserve this!
  • When the audience applauds at the end of your speech, smile and nod once or twice as you mouth the words, “Thank you.”
  • Don’t lessen the award by cute curtseying or bowing. That smacks of insincerity.
  • Take your seat.

See, that wasn’t so hard.

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Anderson Cooper tags this as the “best acceptance speech ever” from the 2013 Emmy awards show. Umm. No. Please don’t do this.

 

True or Not? Who Cares? Make It Go Viral

make it go viral

by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

I’m a subscriber of Brain Food by Farnam Street. It’s a weekly newsletter about thinking, decision making, and reading. They also provide interviews of interesting people such as Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube.

Their tagline states they are “a signal in a world of noise” that helps you be a better version of yourself.

It’s not always easy reading, but it is mostly interesting reading.

This past Sunday’s newsletter contained a link to the British news site “The Spectator.” The article discussed “how a character assassination unfolded on Twitter.”

Sir Roger Scruton was fired from his job less than six hours after a mob on Twitter demanded his removal from a government post based solely on an interviewer’s account of how his interview with Scruton transpired.

George Eaton of the “New Statesman” accused Scruton of making outrageous statements about Hungarian Jews, homosexuality, the Chinese, and the Muslim Brotherhood. On Twitter, no less. So the Twitter mob began piling on, calling for Scruton’s immediate dismissal.

Other news sources began labeling Scruton, among other things, as a white supremacist. Eaton posted a photo of himself on Instagram guzzling champagne with the caption: “The feeling when you get right-wing racist and homophobe Roger Scruton sacked as a Tory government adviser.”

When the recorded interview was eventually listened to, the conversation actually went differently than described by Eaton. Oh, of course, Eaton later apologized and took down the Instagram post. But so what? People remember mostly that Twitter hate storm. Hey, if that many people (usually including celebrities) are talking about it, it must be true!

Right? RIGHT? Wrong.

We don’t have to look far back in history to recall the latest Twitter hate storm that rolled across America. An opinion article from USA Today on January 19, 2019, broadcasted the headline: “Covington Catholic furor is a warning to end our dangerous social media mob mentality.”

That was a story of uproar and protest over teens (wearing Make America Great Again hats) from a Catholic school harassing a Native American elder. It turned out that, whoops, that wasn’t what was happening after all. Sorry about shaming you, boys. Oh well…let’s move on to some other outrage.

I seriously worry about this world and the inclination of so many people who take things at first glance and don’t stop to question whether or not something is true before they share it as though it is absolutely, positively true.

Over twenty years ago Wayne Dyer commented that, “Many people spend their lives looking for occasions to be offended.”

It appears that his statement is truer now than ever.

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The Spectator’s article

Covington Boys story from USA Today

 

Transformation Gameplan

Transformation

Photo by Foundry on Pixabay.com

Someone had posted this quotation without attribution on Facebook last week.

Inspiration and information without personal application will never amount to transformation.

The quotation resonated with me in a powerful way so I researched it.

Embarrassingly enough, it was from a book I had already read. I say embarrassingly because not only had I read the book within the past two years but also I had written about it in this post from June 24, 2017.

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst contains many gems of wisdom. In my mind, the Inspiration / Information / Application / Transformation quote has to be one of the most universally applicable pieces of advice ever.

Consider these three scenarios:

You’ve been stuck in a horrible work environment for several years. A friend gives you some great advice about a new job-hunting website. He also gives you a pep talk about your many outstanding characteristics. So you have the information and you’ve been inspired. BUT unless you apply yourself and actually go to the site and do the work of finding new employment, you’ll still be in that life-sucking job this time next year.

You read an article about getting back into shape after the age of ___ (fill in the blank). The article is saturated with easy-to-understand information about the many benefits of exercise at any age. Not only that, but there are links to free online videos to help you perform the movements correctly. “I can do this!” you shout. But neither your body nor your health will be transformed unless you do the work.

You’re interested in deepening your faith and/or spirituality so you sign up for a study group at church. The group is amazingly supportive and the book being used is rich in fascinating information. But life happens. You skip a homework assignment, then you don’t find the time to read the next chapter, and decide to drop out. No application = no transformation.

We watch TED talks, read books, research online, and attend classes and seminars that inspire us and provide the information needed to take whatever step we’re considering taking. But when we just let that information seep out of our brains and allow the inspiration to languish, it’s as if it never even happened.

Lest you think I’m pointing fingers and holding up myself as a sterling example of accomplishment, uh, no. Sorry to disappoint you.

In the past, I’ve stayed too long in a joyless job. I’ve worked my way into shape and lazily watched it slip away several times. I purchased the book Crafting a Rule of Life two years ago and haven’t gotten farther than Chapter 3.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” (Attributed to various people including Buddha.)

And Richard Bach said, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

In my case, often I WRITE best what I most need to learn.

So thanks, Lysa TerKeurst, for the words of wisdom. I promise this time I’ll remember them.

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About the book Uninvited

Contemplative Thinking About Your Hands

hands

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash.com

My last post about our hands got me thinking deeper on the subject of hands. I made the point that often we forget about taking care of our hands, and really, do we think much about them at all? Likely no, unless they’re not working as they should whether from an injury or illness.

One definition of contemplative practice is that it’s a reminder to connect to what we find most meaningful. Certainly our hands are meaningful to us and here are just some of the positive ways they make a tremendous impact in our lives.

We wave hello and perhaps shake hands or bump fists. We use the same gesture to wave goodbye and maybe kiss our fingers as the start of blowing a farewell kiss.

Our hands make it possible to create art. There are many forms such as drawing, throwing pottery, watercolor painting, photographing, creating sculpture, and finger-painting.

We create with our hands, whether that means sketching an architectural plan, writing a love letter or a novel, or typing a blog post.

Our world is filled with music with the help of our hands from the shaking of a tambourine or cowbell (that’s for any readers who might have once been hippies), to fingers racing across piano keys or hands holding a cello’s bow. When a musical performance ends, we clap our hands to show appreciation.

Our hands help us stay in shape by holding weights or supporting our own body weight in a Yoga position. We throw darts and footballs and dribble basketballs.

We plant spring bulbs, pull summer weeds, rake autumn leaves and shovel winter snow.

We talk with our hands; our gestures help convey our verbal message. Without saying a word, our hands can convey the message of stop, wait a second, or come on.

With our children we play peek-a-boo, move board game pieces, hold a “hand” of cards, and put together puzzles. We spoon out cough medicine when the kids are sick and we use our fingers to check for a feverish forehead. Our hands help us braid hair, tie shoes, and apply Big Bird Band-Aids to boo-boos.

Our hands help us in the process of creating meals from jotting that grocery list, putting items into our carts, paying at checkout, and everything else that goes into our being able to call out, “Dinner’s ready.” Kneading bread dough, filling a muffin cup with 2/3 of a cup of batter, or pouring chocolate chips into cookie dough isn’t possible without our hands. We wrap presents, tie bows, and decorate Christmas trees and Easter eggs with our hands’ assistance.

I’m just barely touching the seemingly endless list of the many ways our hands play a vital role in our lives.  Contemplate your own hands as you use them throughout the day tomorrow.

 

A Book By Any Name

Book

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

My little town has been blessed with an independent book store on Main Street. The Old Town Open Book had a soft opening last Friday.

They sold 1700 volumes in six hours! The store was so busy it couldn’t even close on time; the local online paper reported the store stayed open an additional 90 minutes to finish ringing up customers.

What a wonderful problem!

The actual grand opening occurs this Friday evening and over 1000 people on Facebook have indicated they’re going.

I love my Virginia town of Warrenton and its people. Frankly, I’m not in the least surprised by the outpouring of support for our new bookstore.

On the site SeriousReading.com, there is a post called 30 Reasons to Read Books. Check out their post (link below) to read the other 27 benefits of reading a book besides figuring out a new skill, reducing stress, improving vocabulary.

When I used to interview job applicants, I consistently slipped in the question, “What was the last book you read?” Typically, I’d get the deer in headlight stare as a response. Occasionally, someone would answer “Uh, the Bible?” But they would phrase it in such a way to indicate they weren’t quite sure, and perhaps I knew the correct answer.

My public speaking students receive instruction from me on where and how to research a presentation topic. When I reach the point where I include a public library, I’ve actually had people laugh. Recently someone blurted out, “Do they still have those around?” That is just sad.

I encourage students to check out their local library because not only are there books, magazines, and DVDs to help with their research, but also modern libraries have an amazing array of electronic resources to help the public.

Many people, it seems, believe the only way to research a topic is by typing G-O-O-G-L-E.

Having just finished a recently published book titled I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel, I was reminded how vital books are to the human race. Maybe the lack of reading is one of the issues causing so many problems in our world. I wonder how many members of Congress read as a pastime? Mr. President?

Please…get a copy of this book and read it. But no—put down that phone or computer mouse. I don’t want you to order a copy online. I want you to find a bookstore, the smaller the better. If they don’t have it in stock, very likely they’ll be happy to order it for you. And yes, you can tell them Norma sent you.

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SeriousReading.com link

The I’d Rather Be Reading book site