Making A Difference – Going Viral

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I was going to use the starfish story to make my point here, but I think that’s been overdone. Instead, I’ll go with the marketing of Faberge Organics shampoo.  These commercials ran in the eighties, so the story might be new to some of you.

The premise is that you’ll use this shampoo.  Then you’ll tell two friends.  And then they’ll tell two friends.  Who will tell two friends.  And so on, and so on…

This is a perfect example of viral marketing, although it didn’t have a flashy name in the eighties.  Let’s apply it to making a difference and impacting your circle of influence.  Oh, you didn’t know you had a circle of influence?  You do.  It’s made up of the guy that gets your coffee in the morning, the guy pumping gas next to you at the gas station, and the lady at the bank.  It includes your boss, coworkers, and customers.  It even encompasses your family, your friends, and your neighbors.  You get the idea. When you tally all this up exponentially, you’re a pretty big deal!

So, starting every day with a clean slate, you make a choice with each of these interactions.  You decide whether to make a human connection.  You can smile and say “good morning”, or you can avoid eye contact. You can approach with a pleasant attitude, and recognize that everyone needs encouragement.  Perhaps you’d rather go around with a chip on your shoulder.  It could be that you feel stressed and rushed, and you can’t be bothered.  Maybe you are shy, or maybe even snobby.  Or, you might think it’s better to stick to yourself and mind your own business.

It’s definitely safer to stay in your shell and avoid the world.  There’s not much risk in that.  Neither is there any reward.  Make yourself unapproachable, and there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be approached. But, you’re not cashing in… remember, you’re a big deal.

Here’s my strategy:  Let people know who you are, and that it matters to you whether they have a good day.  Say hello, and offer your warmth.  Exert your superpower and unleash your sunshine on everyone that you meet.  Some people will roll their eyes.  Some people will look away.  But, most people will respond in kind.

Back to the shampoo commercial.  These people will use their influence, which has been lifted by you, with the people that they meet in the course of their day.  And so on… You get the picture.  Instead of going viral with videos of silly stuff, let’s be serious about being joyful and spreading that joy.  Take it to the next level!

Who wins in this scenario?  Everyone that responds to you, and everyone that they pass it on to.  Do you know who benefits the most from this?  It’s you!

See what you can do tomorrow!

-Cat

This Year, Give Yourself More Meaning

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I’ve seen some posts from people lately reminding us that not everyone is filled with cheer at the holidays.  Some folks are grieving for loved ones who are not here to celebrate with us.  Sometimes, it’s a long distance separation that puts a damper on the holidays.  Lack of resources may leave some people frustrated and fed up.

We call this the season of miracles.  The Christmas message is one of hope… Glad tidings, if you will.  We tend to romanticize Christmases past.  When you contrast those memories with todays realities, you can feel profound disappointment.  Remind yourself that it’s like comparing Summers as a kid to Summers now.  Like comparing Saturday mornings eating cereal and watching cartoons with grown up Saturday mornings.   I’d like to share some things that I’ve found add deeper enjoyment to this time of year.

Whether you are Christian, or not, you can gain an understanding of Christmas, and its symbolism, by reading the first four chapters of the New Testament in the Bible.  These constitute the “gospel” of Jesus Christ, and tell of his birth and the first part of his life.  This may be Holy to some, and merely interesting to others, but will help you reflect on the point of it all.

Shop within your budget.  Don’t kill yourself with credit card bills the first of the new year.  I’m not telling you this because I’ve never done it.  I used to do it quite a bit, but since I stopped, Christmas is a lot more enjoyable for me.  By all means, buy gifts for those you love, just don’t take out a loan on your 401k to do it.

Do at least one or two “Christmasy” things.  There are a ton of feel-good holiday movies on television this time of year.  If you are lucky enough to have a light display nearby, go have a look.  We try to take at least one trip to our favorite garden center, to see the model Christmas train display.  I know that some of you get annoyed by carols of the season.  I like to sing along.  I do get funny looks at the grocery store, so sometimes I turn it down to a hum.

Don’t let the pressure get to you.  Sometimes, I think it’s easy to feel responsible for everyone having the perfect Christmas.  Like so many other things, just do your best… and don’t stress!  My friend, Amy, would recommend that you pause and take a few yoga breaths when that happens.  It may seem corny, but she never steers me wrong with that.  If you’re so inclined, it’s a great time for prayer and meditation.  Those efforts can also have a calming effect when you’re needing to press pause.

It doesn’t matter if you’re gathering with a big family, or doing Christmas on your own this year.  Remember to be kind… to yourself and others.  Be thankful for Christmas memories.   Be emotionally present for this year’s celebrations.  And look forward to what’s coming up in the New Year. It’s going to be great!

– Cat

 

Don’t Pray For Patience

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We are babysitting our three granddaughters this weekend.  We volunteered for the job, since our daughter in law is recovering from surgery.  These girls are magical, and a joy to spend time with.  The youngest, Sawyer, turned a year old a couple of months ago. The oldest, Pepper, just turned six.  The middle child, Amelia, is… well, I guess we’ll say “strong-willed”.  Her parents will not be offended by my remarks.  They know about it already.  It reminds me of the old adage:

Don’t pray for patience.  If you do, God will send you a situation that requires it.  

We are empty nesters, and close to retirement.  It is obvious to us at times like these that people are meant to have children when they are young.  It is exhausting!  But being a grandparent is so much more fun than being a parent.  I had four children in five years.  That was a lot of work, too.  But I was in my early twenties when I started on the project.  Although my marriage didn’t go the distance, those kids sure did.

My kids used to ask me when they were little, “How come grandmothers are so nice, and you are so mean?”  I told them that “a grandmother only has one job, which is to love you”.  Parents have to make sure that you’re healthy, clean, well-behaved, successful, educated, and happy.  Babysitting grandchildren is something you can do on a part-time basis.  Parenting is an intense, day by day experience.  You don’t get many breaks, and when you do, you don’t know how to act.

I watched over one of my grandsons, Carl, for a longer stretch than usual this past Summer.  My daughter had a hard time accepting that he had Cocoa Puffs for his lunch one day.  She had expected him to have chicken and broccoli.  I just let him have what he asked for.  It’s not like he’s allergic to Cocoa Puffs.  At the end of our week-long adventure, my daughter made the observation that I wasn’t a rule maker.  I’m not… I’m a grandmother!

My oldest grandchild, Felix, told me a few months ago that I had the least amount of “swag” out of everyone in our whole family.  When he has more than a dozen grandparents, that puts you pretty low on the swag chart.  It’s okay. I know I’m cool. It does make me try harder, though.  That’s why I own stock in the PEZ company.  Amelia asked me today, “do you have one of those plastic things with the candy in it?”  I’m famous for having PEZ on hand, but got caught short on dispensers today.

Oscar will be three in May.  He’s my mini me, blonde hair and blue eyes.  The last time he saw me he said “Gigi, I missed you so much”.  His Mom said he told Santa that too.  I hope he doesn’t tell everyone that, because I felt really special in that moment.

-Cat

 

Writing Prompts

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I started my blog about a month ago.  When I was thinking about it, I asked myself “What would I even write about?”  I started writing stuff down, and in about ten minutes I had about sixty topics.  So, I decided to give it a go.

As I traveled across the World Wide Web, looking for ideas to improve my writing, I came across “Writing Prompts”.  I came to realize that there are quite a few ideas for writing out there.  I’m amazed by the wealth of topics that are suggested.

Here’s the weirdest thing about Writing Prompts.  When I look at them, they say something like:

Incorporate the following items into your story – a can of tuna fish, a rusty bicycle, and a spatula.

Or,

You are time traveling and end up in a McDonalds in the year 2093.  What happens next?

So, I don’t even start thinking about the writing prompt.  I just read it. When I do, I get the idea to write about the dynamics of a fishing trip I couldn’t go on, or vinyl record albums, or wine, or encouraging other people.  You get the idea.

I’m wondering if this is how writing prompts work?  It never makes me write about the actual prompt. But, it does “prompt” me to create a topic and think about what I want to say.  That’s a little piece of magic to me.

For other writers out there, do you use writing prompts?  If so, do you take them literally, or do they just help with your creativity?

For people out there that follow my blog, but aren’t interested in writing… First of all, thank you so much for following me!  I’m sorry to pause for technical reasons with this post.  My next post is going to be amazing!

– Cat

The Resurgence of Vinyl

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I love to recall the sensation of hanging out in the basement of my house when I was nine or ten years old.  I would listen to records with my best friend.  I can’t recall whether my first record was The Beatles Rubber Soul, or The Best of the Monkees.  I know we played the heck out of them.

I discovered college radio when I was eleven and we moved to the Washington, D.C. area.  I pulled the covers over my head at night, so no one could hear my transistor radio. I listened to WGTB, out of Georgetown University.  I would hang out at the record store while my Mom did the grocery shopping.  The record store guy (that’s what I called him) would help me decide which 45 record I would buy that week with my allowance.

I would listen to records with my parents too.  I loved my Dad’s Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell records, which soon became my own.  As my musical tastes became more diverse, my record collection grew.  As a teenager, I would have preferred to spend all my time in my room listening to records.

Then came 8 Track tapes.  Fast Forward to cassettes… pun intended.  Wowsers!  I could record stuff off the radio, and listen to it later.  What a concept!  I still listened to albums occasionally, but you can’t play an album in the car.  To this day, I love to listen to music while I drive. A couple of years ago, I donated my cassette collection to Alexandros, because he’s one of the few people I know that has a cassette player. Also, because I knew he would appreciate them.

About the time I found myself single again, I bought a CD player.  I was skeptical, but everyone raved about the sound quality.  So, of course, I started a CD collection.  I have about 300 of them downstairs in a cabinet that I bought especially to keep them in.  I never listen to them.

I have Spotify now.  I make playlists, and share them with friends and family.  I especially love to make collaborative playlists.  I have a portable speaker, a set of wireless headphones, and bluetooth in the car.  I can listen to these never ending playlists everywhere.  Gotta love technology!

I’ll tell you what else I have now.  A record collection!  With my husband’s collection and mine combined, we have an archive that stretches back into the mid sixties. One problem… He took care of his albums.  Me, not so much!  He has a “special” stylus to play my old albums on.  I love to go to record store day, an annual event with exclusive releases.  Rediscovering vinyl has been like seeing a best friend you haven’t seen in years.

Our collection has some Opera, Classical, Folk, Rock and Roll, and “Other”.  He has a first pressing of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother.  I have my original Lou Reed Rock and Roll Animal album.  I lost quite a few albums when my kids pilfered them as teenagers.  That’s what I get for taking Dad’s. Talk about karma!  My son, Travis, recently confessed, and made it up to me by replacing my Frank Zappa Overnight Sensation album with a brand new one.

How does vinyl sound so good?  During our time apart, I forgot vinyl’s distinctive sound.  Now, when we have some time to burn, I love to sit in my basement and listen to records with my best friend.  It’s funny how that worked out.

– Cat

Gone Fishin’? Nope.

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When I was a little girl, we would spend a week or two in Maine in the Summer.  Every Summer.  It’s where both my parents come from, so we got to see all the relatives at once.  We would go “out to camp”.  If you’re from Maine, you know what that means.  It was loads of fun, and I have many fond memories.

Now, to the story.  One of the people I got to see every year was my cousin, Danny.  We were about the same age, and I loved to torment him as only a bossy girl can.  He lived in Maine, so he got to spend a lot of time with our Grandparents.

One weekend, my Grandfather was going fishing.  He loved hunting, fishing, and being outdoors.  I heard Danny talking about going fishing with him, and I was looking forward to it.  When I joined in the conversation, he looked at me and said “You’re not going!  You’re a girl!”

I have to say that this puzzled me.  I went to my Grandfather, who confirmed that I was indeed a girl, and girls didn’t go fishing.  I didn’t know what to say.  I was inconsolable.  The was the first time I had come up against this sort of discrimination.  So, off they went on their fishing trip.

Danny’s Mom, my Aunt Maureen, saw how upset I was.  She asked me if I wanted to have a sleepover at her house.  Things were looking up! I accepted this invitation, and my spirits lifted.  I might be special, after all.

We stopped by a store on the way to get supplies for our sleepover.  I don’t remember what we got, except for one thing.  She bought me some harem girl pajamas, like Barbara Eden wore on I Dream of Jeannie.  Wow!  That was really something!

It’s funny that as you age, there are certain things that you remember and carry with you, and certain things you forget or block out. It all seems so random.   Aunt Maureen laughs, because I always tell her she’s my favorite Aunt.  Every time I see her, I tell her how special she made me feel when she bought me those pajamas, all those years ago.

I’ll never forget the pain of being a girl who couldn’t go fishing.  I’ll never forget how special it can be to be a girl with harem pajamas. Times have changed.  I’m sure some of you might be surprised at this story and the blatant sexism, or maybe you won’t.  Gender doesn’t mean what it used to.

– Cat

All I Want for Christmas

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Emotions run strong for a lot of people during the holidays.  A lot of anxiety centers around getting people just the right gift.  Along with that goes the pressure to spend a lot of money.  This will supposedly prove how much the recipient means to gift giver.  Sometimes, this expectation is there, whether you can afford it or not.

I’ve scaled back quite a bit from my younger days.  What I’ve found out is that shopping early with a plan and a budget makes the holidays less stressful.  What I’ve also learned is that it’s the same Christmas.  It doesn’t matter if you spend $50 or $500 per person.  The enjoyment of the holiday is the same.  Except that you don’t have the January hangover after the December spending binge.

I cringe when I see young people at work fretting over buying a $2000 bag, for someone who they’ve been dating a couple of months.  It’s sad when we have to buy someone a gaming system, and a ton of games to prove our love.  A big screen TV always screams I LOVE YOU!

I think what bothers me the most are the car commercials.  Just about all the auto manufacturers that run these this time of year.  I know you’ve seen the Lexus with the red bow on it.   This is so disheartening.  It’s a small percentage of the population that can afford to buy a brand new luxury car for a Christmas gift.  Sure, some people can do it, but should they?  Why do car companies have the nerve to put this kind of pressure on people?  It’s sad, in my opinion.

Where does the Christmas spirit figure in here?  What does this holiday even mean anymore?  I’m sticking to my strategy.  I’m thinking about the person I’m buying for.  I’m considering their interests and their passions, and buying each person on my list a heartfelt gift or two.  I’m not breaking the bank, or going into debt to do it.  I shouldn’t have fall into financial trouble for anyone to know that I love them.

I hope you find something fun to do together, see some cool Christmas lights, and have a nice meal with loved ones.  I have a friend that hands out purses filled with personal items to homeless women on Christmas morning.  That’s her tradition.  I’m not that awesome, but it warms my heart to know she does it.

The holidays are hard for folks that have lost someone.  Don’t feel awkward about giving them a hug and some encouragement.  It’s a rough time of year for lots of people.  You don’t have to buy them a luxury car, just shine a little of your light on them, so it’s not so dark in their life.

– Cat

One Foot in Front of the Other

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We all encounter dark days as we take this journey through life.  Sometimes we feel as though we just can’t take any more.  It is during this time that you have to keep pushing, even if you don’t see the point.

The point is that this is the ebb and flow of life.  Nobody escapes the roller coaster effect.  Sometimes you are traveling down a path and something happens to force a fork in the road.  Decision time.  Sometimes you reach a corner, and there seems to be a signpost.  One side says “Your Life Now”, and the other says “No Longer an Option”.

Sometimes you walk through a door, then turn back only to find the door is locked.  Okay… enough gloomy examples.  What I want to you remember is that, no matter what, keep putting one foot in front of the other.  There is a light, and you will find it.  But you must keep moving forward.

If you feel as though this doesn’t apply to you, and that you’ve got everything figured out, more power to you!  Most people who I’ve met will struggle from time to time.  Tell us the secret in the comments section of this post.  I have these dark days too.  I’m not saying I have everything dialed in.  I’m just sharing what I’ve learned in the hopes that it will help you.

I think the critical issue is faith.  I don’t necessary mean faith in God, or in a higher being, although that will work well.  Let’s call it the faith that things will work out exactly like they’re supposed to.   We can all agree that it’s hard to know whether something is a blessing or a curse until you’re on the other side of it.  Sometimes you never find out.

If you are a person that prays, how many times have you caught yourself praying, “Here’s my problem, God, and here’s how you need to fix it!”  We run into trouble when we assume that we know the big picture.  That’s impossible for anyone to know, as our lives are revealed to us bit by bit, not on a big map or relevant timeline.

Yes, make goals for yourself.  Yes, have dreams and work towards fulfilling them.  Give yourself that sense of direction.  But, for every disappointment, or setback you perceive, have faith and keep it going, step by step.  If you see that someone else has stumbled, pick them up and remind them to keep going.  Offer encouragement where you can.  There are plenty of opportunities to go around.

Accept encouragement from others.  You deserve it.

Keep it going!

– Cat

I Wish I Liked Wine

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Wine seems like so much fun.   There are a lot of things to do if you like wine.  You can go to wine tastings, vineyard tours, and wine bars.  You can celebrate Wine Wednesday. You can go to sip and paint.  You can even go to “Wine in the Woods”, which sounds pretty magical. You can take classes on wine.  You might want to buy a special “Wine Fridge”.  You can “LIKE” all the cool and funny wine memes and relate to their message. It looks like so much fun!

I’m just not that into it.  It seems that all the wine I’ve tried is either to dry, or too sweet.  I’ll just stick to water.  When I make a toast with someone, they have wine and I have water.  It’s still a toast, just not as cool.  My wine sobriety does make it easier for others.  I’m permanent designated driver.  That’s a bonus for whomever is with me!

One memory that I have is of an outing in the Shenandoah mountains.  We did a tour of several wineries.  On this trip, Iain and I traveled with his Dad, David,  and my daughter, Catie.  It was a beautiful day, and I remember the wonderful time we had eating a nice meal at an inn.  It was one of those days where you don’t have an agenda.  Nothing to do and no place to be.  When I think back to that day, I can still feel the sun on my face!

That’s the way I think of wine.  A small gathering of friends or family. Having great conversation and drinking great wine.  When you look at social media, there are so many postings from wine drinkers.  The memes about people drinking wine, or talking about drinking wine are prolific and sometimes hilarious.   Wine has a fun, romantic reputation.  I’m not in this exclusive club and I feel like I’m missing out.

I like grapes, but not raisins and not wine.   This is a first world problem, I know.  I’m just wondering if there are other people who feel the same way about wine?

  • Cat

Collared Shirts

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Relationships can be fun, and they can be hard work.  The best relationships are a little of both, I would say.  I’m lucky enough to have had two chances at love, and I’m currently married to my perfect match.  That is to say, the Yin to my Yang.

We are definitely different.  I sometimes explain the relationship by saying “He is retired military, and I am not”.  He keeps me grounded and I teach him to laugh at things.  He is common sense, I am whimsy.  He’s a few years older than me.

One thing about this journey we travel together.  It does not involve v-necks, scoop necks, or crew necks. He insists that women of my age should wear collared shirts.  I never saw this one coming 20 years ago.  All I can say is thank God that polo shirts count as collared.

Sometimes I am a real renegade and wear something without a collar.  I will wear a crew neck shirt, for instance, when I’m going to the grocery store by myself.  He’s horrified by what I wear to get a pedicure, my cut off sweatpants and t-shirt.  But when I’m with him, it’s a pretty safe bet that I am wearing a shirt with a collar.

People look at me funny when I say this.  Some roll their eyes, and say that they would never let a man dictate to them what they wear.  It violates a person’s individual rights.  It’s ridiculous! It’s a form of abuse.

Here’s the thing… This is not a battle that I care anything about.  If it pleases him that I dress conservatively, and wear a collared shirt, it is just not a big deal to me.  There are things that mean a lot more, and I will argue until the end on these topics.  Going forward, for the rest of my life, I will only buy collared shirts.

He does some things that irritate me, but not a lot of things, and not a lot of irritation.  I’m sure he would say the same about me.  Most people have qualities that we love about them.  Then they will have some traits or habits… not so much!  On the big issues, we see eye to eye.  We work together on most things.  We didn’t always, but we do now.

He supports my job, he supports my hobby, and encourages me to do everything I want to do.  He doesn’t send me flowers, except sometimes on Valentine’s Day and our Anniversary.   But, he pulled his back out to surprise me with a big, fat Christmas tree this past weekend.  I came home from work, and it was up with lights on it.  Magical!   He sometimes helps me see things from a different angle.  I think that is a big plus.  Two heads are better than one when it comes to a lot of issues.  I persuade him to my point of view on some things.

I don’t have a PhD in psychology. But, I know that when you’re in a relationship, you have to decide for yourself which points are the ones you won’t budge on.  If everything bothers you, and you’re fighting all the time, reconsider your relationship.  If everything is great all the time, you are living in a TV sitcom from the 1950’s. 

Editing this, it looks like a testimony to my relationship with my husband.  The point I am trying to make is that sometimes you have to stand up and make your feelings known.  At other times, you just put on a collared shirt and get on with things.

– Cat