The Present

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PresentAuthor Spencer Johnson wrote a great book titled The Present.  It was required reading during a course in graduate school, along with his mega popular Who Moved My Cheese?  This quick read, a fable/parable between an old man and a younger man, truly intrigued me and left a lasting impression.  Some would argue that it is simplistic.  I counter that it is a powerful and necessary message of balancing past, present and future.

Between juggling deadlines and unexpected projects at work, late work hours, tons and tons of snow here on the East coast, shoveling snow, life, trying to be timely in returning calls/texts, shoveling more snow (is Spring ever going to get here?) and just needing an extra 5-6 hours in each and every day its been challenging to keep my head above water.

With so much going on my mind has been in overdrive racing ahead, living in the future by constantly thinking of what I need to do/should do, who I need to follow-up with/email/call, which project to prioritize first, thinking of ways to manage my manager’s and client expectations, etc. I discovered that I’m losing myself, my joy and my ability to just live in the moment.  The now moment.  My present moment. I’ve had to stop and refocus.  Be mindful.

Now, yesterday, and tomorrow words on blackboard, Time concept.

I believe this precious gem of a book is often underrated.  The tagline for the book says:  The Gift That Makes You Happier and More Successful at Work and in Life Today! I may need to reread this book.  But for right now I’m much happier and more joyful now that I’m refocused and getting my balance back.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. ~ Isaiah 43:18-19

Are you missing out on things in the present by living too much in either the future or the past?

Office Space

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Over the weekend I was sorting through documents, filing and doing other assorted clean up in my home office.  Having teleworked for over 10 years I have discovered that when you work from home your home office can sometimes become a bit of a catch-all for lots of things.  For example, why is a huge box of trash bags sitting in my office?  I must have been in a hurry because usually I only keep a small stash in my desk drawer, never the whole box.  I also have a laser printer box that needs to be returned for recycling that’s been been sitting around taking up space for way too long.

Regardless of whether you work from home, telework or have set aside dedicated office space in your home there are always things to improve upon. Your space may be huge or it may be a tiny closet or nook you’ve converted into an office.  The size of your space really doesn’t matter as long as you personalize your office and make it an efficient reflection of you.

Here is a peek at things I’ve improved upon recently, and over the years, with these six tips.

1.  Make your office work for you.  I use a huge monitor for work that takes up an awful lot of space on my desk (which isn’t the biggest to begin with). Because of that I had my printer positioned under my desk on a small low table. Its worked well for me but my leg always hits the table, its hard to add paper or a cartridge at that angle, and I have to always bend down to pick up printed documents.  I finally decided this weekend to reposition my printer on my desk. Now I can easily get to the printer and adding a new toner cartridge or paper will no longer be a big hassle.  Life is so much easier.  Wonder why I never thought to do this before?

2.  Get serious about lighting.  Last year I started needing to wear my cute computer bifocals most of the day for work.  As a result, I really started paying attention to the lighting in my office.  Especially when I’m working late.  About a year ago, I added extra lighting including a floor lamp and a desk lamp and the difference has been noticeable.  Remember to take occasional breaks from your computer screen to give your eyes a rest.  I take mine by staring out the window enjoying nature!

3.  Sit properly.  A good chair is the best investment you can make for your home office. In your actual work office, you have to accept whatever piece of a chair they toss your way.  In your personal home office you get to choose how you sit and on what. Look for an ergonomically designed chair that supports your bottom and back with adjustable seating.  Your spine will definitely thank you.  Or you may decide to sit on an exercise ball for core and spine stabilization.  Sitting all day is not good for you so be certain to stand every now and again to get up and move around to keep the circulation flowing!

4.  Keep it clean.  I believe organization keeps you productive.  I love a clean desk.  It may look sloppy while I’m working during the day but at the end of the day I always make it tidy.  That’s one thing I pride myself on. However, I am a piler.  And although things on my desk may be clean and neat the pile on the floor next to my desk consists of things to sort, file, or address in some manner. I had a basket that I wasn’t using and now I use that to “store” my items that need attention.  I’m using an accordion folder to keep everything in the basket.  I’m not sure if this is the end goal but for now it is working to keep my “pile” contained in a pretty basket.

5.  Repurpose items.  I have a beautiful decorative tray that belonged to my parents and is very sentimental to me.  I wasn’t using it and decided to make it a part of my home office.  I relocated the low table that previously housed my printer and the tray now sits on the low table.  I have a decorative container on the tray, a small framed photo, decorative note paper, a nice writing pen, and a journal.  It helps make my home office space interesting and it is a place of peaceful inspiration to look at when the workday becomes stressful.  I’ll pick up my journal to jot down things I’m grateful for, thoughts, plans, etc.  I believe a nice aesthetic is essential in every interior space; however, you don’t want your office space to look too cozy even if it is in your home.  A few personal items is all you need.

6.  Tag the cable.  For years I always struggled to figure out which cable belonged to my work laptop.  Every time I needed to go into the office I would crawl under my desk and half the time I would pull the wrong cable.  So frustrating!  I finally found a solution that works for me.  I tied several rounds of a colored ribbon around the cord.  It’s about 3″ of ribbon so I no longer miss identifying this cable!  Now when I need to unplug to pack up my work laptop for my in-the-office days I always pull the right cord.

What tips have you discovered to make your home office space work for you?

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Preventive Care

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health2Preventive care is a component of wellness and serves as a mechanism to utilize healthcare services and screenings to help prevent or avoid the onset of chronic disease (e.g., cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.) or to counsel and screen for certain health conditions. These conditions may affect:

  • adults (colorectal cancer, obesity, sexually transmitted disease),
  • men (prostate cancer, alcohol misuse, aortic aneurysm),
  • women (contraception, mammography cervical and vaginal cancer) and
  • children (obesity, depression, developmental and behavioral screenings).

Preventive services are benefits offered by all health insurers regardless of whether they are private or Federal.  As with any health insurance benefit, coverage will vary by insurer and certain limitations may apply.

Preventive care can be managed by individuals on their own (e.g., physical activity, nutritional management, smoking cessation, reduced alcohol consumption, etc.) as well as in conjunction with help from the healthcare community.  As Benjamin Franklin said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

By helping to offset or avoid disease through prevention, healthcare costs can also be contained and/or reduced for an aging population.  Particularly for conditions that may be preventable.

Whether your motivation is to stop smoking, offset cancer or the risk of a chronic disease, to identify services to benefit aging parents, to avoid childhood obesity, or to simply age gracefully, preventive health services and screenings may be worth investigating for you and your loved ones.

Mammography

Actions Speak

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One of my favorite sayings in my professional and personal life (and girl talk with my girlfriends!) is that “Actions speak louder than words”.  Show me.  If you can’t show me, then your words are meaningless and offer no value, merit or credibility.

Whether we realize it or not, in our everyday lives we constantly show others the stuff we are made of.  Our actions can increase or devalue the level of respect we have in the eyes of loved ones, friends, peers and others.

I believe when our actions line up with who we are we free ourselves to experience and appreciate joy more fully.

What do your actions say about you?

Do your actions reflect who you believe yourself to be?  If yes, fantastic!  If no, reflect and determine how to align your actions with the person you choose to be, are becoming or who you want or hope to one day be.

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Cut the Salt

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It tastes so good!  Its why we often crave salty snacks.  Its one of the reasons we love to eat out because of the perfectly balanced flavor in restaurant foods.   Yet we all know that too much sodium is unhealthy.  Too much sodium leads to excess fluid build up in our bodies which may, over time, affect vital organs including our hearts and kidneys.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day.  The recommendation decreases to 1,500 mg per day if you are African-American, have hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or are an adult age 51 or older.  Children also need to reduce their sodium intake since 9 out of 10 children eat more sodium than recommended.

Kosher, Himalayan, and flake salts are all the rage but don’t forget that salt is salt. Here is a quick guide that outlines the differences in table and specialty salts: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/food-guides/salt

Regardless of the type of salt you prefer, look for some healthy alternatives to help reduce daily sodium intake for you and your family.  Consider the following:

  • Read the nutrition label on products to see the amount of sodium per serving
  • Use fresh or dried herbs (e.g., thyme, oregano, basil, sage, tarragon, etc.) and spices (e.g., smoked paprika, cumin, Harissa, cayenne, Zaatar, etc.) to flavor foods when cooking
  • Make your own salt-free seasoning blend
  • Buy the single serve bag of potato chips or popcorn to limit sodium intake
  • Make your own potato or veggie chips so that you control the sodium content
  • Do not add extra salt to prepared meals
  • Limit sodium rich condiments (e.g., ketchup, commercial salad dressing, soy sauce, etc.)
  • Limit or avoid processed meats and those that are smoked or cured which are notoriously high in sodium
  • Look for reduced sodium, low-salt or no-salt canned foods
  • Eat more fresh foods
  • Reduce, or eliminate, the amount of salt when preparing a favorite recipe or when trying a new recipe
  • Investigate healthful ways to reduce sodium intake for your kids http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/children-sodium/infographic.html
  • Check with your doctor before using commercially prepared salt substitutes if you have heart issues.  Some salt substitutes contain potassium chloride which may be of concern to individuals with certain health conditions.

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You’re Beautiful

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It is always a great thing to celebrate another New Year!

However, the freshness of a new year can be a trying time for people who berate themselves and stress over which resolutions to make, and strive to maintain, over the next twelve months.  We all know the popular resolutions – lose weight, save more, stop smoking, etc.

It’s been way too many years for me to count since the last time I made a New Year’s resolution.  Instead, I do one of two things to help me grow and evolve.  I choose a word that I want to focus on for the year.  For example, patience.  This one was a challenge for me.  You know the saying “You get what you ask for”. Well, let’s just say I asked for patience and numerous life scenarios put me in positions where I had to be patient.

The second thing I do is to set goals.  Now I am a regular goal setter but at the beginning of each year I try to establish a goal or two that is really more of a habit or will evolve into a lasting lifelong habit.  Something I wouldn’t normally think of as a goal but that allows me to truly grow and find time for more of the things that are really important to me.  I have established two goals for 2015.

My first goal this year is to manage my time better.  It sounds easy.  It’s not.  I overextend myself a lot and then wonder why I have no time left.  This is an ongoing situation in my life and I’m trying really hard now to manage it better. We’ll see how this one goes.  I’ve actually started this subconsciously after Thanksgiving by limiting my time on Facebook, checking emails, etc.  I’ve made the committment to myself for 2015 so now it’s a real “official” goal for me.

My second goal is to think of something I love or like about myself every day. Now I’m not talking about something I need to improve upon or critique.  We do that every day with a constant stream of thoughts running through our heads:  “my stomach is too big”, “I wish my hair was curly instead of straight”, “why can’t I be more organized like so and so?”

The objective of this goal is to bless myself with love.  Not in an egotistical kind of way.  Only to say things to me and about me that are positive, life affirming and nonjudgemental: “it felt good to listen with an open heart to my coworker who was struggling with a deep issue with her son today”, “I am grateful for the ability to express myself”, “I love that I have positive relationships with all of my family members”, etc.

This morning I started my day by telling myself I’m beautiful.  It was hard.  How often do we tell ourselves we’re beautiful?  Your beauty may be physical or it may be internal (e.g., you’ve got a great heart, you’re gifted in connecting with seniors, you always find a way to make everyone laugh).

We’re all beautiful in so many different and unique ways and we need to tell ourselves that we’re beautiful.  The why doesn’t matter.  We just need to know that we are.

Say it to yourself.  You’re beautiful.  Then breathe and let it sink in.  Do not say it and then add the word but (for this flaw or that flaw).

Simply tell yourself.

You’re beautiful.

Have you ever stopped to tell yourself that you’re beautiful?

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Silent Night, Holy Night

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Christmas angelSilent Night is my favorite Christmas carol. It is such a peaceful, sweetly reverent and melodic carol depicting the birth of the baby Jesus.

Silent Night

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy faceChristmas cookies6
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

What is your favorite Christmas carol?

May you and yours experience peace, comfort and joy this holiday season. Merry Christmas!!!

Make the Season Bright

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handmade-christmas-decorations-green-holiday-decor-1I truly love, love, love decorating for Christmas.

Decorating is one of my favorite things to do to bring joy, cheer and warmth to my living environment regardless of the season.

But it is so much more exciting especially at the Christmas season!

Below are some helpful tips for home decor, gift wrap and table top.

Home Decor

  • Polish antique silver candlesticks or serving trays and arrange decoratively.
  • Pull out and use the vintage family china, gravy boat, tablecloth or serving dishes passed down through the generations.
  • Make your own Christmas tree skirt, pillows, stocking or table runner to complement your unique decor and to treasure as a family heirloom.
  • Dress up a plain store-bought evergreen wreath by adding raffia or lengths of plain, metallic or patterned ribbon, or Christmas greenery along with your favorite decorative materials in the shades and textures that appeal to you.  Get your kids involved and allow them to make their own decorative wreath (or to decorate their own kids Christmas tree).
  • For a Poinsettia alternative, decorate with Amaryllis, paper whites, rosemary, holly, juniper, winterberry, nuts, fruits (e.g., pomegranate, cranberries) or other greenery.

Gift Wrap

  • Ditch the gift bags this year and relearn the art of wrapping presents.
  • Use a Christmas shaped cookie cutter or another unique design to make your own gift tags.  You can use plain colored paper or choose patterned or metallic papers. Stay classic, get whimsical or go sophisticated.
  • Add a special touch instead of just using a gift tag and ribbon.  Attach a small ornament, jingle bells or a small token gift to dress up your Christmas presents.

Table Top

  • Poinsettia are stunning and gorgeous with their velvety red blooms and deep green leaves.  However, I lean toward a simple white, green and gold centerpiece for my Christmas table centerpiece.  Pick colors that appeal to you.  Who says you have to stick to red and green for your centerpiece?  I am really liking the purple and gold in the wreath and mantle image below.
  • I love a good napkin ring!  They add classic beauty and decor and can definitely enhance place settings to make them pop.  Even something as simple as homemade ribbon bow napkin rings is effortless and has a nice effect.
  • Don’t have Christmas dishes?  That’s ok.  I don’t either.  No need to go out and purchase special dishes.  I use a simple plain white plate with either a cloth or large paper Christmas napkin or napkin ring.  If you have Christmas cups or dessert plates use those to supplement your white plates to add the Christmas theme.  I always use my Christmas dessert plates an Aunt gifted me several years ago.
  • Fill a bowl, basket or cylinder vase with old mismatched Christmas ornaments you rarely use and let them shine on display on your buffet table or coffee table.  Add pine cones or greenery to brighten up the arrangement.

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Christmas wreath

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas Season

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Yeah!  It’s December and before we know it Christmas will arrive.  This year many of my neighbors already had their Christmas lights up and twinkling brightly prior to Thanksgiving.

Time is always moving and with Christmas quickly approaching time will begin moving even faster as we try to finish last-minute shopping, bake (and eat!) tons of cookies, decorate our homes, monitor our spending and gift wrap our presents.

The Christmas season can also be a time of reminiscing over things you did last year or in years past, honoring old family traditions, or remembering our special loved ones who are no longer with us to celebrate.

As you prepare for Christmas this year, stay focused and pace yourself in order to savor and enjoy the season and your loved ones.  By doing this it enhances the fun of the Christmas season and helps offset potentially becoming burned out or irritable from the hustle and bustle and frenzied demands and anxieties of the season.

Spread cheer with a Christmas basket to a neighbor who is shut-in.  Invite a co-worker who can’t afford to visit their family over for cookies and cocoa.  Share a kind word with a friend who leans toward depression and discomfort every Christmas.  Loving actions always leave an impact, especially at Christmas time.

Remember, the ultimate focus for the Christmas season is Jesus.  Let His peace penetrate your heart and actions this Christmas.

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The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.  20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:  23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”  24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.  ~ Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT)