Stressed? Then Have a Little Fun!

Good morning, and happy Hump Day!

The week is half over, and by Sunday evening we can say the same about the whole month. Time flies when you’re having fun. You are having fun, right? I sure hope so. This is a time of year when we spend a little more time with family, share a few extra laughs with friends, and (plug your ears, boss) take just a little longer for lunch. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed.

Most employers don’t expect a lot during the second half of December. They know people are thinking about a dozen other things, and they plan for it. That’s why we work so hard in the months leading up to it. But some of us work in an industry where December is a little busier than normal. People in retail, healthcare, customer service, and others, work just a little harder this time of year.

Normally, that would mean coming home at the end of a long day and crashing on the sofa. The TV is on, but you’re not really watching. The kids are singing, but you’re not really listening. The dog is whining by the back door, but … well, you’d better pay attention to that one. Some things won’t be ignored.

Then there’s the shopping. First you have to find the perfect gift. Then you have to find the perfect wrapping paper. And don’t forget the card. There’s nothing more impersonal than a card that says, “Seasons Greetings – Love, Mom.” Well, don’t get your knickers in a wad. Kids don’t read the card anyway. They just flip it upside down to see if any cash falls out.

According to the old Andy Williams song, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. And, according to the lesser-known duo of Elmo & Patsy, it’s the time when Grandma got run over by a reindeer. Apparently, she drank too much eggnog and … well, you know the rest. I can certainly see how that could happen. Because, with all the extra stress, a little extra eggnog can be a blessing.

My girls learned as toddlers that Santa Claus likes cookies and pumpkin bread. But instead of milk, he prefers bourbon. Straight up, no mixers, and stainless-steel ice cubes that don’t melt and water it down. Hey, don’t judge me. I got the bicycles together and looked almost like the picture on the box. And I saved all those extra parts in case something fell off. That’s what helmets and knee pads are for.

These are the stories we all laugh about with friends. You know, several years later when the kids have safely grown up with no broken bones that can be traceable to Dad’s mechanical skills. I’m not suggesting you get hammered before you put your kid’s bike together. Just that it’s okay to set aside a little time for yourself to enjoy some of the craziness. After all, who’s paying the medical bills anyway?

It’s important that we make time for ourselves – time to relax, time to unwind, time to enjoy the season just a little. That may come in the form of a sleigh ride, a drink with friends, pizza night, taking the kids for ice cream, or just relaxing by the fire. If you have a fireplace, that is. That’s important. Almost as important as saving that second drink until after the bicycles are assembled.

Enjoy the season. Eat a few extra cookies. Put a few extra marshmallows in your hot cocoa. Have a piece of pie with whipped cream. Then turn the can upside down and fill your mouth the fun way. Act young. Snuggle under a blanket, and watch Rudolph with the kids. Twice. Sing a little louder, dance a little harder, and feel the magic in the air. It’s there. And once you find it, never let go.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Sunrise Always Follows Darkness

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off nicely.

Yesterday was an unseasonably mild day here in Ohio. Aside from the rain, which is typical this time of year. But with temperatures in the upper 50s, it was at least bearable. But according to the weatherman, we’ll pay for that breather today, kinda like going back to work after a three-day weekend. Oh well, we didn’t really expect it to last, right?

Sometimes, life works much the same way. About the time you think things are going really well and you’ve had a streak of good fortune, something comes along to knock the wind out of your sails and remind you that the path isn’t always easy. It may be financial, health related, job troubles, or challenges in a relationship. And when it happens, it can make you forget all about those good times.

It’s just life’s way of reminding us that we’re still alive. I often look at my dog and think how easy his life must be. All he has to do is eat, sleep, poop, and bark at the mailman. But his unbounded excitement when I walk in the door is a reminder that his life isn’t a bed of roses. He has to deal with his share of disappointment as well, every time we leave the house. To him, it must be heartbreaking.

Every now and then, I have visions of one of my daughters in tears because her balloon popped. I can’t remember which of my girls it was – probably both of them at some point – but at that moment, her little heart was shattered. Sure, we got a heartfelt chuckle our of it and there were hugs of reassurance. But it was a simpler time when problems were solved by simply kissing away the tears.

I can recall times when my balloon popped, and I’m sure you can as well. At that moment, you feel the weight of the entire world. It happens in an instant, and it’s something nobody can fix. You wonder what went wrong. Maybe you squeezed too hard. Maybe you bounced it too high or let it hit the wrong spot on the floor. Maybe you didn’t love it enough. Regardless, the end result is the same.

There was a time when doctors would start a newborn baby’s breathing with a swift slap on the behind. Imagine the shock, when you’ve spent your entire life in a warm, cozy place with nothing more than soft sounds and an occasional caress to tickle your senses. All of a sudden, you’re thrust into a cold room filled with bright lights, and somebody gives you a smack just for the fun of it.

Thankfully, doctors have figured out that they don’t have to smack a baby’s butt to make it cry. But to everybody in the room, the sound of crying is the most welcome sound they can hear. Because you can’t cry without breathing. You have to take air in to support the next wail, and in the process,  you give your body the oxygen it needs to survive.

Granted, there are much more pleasurable ways of exchanging oxygen. And hopefully we spend most of our lives doing it the easy way. But disappointment, even heartbreak, is simply a sign that we’re still alive. And as long as we’re still alive, there’s hope of a brighter tomorrow. It may not feel that way at the moment. But as the old saying goes, this too shall pass.

Life is full of disappointments. But it’s also full of joys and excitement. I’ve often said we sometimes need the bad days to help us appreciate the good. Even for my dog who pretty much has life made, his excitement at watching me walk through the door is directly proportional to the amount of time I’ve been gone. It’s the down times that make us treasure the good even more.

All through your life, there will be moments of joy and sorrow. You can’t have one without the other. And just as surely as joy will someday bring tears, those tears will eventually give way to happiness. Remember, you can’t cry without breathing. And as long as you’re still breathing, better days lie ahead. You may never forget the hurt, but you’ll be that much stronger in the end.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Dream Or Passion?

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

If you could have one thing for Christmas, not the perfumes or ties or jewelry, what would you wish for? Think big. Like lottery ticket big. Something there’s no way you’ll find waiting for you under the tree, but you want it just the same. Maybe it’s a bigger house, a new car, a monthlong vacation, or even just monthly vacations. This is a time of year when we dream just a little more than normal.

That doesn’t mean we expect any of these things to materialize. We know how much these things cost, both financially and otherwise. It’s one thing to have the money for a monthlong vacation. It’s something altogether different having the time to take one. Most of us have to work, and employers aren’t overly enthusiastic about letting us just take time off whenever we feel like it.

Now, let me ask you another question. Of all those things you really want, which ones do you want badly enough to make it happen? You know, instead of waiting for the dream fairy to hand you the keys to a home on the beach, you actually get out and work for it until the dream comes true. There’s a big difference. One is a pipe dream – the other is a passion that just won’t go away.

It’s one thing to dream. We all do it. We see a really nice car driving down the road and think how nice it would be to own one. But it’s not a passion. It’s something that, if we woke up one morning to find it sitting in the driveway, we’d be excited. But that excitement never really goes beyond the “passing thought” stage. It’s not something we’re willing to get out and work for.

A student pursuing a degree has a goal. An employee working for a promotion has a goal. A child saving money for a new bicycle has a goal. And all of those goals have a few things in common. First, they all started as a dream. But the dream went beyond the passing thought stage and became a passion. Something the person wants badly enough to get up every day and work toward it.

Making a list of our dreams is a lot like a child making a list of things they want for Christmas. I remember my youngest sitting in front of a toy catalog, thoughtfully thumbing through the pages. My dad laughed and said, “If you have to look in a book to get ideas, you must not want it very much.” She shrugged and said, “I’m just crossing off the things I don’t want.”

Now, of all the things left in that book, the ones she didn’t cross off, how many do you think she wanted with a passion? Sure, it would be nice to wake up and find most or all of those things under the tree, but let’s be honest – some are just stocking stuffers. But if you were to ask her for one or two things she really wanted, she could tell you. It’s the difference between passion and dreams.

It’s okay to make a list of your dreams. List them all, no matter how big or small. But at some point, you have to decide which ones you just want and which ones you’re willing to work for. Prioritize the list and focus on the ones that excite you the most. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work your way up – it’s okay to focus on the biggest one first if that’s the one you want most.

Dream lists are a lot like checklists. And at the end of the day, you’re either checking things off or crossing them off. Let your passion drive those decisions. Don’t cross off something important in favor of something “realistic.” It’s been said that the only regrets we’ll ever have are the risks we never took. If your passion is strong enough, the rest will fall into place.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Don't Mess With Stress!

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is starting off just right.

For those who asked, my daughter went home from the hospital yesterday. There are issues that will require follow-up, but she dodged the bullet this time. Then, yesterday afternoon while chasing my grandson through the back yard, my wife tripped and her face and right shoulder took the full brunt of the fall. Two hospitals in two days. I seriously hope we’re done for the year.

This time of year, I don’t ask anybody what they’ve got planned for the weekend because I know. Most of us will be shopping. And it’ll be that way for the rest of the month. It’s a happy time, as we pick up gifts and imagine the look on the recipient’s face when they open it. Giving does bring joy.

But along with the joy of shopping comes the stress. Finding a parking spot, finding an empty shelf where you were hoping to pick up that special gift, and realizing the whole time that your budget has been ripped to shreds. Those little gifts for the neighbors, the stocking stuffers, extra eggnog for the party … all of those things add up and before it’s all over, you’ve spent a small fortune. It happens.

Stress takes away from our enjoyment of the holidays and, left unchecked, it can lead you into a deep depression. It wreaks havoc on your physical and emotional health. And, the thing we don’t really think about is that stress doesn’t care about your emotional state – it can happen when you’re excited or … well, stressed. Any big change from the ordinary, good or bad, is a source of stress.

Don’t believe me? Hang around a couple as their wedding day approaches. It’s probably the happiest day of their lives, and all the planning is geared toward making sure it’s absolutely perfect. The dress, the venue, the food, the flowers, the color choices, the guest list, the limousine, where to seat Uncle Fred so he isn’t too close to the bar. Is it any wonder newlyweds need to get away for a few days?

And, whether you’ll admit it or not, none of us handles stress very well. Nobody. I love it when somebody says, “I thrive on stress!” No, you don’t. You just take it out on everybody around you. You bury yourself in your work and forget that life exists outside of work. You imagine yourself the hero, but you’re really just wearing yourself down. And sooner or later, we all have to pay the piper.

Stress is like a rattlesnake, just waiting for the opportunity to strike. And when it does, the effects can be just about as devastating. But unlike a rattlesnake, stress doesn’t give you any warning that you’re about to have a really bad day. It just sneaks up until the opportunity is right, and leaves you wondering what happened.

As you go through the holidays, pay attention to the signs of stress. It’s easy to spot the bad kind. Impatience, a short fuse, exhaustion, and despair, are all signs of stress. Do you find yourself going through the entire day without eating? Stress. Are you driving just a little faster than normal? Stress. Are you working harder to get those projects done so you can take a little time off? Stress.

It’s impossible to avoid stress at any point through the year, but especially during the holidays. The key is recognizing it and doing something about it. Allow yourself a little extra time. Get up a little earlier and start the day a little slower. Drive in the slow lane and let the hotheads race around. Eat lunch with a friend. Turn off the news and turn on your favorite holiday show. Relax. Breathe.

Stress will always be there, to some extent. We can’t eliminate it completely, but we don’t have to add to it unnecessarily. No matter what you’re doing, find something to enjoy. Make time to do the things you like to do. Have a drink. Light a candle. Read a book. Share stories. Look through old photos. It won’t eliminate stress completely, but you’ll have a lot more strength for the next round.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Keep it Healthy This Holiday Season

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

Yesterday, my oldest daughter went to visit her doctor with some of the really fun symptoms nobody wants – chest pain, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and a partridge in a pear tree. All it took was a look at her blood pressure, and the doctor sent her on her merry way – straight to the hospital. They did some blood work, and she got a nice warm bed for the night.

So far, the tests are inconclusive. There may be a few different things going on, or they could all be related. A stress test this morning will help them zero in a little more. When she described symptoms that began two weeks ago, like fluttering of the heart followed by the sensation that she’d been punched in the chest, I formed my own opinion. Those are not the kind of symptoms you ignore.

This is my public service message for the year, so bear with me. Heart attacks can strike at any age, and they’re twice as likely to be fatal for young women than men. And they seem to like the holidays. There are more deaths from heart attacks on December 25 than any other day, with December 26 coming in second, and January 1 coming in third. So yeah. Something to keep in mind.

Also, women don’t usually experience the same heart attack symptoms as men. We always think of the old man bent over on the sidewalk, holding on to a streetlamp, clutching his chest in agony as he slowly falls to the ground. It’s not usually that way with women. They may not feel anything more than mild indigestion with a little nausea or shortness of breath. That’s if they feel anything at all.

My daughter knows this, probably more than anybody else. She’s a registered nurse and has worked with a lot of elderly and terminal patients. But if you ask any doctor to describe their worst possible patient, nurses will be near the top of the list. It’s like the proverbial carpenter’s wife, who watches her husband fix things for everyone in town while their own house is falling down around them.

Yesterday we talked about knowing our limits, doing what we can do without overdoing it. This is a time of year when we tend to ignore the signals our body quietly sends out and we keep going and going like an Energizer bunny with a brand-new battery. Only that battery isn’t as new as we’d like to think. And sooner or later, it’ll peter out. If we’re lucky, we get by with a mild case of exhaustion.

I’ve had a heart attack, so I know a little about the subject. As little as anybody else out there, which is almost nothing. At least when it comes to advising other people, because I know from experience the symptoms are never the same from one person to another, sometimes even with the same person. I had chest pain for years before the real thing hit. And when it did, it was nothing like the warnings.

Doctors tell us that if we even suspect a heart attack, go to the emergency room. Not later, now. And I know, that’s not an easy decision to make. Is this the real thing, or just indigestion? Did I pull a muscle carrying boxes upstairs? Is my shortness of breath just a sign that I need to exercise more? Maybe. But while we’re thinking about those things, we could be in a life-or-death emergency.

Nobody likes emergency rooms. And if you go into the ER with chest pain, you’re probably not going home that night. Odds are, it won’t amount to anything more than some tests and a hefty medical bill. I get it. I’ve had that conversation with myself at least a hundred times. Like that day in the Atlanta airport, slumped against a concrete pole with sweat pouring down my face. Get the picture?

One other reminder I’d like to pass along. As you’re out and about, especially this time of year, pay attention to people. Not just the seedy looking guy who’s following a little too closely in the store, but that person sitting on a display of bottled water, looking like he just finished the Boston Marathon. Seconds count, and I know the feeling of watching hundreds of people walk by when you need them the most.

I’m not sure yet what’s going on with my daughter, but I’m happy knowing she’s where she needs to be. It may be a combination of issues, or just a little pre-holiday stress. We’ll get some answers today, and odds are she’ll be back home tonight. But I also know how quickly things could have gone the other way. Don’t take chances on your health. Your family is counting on you. And so am I.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Make Time to Enjoy the Season

Good morning, and happy Hump Day! I hope your day is starting off nicely.

This is a time of year when routines change and what we’ve become accustomed to yields to something completely out of the normal. We shop. We go to parties. We spend a little time with the kids as they thumb through toy catalogs with nearly every page earmarked. And we eat. Oh, do we eat. Candy, cookies, cupcakes, pastries, and everything else our brain tells us we should avoid.

Even the morning traffic is reduced, which I’m still trying to figure out because the parking lot at work is still just as full, so I imagine everyone else’s is as well. Are people just leaving a little later? Are they leaving earlier? Or are they simply driving with a little more of a cool head, not in such a rush to get someplace they’d rather not be? Maybe someday I’ll look into that. For now, I’m just enjoying it.

But in the evening, there are a lot more people out and about. Parking lots at stores fill up more by the day, and even Walmart has hired a few extra people to work the cash registers. Too bad they don’t keep that up through the year. It’s a good time to go grocery shopping, because everybody else is in a different store. Unless they shop online, which more and more people are doing.

And then there are the parties. I have one this week and one next week, plus a happy hour after work. Twice. After that, I’m not sure. But given that this will be my last month in my current position, I’m sure I’ll get out with a few more people before this calendar page hits the floor.

And then there are the holiday celebrations, church services, and meals. You’d think we’d lose weight with all this running around. But, remember the candy and cookies? Yeah. Mystery solved.

It’s a time of year most of us look forward to, because we find ourselves interacting just a little more. We’re a little nicer (well, most of us). We’re a little more generous. We find delight in the simple things, like a child sitting on Santa’s lap, eyes aglow, as they verbalize their dreams.

It’s also a time when stress levels are through the roof. Just watch cars in a parking lot jockeying for position as somebody in a prime spot sits with the engine running and the transmission in reverse, carefully checking their receipts against their shopping list. It takes about 6.2 seconds for tempers to flare. Before long, fingers are in the air and the Christmas spirit goes right out the window.

A lot of that is simply the result of overcommitment – trying to do too much in too short a time, when there are other things we should be doing instead. Kids are still in school, and the teacher still expects them to finish their homework. Dinner still needs to be served. And the boss still expects us to get the job done, even if that means working a little late to make up for all the socializing. And on it goes.

I’m not sure how to really fix that, but there are a couple of things we can do. First, be realistic about what you can and can’t do each day. You don’t have to do it all, and certainly not all at once. If the store is sold out of that prized toy, look online. With parties, you don’t have to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Just showing up is enough. Fit it into your schedule as your schedule permits.

And no matter what, set aside some time to drive around and look at house decorations, or to take the kids for a sleigh ride. Go out for ice cream. Enjoy a quiet dinner for two, or drinks by the fire. Breathe. The holidays will come regardless, and in January another year begins. Make sure you leave enough of yourself intact to face the new year. Everything else will work out. It always does.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

When It Comes to Optimism, We're All Mutts

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

The movie Pretty Woman was on this past weekend (again) and I found myself watching (again). Either I need some better cable options, or Hollywood is falling down on the job, because it seems the same movies keep playing over and over and over. Last week I jokingly mentioned the Forrest Gump channel. If you missed that movie last time it was on, have no fear – it’s coming again.

One of the scenes I always enjoyed in Pretty Woman was when they went to the opera. As the lights were dimming for the opening act, Richard Gere told Julia Roberts that a person’s first reaction to the opera is very dramatic. They either love it or hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.

It’s that way with my morning posts. Sometimes I’m really happy with what I wrote, and other times I feel I left something on the table. But the responses let me know that, even when I think I missed the mark, it was just what at least one person needed to hear that day. That’s why I love reading the responses. It puts us on a more personal level.

Yesterday, a very perceptive friend responded with a tough question – “Are you talking to yourself?” I know I give this impression of a rock-solid optimist who never frowns and always sees a brighter future, but the truth is I’m no more delusional than any one of you. Well, maybe a little. But the point is, there are days when I need to read my posts as much as anyone.

Having a positive outlook doesn’t mean you’re never down. There will be days when you feel the weight of the world crashing down, and times when hope is about as distant as that exotic destination you know you’ll probably never get to visit. Some days you won’t feel like doing anything, and dreams go from a burning passion into a silent resignation that nothing will ever change. It happens.

On the other hand, feelings of despair don’t necessarily mean you’re a pessimist. In a world where everything has become so polarized that you’re either this or that and there’s no in-between, your personal outlook is likely a mixed bag of good, bad, and indifferent. It doesn’t mean you’re mixed up. It just means you have emotions like every other person, and some days one is more prevalent than the others.

It means you can see a better life, with enough clarity to be drawn to it, but with enough restraint to keep you from getting in over your head. It means you believe in yourself enough to dream, but you also live in a world where reality says some dreams will take a lifetime of work. And it means you have the ability to shed tears like anybody else, but you also know the sun is shining on the other side.

This is a time of year when a lot of people experience feelings of immense joy and excitement. It’s also a time when just as many people fall into a deep depression that even they can’t quite explain. Same day, same weather, same traffic, same everything. But it affects us all in very different ways.

The point is that none of us are a complete package of optimism or pessimism. Yesterday, I’m told, was National Mutt Day. Well, maybe we should haver been celebrating ourselves, because in a lot of ways, we’re mutts. There are no absolutes in our lives or our outlook on life. We all have a little of this and a little of that, in varying proportions. That’s what makes us unique. It’s what makes us human.

Sometimes, the best way to talk ourselves out of a mood of despair is to talk somebody else through the same transition. It may not change everything on the spot, but it does help us look a little closer to find that ray of sunshine we so desperately need. And in helping others find hope and possibilities, we find hope and possibilities for ourselves.

Life is in a constant state of flux, and no mood ever lasts forever. Feeling down doesn’t mean you have to stay there, and when you’re on top of the world, there will still be days when things aren’t perfect. None of us will ever be happy and optimistic all the time. The best we can do is look for those things that bring us closer and focus on them until the clouds go away. And they will. They always do.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved