Use a Little Magic to Beat the Stress This Season

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

I’ve been admiring all the pictures people have been posting of their holiday decorations and kids sitting in Santa’s lap. Some are smiling, some are in a trance, and some are crying their eyes out as they look for any path of escape. After all these lectures about stranger danger, their parents tell them, “Go sit in that fat man’s lap and maybe he’ll give you a piece of candy!” Brilliant.

We did it, too. The whole experience. We tell them this figment of our imagination is watching their every move all through the month of December, just watching for them to misbehave, so he can divert all their gifts to a more deserving child. As parents, we think maybe it’ll help them try just a little harder to be good. To the kid, it’s just one more set of eyes watching their every move.

I remember my mom telling me we would get so wound up in the final weeks before Christmas, we were almost sick with anxiety. The more we’d try to behave, the more we’d misbehave. It’s like tying a person’s hands and telling them it’s a good thing their nose doesn’t itch. Within seconds, they’ll be scratching it against anything in sight. Be sure you’re not standing too close when that starts.

My grandson is having a hard time with the whole “be good” thing this year. The little boy has a heart of gold, and can be the most lovable child on the planet when the mood strikes him. But he can also be the most determined, defiant little demon you’ve ever met. And, I’m finding that the closer we get to Christmas, the more unpredictable that behavior becomes.

It’s not the child. It’s the pressure. It’s the memory of every act of disobedience in the past several months, and the knowledge that, if Santa truly has been watching, nothing he can do at this point will ever make up for it. And as soon as that sweet mood yields to the slightest misbehavior, it’s just one more reminder that he’s probably not getting anything this year. Is it any wonder they misbehave?

We can see it in kids. And, thankfully, we usually do something to defuse the situation and reassure them that they really haven’t been that bad – that even Santa can forgive a few indiscretions. But who reassures us? After all, we tend to react a bit differently to the stress of the season as well. And any time you react, there’s a 50/50 chance it won’t be completely positive.

This is a time when people are at their best. They smile a little more, they sing happy tunes, they let the old woman with two items get in front of them in the checkout line. It’s also a time when road rage is at its highest all year. People fight over parking spots, they blow their horn and flash indecent hand gestures, and swear like a sailor simply because the car in front of them is going too slow.

And that’s before they even get inside the store. I’ve actually seen people swipe a prized gift out of someone else’s shopping cart – not because the store was sold out, but because it’s there and they want it. Period. And if you want to see the Christmas spirit turn into seething disapproval, let the person at the checkout ask for a price check or struggle to find a credit card that’s not maxed out.

This should be the time of year when we’re a little more patient, a little more gracious, a little more excited. It’s a time when we find hope in things we normally wouldn’t notice. We see the magic in a young child’s eyes and can’t help feeling a little of the magic ourselves. It’s a time when we revisit the innocence of youth one more time, if only for a fleeting moment.

Yes, this is a season that can bring out the best or worst in people. It’s simply a matter of how we approach it. Slow down a little. Park a little further from the store. If somebody else insists on being miserable, don’t let it affect you. This is your holiday, and you’ve waited for it all year. So have the kids. So, make the most of it. In a couple more weeks, it’ll all be a memory. Make it a good one.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Don't Let the Craziness Define the Season

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

So, a couple of days ago, a female co-worker texted me and asked if I’m done with all my Christmas shopping. I responded, “So cute – she thinks I’ve already started.” I’ve been accused of being a little less manly on most things in life, but when it comes to shopping, my Y chromosomes shine through. I do as little as possible, and usually in the last hours of Christmas Eve – with all the other men.

I don’t know that it’s a “man” thing as much as just putting it off. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like traffic. I don’t like rude people, and I don’t like long lines at the store checkout. So, I put it off until the last possible minute. Then I complain because the stores have sold out of all the good stuff. Maybe if I started in July, I could avoid this mess. But then I’d hide stuff and forget where it is until April.

As a comedian, I often lamented the fact that, when you ask a woman what she wants for Christmas, the reply is always, “I don’t really want anything.” Yeah. I only fell for that once. What that really means is, “I’m not about to let you off the hook that easy.” We’re supposed to pay attention and pick up on all the little hints she drops all through the year. Well, we’re also supposed to obey the speed limit.

Next month we’ll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, and I don’t know my wife any better today than I did way back then. I guess the difference is that she’s not afraid to shop. When she needs something, she gets it. And after one year where I tried buying her clothes, we came to a mutual agreement not to ever do that again. Some mistakes you only make once.

So, I’m left with trying to surprise her with something she doesn’t even know she wants. And that’s not easy to do, especially in an age of online shopping where the complete inventory of every store in the world is available at the click of a button. More than once, I’ve found that perfect unique gift, only to hear her say, “I saw this online!” Of course you did.

And then there’s the issue of using a debit card from our joint account for shopping. “What did you buy at Godiva Chocolates?” A circular saw and some wool socks. So much for that surprise. I finally got smart and started using a credit card of my own. Because, even if I take cash, that’s right there on the bank statement three seconds after I complete the transaction.

Yes, women and men are different, and that’s never more evident than this crazy season of holiday shopping. My wife always insisted that we had to have special wrapping paper for the gifts from Santa so the girls wouldn’t notice it was the same wrapping paper we used for one another. A boy wouldn’t notice. It’s paper. It’s red and green. Oh, and there are snowmen on it. Beautiful. Now dig in!

The difference is my wife always wanted to create the perfect Christmas for our daughters and now our grandchildren. I always figured my job was to fund it. Otherwise, stay out of the way. We used to shop together, but she found that shopping while the kids are in school was a lot easier. Now it’s mostly done online. We get deliveries from UPS, FedEx, and Amazon almost daily.

A couple of days ago, my wife was having some issues with high blood pressure and what felt like a racing heart. I told her she’s not allowed to die until after Christmas, because there are too many gifts to wrap and I don’t know who gets what. I’ve often said I’m as surprised as the kids are on Christmas morning. With a couple of exceptions, I have no real idea what any of them are getting.

Yet, somehow, we bring it all together and the day is pretty special every year. Because, it’s really not about the gifts and the lights and the retail frenzy. It’s about family. It’s about warm feet and warm hearts. It’s about spending the day with one another celebrating something bigger than we can truly comprehend. It’s about kindness, generosity, and those smiling little faces. It’s about hope.

So, as you go through the motions of putting the finishing touches on your holiday celebration, take a moment to remember what it’s really about. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or simply Wednesday, find the special meaning that day holds for you and enjoy it for what you want it to be. Because, long after the gifts are forgotten, the memories of what really matters will linger on.

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

Focus on Solutions and Give Hope Room to Grow

Good morning, and happy Hump Day! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

I looked at the weather this morning, and we’re in the single digits – 7 degrees. For those of you who live by the Celsius scale, that’s 14 below zero. For those who don’t need a thermometer to tell them whether they’re comfortable, it’s #&!@ing cold! One of the nice things about having the option to work from home is I don’t have to go outside and f-f-f-frrreeeze. I think I’ll stay here and stay warm.

Yesterday was a somber day here in Dayton. A 30-year veteran of the Police Department was laid to rest, having been killed in the line of duty during a drug raid last Monday. He survived on life support for three days as doctors made plans to harvest his organs to sustain life for others who would not have survived without them. In his final act, he gave the gift of life.

Just three months ago, our city awoke to the news that somebody had gone into a popular nightclub district and opened fire at random, killing nine people and injuring 27 more in less than thirty seconds. I won’t dive into the topic of rapid-fire assault rifles, but that’s something this nation certainly needs to address with common sense instead of soundbites and fears of a larger conspiracy.

When these things happen, we’re left to wonder what goes on in the mind of somebody who would do such things. It’s easy to blame violent movies, video games, upbringing, lack of religion, poverty, broken families, and the ills of society. But none of those things, by themselves, can explain the drastic change in somebody who was once an innocent child, singing nursery rhymes.

We all started out pretty much the same. Sure, there were differences in where we were born, our station in life, and how we were raised. And without a doubt, there are people raising kids today who shouldn’t be trusted with that responsibility. But even in those families, if you were to follow the kids through a day in kindergarten, you wouldn’t see any future killers. They’re all just children.

So, what makes one child grow up to become a doctor, another to serve their nation’s military, and another to open fire on innocent victims? What goes through a person’s mind in that instant when they do something they know will result in their own death or a lifetime of incarceration? Why is that one conscious decision worth the inevitable consequences? We may never know.

What we do know is that, short of a diagnosable mental illness, the one common denominator in these people is a lack of hope. Whether that’s due to drugs, environment, family life, or whatever, the lack of hope can make us act in ways that a person with even the most basic level of optimism would never consider. It’s the feeling that they have nothing to lose, and no reason to go on.

We all know people who live with the same feelings of despair. For some, it’s driven by financial concerns. For others, it may be related to health, relationships, education, family issues, their job, or even politics. We all deal with some of these issues at some level. If not, we’re just one stroke of bad luck away from it. We can’t escape heartache. It’s part of living. All we can do is try to manage it.

If you ever feel like the weight of the world is crashing down on you, take a step back and breathe. Assess the situation for what it truly is, not what it could be if everything that could possibly go wrong does. Write it down on a piece of paper. If you’re dealing with multiple issues, list them all. Then prioritize them in the order of what needs to be handled first.

Most times you’ll find that there are only one or two really urgent matters that need your immediate attention. The rest are what military experts refer to as collateral damage. An entire stack of bills can go away if you can correct the underlying problem of income. Don’t dwell on the symptoms – focus on the solution. In the moment that you identify a solution, you find the first glimmer of hope.

Fix what you can fix and let the rest take care of itself. Adversity is a part of life, and suffering adversity simply means you’re still living. And as long as you’re still living, there’s hope. Some things we can’t change, and in those cases,  we just have to adapt. But when we focus on the things we can change, the surrounding problems just don’t seem quite as big.

Hope begins with the realization that we’re not just here for the ride – we control the outcome. We’re only on this planet for a short time. Don’t get bogged down in despair. Today and every day, find hope. It’s right there inside you. All you have to do is give it room to grow.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

As Long As There’s Hope, The Dream is Still Alive

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a great start.

It’s hard to believe the weekend is here again. Or, depending on your perspective, it could seem like it took forever getting here. For myself, that feeling changes through the week, and sometimes even throughout the day. It just depends what kind of day I’m having. Can I get an amen?

We all have good days and we all have some pretty lousy days. Between the stress of work, bills to pay, errands to run, and chores stacking up, some days can try our very soul. Throw in kids testing our patience and the occasional (I hope) disagreement with our significant other, and sometimes it feels like we’ll never get back on top. Then along comes a good day to bring it all back into balance.

It would be nice if life worked that way but, for most of us, a good day here and there doesn’t really bring everything back into balance – it just makes it easier for us to endure those other days as we wait for another good one to come along. Or maybe even a few in a row. Wouldn’t that be something?

Hope is what gives us the strength to carry on through those tough days. Hope that we’ll get this project finished on time. Hope that we’ll mend our relationships. Hope that we’ll lose that extra weight or get through this current illness. If it weren’t for hope, there’d be no sense trying.

If you took a jar, filled it with fleas, and then put a glass cover on top, the fleas would try to escape. They’d jump up, bump into the glass, and fall back down. In time, they’d realize the cover was there and jump just short of it. At that point, you could remove the cover and the fleas would stay in the jar. They’d never jump out, because they’d never know they could. They’d just stay in that jar and die.

It’s the same with hope. If you thought you could never accomplish a goal, you wouldn’t even try. If you tried and failed enough times in a row, it would be easy to quit. And if you didn’t think all your effort would someday lead to a more enjoyable existence, you’d probably stop trying. Meanwhile, that glass cover may have been removed, allowing you to jump as high as you want. If only you knew.

Every night, my dog wants to get in bed with me. He doesn’t really want to sleep there – he just wants to snuggle for a few minutes. And before any of you “no dogs in the bed!” types get your feathers ruffled, it’s my dog and my bed. He gets a bath, and he’s never had a single flea. Besides, he’s not a pet – he’s a member of the family.

Anyway, every night he stands at the end of the bed and whines as he makes anywhere from three to ten false starts at the single jump that’ll put him where he wants to be. It’s like he’s looking up at that mattress, wondering how we keep raising it higher every night, and his little brain is saying, “I think I can, I think I can!” Finally, he works up the nerve and makes the jump. He does this every single night.

It’s cute, but it illustrates an important point. The goal is right where it was from the beginning. It hasn’t moved and it’s not like we’ve surrounded it with a moat and stone towers. It’s just as accessible every night as it was the night before. All that’s changed is an eight-year-old dog’s confidence in his ability to reach the top.

We’re not so different. We see a goal and decide it’s something we want. We reach out and it’s not quite close enough. So, we take a step or two and we’re still not there. Then something gets in our way and we have to deal with that. Then something else comes along, and something else after that. After a while, we don’t reach out quite as far, because we’re not quite sure we’ll ever get there.

But here’s the thing – the goal hasn’t moved. It’s still right there where it was. And, unless we’ve taken a step backward, we’re no further away than we were before. What stops us from reaching that goal isn’t the obstacles that pop up along the way – it’s simply our perception of those obstacles and the power we think they wield. It’s a lack of hope.

No matter what kind of day you’re having, your goals are still out there waiting to be achieved. They say it’s always darkest before the dawn. And when the sun finally comes up, you often find yourself even closer to your goal than you’d imagined. As long as you stay focused and never lose hope, you’ll get there. And just think how much better it’ll feel when you do!

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

What Will You Do After the Storm?

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

This was an incredibly productive and relaxing weekend, highlighted by my youngest granddaughter’s fifth birthday. It’s amazing how quickly they grow up. For a little girl who doesn’t like being the center of attention, she had an awesome day. Watching the kids run and play outside, none of us could have imagined how the day would end.

I went to sleep knowing there were thunderstorms looming from the northwest, but most of our weather comes in from the southwest, so I went to sleep thinking about the people north of us who would bear the brunt of it. Well, as it turned out, “north” was a lot closer than it seemed. By 11:00, I was awakened out of a sound sleep to spend the next hour hunkered down in the basement.

We were spared the worst of it, but early indications are that several tornadoes tore a path across several counties after most people had gone to sleep for the night. For many of those people, as the rest of us settled back into our beds once the storms had passed, they were left to wonder where their bed had gone, because it wasn’t where they last saw it.

We live in an area of the state that’s known for tornadoes. My own neighborhood, the very spot on which my house sits, was ground zero for one of the most destructive F5 tornadoes in history. That one leveled a large part of our town and took 33 lives in the process. There were injuries last night, and a lot of destruction. But thankfully, it appears everyone at least survived the storms.

But last night, we were among the lucky ones who were able to return to our own bed and call it a night. The closest confirmed tornado passed less than three miles to the north. As we counted our blessings and tried to unwind, images of unbelievable destruction were broadcast on the TV. And even as I went to bed, the storms were still wreaking havoc in counties to the east.

I can imagine a lot of those people enjoyed the day yesterday much as we did. Cookouts, family gatherings, kids playing in the sunshine, everybody just making the most of a beautiful day. I doubt anybody put their kids to bed after a long day spent even an instant thinking about having to wake them up and run for shelter in the middle of the night and whether they’d have a house by morning.

Life happens, whether we’re ready or not. Things can change in an instant, and none of us can ever be completely prepared for the reality we’ll face when the current storm is over. We’re not just talking about meteorological storms, but any of the things life can hurl our way to completely change what we thought the day may bring, and the pieces we’ll be left to pick up in its wake.

Storms come in the form of serious accidents. Sometimes they manifest themselves as health issues, a family crisis, or financial loss. This year has seen an unprecedented amount of flooding and storm damage across the U.S. that nobody could have imagined. And every day, families around the world deal with the loss of a loved one. You wonder sometimes how they can muster the strength to go on.

Some storms never fully pass. But even a hurricane has a spot of calm sunshine in the middle, a chance to survey the damage and get ready for what’s to come. And it’s in those brief moments that the human spirit begins to shine through. Disbelief turns to acceptance, and acceptance turns to determination. And in that moment, we begin to move away from the storm instead of waiting for the storm to move away from us.

I can look around my neighborhood today and it bears no resemblance to that awful day in 1974. Homes are standing, trees have grown to maturity, kids are playing, and birds are singing. That’s the cycle of life. Bad things will happen. We’ll face adversity, and some of the challenges will seem insurmountable. But it’s what we do to move forward after the storm that defines us.

Hopefully your day started off like any other, and hopefully that’s how it will end. We can never predict the challenges we’ll face, and most of them will be completely undeserved. But somewhere among those challenges we find blessings – a friendly smile, a warm meal, the laughter of a child, the love of a pet. And in focusing on those blessings, the challenges become more manageable.

You can never anticipate all the storms life will throw your way, and you can never be fully prepared for any of them. But in the way we handle life’s most insignificant challenges, we prepare ourselves to move forward from whatever life throws our way. Put a little positivity in the bank each day. You never know when you’ll need some.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved