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Archive for the tag “compassion”

3 strategies making it through the holidays dealing with family

3 strategies making it through the holidays dealing with family 

Photo credit: Ralf Weiser

Family: Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Or can you? Holidays, birthdays, christenings, weddings, and other celebrations are one of the most stressful events. Why? Because this involves family and many a times we do not get along for a myriad of reasons.

I have two examples of that. The day of my bachelor’s party my closest relative managed to forget to rent the van that was supposed to take us to the event. In fact he also forgot to invite a lot of people. In the end the few people that were left did not need a van anymore and we just drove to the event in one car.

My wedding day was equally interesting. Coming from church and on the way to the reception the limo driver alerted my bride and I to the fact that the car behind us had suddenly stopped and was no longer following us. That was my dad-in-law who stopped there at the side of the road. Being a good fire cop, he had stopped at a site of a minor fender bender to direct traffic – in his tux. Parked right behind him was his 80 plus year old uncle in his tug boat size Caddy who did not know the way to the reception. We could not go on either and were stuck in our limo until the little accident scene had cleared up.

In hind sight, both events are actually rather funny. I did not think so at the time of the events. My wife was ready to shoot our close relatives to the moon. And that is also what I am writing about today: You may choose to not speak with them, or divorce them, but they will always be family. But how do you deal with the stress that we cause each other?

Part of the reason why the stress exists is because of the perceived or real expectations and assumptions. The other main component is candor, or the lack thereof, that is needed to keep any relationship genuinely and sincerely real. Often we do not say anything because we do not want to offend or burn future bridges.

There are three ways how you can choose to deal with this delicate situation:

  • Talk about it. Yes, that is correct. Open dialog, when done correctly, can easily prevent major long term damage to family relationships. Key is to have taken a deep breath and not do this while you are emotional. Also, doing this in a timely fashion is key to not letting things fester too long. Key to this is not to speak when you are angry. Give yourself some time to just think of the facts rather than allowing your feelings getting in your way.
  • Write about it. It is not necessarily my cup of tea, but writing a letter or e-mail (text?) can also help you get to resolving family issues. The advantage is that when you write about your challenge you typically reach a deeper understanding yourself.

Thinking it through and finding a way to convey your key points and perhaps a request takes a bit of prep work. That is also the disadvantage. The written word, no matter how well you think you captured it, is still the most misunderstood and misinterpreting thing on the planet.

  • Ignore it. Last but not least, you have the choice to blissfully ignore any of it. I know of people that are so good at mentally sweeping this old baggage under the rug that they cannot see the white elephant in the room even on the best of days. Do not sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. Even I can get that. There are times when this strategy does work. It is the small things that often get put under said rug. Problems arise when even a Dyson vacuum can no longer pick up the mess that got left behind there. What I mean is that eventually the smaller issues will accumulate and turn into a big enough issue that can no longer go on ignored. Now the situation may end up worse because the problem is too complex to unwind even with the best of intentions and open dialog.

Do not forget that family members are going to be there for you even when everyone else has abandoned you. Family ties run deep. Sometimes, you cannot ignore the issues that have piled up and you will need to choose between the three above mentioned strategies. Choose wisely, because your mental health relies on how you handle family challenges. Family is all you have got when bad goes to worth. Make every effort saving these relationships.



Gratitude – it’s not only for Thanksgiving

Gratitude – it’s not only for Thanksgiving 

Gratitude for the many things that you have been blessed with is one of those things that very few think about and even fewer do that regularly. If you want to life a long and rich life, being grateful plays a vital role in your mental and physical wellness.

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough”

I saw a statistic on TV recently that stated fewer than 3% of the U.S. population gets their minimum of physical activity per day. I venture saying that is most likely no different with the mental jogging part – how many times per week do you make room for meditation, self-reflection, or truly listening and collaborating with people who mean the most to you? There is not enough curiosity around and there is complacency and irritated folks surrounding us.

In the attached photo you can see the “1000 Thanksgivings” project at our local church from a while back. Everyone was to ponder what he / she is grateful for, write it down, and share it on the wall. On one hand you will really be taken aback by having to slow down your brain long enough to put your own ideas down. As you place your sticky note on the wall you notice all the other entries. In my particular case the things other people put down took my breath away, because face it, there are plenty of disasters and messes out there. You automatically feel better and most of all grateful for the “little” mess you are blessed with.

One cool mental exercise I can recommend to you is to write down what you were grateful for every night. You can do this mental stretch with your kids too. They learn a great routine that can last and benefit them for a long time. Gratitude determines how content you are with your life. It requires continuous reality checks that can be exhausting, and that is why life is a marathon; do not pretend it’s a sprint.


You never know how little it takes making someone’s day

You never know how little it takes making someone’s day 

In the above picture I am holding a convenience store coffee cup that I am sure just about all of you are familiar with. It cannot cost possible more than one Cent or two but to me it is a priceless item that makes me smile every morning that I have time getting myself another one. Sometimes you do not realize how a small gesture of yours can mean so much to the one receiving it, that you may end up getting much more back than you ever invested.

My mom used to visit us from Germany over the summer or the fall and she used to get a royal kick out of getting a coffee in such a paper cup. She giggled like a school girl when she noticed the travel lids that would allow you to travel without spilling the beverage and yet also allowed you to drink it without dribbling all over yourself. I had forgotten about this little cup up until in early 2005 just about a couple of months prior to her way to early death due to esophageal cancer. By that time she had been on chemo and radiation treatments and I had been slated to travel to Germany to visit her in the hospital again. She asked me if I could bring a coffee cup over so. She did not say for what reason, but I gladly complied.

My sister, her children, and I went to visit mom at the hospital right away. Once we got our initial “hellos” out of the way, we went to the cafeteria and that is where I handed her the little Wawa coffee cup. Mom was so overwhelmed with joy that she nearly hugged the stuffing out of me. I had a hard time keeping myself together, but from that moment I could never look at these cups the same way again: This thing meant the world to her as it reminded her of all the great times we had had in the States and for a brief moment in time her life was wonderful and whole again. In the end mom may have lost her battle with cancer back in June of 2005, but thanks to a little cup she is right there with me.

I would like to inspire you to grant small gestures wherever you can, whether they are solicited or your own idea. Make sure that you do not desire to get anything back in return and then just watch what happens. I can make more than just your day.


1 reason not to admire people who do not care what other people think about them

1 reason not to admire people who do not care what other people think about them 

Photo credit: Ralf Weiser, Captain Sig Hansen in Bethlehem PA 2014

Admit it, people who know what they are doing and don’t care what other people think of them are just cool. They typically know what they stand for and have a list of goals that they are busy pursuing – and they are successful doing that. Being good looking helps, but that is not necessarily a pre-requisite.

Take for instance the crew of the “Northwestern” from the TV reality show “Deadliest Catch”. Sig Hansen, his brother, and Jake (another crew member) were on tour back in 2014 and I got the chance to see them in Bethlehem PA. Their antics were instant classics. Sig for instance threw out the water bottles put in front of them by the stage crew. He replaced it with a beer he had brought on stage with him from his room. During the whole show they were exactly like they are on the show. Him and the others did not care the least that they had hundreds of guest right there with them.

So what makes them so different from us? Well, nothing at all. We all have the same potential as them. The only one difference is that they have not granted power to other people. Yeah, that’s right. That is the fine but most important difference. They strongly believe that power is given to but not possessed by others.

That is why we admire other people: they are true to themselves. Good news is that we can all start in a moment’s notice. This much for the good stuff, the nasty side of most people like this is that they do not consider the feeling and well being of others. In the example above they wreaked havoc on the hotel and the show’s crew during their stay. On and off show they hurt other people’s feelings to the left and right without much caring about it. While we love and admire them, there is always a part that we abhor.

Call to action is to stay true to yourself and leaving the not so nice antics to TV personalities.


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