Blog Post #539 Holiday Stress Breakers

Christmas and the Holidays can be stressful.

We have talked before about the holidays being stressful.  There is decorating to do, holiday cookies and baking to accomplish, parties to attend (and, that means, of course, picking out the right dress, getting your hair done, and being the prettiest at the ball).  

Forbes Magazine has these suggestions:

-1 Breathe!!  Sometimes we let the stress overwhelm us and we get caught up in the moment.  Take time to breathe. The article has this advice:

“Grace Smith, a hypnotherapist, teaches her clients to wear an elastic hairband around their wrist and when they start to feel triggered, gently pull back the elastic and let go. “This little snap brings us back into the present moment and is a reminder to breathe deeply before we speak or react,” according to Smith.”

-2 Acknowledge the feelings.  Yes, the holidays are to be festive times, but not all are in a festive mood.  Maybe you are depressed this time of year as you miss your parents, others that have been close to you over the years who have passed on.  Not all is light and happiness for all of us. Take some time to reflect and find yourself

-3 Ground yourself.  As the world spirals out-of-control, take time to smell those cookies or the pine scent on the Christmas tree.  Step up on your tiptoes a few times, swing your arms around you, (maybe even give yourself a small pinch). You are not Cinderella at the ball, you are yourself and need to keep a balance on your life.

-4 Although not in the Forbes article, many articles and blogs have suggested some exercise.  Put on your tennis shoes and take a walk. It does have to be fast, but clear your mind and body by letting some endorphins flow as you exercise.

Realize that the world is not depending on you to continue to rotate.  Realize that this too shall pass. In a month, the holidays will be passed, and life will be back to normal (and maybe even boring).  

So, what do you do to relieve stress during the holidays?


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Blog #538 Drones

Drones continue to advance

How about a technology break today.  

In terms of disasters, fires, earthquakes, devastating hurricanes and storms, rescuers have to find survivors.  But in many cases, it is dangerous to enter buildings that have undergone structural damage.

This article in Homeland Security Newswire states:

“Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying robot could look for people trapped inside and guide the rescue team towards them. But the drone would often have to enter the building through a crack in a wall, a partially open window, or through bars – something the typical size of a drone does not allow.”

The drones (with cameras reporting back) can be flown into tight spaces and search for humans caught in the debris.

This article adds a new feature – retractable arms that can fit through small spaces. Again, the article states: “Inspired by birds that fold their wings in mid-air to cross narrow passages, the new drone can squeeze itself to pass through gaps and then go back to its previous shape, all the while continuing to fly. And it can even hold and transport objects along the way.”

Maybe a child has crawled up into a sewage pipe, or fallen through an attic joist, a drone with retractable arms can be flown into the see the position and help rescuers determine the best approach for rescue.

Drones can be used for a lot of things these days.  Drones are used by real estate people to show off remote properties (especially acreages where walking or driving might take too long).  They can record videos for later showing or video that is seen immediately like in a rescue.

Obviously, drones can also do other police work, such as seeking out fugitives hiding out in the woods or when equipped with heat-seeking devices can tell if a person is hiding under a tarp (like in the Boston Marathon bombing of a few years back.  

Drones can be used in traffic analysis and control.  An accident that has backed up traffic for miles can be viewed fairly quickly by drones.  

I’m thinking of my friend and former student, Nate, with his family decorating company – a drone with arms and ‘hands’ can help put decorations in shopping malls faster than putting up ladders and having larger crews.

Larger drones have been used with firefighters on forest fires.  Without exposing a human being to the heat and updrafts of fires, drones can bring water and fire retardant materials to the scene.

And, now, drones can fold their arms/winds and fly into smaller spaces for rescues.

Technology does bring both good and evil.  

Where do you see drones in your future?  Will they be good or not?


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Blog Post #537 Finding your motivation

Lost your motivation?  Some ideas for you.

Success.Com has eleven ideas for those who have lost their motivation.  I’m highlighting five of them today.

-1 Be with those that bring out the best in you; not those who bring out the stress in you
Let’s face it, there are positive, happy people in the world and there are the negative, unhappy people.  It is just plain more fun being with the positive people. Find the people that you like and enjoy and join in!!

-5 The only one who can beat me – is me!!

I’m going to do a few blogs on being the best version of you for the New Year.  You CAN and SHOULD be the best version of you!! (After all, who is a better ‘you’ than ‘you’!!!  Keep improving, keeping moving forward. Look in the mirror – how can you be better physically? More exercise?  Less junk food? How can you be better personally? Read more? Be friendlier? Put a smile on your face, take the first step, introduce yourself,

-7 This is what you came for.  You get one life. Live it. Life is not a spectator sport.  I’m looking at the senior activities in my area for tonight. Let’s see if I can get Connie interested too!!  

-8 Action conquers fear.  Get going!!! Sitting on the sidelines, chewing your fingernails is not what life is like!!  GO!!! Check out events and things in your area. Put a smile on your face, take the first step, introduce yourself.  Strangers are friends that you haven’t met you – so go out and make friends!!

-9 Die with memories not regrets
George HW Bush recently passed away.  One remembrance I have of him is that he went skydiving at the age of 90!!!  He could have said, “Nope – I’m 90, not doing that” – but instead he jumps out of a perfectly good plane!!!  What memories can you be making? What regrets are you going to move away from?

Make some plans to get going!!!  Yeehaw!!!


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Blog Post #536 Sour Grapes

Blog Post #536 Sour Grapes

I remember reading Aesop’s Fables as a child.  One that is on my mind today is the story of the Fox and the Grapes.  

The fox walks by and sees grapes hanging above him. They look fully ripe, juicy and most likely very sweet and satisfying.  But, the vine is quite a ways above the fox. The fox jumps several times but never gets close enough to the grapes. He walks away muttering something like “They were probably sour anyway”.

There are going to be times in our lives when we really want something.  Maybe it is that promotion; maybe it is a great job that pays twice as much as what you are earning now; maybe it is the perfect dream house.  But, there are also times when we can’t get that thing we want. You might have been a finalist for the promotion but the company opted to promote somebody else.  That dream job went to somebody else. You put in your offer for that dream house only to have somebody put in a higher offer.

Losing is part of life – just like winning.  It happens, and sometimes it really hurts.

The fox justified not getting the grapes (aka “losing”) by saying the grapes were sour but most likely deep in his brain (and heart) he still wants them.  

We can justify our loses.  And, then we can refocus our goals and our efforts.  Maybe the fox could have enlisted the help of a squirrel to help pick the grapes and drop them down.  Maybe (since it is a fairy tale) he could have found a ladder to climb the tree/branch to get the grapes.  Maybe he could have planted grape seeds and grown his own grapes – although that would not satisfy him for quite a while.  

If we were passed over for a promotion, we can do an analysis – how could we be a better candidate.  Or why we were not selected. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances we can’t see. Maybe the company wanted somebody who could speak Spanish (although that was not in the position announcement), or maybe the company really wanted a female to balance their male/female ratios (although not in the position announcement) and all other things being equal opted for a female candidate over a male candidate.  

We need to pick ourselves up and go on.  

Maybe saying the grapes were sour can be a good excuse in the short term, but working on improving ourselves might be the option for the future.

How do you handle disappointments like not being able to get the grapes?  How do you recover?


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Blog Post #535 Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

From this article, we have “Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a type of recurrent major depressive disorder in which episodes of depression occur during the same season each year. This condition is sometimes called the “winter blues.”

The article also adds “Seasonal affective disorder is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. Another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild SAD. SAD is four times more common in women than in men.”

At this time of year leading up to the Winter Solstice, the hours of daylight decrease in the northern hemisphere.  If you live in Alaska or Northern Canada, you may be down to only a few hours of sunlight every day, and if you live above the Arctic Circle, you might have NO sunlight during the day.  Of course, that also changes in the summer, when those areas get sunlight almost 24 hours every day around June 21st, the Summer Solstice.

You might think of this as ‘cabin fever’ too.  

Symptoms might include:

-. Depressions

-. Sadness

-. Gaining weight

-. Loss of energy

-. Being always tired

-. Isolation from social activities


Some treatment options include the use of a sunlamp or a lightbox to bring some extra light.  Fairbanks Alaska gets about 3 hours of sunlight at this time of year – so feeling sun-deprived is part of the situation.


Other suggestions to overcome SAD include planning activities for the winter season.  Maybe you can take a vacation to Florida, or be a ‘snow bird’ to Arizona or Texas. Do physical activities.  Many studies suggest that getting exercise does help to brighten one’s attitude when you are depressed. Watch your mood and energy.  If you are having some of the symptoms from above, plan to get activity and plan to get more light into your life through a sun lamp or lightbox.

Know the symptoms and monitor yourself to keep yourself happy and to cut down on depression.

Do you get SAD?  Do you know of others that do?


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Blog Post #534 Special Gifts

Blog post #534 Gifts from your parents

I am thinking about the ‘unusual’ gifts I received from my parents – not really Christmas Presents or Birthday Presents – but just ‘gifts’.

From my parents I received:

-German lessons.  My family has a German (and other) heritage and in our community, there was a Saturday morning session for kids to learn to speak German. I have no idea what was the cost (plus it was across town and one of my parents had to drive me there).  There are a few things I remember. I was about 6th grade and loved to learn. This was a good learning experience for me. Thanks Mom and Dad!!

– Drama classes.  Likewise, about the same age (5th/6th/7th grade), my parents enrolled me in some drama classes.  I learned to act in plays and a bit about drama and plays. This also was a great experience. Thanks Mom and Dad!!

– Music.  My parents also enrolled me in piano lessons.  Fortunately, that was across the street so no driving to get there!!!  I wasn’t ever ‘great’ but did get some good experiences. Fourth years later, I enrolled (really audited) a one-credit piano class on campus.  Those music lessons helped my play tuba. I can still play some simple things on the piano. I even got to play at the Charles De Gaulle/Paris airport on our way home from our Rhine River Cruise as the airport had a piano sitting out with the sign, ‘feel free to play’.  My parents also signed me up for the children’s choir at Church so I could sing as well as play music. I experienced a love of music (and especially classical/romantic music) from that gift. Thanks Mom and Dad!!

– Scouts.  Although I never reached the Eagle Scout rank, I did learn some basic camping and other activities as a Boy Scout.  (And I did pass this on, as I was a Scoutmaster for a while and did encourage our son to be an Eagle Scout and our daughter to be an active Girl Scout).  Thanks Mom and Dad

– Reading.  My parents encouraged my sister and me to read.  I can remember from third grade as the teacher encouraged children to go to the library and she actually took children in her car to the big downtown library on Thursday nights.  On Thursday nights the shops and stores were open late, and I went with my parents to our candy shop and then walked to the library and met up with a few of my classmates. Thanks Mom and Dad (and teachers)

– Games.  While I had some spending money, I was allowed to buy Jigsaw puzzles for 29 cents at Woolworth.  I loved putting those jigsaw puzzles together. I’d like to think that gave me some spatial understanding and artistic appreciation.  We also played games at home. Thanks Mom and Dad.

– Spiritual gifts.  My parents took my sister and myself to Sunday School and Church every Sunday.  (Someplace I have pins for perfect attendance for ten years!!). Thanks Mom and Dad.

In many respects, these gifts from my parents were hard on them.  We were not flush with money (lower middle class), but these gifts kept on giving – and these gifts were really just “LOVE” in a different package.  

As we approach this gift-giving season, are you thinking about those longer lasting gifts of knowledge?  What can you give to your children, grandchildren that they will remember when they are 70 years old?


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Blog Post #533 Simplifying Christmas

Simplifying Christmas

As with the Griswald’s in Christmas Vacation, the Holidays can be stressful.  In that movie, Clark installs enough Christmas lights to take down the city’s power grid, plus many more ‘only in the movies’ scenarios.

The Holidays are hard on people who are alone.  Elvis sang “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you”.  I’ve heard of various churches having ‘Blue Christmas’ services – focusing on reaching out to those who are hurting.  Some of those churches have renamed this as “Longest Night” and hold this service on December 21st – the Winter Solstice (or … the day with the longest darkness in the northern hemisphere).

The article I selected today also gives some hints about simplifying the Holidays:

-1 Shopping for everyone.  Sure, it is nice to get a package to open from Uncle Jack and Aunt Barb, but the authors suggest gift cards (or cash).  For teenagers especially. You could buy them clothes that will never get worn, or give them the gift cards and they can use the money the way they want to.

-2 Be careful about the traditions.  You don’t have to have all the traditions every year.  Do you have two Christmas trees to set up? Maybe this year you can get away with only one tree – or (radical) no Christmas tree!!  You might not need to watch all the old Christmas movies – pick a few to watch and keep the others on hold for next year.

-3 Cut back on traditions.  Maybe there are some traditions that can be thrown away.  We simplified several years ago with an artificial tree. Yes, we don’t ‘waste’ a whole Saturday going to a tree farm, to find the ‘perfect’ tree.  Maybe you host some of your friends from work. You can cut that back a little too. You might even make it better – by doing something different like “This year, instead of having a Christmas Party, we are donating $$$ to the Salvation Army homeless project, or to Alzheimer’s research” or some other charity.  Taking the kids under 8 years old to see Santa might be good, but just try to get your teenagers to sit on Santa’s lap will be too much stress.

-4 Cut down on traveling.  Most younger families have two sets of parents and families.  Unless they live real close it is hard to do to both sets of families every year.  Or, split it up. For Thanksgiving, you can go to his parents and for Christmas, you can go to your parents.  

-5 How about the thoughtful gifts – cookies, breads, and even other homemade things.  Don’t overdo it though, or your December will be spent in the kitchen baking!! The author suggests to only make one or two types of cookies, not the two-hundred variety of cookies in Better Homes and Gardens’ Holiday edition.

-6 Watch your time.  Don’t commit to every event and invitation.  If you have a religious background, you don’t really have to go to all the services and events.  You can explain that you are just trying to get away from the stress of the season.

-7 Learn to say “NO”.  Be reasonable. Make it a season of love, not a season of stress.  

-8 Give back – to charities and others that you support.  Maybe you can even sign up for bell ringing for the Salvation Army’s red kettles.  

How about you?  Cutting back a little this year?  We are!!



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Blog Post #532 Zig Ziglar quotes

Let’s get motivated

I like the downhome humor and very astute comments from Zig Ziglar.  Zig died about 6 years ago, but his family is following in his footsteps.  Now, motivational speakers don’t come to South Dakota frequently. I remember that Zig came to Sioux Falls while I was teaching at Dakota State but I couldn’t get away from teaching and administrative responsibilities.

Here are a few (out of many) quotes that appeal to me today.

“The greatest source of happiness is the ability to be grateful at all times.”

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude.”

“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

“Success comes when opportunity meets preparation.”

Let me write a little about these terms:
The greatest source of happiness is the ability to grateful at ALL times.  

I Thessalonians 5:15-21 And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.  Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit,  do not despise prophesying,  but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.

The main concept here is to give thanks in all circumstances.  Did you notice the ‘all’ word? That doesn’t mean give thanks when I feel like it, or only give thanks on Sunday and at Thanksgiving.  You might be lost in the wrong side of town – give thanks; your spouse might be asking for a divorce – give thanks; you just got fired from your job – give thanks.  EVERYTHING! You had a heart attack – give thanks, your son was arrested for drugs – give thanks. And, of course, if things are going well, give thanks then as well.

Here is another quote: “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” How often are we only concerned about ourselves.  Guess what? Zig seems to indicate that helping other people is the way to get what you want.

I admit I would love to help people and organizations – but then there are the bad reports.  Charity X only spends 20% of their revenue on helping people. Other ‘charities’ sometimes only apply 5% of their income to their charity partners.    I really do want to give where my money is used wisely. In my limited analysis, I think that the Salvation Army does a great job of keeping overhead down.  Organizations do have to have paid staff, leadership at the top (CEO, President). I don’t know if it is beneficial to give a cash donation to the homeless on street corners with signs that say “No job, no money” – or indicate they are a veteran and thus you should give them money.  I will admit I have no idea of what I should do to street homeless people. Are they legitimate, or after they are done for the day do they walk a couple of blocks and climb into a late model car?

But, back to the Ziglar quote:  He admonished us to help other people get what they want.  I remember a story about Zig as he is going through a cafeteria line.  With each person, he gives a compliment: you are looking great today; I love your hairstyle; I really appreciate you; you always have a great smile!!!  In my retirement this fall, I have four people that I help – two first graders that I read with, a middle school boy who lives with his grandmother (and I think his parents are ‘gone’); and my Stephen care receiver that needs encouragement – and almost a shoulder to cry on. I could probably fill up my schedule as a volunteer.

And my last one for today: “Success comes when opportunity meets preparation.”
Yes, you need to be ready to run with it if a great opportunity arises.  

Homework!!!  (Yes homework – but I won’t collect it):

-Practice being grateful (and giving thanks) in everything

-Help others on their way (and it WILL come back to benefit you

-Be prepared – you never know what opportunities might just jump in front of you this week.

What do you think?


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Blog Post #531 Don’t hit your upper limit

My happiness is bounded!!

The author of this linked article talks of a day when she was just so happy.  It had been a great day. But, then she allowed the bubble of happiness to deflate.

In the article she comments:

“Suddenly, it dawned on me: I manufactured the stream of painful images because I was feeling good! Some part of me was afraid of enjoying positive energy for an extended period of time. When I reached the Upper Limit of how much positive feeling I could handle, I created a series of unpleasant thoughts to deflate myself. The thoughts I manufactured were guaranteed to make me return to a state I was more familiar with: not feeling so good.”

The author suggests we (all) have set limits on how much happiness we can handle.  If that is really the case, we are putting leg irons on us to slow us down.

The author goes on to name four barriers in our brains:

-1 We feel flawed.  Within our comfort zone, we are safe and stay small.  When we get to new heights in our lives (like being super happy), our brains (ego?) try to quell that happiness.   Another story the author tells of a man you was offered a great position, pay of 3 million and a two-year contract.  He blew it by thinking “I’m not worth 3 million dollars”. That limit in his brain kept him from this great job.

-2 Guilt, and disloyalty.   Some religious sects preach limiting our happiness and limiting our success.  Maybe it is an unspoken comment like “Look at your brothers and sisters. They are struggling and then look at yourself.  Why aren’t you sharing with them? You are guilty to your family and friends to be so overtly happy!

-3 The more successful (or happy) you are, you become a bigger burden on to others.  “Why should you be happy when your mother is in an Alzheimer’s wind in a senior health center?”

-4 The “Crime” of outshining.  I have seen this in my students (especially females) over the years.  They are great students and have a lot going for them, but, they don’t want to outshine others.  They want to lay low in the bushes, not rise to the top. They think they are not worthy of recognition.

The author wrote this: “For his birthday one year, his parents gave him a grand piano. He was seized with joy and gratitude. He hugged his parents and, with tears streaming down his face, sat down at the keyboard. As his fingers were about to touch the keys for the first time, his mother said, “We would never have been able to afford this if your sister hadn’t died.” Instantly, his joy became suffused with guilt and grief. A pattern was set in motion that would play out for the next 40 years.”

“Fortunately, Joseph was able to break free. He realized that the crime for which he’d been convicted — being alive and thus outshining his sister for all time — was a crime that existed only in his parents’ imagination. “

We sometimes say somebody is putting a guilt trip on us.  But, we don’t have to take it. Yes, you may have failed in something – but get up and go!!

My wife might give me a list of things to do while she is out.  When she gets home, she will

check to see if I accomplished them all, and if not, she ‘lovingly’ puts a guilt trip on me.

The author concluded with some negatives.  We tend to worry too much, and worry keeps us from reaching our limits and goals.  Likewise, we might have blame and criticism. I wasn’t my fault I didn’t get the promotion, it was that management likes <person-a> better than me.  


Do keep positive, don’t let that fear of failure come into our brain; keep guilt away (others have suggested that walking on exercising can introduce endorphins into your body and mind – that can chase away those fears and guilt.  Don’t be envious of what others have. Keep a good attitude in your mind.

And, don’t let limits keep you away from YOUR SUCCESS!!!




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Blog Post #530 Holiday Blues

Overcoming Holiday Blues

This time of year is frequently hard for many people.  Family traditions maybe have been broken by the death of a grandparent, divorce, separation, sickness, money and more.

In this article, CNN tells of an NYC woman who has to work on Christmas Eve, who doesn’t have the money to fly to visit her boyfriend or family. Again woman is experiencing the blues since she separated from her husband earlier this year.

But, the article suggests four survival tactics:

  1. Find social support.  Get out and do something.  Go to a Christmas/Holiday party.  Go to a ball game, a movie – with a friend or friends.  If you can’t get ‘home’ for the holidays, find somebody else in the same situation and do things together
  2. Get to the gym.  As you exercise, endorphins will help brighten your day and your attitude
  3. Limit your social media.  People post happy events on Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram).  You are sitting all by yourself – alone, and seeing picture after picture of families and friends having fun can really hurt you.  Call your friends, text your friends, but don’t look at friends having a happy time!!!
  4. Reframe your thinking.  Get out, volunteer. See if you can be a Salvation Army bellringer.  Help serve a community meal. Our church generally delivers turkey and more to low income and shut-ins this time of the year.

Don’t let the calendar bring you down.

And … on the flip side, if you know somebody from work or wherever that can’t get home for Christmas, invite them for dinner, invite them to go to church with you, invite them to watch college football games with you.  

I talked with a mental health counseling friend recently who said she was already booked up for most of December – mostly from the Holiday Blues.  Be a friend, invite friends – start some new traditions.

What do you think?


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