Honor Thy Father

Father’s Day is fast approaching, so of course one could think that this blog is because of Father’s Day. While the thought of doing a blog on fathers was stimulated by the holiday, the points made within are not just for Father’s Day. We should honor our parents all the days of our life, and theirs.

Not having had a stable father in my life, this is not an easy blog to write. I now know, and have known for many years, that my legal father was not my biological father. I have known who my biological father was for twenty years, although he never acknowledged me as his child. That story is not the subject of this post, so enough about that for now. I am grateful to my half-sisters who have acknowledged me, and for DNA testing that answered that father question for me. Both my legal and biological fathers are deceased.

There are many references in the Bible about honoring one’s father and mother. “Honor Thy Father” does not have a qualifier attached to it. It does not say, “Honor Thy Father if he is a good father.” Some fathers are not good. We are to honor them anyway. But what does “to honor” them really mean?

The dictionary definition of honoring someone is “to treat them with respect and admiration.” We could carry this analysis further and ask, “what is respect and admiration?” But I do not think we need to do that. We know what this means in layman’s terms, don’t we?

The most important way we show someone respect and admiration is by spending time with them. That is why spending time with our father or father figure on one day of the year, Father’s Day, is an insufficient way to honor them, or even to celebrate them. They deserve more than that.

Sometimes the physical distance between us and our father makes it difficult to see him frequently. Regardless, we need to make him a priority. We should make the commitment to see him as frequently as possible and keep that commitment. Additionally, we need to call frequently, and that means at least once a week. Not text, call. I have a couple of friends who call their parents daily. That is admirable, and not something most are willing to do (note I did not say “are able to do. We are all able to, just don’t!)

I know that some reading this have had difficult relationships with their father. This brings to mind the abusive father writer Pat Conroy had, who he wrote about quite openly in his books. Thankfully, Pat Conroy and his father made peace before his father died. I hope the same is true for those reading this who need this example. “Making peace” does not negate the trauma or excuse it, but it does help the healing.

Perhaps this Father’s Day can be the beginning of a renewed commitment to spend time with, to care for, and to honor our fathers. While we still can.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers!

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Remaining Fresh

What keeps a business in business? Why do some retail establishments weather changes, and others not? What makes a business a destination that people flock to, even when one main aspect of the business is subpar? I found myself pondering this question on our family vacation this week to Hilton Head.  I may be left with more questions than answers, but questions are a good place to start. Asking the right questions gets us closer to answers.

I have three examples of this from our week in Hilton Head. I often focus on “threes.” It works for the Trinity, why not for other things?! My three examples are two restaurants, The Salty Dog Café and Skull Creek Boathouse, and a retail establishment, Fresh Produce.

The Salty Dog Café is a destination restaurant on the water within the Sea Pines development. To access the restaurant, one must pay to go onto Sea Pines property, presently $9 per vehicle, which is not reimbursable by the restaurant. One can consider it a tax levied for the privilege of accessing the property and eating at the restaurant.

Our family always goes to The Salty Dog, and always complains about the food. While we eat there, we do not really go for the food. We go for the experience. The experience of waiting in line one to two hours to eat outside on the water. The experience of spending lots of money on merchandise that advertises the product. Our family of 12 had an enjoyable time, and although The Salty Dog is a restaurant, the least enjoyable part of the experience was the food.

Skull Creek Boathouse is a restaurant that has some similarities to The Salty Dog Café, but the quality of the food is not one of them. The food at Skull Creek is excellent. The similarities are waiting in line at least two hours for the evening meal, eaten outside by the water when it isn’t raining. Valet parking is complementary, and there is no cost to access the property. While there is a company store, the merchandise at Skull Creek is a minor part of the experience. The beauty of the setting and the quality of the food are the best parts of the experience.     

Fresh Produce is a clothing and accessories store located at the beach end of the island. The name comes from a clothing and accessories line that went out of business several years ago, selling its assets to another company. While one can still find Fresh Produce merchandise in some locations such as Hilton Head, the failure of the Fresh Produce Company is sad to those of us who have loved the brand for many years.

I went into the Hilton Head Fresh Produce store to try to find a pair of shorts like the ones I had on. I wear these shorts so often that I am afraid they will eventually fall apart. While the store had some Fresh Produce merchandise, they did not have my shorts. The store clerk showed me another clothing line similar to Fresh Produce, but that line did not interest me. She said the store will eventually change the name of the store, once they have “gone through all of the many bags they have!” This conversation precipitated my thinking, “What keeps a business fresh?”

What creates a loyal customer following? What makes many people willing to spend hours waiting in line to eat subpar food? What makes one spend lots of money to wear a brand’s logo? What keeps a business fresh? What keeps a business in business?                 

First and foremost, a business remains strong when it creates a positive, memorable experience for its customers. An experience that keeps customers coming back even when all aspects of the experience are not what they should be.

Of course, a business must have capital, and strong financials. But these alone will not keep a business in business. What keeps a business in business is a loyal fan base, loyal fans that keep coming back. Like what The Salty Dog Café and Skull Creek Boathouse have created.

And Fresh Produce? I do not know. I just know that I regret its demise.

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Changing Again

June is in process, and that means that we are almost at the halfway point of 2021. This is a good time to take stock. Are you who you want to be? Are you where you want to be? If your answer to either or both of these questions is “no,” it is time to change something to get closer to who and where you want to be. If I am honest, and I want to be, I must answer these questions “no.”

Earlier this week I went back physically to WW, which used to be Weight Watchers, and still is for me, although the company has rebranded itself and no longer refers to itself as Weight Watchers. I was out of town, and decided it was time to return physically to WW. All through COVID I have been on WW through my app, recording my food intake daily. But I have not been to a physical meeting since WW started having them again. Although the group leader commended me for coming while away from home, I knew I needed to be there. Although I do not often attend the group meetings, I knew I needed to this time.

Although I have been recording my food intake daily, one of the main ways I stay on the plan, I have seen my weight creep up a few pounds in the past couple of months. I have not gained much weight, but more than is good for me. I can easily continue to gain if I don’t find a way to reverse this trend. I needed some inspiration to turn this around. And I received it. The meeting was about Change, just what I needed.

The group leader gave us a short quiz about our change identity. She said, “The way we think about ourselves related to change affects our ability to change, which is our change identity.” I was not surprised that I scored “Embraces Change.” That is one reason that I am slipping lately on WW. I am bored with the weight management process. Once I think about the fact that I embrace change, it makes sense that I am bored with the sameness of this. I must find a way to make this process new again. For it is a life-long process for me. I do not ever want to be overweight again.

So, what changes have I made that have resulted in weight gain, if only a few pounds? I am eating more sweets and bread, which I need to balance better. I will not be able to eliminate them completely, for I would not stay on any plan that required that. And I do not need to, I just need to be in better control of what and how much I am eating.

I have stopped my daily two-mile walk in the past month, due to bursitis in one of my hips. Well, the bursitis is here to stay with me, it seems, so I must find a way to get the same amount of exercise in without it hurting so much. I need the walking for my mental state as much as my physical state. I have also recently started physical therapy for the bursitis, months after it was recommended for my hip by my physician, and hopefully that will help.

Enough about me. How about you? What will you change to be who and where you want to be? We only have a little over six months to make these changes in 2021.

The hardest part of any change is getting started.

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Managing Our Frustrations

With effort, our behavior can be as calm as this ocean.

Things seem to take longer lately than they normally do. The “lately” part relates to since COVID. Now that many businesses are open again and many people are out and about, there are some definite challenges with service. You have probably noticed this also. This, coupled with the increased frustration level of many people, makes a frustrating situation dangerous. The Southwest Airlines flight attendant who lost two teeth in an altercation with a passenger a few days ago is only one example of frustration becoming dangerous. The apparent road rage incident that resulted in a six-year-old child being shot last week may be another example. Regardless of our frustrations or the actions of others, we must find healthy and humane ways to deal with our frustrations.

I was in a fast-food line last week, and it took much longer than acceptable for me to be served. When I got to the window to get my order, I politely asked why it had taken so long. Without even having to think about her answer, the staff person said, also politely, “We are slammed, and we do not have enough help.” That is all too common lately in many restaurants and other places of business. I hear some people lament, “People do not want to work. They can make more on unemployment than they can working.” That may or may not be true. But we need some solutions to help us manage the challenges that not having enough help creates, since more and more of us are going out and want to enjoy the experience.

Since I am often focused on change and helping others (as well as myself!) deal with change effectively, I wonder if any of my work with change can help with this. After all, this is a change. I recall a Three-Part Model for Effectiveness that I developed years ago, and I think it can help us deal with the changes creating increased frustration.

Part One of this model is Plan. Plan better than you think you need to. This includes planning that things will take more time than they normally do. If you have been to a Post Office lately, you know what I mean. Plan for traffic and construction delays. Plan for slower deliveries of most things. (Other than Amazon; how do they do it?) Leave earlier and expect that many things will take at least twenty-five percent longer to complete than they did in the past. Take something with you to read or work on while you are waiting. Make good use of the waiting time. Do whatever you need to so that your “hot buttons” are insulated. Eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Make sure you have enough time for reflection.

Part Two is Purge. This is getting rid of what is not important or essential, so that you have the energy you need to be at your best, on your best behavior. You most likely know that you are nicer and calmer when you are not rushed. We all are. So why do we back ourselves into a corner time wise, creating reactions that make us less than nice people? Often it is because we are trying to do too much. Some people take pride in multitasking, even when we really can’t do more than one thing at a time well. Yes, we can juggle, but we are not our best selves when doing so. Consider what you need to purge to be able to allow more time for what is important and essential. It may cost more to buy convenience food than to cook, but if it is affordable, it may be worth the time it saves us. Purging clutter and disorganization gives us more time because we are not spending excess time looking for displaced or lost items.

Part Three is Perform. This relates to doing the high-performance activities that will help us accomplish our goals. In some cases, things here are the opposite of the things in Purge. Also, Planning and Performing are closely aligned. For example, if we are organized, a key area in Perform, we do not allow clutter to take hold, or we have purged it. If we Perform, we Plan. But Planning without Performing is ineffective. Planning and Performing go hand in hand. Perform is about executing and doing so consistently.

This upcoming holiday weekend is likely to test us. There will be many people on the roads, so we can expect traffic delays. There will be many people in the grocery stores, so we can expect shopping will take longer than we want it to. Restaurants will probably be packed, so if we go out to eat, we should expect service delays. This is a good time to implement Plan, Purge, and Perform.

Let’s be on our best behavior and be nice.  

            

                

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Our (Almost) New Normal

The different phases of the sun rising seen from my window on my American Airlines flight this morning. A good metaphor for change.

When the CDC removed restrictions for indoor and outdoor gatherings for vaccinated people last week, and governors followed suit, a new normal began. We could almost hear an audible sign as many took off their masks and rejoined society at a different level for the first time in more than a year. While some businesses are still requiring masks and even more still requiring social distancing, the feelings of freedom are palpable.

This past year of COVID has been an amazing time in our lives. If it taught us a anything, it should have taught us that we individuals are not in control. At any given time, our lives can change on the dime. Just think about our recent and even current gas shortage. We could not have imagined that before we even get out of our COVID crisis, we would have another one to deal with, a gas shortage.

Both of these events, COVID and the gas shortage, limited our flexibility greatly. Whereas prior to COVID we could travel without restrictions, since March of 2020, we have been somewhat home bound. Although there is great variance in how the virus and the restrictions have affected us, most people around the world have had to forego many of their freedoms. In the U.S we are very fortunate by having sufficient vaccines, while many in other countries are not so fortunate. The recent changes of loosening up restrictions is more of a U.S. phenomena, not yet available to many others around the world. Our friends in Canada are a good example of an industrialized nation that is still virtually on lockdown from COVID.

From all of this, especially from COVID since it has been a longer lasting crisis, we learned, or should have, that stability and even predictability is an illusion. Just when we think life is rocking along normally, our normal changes. So, what is our (almost) new normal in the U.S.?

The best word that describes our current, and I propose future, reality is ambiguity. Ambiguity is the unknown. We are living in a time when ambiguity needs to not just be accepted, but embraced.  We need to have a high tolerance for ambiguity, releasing our need for predictability. If we don’t expect ambiguity and get better at embracing it, we will not thrive, we may not even survive. The stress of trying to hold on to what we know and want instead of accepting and embracing the unknown can destroy us.

How do we do this? What tips and tools can help us accept and even embrace ambiguity? I have three ideas for consideration.

First, we must know ourself. We need to be very clear about what we need to feel in control of ourselves, even, or especially, when things are out of our control. What centers us? What restores our calm when all around us is crumbling, when the ground under our feet is shaky? Our answers to this tell us what we have to have to weather these times. What are our needs? Needs are different from wants. Our needs are nonnegotiable; we have to have them met to get through tough times.

Another idea is to surround ourselves with people who bring light and love to us, and minimize or  eliminate those who have the opposite effect on us. People need people. Not all people need people to the same degree, but we all need the connection we feel from positive people in our lives. To deal effectively with ambiguity requires that we have those people who we need to be present for us.

My third idea for consideration during times of ambiguity is to have systems that help us manage our time, money, and other resources. Time of great ambiguity are not the times to spend with abandon. Nor or they the time to spend our time with less than worthwhile endeavors. This is the time to conserve, so we have sufficient resources including energy to meet the demands of this time.  

What are your needs? Are you clear about those? Are you able to get them met most of the time, especially during times of great ambiguity?

Who brings light and love into your life? Are you able to be with them enough, either physically or emotionally? Have you or can you rid yourself from energy depleting people?

Do you have systems in place that help you conserve resources? Are you able to rest, sleep well, eat healthy, exercise consistently? If not, your body may give out, and an unhealthy body cannot manage times of ambiguity. Are your finances in order? If not, what changes can you make to begin to correct that? Are there some activities or obligations that need to be replaced by time for rest and reflection?

A lot to think about. And even more to do something about.       

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The Customer is King

If we love our customers, they feel it. They also feel it if we don’t. 

Customer Service has always been a passion of mine. I do not know where it came from, but it has always been a part of me. Customer Service has been one of my main platforms in my Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching Leadership Development business since it started in 1993. Last weekend I got the opportunity to match my words with my actions.

A good message for customer service.

In addition to my main business, The Fralix Group, Inc., I have a small antiques and gifts business inside Northrop Mall in Southport. I have had this business since the early 1990’s. This is my fun side. Mike reminds me that it is more of a hobby than a business, which is absolutely true.

Last weekend I was at the mall, puttering around. While I do “work” two to three days a month there, as many dealers do, on this particular day I was not scheduled to work, although I was helping behind the counter when a couple came into the shop. The woman was so excited and started to tell us how this was her favorite shop, that she had been quarantined for over a year, and this was her first trip to a store. She was so excited that she was bubbling over!

A friend, Pat Hughes, has been giving these hand sanitizers (in different scents) to restaurant staff and friends for months. What a nice touch! 

Then a problem surfaced. Her male partner was not wearing a mask. The staff member in charge politely told him that he would need to put on a mask, to which he replied, “I do not have one. Do you have one I can have?” The staff member told him we had some for sale and pointed those out to him. He replied, “You mean I have to buy one?! You don’t have any for customers without them having to buy one?” He was told that we previously had some for $1, but those were all gone, and pointed the ones out that were for sale for $7.50 and $8.00. He was becoming increasingly more frustrated. The woman who accompanied him seemed to be somewhat oblivious to what was happening about the masks; she was shopping already, properly masked.

For whatever reason, and the only reason I know of is that I wanted to turn this negative situation around, I decided to intervene. I told the man, “I am going to give you a mask.” And I did. I gave him one of the $8 masks that I had for sale. Those masks were on consignment, which means they were someone else’s, not technically mine, but that did not matter to me. I was willing to pay for the $8 mask myself to turn this situation into a positive one. And it did just that. The man was appreciative and commenced to shop.

If we are kind, we probably are “others” oriented, and customer service comes naturally. 

About an hour later the couple checked out after having spent more than $1700! For an $8 mask. I am convinced that none of those sales would have happened if the customer had not been given the $8 mask. Maybe because of the principle of the matter. Maybe he really thought that the shop should have supplied him a mask. Maybe it was financial. It is possible that he did not have $8 to buy a mask. (How could this be, if they spent more than $1700?! She spent more than $1700! He spent nothing.) Or maybe for another reason. I did not know the man’s thinking. I did not really know the thinking of anyone else who was looking on to this situation, and there were several people around and aware. I only knew mine. I was very clear about my thinking. What was my thinking?

One way that Capital One in Georgetown serves its customers. 

I wanted to de-escalate the situation, and by giving the customer the mask, it did. I wanted the customer to know we heard him, that we cared about his dilemma. He saw that, and I think, felt it. He thanked me several times over the next hour while his female friend shopped. I did not want us (not just me, but the other staff and the mall as well,) to stand on principle, to be right, and in so doing, make the customer wrong. I wanted to solve this problem and have a satisfied customer. I do believe that all of that was accomplished. And this wasn’t about me. It was about the customer. The customer is King.

A customer service example from our recent trip to St. Maarten/St, Martin. The Medical Clinic in Marigot gave FREE Covid tests to any customer with a passport. The same tests were $75 pp at our resort and $100 pp at the airport.

This does not mean that the customer is always right. Far from it. Nor does it mean that the customer’s expectations are reasonable. They sometimes aren’t. What it does mean is that the customer is King. The customer can do without us. But we cannot do without the customer. If we forget this, and allow ourselves to focus on the customer’s responsibility (such as coming in with a mask, or having to buy one) instead of ours (solving the customer’s problems,) we do so at our own peril. The customer is King.  

None of the more than $1700 in sales went to me. In fact, solving this customer dilemma cost me $8.00, since I will pay the person whose mask made the sales possible.

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Two Years Today

 Our wonderful jeweler friends at Joe’s Jewelry in St. Maarten toasted us with an anniversary cake and champagne!

Today, May 7, 2021, is the second anniversary of my commitment to no longer drink alcohol. Wine had been my drink of choice, with an occasional Appletini, Lemon Drop Martini, or Caipirinha. When I stopped drinking, I was an almost daily drinker, especially enjoying my wine in the evenings. The reason I stopped drinking was two-fold. I knew that it was an unhealthy habit, and I thought it could even be an addiction. I knew that I was playing with fire with this, since my mother and other family members were alcoholics. The other reason was to lose weight.

When I stopped drinking alcohol, I did not think that I was making a forever decision. I did not have a particular time frame in mind for this decision. On that day, May 7, 2019, I just knew it was the right thing to do. I had planned to do this many times before but had not. I do not know what made this day different. To this day, I do not know why May 7 was the day I was able to make this commitment and had not been able to before. I have stopped trying to figure that out and am just thankful that I was finally able to make this commitment.

Simpson Bay in St. Maarten.

Stopping drinking has been, for the most part, much easier than I thought it would be. I have not needed any outside assistance, for which I am grateful. If I had needed outside assistance, such as AA, I think it would have been much harder. The fact that I haven’t does not make me any stronger. I think the stronger people are those who do access resources such as AA, helping others as well as themselves. They are braver and stronger than I am.

I go to most of the same places with many of the same people, and I drink iced tea or diet coke while others drink alcohol. Most people most of the time are supportive of my decision, not trying to coerce me to drink. I have alcohol in our home, and even buy it for others. Just because this is my plan does not mean it has to be anyone else’s.  Alcohol is not bad.  I do believe that alcohol consumption has gotten out of hand, and not just because of COVID. It can be a social activity and not a problem when done in moderation. I do not believe that daily alcohol consumption is moderate drinking.    

The best cappuccino I have ever had at L’Express in Marigot in St. Martin.

I have learned many lessons in these two years, about alcohol, myself, and the power of a commitment. I learned from this the power of taking one step, and letting the rest unfold. We do not have to be able to figure it all out at once. If we just trust ourselves, our higher power, and the process, we will be amazed at what we can do.

In the spirit of transparency and full disclosure, I want to share that I had two drinks recently, both last week while on vacation in St. Maarten.  They were both very small, and not any of my drinks of choice. Neither were planned, no one coerced me, and I made a quick decision in both cases to not obsess over the decision.

The first was a small glass of champagne given to me by our St. Maarten jeweler friends along with an anniversary cake. I considered not accepting the champagne but decided that might not be gracious. I had a momentary dilemma with this decision but felt ok about it once it was done. I did not accept the offer of a second glass. The second drink was a small glass of limoncello given at the end of our anniversary dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant the next night. I certainly did not “need” to accept that drink but did.   

I decided that just because I made those decisions does not change my commitment to not drink alcohol. Nor does that mean that I will have more temptations to drink while on vacation. I am ok with my decision to have those two drinks, and do not think those decisions have anything to do with changing my commitment to not drink alcohol. Yes, on those two occasions, I made a decision not consistent with my commitment, but my commitment is still solid.  

And this includes alcohol!

I know that for me starting to drink again can be a slippery slope. I do not think that I would be able to drink in moderation. I think it would become a daily habit for me again. I think in the back of my mind I had those two drinks last week as somewhat of a “test,” to see if I would go back to drinking again. If so, I passed that test. I have not been even tempted to do so since then.

There was one temptation that drinking those two drinks last week created. I initially did not want to share the truth about that. I considered not even mentioning them. No one but Mike would know, and he volunteered that he would not divulge that to anyone. But I knew.  And that would not meet my standard of honesty. My readers who have heard of this journey of mine and have been supportive in so many ways deserve better than such withholding.

When speaking and teaching on leadership and communication through the years I have often discussed honesty. I have posed the question, “Is withholding being honest?” I have received various answers to the question. The answer I have given is that if the withholding protects the other person, it may be appropriate. If the withholding is to protect oneself, it is usually not appropriate. In making my decision about this I had to remember Gandhi’s mantra, “You Must be the Change You Wish to See in the World.” 

We can often hide our behavior from others. But we cannot hide from ourselves.

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37 Years and Counting

Mike and I at our favorite Jewelry store in St. Maarten, celebrating our 37th anniversary!

Where do the years go? Most of us can attest to the saying, “The days pass slowly, but the years fly by.” This is certainly true of Mike’s and my marriage. April 28, 2021 was our 37th anniversary. When I think of this, as well as remember that I will be 70 years of age this November, I am amazed. And grateful.

Beloved brothers, Robby Kinney and Stephen Kinney.

Our anniversary will always be shared with the death of our son-in-law Stephen’s beloved brother, Robby. Robby passed away suddenly from heart disease on April 28, 2020 at the young age of 41. His widow, Candi, sons Bradlee and John Morgan, parents Jane and Steve, sister Ginger, and brother Stephen and their families’ lives will never be the same. I would be ungrateful for life if I complained about aging when Robby and many others lost their opportunity to age. Hold your loved ones tight, and never go to bed angry with others, for we never know when we have seen them for the last time.

A recent family photo that includes (not all) but many of our family. 

As I think about my life and our marriage, there is much for which to be grateful. In 1984 Mike and I combined our families and committed to raise our daughters together. The girls were 6 and 8 at the time and from our previous marriages. Mike and I knew that we were not just marrying each other, we were committing to building a home with and for our daughters.  Through the years we have recommitted to that, not by renewing our vows in a ceremony, but by every decision that we made to stay together. It has not always been easy, but we have not wavered in our commitment. Our commitment to each other and to our daughters carried us through some rough times. Now, we have not just daughters but grandchildren who keep us committed!

Mike and I are enroute home via the good graces and humanitarian efforts of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line after Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten.
Mike and I in St. Maarten 9/6/19. 
Mike and I returned to St Maarten for the one year anniversary of Hurricane Irma 9/6/18.

Marriage is a commitment, and one that should last.  As Mike and I, and also some reading this know, even with a commitment, a marriage does not always last. When a marriage ends, a family suffers. Regardless of the circumstances, marriages that dissolve have collateral damage that can last forever. Families suffer. Over time the disintegration of marriages and families affects the moral fabric of society. This is not said to induce guilt. It is said to reinforce commitment, the commitment that places the appropriate responsibility for the emotional health of children squarely on the shoulders of parents. It is important to note that in situations in which physical or emotional abuse is involved, it may be important to dissolve the marriage for the safety of those involved. In these situations, the commitment to the health and well- being of those involved takes priority over the commitment to the marriage.  

St. Maarten 9/4/15 
Flowers to greet our arrival in St. Maarten 8/24/16 sent by our favorite jewelry store salesman, Arun/Ron, of Joe’s Jewelry. Sept 2017 Ron and his family moved in with us to weather Hurricane Irma. 

Mike and I decided to celebrate our anniversary this year with a trip to St. Maarten. We have been travelling to St. Maarten for two weeks each year since 2000, with the exception of 2020, when COVID negated our trip. Some of the years our travel has included our children, other family, and friends. Some years, including this year, we have travelled alone. As I have reviewed photos from our travels to the island, I remember many good times, and an especially scary time due to Hurricane Irma in 2017. This mimics life in general, and marriage.

Some of the devastation in the Maho area of St. Maarten, 9/6/17.
St. Maarten 4/26/21

Many good times, and some scary times. Such is life. And marriage.        

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What is Really Important?

Uncle Barry and I enjoyed a dinner of salmon, asparagus, and parsleyed potatoes.

COVID has changed many people, me included. Some things that previously bothered me, no longer do. Well, that isn’t totally true. Some of those things still bother me, I just choose to let some of them go. I have decided to “not sweat the small stuff.” While it is difficult to sometimes differentiate what is small stuff and what is more important, there are some obvious things that fall into both categories.

As much as I cook and bake, I do not know how this could be my first apple pie, but I think it is. Uncle Barry was the presiding chef! 

I had a “small stuff” experience last night when I checked into a hotel that I have been staying in for one to two nights a week while visiting an elderly uncle who has been receiving treatment for cancer. The staff at the hotel have all been great, even recognizing me and calling me by name. Until last night, when the person behind the desk was terrible. He was slow, not seeming to know what he was doing. It was late, and he made check-in a difficult experience. His attitude was not good either. With customer service such a core value of mine, I wanted to complain about him this morning. But I didn’t. I decided to let it go. I do not want to be the one who could adversely impact someone’s livelihood, especially at the time of COVID and all of its challenges. I do not know if I made the right decision or not, but it felt right to me.

Uncle Barry at soon to be 91 years young.

Something much more important than occasional bad service at a hotel is my uncle’s condition. He is almost 91 years of age, and just finished six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation for bladder cancer. I do not know many people, or any, with his fortitude and stamina. While he does not feel good, sleeps a lot, and doesn’t have much energy, he never complains. Maybe because he is of the generation that did what needed to be done, without the drama some people express. The rest of us could learn a lesson or two from him.

How are you doing? Have you noticed any changes in your behavior as a result of the pandemic? Do you consciously choose to let the small stuff go, and focus on what is really important?   

  

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Beauty in Many Forms

I learned many years ago that I have a need for beauty. Not a want, but a need. I have recognized that when my life lacks beauty, I am out of sorts. Beauty is found in many tangible items. I love the beauty of things, such as furniture, accessories, and fabric. Beauty is also found in nature, and this time of the year in the south beauty is everywhere in the flowering trees and plants. Beauty is also found in order, and simplicity creates order. One definition of beauty is “a feature making things pleasurable to perceive.” These are the traditional definitions of beauty. 

Lately I have broadened my definition of beauty to include not just those examples, but also the behavior of people. I have spent time lately with an elderly uncle in various care settings, and I have found beauty in the behavior of caregivers, especially nurses. In one such experience yesterday, my heart was so full emotionally for the kindnesses of nurses, that I was almost brought to my knees in gratitude. Nurses truly are angels of mercy. 

Out for a delicious breakfast with Uncle Barry at First Watch, a favorite new restaurant.

I have also found beauty in the behavior of salespeople, as I have helped my uncle pick out and order carpet, and have it installed. I have also found beauty in the behavior of carpet installation staff as we dealt with an installation error that needed to be corrected. The importance of a positive and helpful attitude cannot be overrated.

These individuals and these experiences have broadened my definition of beauty, not beauty in the physical and traditional sense, but the beauty found in the attitudes and behavior of people we interface with every day in a variety of settings. The beauty of behavior that leaves a lasting positive impression long after the experience has passed.

Which has me asking myself the question, “Is my attitude and behavior reflective of beauty to others?” You might want to consider the same.

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