The Art Of The Small Gesture!

The Art Of The Small Gesture!

Recently, I watched an interview being conducted with entrepreneur, Ken Langone, founder of Home Depot.  I was impressed with his unlikely rise to fame and fortune from a hard-working teenager digging ditches and collecting used cardboard, to becoming a highly regarded and upstanding businessman that often doesn’t fit the mold, so to speak, of conventional Wall Street executives.  I believe, however, that it’s his philosophy of life that ultimately set him on a course of true greatness…

While Mr. Langone has decidedly dedicated his life to grand scale gestures of philanthropy, which include awarding college scholarships to many dedicated store employees, overseeing afterschool programs for underprivileged youth in Harlem, New York and pledging funding to New York University for medical research and free tuition for medical students, he is just as diligent at pursuing smaller gestures of kindness, in fact, he attributes the many lessons learned in his youth for helping this simple notion become the main emphasis of his life.

Mastering The Art Of The Small Gesture!

I figured that the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day was a good time to work on the art of the small gesture–hopefully we’re already focused on wanting to show some thoughtful kindness to those we love, as well as those we meet that might need a little positive boost!  I certainly prefer heartfelt acts of kindness to chocolate and flowers…okay, I’ll take a little chocolate too!

It’s the little, everyday gestures that really matter! ♥  

After a particularly hectic shift at the hospital a few weeks ago, I walked into our home to see low flames burning in our fireplace, the carpet vacuumed and a simple, but lovely dinner prepared by my sweet hubby–obviously he’d heard the strain in my voice when we had talked briefly earlier in the day.  I couldn’t help but step back a moment and take in the scene before me and feel my stress ease.  Getting in the habit of learning to think outside our own needs to do some of the little things that we know will make others feel special is one of the best ways to make sure that small loving gestures are an everyday occurrence!  And if we’re on the receiving end of a small gesture…showing genuine appreciation is a small gesture that will not go unnoticed!

♥ Small gestures help us stay connected! ♥

As the world gets busier and more digital, small gestures become increasingly more important…the emails we don’t respond to, the texts we forget, the “likes” we don’t give, the comments we choose not to write.  We have no idea how much these would mean for those on the receiving end.  Small, thoughtful gestures help us stay connected in a world where we all long for acceptance and a sense of community.  So let’s send those thank you notes, look someone in the eye, give support and encouragement, and offer a helping hand when given the opportunity!

The small gesture of touch is powerful! ♥

Who doesn’t love the small gesture of touch?  Did you know that according to neurologist, Shekar Ramon, MD, human touch stimulates receptors under the skin which increase oxytocin levels in the brain and results in lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, which effectively reduces stress…and over time, lower blood pressure reduces a person’s risk of heart disease.  The power of a compassionate touch of a hand or a reassuring hug or pat on the back can literally take away our fears, soothe our anxieties and fill the emptiness of being lonely…ultimately leading to more happiness and joy!

  “I love the kind of hugs where you physically feel sadness leaving your body!” Charlie Brown, Peanuts” comic strip

Small, kind gestures give us strength!♥

There may be times when acquaintances, friends or loved ones have problems that we can’t help them with, but this is when I’ve found that thoughtful gestures seem to have the most impact.  We can’t necessarily make their problems go away, but our kindness can help give them the strength they need to get through whatever they’re facing.  By doing small things for others, we are more likely to create the kind of relationships that help us better weather the storms life can throw at us.

Lastly, I feel another important component in offering small gestures is to give them freely without expecting anything in return.  People may not take notice, much less return the kindnesses, but we can take heart in the fact that we are doing our part to create the kind of world we want to live in.

“Amid the chaos of everyday life, we need to be reassured that goodness exists; we should let it fill our souls, then do our part to pass it on.”  Tribute Journal 

I’d love to hear about any small gestures you’ve received that have made a big impact on your life!

–With love, Mary

Cinderella Days! Cultivating Children’s Talents!

Cinderella Days!  Cultivating Children’s Talents!

As adults, we recognize that finding out what we’re passionate about in life helps it become a lot more worthwhile and exhilarating.  I suppose it’s safe to say that our children want to discover what they love too…however, they may not always know how to fully express what they really enjoy or how they should go about cultivating their true interests.  That is when we as conscientious parents (and grandparents) can step in and assist and offer support!  When planning my special Cinderella Days with my grandkids, I try to keep this in mind by planning a variety of different activities that they can participate in so they’re exposed to a wide assortment of experiences they can enjoy and even excel at. 

“Talent cannot be taught…but it can be awakened.”  Wallace Stegner

I learned first hand with my own kids, that as parents we cannot make our children like something or truly embrace it if it’s something they really don’t want to do; for the most part, the desire and drive to achieve a talent must come from within them.  In fact, Dr. Gail Saltz, a clinical professor of psychiatry and her research team at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, conducted scientific EEG studies of the brain and found that, “only when a child identifies with others who have a specific talent, and he or she really believes that they could learn to excel at this skill, will their brain be stimulated and dopamine (a pleasure chemical) released, drawing them to want to take part in that particular activity.”    

Here then are a few things I’ve learned raising my own children and doing further research on the topic of cultivating children’s talents…        

• Love the Child You’ve Got!

We all have dreams for our kids, but obviously, every child is unique with their own unique interests, natural abilities and ambitions.  First and foremost, children need to know they are loved for who they are.  Don’t compare your child to the kid next door or even to their own siblings. 

“We should stop thinking of our children as bonsai trees that need to be carefully pruned, and begin thinking of them as wildflowers that will reveal their own unique and glorious beauty!”  Julie Lythcott

One of the best things we can do for our children is to let go of preconceived definitions of success and simply help them blaze their own trail to personal achievement.

While it may be easier, and a lot less messy, to bake on their own, I love how my son and daughter-in-law have embraced my sweet grandson, Elliot’s love of helping them in the kitchen.  His future wife will surely thank them too! 

My oldest granddaughters have shown me many times that they have a natural flair for party planning as they help me prepare fun activities for our family!  

• Explore the Possibilities!

It’s tempting to load our kids up with multiple classes and scheduled activities to see which one sticks, but I found that one of the best ways my children were able to discover what they loved was to have some downtime to develop a sense of wonder about the world around them.

I’ll admit, I loved raising my children in the day and age where “screen time” wasn’t part of our common vernacular.  I’m a firm believer that children often stumble upon things they enjoy doing when they are given time to go play and discover all the wonderful possibilities!  You just never know when those home-spun talent shows will lead to a role on Broadway or simply being in a school play later on in life.  And perhaps all those DIY go-carts will lead to a career in construction or just make them a very handy person to have around for all those little projects that will need to get done when they own a home. 

The creativity and ingenuity it takes to build a makeshift car caravan, complete with shade, should come in handy as a child discovers what they love to do.

 • Foster Growth!

In his book, Developing Talent In Young People, author, Benjamin Bloom, cites a five year study he conducted with 120 gifted children that found that though these youth had exceptional talents, they were also encouraged by parents and mentors who helped nurture their natural abilities, which in turn, boosted self-esteem and belief in their individual strengths.  Another important factor that fostered growth in a child’s particular area of interest was the parent’s ability to make sure early talent development was positive, fun and not pushed; parents who were engaged, but not overbearing and made practicing an enjoyable experience were key factors in seeing these youth excel–adults should kindly guide and inspire their drive!  Dr. Bloom cautions against parents spreading their children’s time and energy too thin.  He noted that children typically show exceptional talent in one or two areas only…not in everything!          

“Your talent can determine what you can do.  Your motivation can determine how much you are willing to do.  But your attitude will determine how well you really do it.”  Lou Holtz

I would also add that while praise and encouragement go a long way toward helping children develop their talents, I also think it’s good to know when to push them a little; complacency can have a powerful hold over someone learning to fulfill their potential!  We all know that seeking after anything worthwhile is often faced with overcoming some obstacles along the way.      

While dancing is her most cherished talent, I love that my granddaughter, Marli, has practiced hard to progress in her soccer skills too.  She’s definitely the most graceful runner on the field.  It’s fun to support this little energetic dynamo! 

• Be Their Biggest Cheerleaders!

I don’t think we can ever underestimate the power of being a child’s biggest fan and supporter.   Their interests in areas that they love and areas that come naturally to them will help them shine–especially when their most devoted cheerleaders are in the audience!    When children’s strengths are encouraged by others, one of the best things that comes of it is that children learn to be independent, responsible, (mom won’t always be there reminding them to practice) and most important, resilient individuals that understand that while they may not always win first place, they can celebrate the fact that those who love them most celebrate their best efforts!   

My daughter, Malia, has devoted countless hours to helping her oldest daughters in their desire to play the violin.  Makena took an interest in the violin when she was just four years old.  Marli followed suit after watching her older sister.  Practicing and performing take a lot of time, but we’re their biggest fans! 

• Expect the Unexpected!

Perhaps you have one dream in mind for your child and they have an entirely different one…and just when you think they’ve found the activity or talent that will give their life special meaning, they surprise you and replace the leotards and tutus for basketball shorts and high tops…or they maybe add something new to their repertoire that you didn’t even see coming!   It may not be easy to let go of one dream to see it replaced by another, but in the end, the only way children find their true passion is to pursue various activities that interest them and give them confidence and a sense of purpose.  

“Find a purpose in life so big that it will challenge every capacity you have to always be your very best!”  David O. McKay  

My two year-old granddaughter, Maylan, was not content to just sit in the lodge while her sister’s skied.  So my daughter and her husband took her request to heart and are teaching her to ski…she cries when they have to go home!!! 

Our oldest granddaughter, Makena, has such a fun personality, but is a little shy when it comes to performing in public.  So you can imagine our surprise when she told us that she was trying out for her school play.  She soon realized she loved acting while playing the part of a cavalier pirate in “Peter Pan”!  

In looking back on my life, I feel that one of my biggest accomplishments was working hard to be a good mom and teaching my children to become great parents themselves–which they are!  That definitely takes a certain degree of talent…and now I get to enjoy being a grandma!    

Any secrets you’ve discovered that help your children cultivate their talents?

–Love, Mary

 

The Best Advice…For A Happy New Year!

The Best Advice…For A Happy New Year!

A brand new year seems like the perfect time for the second edition of my “Best Advice” series that was so well received when I posted the first one clear back in August of last year.  Whether you’re one to make New Year resolutions or not, (you can read why I’m not here!) perhaps the sage advice shared here by some more of my lovely friends, wise mentors and gracious family members will be the perfect catalyst that helps you find your passion and embrace the opportunities you’re given so that 2019 proves to be the best year of your life!  At the very least, let’s all vow to do something we’ve always wanted to do but never took the time to do it until now!

A New Year is 365 days of opportunity!

Advice To Help Kick Off The New Year!

Anticipating the beginning of a new year is sure to ignite the age-old debate of “resolutions vs. goals”!  Aren’t they really one in the same, you ask?  Well, I define a resolution as a firm decision to do or not do something–and therein lies the dilemma for me…too often people vow to completely change a behavior on the first day of a new year like some magic motivational switch is flipped at 12:01 on January 1st.  Resolutions seem to be indicative of an “all or nothing” approach; failure seems guaranteed.  Whereas, I see goals as less ridged and more meaningful intentions, where the commitment and effort required is more realistic, resulting in the improvement of a person’s overall lifestyle with lasting, long-term effects, despite some inevitable hurdles and setbacks.

Resolutions vs. Goals.

“Dream big.  Start small.  Act now.  Robin Sharma

I like the insight and advice my good friend and long-time neighbor, Alison, gives on the subject of setting goals.  She and her husband are serving a mission for our church in Sacramento, California, where they oversee approximately 180 young missionaries ranging from 18-20 years of age.

I love the New Year as a time to refocus on new goals and ways to live my best life.  I have come to appreciate the importance of goals even more since we have been serving our mission.  I’ve seen how those young people we work with who make a habit of setting goals and understanding that they truly help them progress in life, are not only the most productive, but usually the happiest, as well.  Goals that make us stretch, even a little bit, help us become better versions of ourselves.  A favorite piece of advice I offer our ever evolving group of missionaries is:

“We are striving for progression not perfection.”

(Scott and Alison Hymas with missionaries in Sacramento, California)

I love my career as a NICU nurse, and I work with some incredible neonatologists who are not only wise in the medical care they offer the precious preemies on our unit, they are very intuitive about life in general, which makes sense when you think about it, since they often see first hand how truly fragile life can be!  On one occasion, I commented to one of these physician’s, Dr. Shannon Jenkins, how his ability to really listen to the concerns of anxious parents seemed to calm their anxieties and allow the hospital personnel to do their job more effectively.  His reply renewed my desire to make sure my patients (or in this case, the parents of my patients) are a strategic part of the care plan.  Dr. Jenkins said, “Learning to listen is the first step in formulating the best care plan for each patient beyond their immediate medical needs.  As knowledgeable as we’d like to think we are as doctor’s, you don’t advance in your career if you do all the talking!”  He went on to elaborate that by listening, he learned how to better involve the families so that they felt like they had viable roles in the care of their sick little ones, despite the fact that touch and other stimuli often has to be restricted.

“One of the sincerest forms of respect…is actually listening to what another person has to say.”  Bryant McGill

As a nurse I also have the privilege of mentoring many student nurses as they work through their rotations in the various areas of the hospital.  It’s wonderful to see my profession through fresh, eager eyes on occasion–and truth be told, I’m often the one who learns as much, if not more, from these future candidates of an amazing career path.  One such opportunity came last year when I worked with Lauren, a darling 2nd year student who proved to be wise beyond her years in her innate ability to care for our little patients with ease, while still paying attention to all the meticulous little details that are so important to maintain in a NICU unit.  Lauren recently graduated and received her hard sought Registered Nurse status, so of course, I had to ask her to share her best advice for surviving a rigorous nursing program and life in general.

Here’s Lauren’s 3 key points on what helps her live a happier life:

1.  I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I know I make many mistakes, most of them unintentionally, but I also know I don’t want to be defined by those mistakes.  I truly believe that if we can look for the best qualities in others, it will not only help us to be less critical, it will allow others to overcome their weaknesses and learn from their mistakes.

2.  I try to live by the quote in the book, “Girl Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis, (which I highly recommend) that says, “If you are unhappy, that’s on you.”  It’s such a good reminder that we should always take charge of our lives; what defines who we are and how we want to live!       

3.  We live in a world of instant gratification, where seemingly little effort is required to get ahead, but there’s just something to be said for putting in the hard work.  It sounds cliché, but the early mornings and long nights worked as you devote your life to reaching your goals really do build a special strength in character.  I always strive to have at least one aspiration, whether it be physical, mental or spiritual, that I work hard for every day, because when I accomplish it, there’s truly no better feeling…and it’s great incentive to achieve even more!  

With this great outlook, I’d say Lauren has a bright future ahead!

(Lauren Huff, 2018 Nursing Graduation at Weber State University) 

One of my favorite television news contributors is Ed Henry, Chief National Correspondent on the Fox News Station.  He seems to take pride in the delivery of news information without making it biased to his own personal views.  I recently became even more enamored with him when I read about an interview he did once where he was the one being questioned, and his wise response to being asked about how the general public could be better news consumers so they could make more informed decisions, politically and otherwise, came without hesitation.  He said,  “I’ve always felt that if people were even 10% more attentive to others and the world around them than they currently are, we’d be a much happier population.”  My interpretation of this sage advice is that if we are willing to take time to look outside ourselves more and serve one another to the best of our ability, we’d be able to better offer some of the basic kind gestures that are so necessary for all of us to really thrive in this life!

Ed Henry, Chief News Correspondent for Fox New

(Ed Henry via Fox News Channel)

Perhaps some of the best advice to heed for those of us who are hibernating to a certain degree during the wintry month of January, is to take advantage of this time to look around and truly ponder the beauty of this glorious world we live in…even when it’s adorned in snow drifts!

Snow drifts in Utah.

“Like the whole earth, we must rest and be quiet.”    Isaiah

And lastly, several years ago when I was going through some of my mom’s files, I came across an old newspaper clipping she had saved written by the late renown columnist, Ann Landers.  I love the witty way Ms. Lander’s had of putting common sense ideas into clever quips that always leave you nodding in agreement as you read them, while at the same time vowing to somehow implement every last tidbit of wisdom into your daily habits.  I still have the original article folded in the back of my personal journal so I can pull it out and reread it on occasion when I’m at odds with myself.  I’ve made a modified version of it for you to download and make a copy for when you’re feeling the need for a little positive reboot in your life!

Advice For A New Year by Ann Landers

Make a copy HERE.

Please share any sage advice that helped you when you needed it most in your life!    

Best wishes to you all for a blessed and happy new year!

–Mary