Holiday Happiness!

Holiday Happiness!

Expectations and stress seem to increase in the weeks leading up to Christmas day…we need to make the perfect meals, wear the perfect clothes, and of course, buy the perfect gifts!  While it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that holiday happiness lies in the art of celebrating it perfectly, I’m finally realizing that true happiness during the holidays comes from some surprising places that are wonderfully imperfect!  I truly believe that holiday happiness is as simple as reassessing our priorities so that we are not only happier this holiday season, but are better at spreading the joy too!

Christmas happiness.

Creating Holiday Happiness!

Some people may grumble and gripe about the holidays–too much family, too much food, too many obligations…but what if we concentrated more on creating special memories and making deeper connections with those we love and associate with, perhaps then, the holiday season would become more synonymous with true happiness for each of us!

♦  This time of year always reminds me of the year my father was diagnosed with leukemia in the early weeks of December nearly twenty years ago.  It gets me thinking about how impermanent life can be.  Holiday happiness can be as simple as realizing that we may not know for sure who will be around the table next year.

So let’s be sure to:

· Invite family over and savor their company.

· Find one thing to appreciate about every person we are with.

· Share a funny or poignant memory of a time you spent together.

· Allow them to do the same for you.

♦  Rather than be harried and impatient as we check off our holiday “To Do” list, let’s focus more on the goodness of others this time of year!  I loved that my mother always seemed to see something greater in me that I saw in myself.  If someone is seen as special and gifted in some capacity, they often rise to the occasion.  Why not treat people as we would want to be treated ourselves…we might be amazed by the responses.  This is a gift we can give others that will keep on giving all year long–perhaps even a lifetime!

Wayne Dyer quote.

♦  Building upon past successes is a sure way to bring about holiday happiness.  Understanding our strengths and how to leverage them is key to achieving more in less time with less work–and for me, that is the epitome of holiday happiness!  Santa doesn’t reinvent the wheel each year, he knows the things he does well and sticks with them!  Enjoy your holiday traditions, but have reasonable expectations of yourself and others…that’s not to say you can’t change things up a bit on occasion!

(My grandmother used to hang this same Norman Rockwell picture in the entryway of her home during the holidays.  As a child, I loved seeing how happy Santa seemed to be as he made something special for each boy and girl.  By sharing holiday happiness with others, we can truly capture the magical feeling of this season!)

Norman Rockwell Santa

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony!”  Mahatma Gandhi

♦  Keeping the right focus on this wonderful time of year helps us devote more of our time and energy to our faith, family and friends…after all, isn’t that what Christmas is really all about?  Do the things that you and your family love to do together during the holidays.  This season really can be a time of true happiness and fulfillment as we focus on the things that make it such a special one to celebrate!

Temple Square nativity.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and singing glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”    Luke 2:13-14

Christmas all year long.

May an abundance of happiness be yours during this special season! 

I’d love to know what Christmas traditions make you happiest. 

–With love, Mary

Social Media Savvy And Safety For All Generations!

Social Media Savvy And Safety!

Like it or not, our society is heavily impacted by social media.  While those of my generation may long to see our younger counterparts build the mainstay of their relationships from friendships formed at work, school or church…like we did back in the day…there’s a lot to be said for the positive aspects of the ever mounting popularity of cyberspace–as long as we continually educate ourselves on using it wisely, that is, and protecting ourselves against the negative effects it can have on our lives–no matter our age!

Social media balance.

“Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master!”  Christian Lange

I don’t think it is news to anyone that the world wide web is a place where a lot of information, chances for social interaction, and entertainment are easily found.  Technology has also revolutionized the workplace–where often showing up for work simply means grabbing your laptop off your bedside table and working from the comforts of your home.  Virtual entertainment has quickly become the “go-to” for anyone wanting to play games or watch videos.  Online instructions have also become a fairly reputable resource for a wide range of lessons from simple household DIY’s to classes in cross-fit training.  But all this aside…it still takes a certain amount of savvy to navigate the internet safely and balance it properly in our lives so we don’t let it waste valuable time.  Certainly, nothing should ever replace the meaningful impact of reaching out personally to sustain valuable relationships with those who make life so fulfilling and worthwhile!

Maxine computer cartoon.

Bridging The Computer Literacy Gap!

While it may be true that tech developers tend to mostly target the younger population with their campaign ads, current research from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is quick to point out that the older generation isn’t as apathetic or fearful of current computer trends as once believed.  In fact, they report that since 2009 there has been a steady rise in the number of people 65 years of age and older who regularly use email and Skype to communicate with family members, and nearly 70% now use social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to stay informed about job news and health information.  Many seniors are finding that they feel less isolated by being able to connect with the outside world via the internet.  Computer games have also been found to be very beneficial in improving the memories and sequencing abilities of elderly people.  I guess if you can’t beat ’em–you might as well join ’em…right?!
CS Lewis quote.

Insights From An Expert!

For further, more in-depth insight on this subject, I’ve turned to someone I consider an expert in the field of computers…in fact, my friend, Leslie, actually holds the title of School Technology Specialist in our local school district–not only is she a computer wizard extraordinaire, she currently oversees the internet use and safety of over 100 staff members and 1,500 students…so obviously she is very qualified to address this topic.  Leslie is quick to point out that despite your age and level of computer competency, there are certain internet rules and behaviors that apply across the board.

While Leslie admits that it may seem a bit intimidating to keep pace with the ever accelerating pace of all the innovative technology tools available to us, she maintains that social media is a force to be reckoned with and has become an integral part of our daily habits and the preferred means to communicate and share our lives with others.  “Used correctly, social media can be a great resource to uplift, inspire and improve someone’s day .”  

The Far Reaching Effect Of Social Media!   

In discussing the topic of social media, Leslie reminded me of the far reaching effect and positive influence that an online presence can afford each of us.

the-power-of-social-media-1-638

♦  Social media helps us engage with one another.  Sharing highlights of our lives can enhance and deepen our relationships with those who live far away.  Besides Facebook and Instagram, the more popular online forums for keeping in touch with family and friends, people also have the ability to set up a variety of private social media groups on every possible topic imaginable;  ie. virtual book clubs, current event discussion groups, neighborhood and school information boards, to name a few.

♦  Our internet participation has the power to educate and empower!  When using social media we might want to ask ourselves these questions:  “How can we use time spent on our devices to become more productive citizens?  How can we use social media to improve ourselves and our communities?   In contemplating these questions, we can’t help but come to realize that social media helps us better understand that we are global citizens, and we can learn to work together to solve world problems.

  Our online interactions give us a chance to encourage and uplift!  Social media tools give us the chance to stand for truth and goodness.  We can voice approval for causes and movements that uplift and edify.  Setting a positive example via the internet can help move the dialogue more towards decency and civility–which is so crucial in this day and age of seemingly endless negative online sparring.

♦  Social media has the power to amplify our voice on issues that affect our lives.  If we’re looking to expand and encourage the positive impact  of online interactions, we need to understand that the accounts that rise to the top and get the most exposure are the ones that get the most likes and shares.  We can help encourage goodness by supporting people who are using their social media outlets to encourage and inspire.
Have a voice online.

“Example, good or bad, has a powerful influence.”  George Washington

Social Media–A Cautionary Tale!

Leslie also admonishes that an important responsibility for each of us, as far as our online usage is concerned, is to continually educate ourselves and keep updated on the social, ethical and legal ramifications at stake as they relate to the ever evolving digital culture.

♦  Play it safe!  Remember that social media is a public domain, so as we maneuver our way along the internet information superhighway, protecting our personal information on the sites we use has become more important than ever before.  Most online platforms give you the option to share a great deal about yourself, however it doesn’t mean you need to fill them out.  Consider a general version of the information requested, for example…list only your state of residency rather than both city and state to make it harder for others to figure out exactly where you live.  Create strong passwords using a combination of words and numbers, upper and lowercase letters and specific characters that are easy for you to remember.  You might even want to keep a log of these passwords in a special journal that is not located by the devices you frequently use.  Another important factor to consider is the privacy settings on any social media outlet.  Take the time to explore these privacy guidelines and create a custom list of people who are allowed to view specific posts.

Being safe on the internet information freeway.

“Caution is the parent of safety.”   Proverb

Be aware that there are folks out there who are using social media for nefarious reasons, so be vigilant!  There are pieces of personal information that you should never, ever post.  These include your Social Security number, driver’s license, bank account information and your specific whereabouts.  Don’t make it easier for ill-meaning people to take advantage of you.

A few other cautionary safety points to take into consideration for all ages: block inappropriate websites, never talk to strangers, and beware of “free” offers…they can infect your computer with an online virus.  The best protection for online safety is having a decent internet security site that blocks unsafe links and checks every download for signs of malware.  (The computer specialist my husband employs suggests using a product like, Kaspersky Total Security or Spybot since they allow you the ability to monitor your whole network from your PC and adjust the security settings of each computer individually.)          

And finally, always log out from any device when you are finished using it–especially if it’s a public computer.  Log out of your private devices from time to time, as well, to ensure that other people can’t access your social profile to change personal settings or information, attack friends, or make slanderous comments to embarrass or harass you.  Sadly, this is more common than we’d like to realize in today’s society.

♦  Keep It Real!  No doubt about it, we live in a world that tends to tap into our competitive natures, which can lend itself to people wanting to embellish facts about themselves. When I was growing up, my parents often took the opportunity to say, “Remember who you are…and conduct yourself accordingly!”  This doesn’t mean that we can’t learn and grow as individuals in real life–and project that online, but conducting ourselves one way in person and another way on the internet just seems disingenuous.  Besides, people are smart and eventually they catch on…then like the popular Aesop’s fable about the boy that cried wolf, eventually no one will believe anything you say!  This doesn’t mean you have to share all your warts, (however, it can be somewhat cathartic on occasion if done in good taste) but like the old adage goes, honesty is always the best policy!  And while we’re at it, let’s be each other’s cyber cheerleaders, sharing the love, so to speak, when others achieve a goal or work hard to jump one of life’s hard hurdles…in my opinion, that is when the online community is at its best!
Be real quote.As social media consumers, we also need to be engaged and check sources of information we read online, identifying falsehoods and misinformation.  In a recent interview, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said, “Some social media tools are unwisely used to divide people and manipulate them–to get fake news out to people in broad numbers, wrongly influencing their thinking based on nothing but made-up conjectures.” 

Social Meial Savvy and Safety For All Generations!

♦  Follow the “Golden Rule” of cyberspace.  Good behavior should be taught in our homes, and this applies to computer use too.  Decide as a family what rules you want applied to computer and social media use.  As adults we should emulate the kind of online behavior we want our children to have.  Here is a good rule of thumb for everyone to incorporate in their everyday internet conduct:
The golden rules of cyberspace. (Check out more do’s and don’t to a positive social media experience here.)

My husband, who is not a social media kind of guy, always cautioned our kids with this advice:
Be careful what you say online quote.Obviously, there are times and places that are appropriate for being online…we show our level of maturity and consideration by knowing when it’s time to unplug and be “present” in our daily lives!  My dad lived by the motto “moderation in all things” and perhaps in these modern times, there’s no area where we should apply this mindset more than in our daily internet habits!

Internet savvy cartoon..

“A computer screen limits your real life experiences!   John le Carre

I like the wisdom Leslie shared as she concluded her email to me on the role social media should play in our lives…

“We are more than capable of giving our internet use the proper priority it should take in our lives to avoid the easy distraction it can become from family, relationships and obligations.  It is important to keep a realistic perspective about social media.  Why let it have the power to have a negative impact on the way we feel about ourselves and the wonderful lives we lead.  Yes, we see friends posting pictures of great trips, lovely families, and beautiful lifestyles, and it makes it look like they have amazing lives every minute of every day.  We often forget that they are posting their highlight reels!”  

Perfectly said, Leslie.  Thanks so much for sharing your expertise on this important subject with us!

What are some ways you’ve found that help you strike a good balance with social media use in your lives? 

–Love, Mary 

The Best Advice…A Compilation!

The Best Advice…A Compilation!

I’m always drawn to people who seem content in the ordinary and have a deep appreciation for life’s basic experiences; they find sincere pleasure in enjoying their day to day routines; they find satisfaction in simple friendships, creating something, helping those in need, reading a good book, a job well done, chuckling at the absurdities of life…..the list is endless.  One of the things I find exceptional about these wonderful people is their willingness to be open to advice that will help them know what they are capable of accomplishing so they can be successful in life.  We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, that’s just the nature of our lives, but I believe it is inherent in all of us to seek the best advice that will help us live our best lives!

The best advice...A Compilation!

“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge!”  Bertrand Russell

The Best Advice From Some Of The Best People I Know!

I guess it’s only fitting that I start with some advice that my cute hubby, who is a financial consultant by profession, finds particularly enlightening–I think he likes the play on words!

IMG_0190

My husband is also an avid reader and “old school” to the extent that he has absolutely no Social Media inclinations whatsoever, thus this sage advice seems to be his life’s mantra!
The Best Advice...A Compilation!I have a dear nurse friend, Carol, who I worked with for many years until her retirement last year…she is always so wise and kind–she makes you want to be a better person when you’re around her!  We recently planned a lunch date and I asked her what her secret was for living with such positive energy, without hesitation she replied,

“If you want to be happy…you have to be happy on purpose!”

Bloom where you are planted.

“When you wake up each morning–you can’t wait and see what kind of day you will have.  You have to be the one to decide what kind of day you will have.  THRIVE…in spite of your circumstances!”

Another fun friend, Kellee, who along with her neat husband, has raised four boys.  They often used these wise words to help their sons establish a good foundation for a strong work ethic!

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Along with busy school schedules and other jobs, Kellee’s boys run a lawn care business with their dad.  Many yards in our neighborhood and surrounding areas have benefitted from their expert skills.

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Kellee also tells her boys to be nice to everyone–you never know, she warns, who you may end up working for or who your neighbor will be when you move out and are on your own!  Good advice, Kellee!

When I married my husband, I also got a wonderful extended family in his parents and eight siblings.  Two of his sisters recently shared some advice with me that has helped them keep a happy perspective about life.

Serve others quote.

My sister-in-law, Colette, shared with me that the best advice she got was from her parents, who never really expressed it in words, per se, but rather by their example of never turning down the privilege to serve.  “My parents always accepted the opportunity to serve with valiant hearts.  They were kind, selfless ministers to others their whole lives and wonderful examples of Christ-like love!” 

Wendy is the youngest of my husband’s siblings, and she told me that when she was deep in the trenches of raising her young family and feeling torn between trying to keep her house clean and taking time to play with her kids and enjoy their “kid-ness” (aka–messes) a friend shared some great advice on how to do both and keep her sanity!  “My friend suggested cleaning one room a day.  When it’s done, let it go.  Cleaning house this way was so liberating!  I knew that each week every room was clean under the clutter my kids made.”   

Sidwalk art.

“May my children look back on this day and see a mom who had time to play.  There will be years for cleaning and cooking, but children can grow up quickly while we’re not looking!”   A Mother’s Prayer

The Best Advice...A Compilation!

Even though their kids are grown-up and on their own now, these cute ladies still have a lot of fun and are always young at heart!

I think we all know someone who has an insatiable appetite for discovering all the fun nuances about the world around them.  For me that person is my friend, Marilyn.  So of course, I just had to ask her what her best advice would be…and her answer was delightful!

Live Curious!”  

“Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has added spice to my life.” 

Marilyn goes on to explain that she was extremely shy as a child and teenager, but her avid sense of curiosity pushed her and led her into situations and places that have brought her a lot of joy and knowledge.  “Not holding back when I was curious about things or people I wanted to understand better has given me so many choice life experiences, new friends and wonderful talents.  Hopefully, unlike the cat, I’ll know when not to be too curious.”

Live Curious! The Millard House by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Marilyn took these pictures as she was peeking through the gate of the Millard House in Pasadena, California.  It’s one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous four-patterned block houses built in the 1920’s.  

No advice post would be complete without the wisdom my father shared often…and with everyone!

“What is almost as important as breathing?”

The Best Advice...A Compilation!

“Getting a good education!”

My dad was a brilliant educator who loved his profession; he truly believed that the key to being able to go out into the world and make a difference was getting a good education!

Following this same train of thought, a wonderful friend and teacher, Catherine, who wants kids to love learning, shared this beautiful insight…

“Kids are candles waiting to be lit, not buckets waiting to be filled.”

My mother’s wise advice was always the perfect mix between trying to inspire our family to do better and yet somehow find contentment along the way!

Faith quote.

“The secret of being happy is accepting where you are in life and making the most of every day”  Merle M. Jorgensen, my cute mom

And lastly, I’m offering this advice since as a nurse I’m often asked by friends and acquaintances who I’d recommend as a good doctor for their medical care.  Just like you’d expect, there are as many physician personalities as there are patients!

Robin Williams as Patch Adams.

(via “Patch Adams” with Robin Williams)

Some people want their doctor to have the funny, soft-hearted approach of a Patch Adams… 


William Hurt in the movie, "The Doctor".

(via “The Doctor” with William Hurt) 

…while others, my husband included, like a doctor with a straight forward, no fluff approach.

…so my advice is always to find a doctor who you feel is invested in your health and that you are comfortable in communicating your concerns!  Nothing should be compromised when it comes to your health and wellbeing!

(I’ve worked as a Maternity and NICU nurse for many years.  You can read some advice I offer on occasion to new parents and grandparents here.)

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this advice segment.  I’ve been so touched and humbled by the many responses I received on this topic that I’m going to make it a regular series on the journal.  We all benefit when others are willing to share with the universe the advice and wisdom that motivates them to live better–so be prepared to be inspired!

What tidbits of wisdom have helped you on your life’s journey, I know you have some, so please share it with us here!  

–Here’s to living our best lives!  Mary