All We Really Need We Carry in Our Hearts

 

January weather has been a trying month for many of us in Western Washington. To make things even more interesting the beginning of the snowstorm was the final move out weekend of a place I had lived for 11 years. It is amazing what you can accumulate when you live somewhere for a long time. I had been slowly moving my things out for several weeks with the intent of only having what I was going to sell left in the house.

Things were going okay until the snow. This of course affected the estate sale, leaving far more to find a home for than I had ever imagined! Amazingly, organizations hungry for donations braved the dangerous conditions elated to have so many things to further their missions. We could not have met our deadline had it not been for our wonderful friends and our cumulative networking. Networking isn’t just for business!

 We were still digging ourselves out of the snow when the ice storm hit, leaving us without power for three days and our back yard looking more like a battleground with all the fallen trees than a place of refuge. However, the hardest thing that happened that week was having to put down Tyla, my 15 ½ year old cat I raised from birth. She had not been doing well the past month yet we were delighted and hopeful when she seemed to rally upon arriving at her new home. For three days she was exploring everything, drinking water and even showing some interest in eating again. Then the power went out. She went downhill very fast and after two days I just could not see her suffer any longer. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is let go. But… letting go does not mean you stop loving or forget.

 We brought her home and buried her under the beautiful concrete cross that now hides under the shattered tree, where in the Spring lily’s will bloom. As we came inside, I looked at the boxes of my unpacked stuff. All the time to pack, move and preserve my special memories now seemed silly. I realized that so much of my stuff I have kept to stir memories; memories that have really always live in my heart. Our hearts have an infinite capacity to hold all the memories we wish to carry, good or bad. They go with us wherever we go, neatly packed and the good memories fill us with warmth on cold stormy days.

 I know many of you have gone through hard times both in your personal life and in your career. Sometimes we tend to hand on to “things” longer than we should. “Things” can be more than objects. What we tend to focus on tends to be what me produce. If you find yourself stewing (or steaming) about something that happened ask yourself, “what can I do to make it better”? Perhaps it is following the chain of command to resolve an issue, perhaps it is something you have no control over. Bad memories can literally eat your heart out. There is a line in a song, “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em”. Sometimes, in order to win the game you have to let a bad hand go.

 We can focus on the damage done by the storm, which we have no control over, or be grateful we survived. I look outside to the fallen trees and notice how much more sunshine they let in. It is beautiful. Our roots should run deep so when the wind blows it may bend or break a limb but not destroy us. New limbs will grow and now so will the grass!

Negative memories weight heavy on your heart and good memories make it float. As Valentine’s Day approaches, remember to fill your hearts with good thoughts and memories. While your hearts may be full, there is always room for more and so much easier to pack!

 Happy Valentine’s Day from this Hart to yours!

 

 

The Importance of Giving

Giving, Sue Z. Hart, Christmas,

"What to give..."

This time of year, most of us start thinking about what we can or cannot give to the important people in our lives. Some of us will spend weeks looking for the perfect gift. Some will just buy something because they feel obligated while others will make their presents adding a personal touch.

As the holidays approach, we also become inundated with request from organizations hoping to capitalize on our “giving” spirit.  Both my inbox and mailbox, which rarely sees a personal note anymore, is over-flowing with sad puppies shivering in a cage or disturbing pictures of starving people on a dirty street. Salvation Army bell ringers greet us at department stores, foster kids need coats and tots need   toys. All are worthy causes. Non-profit organizations know this is the time of year people are most likely to donate as they open their pocketbooks to buy for those they love they will hopefully remember to give to a worthy cause.

In the hustle and bustle of the season, have you thought about why we give? Mostly I think it is traditional to give for special occasions like birthdays, weddings and of course Christmas. Historically, gifts were given to advance another either professionally or personally by providing them with something they did not have or could not buy for themselves. It was also a sign of appreciation and value of another. While most of us continue to give with the historical motives, it is something we do without much thought as to “why” we give.

I might also argue that we give because it makes us feel good. I love it when I am shopping and find what I think will be the perfect gift. The anticipation of the receivers’ reaction continues to fill me with excitement until the moment they start to open the gift.  I watch with eagerness as they begin to reveal the gift I have so carefully wrapped, anticipating the happy surprise in their face. I love to see the joyful expressions a gift can bring. My grandchildren are at the age where just the joy of knowing there are gifts under the tree for them renders excitement. They love tearing into the presents to find what lay behind the brightly colored paper, and I would suspect a big part of their joy is watching all the adults laugh and rejoice with them. Kids are funny that way; they watch adults and learn from their reactions. When you really think about it, I guess we never really outgrow the desire for approval from others.

So why should we give to organizations? I believe we need to give to our community for the same reasons we give to others; to help them advance their work and show we value the work they do. I had a friend tell me once he always gave money to charity but it was not until he got involved in a charity that he really felt he made a difference. Yes, he still gave out of his pocket but once he got his hands dirty, he realized just how much the money he contributed helps.

Depending on what is happening in our lives we may or may not be able to give time or money, but we should always give. An organization cannot exist without its community. Give what you can. I guarantee that when you give, the receiver will light up like a three year old on Christmas morning. Honestly, isn’t it the joy of knowing you made a positive difference in someone’s day the real reason for giving?

Joy, Giving, Glee    Giving, Sue Z. Hart, Laughter, Joy

For Everything There is A Season

Thanksgiving... is about gratitude.

I feel fortunate to live in a climate where we get to experience the beauty of each season. Being a philosopher at heart I like to take time to reflect how the changes in our environment can cause us to reflect on our own lives.

As I look out my office window I can see a lawn covered with bright colored leaves. When we were very young, my mom would take us outside and show us the wonder of all the different colors and shapes, looking for the perfect one to take to class for show-n-tell. There was never just one for me. The details of the inner workings of the leaves are never more prevalent as they are in their last days.

Fall symbolizes the old making room for the new. In six months the same branches that are losing their foliage will begin anew, at least the ones who have survived the winter. Some trees may have lost branches in the fall storms or were broken with the weight of the snow… some won’t survive. Have you noticed that some years, when it has been an especially hard winter, these trees come back more beautiful and abundant then ever? And maybe it’s because we just have a better appreciation for them.

As it is in nature so it is in life. This has been a hard time for many. Layoffs and business closures have hit us hard. It is now when we see the inner workings of our companies the clearest. How are you doing? What would you have done differently to prepare for the hard winter of business we are in? Why not make those changes today? Spring will come for us. Now is the time we must trim our own branches to control the direction of our growth. We need to put into place the things that will make us stronger for the changing seasons.

Change is the only constant in life, so we must have deep roots and strong branches that bend in any storm. What are your greatest business assets? I hope you said your employees. If you treat them well, they will help you through any storm and help you grow to new heights. Value those who have stayed with you through the hard times and they will not leave when things begin to bloom again.

This same strategy applies to our personal life. Value the people in your life; let them know how important they are to you. Relationships are the most important part of our lives.

So when I look at leaves on the lawn, I don’t see the work that I need to do. I look at this task as an opportunity to spend time in joyful memories of my youth. It was my mom who gave me my wonder lust and in the raking of the leaves I revisit moments of time in my life where happiness bloomed.

As Thanksgiving approaches I hope you will spend some time reflecting on all the things you are grateful for. Living life with love, hope and gratitude will weatherize you in any season.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

 

 

 

Have You Found Your Music Within?

Hearing my own music.

Hearing my own music.

“Most people die with the music still in them.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Today as we remember and honor our American Veterans I wanted to share with you one of my favorite movies, “Music Within”. The movie is based on Richard Pimentel‘s remarkable true-life story and how he turned adversity into opportunity, (always one of my favorite story lines!). Richard had a difficult childhood and in a moment of haste, he joined the Army. One moment he was basking in superhero glory, the next he was legally deaf. The movie takes you on his horrific battle of the system and society’s unkindly treatment of Vietnam soldiers and the disabled. Along the way, Richard finds his true calling, to be the voice for people with disabilities and his fellow veterans. Heartwarming, funny and profound “Music Within” is sure to touch your heart!

Vietnam Veterans were not met with the same appreciation and honor that today’s soldiers receive. We cannot do anything to change what has passed but we must learn from it. I am happy the pendulum has swung back to honoring those who choose to serve our Country. Thank you to all our soldiers and their families who give, or have given, so generously of themselves.

Whether you are a Veteran or a civilian, I hope you will take the time to watch this extraordinary journey of an ordinary man who found his music within.

Please let me know how “Music Within” touches your heart. Do you know the tune your heart wants to sing?

The Green Thing

I did not write this but received it in an email and wanted to share it. This is more sarcastic then I like but perspective is a wonderful thing.

At the check out in the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

He was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

No matter our generation, we need to be mindful of how we live our lives and how it affects others. There are many advances I really like and would not want to give up, especially as I get older! Do you have a fun recycling or reuse tip to share?  

My Mom's solution to fun recycled transportation!

 

Lesson from Abstract Art

In a recent conversation with a colleague of mine, she asked if I had taken art in school. She stated that those who take art are more creative and can find solutions to a problem more quickly. Art teaches us to look at things differently. However, art like humor is personal and some art I just do not understand.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

Abstract art came to my mind. I have never been much of a fan of abstract art. My idea of “art” is something that captures the familiar and stirs my soul in some way. I like art that brings the beauty of nature to life. When Norman Rockwell captures the American family, I feel as though I am part of whatever message he is trying to convey. Whether it is his famous “Thanksgiving Dinner” or his “The Golden Rule”, I resonate with his art. Abstract art is not familiar even uncomfortable at times.In some way, our economy is like abstract art. It is forcing us to look at our businesses and the way we live our life in a new way. Many of the people I talk with are finding creative ways to cut cost and keep employees. Others are rediscovering time with their families. Sometimes we are forced in a direction we should have found on our own.

Visiting New York just days prior to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the most powerful campaign, I heard was “It’s not about 9/11; it’s about 9/12.” We are resilient. Compassion, love and acceptance lives in all of us.

I believe the recession is far from over. I also believe that the people Norman Rockwell captured so beautifully in his paintings will come through these times smarter, stronger and more united than ever.  I may never become a big fan of abstract art but moving forward I will look at it in a new light as I remember the conversation with my colleague and how it stirred my soul.

Do Unto Others

 

Volunteer ~ The life you save may be your own.

Anyone can volunteer

Everyone can volunteer

 

 

 

 

Volunteering is on my heart today as I work to write a letter designed to excite people to donate to ABILITY Corps; a new project I have the privilege of working with that will focus on giving people with disabilities the opportunity to volunteer.

Anyone who knows me knows I believe in volunteering.  I have done vast research on the benefits consistent volunteering has on a community as well as the staggering emotional and health benefits that result as we volunteer. However, my biggest credentials come from experiencing the benefits of dedicated volunteering.

When an accident forced me to sell my home, I found warmth in helping others get homes of their own through volunteering with my local Habitat for Humanity. When a disability made it hard to do the things I love to do, I looked for the things I could still do and helped myself regain a purpose through service. When death and betrayal made just breathing painful, I reached out to give again. I have learned that it is not until we become a part of something bigger than ourselves that we truly find our “self”. In giving to others my pain found relief.

I am disabled. You would not know it to look at me but I have limitations. Many people you see every day have hidden disabilities. Whether your disabilities are hidden or obvious, or you do not have a disability at all… we should all be able to give of ourselves. That is why I am so excited about being a part of ABILITY Corps and helping it grow.

When the accident left me with all the symptoms of MS and the doctors had told me to get my final papers in order, people pulled away at a time when I needed them most. They just did not know how to help me. I promised myself I would never forget what that felt like. I did not want a hand out; I just wanted to feel I had value…that I mattered.  Volunteering gives us the opportunity to be engaged in the world. It allows us to contribute, learn new skills or use the ones we have. It gives us purpose. It makes individuals and our community stronger.

People with disabilities should have the opportunity to volunteer too.  A population often seen as being “needy” can be of tremendous value. Shouldn’t we all be given the chance to help others and ourselves? Part of ABILITY Corps mission is to help break down the myths we have about disabilities and focus on an individual’s ABILITIES. Working side by side is a great way to understand our differences and dismiss our fears. When you are volunteering for a cause with someone, you already share a common passion.

Asking for donations has never been easy for me but when something so meaningful, with the opportunity to have such a profound effect on people’s lives presents itself, we have to figure out a way to openly talk about the impact money can make. The benefits outweigh the discomfort.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you. I would love to hear your thoughts on two things; how volunteering has affected your life and what inspires you to give your time and your money? I look forward to hearing your stories and your thoughts on the topics.

 

 

 

The Adventure Begins

My hope was to start this blog and blog everyday… that is still the goal for “someday” a little further down the road…. but for now I will work to post a blog once a week. This is really just a place for me to write my thoughts and hopefully inspire, encourage or simply entertain you. Lord knows I do enough (unintentionally) to amuse the people in my life.

I hope you will join me often in my wagon as I share my adventurous tales… there is always room in the wagon and I look forward to hearing your stories too!

Giggles and Hugs!

Thank you!

Thank you for being one of the first to view my blog. As you can see we are still under construction.  I am excited to start sharing life’s journeys with you!