Happy Is Important – Here’s Why

Smiley LogsOne of my blogger girlfriends started a thread on social last week asking, “How important is it to be happy?” I immediately responded with a resounding “VERY!” Then I watched as others gave their answers. Some people said that contentment was more important than happiness, while others said that being happy was somewhere on their list, though not at the top.

March 20 was the “International Day of Happiness” so the topic seemed to be on everybody’s minds last week. It’s also been seeping into global consciousness for the last few years. From Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project (and the follow-up Happier at Home) to an article in Forbes a few weeks ago entitled Why the World Needs a Happiness Campaign to Live Better, it’s a hot media topic.

And of course, there’s Pherrel’s “Happy” video, which has been watched over 453 MILLION times. Yeah, I think we’re all seeking a little more happiness.

If you look at the definition of happiness, it covers an entire spectrum of positive emotions, including contentment, joy, cheerfulness and delight. I’d throw optimism in there, too, as when I’m feeling optimistic, I’m happy.

As someone who spent my early adulthood in a constant state of pessimistic angst – just ask my college roommates…no, it’s probably best not to – I got in on this trend decades ago. I wanted to be happy, dammit, but I didn’t know how. Years later – years filled with therapy, support groups and self-help books – and I can honestly say I spend 95% of my time being “happy.”

Why is it important to be happy? Because we’re only here for a short while and we might as well enjoy it. Because happy people are healthier and live longer. Because happy people are more fortunate. (Seriously, look it up – it’s true!) And because happy simply feels good. 

The general gunk and chaos of life can get in the way, though one of the advantages of being 50 is that I’m finally able to get back to a positive place quickly with my own unique set of happiness enhancers. I read material like Gretchen Rubin’s books and magazines like “The Intelligent Optimist.” I hang out with my family and my frogs, felines and canines. I surround myself with symbols of happiness like toys, hearts and peace signs. Fortunately, I’m usually able to turn things around pretty quickly. I KNOW – in my bones – that happy is important.

What about you? Is being happy important to you? What do you find makes you feel happy? 

 

Watching Out for Hidden Vipers

viperShe was a viper with a charming persona and a great big smile. And somehow I had no idea that she saw a target on my back.

I had been let go from a job I’d held for eleven years, due to “financial reasons.” (I actually believe that the decision was based on my political leanings, though that’s another blog post.) Within a few weeks, I’d been hired by the competitor and was feeling rather fortunate that I would be able to continue to support my family.

A few weeks after starting the new job, I was surprised to have my coworker, who also held a VP title, strike out at me about a client inquiry. We were a primary vendor for a few large corporations, which meant that our video materials were sometimes requested by the companies’ ad agencies to support their projects. I had gotten a call from a video producer that needed some video clips. “I called and left a message for (snake lady) yesterday, though no one has called me back.”

I went into (snake lady)’s office to see if she could help assist me with getting the needed materials together. “She said she’d left you a message,” I told her. “Did you get it?” As a newbie to the company, I was worried that perhaps messages were getting lost.

“I am very busy and I return client calls within 24 hours,” she snapped. (24 hours? In the video business, things move a whole lot quicker than that. A 2 hour turnaround on phone calls is considered TOOOO long.)

“Got it,” I told her. “If you need help, please feel free to pass those calls along to me. I’m always happy to take those kinds of things off your hands.”

She smiled her great big smile and brought out her insta-charm, which was magnetic and particularly appealing to the guys. “Thank you,” she beamed, before she filled me in on what I needed to do to meet the request.

Over time, there were several occasions like this one. I’d do something, she’d get angry and snipe at me. I’d fumble through it and we’d get things managed. I talked to the president and the owner of the company and asked if we could talk it over in a meeting. “Oh, no,” they’d respond. “Leave it alone. You’ll start World War III.”

Seriously? I was flummoxed. Why would this VP level staff member be allowed to act in any way she wanted, with impunity. Was it because she was prone to walk out of meetings in anger if things didn’t go her way? Or her magnetic charm, which she could turn on and off in seconds?

I began to understand that she wasn’t happy to have another strong woman on what she perceived as her turf. She’d been with the company for several years and I discovered that any other woman who held a position similar to mine had either quit or been fired within a year or so.

It wasn’t until several months later, as the relationship between us continued to deteriorate, that I found out she made fun of me to other people and complained to the owner about perceived weaknesses she thought I possessed. (And, yes, her complaints worked. The owner’s confidence in my abilities waned.) Within nine months of my hiring, I resigned, leaving that day.

“I thought you were a fighter,” the president of the company said, when I told him of my decision. “No, you misread me. I don’t like to fight. I like to collaborate,” I replied. I drove home crying tears of joy.

What was the key to snake lady’s success at this company? She was able to turn from full-on bitch mode to charming, magnetic warmth in seconds flat. It was truly amazing to watch. (Plus, she had an uncomfortably close relationship with the company owner, but again, that’s another blog post.)

What about you? Have you ever encountered a hidden viper? What happened?

photo credit: static416 via photopin cc

Pain Reliever Risks: Just Because It’s OTC Doesn’t Mean It’s Innocuous

I wrote this sponsored post as part of a campaign by BOOMboxNetwork.com, on behalf of the American Gastroentrological Association (AGA). I received payment for my participation. The story and the opinions are 100% mine. The facts were provided by the caring people at the AGA. 

At 5 weeks old, my son, my first and only baby, had to have surgery to correct a minor medical condition. He would be put under anesthesia and they would be cutting into his body. Sure, the doctors said it was “minor.” The surgeon did a hundred or more of these surgeries every year. “It’s really no big deal,” the nurses said. “He’ll be back to himself the next morning.”

Yes, it was minor TO THEM. To me, they were operating on my baby! To me, he seemed so incredibly delicate. In spite of the fact that he was a hearty eater, round and strong, I was extremely careful with him, as I felt like he might break. He was my first child and it took me a while to really understand that children are a whole lot stronger than they look when they first arrive on the planet. (That happened when I tripped over our Labrador and we both landed on the floor, but that’s another blog post.)

We took him to the hospital at 6am. The surgical area was designed for adults, so my son seemed even smaller and more fragile. Ninety minutes or so later and we were on our way home with written instructions to give him Infant Tylenol®  for the next few days, every 6 hours. Of course, I was worried about his pain level. He just got here for God’s sakes and we’re already cutting into him and causing him pain.

Fortunately, I’m into knowing the details about my son’s care, so I checked the label. Hmmm…it listed a maximum dosage of less than I would be giving him if I followed the hospital’s instructions. Yikes. I called the pharmacist at our local drugstore and decided to follow the dosing instructions on the bottle, instead of the hospital’s orders.

Had I been taking this pain reliever myself, I know I would have been less careful in taking them. After all, they sell them at the grocery store. They’re over-the-counter (OTC) so they’ve got to be safe, right?

After putting my son to bed that evening, I went online and did a little digging on Infant Tylenol and discovered the dangers of overdosing. Yikes. Common OTC pain killer medicines aren’t as safe as some of us may assume. When used in excessive doses or in combination, the dangers include liver damage, stomach ulcers and other gastro health problems.

I learned three really important things that day:

It’s important to read and follow label and dosing instructions on any and all pain relievers.

Aches and Pains GraphicIt’s an excellent safety precaution to double-check with a professional before assuming that because a pain reliever is sold OTC at the corner store it’s “harmless.”

Now that I’m in my 50s – and my son is 15 – I’ve had some chronic pain that means I’m taking more pain relievers, either Acetaminophen or NSAIDs. Do I pay close attention to ensuring that I take a safe dosage? Sometimes. Other times, I’m running around with my hair on fire and grabbing something out of the medicine cabinet as I head out the door.

The American Gastroentrological Association (AGA) is committed to getting the word out about the importance of being mindful of our pain relief medications. If you’re taking them, pay attention to the instructions, avoid doubling up on more than one, and talk to a health care professional if you have any questions at all.

I’ll add this one to the list of bad habits I’m getting rid of – no more grabbing a few OTC pain pills without giving serious thought to the safety of doing so.

For more information, check out the AGA website here - Gut Check: Know Your Medicine - or this infographic:

Gut Check Infographic

Why Do We Imprison Our Mentally Ill?

medium_3109692508I read a story in the news the other day that was truly tragic. A young doctor, who had been plagued with mental health issues, has disappeared from a highway in Michigan. Gone without a trace.

Her family knew she was having some issues. She tweeted crazy things and had aggressively pursued the affections of a minister who wasn’t remotely interested, until he got a restraining order. She heard voices that told her to do things that weren’t safe or healthy. Her parents and her ex-husband tried to get help for her, though unfortunately, in our culture, mental health care in extreme cases like this isn’t compulsory. Her family and her ex-husband should have been able to press for care. A few months have gone by, and unfortunately, it’s likely that she’s living on the streets somewhere warm, in a paranoid and delusional state. Here’s hoping she surfaces before something horrible happens.

It brought to mind an old friend of mine from high school. We were very close throughout our 20s. Karin struggled with bipolar condition, which became activated when she was 29. I was present for her slow breakdown, watching her behave strangely. She became extremely angry because I “knew that she was the Virgin Mary” and didn’t tell her the news. Watching a close friend’s mental capacities decline was horrific.

I watched her family try – over and over again – to get her the help she needed. They’d have her committed after she did something dangerous, then once she was in the hospital, she’d get on medication and get released. A few weeks would go by, she’d feel better and  she’d stop taking it. The cycle repeated over and over. She became dangerous, as her mind’s crazy fantasies sometimes involved fighting with others over what she knew to be true. I was forced to let the friendship go for my own safety.

Fast forward twenty years and she attempted to friend me on Facebook a few months ago. Knowing that reconnecting might be risky, I ignored the request, though her profile was public and I helplessly watched her go through another breakdown on social media. She believed she was God and for days, she would post non-sensical posts about her career as a movie star and “beauty queen” whose relationships with Steven Spielberg and John Travolta had led to a movie being made about her high school class.

After a few weeks, she disappeared and her mug shot showed up online. In the photo, the terror in her eyes is palpable. It’s obvious that she’s frightened and, most likely, delusional. A search revealed that she’s in Florida and has been arrested several times over the last few years.

We’ve created a system wherein our mentally ill citizens don’t get the treatment they need. Families are helpless. Mental health care for extreme cases is insufficient and hardly covered by insurance. Our mentally ill citizens become homeless and end up in jail. Why does this happen and how can we change it? I wish I had even an inkling of an answer.

photo credit: Kevin Eddy via photopin cc

Sometimes You Have to Ask Someone Else to Hold Up the Mirror for You

medium_81941217Sometimes, when you’re working on personal growth, it helps to get the perspective of others who love you. As I work through the One Pinky Body Mastery Course, there are points during the program where you ask others to hold up a mirror for you. What do they see in you that causes them to love you? Hearing the words from someone that you love and respect can help you get a stronger perspective and appreciation for who you are.

I’m extremely fortunate that I have a very loving husband and some close women friends who prop me up when I’m feeling like I’m less than I’d like to be.

My co-author in the customer service book Who’s Your Gladys?, Marilyn Suttle, is a longtime MasterMinds partner and one of my dearest friends. I always tell people that we “had to agree on 72,000 words and if you can do that and stay friends, you can do anything.”

She sent me an incredible email on New Year’s Eve this year, which made me cry over my first morning cup of coffee. With the subject line “My Top 10 List,” it read:

1. You dive into new territory with positive determination and make things happen. It was HUGE that you fearlessly took our WYG book and converted it into a paperback on Amazon. You made it look effortless. That is one of your many gifts – to dive into new areas and make things happen.
2. Your compassion is of the highest vibration. You really walk your talk – every Gladys in the world can find their way into your heart. You really nailed it when you defined the “tolerance / compassion” shift.
3. You’re freakin’ smart. Your brain works incredibliy fast, and your creativity is off the charts. Whether you’re putting toghether a business proposal, taking on the Organic Monday morning warmups, or picking out mastermind Christmas gifts, you have a brilliance to the choices you make and the way you execute it.
4. You operate from your strengths. I love the way you honor your nature and bring it into your work and personal relationships. Watching you at networking events, and listening to the way you create rapport on business calls is really remarkable. Seeing how effortlessly you started our writers group with people you met on facebook was remarkable. Yet to you, it’s just the way you do things.
5. You give yourself permission to be vulnerable and grow. You’ve made major changes many times in your life… and some of those changes were far from easy. You’re someone who is willing to really look in all the dark corners and let the light in. I so admire that.
6. While you’re aware that you are loved and respected by many, I don’t think you have any idea to what degree people adore you and would do anything for you. Your constant support, kindness, and the way you connect people with opportunities puts you on hundreds of peoples top ten lists. For me, you’re a lifelong soul sister who I would crawl through glass to support.
7. You’re a loving mom to Kyle, and mentor to many young people. The young women at Organic, Candice, and many other young people have benefitted greatly by your wisdom. I deeply appreciate you for including my son Alex as someone you mentor. He has such high positive regard and respect for you – you have no idea how much.
8. You’re a brilliant writer. Of course!
9. You’re a connector. Naturally.
10. For number ten, I’m sending my wish for you. May you feel the love and impact you’ve had on others. May you give yourself the same love, encouragement, and kindness you give to others. May you remember how strong you are when you need it most. And may you always know that even when we’re two little old ladies in our 100’s I’ll be here for you, and ever grateful for our friendship.

WOW! I was, and still am, overwhelmed with gratitude for such a friend as Marilyn. She sees my highest self and reflects it back to me. (I hope I do the same for her.)

What about you? Do you have a dear friend or family member who encourages you to recognize your highest self? Do you encourage someone else? Tell us about it!

photo credit: Camil Tulcan via photopin cc

What Do You Do When You’re the Only One in Your House that Needs to Lose Weight?

One of my biggest challenges, when it comes to healthy eating, is that I have two men in my household (my husband and my son) who both get to eat whatever they’d like with impunity. My 15 year old son, in fact, is bordering on underweight. If I cook low-cal meals for the two of them, they’ll mutiny and the household will be overtaken by pizza, frozen lasagna and ice cream.

Plus, since I believe in the value of family meals, I come home after my day at the office and cook dinner. While I always look for healthy recipes and typically use fresh ingredients, I can’t necessarily feed them the same low-cal menu items that I need to eat to lose weight (or these days, to even avoid weight gain!) So, when I’m “on” and taking exquisite care of myself, reducing calories and carbs (which isn’t as frequently as I’d like), I cook one meal for them and something completely different for me.

It’s so much easier to simply grab a grocery store heat-and-eat meal for me, or simply fry a quick lean burger and slice up an apple. Unfortunately, when I take either approach, I usually have to sacrifice quality and taste. Basically, it’s a pain in the butt, bores me to tears, and I don’t do it often these days. Fortunately, that’s where Diet-to-Go can help.

If you’ve read this blog over the past year, you know about my affinity for Diet-to-Go. It’s a diet delivery meal plan that offers convenient, easy healthy (low cal or low carb) meals, delivered to your door.  I’ve ordered quite a few weeks of their meals and whenever I follow it, I easily lose a few pounds. Plus, they’ve somehow managed to create delicious entrees in microwavable portions. Easy-peasy and great for those of us who are busy and “don’t have time” to eat well. (Or have other family members that aren’t into a low-fat, low-cal or low-carb eating plan.)

I’m so happy to share that they’re running a sweepstakes to help you with your weight loss resolutions in the new year. You can learn the details (and all the official stuff) here: 1,000 Meal Giveaway Sweepstakes
Or you can simply enter here:


Diet-to-Go is also hosting a twitter chat on “The Anti-New Year’s Resolution: Using Common-Sense to Make Lifelong, Lasting Changes Towards Health.” (We all know by now that it’s not about a diet or quick-fix. It’s about a lifestyle change!) The event will take place on Tuesday, January 7 at 9pm EST. The giveaways are awesome, including a Fitbit Flex Wristband or Fitbit scale, and three guests will win a week of free meals. If you log on to Twitter and follow @diettogo, you can join in.

What about you? How do you manage losing weight when you have other family members who don’t have to worry about how they eat? 

Looking Back at 2013 to Make More Progress in 2014

medium_8122072216My MasterMinds group always takes a look at our successes for the year after the Christmas holiday. We make a list, then read it aloud to the group and get affirmation for all the good things we accomplished. It’s nice to look at what went well this time of year, as it gives you a firm foundation for creating the goals for the new year. What’s on your list of successes or accomplishments for 2013? Please share in the comments!  Here’s what I had on my list for 2013:

  • My marriage is so very happy after 11 years
  • Increased my husband and my social activities
  • Been a patient, loving mom to my teenage son, who is going through his own growing pains
  • Confronted and began to resolve some family issues
  • Adopted two rescue dogs – including a pit bull, a breed I’ve always been interested in helping
  • Found a cause to support, the River Rouge Shelter in River Rouge, Michigan
  • Reduced our debt
  • Reduced our monthly bills
  • Conducted customer service webinars with Zendesk and Lorimar
  • Launched the Customer Service Road Map training program
  • Made some great new friends through Facebook
  • Went to BlogHer ’12 in Chicago
  • Went to TEDxDetroit
  • Made a career change – from community management to senior writer
  • Mentored community managers at a major corporation
  • Learned about writing for CRM
  • Led Monday morning meetings at the advertising agency for which I write social posts
  • Joined the Employee Involvement Committee at the same ad agency
  • Joined board of directors for Marketing and Sales Executives of Detroit (MSED)
  • Nominated a good friend for a Platinum Award with MSED and she won!
  • Made some great high-level contacts in customer service at large companies through SOCAP’s Great Lakes Chapter (SOCAP = Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals)
  • Picked up some new social media clients, for whom I do social media training and strategy
  • Took on the One Pinky Weight Mastery Course – started in mid-December
  • Started a writers group
  • Started writing a novel
  • Launched the paperback version of our customer service book, Who’s Your Gladys?
  • Recovered from my piriformis injury – found physical therapist and a doctor that were able to make it feel so much better
  • Watched the Twilight Zone – every season, every episode
  • Made fruitcakes for the first time ever (and they turned out pretty good!)
  • Started a new blog (this one!)
  • Wrote 45+ blog posts (here and on www.whosyourgladys.com/blog)
  • Started blogging for brands that I enjoy supporting
  • Became much more active user of LinkedIn and Twitter

photo credit: arli design via photopin cc

The Tides on This Battle Are Turning – Or Not

Tides are TurningIn flipping through our TiVo menu, I came across Joel Osteen’s program and it felt so uplifting to watch it. While many know Joel Osteen for his “prosperity gospel,” and some deride him for it, I appreciate his uber-positive message. It’s kind of a mix between traditional bible-based Christianity with new age abundance principles.

What I loved about this week’s show was the story Joel told about Susan Boyle and how she became a commercial success in spite of unthinkable odds. The singer was in the audience as he told the story of her oxygen-deprived birth and how it was anticipated that she would be at a physical disadvantage for her entire life. She’s now a public figure, known for her amazing voice and story of overcoming adversity.

Of course, this has me thinking about how much I get in my own way. I know what to do to lose weight and create new healthier habits, yet when I don’t feel hopeful, I revert back to old, unhealthy (easy) ways of doing things.

During today’s program, the line “the tides on this battle are turning” struck me loud and clear, primarily because he presented it as a decision, rather than some defining moment that is created by an outside influence. It’s from the inside. If you want the tides to turn, you get to turn them. You “start talking yourself into it.”

I have started talking myself into doing what I need to do to become healthy, self-aware and strong both emotionally and physically, into my 50s and beyond. It reminds me of a quote that I post on my social profiles:

“Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.” ~ Bradley Whitford

photo credit: Kristofer Williams via photopin cc

Taking Baby Steps Toward Self Love

This past week, I’ve made a decision that I’ve been considering for a few years. I’m so very very tired of being the “big girl,” yet no matter what “diet program” I’ve tried, the pounds always come back.

Last week, I agreed to take on Laura Fenamore’s 12-week Body Image Mastery course. Laura calls her work, “One Pinky,” saying that when you learn ”to love what you see in the mirror…(you can) unlock the secret to healthy weight.” I almost didn’t sign up, as I’d spent money on weight loss programs so very many times in the past, which ended up wasted when the effort ended.

The thought behind self love as the key for weight loss is that if you love yourself, you’ll be compelled to take better care of your body. Since I enjoy <sarcastic> frequent bouts of extremely negative self talk, I figured the worst that could happen is I stop hating on myself, even if I don’t lose a pound. Seems like it’s well worth the investment.

Then, this morning, I came across this lovely little video, initiated by the brand folks at Special K. I love how it puts our body shaming self talk out there for the world to see. I’m ready to give it up. How about you?

What about you? Do you “fat talk” yourself? Do you think it would be easier to lose weight if you loved yourself instead? 

Crazy Retro TV is More Fun Than I’d Imagined

medium_5183651198Have you noticed all the new retro TV channels that have come about since our over-the-air television broadcasts switched over to digital? Every broadcast outlet that traditionally broadcast a signal to their local market suddenly had more bandwidth to fill with programming. In metro Detroit, that meant some broadcast channels started offering lifestyle stations and syndicated programming from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

My husband and I have quickly become addicted to running marathon sessions of programs like The Twilight Zone, The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island. It’s oddly comforting. Since I’ve seen most episodes of these series several times, when they were first broadcast and when they first became syndicated when I was a teen, the familiarity of both the characters and stories has me feeling like a toddler watching the same episode of Teletubbies over and over and over because the predictability makes them feel good.

I’ve also noticed some very entertaining aspects of the production process during the 60s and 70s. Today, Mike Brady, instead of getting out of the car from the driver’s side LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE DO, crawled over the passenger side and used that door instead, even though he was driving. (When was the last time anyone driving a car got out on the passenger side of the vehicle, unless the door on the driver wide was broken?) Yesterday, Carol Brady and Alice the Housekeeper got out of the car, after an imaginary trip to the grocery store with Mike. They were each holding two full bags of groceries in their laps, in spite of the fact that they were riding in Mike’s station wagon. We’ve noticed several similar oddities in most of the old programs we’ve been watching.

Why do the characters on these old programs do such strange things? It’s called “blocking” and it’s the way the director has the characters on a production stand, walk and interact with props. Apparently, it was more efficient to have Mike hump himself over to the passenger side than it was to have him walk around the car. Too funny.

I agree with blogger and TV historian David Hofstede, who calls this time of television “Comfort TV.” He recommends watching programs for a similar era together, for example, watching shows from 1971 like The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and the Odd Couple in close proximity. With stations like ThisTV and MeTV, plus Netflix, Hulu and so many other streaming services, it’s become so very easy to revisit the programs we used to love. Why not take a little comfort in what you’ve already seen? And besides, I forgot to mention that the cheese factor in these programs is awesome!

photo credit: pdinnen via photopin cc