Friday, August 15, 2014

Ten Ways to Make Someone Happy (including yourself)

What is the secret to true happiness? Have you ever thought about that? What is it about some people that make them so darned happy? How can some people can be happy despite the trials and tribulations of life? Conversely, why is it that some people are never happy?
For me, the secret of being happy lies not in me but in others. I think to be truly happy you have to look outward.  You have to make others happy. I hope that I do that through my writing and I also try to do that in my daily life. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have plenty of days when I struggle to be happy. Sometimes the stresses of my life really get me down and I find it difficult to “put on a happy face”. But on those days, I find that if I do just the simplest act of kindness, my mood starts to lift upward.
The story below comes from a website called Propel Steps. I’m not sure of the original author but it really echoes what I truly feel - that our own happiness lies in making others happy.
Once a group of 50 people was attending a seminar. Suddenly the speaker stopped and started giving each one a balloon. Each one was asked to write his/her name on it using a marker pen. Then all the balloons were collected and put in another room.
Now these delegates were left in that room and asked to find the balloon which had their name written, within 5 minutes. Everyone was frantically searching for their name, colliding with each other, pushing around others and there was utter chaos. At the end of 5 minutes no one could find their own balloon.
Now each one was asked to randomly collect a balloon and give it to the person whose name was written on it. Within minutes everyone had their own balloon.
The speaker began— Exactly this is happening in our lives. Everyone is frantically looking for happiness all around, not knowing where it is.Our happiness lies in the happiness of other people. Give them their happiness; you will get your own happiness.
I’ve listed a few of my favorite ideas for spreading happiness and making others smile.
1.    Smile at everyone you pass. Smiling is euphoric. Go ahead, smile. You feel good when you do. Smiling is not only euphoric, it’s contagious. When you smile at someone, it’s really hard for them not to smile back. Maybe the person you smiled at was having a bad day. Maybe your smile helped to turn that day around. Perhaps that person then smiled at someone else and made their day. You can see where this is going.

2.   Let someone in front of you in traffic. This is a hard one for me. I really get irritated at those people who seemingly do not know how to merge. But, you never know who might be behind the wheel. Maybe it is a new teen driver, getting on the interstate for the first time. Or maybe it’s a timid elderly woman who doesn’t normally drive herself. Perhaps it’s a really aggressive driver who would have cut you off if you didn’t let them in. Just slow down, let them in, and smile because you did.

3.    When you’re at the mall or entering an office building, stop and hold the door for the person coming in behind you, even if they are several steps behind you. Hopefully they will smile at your gesture of kindness and thank you. If not, wish them a happy day anyway.

4.    Greet every person who steps in the elevator with you. Wish them all a great day as you leave.

5.    Take the time to learn someone’s name and remember it the next time you see them. Have a favorite server at the coffee shop or cashier at the market? Notice their nametag and call them by name. Jot it down so you can remember it next time you see them and greet them by name. I use the Notes app on my phone for this.

6.    Make conversation with your favorite server, cashier, clerk at the dry cleaners, etc. Learn something about them. Did they just have a baby? Are they planning a vacation? Ask them about it the next time you see them. (After you call them by name - see #5 above)

7.       Be a really good friend. Know someone who is going through a tough time? Spend some time with them. Ask them how they’re doing and really listen. Don’t go on about your problems, listen to theirs. Give them a hug, let them know you care. Even if they don’t feel like talking, sit with them in silence. Just be there.

8.    Send someone a handwritten thank you note. I always keep a stash of note cards handy. You can get some really cute ones in the dollar bins at a certain craft store. Whenever someone has done something nice for me or for my family I try to write them a note letting them know how much I appreciated it. I was taught as a child to always write thank you notes and I really think it is a lost art. Let’s bring them back!

9.    Buy a bouquet of flowers at the grocery store and pass out individual flowers to people who might need a day brightener – the exhausted mom with the screaming toddler, the frazzled cashier who just encountered a grumpy customer. I haven’t tried this one yet but I just thought of it as I was writing these. And it made me smile!

10.  Jot down your own ideas to be kind and make others smile. As was the case in # 9 above, just doing so makes you happy.

So today, I encourage you to go out and make someone happy. You’ll be happy you did!
"I began learning long ago that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others" – Booker T. Washington

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hurricane Taylor

This is the first in a series of stories in honor of the decade of Taylor.

We will be celebrating our daughter Taylor’s 10th birthday soon. I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing lately, as is usually the case when you approach a milestone in life. Since Taylor’s first few years of life were rather chaotic, I never kept up her baby book. I had a box of good intentions – the book, pictures, and various and sundry notes jotted down on ragged and torn sheets of paper. I had hoped to transfer them to the book on some peaceful night when I had a few moments. Those moments never came. I was looking through that box the other night and the memories came flooding back (quite an interesting analogy considering the meteorological events that surrounded her birth).
2004 was one of the most active hurricane seasons in the Tampa Bay area. It was also the year our daughter Taylor was born. Little did I know that weathering those storms was preparing me and teaching me valuable lessons for handling what life with Taylor would bring.

I was 8 months pregnant when the first storm hit. Hurricane Charley was one of the worst storms to hit Florida in many years. It made landfall a little south of us and plowed through the center of the state. It was Friday, August 13th. We were without power for 5 days following Charley. Being 8 months pregnant and without power in August does not make a happy momma to be. I did my best to endure the heat but finally, late in the afternoon of the 5th day, I broke down. I cried that dramatic, emotional cry that hormonal pregnant women cry. I told my husband that I couldn’t take another night of this. As we packed a bag and prepared to leave our home for the comfort of an air conditioned hotel room, the power came on.  

First life lesson of the hurricane season - Just when you’re about to give up hope, hang on a little longer; it will get better.

Frances was the next storm to come our way, about a week before Taylor was born. Wind and rain were the only effects of Frances for us, but just as soon as Frances passed us, we started to track Ivan.
Second life lesson of the hurricane season - Just when you think the storm has passed, there’s usually another one approaching.

Ivan was on a direct path for our area and was predicted to make landfall on September 13th, Taylor’s due date.
The phone call arrived about 10 AM on Friday September 10th. I was at work. Like most working mommas, whether it is at home or in an office, I was determined to keep at it until the very last minute. The call was from my doctor’s office and it was short and sweet. “Be at the hospital at 6:00 tomorrow morning, we’re going to induce labor.” It turns out the hospital was located in the direct path that Ivan was projected to take. The doctor was scheduling all of the moms with due dates that week to be induced over the weekend. By noon, I had wrapped up all loose ends at work, said my farewells to my friends and headed to Walmart. I was going to have a baby in less than 24 hours and would be leaving the hospital a day before a direct hit of a category 4 hurricane. I NEEDED SUPPLIES!

The next day, September 11, 2004, Taylor was born. We called her our “little terrorist”. We had no idea how appropriate that nickname would be.

Hurricane Ivan ended going straight up the Gulf and into the Florida Panhandle, completely missing us.

Third life lesson of the hurricane season - Do not worry for God is in control.

There were two more storms that year, Frances & Jeanne. But it wasn’t until a couple of months after Taylor was born that the real storms hit.
Taylor’s first few weeks of life were rather normal for most infants. There was a lot of crying and fussing and very little sleep to be had by anyone in our house. By her one month checkup the crying and fussing hadn’t ceased and she rarely slept for more than an hour at a time, even at night. The doctor called it colic. I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t normal. I had two other children, I knew what to expect. Taylor wasn’t ever very happy. She didn’t smile and never really made eye contact. She appeared to be looking past me, not at me. The doctor gave me the typical “give it time, all babies develop differently”, but I knew otherwise.

Our first few years with Taylor were consumed with doctors, tests, hospital stays and procedures. She had numerous health issues. By the time Taylor reached her first birthday, she was already seeing an Urologist, Cardiologist, Otolaryngologist (ENT), and a Neurologist. We were also consulting with a Geneticist. Besides treating all of her health problems, we were desperately seeking an elusive diagnosis. To me a diagnosis meant answers, support, and hope. If I could just find a name for what was causing all of her issues, wouldn’t it provide comfort? Wouldn’t it help me deal with what we were going through? Ten years later and still no official diagnosis, I can tell you the answer is a resounding “No!” What I know now and what I came to realize after many years of a futile search for answers is that comfort, peace, and hope do not come from answers, they come from acceptance. They come when you stop trying to find answers, stop trying to find something (or someone) to blame, stop searching for reasons; when you start living your life with your precious gift.
A gift - that is what Taylor is; a gift from God. We’ve been told before that we were chosen for Taylor; that she is blessed to have us as her parents. I don’t buy that at all. I say that my husband and I are the blessed ones. Taylor was chosen for us, not the other way around. We needed Taylor in our lives.

Looking back, I am amazed at how much my life has changed and how I have changed, all for the better.

Final life lesson of the hurricane season - Storms may cause damage, darkness, despair but storms pass and are usually followed by rainbows; the most beautiful of God’s creations.