Mt. Juliet Chamber Blogs

Keep up with everything going on at the Mt. Juliet Chamber!
Anita has been Director of Membership at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce for the last 12 years and is a hobby writer.

Birds Just Wanna Have Fun

The other morning, I was sitting on my deck drinking a cup of tea, listening to the birds chirping and singing in the woods. There was a cool breeze blowing, so I sat there for a while watching one bird in particular who was picking up twigs, dried leaves, and bits of moss which she then carried off to another location in order to construct a nest. I once heard that most of the time, birds have four reasons to fly: to find food, migrate to warmer climates, gather nest materials, or to avoid predators. But studies have shown that there is one more reason why birds fly….sometimes they fly just because it’s fun! In fact, experts believe that 30% of the time, flying for fun is a bird’s main motivation.

That made me stop and wonder. If I divided my days into a pie chart, how much of my day is spent having fun? I spend my weekends pulling weeds and doing laundry and many other chores that have to be done in order to keep my household running smoothly. And even though there may be a sense of satisfaction in successfully re-caulking the bathtub or hanging new blinds in the living room, I’m not sure I would exactly call that “fun.”

The King's Stilts, one of Dr. Seuss's earliest works, shows how important it is to both work hard and play hard. King Birtram gets up at 5:00 every morning to make sure his kingdom is running smoothly, but at 5:00 every afternoon the workday ends and it's time to play…When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really played.”

I know many of us spend much of our down time doing chores that simply have to be done. But, let’s challenge ourselves to try something new. I invite you to join me in matching the bird’s habits in the next few weeks. Let’s see if we can play and enjoy ourselves at least 30% of the time. In King Birtram’s case, that meant racing around town on a pair of red stilts! I probably won’t do that, but if that’s your thing, who am I to judge?

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Close Your Eyes....What Do you Hear?

I just read a story about a Japanese master who spoke with a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. The Japanese master served tea and when he poured his visitor’s cup, he kept on pouring until the cup spilled over. The professor watched the cup overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It’s full and no more will go in!” exclaimed the professor. And the master said quietly, “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Reading this story made me think about the episodes of Kung Fu I watched back in the early 70’s. In this show, Kwai Chang Caine (played by David Carradine) was the orphaned son of an American man and a Chinese woman in 19th century China. As a child, he trained at a monastery where he grew up to become a priest and martial arts expert. Flashbacks were used to recall his childhood lessons at the monastery from his teacher, Master Po, who was blind. In these flashbacks, Master Po called his young student "Grasshopper" in reference to a scene in the pilot episode:

Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Caine: No.
Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: No. Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?


I guess both of these are reminders of how little we really pay attention to life. We might ask someone a question, but our mind hardly stops churning in order to hear what the response is because our attention is already focused on something else. We complain about the incessant heat, but fail to notice the birds chirping or the flowers blooming or the gardens ripe for harvesting. Our hustling, bustling lives are so full of noise and people that we rarely really hear and see what’s going on around us. Because of this, we very often miss out on some spectacular - albeit simple - everyday things. 


Let’s challenge ourselves to slow down every day and take a 60-second respite from the craziness of our world. Just 60 seconds. Find a comfy chair, sit with your feet on the floor in a relaxed position, close your eyes, and just breathe. Let the out-breath be twice as long as the in-breath. Just breathe. We have 86,400 seconds in a day. Why not take 60 of those seconds for a mini meditation right now? Do you hear your heartbeat? Do you hear the grasshopper at your feet? It's kind of nice, isn't it?


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Life Has No Remote

I wouldn't say that I am necessarily well-traveled. I've been on mission trips to Mexico and Spain and spent a week in Belize a couple of years ago. I've traveled from Key West to Boston to San Francisco to Missoula, with many other stops in between. I’ve interacted with a lot of diverse people and always try to experience local cuisine, transportation, and cultural activities no matter where I am. But, it seems as if one of the most rewarding trips I’ve taken lately was the shortest geographical distance I’ve ever traversed.    

Novelist Alice Walker said "the most foreign country is within" and I have to agree. This quest to really get to know myself in the last few months has been wonderfully fulfilling, albeit a little painful and frightening at times. 

I have several friends and family members who seem to be on personal journeys these days as well. Even though we are a variety of ages and from different walks of life, and the reasons that have brought us to this place are different, we are all seeking balance and harmony in our lives, whatever that looks like to us.

I guess it doesn’t really matter who you are or where you come from, soul searching is a part of life if you choose to accept the assignment. It can be a little scary since you don’t always know where it will take you, but having the time and inclination to truly begin listening to that quiet, still voice inside is a treasure indeed.

I’m not sure who said it, but I really like this message: “Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself!” We have to take charge of our own life; no one is going to do it for us. We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish. What are you waiting for? 


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Pie Dough Cookies

When I was a little kid, my mom used to bake pies all the time, pies made totally from scratch. She would carefully mix the ingredients, turn the kneaded ball of dough onto the kitchen counter sprinkled with flour, and roll the dough into a thin circle with a rolling pin. It was a process requiring time and precision and waiting for the final product was hard to do with any amount of patience. For me, my favorite part of baking pies was not eating the pie itself. It was the excess, the dough cut from the edges once the pie was in the pie pan, before the crust was crimped to seal in the juices. You see, with a family of seven children, my mom never wasted one thing. She took that surplus dough, cut it into thin strips, sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar and baked it. We called them "pie dough cookies" and they were a favorite snack for as much of my early childhood as I can remember. 

The older I get, the more it seems as if time just flies by and sometimes, it’s easy to feel as if I’m just wasting away my days. But it’s important to remember that true joy is in the smallest, simplest, most insignificant moments of everyday life. Things like sitting on the bleachers watching my grandson’s baseball game, grilling burgers with my kids, seeing a movie with a friend, or sitting quietly on the deck reading a book are some of life’s greatest pleasures.   

Auguste Rodin, the French sculptor said “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” I think that making memories with the people we love is one of the wisest, most important things we can do for ourselves. Even though it’s been over 40 years since I ate a pie dough cookie, that simple act performed by my mom remains one of my fondest childhood memories. I hope you can make some safe and happy memories of your own with the people you love most this Memorial Day Weekend!   

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Want to Know a Secret?

     The Secret is a best-selling self-help book based on the idea that positive thinking can bring positive, life-changing results. The book has sold more than 19 million copies and has been translated into 46 languages. The premise is that the law of attraction determines the path of our personal lives through the process of "like attracts like". For example, if you think angry thoughts, you will attract events and circumstances that cause you to feel more anger. On the other hand, if you think and feel positively, you will attract positive events and circumstances that make you feel even more positive. 

     The book, which has been parodied on The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Saturday Night Live, has received some controversial reviews, stating that the only people generating wealth and happiness from it are the author and the publishers. But, let’s think about this whole thing for a moment. Whether or not we believe in “the secret,” we have choices. We can live our lives with positive attitudes, spreading smiles and good thoughts to everyone we meet and being a pleasant person to be around. Or we can be grumpy, negative,  and unhappy, blaming the world for all our problems and claiming that this whole idea is pure hogwash! 

     Singer-songwriter Roger Miller once said “Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” I guess life just boils down to who we want to be how we wish to handle things that come our way. We can be someone who just gets wet or we can be someone who walks in the rain. I saw some cute little polka dot galoshes on sale when I was window shopping the other day! Care to join me?

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We'll All Become Stories

On a trip to Pensacola a few weeks ago to visit my youngest daughter, Lindsay (who is in grad school), we lingered around the dinner table on my last evening eating yummy homemade pasta, drinking a nice glass of wine, and telling old stories. It’s funny the things you find out years later, once your kids are grown; things that were supposed to remain top secret and be taken to the grave.

Lindsay’s older sister, Autumn, who was the instigator in some of these teenage stories, later called her baby sister a “little snitch” and said that she “threw her under the bus.” It might have mattered more if I had heard the tales back when they happened, but it matters less several years later. Frankly, now it’s just funny to hear about some of the crazy things they did, even if they shouldn’t have done them! I guess things I would have worried about then have all turned out okay for the most part.

Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood, said "In the end, we'll all become stories." That’s an interesting way of summing up life, but I guess it’s really true. Everyone we encounter and everything we do or say, have the potential of becoming fodder for a story somewhere along the line whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not.

I’ve been thinking about what kind of stories might be generated about me. I’m quite sure that some of them are doozies, since I was a teenager in the 70’s! I’ve lived a pretty full life, made some mistakes along the way, broken some hearts, and had mine broken in return. But for the most part, I think that most of the stories that will be told about me will bring a smile to the storyteller’s face. It’s nice to think so anyway.

So, if it’s true that we all become stories in the end, let’s try to laugh a little louder, smile a little brighter, hug like we mean it, spread a little kindness, be more thankful, dream a little bigger, be a little braver, and spend more time with the people we love. If they’re going to tell stories about us, let’s make them good ones!   

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It's the Climb

I read an anonymous quote the other day that said “You can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.” I guess I’ve written a lot lately about taking life by the horns and living it to the fullest. Maybe it’s just a stage I’m going through or maybe in my mid-50’s, I’ve just finally figured some things out. 

When I was younger, it seemed as if life contained an endless supply of days, as if time and opportunities were unlimited. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to know that life is happening now and that now is all we are guaranteed. At some point, our health begins to decline a bit, we lose someone we love, or a tragedy rocks our world. Then we finally realize that now is a fairly limited commodity.

How do we live life to its fullest? I’ve made a list for myself and you can probably add a few of your own.

Be still: Quiet time helps to recharge our batteries and focus on the present moment.  

Don’t obsess over negative things in life. Instead, focus on things for which you are grateful. 

Get over a grudge. Staying mad harms you more than the one who triggered your anger.

Find fresh air. Make time to go outside during the day. Just 30 minutes in the sun or a lunchtime walk will lift your spirits.

Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep boosts your mood, improves your memory, and sharpens your focus.

Read a book. Take the time to sit and read. Learn something new or just go for pure escapism.

Unplug and go tech free. Turn off your cell phone, television, and computer for just a day. You might be surprised at how relaxed you feel without the noise and distraction.

Find a hobby. Spending time on an activity you enjoy makes you lose all sense of time and self. 

Schedule fun every day. Each morning, ask yourself what you can do today that will make it an amazing day. Make a list of simple pleasures and work a few into each day.

Wake up with yoga. Yoga stimulates muscles and adrenal glands, raising your energy levels, and also increases flexibility and relieves stress.

Stare at your great life and savor the positives. Place photos of friends and family in your office where you see them every day.

I’m not a fan of Miley Cyrus, but years ago I would hear one of her songs while flipping the radio dial and I hate to admit that I actually liked it just a little bit. It went something like this…

There's always gonna be another mountain, I'm always gonna wanna make it move, always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I'm gonna have to lose, ain't about how fast I get there, ain't about what's waitin' on the other's the climb.

We can stay on the ground or we can climb. I don’t know about you, but I’m lacing up my hiking boots. 

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Go Outside and Play!

When I was a kid growing up in Alabama, we spent pretty much every summer day playing in the yard. Every morning after breakfast, my mom would kick us out of the house, telling us to go outside and get some fresh air, and we would do just that until we were called in for lunch. After lunch, we would go right back outside and play until we heard the dinner bell ringing. And then after dinner, guess what? We would go back outside and play until it was dark! We were always tired, hungry, and ready for a good night’s sleep so we could get up the next day and do it all over again.

Thinking back on that time in my life makes me wonder what happened to play in my life now that I’m an adult. Where did this idea come from that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to be grown-up and serious?

Play, for adults and children alike, is necessary in order to de-stress. Play is a great investment in our wellbeing and helps us be our best when it comes to our jobs, parenting, and relationships. We may have the mindset that we are “too old to play”, but play keeps us younger and healthier by generating optimism, boosting the immune system, and promoting a sense of belonging.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”

I think we should give ourselves permission to play every day! Maybe we no longer wish to slide down a slide, play hide-and-go-seek, or throw a Frisbee. But we can color with our grandkids, build a Lego castle, put a puzzle together…the possibilities are endless. Now, why are you sitting here reading this? Go on outside and play! 


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Famous Failures

I once heard that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, that Oprah Winfrey was told early on that she wasn't fit for TV, and that The Beatles were rejected by a studio, saying they had no future in show business. Pretty hard to believe since all of these people later found tremendous success in their chosen fields. Can you imagine how history might have been redirected had each of them given up the minute someone carelessly shot down their dreams?

When we encounter rejection, it's easy to become paralyzed by fear, whether that's fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of starting something new. Andre Gide, French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, said "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a really long time." Is there a dream you buried long ago that still resides in the back of your mind? Stop saying it's too late! Most of us will probably never end up famous failures like Michael Jordan or Oprah Winfrey, but it’s empowering to choose our dream and stick with it even if others don’t share our vision or even if it looks slightly different than we thought it would.

This might sound sort of crazy, but maybe it’s true that failure can sometimes bring us one step closer to what we want if we simply persevere. Just because a dream is delayed doesn't necessarily mean it has been denied altogether. Maybe some growth has to happen inside us before we're really ready to pursue a particular dream. Or perhaps we need more wisdom to modify our dream to the point where it can come true. The key is to keep our head up and our eyes open and to keep moving forward. It’s impossible to do that if we're always looking back!

How many times have we ended up not changing our lives for the better simply by not choosing? My dad used to have a saying that drove me crazy because I never really understood what he meant when he said "Do this or do that, one or two." Sitting here 40+ years later, I think I finally get it. We can set our sails or we can stay on the shore. But it’s time to choose. 

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Things That Have Never Been...

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke said "And now let us welcome in the New Year, full of things that have never been."

Sounds pretty awesome, huh? Sometimes I feel as if every day is the same old day. I shower and get ready for work, I brush my teeth, pack my lunch, and make the 30 minute trek to my office. My car travels as if on auto pilot. Then I arrive at my office, walk in the door, put my lunch away, grab a yogurt and a bottle of water, sit down at my desk, turn on my computer, and begin my day exactly as I did the day before.

Now, don't get me wrong...I love my job and even though no two days are exactly alike, day in and day out is pretty much routine and I'm just beginning to feel as if I'm ready for an adventure. I realize I'm not going to travel to Iceland like Walter Mitty did in the new movie, but a new year IS a fresh start and a new chapter to be written.

Most of us are in the habit of making a New Year’s Resolution which is broken about 6 weeks into the new year. So how about listing New Year’s Aspirations instead? A resolution makes me thing of rules, something I have to do. An aspiration is something I hope for and wish for, something I've kept tucked away for when the time is right. Let’s trust that now is the time.

My daughter Lindsay recently wrote a blog about not letting your life pass you by. That inspired me to be an active participant instead of living my same old boring routine. I decided not to save my aspirations for "someday." I cut my hair really short, signed up for weekly yoga/meditation classes, joined a second book club, and researched singing lessons, creative writing courses, and Master Gardener classes, some of which I hope to be in by the end of the year.

Will this stick? I don't know. But, I aspire to stick with it. This is the month to dream, to look forward to the year ahead and the journey within. Will you join me?

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We are Family

"We Are Family" was a hit dance song recorded by Sister Sledge in the 1970's. Even though the singers consisted of four sisters and therefore really were family, the song has most often been used by others as an expression of solidarity. For instance, “We are Family” was the theme song for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979, was played during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and was featured in the film Private Benjamin. A cover version of the song was used as the theme song for the French equivalent of the American game show Family Feud. This song was even recorded in Japanese and was covered by numerous artists, including the Spice Girls and Alvin and the Chipmunks!


When I was a kid growing up in a family of seven children, we all had to pitch in and do chores around the house. No allowance ever changed hands. We did chores simply to keep the family running smoothly. No questions asked; it's just the way it was. Every single night after dinner, one of us would clear the dishes, one would wash them, one would rinse, one would dry, and another would put them away. Yet another would pack away leftovers and then the last one would take out the trash. None of us, not even the youngest, was ever excused from nightly dinner duty.


It takes a lot of hands of all different sizes and shapes to keep a family running smoothly, and it's very much the same way with any group we’re a part of, whether that’s a team of co-workers, a circle of friends, or a club we belong to. In order for any group to work well together and have a sense of solidarity, a variety of gifts and talents are needed to fill in the gaps and fit all the pieces together. It takes a lot of cooperation from all, with everyone pulling their fair share of the weight.


Author Jane Howard said “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” I have to agree with Jane. Even though the song says "We are family, I've got all my sisters with me", we have to remember that it's not just flesh and blood that makes us family. All of us are brothers and sisters, and we really should work together and look out for one another.  

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Maybe Christmas, Perhaps, Means a Bit More...

One of my fondest childhood memories of the holiday season was watching Christmas specials on TV with my family. Year after year, we would snuggle into warm pajamas and cuddle up with blankets to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, just to name a few. This was a family holiday tradition I later tried to carry on with my own children; however, I guess those shows from the 1960's seemed a bit dated to kids 20+ years later.

Another popular holiday show, which has never been one of my favorites, is the Dr. Seuss cartoon "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." I never really liked that one, although I'm not exactly sure why. But, I recently ran across a slightly weathered copy of the book on the shelves of a discount store and flipping through, fell upon the page that said something like this....

“It came without ribbons, it came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!  Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!" 

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at my house. The tree is decorated, a wreath is hung on the door, presents are beginning to pile up underneath the tree, holiday invitations are arriving in my Inbox on a daily basis, and new recipes for hors d'oeuvres and sweets have been clipped and stored for easy reference. But, for some reason, looking like Christmas doesn't mean it's beginning to feel like Christmas. I've encountered some pretty grouchy, hurried, harried, frazzled shoppers and store clerks in the last week or so and it's made me think that Christmas would be much more meaningful and authentic if we would just slow down long enough to remember the real reason for this season. Can it be that by trying to do too much, too perfectly, we make it almost impossible to actually enjoy what this season truly represents?

I have a choice. I can be a frazzled, frustrated, frantic wreck or I can choose a more fulfilled, peaceful, calm, joyous, and contented attitude. The true gifts of Christmas have nothing to do with standing in line with a cartful of merchandise at a retail store. I know for certain that if I don't have Christmas in my heart, I will never find it under a tree.

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Imaginary People

When I was a little girl, I had an imaginary friend. It’s not that I was terribly lonely and had no real friends to play with. But, real play dates weren’t always possible and for eight years (until my sister Erin came along) I lived in a household with four brothers. So, it was nice to have a playmate of my very own who was there anytime I summoned her, someone who didn’t tease and torment me as brothers tend to do, someone who was always willing to play what I wanted to play – things that didn’t include Tonka trucks, GI Joes, or building blocks. My imaginary friend provided a much-needed escape from a household full of boys.

As I got older and had more freedom to roam, my imaginary friend disappeared and was replaced by a group of real friends and a lot of real activities. During my teenage years, I even began to hang out with my brothers and had several friends and activities in common with them.

Now that I’m much older, I sometimes wish I had an imaginary friend again. I think now, she would be more like a guardian angel; someone who is always there when I need her; someone who knows me better than anyone else does; someone with whom I can share my deepest, darkest secrets, wishes and dreams; someone who just knows without me having to say anything at all.

Maybe it’s a crazy idea, but it’s somewhat comforting to think about having a guardian angel to support and protect me throughout my old age. In The Angels Little Instruction Book, author Eileen Elias Freeman said that “Children often have imaginary playmates. I suspect that half of them are really their guardian angels.”

I guess it’s taken me 45 years to remember something I knew as a child. Funny how that works, huh?

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The Spirit of Hospitality


Even though I was raised in family with seven children, there always seemed to be room for one more around the dinner table. My dad taught at a local fine arts college and often brought students home for dinner, gave them a place to stay for a night when they were down on their luck, or even offered them a room during the holidays when they weren’t able to make a trip back home. Even though he had a large family of his own to care for on a teacher’s salary, my dad was always willing to help someone in need. I’ve heard that hospitality begins at home and that those of modest means are often the most willing to share what they have. My dad had the biggest spirit of hospitality I’ve ever seen.


If we take a look around, are there people in need that we are failing to notice? Even though most of us prefer the safety of our comfort zones, true hospitality often compels us to step outside our boundaries and reach out to those who are unlike us. It’s easy to get so caught up in our differences that we fail to recognize that the tattooed, pierced store clerk, and the homeless man selling newspapers on the corner, and the pregnant teenager sitting next to us on the subway are all our brothers and sisters. Serving others and loving others is the heart of a hospitable spirit and includes sharing who we are as well as what we have. Our love for one another is a direct expression of our love for ourselves, and it’s important to think about how we might help all our brothers and sisters in need, no matter how diverse we are.


My dad practiced hospitality by offering his students a hot meal or a warm bed as often as needed. Even though he passed away in 1978, he is still fondly remembered in part because of this simple practice. One of his former college students told me just a couple of months ago via Facebook that my dad was the kindest, most generous man he had ever known. That’s pretty high praise coming from someone 35 years later. Here’s to you, John Spicer…






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86,400 Seconds

Have you ever had a crazy stressful day when nothing seems to go right? You wake up 10 minutes late, it’s pouring down rain, you spill coffee on your favorite shirt, your gas tank is empty, and you can’t find your umbrella. It seems as if the more you rush and stress out, the more stuff seems to happen to make you rush and stress out. It’s a vicious cycle. Nothing is good; nothing is right; and nothing is going to be good or right for the entire day.

While grumbling to a friend on a day like this, she said “God gave you 86,400 seconds in a day. Are you going to spend every second being stressed? Have you used even one second today to say thank you?” This statement stopped me in my tracks and reminded me that I really do have plenty to be grateful for! Every breath I take, each new day, my warm bed, nice clothes, a job I love, and food on the table are all gifts. Not everyone is able to enjoy these things. And it truly only takes one second to say “Thank you.”

When we are grateful for little things, our attitude improves and we create a cycle of abundance. When things are not going our way, we can grumble and complain or we can take a deep breath, feel grateful, and give thanks. Saying thank you is not just good manners, it’s good for our souls.

In Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne wrote “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” What better time than during the busy holiday season to try a gratitude experiment and make a list every day which focuses on the pluses in our lives instead of the minuses? We might just notice an inner shift and be surprised at how content and hopeful we suddenly feel when we take just one second to quietly pause and say “Thank you.”  

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Hello in There, Hello...

Back in 1971, folk artist John Prine released his first album, which included a song titled "Hello in There." This song speaks about an elderly couple living alone in virtual silence, after their kids have grown up and moved out on their own (one son was killed in the war). It's a sweet, sad, haunting melody that sticks with you long after the song is over. The chorus goes something like this:

"Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wilder every day. Old people just grow lonesome, waiting for someone to say, hello in there, hello."

Every time I hear this song, it makes me feel a little bit melancholy to think there really are elderly people out  there who are alone and feeling lonely. Last week, I had the pleasure of hearing John Prine perform this song live, all by himself, on stage at the Ryman Auditorium and I have to tell you, it brought tears to my eyes. For most of us, it's hard to imagine living a life totally alone where you have nothing to say, no one to see, and where each new day is pretty much the same as the one before. When you work full time and/or still have kids at home to raise, our days are bustling to the brim...filled with noise, clutter, schedules, activities, meetings, phone calls, chores, to-do-lists, and people.

Maybe I’m getting a little bit more nostalgic around the holiday season as I get older. But it’s sad to think that there are senior citizens in our own community who might be sitting alone all day, every day…all but forgotten.

We’re lucky to live in an area full of great community outreach programs which benefit senior citizens, especially during the holidays. Home Instead Senior Care hosts their annual “Be Santa to a Senior” program where you choose an ornament with a senior’s name on it from their tree, purchase a gift, and return the gift for delivery. Some of these requests are for items as simple as socks and toiletries. Breaks your heart, doesn’t it? Mt. Juliet Health Care has a similar program, and don’t forget that the Senior Center organizes Meals on Wheels year round which delivers meals to seniors who are housebound. I'm sure we can find many more opportunities right here in our back yard if we just let our fingers do some walking.

I just can't say it any better than John Prine, so I'll end with the final verse from “Hello in There” which says something like this…

So if you're walking down the street sometime and spot some hollow ancient eyes, please don't just pass 'em by and stare as if you didn't care, say hello in there, hello."

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So, What's in a Name?

Last year a young entrepreneur in Nebraska changed his name from Tyler Gold to Tyrannosaurus Rex Gold as a way of creating greater name recognition as he worked toward building his career.

Public figures and organizations spend a lot of time and money building up a name and protecting that name. However, when you're starting from zero, it's hard to build up name recognition. However, I’ve got some easy tips for you in boosting recognition for your business:

Identify your audience

Who are you really trying to reach? A public official is trying to reach a different audience than an actor; a novelist has a completely different audience than a football player scouting for a new contract.

Don't bank on one-shots

Name recognition isn't like winning the lottery. One thing typically doesn’t turn you into a household name. You build up name recognition one brick at a time and that takes a steady, sustained effort.

Spread it out

Remember that today's audience is scattered. If you're not on the radio, you don't exist to a huge chunk of the population. Others only read the newspaper, others rely on TV, and a large segment of the population obtains their news only from the web. You've got to target different sectors of the media.

Shorten a name

There's nothing wrong with shortening or changing an organization's clunky name in order to be simple and direct. For example, Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. doesn’t roll off the tongue like John Denver does. Michael Philip Jagger doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Mick Jagger. Other famous people who have changed their names are Stevland Hardaway Morris = Stevie Wonder; Reginald Kenneth Dwight = Elton John; Sherlon Jackson Lee = Spike Lee; William Jonathan Drayton, Jr. = Flavor Flav; Robert Allen Zimmerman = Bob Dylan; Eric Maron Bishop = Jamie Foxx; Cornelius Crane Chase = Chevy Chase; and Barry Alan Pincus = Barry Manilow. You get the idea, right?

Have you been thinking about making a bold move like Tyler Gold did? Is this a good time to add a new twist to your name, title, or self-image? Do you need to give your business a little bit of punch or variety in order to stand out? You may not have to name yourself after a dinosaur if you follow a few short rules.

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In the 1986 Science Fiction Horror movie The Fly, the main character (played by Jeff Goldblum) was a scientist experimenting with teleporting. During one such experiment, he was unaware that a housefly had slipped into the transmitter pod with him. He emerged from the pod and soon began to exhibit fly-like symptoms as he slowly began the transformation into a common housefly. The makeup artists for this movie won the Academy award for their incredible depiction of the transformation from man to insect. describes synonyms of transformation as renewal and about-face. This same site describes antonyms as stagnation and sameness. When you think about your life, which of these adjectives would you rather describe you?

What better time than now to take a look inside (and around) you and notice areas where change is needed? It’s customary to wait until the New Year to make a resolution; however, if we wait until then, we are stressed physically, emotionally, and financially after the holidays and most resolutions fail for these reasons. Why not make an Autumnal resolution, fresh into this new season?

Most of us will never make a transformation as unbelievable as from a human to a fly, and thank goodness for that! But, there is something all of us can do to become better, stronger, healthier, and smarter, in both our personal and our business lives. Change is happening all around us, from the birds and the bees to the flowers and the trees. If it’s good enough for nature, why can’t it be good enough for us?

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It's Complicated

After rejecting proposals from several other directors, Bob Dylan authorized Oscar-nominated Todd Haynes to make a biographical musical film about his life titled "I'm Not There." The film was named after a 1967 recording of a song that had not been released prior to appearing in the film's soundtrack. As a matter of fact, the only time Dylan's name appears in the film is during the song credits since none of the movie characters are actually named Bob Dylan!

"I'm Not There" tells the story of the legendary singer/songwriter by weaving together six different Dylan-inspired characters which represent various stages of his remarkable career. Five actors and one actress were featured in the film, including Richard Gere, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, and Christian Bale. When making the film, Hayes said "I set out to explode the idea that anybody can be depicted in a single self."

Have you ever wondered which actors and/or actresses might be chosen to play you in the movie about your life? What look or qualities would these actors need to possess in order to portray you accurately? What personality type would they represent? When I think about an actress that might portray me in a movie about my life, of course I gravitate toward beauties such as Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, or Kate Beckinsale (HA!). I might even choose all three since I definitely see how a variety of actors might be necessary to portray someone as multifaceted and "complicated" (as I was once described) as I am.

At the beginning of the Dylan film, a caption reads: "Inspired by the music and the many lives of Bob Dylan". How many lives or personalities do you depict? We all have many aspects to our personalities and other people often see us differently than we see ourselves. If someone was to describe you in one word, what would that word be? Would you like it or agree with it?

I have a collection of Story People prints (which I've purchased for myself) hanging on my wall, one of which says... "I think my life would be easier if I could just get my selves to agree on something." If I were to guess, the title of my movie might just be "It's Complicated."

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Happy Cows Make Better Cheese!

A study done by researchers at Newcastle University shows that if a cow is given a name by her owner, she generates more milk than a cow that is treated as an anonymous member of the herd. By calling their cows by name, farmers can increase annual milk yield by almost 500 pints. The study also shows that naming everything in our world, even inanimate objects like houseplants, cars, appliances, etc…helps us be more up-close and personal with creation as a whole.

We have a funny tradition in my family of naming our cars. My last vehicle, a gray Toyota Camry, was named Glenda. She was sensible, modest, trustworthy….adjectives you would automatically attach to the name Glenda. My current vehicle is a gray Ford Escape. He’s pretty plain, kind of small, but a little bit sporty at the same time, so I named him Chip! He’s not a big and strong truck (like my husband’s double cab Toyota Tacoma named Roy), but he can do anything I need for him to do, which is mostly hauling materials for my DIY projects at home. My daughter Lindsay’s white Kia Optima, Clarissa, is sleek and classy with a little bit of attitude. And for many years, my son Jeremiah drove a big old hand-me-down Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight named Harold, who recently went to car heaven on the side of the interstate between Nashville and Chattanooga (RIP Harold). So, Jeremiah purchased a brand new dolphin gray Mazda 6 which he chose to name…..what else but Dolph Lungren!

It’s funny how such a silly thing as naming your car can make you feel more connected with your vehicle. I feel as if that connectedness is very important considering most of us spend quite a bit of time in our cars driving back and forth to numerous places on a regular basis. Plus we spend a lot of money on the vehicle itself and then even more for maintenance and upkeep just so we can appreciate the privilege of driving. It’s nice to have a more personal connection rather than just strapping yourself in to a couple of tons of anonymous steel, placing it in drive and then barreling down the road from one location to the next. When I open Chip’s door and jump in, I feel as if I have a friend along for the journey.

Being connected with all of creation makes us feel more balanced, more content, and more like we have ownership in this thing called life. You’ve seen the commercial that says “Happy cows make better cheese.” I can definitely see how a milk cow might be happier and more productive when she feels valued, connected, relaxed and loved. After all, can’t we say the same for ourselves?


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