Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What Really Matters ?

Sometimes in life, situations can lead us to think disparaging thoughts.  We can then dwell on those thoughts until we find ourselves visibly angry.  The simple power of an idea or concern repeated in our self-talk can raise our blood pressure, increase our heart rate, and even clench our teeth or fists in a building rage or disappointment.  If left unchecked, this can eliminate positive thoughts entirely and destroy relationships or personal progress.

Yesterday I was in that very place, thinking those very negative thoughts, and finding myself righteously indignant toward a certain person whose words and actions justified (note the sarcasm intended here) my angry mood.  I couldn't focus on my work.  I couldn't generate any motivation to clear items on ANY of my To Do Lists.  All I could focus on was the growing anger and resentment toward this person and their actions.

I tried to vent my frustrations to my loving wife, who has I assume willingly listened to more than her fair share of these mini-tirades in our many years together.  But it didnt help.  In fact, it seemed to make things worse.  The more I spoke, the more angry and hurt I became.  I began to question the value of anything I was investing my time in.  Why does any extra effort matter when something so tiny can negate all of that positive performance?  It was rough, and my wife doesn't deserve to hear such harsh language, so I walked away.  But being alone didn't help either.

A small amount of time passed.  The kids were sent to bed, but my youngest son, Spencer, just over a year old, seemed unwilling to go to sleep in my wife's arms.  This is unusual because he always wants her to put him to sleep.  Realizing that she might need a break, I softly took him from her arms and went to his room to sing him to sleep.  He immediately stopped fussing and began his put-me-to-sleep humming sound.  After a few Harry Connick Jr songs (he seems pretty partial to "I've Got A Great Idea" from the We Are In Love CD), it hit me ... THIS is what really matters.

After laying him down, I went back in the family room to chat with my wife.  She mentioned that Spencer must have just needed some 'daddy time' but I don't think that's true.  I think daddy needed some Spencer time to remind him what really matters.

Song Of The Day:
I knew that I would be writing this blog today, but wasn't sure what would be a good song to accompany the post.  Then this morning, a work friend's Facebook post reminded me of a song I love that I haven't heard in years.  "Seven"  by Prince* is not a song about kids, but it is a song about love and it also makes me think of my seven children and how they (plus my wife of course) are what really matters in my life.
*Sadly I could not find a link for the original song by Prince, so this one is performed a capella by the Brown Jabberwocks.  It's pretty good, but I LOOOOOVE the original Prince version.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Do You Wear The Apron ?

Every year, Progressive sponsors a contest for employees where the selected winners are awarded an opportunity to travel to the Opening Day baseball game at Progressive Field in Cleveland Ohio.  The requirements to be selected as a winner vary each year.  This year's contest asks each person to answer the above Blog Post Title Question in 200 words or less.

I was extremely fortunate to attend Opening Day 2012 (our 75th anniversary year as a company) and now that I am eligible to attend again (every other year to make sure more people get the opportunity) I will be re-applying every year I can.

Here is my entry for this year ... wish me luck

In 1998, a young man left a promising career in retail to join a company he had never heard of before: Progressive.  There was no apron then.  Just a progressive company growing fast while changing everything anyone ever knew about insurance.

Fast forward to 2014; Notice that this not-quite-so-young-anymore man has an even more promising career at Progressive (and how grateful he is!)  There is an apron on his chest every day, as he dons one of his dozens of Progressive branded shirts.  But it runs deeper than that.  The Thread of Progressive flows through his veins and he could not be more pleased with this symbiosis.

This man and Progressive have grown together over these years and their influence on each other is unmistakable.
From the Blended, WFH, and Sales Academy teams he leads to strong performance success through application of the Core Values, to his support of our Diversity and Inclusion initiative through leadership in various ERG functions, this man and Progressive are linked.

So what does the future hold?  At least two things are certain: Progressive will continue to thrive and this man will grow old wearing his love for all things Progressive prominently on his sleeve.
Song Of The Day:
It is probably a BIG stretch to say that winning the opportunity to go to Opening Day 2014 would be "The Best Day Of My Life" but the song by American Authors is too good not to share as soon as possible.  This linked video version is super cute too, as it features the song from the perspective of a dog who needs to be adopted. 


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why Do I Feel So Blah ?

It doesn't happen often. I've never tracked it, but I would guess its only a few times a year, if that many.  It also doesn't last very long, usually anyway.

I never really know what starts it and there never seems to be a common solution.  I am the kind of person who pays attention to those kinds of trends and patterns, but this seems to have no rhyme or reason.

I just feel sort of blah.

It's been this way for almost a week ... and I have no idea why.

I've tried all sorts of things that have worked in the past: exercise, playing games, reading scriptures, listening to uplifting music, date night with my sweetheart, going to bed early, getting up early, prayer, play wrestling with my kids, blogging, finishing a project, cleaning, making lists (including one of all I am thankful for), etc.

I'm still kinda feeling blah.

I am certainly not the only person who ever gets this way, but I'm not a fan of it (not that other people are either).  I just hope it goes away soon and I can be my normal (well, normal for me anyway) self again.

Song Of The Day:
Perhaps the recent re-realization of my age and stage in life has something to do with the mood.  I  recently calculated that I have around 30 years until retirement.  That's not good or bad, it just is.  I'm well on my way to goals I had in mind for this time in my life, but sometimes 30 more years of work sounds like f o r e v e r ... so here is "Forever Young" by Alphaville for your ThrowBack Thursday.  It's just a good, yet melancholy tune, and when you're feeling blah at least you can enjoy some good melancholy tunes.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Are You Emotionally Attached To Your Car ?

Recently I was looking through old photos on our home computer, specifically those I had uploaded from my phone.  I came across the one at the left and it took me a few minutes to remember why I had taken it.

Then I remembered the conversation with one of my kids (I forget which one it was at the time) from this past autumn.  Whoever it was, said that our cars (Karen drives our minivan and I drive our compact car) were "dent buddies."  I didn't know there was such a thing, but the comment led me to snapping this photo, which led me today to think back on that animated short about "Susie The Little Blue Coupe."

If you've never seen the short, take a few minutes and watch it HERE.

I remembered seeing this for the first time long before I was able to drive a car myself.  And I remembered how I felt seeing the car go from new to old to unloved and then finally back to being loved again by her new owner.  At the time, I was just happy for little Susie, but now, I actually have an additional appreciation for this animation.  I'm quite attached to my car, and we've recently found out just how attached Karen is to her minivan (long story there ... maybe a future blog post).  I've driven Jazzmine (yes, that's her name) around for almost 17 years.  That's a lot of time together.  Over 170,000 miles if you prefer to measure it in distance.

So in honor of my first car (I bought her myself, all the others were borrowed or gifts), I present today's Song Of The Day which is "Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone" by Glass Tiger.  I am not sure how much more Jazz and I will be able to hang out together, but I know I won't forget her when it's time to finally say goodbye.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Why Does It Always Take Three Trips ?

I'll spare you the boring and very self-indulgent rant about feeling as there is no end to the To Do List, and simply cut to the chase in this post.

No matter what the project is.  No matter how well it is planned out ahead of time.  No matter how much time you have set aside to complete whatever you're working on.  No matter how many helpers you have.  No matter if you set out all the tools you could conceive of needing to use.  You will always end up making at least three trips to the hardware store (or stores, isn't that fun when it happens?!) when you are doing a home improvement job that someone is often paid to do.

Today the task was reasonably simple: replace the kitchen faucet.

And yet, there it was ... three trips later (to two different stores, of course) before it was all said and done.

You can reason it out all you want.  Make excuses of how you couldn't possibly have foreseen the changes or additions to the original project.  It doesn't matter.  Life would be much easier if I could learn to just accept that I'll need to make three trips.  Then there won't be frustration when the first or second change comes up.  Instead I'd be elated that I only have two or one more trip to make!

Song Of The Day:
What could possibly be a better song for this post than Weird Al's ode to that manliest of manly places: the "Hardware Store" ?!

If you can't commit the full 5 minutes to the video (which was done by a fan and is pretty amazing in itself - it even has outtakes at the end), at least listen to Weird Al's ridiculously amazing list of available items at the hardware store beginning at about 2:30 (min:sec) into the video.  I promise you will NOT be disappointed!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How Do You Make Dora Creepy ?

My daughter has a stuffed Dora the Explorer doll.  While helping her clean up her room, I glanced over and saw the creepiest looking Dora I had ever seen.

I assumed this was because someone had ripped her eyebrows off.  But my daughter quickly showed me that her hair was designed (for what reason I cannot begin to comprehend) to flip up or down.


Am I the only person who thinks she looks super creepy with her hair flipped up?

Song Of The Day:
In the song "Keep Your Head Up" by Andy Grammer, there is a repeated phrase that says you can let your hair down.  I think this is very important advice for this Dora doll.  'Cause if I ever see her in the middle of the night with her hair up, she's out of the house!  Creepy!

BONUS: There is a Youtube video for a fake Dora the Explorer live-action movie, which is linked HERE and is worth your 2 1/2 minutes.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Have I Been Going About This All Wrong?

I've begun working out again (P90X) but decided to switch my workouts to the mornings, since everyone kept telling me working out in the evenings is wrong, etc.  Although that part is true, my real reason for moving the workouts to the morning is simply because my evenings are too busy with work, scouts, church basketball, and a little thing I like to call eating.

The thing is, since making the switch I've only been successful on getting the workout in about 50% of the time ... but I have uncovered success in another area that has been a challenge for me for many, many years - waking up earlier.

I may not get up to work out, but I get up and get started on the day earlier (if only to avoid guilt for not working out) and that is becoming easier and easier.  I cannot justify staying in bed when I know I need to work out ... but if I convince myself to do something else at that early hour, it's not as bad as just sleeping later.  Maybe I can become a morning person.

Regardless, I wonder if this is some small secret to making improvements in life that stick.  Perhaps it's not about the goal itself at all.  Perhaps we simply need to find something we dislike more than the goal we want to achieve and set a goal around that thing.  So instead of eating just salads, we set a goal to eat rice cakes ... and then the salads look pretty tasty.  Instead of painting the living room and kitchen, we set a goal to paint the whole house ... and so on.

I'll let everyone know if that keeps working for me ... so far, it has.

Song Of The Day:
I haven't featured a song from my favorite group in a while, so here is "Sunday Morning" by OMD.  I know Maroon 5 had a recent popular song of the same name, but they are not the same tune at all.  Take a listen and let me know what you think.  The only tie in to my post today is that it's talking about the morning and this kind of tune makes me think about a lazy morning when you don't rush to get going on anything at all.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why Do You Unfriend People?

I recently noticed that I had been unfriended on Facebook by someone I thought I was reasonably close with.  I'm guessing this has happened to at least some of you out there and I wondered if my reaction was way off base.

Initially I was offended.  Not because the person unfriended me, but more because of the way they handled it.

Let me set the scene a little bit:
I originally became friends with this person on Facebook because we began working together more frequently.  We often talked about things outside of work, so I felt a friend request would be appropriate.  Apparently this individual felt so too because they accepted the invite literally minutes after I sent it.
Then, a few months ago I was just casually speaking with this person and they brought up that they were having to "take a break from Facebook" and "shut their account down."   I understood and actually commended the individual for stepping away if they felt like they needed to.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I noticed they had commented on a mutual friend's post.  It was at this time that I realized this person was no longer listed on my friends page.

Come again now.  What happened to this "break from Facebook"?  And how did this break lead to my removal in their friends list while everyone else appears to still be connected with them?

Obviously it is their decision and I have unfriended people myself.  But I think what rubbed me the wrong way was their deception around it.  I didn't ask them about it, nor do I plan to (what would be the benefit of doing so?)  They brought the topic up themselves and offered up the information about shutting down their account.  And it is that fake discussion around it that leaves me with a lesser opinion of them.  Sadly, it has changed my relationship with this individual and I no longer have the trust in them I thought we had developed over the years.

Song Of The Day:
I love the tune "Why" by Annie Lennox and it fits well with this post.  There are bittersweet harmonies in the song and just general confusion and angst in the lyrics.  But overall I still view it as a happy tune ... and I'm not unhappy about the "loss" of this "friend" on Facebook.  I just hope they can be a little more honest with themselves and others in the future.  Because, if not, they will almost certainly find themselves with regrets later in life.  And that's no way to live.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

To Be Perfectly Honest ?

Do yourself a favor and take the next several minutes to honestly ponder on the following often used phrase:
To be perfectly honest with you ...

Do you use this phrase?  Why do you use it?  Is it a figure of speech or is it a preface to some very specific and truthful information?

Is it used often by others when speaking with you?  When do they use it?  What is the tone of the conversation?  How do you feel when you hear it?

In what context does the phrase come up most frequently?  And most importantly, what does the phrase suggest about all the other times you are speaking during which you (or others) did NOT use this phrase?

There are many variations on the theme ... Can I be completely honest with you? ... Well if I'm being totally truthful with you ... and so on.  But each one reflects the same sentiment and I think we are not actually being perfectly honest with ourselves if we don't stop to consider this possibility:  if you must clarify with someone that you are about to be perfectly honest then you are, in effect, being imperfectly honest the remainder of the time.

In other words, and more simple language, unless you preface ALL your statements with this phrase, you are, for all intents and purposes LYINGBecause what is imperfect honesty if not some variation of perfect dishonesty?

Let that simmer for a little while and then consider removing this either overly used or under-used phrase from your typical speech patterns.  You'll be more perfectly honest if you do ... and that's no lie.

Song Of The Day:
To be of average honesty, I only thought for a little while before deciding that LFO's popular tune "Every Other Time" was a great fit for this post.  The lyrics are more about a relationship, but if you're open to creative listening, I think you can draw some parallels between the song and our misuse of the phrase above.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tired Of Shoes In The Entry Way ?

One of my favorite hobbies is to build things.

Below is a picture of a relatively simple shoe rack, which I built a few months ago.  I say relatively simple, but the construction of it was not easy at all.  I used many different tools and there was a lot of measuring, cutting, planning, gluing, drilling, fastening, and installation.

The "front" door has a Christmas decoration on it,
and the "other" door is to our coat closet.
There is no good place for a bench or basket for shoes.
What to do ?!  Oh wait!  How about a shoe rack built like a coat rack.

I had complained many times (and had heard my wife lament it too) about the annoyance of pairs of shoes (some just half of a pair) littering our entryway to our home.  At some point, I decided to stop complaining and just do something about it.  The result isn't a thing of beauty or some amazing solution that everyone should make or try to buy.  It is basic.  It is functional.  It is only 90% finished (I really should rout the edges, fill the screw holes with pegs, and then sand and stain it).  But it works!

I'm always pleased (and grateful to my Heavenly Father for the talent or gifts He has blessed me with) when I imagine something and then build it.  I'm especially pleased when I have less silly reasons to complain.  :)

Song Of The Day:
Today's song is by the great Jimmy Durante.  I am not ashamed to admit the only reason I know this song is from the Sleepless In Seattle soundtrack.
"Make Someone Happy" is a main reason I make little projects like this.  I feel no guilt when the someone being made happy is ME!  :)


Saturday, January 4, 2014

So You're Not At All Sarcastic ?

In high school, one of my best friends and I were insanely sarcastic to one another.  We could carry on a lengthy conversation (lengthy for high school boys anyway) and scarcely a single comment would be devoid of sarcasm.  We thought we were so cool.  We believed we were witty and in command of our words.  Eventually we believed that our superior intellect could battle with anyone and we would turn any comment into something sarcastic.  The world was ours and we mocked it openly.

That's the problem with sarcasm.

It begins as a simple little thing but can quickly spiral into negative and hurtful speech patterns.  One minute, everyone is laughing and joking.  Then, in an instant, one single comment can be taken a little too seriously and feelings are hurt.  The damage can be irreparable, and not just in high school.

My friend and I attempted a challenge which I would like to openly extend to anyone who is reading this post:
Pick a day, just ONE day, and commit to speaking with NO SARCASM for that entire day.

If you dare to try this, I would preface your day by saying you'll likely fail to make it through without any sarcasm.  That's okay.  The goal is not actually to eliminate the sarcasm but to help you recognize how much of your speech is influenced by this kind of speech.  Be sure to pay attention to your thoughts too because sarcasm can meander into your mind and it's only a short while before it slips from your lips.

I am certainly no saint when it comes to avoiding sarcasm.  I certainly have no claim to suggest I'm not sarcastic.  I know I am.  But I would like to eliminate the kinds of sarcasm that do not provide any real value.  Some sarcasm is witty, funny, and not really disparaging to anyone (I find the self-depricating kind can fit this criteria).  But a lot of sarcasm is more of an excuse to be mean, rude, or say whatever you are thinking regardless of how it comes across.  That's the kind I'd like to eliminate from my own speech.  And I'd love to see others join me in that goal if you'd like to.

Song Of The Day:
Today's song has nothing to do with sarcasm ... and I literally mean that.  I'm doing that on purpose because I can't really think of a song I like that is sarcastic in a positive way.  So instead, please enjoy "Pompeii" by Bastille.  I can't remember where I heard this tune, but I really like it and my friend Craig from high school would almost certainly like this song so shout-out to him!


Friday, January 3, 2014

Which Pair Are Real ?

Apparently my kids like to organize and straighten things just like their old man.  Proof positive is the photo on the right, which shows two sets of glasses on my nightstand.  Just for fun, try and guess which pair are mine and which pair are toy glasses.  Look closely if you're struggling to figure it out ... there's a fairly big giveaway for the keen eye.

Give up?  Okay, mine are NOT pink.  :)

Song Of The Day:
I have four daughters.  When I hear the song "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, I often think of them, even though only two of them are truly brown eyed.  I am certain it was my youngest, Myra, who set my glasses up this way, but all of my daughters do things that are thoughtful, unique, and maybe a little OCD.  I sure love 'em!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Do We Recognize Our Progress ?

This past Sunday at church, our lesson in Sunday School was centered around Resolutions, which makes lots of sense timing-wise because everyone thinks about goals and resolutions at the start of each new year (even if the pretend they don't).

We were all given pieces of paper and I was struck by something our instructor said.  He challenged us to reflect on the accomplishments or progress we made toward our goals this past year.  Initially  played along and just tried to think of goals I had accomplished ... but soon I began writing them down on my piece of paper because there were too many to just think about them.  I wanted to write them all down and really spend some time pondering on my personal progress.

I think we may all be guilty of looking back at the previous year and spending LOTS of time thinking about what we didn't get accomplished.  But we probably rarely (if ever) really stop to celebrate our things we DID get done or progress we did make.

I'd like to challenge anyone who reads this to take 30 minutes (and don't skimp on this please!) to reflect on this prior year.  Write down your list of things you accomplished, even if some of them are not completed or if the were not goals you had at the start of last year.  Ignore that voice in your head that will try to remind you of what you failed to complete, and WRITE DOWN everything you DID get done.

I will promise you two things if you do this:
first, you will be surprised at your list;
and second, it will be much easier to set and keep goals for this year if you start from a positive and successful place.

Song Of The Day:
There was a time when I was almost anti Christian-rock music.  I just felt like the heavy beats and loud sound couldn't really bring in the spirit that I am usually seeking with songs about my Savior or my faith.  I'm not sure when it happened, but my perspective on that has changed and I lately I have found myself listening to one of two local Christian radio stations.  I heard the song "Love Take Me Over" by Steven Curtis Chapman a few weeks ago and I think it is a great New Year song.  I'd like to be filled with more love in 2014.  If we truly loved one another as brothers and sisters with the same heavenly parentage, this world would be so much better!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Do You Really HAVE TO ?

I hear people all the time, especially as related to their kids, say "I have to do ..." some specific thing.

We have to put them in bed at such and such time.   I have to have my child's laundry ready for them in the morning.   I have to make sure the kids have an even number of gifts for Christmas.

I'm calling "baloney" on this practice.

You have to breathe if you want to keep living.
You have to pay the mortgage if you want to buy the house.
You have to feed and clothe your children if you don't want social services to have to take them away.
The rest is YOUR choice.  So own it!

Stop providing others, and yourself, with excuses of have to and start acknowledging that you are choosing to do whatever you are doing.  And then accept the consequences of those choices OR change your choices.  No one wants to hear you complain because someone else MADE YOU do something.  Well maybe a licensed professional therapist who will earn a nice living listening to your complaints about how complicated your life is.

Song Of The Day:
In the spirit of the new year, let's all agree to OWN our decisions a little more and stop seeking to blame whatever we are going through on someone or something else.  I recently heard the song "I Know" by Dionne Farris and I think we all know why we lie to ourselves and blame others.  Let's agree to check one another and stop this immature practice.  The world needs more honesty, and we deserve to be honest with ourselves too.