Got change?

Change has been a major theme in my life in 2012.  I lost my beloved dog, Max, to cancer very suddenly on Easter Monday, and I was laid off just as suddenly four days later. The remaining changes began mid-June, when I separated from my husband and moved three provinces west to Alberta.  Since then, I’ve gotten a new address, new job, new car, new church, new friends, new wardrobe, new hairstyle, and new hair colour.

Years ago, it was popular to complete a checklist of all the major changes that had taken place in your life, tally the score, and then see where you fell on the stress scale.  It didn’t take a checklist for me to recognize that, at least on paper, my stress levels were off the charts.  But, while I went through a phase of intense stress, I persevered, and came out the other side, emerging into a place of great peace and happiness.  I wouldn’t want to relive the past few months but I’m deeply grateful for them because, otherwise, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

As much as we wish it were otherwise, there’s often no gain – or little gain – without pain.

I think change has gotten a bad rap because it’s assumed that change = stress.  All pain and no gain (an urban myth).  So change tends to inspire fear.  What fear accomplishes is that it keeps us paralyzed, determined to avoid change at all cost.  The longer we give into fear, the more it grows until, before long, we find ourselves firmly ensconced in our comfort zones.  Comfort zones are misleading because the very word “comfort” inspires warm and fuzzy when, in fact, the longer you stay there, the more it becomes your prison.  Life becomes very scaled down.  The sky is no longer the limit… the ceiling is.

Think of it in terms of football.  Players love to make it to the end zone because that’s where the touchdowns are scored.  It’s where the gain is.  The rest of the field is where the pain is.  But just image if the players decided they were never going to leave the end zone.  It would lead to a very boring game.  In fact, it wouldn’t even be possible to have a game anymore.  The players would be left living in the past because that’s where the action was.

That’s one of the ways you can tell who is in their comfort zone a little too securely.  They’re largely left living in the past.  Or living vicariously through other people.  Their world has shrunk until it fits into all too comfortable dimensions, effectively cutting off change, and eventually even the possibility of change.

This often happens, at least to some degree, to people as they get older but it happens to younger people too.  The constant is that they experienced negative and unexpected change at some point.  Maybe they lost a job, failed in university, had a failed relationship or marriage, went bankrupt, etc.  But the common thread is that fear paralyzed them into thinking that if they just stay in their comfort zone from that point onward, they will never have to experience that sort of  change again.  Even if it’s true, at what cost???

The best things in my life have come from change.  At the very least, the world is constantly changing, whether I like it or not.  I can either embrace some of that change or get left behind.  Become irrelevant, dated, out of touch.

The way I see is that I only have one life to live so I want to live it to the fullest.  I want to take chances, make changes, try new things, keep an open mind, push through fear, and focus on the positives.  I want to be hopeful, joyful, optimistic.  I want my best and most interesting years to be the next 50 and not the last 50.  I don’t want to be defined by walls or ceilings but to be continually reaching for the stars.  I don’t want the question to be “what if” but “why not”.

So, have I changed anybody’s mind?  I hope so.  It might mean taking a total change in direction from time to time but the benefits of change will far outweigh the negatives.  It’s time to change it up!!!

“I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically the fear of change, the fear of the unknown, and I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back, turn back. . . .” — Erica Jong

Oh my word…

I turned on the TV early this morning to find an infomercial well under way for a steam mop.  An hour long infomercial.  Ugh.  I normally group infomercials into the same category as root canals – meaning I don’t do them – but I decided to see just how over the top they were going to go to sell their product.  Not surprisingly, they went over the top and then some.

The first clue is always the demonstrators voice.  High pitched and fast talking.  Like they’d recently inhaled helium.

Then you inevitably hear something like, “But wait, there’s more!”, at least once but usually multiple times, as they proceed to demonstrate their claims in a controlled, staged, environment rather than a real life situation.

It’s also not unusual to hear, “But if you call right now (or in the next sixty seconds), we’ll double your order!  All you have to do is pay the extra shipping!!”

Yay.

Have you ever wondered how much the extra shipping would cost to receive twice as much product as you even wanted in the first place?  $20  $30?  $40?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to order something just to find out the answer to that question.

The more over the top someone goes to try to sell me on something, the less enthused I become.  It nearly always becomes a case of over promising and under delivering.  The way I see it is, if your product is really that good, it should speak for itself.

I’m sure that, at one time or another, we’ve all purchased something that failed to live up to its hype.  It’s disappointing for us, and it ruins the credibility of the company or person that did the promising.  A lose/lose situation.

Stop for a moment and consider how this premise applies to us as individuals.  How many times do we overextend ourselves and continually have to make excuses for not being able to follow-thru with all our commitments?  Or we say ‘yes’ to something when we really want to say ‘no’, and then spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out how to get out of it?  Or  we promise somebody we’ll do something and then simply forget about it?

Is your word your bond?

That question is directed at myself more than anyone.

We live in a day and age where most people don’t recognize the value of their word.  They’ll make an appointment and then be a ‘no show’.  They’ll say they’ll phone back but they don’t.  They’ll tell someone they’ll have to get together sometime soon but soon never comes.  They’ll tell an elderly relative they’ll drop over for a visit but they not only never do, they never intended to in the first place.  I’ve even known of instances where someone accepted a  new job but never showed up for the first day, or ever.

It’s said that “they’ll know we are Christians by our love”.  I can’t argue with that because it’s true.  But, what about our word?  Will people know we are Christians by our word?   Do we say what we mean and mean what we say?  Do we UPOD (under promise and over deliver)?  Do we stand by our word even and especially when it’s uncomfortable to do so?  Are we known as men and women of integrity?

I’m a person who takes things literally.  If somebody tells me they’re going to do something, I believe them, even if it’s under the faint hope clause.  Most of my disappointments in life have come from someone not following through on their word.

Talk is cheap.  Action is expensive.  Anybody can say anything but actually following through with it involves time, effort, and commitment.

It’s my goal to be the kind of person that I expect to encounter.  I’m trying to be more intentional about what I say, what I promise, and what I commit to.  That being said, I’m aware now, more than ever, of all the times I fall short.  But, it only makes me want to do better the next time.  To be better the next time.

I’m hoping that by being a person of my word, people will realize that there’s something different about me.  That there’s Someone different about me.

Maybe that’s why the Bible is referred to as the “good Book”.  It stands by its word.

So, UPOD people!

TTYL.

And later will come.

You have my word.

The wrong end of the stick…

When I moved to Calgary this past June, one of the things I was most looking forward to was attending an NHL game.  It had been several years since I had last had that privilege, and I couldn’t wait.  What I was not looking forward to was an NHL lockout.  But that’s what I got.  And now, the odds are that I won’t see an NHL game this entire season.

I’m in a tough spot here.  I’m normally a big fan of the players and not so much a fan of Gary Bettman but I have to say I’m leaning pretty heavily toward Bettman and the owners in this latest dispute.

My difficulty with the player’s stance starts with their salaries.  With an average salary of $2.45 million over the course of the latest collective bargaining agreement, it’s safe to say the players aren’t about to go hungry any time soon, not to mention that most of us won’t see that kind of money collectively over the course of our entire lives.

So, the sticking point to inking a deal?  Well, the NHL believes that too much money is being paid out in salaries and has decided the best way to address this is to set the player’s share of revenue at 49 percent this season – down from the 57 percent in the deal about to expire – and further proposing that it drop to 47 percent by the end of the six-year deal.  The union is not only against that proposal, they tabled an offer where the salary cap would be set to fixed increases of two per cent, four per cent and six per cent over the next three years, with the system then reverting to a percentage-based system for the remainder of the agreement.

Ok, let me think about all the jobs I’ve had over the past 33 years.  Funny but I can’t think of a single instance where I received so much as 1% in revenues, even when I was directly involved in increasing the company’s revenues.  So 49 percent sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

And a two percent increase in salary sounds somewhat reasonable given the current economic times, but four percent?  Six percent?

Has anyone received a six percent salary increase any time in the past few years?  If ever?

No?

Me neither.

Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza had this to say about the standoff.  “I think we (the players) want more of a partnership”  (Sympatico.ca Sports).  That comment actually calls for a moment of silence.

It would seem that therein lies the problem.

The players are confusing themselves with partners when they’re actually employees.  The last I checked, employees are sometimes given perks that are dependent on the company’s bottom line and generosity, not obligation.  By forcing a lock-out, the players are actually showing they don’t want to be partners.  They just care about their share of the spoils.

Greed.

Otherwise they would be a whole lot more concerned about how a fourth lock-out in twenty years will almost certainly severely and adversely affect both short-term and long-term ticket sales.

I think the players need to have a reality check.  They’re making phenomenal money, with phenomenal perks, to play a sport they love.  A sport.  Not rocket science.  Not medicine.  Not law enforcement.  If the players play their cards right, most can reasonably expect to make enough money to take an early retirement with few, if any,  financial worries.

The players have completely lost sight of their situation versus that of the average Canadian/American.

I personally think players are not held accountable enough.  They’re signing increasingly lengthy contracts with teams practically daily.  But, how many times has a player signed a long-term contract only to have their performance drastically decline shortly after the signing, never to rebound?  Far too often, it would seem.

I think player’s contracts should come with caveats.  Base salaries plus performance bonuses.  Long-term agreements dependent on minimum performance levels.  Player’s percentage of revenue share dependent on league revenue and team ticket sales.

Motivation for hard work.  Consequences for not so hard work.

We all know the players would never agree to any of those caveats in a million years but, on the other hand, we, the average worker are fortunate to receive a base salary, let alone the potential for bonuses, and rarely the potential to share in company revenues.  Not to mention that, in nearly every instance, our potential for a raise is almost solely dependent on our performance.

In short, reality.

I’ve been a fan of hockey since I was a child.  I love the game.  I love the NHL.  I love the rivalries, I love the playoffs.  I even love the fights.  Not the cheap shots.  Just a good old fashioned dropping of the gloves to expend some frustration and make a statement.

I’m hoping the players will gain some perspective and save the season.  I don’t want to see it go up in flames.  C’mon guys, let the puck drop where it should.

In your arena, with your team.

Not with the Russians.

It’s not a lot to ask.

Think about it.

Now that was a clothes call…

Clothes.

Our time is consumed by clothes.  Figuring out what to wear, what to wash, what to discard, what to buy, what matches, what we like, what we don’t like.  It’s a never ending cycle.

Clothes.

We can’t live with them; can’t live without them.  Well, shouldn’t live without them.

Thinking about clothes got me to thinking about how many expressions are attached to clothes, most that have nothing to do with clothes.  No wonder English is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn.

Consider the hat.  And the hat trick.  A hat trick is universally linked to sports, especially hockey, and is used to describe 3 goals scored in one game.

But, a hat trick can actually be used to describe 3 of anything.  Although I must confess that I’ve never heard it in reference to 3 hats.  Hmmm…

Then there are people who are referred to as being too buttoned up or a stuffed shirt.  Not exactly positive.  Neither is ‘tie one on’ or ‘skirt the issue’.

One of the worst is the muscle shirt, which is often described as a ‘wife beater’.  Huh?!  Most baffling of all is that, knowing that information, guys keep wearing it!  I’ve seen someone wearing one every single day this summer!  Maybe the guys in question are single and/or clueless, and need to have this reference on their refrigerator to help them.

In order, that would be good, better, and what in the world are you thinking??!!

For a blast from the past, let’s think about the pantywaist.  It used to be a garment that was popular back in the 20’s – a child’s undergarment consisting of boxer-like pants and a T-shirt that buttoned together at the waist but, starting in the 30’s, it came to describe a man who is weak or useless.  How that transition happened, I will never know.

People talk about dressing up and dressing down, both which seem obvious enough.  But, then there’s a ‘dressing down’, which is a particularly severe reprimand or scolding, often delivered publicly.  Or being told to ‘put a sock in it’.  Ouch.  Neither may be physically painful but they’re still pretty painful nonetheless.

At some point in our lives, most of us have either been told or otherwise realized that we’re wearing a pair of ‘floods’.  Ah, the lovely flood pant.  Not ankle length pants or capri’s but pants that, well, have the appearance of successfully navigating high waters.

To finish off our head to toe clothes evaluation, we come to the ever respectable footwear.  There’s the person who’s a ‘shoe in’ (usually for a job) or, conversely, the person who’s a real heel.  Or, if you have a dog, there’s the command to heel.  No wonder dogs get confused.

Then, there’s the person who continually ‘flip flops’.  Or someone who’s a ‘loafer’.  I guess if you’re really special, you could be a ‘penny loafer’.

I just made that up.

A penny loafer is an actual shoe but I guess if it was a reference to a person, it would be a loafer who has spare change.  Ok, that’s probably a stretch.  I doubt that term will catch on.

To round out our shoe section, there’s the saying “give him the boot”.  Pretty self-explanatory, and one of the phrases that actually makes sense when you consider a potential use of a boot.

Having made this clothes assessment, I’ve realized that most of the terms have a negative connotation.  What’s up with that?!  Is it really in our nature to think from a negative standpoint as opposed to a positive standpoint?  It would seem so.

I’m thinking it would suit us to avoid using these terms, and instead stick to more positive phrases like ‘suits him to a ‘T’ or ‘my hat’s off to him’.

Well, that makes me feel much happier.  On that note, I think I’ll put on some music and go ‘belt out a tune’.

Have I got a sign for you…

Have you ever hoped for a sign to help you know what to do or what direction to go in?  I think we’ve all hoped for that at one time or another.  Life is confusing.  The problem is the signs are often confusing too.

In a perfect world, we want a sign to help us know whether a choice is good or whether it’s bad.

Or a sign that tells us simply “yes” or “no”.

Or, better yet, a sign that lets us know if it’s a good sign or a bad sign.

But, we don’t live in a perfect world so we rarely get a perfect sign.  In fact, we’re far more apt to get a sign that’s too confusing to figure out.Or a sign we’re not quite sure how to interpret.

Or a sign that strikes us funny.

Or a sign that’s so blatantly ridiculous, we actually spend time considering whether it holds a hidden message for us.

I think signs can be interesting, confusing, annoying, misleading, humorous, and sometimes even helpful but that we should always consider them through the filter of common sense, and preferably prayer.

I also think that, more often than not, we interpret signs correctly the first time around, but then we needlessly complicate things by second guessing ourselves or, worse yet, we look for a new sign because the sign we got wasn’t the sign we wanted.

Now, if only all signs were as obvious as these.  On that note, I’m signing out.