Thanks Giving

In September, Kathy attended the annual Texas Association of School Boards (virtual) convention. The opening presenter was Shawn Achor, whose TEDTalk on happiness and success has more than 13 million views. Afterward, she shared the keynote with our daughter and me.

The former Harvard researcher spoke about how showing gratitude for the things in our lives is linked to happiness. He suggested five daily habits – all easy to do – that can elevate your happiness meter:

> Exercise at least 15 minutes
> Journal for two minutes
> Meditate for two minutes
> Send one positive email of three sentences to someone
> Express out loud three things you are grateful for that happened in the past day

While I’m not much on journaling (although these blogs might be a form of that), I do exercise and try to focus on silence for a few minutes each day. Since seeing his presentation, I am trying to send a daily positive email – or at least several texts.

The big change for the three adults living in our house occurs during our main meal. We committed to sharing three things we’re thankful for… and it’s made a difference in how I feel about the challenges of doing business by distance… and also taken our conversations to a much deeper level.

In this time of Thanksgiving, think about how you can start giving thanks more often.


Full Disclosure

During the 14 years I wrote a monthly newsletter and writing this blog since 2009, I have always tried to be open and honest, never holding back a thought, if it would benefit readers. Yet, today – as I type these words – I am hesitant.

There is so much divisiveness in our country. People are hunkering down on the side that best represents their belief system. The past three weeks have added additional fuel to the fire. So, today – as I type these words – I am hesitant.

I know that withholding my opinion doesn’t help anyone… and I have an earned trust with readers to share my perspective. Yet, I know that what I’m about to say will upset half my audience. So, today – as I type these words – I am hesitant.

Nonetheless… I’m going to do what I always do: write what I feel.

So here goes.

I absolutely love watching Hallmark Christmas movies.

It’s a holiday tradition Kathy and I started a few years ago, and we renewed it a few days after the first feature – Jingle Bell Bride – aired on October 24.

OK, I get it. Every single Hallmark movie is the same…

Open with snowy aerial shot of big city or small town

Introduce main characters living in separate worlds – typically longtime single or recently widowed/divorced; work in ad agency or run store inherited from deceased parent

Paths cross fortuitously. Instant connection. Work together on last-minute project like annual Christmas Eve pageant or gathering donations for overseas military

Underlying conflict around having to return to big city unexpectedly because boss requires starting new position the day after Christmas or just not ready to start relationship. Usually a misunderstanding because someone eaves-dropped on conversation

Mother gives ‘do what your heart tells you’ advice. Couple finally embraces under mistletoe/stars/during formal Christmas Eve dance where woman arrived in stunning dress and man nattily attired

Kiss. Wide Shot. Tilt up. Roll credits

(Of course, there are also scenes with: cookie baking, ice skating, snowball fights, hot cocoa, former relationships, Santa in disguise, wreath making, tree decorating, sleigh rides, opening gifts, visits to faraway places like Rome and Vienna…. and – in 5-4-3-2-1 – lighting of the giant Christmas tree on the town square.)

I realize this thing we refer to as ‘schlocky Hallmark Christmas movies’ isn’t for everyone. For us, though, it’s a welcomed disconnect from everything going on in the world – and what’s the alternative: watching a midweek college football game or a show like “I See Your Voice”? We’ll stick with ‘stars’ like Lacey Chaubert, Luke Mcfarlane, Candace Cameron Bure, Brennan Elliott, Danica McKellar and Andrew Walker.

Note: We cut the cable this summer and didn’t’ think we’d be able to tune in this year. However, we discovered a little know streaming service – frndly TV – that has all 3 Hallmark channels and 12 other networks. It’s eight bucks a month for HD, unlimited cloud recordings and you can cancel anytime. There are a dozen Christmas movies still to air, so why wait?


Choose One

In November, 2008, I wrote the following for my monthly e-newsletter. As this is Election Day in America – and there are a lot of fears about what reactions people will have based on the final outcome – it seemed like a good time to publish it again…

History walked among us last Tuesday – regardless of whether you’re liberal, conservative or squarely in between. The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States will be studied by schoolchildren in the year 2227, just as our kids today read about George Washington. As eye witnesses, we are privileged to have experienced it in our lifetime.

Full disclosure: I voted for the other guy. While that may cause some of you to immediately stop reading and hit “Unsubscribe” – and others to say, “I knew it, Martha! He’s one of us.” – the deciding issue for me was balance. I didn’t want to see the Executive branch and
Congress controlled by one party. That weighed more heavily on my mind than whether Republican values were a better choice than Democratic change.

Mr. Obama is a great orator, and the impact his victory is having shows he has the potential to inspire action. In 71 days, he’ll take the oath of office and be thrown into the fire, with our nation facing its greatest challenges in a generation. Like all leaders, he’ll make right decisions and wrong ones, and he’ll ultimately be judged on which way the scale tips most often. At this time, in this nation, all of us need him to succeed. When you hit your knees tonight, set politics aside, and pray hard for him to receive the gift of wisdom.

Mr. McCain easily carried Texas, receiving this red state’s 34 electoral votes. Our 18-year-old daughter cast her first presidential ballot this year. During the primaries, she said: “Tell me again how my vote matters? A Republican is going to win Texas regardless of who I vote for, so does it really count?” Kids say the darndest things, even after they grow up.

Our forefathers did an amazing job laying the foundation for this country; however, we’ve found it necessary to add 27 Amendments to the original ratified document. In these wonderful days of so many citizens feeling included in the future of our nation, perhaps it’s time to consider abolishing the Electoral College, and truly make Election Day a one-person, one-vote process.


Spooky Sibling

Halloween is a favorite time of year around our house. While we don’t decorate the outside – orange lights strung in shrubs is not our thing – the inside becomes a vivid display of all things pumpkin. That includes the pumpkin bread I consume in way too large quantities, although no pumpkin spice latte ever crosses our lips.

One reason this date is special is because it’s the birthday of the brother that’s closest to me in age. Mike was born October 31, 1955, which means today is Medicare day number one.

I recall our two oldest brothers telling a story about that date. Then ages nine and six – they went ‘Trick-or-Treating’ in their Fort Worth suburb… by themselves. When people opened their doors, instead of saying those three magic words guaranteed to earn candy, they said, “Our mother just had another boy.”

Mike is a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend. He’s run his own insurance agency for more than two decades, built and sold – along with wife Kathy – several custom homes, and can do anything with his hands. He also holds two Masters degrees and recently was ordained a deacon in the Catholic church after many years of study.

He’s a pretty awesome brother, too… now.

Five years older than me, my mother said he would get under my baby crib and kick. He apparently didn’t appreciate having a younger sibling in the house. That’s OK. Mike made it up to me over the years and someday – maybe on his 75th – I’ll let it go.


Vision Quest

In May 2011, I wrote in my then monthly newsletter:

Smart people who dedicate themselves to achieving goals are capable of accomplishing amazing things in life. Act One for Elon Musk was being the co-founder of PayPal, which eBay acquired for $1.5 billion in 2002. That same year he began Act Two: SpaceX – a low-cost developer of orbital spaceflight vehicles. Two years ago NASA selected the company to fly cargo to the International Space Station. You may have heard about Act Three for the 40-year-old who said he came to America because “it is where great things are possible.” He’s the chairman of electric car company Telsa Motors. Stay tuned.

Two years later, this was my note:

Not content to grow old with his billions, Musk took over electric car company Tesla five years ago when it was about to go out of business. Over the past six months, super-charged by its Model S sedan receiving rave reviews, Tesla turned its first-ever profit and the stock price tripled.

In May 2016, I followed up with:

Turning 45 next month, Elon Musk wants to ultimately get to Mars – first, though, he’s trying to redefine the speed of land travel… suggesting levitated pods could reduce the 350-mile trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to 30 minutes. Outside Las Vegas last week, the leading startup initiative – Hyperloop One – successfully tested its prototype: which some called a ‘Kitty Hawk’ moment. The company intends to move cargo within three years and predicts passenger travel will happen by 2021.

While the Hyperloop is still in testing phase, the gregarious Musk has, just this year: taken astronauts to the ISS; moved forward with his Boring company that is building a tunnel for electric cars underneath the Las Vegas Strip; announced plans for a battery that will ‘revolutionize’ Tesla; shared his intentions to travel people to Mars; and had his sixth child, with current partner Grimes, named X Æ A-Xii.

As I also wrote in 2013: Folks are daring to compare Musk to Steve Jobs: somewhat because he can be arrogant and strong-willed; mostly because he appears to be a marketing genius. Just keep in mind you don’t get to be Elon Musk by playing it straight down the middle.

If only I had put $1,000 in Tesla stock when I first wrote about Elon Musk. That would be worth more than $75,000 today.