Letter From an Old Soldier

Happy Fourth of July!  I hope you’re enjoying time off with family and friends to celebrate our nation’s freedom.

With that in mind, I’d like to share with you a note my husband received today from a fellow soldier and friend from Vietnam days.

“As each year’s Fourth arrives, I am again reminded of the privilege I enjoyed to serve in our Army with you guys.  Band concerts, fireworks and other celebratory events are appreciated, but being fortunate enough to experience serving in our Army and treasuring the honor of knowing and serving with y’all tops any other Fourth considerations, far and away.  Yes, America and her freedoms are the true foundation of understanding the Fourth, but serving in our Army gives it the special meaning for me.”

These guys know a thing or two about freedom.  In September, 1966, John led the Tiger Force and two platoons of B Co. in a raid on a North Vietnamese prison camp high in the mountains west of Tuy Hoa.  They freed 27 South Vietnamese prisoners, one of whom weighed less than 80 lbs. and didn’t survive the descent down the mountain.  Here are four of the freed prisoners.  No one on that mission will ever forget it. The prisoners were so overjoyed with their freedom they couldn’t keep quiet during the night, even though silence was critical in avoiding the North Vietnamese.

I will never fully understand the bonds of brotherhood forged in the jungles of Vietnam.

(Not ever dreaming of a reunion 50 years later!)

Tiger Force Reunion 2016.

I will never know the extent of the sacrifices made, the fears that were faced and for some death itself.  But I have listened to the stories of these men.  Some stories have made me laugh, like the time my husband wrote to the Schlitz Beer Company.

“To Whom it May Concern:

Your advertisement says

‘When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer!’

Gentlemen, The Tiger Force is out of beer.”

A few months later, a palette of approximately 50 cases of Schlitz beer arrived at their 101st Airborne base camp.

My husband John on the right.

Other stories have caused me to choke back tears.  I have stood quietly beside my husband at the Wall as his fingers traced the names of friends and he told me about each one.

On this day, I am particularly grateful for all those in every branch of service who have defended our country’s freedom.  May we be quick to listen to their stories, to give honor, and, most of all, to say “thank you”.

Three Steps to Create Positive Change in Your Life (From a Really Bad Guitar Player)

Do you long to create positive change in your life, but like many, feel frustrated and downright STUCK?  Then please watch my video.  You’ll see my horrible performance on the guitar (I have no shame, y’all!) and the valuable insights I’ve gained while learning something new.

I’ve played the flute since the age of 10.  I no longer think about which combination of fingers press which keys to sound a particular note.  Frankly, when I hear a melody, I’m able to recreate it instantly on the flute.  Making music on the flute has become somewhat effortless.

I’ve played the guitar since, well, last month.  It’s crazy. Just when I think I can remember how to shape a chord, I forget, and have to look at the chord chart again.  It’s slow as molasses, not a pretty sound, and doggone it, my fingers hurt!  In other words, learning to play the guitar is downright uncomfortable.

Do you long for positive change in your life?  Allow me to share three significant life lessons have come bubbling up through this humbling experience of learning something new that I believe can be of help if you’re ready for a change.

1. Reframe the discomfort.  When we get uncomfortable, we mistakenly interpret that feeling as our instincts telling us not to be brave…not to put ourselves out there.  We pull back.  We stop moving forward.  Essentially, it’s tempting to quit on ourselves.  Whenever you’re creating positive change in your life, whether learning a new skill, developing a new habit or letting an old one go, it’s uncomfortable.

But scientific, medical research tells us we’re actually creating new neuro pathways in our brains, literally altering our bio-chemistry.  We’re forming new habits, new ways of thinking. We’re keeping our brains young and fighting Alzheimers.

So re-frame the discomfort as a good sign.  In fact, celebrate that discomfort.  When you go to the gym and the next day your muscles are sore, that’s a good thing!  It means your body is getting stronger.  When you are frustrated with a new skill, that’s a good thing! It means your brain is staying young.

All of my adult life, whenever I heard someone play the guitar, I said to myself, “I wish I played the guitar.  It’s too bad I didn’t learn when I was younger.”  As if I’m 98 years old and on my death bed.  What’s up with THAT???

It’s not too late to learn something new.

2.  Face your fears.   Between you and me, I never tried the guitar, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be any good.

And then it dawned on me.

WHO CARES?????

I want to play the guitar for my own enjoyment!  It’s such a friendly instrument to sit in a circle with kids and sing a song together.  And if they can’t stand the way I sound, then please refer to the previous paragraph:  WHO CARES?  I’ll just play for myself!  And enjoy the fact that my brain is staying young!

3.  Stick with it.   What’s the difference between the effortless music from my flute and the painstaking music from my guitar?  Time spent.

That’s right.  Nothing magical or dramatic.  Just good old fashioned time and elbow grease.

I applaud and celebrate YOU for every new, uncomfortable habit or skill you are trying to develop!  Celebrate the discomfort, face your fears and stick with it!

I don’t know what new arena you’re facing, but I want you to know I believe in you.  Most importantly, I want you to know that God stands ready to help you.  Philippians 4:13 tells us we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”

I’d love to know what new thing you’re trying.  Leave me a message below.

Remember: Reframe the discomfort, face your fears and stick with it!

P.S. Know someone who is feeling stuck? Please pass this along! And share with me in the comments below what new thing you’re learning.  Beside the fact that I love hearing from you, others come here each week for insight and inspiration, and your story may help someone else have a meaningful breakthrough.  Thanks for adding your point of view!

With so much love,

Connie

How to Rock Your Day: 3 Reasons Why Your Attitude Matters

At a local lunch place in my town, there’s this bus boy.  His job?  To clean tables after customers leave, making the table ready for the next customer.

But each time I’m there, I watch with fascination the effect he has on others as he takes bussing tables to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL.  This restaurant is the kind where you tell them your name, they announce when your order’s ready and you pick it up at the counter. You take your cup to the drink station and get your drink, napkins, straws, etc.  It’s a self-serve kind of place.

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But if Carlos Slaughter is on duty, that’s not what happens.

Instead, he greets you with a dazzling smile, remembers your name from last time and declares, “Have a seat!  I’ll bring your lunch out!”  Quickly, cheerfully and with a bit of flair, he brings lunch to the table.  “Here you go, Mrs. Connie.  Got enough to drink?  Need some salt or pepper? Alright, you ladies enjoy.” The other customers’ faces light up as he does the same for them.

You would think he was the owner and master chef of an expensive 5 star restaurant!  But  he’s just the busboy.

Just the busboy?  More like a shining ambassador for his place of employment.

Every time I see him, I’m reminded:

It’s not just about WHAT you do, it’s about HOW you do it.

Here are 3 reasons why your attitude matters.

  1.  Your attitude is contagious.  The energy you bring to your meeting, your classroom or home spreads to others and they are affected by it.  I’m told we have “mirror neurons” in our brains that make our emotions catchable.  So take responsibility for the energy and mood you’re spreading to others.
  2. This moment makes your future moments. How you do what you do impacts how people respond to you and very often, the results you get.  I give The Busboy a better tip than many other servers and I suspect other customers do, too.  The way this young man treats others and the excellent way he does his job is sure to open doors for him in the future.  Decide that you will WOW other people with your genuine caring and attention to detail, and watch to see whether you get a different response than usual.
  3. You can make a difference in this world no matter what you do for a living. Busboys are not known for making millions.  Working in the service industry (I’ve been there) can be frustrating.  Customers are in a hurry, in a bad mood, don’t expect to see you again, etc.  It can be tempting to tell yourself, “If I had a really important job, my attitude would be better.” But whatever your job is, don’t miss this truth: YOU IMPACT OTHERS.  Yes, YOU! I can’t begin to tell you the positive impact this young man has on me and every other customer.  He literally makes my day.  He makes my friends and me want to eat there.  He’s the best advertisement this restaurant could have.  Let’s learn from him!  Start infusing everything you do with love and enthusiasm, realizing that you can impact others for good, no matter what you do for a living.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently put it:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (credit: biography.com)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (credit: biography.com)

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music…Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.  Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

You can hear that speech here.

Think with me here.  What’s an example of HOW someone did something that wowed you?

And what area might shift in your life if you focused on HOW you do something?

Leave a comment because I’d really love to know.  And if you have a friend or co-worker who’s caught in a negative loop and could use a little encouragement, share this with them.

Remember, It’s not just about WHAT you do.  It’s about HOW you do it!

Thanks for reading!

How to Become a Super Ager

I read a fascinating article recently from the New York Times that discusses how some people over 65 experience the usual forgetfulness of old age, yet others somehow manage to remain sharp.  My mom, who will be 89 this month, assures us she is falling apart.  “Getting old is not for sissies!”, she reminds me.  Not gonna lie.  She has limitations.  She is diabetic, doesn’t drive after dark.  Yet, for her 82nd birthday, then again for her 87th, she climbed a mountain.  She plays bridge a few times a week, plays the piano (beautifully), drives (in the daytime), texts like a teenager and downloads games with her I-phone, is active on Facebook, lives in her own home and has a sense of humor to make you laugh so hard your sides hurt.  She’s a Superager.

Top of the Mountain

“Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25 year-olds.  For those of you who have a penchant for scientific details, I suggest you read the article, but if you’re like me and love a good bottom line, here it is: How do you become a superager?  Research shows: work hard at something.  The article says many labs have observed that the critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental.  So you can keep this part of the brain working well through vigorous exercise and mental effort.

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Here’s the interesting part, however. When you increase the activity in this important part of the brain, you feel worse, not better, in the moment.  Think about the last time you wrestled with a mental problem or pushed yourself physically.  This is a great life lesson:  Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment.  It’s afterward that you feel good, whether emotionally or physically.  Many a morning I have groaned as I laced up my tennis shoes for a walk or workout. Yet, NEVER, and I mean NEVER have I regretted the time spent working out!  Perhaps you’ve felt the same way, too.  Whether it was digging in with a mentally challenging problem or something physically challenging, it feels so good when you are done.

I love what the Marine Corps says: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

Superagers are like Marines:  They push past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort.  Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.

A fact: brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. The old saying is true:  If you don’t use it, you lose it.

We all love to be happy.  But sometimes, the greater happiness comes, not from indulging in inactivity, but in pushing through the hard thing and enjoying the benefits afterward.

This year, challenge yourself mentally.  Learn a musical instrument.  Learn something new on the computer.  Try a new sport or hobby.  Work your brain.  You’ll be glad you did!

A Simple Secret for a Great 2017

Hello, there!

With just a few days into the new year, it’s pretty common to have a regret or two about the past year as well as hopes for the new one.

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Perhaps your noble intentions fizzled.  You tried your best, but it wasn’t enough.  Or maybe you flat out made a bad decision with really unfortunate consequences. Friend, I have been there.

I often hear this phrase: “If I could just have a do-over”. In fact, I’ve said it, myself.   But you know, regretting and wishing we could undo past mistakes takes a LOT of energy and brain cells, and never makes us very happy anyway!

The truth is, we simply don’t get to have do-overs. You see, it’s impossible to undo that wrong choice, un-say those unkind words, un-eat, un-drink or un-skip that workout.  We can’t un-spend, un-lie, un-cheat or un-fail to do something we meant to do but didn’t.

Which is why I’d like to share a different approach to this new year.

Rather than be consumed with debilitating, depressing, and useless regret, skip the self-accusation and line up your behavior with your goals…yes, One. More. Time.

That’s what Oprah Winfrey says has helped her lose 42 pounds in the past year.

As successful as Oprah is in other areas of her life, she has failed repeatedly to reach and maintain a healthy weight.  But she didn’t let it stop her from trying one more time.

As you and I think about past failures, there’s a lie that calls to us: “It will always be this way”.  But we must remember that that’s all it is: a lie.

What’s the truth? If you want to feel better, then do better.

Wow.  That sounds so simple.  But it really is true. Consider these timeless words of wisdom:  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” Isaiah 43:18-19.

But, I have wrong doing in my past that haunts me, you may say.   “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.

My friend, don’t spend another second consumed with regrets about the past.  If there is something about which you feel guilty, confess it to God, do what you can to make it right with others, then trust Him with your future.  Thank Him that you still have breath in your body and time to make new choices.  And do better, moving forward.   In other words, make better decisions starting today.

Remember, if you want to feel better, do better.  With God’s help, you can!

I’d love to hear from you about your dreams and goals for the coming year!  And if I can pray for you about that or anything else, I’d count it an honor.  I send my best wishes to you for a great year!

Georgia Author of the Year Connie Carey is the author of Falling Up, a step by step guide for moving beyond grief and finding joy again.  Click here to claim your copy.