Coffeegirl63's Blog

Optimism June 25, 2011

Filed under: Healthy Living,Life Questions — coffeegirl63 @ 12:13 pm

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am an optimist. I haven’t always been an optimist. As a child, I had a pretty bright outlook. It was sort of in the middle that I developed a rather dim view on life. Fortunately, in the last couple years, I have found my inner rose-colored glasses. I missed my rose-colored glasses. It’s good to have them back.

According to www.dictionary.com, optimism is defined as: 1. a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome. 2. the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world. 3. the belief that goodness pervades reality.

Yeah, these are all accurate reflections of reality, as I see it.

Some things have happened recently that have left me contemplative. My life-path journey seems to follow a circuitous, serendipitous road. I trust this is indicative of a curiosity about and a joyful embracing of the presence of life more than a simple lack of direction. Outside of that dim-view time, I have tended to follow the sights, sounds, and smells that fascinate me most. I don’t think of myself as a risk-taker, but lately I like trying new things–from foods to adventures. I was even brave enough to traverse the Royal Gorge Bridge and cross back over by way of the aerial tram. It was very scary, but fortunately I had someone to hold my hand (and whose arm I could grip with ferocity, when necessary) through the very scary parts. It’s been slowly building, but within the last 6 – 8 months, I started looking at situations with the assumption that they would work out for the best. In general, people will do the right thing and will be kind to each other. If things don’t happen that way, it’s a fluke.

I’ve come to believe strongly that every interaction between people is an opportunity for a positive relationship to be established. Sometimes, that relationship will last the 5 or 10 minutes you’re in contact, but sometimes it turns into a lasting friendship or business relationship. I’m not sure when I realized how much it fed my soul to be able to make someone laugh or to find a point of commonality with a stranger, but I now know that it’s a very powerful force in my life.

Some people find this irritating. I understand that and will dial it down a bit when I’m with them. When I go visit my sister, we usually go shopping for the week’s groceries the morning after I get there. Once, as we were leaving the grocery store, she said, “Do you have to speak to everyone in the store?” I said, “I didn’t talk to everyone. I didn’t talk to that guy. But I can if you want.” For being best friends, we have some glaring personality differences! When my son was going into his Army recruiting office the week before leaving for basic, he asked me to wait outside. His reasoning: he had to take care of some business, and I would get to be best friends with everyone in the office, and before we left I’d have everybody’s phone number and several of the guys will have asked me out on dates. Well, I think he was exaggerating, but I can see how it would be distracting for him to take care of Army business if I’m in there making new friends. So I waited outside.

The contemplation-inducing events? They range from dealings with the IRS and the CO Department of Revenue to orders placed through Amazon.com.

Everyone knows that dealing with the Internal Revenue Service is not meant to be pleasant, right? Some even say the agents have been trained to be unhelpful, and the really good ones are downright grumpy. As a payroll professional, however, I have just not found this to be true. When you call the IRS, you will get the next agent in queue. They answer with Mr/Ms LastName and their ID number, and they are very professional. Now, each time I call the IRS, in spite of nay-sayers’ dire predictions to the contrary, I have left the conversation with all my IRS-related issues resolved. Every time I have conversation with an IRS agent, there has been a story and/or a laugh shared. And I understand that has more to do with how I relate to people than with how they were trained to process calls. Usually, I’m calling to get information or to let them know that my company doesn’t actually owe them money as their records seem to indicate. One time, however, I misapplied a deposit to the incorrect quarter. By the time I received the letter, there were penalties, fees, and interest charges. Now, it was my fault–I wasn’t paying attention when I posted my deposit. I called just to ask how to get the deposit applied correctly. The agent helped me, we got everything taken care of, we had our story-sharing (he was raised just a few miles from where I was), and then he asked if there was anything else he could do. I asked if there could be any grace for me regarding the extra fees since I was so new at my job. He hesitated, and then said, “yes, let me take care of that for you.” I don’t know if that’s how they normally handle that situation, but I know I was given grace because I asked. I’m also pretty sure that if I’d called with a grumpy and defensive attitude, my company would have been paying those few thousand dollars in fees to the IRS.

When you, an employer, begin withholding and paying income taxes on behalf of your employees, the various tax agency are probably grateful, but you will soon receive letters saying, “um, you’re paying withheld taxes now? well, why didn’t you pay before this? and before that? and before that? and …” So, you send the letters and make the phone calls to explain that you didn’t withhold and deposit taxes on behalf of your employees in those previous time periods… because, well, you didn’t have any employees to withhold from. In my experience, this is a quick and simple fix. However, the letter I got from CO also had our name spelled incorrectly. Now, when you call the Colorado Department of Revenue employer help-line, you will most often be greeted by a message along the lines of, “Hi. This is Colorado. We care deeply for you and respect you far too much to leave you on hold indefinitely, or really for longer than about 15 minutes. It appears that your wait time will be more than 15 minutes now, so we would like you to call back later so we can help you sooner.” and then they hang up. This is much kinder than the state of CA, which says, “we’re busy” click. But still. Playing around on the website, I discovered they have a walk-in office in Colorado Springs. The first time I went in, there was a hand-written note on the door saying that the agent would be back later due to a family emergency. Later, like this afternoon, or later, like in a few weeks? I wasn’t sure, and neither was anyone else in that location. I was able to get in to see the Tax Examiner a few days later. The wait wasn’t too long, and the agent was very helpful… again, professional, like the IRS agents. When we had resolved everything, he looked to the door as if to say, “Next.” I stood up to go, but then made a decision. As I stood up,  I asked his name. I put out my hand and said, “Keith, thank you so much.” He looked at my hand for a moment before shaking it. I said, “My name is Joni, and I really appreciate your help today.” He gave me his business card and told me to call him if I had any more questions. When I got back to the office, I emailed a thank you note to him and connected with him on LinkedIn. A few days later, he emailed me that he noticed there were a couple other things we’d missed, with information on how to take care of them. One of the items involved pretty big fees, but with his help I wasn’t charged for anything. We’ve stayed connected and I have a new relationship because I was friendly for a moment when it wasn’t required.

I don’t always get to know, but I really hope these interactions bless the person I’m talking to as much as they bless me.

How could this relate to Amazon.com? This is the instance that really made me start to question this whole optimism thing and if there was more to it than a sunny vs cloudy outlook on life. I’ve been trying to eat more healthfully. Real food is, for some reason, much more expensive than fake (processed) food. Fortunately, amazon.com sells a lot of organic and natural foods for less than the local grocery stores do. I had several things I wanted, but I had to stay in a budget. I ordered chia seeds, hemp seeds, and organic almond butter. (If you talk to my really good friend Julie at glutenfreeveganfam.blogspot.com she’ll tell you exactly why those are wonderful things to have. I just like the seeds on my salads and in my smoothies and the butter on a lot of things. I highly recommend you pay her a visit.) As I was checking out, amazon asked if I wanted to use my amazon visa (sure, I only use it when my daughter uses my debit card and I forget to get it back from her, but I pay it off right away). Then amazon asked if I wanted to use my points. Points? I remember my amazon visa would periodically send me an amazon gift card, but there hadn’t been one for quite a while, so I just figured they weren’t doing that anymore. Evidently, they’ve been storing them up for me. Well, my current order didn’t even use half my points. Since I had more on my shopping list, I went back in. Ultimately, I got almost $200 worth of groceries for free (because amazon.com doesn’t charge for shipping if you spend more than $25).

The question I’ve started asking myself and others: Does optimism attract positive, even unrelated, results from life? I’ve been watching my more pessimistic friends, and it seems that the bad things they expect happen. Is it a matter of focus? Am I only seeing my positive results because that’s what I hear from my mouth and mind? Am I only seeing their negative results because that what I hear them talk about? Or are the results truly guided by the attitude? By the way, I’ve also seen studies that add the caveat that pessimists have their levels of success because they see life more realistically and are not disappointed.

I’ve heard that optimistic people live longer, healthier lives. That’s probably best–they enjoy life more. If your life sucks, why would you want it prolonged… especially in bad health. “Studies have shown” that optimistic people have more good things happen, while pessimistic people have more bad things happen. I still have down days when it’s hard to see any good in life. While I used to have a few (never consecutive) good days, now I have a few (never consecutive) down days. And I know the best thing for me is to talk to someone who loves and understands me. Not the ones who answer the phone with, “How aaaaaarrrrre youuuuuuuuu???” (FYI… NOT helpful). My depths of despair are not nearly as deep, and they’re much easier to climb out of. Is that because I’ve made choices toward optimism? My medications haven’t changed, so it’s not that. Or is it just that life is sunnier, so I don’t get as depressed?

I’d love some feedback on this. What’s your opinion? What is your experience? Is optimism a magnet for success, health, and long life? Or does it just seem that way?

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Working in the Yard June 19, 2011

Filed under: Exercise,My House — coffeegirl63 @ 10:54 am
Tags: ,

Full disclosure: I’m a girl. I mean sometimes I’m SUCH a girl. The thing is, I am really smart. I can figure out most situations I face. Even in a conversation where the subject is completely unfamiliar to me, I can usually follow the thread just by breaking down the vocabulary. However, there are certain situations that overwhelm me to the point of debilitation. Most of those include a shopping scenario in which I have to figure out what to get.

Since I moved into my house late in the summer last year, I never really had to work on my yard. The one time my lawn needed to be mowed, my neighbor took care of it for me.

A couple weeks ago, I got a letter from my homeowners’ association reminding me that I’d bought a home in a nice neighborhood, and that we all wanted to respect each other and care about each other, and so could I please take time to police the weeds in my backyard. In my defense, one of the reasons I haven’t done anything with my backyard is that Richmond (the company that built my house) has told me a few times that they need to re-grade my backyard. So, the following weekend, I spent time a few hours digging out weeds. One of my neighbors suggested I just poison the weeds instead of doing all the work to dig them up. As someone who sits in front of a computer all day, I preferred the work.

Although my lawn is still more brown than green, things started coming to life over the last week. Due to the rains we’ve had over the last week, the weeds in my backyard are getting quite happy. Time to deal with the sad state of disrepair. The state: weeds in the landscape rocks (isn’t that why they put landscaping fabric down first–to prevent the weeds?) and scraggly, unhappy-looking grass in the front yard; prolific weeds in the backyard.

Friday Afternoon: I stopped by the man store to buy poison, lawn feed, and cutting tools. I stood in the poison aisle for the longest time. Yes, there is an entire aisle, and I was completely overwhelmed. I had received advice ranging from “Round-Up is the best, it’ll kill your weeds dead;” “Round-Up is poison, it’ll kill the ecosystem dead, hire a ‘green’ lawn-care service.” Ok, here’s the thing: my lawn has a footprint smaller than that of my smallest bedroom… I’m not hiring someone to take care of that. I texted a friend to see what he thought. His advice was, “you’re not a man, so ask for directions!!” I just picked out the super-duper Round-Up and headed to the next item.

I needed something to make the grass happy so it would grow. Somehow I felt like the manager of a circa 1950’s entertainment artist: uppers and downers for my yard just so it’ll perform the way I want it to when I want it to. Fortunately, as I stood in the lawn-food aisle, someone walked by who could help me. Scott’s Turf was what was recommended–”do you have dandelions?” “no, I haven’t seen dandelions in my yard or those of my neighbors.” “ok, then just get the regular Scott’s Turf; otherwise, you’d get the one with weed control.” (guess what I saw on my lawn when I got home… yup.) He asked how big my yard was. “Ummm….” “Ok, compared to this aisle…?” “Ah, yes, like 4 of these squares.” “Get the small bag.” … Next

I wanted a scythe for the times I need to chop down tall weeds or grass. Do they still make scythes? I don’t want a weed wacker because I’d rather my yard work actually involve work. I headed to the full-length garden tool area (shovels, rakes, etc)… and there it was! And only one option! Hurray!!

Now for the lawn mower. Again, I don’t want a gas- or electricity-operated machine for that. Fortunately, they do still make reel mowers. There were two options: $200 for the fancy one and $100 for the regular one. Choosing simplicity, I headed for the checkout counter and on my way home. When I got to the car, I was surprised to find that the several hours I had spent in the man store actually took a little less than an hour.

Saturday Morning: Don the old t-shirt and shorts overalls. Skip breakfast because it’s too much trouble (this proved problematic later). Armed with the directions and my adjustable wrench, I head to the garage to build the new lawnmower. Everything went together just as directed, until I got to the part about attaching the handle to the mower. The base of the handle was wider than the space it was supposed to slide into. After working on it for 20 minutes, I was able to muscle and finesse it into place. I did a quick victory dance, and then looked to make sure none of my neighbors was about.

The upside to having a yard as small as mine: I poisoned the front-yard weeds, mowed the lawn, fed the lawn, and pulled all the backyard weeds in about an hour and a half.

By the way, while I enjoy the physical activity of working in the yard, I’m very grateful for my sprinkler system.

 

Begin again June 17, 2011

Filed under: Introduction,Writing — coffeegirl63 @ 11:25 pm

It’s been a year since I last wrote. I did get busy with settling into my house and with the daunting task of bringing all HR and payroll in-house at work. I’ve had moments, opportunities, where I could have been writing… reasons, but no excuse, for not. One of those reasons is that I get stymied regarding topics. Then time goes by, and I start thinking that I *really* need to write. Then more time goes by, and the pressure builds, and it just embarrassing–if I write now, people will think I’m ridiculous, and no one will read my writings. However,  it exhilarates me when my writing or my conversation elicits strong emotions or inspires deep introspection in my reader/listener. And so, as the song tells Michael Finnegan, I begin again.

I have a friend who has been encouraging me to write… actually, more than one friend. It seems that it’s mostly those who are closest to me, who know me best, who encourage the loudest and most often. However, it is one particular friend who asks me several times a week if I’ve been writing. After this much time, it’s becoming quite humbling. Tonight I will volunteer the news with pride that I have been writing.

Some randomly presented thoughts on this past year: I have been on a journey of self-discovery. I have learned more about myself than I thought I could in one year. Part of this revelation has come as a result of purposeful search, the rest by serendipitous stumblings. Most of my discoveries have been fun. I have come to love who I’ve become. Interestingly, I believe so much of my personality that I have learned to embrace has actually been in me since I was a little girl, but life taught me that it’s better (certainly easier) to be what others expect. I was always a “good girl,” so this was pretty easy for me. Over time, though, I forgot how to smile… I certainly forgot how to laugh. It’s still a temptation for me, the people pleaser, to want to be what people want me to be (not so much what they *expect*, so there is some progress on that), but I’ve come to a place where it’s more important to me to be who *I* want me to be!

Something about myself that I’ve recently discovered (something that at least one of you, and you know who you are, is saying, “well, duh!” about) is that my toes are very expressive of my feelings. Ok, I understand that is really weird! But it’s true. When I’m happy, my feet dance; and when I’m in a situation where my feet can’t dance, my toes can’t help but dance. When I’m upset, my toes curl under and writhe and express great distress. When I’m scared (deliciously scared, like at a scary movie), my toes curl under and hold tight. When I’m deeply satisfied, my big toes flex up while the others curl under–my toes make a “thumbs-up.” (I have very long, flexible toes–if I drop something smallish, I can usually retrieve it with my toes.) My hands are just as expressive, but I’ve learned that my agitated hands are unacceptable so I’ve learned to keep them still; but my feet are almost always out of sight so they have more freedom to express.

I am truly an optimist. I expect good things to happen. I expect people to act honorably and with integrity. When they don’t, I’m shocked and think it must be a fluke, and I continue to trust. I expect people to like me. When they don’t, I often am confused and will judge myself. But unless it’s a very harsh reaction, I can move on to meet a new friend I’ve never met before. I think my optimism contributes to my outgoing ways. My sister, the introvert, once asked me on our way out of the Safeway, “do you have to speak to *everyone* in the grocery store??” I said, “I didn’t speak to everyone. I didn’t talk to that guy. But I can, if you want me to.” She didn’t want me to. It just seems to me that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. If two people’s paths cross, it’s for a reason. I’ve discovered that my optimism is almost always rewarded with bright reality–good things just seem to happen so much more than when I lived in pessimism. So I’m generally a happy person, which beats the heck out of the blue funk I lived in for so many years.

Years ago, someone asked me what I enjoy doing. I said that I didn’t really enjoy anything. He argued that everybody has things they enjoy. I said, “no. because if I know what I enjoy, it’ll just be too hard because I won’t be able to do it. this way, I don’t know, so it doesn’t hurt as much.” Sad, I know, but my point is that it started me thinking about what I enjoy. And I discovered that I really enjoy several things. The most important discovery: I *LOVE* to laugh. I mean, it lifts my spirits for hours, sometimes days! And it thrills me to make other people laugh. I have two friends, in particular, who I’ve made it my challenge to make them laugh at least once every time we talk. So far, since I set the challenge, I’ve been successful. I tend to be shameless in my jubilation over the success, too, but they indulge me in my joy..

Life fascinates me. Everything about life–from people and their stories to the magnificence of nature. When I watch people operate in their strengths, it makes my heart sing and I’m amazed at the wonder and potential we all have inside us. If we could all live with the passion that was formed in us at creation, we’d walk around in a constant state of wonder and creativity. I have a favorite place to run–Ute Valley Park in Colorado Springs. My favorite tree in the world is in this park (someday, I’ll get a picture and post it. I don’t tend to take a camera with me on runs). The running paths are great. There are a few spots along the way that fill my soul every time I run them. I’ve never run in the park that I haven’t felt some thrill in my heart, and I usually am able to process whatever I’m dealing with that day.

I know that there are some people I care deeply about who are embarrassed by my outgoing ways (I only know because they’ve told me), and that’s really hard. I try to dial it down when I’m around them. Except for knowing that some of the people I love the most sometimes (and it really is only sometimes) wish I was much different than I am, I love the journey I’m on, and I look forward to where it will continue to take me.

Embrace life! Never waste the time you’ve been given… it’s such a gift!