Thursday, January 31, 2019

Knowing the difference

"In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends." ~John Churton Collins

Jack and Izzie / Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Emerson's wisdom

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in: Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. Begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Winter in Vinsetta Park / Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Snow days

"Some days are for living. Others are for getting through." ~Malcolm S. Forbes


Cindy La Ferle


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Monday, January 28, 2019

Private courage

"One day, all those small but indelible moments of private courage will burst through. And both you and your world will have changed in an authentic moment." ~Sarah Ban Breathnach


Cranbrook House & Gardens / Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, January 26, 2019

WEEKEND COLUMN: In praise of good behavior


“No one is more insufferable than a person who lacks basic courtesy.” ~Bryant McGill

My dad and one of his favorite books / Cindy La Ferle

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The older I get, the more I appreciate the advice my late father tried to impart when I was a snarky teenager. 

At the time, Dad admired the work of Dale Carnegie, one of America’s most prolific authors of self-improvement guides. He kept a well-thumbed copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People next to the chair where he read nightly, and often quoted favorite maxims from the book, such as, “If you want to gather honey, don't kick over the beehive.”  
Principle #1: "Don't criticize, condemn, or complain"

Copyrighted in 1936, the book was often touted as required reading for anyone seeking success in all areas of life -- and has sustained impressive sales figures ever since. 

Social skills were essential to both of my parents, and I was taught to write thank-you notes as soon as I could hold a crayon. But they also believed, as Carnegie did, that behaving with "class" had nothing to do with wealth or social status -- and everything to do with your level of respect for other people. 

Whenever I acted as if I'd been "brought up in a barn" -- as my Scottish grandparents would say when I misbehaved -- my father waved his copy of Carnegie’s bestseller under my nose and urged me to read it. At 15, however, I thought Carnegie was a hopeless cornball, and I left his book unread for years. 

People skills 101

All of this came tumbling back recently in a bookstore, where I noticed a display featuring a special gift edition of How to Win Friends, complete with a fancy faux-leather cover. Pausing to read a few paragraphs, I was surprised at the sheer resonance of Carnegie’s advice. 

It occurred to me -- given the current era of nasty politics and uncivil social media -- that it might be time to revisit this classic. 

The book describes the basic tenets of civility that seem to have gone the way of rotary phones and bone china tea cups. In the aisle at the bookstore, I found myself nodding in agreement with those corny, old-fashioned principles – principles such as treating everyone with courtesy, refraining from self-absorbed behavior, listening carefully, expressing sincere interest in others, and being quicker to encourage than to criticize -- to name just a few. 

In his introduction, Carnegie explained that he wrote the guide to fill a need. After conducting a series of classes in public speaking, he realized “as sorely as these adults needed training in effective speaking, they needed still more training in the fine art of getting along with people in everyday business and social contacts.” As Carnegie theorized, success in any sort of undertaking doesn’t always hinge on a person’s accomplishments or skills. 

“Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you will face,” he warned. When he couldn’t find a practical textbook on the subject, Carnegie drafted one himself, not realizing that he was also launching a movement. 

Better public relations 

My father died suddenly in 1992, and I wish I’d taken time to thank him for insisting that tact and kindness are tools of strength, not weakness. At times I fall short -- and could use a swift review of Carnegie’s principles. 

I can’t help but wonder, too, what Dad would say if he were here to observe our "selfie" culture today. 

What would he think of the social media users who hurl online insults at their friends or brag about themselves non-stop? What would he think of the combative political leaders who behave like toddlers on a playground? Or the folks who routinely check their cell phones at the dinner table? And what about the boors who think it's uncool to say "I'm sorry" when they make a mistake, or unnecessary to express thanks when they receive a gift or a favor? 

I can’t answer for my father, of course. But given the chance, I’d suggest they all run out and buy a copy of Mr. Carnegie’s book. ~Cindy La Ferle

Friday, January 25, 2019

Funny Friday: What Jay Leno said

"Politics is just show business for ugly people." 
~Jay Leno


Coco / Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Showing your sparkle

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to the shining—they just shine.” ~Dwight L. Moody


Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

People who cheer us

"At some point, when it comes to relationships, you’ll just want to be around the few people who make you smile for all the right reasons. Be intentional about spending more quality time with those who help you love yourself more." ~Marc and Angel Chernoff


We're in this together / Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Playful attitude

"Life is much more fun if you live it in the spirit of play and collaboration, working with others instead of competing with them." ~Wally Amos


Coco's cookies / Cindy La Ferle

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Second chances

“Sometimes you only get one chance to rewrite the qualities of the character you played in a person's life story. Always take it. Never let the world read the wrong version of you.” ~Sharon L. Adler


"Where to begin?" / Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

WEEKEND COLUMN: Black hole relationships

"Whether we give away too much or too little of ourselves, our vitality dwindles." ~Sue Patton Thoele

 Cindy La Ferle

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Special note: Last week, my friend Tina reminded me of a favorite author, Sue Patton Thoele, whose work we've both enjoyed in the past. One of Thoele's memorable essays, in fact, was the inspiration for a Sunday column I wrote a while ago, part of which is excerpted here from Writing Home ....  

Black Hole Relationships 
When persistence doesn't pay off    

A full-time mother of three once told me she looked forward all year to summer break and hated to see it end. Was she nuts? Did she really enjoy refereeing troops of rowdy kids in her basement and making dozens of grape jelly sandwiches on short order?

“I love summer because I get a reprieve from the back-stabbing at school events and Mothers’ League meetings,” the young mom insisted. “And I don’t have to deal with the WWDLM.”  

The WWDLM…?  

“WWDLM is an acronym for the 'Woman Who Doesn’t Like Me' at my kids’ school,” she explained.

Even if you’ve never been a homeroom mom, you know exactly what she meant. You’ve got your own social nemesis.

The woman who doesn’t like you might be the cranky neighbor who criticizes your new landscaping or the paint color you chose for the front door.  She might be the toxic relative who snubs you at family barbecues. Or maybe she’s the co-worker who can’t bring herself to pay a compliment on your new blazer or congratulate you on a hard-won promotion. 

No matter what you say or do, you’ll never win these people over. Even when you’re as sweet as key lime pie, they’ll refuse to sit at the table of your friendship.   

Sue Patton Thoele calls them “the black holes” in our personal universe. Thoele is the author of A Woman’s Book of Soul: Meditations for Courage, Independence & Spirit (Conari Press), a collection of short inspirational essays. It’s the sort of book you’ll want to keep on your nightstand, to dip into whenever you need a dose of comfort or validation.  

In one of the essays, Theole recalls an awkward time when she wasn’t hitting it off with two women in her own social circle. 

“The energy I put out to these women was merely absorbed as if it had disappeared into a black hole and none came back to me,” she writes. As a psychotherapist, Thoele understood that we all tend to project our unconscious feelings onto other people. She knew that the qualities we dislike in others are often the same ones we dislike in ourselves. But then reality dawned: The cold-shouldered women in her circle were lousy candidates for her friendship.

“The energy I put out to these women was merely absorbed as if it had disappeared into a black hole and none came back to me.” ~Sue Patton Thoele

“If we’re saddled with the belief that everyone needs to like us in order for us to be acceptable -- or that we should be able to be friends with anyone -- we cause ourselves a lot of pain,” she says. “We’re simply ‘energetic misses’ with some people.”  

Like Thoele, I’ve tried to figure out why some relationships fly while others can’t seem to get off the ground. In the past, I’ve struggled to understand why an unwarranted case of envy -- or a petty misunderstanding -- can boil over until it scalds what might have developed into a mutually supportive alliance. Then again, I've been lucky enough to find a few of those rare friends who fit so comfortably in my life that they feel more like family.  

Most men I know rarely waste time wondering why some people don’t like them. They shake hands and move on. Women, however, tend to lose sleep devising ways to appease or impress folks who needn’t count so much. We work hard to avoid conflict and maintain the status quo, often at our own expense.  

Time and experience teach us that healthy relationships are reciprocal -- a graceful dance of give-and-take. Friendship, after all, should be a pleasure, not a power struggle.

As Thoele suggests: If you find yourself feeling snubbed or taken for granted, or if you're always throwing parties but not getting invited back, you’ve probably stumbled into “Black Hole Territory.” It’s best to trust your intuition and either loosen your grip on the relationship or bow out.

Even if you're the nicest person in town, not everyone you meet will be a good match for friendship. Not everyone will uphold your political beliefs or religious convictions -- or share your interest in books, sports, movies, fine restaurants, or fashion. You're bound to meet people who dislike you, your kids, and even your carrot cake recipe. As long as you remain civil, you’re entitled to reciprocate the feeling.  – Cindy La Ferle

Parts of this essay appear in slightly different form in my book, Writing Home. For more information, click here.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Funny Friday: Sidewalk art

“Every person has something meaningful to say in the conversation of life.” ~Bryant McGill


Sidewalk art in Royal Oak/ Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Truth and love

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall." ~Mahatma Gandhi

In Mexico / Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Believing, even when it's hard to

“As long as you have life and breath, believe. Believe for those who cannot. Believe even if you have stopped believing....To keep your heart beating, believe. Never give up, never despair, let no mystery confound you into the conclusion that mystery cannot be yours.” ~Mark Helprin, A Soldier of the Great War


Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Starting an adventure

“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” 
~Raymond Lindquist


"Setting sail" / Cindy La Ferle

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Everyday pleasures

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”  ~Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Tulips from Karen / Cindy La Ferle

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Special note: My January 5 column ("Traveling Light") was picked up by the editors of Boomer Cafe this week. The popular site features a wide range of stories -- including travel, retirement, and health tips -- targeted to baby boomers. If you missed my column on January 5, you can read it here.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

WEEKEND COLUMN: The life-changing challenge of decluttering

“The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don't.” ~Joshua Becker 

Cindy La Ferle

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As the cliche goes, the start of a new year is the perfect time to clear out the dark corners of our drawers and closets. Time to divvy up our buried treasure. Time to let go of it all. Or at least some of it.  

If your home is anything like mine, your attic and basement are jam-packed with record albums, family photo albums, boxes of cards and letters, baby clothes, and larger heirlooms of dubious value. And even if you don’t entertain as often now, it’s likely that your cupboards are crammed with several sets of dinnerware -- including one that hasn’t seen a dining room table since Christmas of 1995.

So, where will all this stuff go when you finally decide it’s time to unload it?  According to most lifestyle experts, your kids don't want it.

When less is more

Millennials refuse to be tied down by the things they own, or at least that’s what my thirty-something son, his wife, and their friends keep telling me.

These kids prefer urban condos, apartments, or lofts with barely enough extra closet space for their winter coats. They’re not sentimentally attached to their childhood finger-paintings or Thomas the Tank Engine collectibles, not to mention Grandma’s tarnished sterling silver flatware. Capturing their experiences on digital cameras, they’d rather travel the country unencumbered by keepsakes. Experience matters more than stuff.

“Our physical and digital spaces are expressions of our identity,” explained one of my son’s friends. “If a piece of my parents’ furniture doesn’t fit with my own style, I don’t want it in my home. I’d rather take a smaller item that has sentimental value and special meaning to me.”

As a late bloomer in my early sixties, I’m just beginning to grasp the concept of non-attachment.

When my mother died four years ago, she left me, her only child, with the daunting task of redistributing a houseful of beloved family heirlooms. My mother had been emotionally attached to nearly every piece of furniture and china she owned -- and she'd hoped I'd be a respectful steward of her treasures. Deciding which items to save, donate to charity, or sell in an estate sale was a heartbreaking challenge, given that my husband and I were also trying to downsize. Our home was already stuffed with my parents’ earlier castoffs, and our basement resembled a thrift store. 

The dilemma was the source of many sleepless nights.

It’s only stuff

At the time, Marie Kondo had just published The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which later helped me navigate the process of sorting through Mom’s belongings. Not surprisingly, Kondo is also a millennial with a take-no-souvenirs attitude about hoarding.

“The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it,” she noted in her book. In another tip, she suggested that we name the reasons why we’re struggling to let go of a particular heirloom or item. There are only two possible answers, she wrote: “An attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”

Though I’m still trying to streamline my household, I’m not ready to dispose of heirlooms that are rich with memories. 

Yes, I ended up keeping the tall grandfather clock that chimed through countless holiday dinners with my folks. I've kept the cherrywood tea box that my mother purchased from a gift shop in Williamsburg -- a small, portable item that still evokes memories of my mother and a place she loved to visit. And I’ve kept some of my son's old toys and Christmas ornaments, which he (sort of) agreed to take ... later, but not now.

I remind my son that, someday, when he reaches middle age, he just might appreciate owning a few tangible reminders of his childhood and the folks who loved him. By then, I hope, he and his wife will have an attic large enough to store them. ~Cindy La Ferle

Friday, January 11, 2019

Self-respect

"Don't rely on others for your happiness and self-worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can't love and respect yourself, no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are -- the good and the bad -- and make changes as you see fit." ~Stacey Charter 


"Beach Walk" / Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Doing as you please

“Sometimes you have to put your own needs first, even if that doesn't please others. You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm." ~Shannon Oldson 

Izzie  / Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The difficult path

"The path of least resistance is often the path of least reward. You need to do hard things. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." ~Marc and Angel Chernoff


Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Changing the lens

"If you don't allow yourself to move past what happened, what was said, what was felt, you will look at your present and future through that same dirty lens and nothing will be able to refocus your foggy judgment." ~Marc and Angel Chernoff


"Vintage perspective" / Cindy La Ferle

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Reinvent yourself

“Don’t ever feel like your best days are behind you. Reinvention is the purest form of hope. Make today your best yet.” —Phil Wohl

Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, January 5, 2019

WEEKEND COLUMN -- Traveling Light: 9 things I need to ditch in the new year

"One who would travel happily must travel light." 
~Antoine St. Exupery

On Lake Michigan / Cindy La Ferle

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By the time we reach midlife, most of us have accumulated way too much stuff. Whether we tend to over-pack our suitcases when we travel or cram our closets at home with unworn clothing, most of us need to weed out or pare down.

It occurs to me lately that I’m also dragging around a heavy backpack of pet peeves and outdated ideas, all of which are as useless as the winter jacket I once packed for a late spring trip to Florida. And so, in lieu of making New Year’s resolutions this year, I’m taking inventory of the metaphorical baggage I need to dump at the curb before I start the next adventure. 


What I'm getting rid of


1. Anxiety. If there’s something to fret about – a news story, a health issue, or a stubborn blemish on my cheek – I’m inclined to obsess over it, then blow it out of proportion. Worrying robs my serenity and produces nothing but stomach acid. Out it goes. 


2. The patronizing term, “age-appropriate.”
It’s heading straight to the dumpster along with the question: Am I too old for this? For instance, I’m never too old to wear what strikes my fancy, whether it’s black nail polish or red cowboy boots. Even if I do look silly in public, I’ll be having too much fun to worry about the opinions of less-adventurous critics. 


3. The need to be right all the time. Experience proves that whenever I have the guts to say “I don’t know” or “I made a mistake,” I get an opportunity to learn something new and to improve myself. I've always admired folks who are classy enough to apologize when they've missed the mark -- and we all miss the mark sometimes. I plan to follow their example too. 


4. Guilt and regret. I'm guilty of hurting people unintentionally, and I regret some things I've said and done in the past. (See # 3.) But flogging myself won't repair or recover anything I've lost. I need to accept the lesson and move on. 

5. Lame excuses that begin with the words: I don't have time. I don't have time to research the new project I want to start? I don't have time to clean my desk or the interior of my car? I don't have time to call an old friend? Maybe it's time to rethink what's taking up so much of my time -- because there's always time to do anything I really want to do. The sooner I commit to my new goals, the sooner I can make positive changes.


6. People who talk too much about themselves. Since it's almost impossible to avoid them, this year I'm going to make an effort to be a better conversationalist myself. Enough said.


7. People-pleasing and over-giving.
I need to stop catering to those who continually expect more than they are willing to give. And I need to stop being a doormat for judgy people who make me feel flawed or inferior when I don't conform to their cultural, religious, or political views. I realize, as Cheryl Richardson warns in The Art of Extreme Self Care, that there will be consequences. When I heal my "disease to please" (and stop kowtowing), some people might be shocked or disappointed. So be it. True friends will respect my new boundaries. 


8. Political angst. I'm no longer allowing our nation's ongoing political turmoil to rent so much valuable real estate in my head. It's stressful, ugly, embarrassing, and messy -- and it's spoiling my view of the neighborhood. I'm evicting it. 


9. Age-old grudges. For those of us blessed with good recall, grudges can be the hardest to let go. In fact, grudges become roadblocks that thwart our peace of mind and get in our own way. Forgiving others for hurting or disappointing me doesn’t mean I’ll tolerate the same abuse in the future (See #7). It simply means I’ve cleared a path for traveling light -- and made room in my heart for healthier, happier relationships on the road ahead. ~Cindy La Ferle 



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Friday, January 4, 2019

Self-improvement

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ~Ernest Hemingway


Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Getting motivated

"If you keep doing what you've been doing, 
you'll keep getting what you've been getting." 
~Steve Harvey 

Remy / Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New year, new direction

“The reinvention of daily life means marching off the edge of our maps.” —Bob Black


Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Starting over

"The beginning is the 
most important part of the work." 
~Plato

Cindy La Ferle

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