Friday, December 16, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
This week is my birthday and today, I was lucky enough to go out for a pedicure, manicure and lunch with my friend, Maria. We were seated next to an older woman who was reading a book and quietly eating her lunch. We overheard the waitress ask the woman if she would like dessert. The woman replied that she would have a piece of cake since today was her birthday. The waitress brought her over a slice of cake with a candle on top. We wished her a happy birthday and she made a wish and blew out her candle.
It made me so completely sad to see this woman in a restaurant blowing out a candle on her slice of birthday cake alone. I felt helpless, like I needed to try and do something for this woman I didn't even know. I went to our waitress and asked if she could please put the woman's lunch on my bill. When she finished her meal, the waitress told her someone in the restaurant had paid her bill. The woman asked if it was us, we told her it was and we hoped she had a wonderful birthday. She thanked us and said she had received birthday money from her 93 year old father and had planned to use it to pay for her lunch. We told her maybe she could go out and treat herself to something else special.
I haven't stopped thinking about this woman all day, thinking how lucky I was to have so many wonderful friends & family in my life. Thinking I would probably never be reading a book and eating cake alone in a restaurant on my birthday and how grateful I was for that. I was happy to be able to do something for her, even though it was small. I hoped that somehow it made her feel a little bit special and made her day a little bit brighter. She certainly made me reflect on my own birthday this week and will make me a little more grateful every year.
Posted by Gretchen at 10:03 PM
Sunday, November 13, 2011
It happened again! I got another speeding ticket, my second in six months!! After pitching a fit at the injustice of the system, I accepted the fact that I need to slow down. Why am I in such a hurry? I drive fast, walk fast, eat fast, talk fast and I noticed that so does just about everyone else. All of us are in such a hurry and it doesn't seem to get us anywhere more quickly, but rather just get us there more stressed out.
Do I really need to be checking my e-mail, eating my lunch, switching radio stations, thinking about my day and driving my car at the same time? I have made an effort to order salads for lunch, you can't drive or walk and eat a salad. Now I have to actually sit and have a real lunch when I work. I accidentally left my cell phone at home recently, I was shocked at how relaxing my day was without constantly checking my e-mail and getting phone calls that were less than urgent. It was, dare I say-peaceful. Now I try to drive the speed limit and realize how ridiculously slow I seem to be driving-a scary sign that I have been driving fast for way too long.
So let me save you the several hundred dollars in speeding tickets, slow down! Eat a salad, leave your cell phone at home, be the slow guy on the highway for a day, you might be surprised at how you feel!
Posted by Gretchen at 8:18 PM
Sunday, October 30, 2011
I have reached an age where my grandparents are getting old, very old. I feel so lucky to know them and to know them well. To know what I can say to make my grandmother laugh, to have a grandfather that will take me to dinner or to the theater.
I was born an only child with eight living grandmothers-great and great great grandmothers. The elderly have always been part of my life. I now volunteer and am on the board of a senior living facility in Seattle. I see everyday elderly people that have no visitors. People who light up just from saying hello to them or taking a moment to see what they are up to. It breaks my heart to think of them feeling alone in the world.
I try to imagine what it will be like when I am elderly and how I would want to be treated. How I would hope my children, grandchildren and friends would visit with me and be interested in me.
The elderly have so much to offer. Sure they have slowed down a bit, but they offer us so much knowledge and life experience. Take a moment to pick up the phone, call your grandparents or other elderly relatives or better yet pay them a visit. I am sure you hope someone will do the same for you some day.
Posted by Gretchen at 7:31 PM
Sunday, October 23, 2011
This originated from my husband who is a huge audiophile. He was at a listening party, where people go to actually listen to music, and someone walked in the back of the room and was rattling the change in his pockets non-stop. He then proceeded to start wringing a piece of paper he had in his hands with complete disregard for the silence in the room and the people listening intently to music.
Ironically, I went to an acoustic concert just days later and found the exact same to be true. People came in late and would talk and get situated all while the concert was already fully in progress. Then a woman who was clearly tone deaf started singing along to every song in a quiet concert hall. I don't think she could realize that we could all hear here almost as clearly as the performer we came to see.
All of this made me realize how wrapped up we all become in ourselves and don't pay attention to the surroundings we walk into. I am sure I have done the same thing at some point, I am sure we all do- talking on our cell phones, having conversations with our friends, digging through our purses, rattling things in our pockets. It is the same lesson again and again, isn't it? We need to stay present, be aware of things other than ourselves. Maybe that really is the real lesson in life.
Posted by Gretchen at 7:10 PM
Saturday, September 24, 2011
I was fortunate to grow up in a household where volunteering was a part of my life. My mother used to bring adults with downs syndrome to sunday school and then church with us every week. As a teenager, there was nothing more embarrassing than the crazy antics that would happen on a regular basis during the otherwise quiet church service, but my mother loved every moment she would see them and soon they became like family to us. My father was active in many volunteer organizations and was always attending a drive or holding an event for a non-profit. I spent many weekends working in the wrapping paper booth at the mall or going to a pancake breakfast somewhere.
It has become so much a part of who I am that I feel a little bit empty when I am not volunteering somewhere. I always recommend to people to volunteer for things you are passionate about, maybe it is children's causes, animals, the homeless, the environment, all of us are passionate about something and volunteering for those causes helps it bring even more meaning to us.
If you don't know where to start, look online, or walk into any non-profit in your neighborhood and see if they need help. Years ago, I walked into a senior living facility near my home and offered to volunteer. I have been there ever since and am now on the Foundation Board of that organization.
It feels great to know that you are helping your community and helping to make the world a better place. So start volunteering, get your family volunteering, the world needs your help!
Posted by Gretchen at 8:21 AM
Thursday, September 1, 2011
I received some horrible news from a very dear friend yesterday. Her husband was diagnosed with colon cancer and given a life expectancy of just a few weeks. He is just 41 years old and has three young daughters.
I have heard many times before how cancer is a blessing to people because they really begin to appreciate everything they have in life. Having lost my mother to cancer, I believe this is true. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our work, our finances, our troubles, until something really tragic happens and the rest seems so small. We have so much to be grateful for. We are lucky to be able to get up and go to work every day, we could be sitting in a hospital bed day after day. We are lucky to be able to have the strength to get up out of bed and walk around each day. We are lucky to be able so sit in the sun, look out at the blue sky, birds flying and bugs crawling around. All those minute details of life we ignore from day to day.
So for all those people out there who truly are struggling and truly do need a miracle, let's be grateful for their sake. Grateful for what we do have, what we can do and the people we have in our life. Life is a short one, so take advantage of every day.
Posted by Gretchen at 4:14 PM
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
I had the great fortune to work with an amazing young woman yesterday named Madi. I often get asked by students if they can come and work with me for a day. I tell them to call me and very rarely do they follow-up and when given the opportunity they often don't show up. It is annoying! At that age, my friends and I worked for free-ALL THE TIME! We sometimes had two internships at the same time and were paid nothing. That is how you learn- you intern, you volunteer, you ask to work with people and interview people just for experience.
But then there was Madi, she did show up and she did work for free. All day! She worked willingly and offered to do things. She was interested and engaged. On top of it all, she was adorable and fun to be around. I greatly admire Madi's ambition and her enthusiasm. It helped remind me why I love my job and to look at my work with a new fresh perspective that sometimes you forget after doing the same thing for years, even decades! It is great to look at your industry through new eyes and see people who are excited to be a part of it.
It is easy to think kids in school these days feel entitled. You hear it time and time again from companies that have to hire staff just to deal with the entitlement issues of its new hires. Many young people would not dream of working for free, not even for a day. Many don't feel like they have anything to learn about real work experience. Where does this entitlement come from? Are all of us starting to feel entitled to things at our jobs?
But I want to thank Madi. Thank you for being ambitious, thank you for being a great example to everyone else out there. Someone is going to be very lucky to have you working for them someday!
Posted by Gretchen at 9:06 PM
Friday, August 5, 2011
Think about how you feel when someone walks up to you and tells you how pretty you are or how handsome you are. Amazing right? With those few little words, you are beaming and confident. I have a very vivid memory of a woman working at a market in New York and a male customer walked up to her stand. She smiled and looked at him for a moment and flat out said "You are just gorgeous." She wasn't hitting on him or looking for a date. She said it so matter of fact and he thanked her and went on his way. Why is it so hard for us to just tell strangers how pretty or how handsome they are? Are we afraid they will think we are hitting on them? If we all know how great it feels to be told, shouldn't we make the effort to make someone else feel that great too. I endeavor to be like that woman at the market.
Posted by Gretchen at 8:15 PM
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Why is it that so often the longer we know someone, the less we feel like we need to have good manners? Think about your first date with your significant other. I imagine you were very polite, pleasing and thank youing all over the place. But time goes by and you find yourself barking out orders to each other and not bothering with how your are talking to each other. I am definitely guilty of this. A please and a thank you go a long way with people and they actually do make people feel good. So this is just a small reminder to remember your manners, not just in public, but with your children, your parents, your siblings and your spouse!
Posted by Gretchen at 9:25 AM
Saturday, July 30, 2011
The other day I was at the post office mindlessly putting stamps on a huge pile of mailers, when suddenly an old man wearing a tweed newsboy style hat and a red cardigan sweater touched my arm and said something. I didn't hear him, so I asked him to say it again. He said "May you never want as long as you live and may you live as long as you want." Then he tapped the side of my head and said "It's all up here, kid." and walked away with his wife who gave me a sweet smile.
Why this old man chose me to share his blessing I will never know, but I felt pretty lucky that day. I wondered if this was the first time he had done this or if this is something he tells people every day. What really mattered was he was spreading kindness, just a simple blessing to a stranger in a post office. In this day of modern technology, cell phones, e-mails, text messages, it is nice to remember to just talk to people. Give a stranger your blessing and make someone else's day who knows maybe you will be making your own?
Posted by Gretchen at 6:10 PM
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
These days most of us complain A LOT! We love to complain about customer service, the city officials, the teachers, the president, our meals in restaurants, but what about all the good things that happen to us? What if for every time you complain to someone about a job poorly done, we also commended someone for a job well done? You could talk to the manager of a store about the great customer service you received, tell the chef of a restaurant how much you loved your dinner, thanked your kids teachers for doing such a great job, sent an e-mail to the president about how much you appreciate what he has done for our country. We all want to be noticed for doing well and for making a difference, so we should do the same for others no matter how big or small their job may be. So please find someone to thank this week for a job well done!
Posted by Gretchen at 10:41 PM
Friday, July 22, 2011
Have you ever seen someone fall down, drop something, see a child or a pet that is lost? We all do on a regular basis and when that person is us, we hope that someone will help us. I am amazed when I see a pet in the middle of the road and car after car drives past it doing nothing or when someone falls down and no one stops to ask if they are o.k. Have we become so jaded and suspicious of other people that we have forgotten to be empathetic? Or are we so busy that we can't take a moment to help someone or something in need? None of us are perfect, but let's try a little harder to be the person we would want someone to be for us in our time of need.
Posted by Gretchen at 6:43 PM
Monday, July 18, 2011
My husband and I learned an amazing lesson while driving through Germany on vacation this year. We were in a small town trying to find our bed and breakfast. We were lost and frustrated in a country where we didn't know the language and were struggling with asking for directions and following the signs.
We finally found a small restaurant along one of the roads. I went inside hoping to find help. I walked in to find a small group of men smoking and drinking, none of them spoke very good English, but they seemed to understand where I needed to go. One of the men said he would be leaving soon and would help us. I returned to the car and a few moments later the man emerged and got in his car. He proceeded to drive us quite a distance right to the doorstep of our bed and breakfast. We were so grateful for the help this stranger and a little shocked by his kindness and generosity at our time of need.
We both realized how important it was to help visitors in our city and country. We all know how it feels to be lost in a strange place and the frustration we all feel to not speak the language. Think about what you can do next time you see someone looking at a map on the street or when someone asks you for directions. We all need to remember how it feels to be in someone else's shoes and what we would hope someone would do for us.
To this stranger in Germany, I send you a heartfelt thank you.
Posted by Gretchen at 7:51 PM
Sunday, July 10, 2011
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were at a bakery with our niece and nephew. An old man approached our table with a little wood spinning stick. The stick was carved of wood with a small propeller at the top and notches along the sides. You rubbed another stick along the notches to make the propeller move to the right or left. The stick was hand painted and had a hand scribbled instruction sheet along with it titled "Wally's Hooey Stick". The stick also had been numbered and we were given number 13,428! Wally had been making these little toys for over 20 years by hand and giving them to people everywhere. 13, 428 of them! Wally was not asking for money, he simply handed out these small toys to make people smile and to share something with them not expecting a thing in return.
I have thought about Wally a lot since that day. I don't imagine there is anyone else out there making Hooey Sticks and that Wally may just be the last of his kind. How wonderful would it be, if we all did such random acts of kindness and only got a smile in return?
Posted by Gretchen at 9:28 AM
Saturday, July 9, 2011
I remember when you would go for a walk in your neighborhood and you would pass people and you would smile or say hello. What happened to those days? When did we become so jaded and so untrusting of people that we can no longer just be polite to each other? Try for at least one day to smile at people you pass or better yet say hello to them. Smile at the person making your morning coffee, your neighbor, a person holding open a door for you or a child. Imagine how much nicer the world would be and how much nicer people might be to each other.
Posted by Gretchen at 9:52 PM
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
In this age of technology where we can text, call or e-mail anyone at almost anytime, do we seem to forget our social graces when it comes to contacting people when we are going to be late or are not going to show up somewhere? I hear this all the time from people showing apartments, selling things online or even with restaurant reservations. People will call to say they would like to come over at a certain time and then never show up. Really? We have no trouble calling someone for something we want, but when it comes to wasting someone else's time, we don't care. It only seems right that if someone else is waiting on you that you either let them know you have changed your mind or that you are running late. Wouldn't it be a much nicer world if all of us were a little more thoughtful of each other's time?
Posted by Gretchen at 9:02 PM
Thursday, June 30, 2011
How often do you see people throw their cigarette butts out their windows, empty ashtrays onto parking lots, step on their cigarette butts in the park? Cigarette butts are litter! If you have ever been on the cleaning up end of cigarette butts, you know that they do not go away unless they are picked up or swept up. So please think twice before you throw your cigarette out your window and realize you are littering. Put it out and throw it in a garbage can!
Posted by Gretchen at 7:46 PM
Monday, June 27, 2011
This is one thing that shocks me nearly every time I see it happen. Today I was at a high end store and a child, maybe 7 years old was eating a cookie. He dropped the cookie on the floor in front of the cash register and the mother saw him do it and didn't say a word. There were crumbs everywhere and a fairly large portion of the cookie as well and she didn't even pick it up! Not only that at one point, she stepped right on it making more of a mess all over the carpet in the lingerie department! I can't believe that parents will leave restaurant tables, booths, floors and airplane aisles destroyed by their children and not make the slightest effort to help clean it up. Wipe the table with a napkin to pick up the crumbs or at least pick up large things off the floor. Now I don't have children, but I was a nanny and spend lots of time with kids and would never think of leaving a public place such a mess. If you are too tired to clean up after your children in public then you probably should think twice before having them.
Posted by Gretchen at 10:31 PM
Sunday, June 26, 2011
How often have you seen parking lots filled with random shopping carts because people can't seem to walk them to the cart corral to put them back? They are banging into cars, sometimes even just on the loose and still moving or blocking entire parking spots. Why is it so hard to put back your shopping cart? I know, you got what you needed and now you just want to leave, but it takes two seconds and you do have legs right? Better yet, maybe when we are entering a store, we could offer to take someone's cart since we are going that way anyway or maybe even put away one of those carts that is floating freely around the parking lot. A few weeks ago, I saw a cart roll the entire length of a store and halfway across another parking lot passing about 20 people and not a single person stopped the cart or took it back to the store, until I finally went out of my way to get it. I somehow hope setting a good example might wear off on someone someday!
Posted by Gretchen at 6:53 AM
Friday, June 24, 2011
If you fly a lot, you probably know that being stuck in a middle seat on a plane is probably one of the most miserable places on earth. I would rather be getting a root canal than be stuck in a middle seat on a long flight. So what is the least we can do to help this poor soul stuck in the middle? Give up your middle armrest. Now for anyone who flies frequently this should be a fairly obvious courtesy, but I am always amazed when I see business people with their arms planted on that armrest like it is the last plot of free space on earth. Next time you are stuck in the middle and begging for some air and a place to set your arms, I hope the guy in the window or aisle seat is as kind as you have been.
Posted by Gretchen at 6:57 PM
Thursday, June 23, 2011
We will start easy. How often are you in a store and something falls on the floor? Maybe a sweater from a hanger? A bag of chips from a shelf? A ball from a bin? I am endlessly amazed and how people will look down and see they have dropped something and will not bend over to pick it up. Is this the real cause of obesity in America? Have we become so lazy that we can't bend over anymore and pick things up? What if everyone started putting things back that they dropped or better yet, started putting away things they didn't even drop?! People constantly complain about the price of things, but do we ever consider that by dropping something and have it stepped on, rolled over by shopping carts, broken or torn open that we are causing stores to lose more money and charge us more?
Posted by Gretchen at 7:05 PM
I am starting this blog to state what I feel like is obvious, but I find more and more that the world has become a very self-absorbed place. We have forgotten what it means to be civilized, to be kind, to be generous, to be considerate, to be thoughtful, to be self-aware and to be decent. We are more worried about what is good for us. What will get us to work quicker? What is convenient for me? What is easier for me? What is most comfortable for me? So this is my personal revolution to create a better world, one very obvious and easy rule at a time. Things we once knew, but somehow forgot. So I hope you will follow and participate and help me change the world one little act at a time.
Posted by Gretchen at 6:51 PM