Monthly Archives: February 2016

Monday Motivator: Bring Your Best Self

Advice abounds about what to do when making a decision. There are the “What Would (fill in the blank) do?”suggestions, ranging all the way from Jesus to Madonna (the singer, not his mother). Some recommend making a list of positive and negatives while others say to follow your gut.

The one that appeals to me the most comes from Jesuit priest James Martin in the book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life. He suggests that we ask ourselves what would our best self do? And then do it.

I like this idea because, unless you’re a sociopath, you do have a sense of the right thing. In my case, all I have to do is go through the mental list of the things that I wish I’d done or not done at the end of the day. It goes something like this:

  • I wish I had not posted that mean comment on Facebook.
  • I wish I had bought a copy of The Contributor from the woman at the intersection.
  • I wish I had visited my friend who can’t get out any more.
  • I wish I had emailed my other friend who’s been sick.
  • I wish I’d worked more on that essay and not caught up with the Kardashians.

You get the idea. There are a thousand good excuses in the moment not to do things. But when I ask what would my best self do, there’s really not much discussion to be had.

So I’m trying to bring my best self to the table at all times. It’s a continuing battle. But worth it.


Monday Motivator: Find Your Own Box

Yesterday was my sister’s birthday. When I went to her house, I made sure I brought presents for her cats as well: the boxes that her gifts originally came in. Both Puddy and Zoey sniffed at them, went inside them, and Zoey took a giant bite out of one. (She does enjoy chewing on cardboard. Perhaps it has something to do with her early days on the mean streets of Madison, Alabama.)

By the time we came back from lunch, they had fully claimed their boxes. According to my brother-in-law, they fought over them. (Puddy lives in eternal jealousy of Zoey.) Once he had made his decision, Zoey used hers as a hiding place.

There is something about a box or a bag that appeals to cats. They feel safe. They know they can’t be attacked from behind. Maybe they think the rest of us can’t see them when they’re in a box.

We all need such a place.  I suppose it should be our homes, but that’s not always true. I’ve had friends at the end of marriages who found their home the last place they wanted to be, feeling that an emotional attack could come at any time. And even when our home is a safe place, it’s not always convenient to go there when things go wrong.

One of my safe places during a stressful day is either a fast-food place or Target where there is wifi. I sit, read Time and The New Yorker, and occasionally gaze out the windows. Surrounded by people, I am, for some reason, less likely to dwell on my problems. But since none of those people knows me, I can allow myself time to relax and get some distance  from my anxieties.

I’m sure it would be more poetic if I went for a walk, visited a museum, or just sat under a tree.

But, hey, that’s my box, where I feel comfortable and safe. I hope you have one too.

Monday Motivator: Take Care of Your Heart

Today I attended a workshop for heart health given by speech professor, Michele Buc and nursing director, Cindy Waller. Michele, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart problem a few years ago, has decided to give back by educating other women about heart disease and heart health.

At the seminar, we learned many ways to take care of our hearts:

  • Eat a heart healthy diet. (I am not good at this. I love french fries, ice cream, and pizza. And not just as a treat, but on a regular basis.)
  • Get more exercise. (A couple of years ago, I would have given myself a gold star. But I’ve noticed that I’ve been slacking up lately.)
  • Watch your weight. (Ugh. Let’s move on to the next one.)
  • Quit smoking. (Finally a win for me. I have never smoked. In fact, I used to throw some of my father’s cigarettes out of the car window as a way to help him cut down on smoking.)
  • Know your cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels. (These I know. They are not as good as they I want them to be, but probably better than I deserve.)
  • Manage stress. (Some days, I’m good.  Some days, I’m not.)

Probably everyone who attended the session today learned something about, not only being healthy, but also when to be concerned about symptoms.

But as I listened today, I also thought of the other ways people were taking care of their hearts:

  • Michele could have certainly decided that she deserved to go out and have a lot of fun after surviving a heart scare. Instead she is helping other women prevent heart disease and offering comfort to those who are facing it.
  • Cindy Waller donated her time to help educate her colleagues, and free time is not something a nursing director has an abundance of.
  • I saw colleagues who gave me daily support when I was grieving over the loss of my father.
  • I thought of the faculty and staff who regularly take extra time to help students navigate the confusing labyrinth of the first year of college.

Okay, so in the medical world, an enlarged heart is not a good thing. But in the metaphorical one, a big heart is. And people around me have that covered. Now we just need to put down the potato chips and pick up the weights.

Monday Motivator: Be a Good Sport

I have to admit that I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, like most Sunday evenings, I was rushing to do the chores that I put off all weekend. However, I did catch the halftime show. And there was probably no better example of good sports than Coldplay.

As we say in the South, bless their hearts. While Coldplay can fill stadiums (I saw them at Bridgestone Arena), there was always a disconnect between the band and the Super Bowl. And apparently, someone else realized that as well. Because last night, Coldplay started the show, but the band was quickly eclipsed by Bruno Mars and Beyonce.

Still, anyone who watched the show would have been hard pressed to find any evidence that the Coldplay band members weren’t enjoying themselves. Chris Martin was grinning from ear to ear, and even did that weird dancing he does (even more impressive considering Bruno and Beyonce had just killed a mini dance-off.) Will was beating the drums as enthusiastically as ever. And while Johnny and Guy looked serious, they always look serious.

Coldplay could have chosen not to play if they couldn’t be the whole show. They could have decided to phone it in once they realized they weren’t going to the stars. But from what I could tell, they didn’t. They gave a good performance.

Sometimes being a good sport is not about being a gracious winner. It’s also about realizing that your gift is not enough to make an event shine and letting other people help make it something better. And Coldplay did just that.

Monday Motivator: Get Out an Index Card

I am reading The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack.  As it implies, the book comes from an idea of writing down the basic financial advice most people need on one 4 by 6 index card.

As I’m reading, I realize that most of this is not new. Many of us, without even thinking, could come up with some of these rules, such as:

  • Save 10-20 percent of your salary.
  • Pay off credit cards in full each month.
  • Start saving for retirement.

But as statistics show, many people don’t do these things at all. And, oddly enough, it’s not for lack of knowledge or even lack of funds. We just don’t.

The book has made me think about other parts of our lives where the basic rules for success are not numerous or complicated and could fit on an index card:


  • Go to class.
  • Take notes.
  • Buy and read the textbook.
  • Study everyday.
  • Start early on assignments.
  • Ask questions.


  • Be punctual.
  • Ask questions.
  • Be cordial.
  • Do the work assigned.
  • Listen.


  • Show up.
  • Listen.
  • Ask questions.
  • Be considerate.
  • Forgive.
  • Laugh.
  • Do your share and then a little more.


It’s not a mystery. Most of us know what we need to do. The real mystery is why so many of us don’t do those things.