Common Ground

As a child my family had gone on various vacations. It had probably been twenty-five years or more, since I had taken a trip with either of my parents. Several years ago when my Dad was in his late 70’s we went on a father daughter trip to Utah to enjoy some time together. It was just the two of us; he was going to hunt and I to hike, horseback ride and tour the surrounding area.   

We had researched various locations for many years but could never find a place that was acceptable to both of us. We finally found a location in Utah. When we arrived at Broad Mouth Canyon, we met another father and daughter duo, she was 13 and he in is his late 40’s.  A memory flashed before me, it was around the start of my teen age years, when I turned in my hip boots and pellet gun and my interests turned from outdoor sports to boys. I began to pull away from my father and his hobbies during those years.  At the time of our trip, I was in my 40’s looking to reconnect and find common ground with my dad. It was a precious opportunity and I intended to make the best of it.

We had adjoining cabins in the woods away from the main lodge. He would get up early in the morning and head out with his guide to hunt. I would get up later, take in the mountains, and go for my horseback ride.  We met back for lunch and dinner. He would tell me about his adventures during the day and I would talk about mine and my horseback ride through the canyon. There was something so special about those conversations with my dad they just delighted me. It was the exchange of our stories and the passion we both shared for our hobbies. We would reunite after dinner, play cards together and turn in for the night. I savored every moment with my dad.

My Father taught me many things in life, one of them being a love of nature, and I have a keen appreciation for it to this day. At night in the cabin, I would listen to the sounds of the elk bugling and other creatures stirring and hunting their prey. Dad went out early most days and came back later than the other hunters most nights. A group of us were already at dinner, when my dad and his guide Jaden finally arrived. I watched out for him, stashed a piece of dessert when I saw it might run out, and picked up a paper for him in the morning when I went for a drive. I wanted to protect him, watch his back while he was away from the lodge.

One of the last nights, I looked up at the mountains surrounding our cabin and I could barely make out the peak it was so grand. I realized then, that if I could measure my love for my Father, it would be as high as the mountain top. He is my hero, the strongest man I have ever known and no one other than my God can fill his shoes. I was so proud to be with him, proud to be his daughter. I could only hope that he was proud of me too. All I wanted from our vacation was to reconnect with my Dad and share some common ground.  It was a gift and I have treasured the memories for a lifetime.

You never know how long your parents will be with you, but I know this, I will always cherish the memories of our time together.  As we celebrate Father’s Day, remember those special times with your Dad or create new memories it’s never too late start again.  Happy Father’s Day!



Lean In or Bend and Flow?

Could Life’s Perfect Formula Be Mirrored By Trees? 

The wind picked up during my morning walk and I noticed a sudden shift in the air. As I looked around I could see the palm trees swaying and bowing as the wind slapped at their branches. The mighty oaks seemed to lean in deliberately taunting the wind as it challenged their aged sturdy canopy. Living in Florida we often see heavy winds, hurricanes and an occasional tornado. After the storms pass the debris can be seen for miles. Isn’t this just an analogy for our life? We hit a rough patch, a Tsunami of sorts, we get hurt, broken and the debris of our lives spreads out for months and sometimes decades.  


Is it better to be like a palm tree or an oak?  Turns out a palm tree is more like a flowering plant, a monocot. The center is made up of cells, a watery flexible sheath like substance which allows for nearly a 90 degree bend. At the base is a root ball system that teeters and tauter’s with pliable roots that rebuild after a storm.  The oak on the other hand is a dicot, a heavily rooted hardwood, which grows massive roots and elaborate canopy systems providing shade and light to pass through similar to an umbrella. I love Oaks, they are confident and respected, but I am not sure I want to be like one when the storms of life hit.


Growing up I would have sworn that the sturdier and tougher you were the better chances you had to weather the storms. As they say, the older you get the more you know. There are powerful forces and seasons in life that require flexibility rather than rigidity. In some cases you must bend or you will break under the pressure. The palm tree’s greatest strength lies in their ability to be pliable when storms come and to regrow and rebuild when they pass. The oak can dig deep, cling on and grow to a massive girth, yet if pushed too hard the tree will uproot and fall.


The winds of change are ever present and my first inclination is always to lean in, pull from my roots and hold steadfast. But life has a way of teaching us lessons and sometimes we learn by toppling over leaving a wake of mass destruction with an empty hole left for weeds to fill. I will never forget one poignant message a friend of mine shared after her husband had passed away. Her biggest regret was that she spent her time scurrying around researching, trying to solve the problem and getting multiple opinions for the cancer that was eating away at her husband. In the end, she had wished she had just been still, sat with him and honored the time they had left together.


When the storms of life hit you, I think the perfect formula may be to rely on your roots, turn to God for comfort and gracefully sway, bow and dance so you can be the thing left standing when the sun shines again.


Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.

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Everlasting Love

 

 

The month of February always symbolizes love. We all have read the statistics about divorce rates and I am sure many of you have experienced heartache and may be part of the statistics. I am certainly no expert on how to keep love alive but as we near our 10 year anniversary there are certain things I know for sure have contributed to our happy marriage.

 

One of my first love lessons occurred during a season of loss. Just before our wedding and a day before my birthday, my husband to be, lost his father after a long battle with Leukemia. It was a sad time for everyone. I wanted to comfort my husband and during that process learned a profound truth that we still rely upon to this day. We are in this relationship together, we have each other’s back and working as a team is better than going it alone. Difficulties either drive you apart or bind you together. One of the most prolific pieces of advice we received before we were married centered on our vows. A dear friend said, “You know there will always be a worse, a poorer and a sicker.” As an optimist I really had not thought of the opposite side to better, richer, and healthier until that poignant reminder.

 

During our engagement, I wrote a love letter to my husband recounting all the things I loved about him. My husband did the same, we still have the letters and the list we created with simple adjectives that described our most cherished qualities.  Once a year, we review our lists which helps us both remember why we fell in love. This reflection exercise takes us back to the beginning and softens our hearts toward one another. Bitterness struggles to exist when there is no fertile ground.  Love and compliments are lethal weapons to deploy against anger.

 

Right after we married, we signed up for a couple’s weekend. Over the course of the weekend we learned a great deal about each other and how to manage conflict lovingly. The Weekend To Remember conference provided us with tools that we keep in our arsenal and use when needed. One of the biggest Ah Ha moments for me was pertaining to self-centeredness. They talked about how so many people underestimate selfishness and how it can destroy your relationship. Selfishness leads to a critical spirit, which leads to disappointment, bitterness and finally isolation. One way to counteract going down the rabbit hole is to concentrate on your spouse’s positive traits. Once you shift your focus off your spouse and on to yourself, you can often catch bitterness before takes over. When you start to become critical of your spouse, inevitably there is something within you that needs to change. Turning the microscope of perfectionism and cynicism inward creates a shift in understanding differences along with a commitment to resolve them in a mature way.  

 

There is no secret formula or magic pill that creates everlasting love. If you opened my husband’s wallet today, you would find a tattered and torn piece of paper that contains his handwritten heart felt, wedding vows. Here is an excerpt, “I devote myself to creating a marriage of affection, love, laughter, encouragement and understanding.” Those are not just empty words, staying in love requires a great deal of work and commitment. We plan to stay the course.

 

As we approach Valentine’s Day, think about one small thing you can do to compliment your partner and breathe new life and love into your relationship.

 

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com

 

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Digital Escape

What Happened To Our Quiet Time?


Computers, Smart Phones, PDA’s and tablets were all designed to make our life easier, and more entertaining, but frankly, sometimes a break from all the noise and instant access is quite refreshing. Henry David Thoreau once said, “He who enjoys true leisure has time to improve his soul’s estate.” Lately, my soul has been dragging a bit and sometimes I feel like I have been reduced to a “human doing,” instead of a human being.


Recently, I went on a trip and decided not to bring my “electronic gear”. When I got on the plane I felt liberated, like I didn’t actually have to do work. After arriving at my destination, my phone reception was so bad that it was in and out of service. Instead of being upset I was surprisingly ambivalent . One day, I actually went to a meeting and accidentally left my phone behind at the hotel. At first a feeling of being out of control came over me, what would I miss, what emergency would happen that I would not be aware of? The day ended up being quite relaxing and the world seemed to continue on without my input 24/7.


That evening I went for a walk, without a music device in my ear. On my walk birds were chirping , a hedgehog was rustling in the bush and flowers were growing wild by the road. All the sounds of nature had become muffled by the blaring, beeping and pinging in my head and suddenly they came alive again.


Think about the last time you had quiet time, where you were just still, sat and pondered. The devices that were designed to make us more connected and efficient have become intrusions, robbing us of small peaceful joys like sitting on the porch swing, listening to the leaves rustle, or  taking a walk in nature.  


Today, life has us connected instantaneously, but is all this connectivity robbing your  soul?




This video of NewYorker.com editor Nicholas Thompson speaks to CBS to discuss how to fight the technology overload:

http://www.cbs.com/shows/cbs_this_morning/video/Ial83dGg6xlDpIHmSdSEy85wSpcQTF3R/electronic-escape-how-to-get-some-space-from-your-devices-in-2015/




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How Do You Make Lasting Change?


Here we are again starting off a new year together! What do you plan to do differently this year?  Usually I outline resolutions and goals and like most of you forget about them along the way. Let’s do something different this year! Begin with a commitment to make change. To change something about ourselves is difficult but not impossible as long as we are willing to make an effort. Start with something small and focus on the positive results. Avoid toxic feelings that make you feel like you are giving something up. Change is not easy; In fact most of the time people resist change, feel awkward and don’t want to try new ways of doing things. We are all at different levels of readiness throughout our lives and can only handle so much change. Some people are risk takers while others require more time to feel secure. Generally, if we lose focus or take the pressure off, we will revert back to the old ways and change won’t happen.


In order to make this year different we have to be proactive, positive and productive. Get off the fence, stop finger pointing and blaming or as the theme song from Frozen goes…Let It Go! Here is a bit of Irony, just as I was writing this article a long-term client called and has finally hired an in-house marketing VP, so I will be on my way to something new next year. Drat…change strikes again.


In order to be positive and proactive, we must first rid ourselves of toxic behaviors and patterns that sabotage us. These types of behaviors often hold us back from making lasting change in our lives. Think about any toxic behaviors that you exhibit and are willing to eliminate. Some examples may include; not being direct with people, using non-verbal put downs, being dogmatic, playing games with people, being negative or not respecting other opinions. Don’t worry, we all have our toxic habits, work on a short list and really be honest. Once you have identified some areas that need to be overhauled jot them down and replace them with positive and nourishing behaviors.


For me, I am working on being present and giving others my attention. Some other examples of replacing negative behaviors with positive ones may be; keeping your word, treating others with respect, keeping confidences, expressing a genuine interest, showing appreciation to others, smiling and honestly stating desires and needs.


Once you have outlined the behaviors you want to rid yourself of and the complimentary list of new behaviors to replace your old ways with, you will be on your way toward making permanent and lasting change.


The last step is to finish with a list that states what you will do more of in 2015 and what you will do less of or stop doing all together. Cheers, here is to making permanent change!           


Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com

 


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Give The Gift of being Present This Holiday Season

Give The Gift of being Present This Holiday Season 

As the holiday season approaches, do you find yourself looking forward with excitement or are you already exhausted? Are you going through the motions, making preparations or are you enjoying the moment, spending quality time with family and friends and finding inner Joy? Recently, I have been doing a lot of work on living in the present. By this I mean staying focused on what is going on right now instead of letting my mind wonder down the rabbit hole of endless To Do Lists. Being present takes a great deal of discipline and practice. This may sound silly but developing your Present Moment Awareness (PMA) skill set isn’t as easy as it sounds. The reality is you can’t be present if you are worrying, thinking and planning all the time. When you live the better part of your life in your head, through your thoughts, you are not fully experiencing all that this life has to offer. After a weekend seminar with Oprah and Deepak, I decided to practice PMA. As a tool, The Chopra Center has a series of meditations that are available to download for free. I highly encourage you to check them out at chopracentermeditation.com. 

Here is a simple exercise that might help you get started on your path to living your life in the present moment.  Begin by tapping into the five senses. Many people go through life unaware of the beauty that surrounds them. Find a quiet place, be still and focus on your breath, relax and become present with the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches around you. See the colors, touch your skin or clothes, smell the air, listen to the sounds, notice the taste of food or a piece of candy. Go through all five senses and really become aware of the difference between your thoughts and what you are experiencing with your senses. Stay fully aware and try to remain in that state. Repeat the exercise whenever you start to slip back into your thoughts.

Once you have mastered this, try to apply the experience to your daily routine. Instead of operating on auto-pilot try being fully aware of what you are doing. Practice living in the moment not thinking about the future or the past. When you catch yourself slipping into your thoughts, or casting judgment go back through the sensory awareness exercise.

There are a number of benefits to living in the present. People connect with you on a deeper level. They like being around you more because they feel heard. You experience more joy and gratitude for the people in your life.  Once you make the determination that you can’t work everything out in your mind, your heart will kick in to guide you. Suddenly you will shift into the present and start to image the possibilities instead of the restrictions. Start by being still, let go of critical judgments and limitations and focus on present moment opportunities and experiences. I wish you much success, Namaste!

Jodi Cross is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or visit www.crossnm.com.


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The Art Of Journaling

Recently, I started journaling again. This has been a habit of mine off and on over the years. I fill-up one journal, stop for a while and start up again with a blank canvass. My journaling habit came about as a way to remember experiences and tap into my feelings. I started by journaling vacation details and recounting questions which would keep me up at night or jotting down Ah Ha ideas.  These details always came in handy down the road when my memory became a bit fuzzy.

 

Over the years journaling has become a favorite hobby of mine. Putting words to paper or tablet has benefited me in so many ways. Writing can be therapeutic, even cathartic and is great for self- expression. Journaling helps to relieve stress and can be instrumental for expressing feelings in private you don’t necessarily want to share.  There are many uses for journaling but clearly it is a discipline that stimulates creativity. Journaling is a starting point for poetry verses, song lyrics and free writing which ultimately turned into my monthly columns.

Writing allows you a certain freedom that speaking does not. Like many girls my journaling started when I was young; there was a small key attached to my pink journal. The lock symbolizing keep out, private meaningful thoughts inside. Truth be told, inquiring siblings very likely perceived this as an invitation to snoop. During my teenage years, I filled pages with broken hearted relationship stories and secret crushes. As I grew older, I recounted college memories and friendships along with hurts and disappointments. I always carry a journal on vacation with me and I write down all the detail of my trips. There are guide names from places I have stayed, favorite restaurants where I dined and other magical memories from ancient city explorations.  


The intimate contact between paper and pen leads to more personal thoughts and creative ideas. Journaling is introspective even when writing about the mundane. Sometimes I go back and read old journals and I am always surprised by all I discover about how I was feeling during a particular phase of my life. The act of writing is what makes my old journals valuable to me.


Journaling beckons you to the present, to a quiet place and time of reflection to ponder the unanswered questions that haunt you. Through words, dreams and plans can be formed while moments and memories come alive.


If you have thought about journaling, now is a perfect time to pick up a notebook  or try an on-line app for writing today. There are some great sites and books to ignite your creative juices. “Writing Down The Bones” by Natalie Goldberg or “Bird By Bird” by Annie Lamott, provide some great starting ideas. You may just be lured into the art of writing as I was, but beware, it can be addictive.


Jodi Cross is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or visit www.crossnm.com.


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They Call It… The Journey Through the Clouds

 


Last month we traveled from Calgary to Vancouver on a trip they call the Journey through the Clouds. We saw majestic mountains, scenic valleys, wildlife and azure lakes. Part of our vacation was aboard a train called the Rocky Mountaineer, which set an enjoyable pace through Western Canada and across the Great Divide.


We started out in Lake Louise at the infamous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. If you ever get to Alberta this resort is not to be missed! The property is a lovely old hotel with vistas overlooking some of the most beautiful mountain scenery, emerald waters and a stunning glacier all surrounded by cool Canadian temperatures, mountain trails and refreshing air.

 Known as the hiking capital of the world, Lake Louise captivates you with meandering paths, sightseeing Gondolas and the adventure you would expect of a national park. In fact, the majority of the trip both by car and train takes you through Canada’s treasure chest of National Parks.


We headed out of Lake Louise and continued on our journey to Jasper to pick up the train. The drive was about three hours long on the Icefields Parkway. Normally driving bores me, but this was the most spectacular drive I have ever been on. The ride takes you through Banff and Jasper National parks. Rugged peaks, turquoise lakes, waterfalls and glaciers peek out at you around ever turn. It is absolutely stunning! There are places to camp, picnic or  hike all along the route. We stopped several times but you could literally spend an entire day on this drive.


We picked up the train in Jasper a sleepy little town of 4,700 people.  The Rocky Mountaineer was top notch. We opted for the Gold Leaf experience which provides meals, beverages and a dome like viewing coach. Meals are served in a dining car below. The over night stop is in a town called Kamloops then you continue for another day heading toward Vancouver. Over bridges, through tunnels, and past rivers we traveled. We saw fisherman and salmon swimming in one of the  biggest salmon runs in 40-years.

 

We arrived in Vancouver to spend a couple of days in a chic metropolitan city with great restaurants, shopping and nightlife. The city was easy to get around with a bus system that continually loops to all the attractions.  There is a wonderful mix of culture and nature in Vancouver with Stanley Park being a highlight. We walked to Granville Island, breezed through ChinaTown and shopped along Robson Street. This was the perfect mix of scenic landscapes, outdoor activities and big city fun. I feel refreshed and ready for the busy fall season ahead. 

  

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com


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When Did Ethics Become Subjective?

When Did Ethics Become Subjective?

By: Jodi Cross

You may have heard the old saying…It’s not what you do when someone is looking, it’s what you do when no one is looking that defines your moral character.  


How did the ethical balance in our society get so out of control? Do ethics still matter; are they relevant or subjective? Ethics are a standard of moral behaviors that are accepted by society as right versus wrong. They guide us, define our character and help us make the right choices. Then why the Ponzi schemes, corporate CEO resignations and  Martha Stewart going to jail for insider trading? All of this can’t be a good thing! Has greed commandeered our ethics? It seems like this generation doesn’t see any real moral absolutes and they tend to make decisions based on their situation. Which is to say, if it fits their lifestyle then why not do it?


Situational ethics has created a moral decay that is pervasive in our society today. People can be caught doing something and still lie about it, all while justify and blaming it on someone or something else. In theory, people agree about what is right and wrong, things like honesty, courage, respect for life are clearly right and cheating, lying, and stealing are wrong. So how did we get where we are today? 


Ethics is more than dealing with the legal consequences of your actions it is about how you feel about yourself when you do something that is ethically questionable. Better yet, ask yourself, would you want someone to do the same thing to you? People may be above the law and not get caught but we should never abandon ethics.


Ethics is something that should be ingrained in us. It is about how we treat one another. My parents modeled it every day by providing guiding values, and making us accountable for our choices.   Our forefathers decreed ethics as a self-evident truth, Moses brought down the commandments, not the suggestions. It is time we get a grip and stop sliding down the slippery ethical slope laced with justifications and excuses. Choosing the ethical solution isn’t always easy, that’s why it’s called an moral dilemma.  I believe if we all tap into our guiding compass we will pick the right path and one we can be proud of. Perhaps that will start a chain of events that will bring us back on course.  


Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com



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Please and Thank You

Please and Thank You!

By: Jodi Cross

In this day and age, I find myself wondering if anyone else heard those simple words of wisdom. It seems like good manners are hard to find.

In our house, we were required to send thank you notes after birthdays or even when someone went out of their way to help us.  Today, I send gifts relatives and don’t even get an acknowledgement text message. Have people become ungrateful?  Or are they just too busy to show the tiniest bit of appreciation?


Good manners are something best taught from a young age. Even before kids can write you can let them draw a picture and write the words thank you. As they get older, reinforce what appreciation means and use a few adjectives to describe how receiving something made them feel. Even something simple as thanking a person for thinking of you would suffice. Make it a habit every time they get a gift to follow up by sitting down and writing a thank you note.


Teach your children that each time they ask for something it should start or end with “Please”. Once this habit is formed it will come naturally, which is much easier than trying to reverse a bad habit later in life.


Here are some tips to help make “Thank You” notes more convenient:

  • Always keep a box of beautiful blank note cards in the house. When someone sends you a gift or does something nice for you, drop them a note.
  • Don’t get hung up on the perfect words, just keep it simple and short to show your appreciation.
  • When you travel or stay at someone’s house, carry a card and small token gift to leave behind as an immediate gesture of gratitude.
  • Purchase a note book that holds cards for special occasions, Hallmark has some lovely books that make it very handy to keep all your upcoming birthday cards, thank you notes and other special occasion cards in one place.
  • If a handwritten note is just not in the cards, be sure you call or at the very least text to say you received the gift. This at least assure they will think of you in the future and remember your grateful spirit.

Thank you notes can be treasured for years to come. Just recently I came across one from my late grandmother that I had kept and it was so meaningful to know that she had touched that note and crafted the words so long ago.  


I hope the spirit of gratitude fills your heart and in turn you take time to remember those who touch your life in a special way. As always, thank you for reading my column.

 

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at www.crossnm.com or at jcross@crossnm.com

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Identity Theft

Identity Theft

By: Jodi Cross

Nothing strikes panic in a person more than hearing the words “your identity has been stolen.”  Identity Theft is an epidemic in America with an identity being stolen every 79 seconds. According to recent statistics it is a matter of when you will become a victim not if you will be a victim.

The most commonly recognized type of Identity Theft is Financial Identity Theft and apparently that is the best kind to have because you definitely don’t want the other types. The other types can be far more destructive, they include; Criminal, Drivers License, Medical, Mortgage, Postal Address, and Social Security. 

The one that I was least familiar with was Medical Identity Theft. This is where someone steals your identity, receives medical care, it then goes on your record and labels you with certain diseases that you may not have, such as diabetes. In this case, if you had to have an emergency procedure, the hospital could look at your records and administer insulin, which could result in your death.

So how does Identity Theft happen? There are many ways it can happen; computer hacking, stealing your mail, rummaging through your trash, phone or email “phishing”,  and skimming your credit card number are just a few.  Some fraud artists cause an accident by rear-ending you to take your information off the traffic ticket.  

Criminals are clever and you must remain alert and stay vigilant at all times. For example, did you know your personal information is loaded onto plastic hotel keys when you are staying at some hotels? The keys act as a charge card to allow you to make purchases in the outlets. If you don’t cut them up or throw them away, anyone can have access to your credit card information.


If Identity Theft happens to you;

  • Call the three major services, Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, all websites are spelled as listed. If you think you are a victim of Fraud you must call immediately to reduce your liability. An initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for 90-days.
  • File a report with the local police department and the federal trade commission (877-IDTHEFT). Most police departments are so understaffed that no action will be taken unless the loss is over a certain dollar amount.  
  • Close your accounts and cards with a certified letter to the provider and keep copies of all correspondence.
  • If you want to alert retailers not to accept your checks call TeleCheck at 800-710-9898.

To help avoid Identity Theft;

  • Invest in a shredder and destroy all information with your SS # on it.
  • Make sure all correspondence is password protected on-line, and change your password every two to three months. Update your anti-virus software look into AVG and Ad Aware.
  • Use online banking and go paperless so fraud can’t occur in your mailbox.
  • Avoid free Wi-Fi networks in public places, people can tap into your computer and access your personal information. 

There are many agencies and online resources that can assist, but like anything else, the burden becomes yours to follow up. Identity Theft doesn’t just cause a financial hardship; it destroys your peace of mind. Take some steps to protect your self and your family. © 


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