Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Years Resolution

     “As this year draws to a close, I think about my living,” sings John Denver in the Christmas carol, “A Baby Just Like You.”  I attempt my best JD imitation while singing and strumming this tune to my grandchildren on Christmas day and stop mid-lyric wondering, “What is my living?”  I wonder, “What can I make of my life in this new year that might mean something?” 
     Should I lose weight, write a book, say please and thank you more often or attempt to eat less pizza?  I’m not strong enough to limit my pizza intake and don’t care to lose more weight so my focus this new year is on meaningful personal change.  This year I choose to be less critical and become more accepting.  I choose to talk less about people and more to people.  I choose to protect my family-time offering more of me to the people I love. These are my New Year resolutions.       
     I literally shake my head as Rory, my granddaughter looks up and pleads, “Gramps, keep singing.” I finish the tune with, “Merry Christmas everyone,” and return to thinking of purposeful being. 
     Deep in thought, I put down my guitar to focus on Lebron James jawing at Kobe Bryant as the Heat tips off with the Lakers. These two men make more in one day than my house is worth.  Are they happy?  They might be.  Is being rich and famous the secret to happiness?  It can be.  Can I find happiness living a fairly simple life, making a comfortable living while having no fame?  Absolutely.     
     I wonder in my 47 years, have I built a life with meaning or do I have work to do?   I conclude, there is more of me to give this world before I parish so, I promise myself to build a list of who I wish to be in the coming year, how I propose to achieve this wish and what I wish to change in my present life to make my half-life purposeful.                
     The question is daunting but one can create a purposeful life through planning, goal setting and making life decisions based on desired outcomes instead of just letting life happen.  If one does not know where they’re going, how are they going to get there?  Every journey needs a roadmap.  Every destination requires a plan for arrival.  If your desire is to make something of yourself in this life, you might want to plot a path for success.
    Setting goals, writing them down and creating a timeline for one to achieve the goal is one secret for reaching one’s dream.  Setting SMART goals helps one focus on achieving success.  SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. 
  • Specific—what is one going to do, how is one going to do it and why is it important to do at this time?
  • Measurable—how long will it take and how will one measure that the goal is being achieved?
  • Attainable—can one figure out a way to achieve this goal? 
  • Realistic—is the goal too unrealistic to achieve?
  • Timely—when will one achieve this goal?
      As a newly married couple 28 years ago, my wife and I knew we wanted a success-filled life full of love, children, college degrees, a nice house, adventure and fun but we were not sure how to make it happen so we decided to rent a paddleboat and paddled to the middle of a lake.  We agreed not to paddle back to the dock until we discovered an achievable way to get the things in life we knew wanted. 
     Our trip is fruitful.  We made a purposeful decision that day for me to join the Air Force.  The decision was:
  • Specific—I knew which branch of the service to enlist in and how to do it.
  • Measurable—my enlistment will be for 6 years and I will enter the military in six months.
  • Attainable—this is something I can do.
  • Realistic—I can achieve this.
  • Timely—I will achieve this goal on the first day of military service.
 Our goal is SMART. 
     Most every important decision in life should be planned.  When making an important decision write down positives and negatives, benefits and deficits and make a thoughtful decision for change.  When deciding to change jobs, get married, have children or move to a new city, putting pencil to paper allows one an opportunity to critically and patiently make logical decisions about emotional issues.
    As this new year begins, I once more turn inside myself to mentally plan the year to come.  Professionally, I make decisions for advancement and change, personally, I decide to focus more on family than friends and selfishly I decide to give more than I get from the people who are important to me. 
     Resolution is not about things but about relationships.  Anyone can lose weight, spend less money or workout more.  These are not resolutions for change but semantics for daily living.  It takes a self-actualized, thoughtfully purposeful individual to offer emotion, nurturing, caring and love as a gift to the new year.  Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Greatings

     “The season is upon us now, a time for gift and giving,” pines John Denver in his song, “A Baby Just Like You.”  When I hear these lyrics I think about the meaning behind the words and realize there are many gifts that cost no money, exhibit kindness and make others happy.  I offer a few simple gift-giving solutions that will fill everyone’s stocking for the Christmas season and beyond.
·        Be present—when others speak really listen.  Closing one’s mouth and opening one’s mind will offer insight into what one’s friend really has to say.  Stop and listen.
·        Clean up after yourself whether at home or in public.  It takes only a few minutes to pick up your garbage.  I hate walking in the woods and seeing a candy wrapper, cigarette butt or beer can. 
·        Return your shopping cart to the cart stall.  Save a person’s car from a ding caused your errant cart and save a few steps for the employee who has to retrieve your buggy from the parking lot.
·        Open a door—if a person’s hands are full, if one is walking in from the cold or simply being kind means holding a door open for another person.
·        Write a note to someone who needs a reassuring word.  Simply noting that you care might reassure one that life is okay, that someone notices their existence.
·        Hang up your phone.  It is inconsiderate to talk on one’s cell phone while checking out at a grocery store, while driving, while eating at a restaurant or while talking with another person.  If someone is looking into your eyes and having a conversation with you, do not look at your phone to see whom just texted or left a voicemail.
·        Snowblow or shovel your neighbor’s walkway.  If you are removing snow, keep up the work and continue to your neighbor’s property.  The gift will be reciprocated. 
·        Pay it forward.  If a person is struggling to pay their grocery bill, aid them with a few dollars.  Unexpectedly pay for the person’s coffee behind you at Starbucks or leave a $20.00 bill with the checkout person at the grocery store for the groceries of the person behind you.  Don’t assume, because a person is driving a nice car or wearing nice clothes they don’t need a hand-up.
·        Say thank you and please.  People feel appreciated and acknowledged for doing an unexpected task. 
·        Do the unexpected.  Take your neighbor a plate of baked goods, show up at an event and offer to volunteer, prepare an unexpected meal for a friend or take your child to the park.  Unexpected gifts reward the receiver with a feeling of joy while the sender feels fulfilled in their attempt. 
·        Be on time.  If you say you will be at a party, meeting, rendezvous or event at a certain time, be there at that time.  Being “fashionably late” is rude and uncaring.  Being on time is kind and caring. 
·        Drive kindly.  Slow down, don’t be aggressive and allow others to merge.  If a blinker is blinking, don’t speed up to ensure the blinkee can’t merge.  Make a hole and allow the driver to move into the desired lane.  Pause at yellow lights and prepare to stop.  Red lights mean stop, not speed up.  Stop signs mean stop, not cruise to a pause then punch it through the sign if a car is approaching.  Stop means stop.  Red lights mean stop.   Yellow lights mean caution and prepare to stop.  A kind, nurturing person follows the rules of the road and obeys traffic laws. 
·        Say, “I love you,” often. Remind the people you love that you love them and tell them with passion. 
     Giving gifts does not require money or fancy gift-wrap.  Some of the best gifts may cost a few minutes of your time but mean the most to those around you.  I offer this gift.  The completion of the song quoted above: 
And as the year draws to it's close, I think about my living, The Christmastime when I was young, the magic and the wonder, but colors dull and candles dim, and dark my standing under.   Oh little angel, shining light, you set my soul to dreaming, you’ve given back my joy in life, you've filled me with new meaning.  A Savior king was born that day, a baby just like you, and as the Magi came with gifts, I’ve come with my gift too.  That peace on earth fills up your time, that brotherhood surrounds you, that you may know the warmth of love, and wrap it all around you.”  Merry Christmas!        

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Food For thought--Introduction

     Welcome to “Food for Thought,” an exploration into the world of psychology, food and education.  I am an educator, psychotherapist, and executive chef.  Interesting career path one might say?  Let’s examine the journey.
     It started in a little mountain town in the west where my grandmother cooked in my high school. I volunteered to wash dishes in the school cafeteria.  I received free food, got out of class early, and go to visit grandma.  I loved this job!
     I found a job as a dishwasher in a local restaurant.  I quickly worked my way up to cook then sous chef.  The Executive chef was trained to cook from his grandmother and offered great skills.  He taught me the fundamentals of culinary arts, which whetted my appetite to learn more. 
     I joined the Air Force and cooked, worked on missiles, performed search and recovery duties, and managed a dormitory.   I also earned my Bachelor’s Degree in psychology at Black Hills State University.
     My wife, Michele and I had a daughter, Heather.  After eleven years in the Air Force, it was time to move on.  With family in Missoula, we visited Coeur d’Alene many times and decided this will be our home.
     Coeur d’Alene was the start of my wife and my professional careers.  I immediately got a job as caddie at the Coeur d’Alene Resort and as the sous chef at Cricket’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar. 
     Working 15 hours a day became a struggle, and I applied and was hired as the Food Service Director and Executive Chef at North Idaho College (NIC) food service department. 
      At NIC I created the food court-branding concepts, helped design the food court, recreated the catering department, wrote all menus and recipes and managed 71 students and staff.  I also attended the Culinary Institute of America while at NIC which nurtured my foundation in the culinary arts. 
     NIC is a wonderful place to work and I enjoyed my seven years in the food service department.  While directing food service, I taught etiquette classes, food service supervisor classes and numerous cooking classes. 
     I attended the University of Idaho and received my Master’s Degree in Counseling and Human Services.  I opened Selkirk Counseling Group with four other counselors and was hired by the Coeur d’Alene school district as a counselor at Project CDA (Creating Dropout Alternatives).  I also started teaching psychology classes for NIC.  During this journey I received my Educational Leadership Degree and am a certified kindergarten-12 grade principal.   
     Presently I am the counselor at Atlas Elementary School; still teach psychology at NIC and own Rutherford Education Group where I lecture and do psychotherapy.
     What will you find in this column?  Articles will focus on food, education and psychology and many will meld the three. 
     In the coming month expect to explore vitamin D deficiency and Seasonal Affective Disorder, the love hate relationship Americans have with food, what foods stimulate mental wellness, the psychology of bulimia, anorexia, and obesity, how to effectively discipline children, why marriages succeed and fail, and the effects of a mental illness label.  Please e-mail me with column ideas or thoughts.

Bill Rutherford is a psychotherapist, public speaker, elementary school counselor, adjunct college psychology instructor and executive chef, and owner of Rutherford Education Group.  Please e-mail him at