George Takei and the lessons learned

Last week, George Takei (activist and actor from “Star Trek”) spoke at the National Speakers Convention in Washington, D.C..

GeorgeTakei-Smiling

Photo provided by Craig Price, http://therealistsguide.com.

George has 8.8 million FaceBook followers and 1.7 million followers on Twitter. Did he share how we speakers could grow such massive followings to help impact more people? Did he talk about how the original Star Trek series was cutting-edge for addressing cultural and political norms?

Did he tailor his speech to speakers with the intention to help them grow their businesses – from the lessons he has learned through decades of being in the entertainment industry and as an activist?

Surprising for some, the answer was, “No.”

What did he speak about? Humanity.

George shared the personal story of his family (U.S. Citizens) being interned by the U.S. government when he was only 5 years old.

To provide a little background, 14 days prior to the National Speakers Association convention, I was at Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site for the 2nd time. Throughout being at Dachau this time around, our guide talked about being mindful of what is happening right now in the world along the same lines. Our guide believed strongly that you have to know history, speak of it openly – including its wrongs – to transform the future. He shared how every child in Germany tours the memorials of concentration camps at some point in their education. Their country puts their horrors front and center.

Our country does not. We hear people yelling, “Why should we be discussing the wrongs of ‘some people’ in our country’s past? I didn’t do that and so its not my problem.”

Am I comparing any particular actions of our country to the holocaust? No, I’m discussing the LESSONS learned from wrongful pasts.

How does this relate? George Takei provided a history of our country MANY people in the audience never knew about. While we knew about internment camps, many had no clue of what that truly meant – “to be interned.” The shame is that many of us never had any concept of how horrible those actions were until we were sitting in that audience with George sharing his personal story.

When the film “12 Years a Slave” was released, some people thought it was too violent. Yet, the movie was only showing a small piece of the horror slaves experienced in our country. People seem to forget that one time our Supreme Court RULED slaves were not to be treated equally.

Where are the memorials? Where do our children walk the grounds of old plantations seeing the horror of what our country allowed to prevail – to avoid ever repeating any such history again?

GeorgeTakei

Photo provided by Craig Price, http://therealistsguide.com.

Where is the experience where children hear GEORGE’s STORY as they learn the history of our country? Almost no where. They simply hear “internment” with no real understanding of what was taking place.

As George finished sharing with us, he stressed how far we have come as a society. He left us understanding our past and how we have an opportunity for continuing to improve our future.

George Takei provided more than a keynote on how to grow our organizations. He provided us, as speakers and individuals, an opportunity to be reminded what every human being should continue to be passionate about – acting with humanity for all.

P.S. A huge THANKS goes out to Brian Walter and the National Speakers Association for bringing George for all of us to hear. I am deeply thankful.

Cruising the Danube!

Last week, I flew to Germany to embark on Viking’s “Danube Waltz” River Cruise from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary (visiting Austrian cities Linz, Salzburg, Melk, Durnstein, and Vienna PLUS Bratislava, Slovakia). Experiencing a European river cruise had been on our Mom’s bucket list for quite some time and so getting the opportunity to do this with her, Rita (my sister), and Karen was AWESOME!!

Our table "family" along with our head waiter, Jahz.

Our table “family” along with our head waiter, Jahz.

Camaraderie
With only 189 guests aboard the ship, the atmosphere is much more intimate than traditional cruises. For meals, you can sit at any table. While we randomly chose to sit at our table the first night, the 2 other couples who chose the same table ended up joining us at that same table all week. By the second day, we had invited another couple to join us and fill the table. As the week and meals went by, the 10 of us became our only little family.

Our waiter said our group of 10 was louder than the biggest group on the ship (which was 31 people). Yep, we took some pride in that.

Vivian-Mike

Vivian and I dancing together. I think this was right after I spun her around. The look on her face says it all.

The PEOPLE
One moment, you’d meet someone while you were hanging out on the top deck as the boat sailed through the beautiful scenery surrounding the Danube. Later you’d meet someone while singing along and dancing with the wonderful pianist/singer, Peter. Often you’d meet people during your daily tours provided by the ship in each location. The picture here is the spunky and fun Vivian.

FAMILY
Speaking of the people, getting time with your Mom, your sister, and your awesome partner ROCKS!! Time with my Mom is time I am ALWAYS grateful for. She is fun, brilliant, energetic, and must keep moving. One of my favorite times during this trip was my Mom and I going for a morning walk along the Danube in Budapest. Having that time to spend one-on-one was great. Of course dancing with my Mom is always special and we got to dance at least once on most evenings. My Mom is an inspiration.

Rita and I leading the room with the YMCA.

Rita and I leading the room to the “YMCA.”

While my sister, Rita, and I work closely together with The DATE SAFE Project, getting 10 days away from work to be together is something I will always be grateful for. Rita knows how to let loose and have FUN, especially in the evenings on the dance floor. While I wasn’t on the dance floor as much as she was, I enjoyed watching her have a blast! By the end of the week, everyone knew who Rita was. Her energy was contagious. Best part? She is my sister!

Speaking of having fun watching someone else, do you have someone in your life who you love to watch being happy? Your kids, your family, your friends, your partner? Maybe it is a “Yes” to all those people – as it is for me.

Yes, I asked first. This location is one of the scenes from "The Sound of Music."

Yes, I asked first. This location is one of the scenes from “The Sound of Music.”

ROMANCE
Watching Karen have fun every single day of this trip was wonderful. The smiles on her face were never ending. Seeing her completely relaxed while reading and taking in the beautiful sights along the Danube as we sat next to each other on the top deck was precious. Having time where we were just being goofy together was soooo much fun.

Sitting next to each other on bus rides and gazing into each other’s eyes …..okay maybe that sounds a bit gushy. Either way, it felt great! Knowing we still have that spark and passion for each other makes each day even more fulfilling. Getting to travel with Karen is a definite bonus.

When I’m gone for work, I love having pictures of Karen to look at. This trip provided me sooo many moments to reflect on via photographs.

THE CREW
Salzburg-MJD-iPhone-4730Wow! I can’t say enough about the phenomenal crew aboard Viking’s “Prestige” vessel. Anthony, the Program Manager, was funny, engaging, and completely present for every guest. Sometimes he’d be on your bus for the tours and you could hang out and learn about each other. In Bratislava, 4 of us went for a 5 mile run together: Anthony, Marie (another guest), Rita, and me.

Andras, the Executive Chef, would swing by your table to see how everything was going. Nenad (who studied Culinary in Budapest) made the best omelettes – exactly how you wanted them. The food was SCRUMPTIOUS!!

The Wachau Valley Wine Region is gorgeous for biking.

The Wachau Valley Wine Region is gorgeous for biking.

Thanks to the Concierge, Ivana, Karen and I got to bike from Melk, Austria to Durnstain, Austria – instead of being aboard the ship as it cruised that section of the Danube. Ivana did a fantastic job of putting this together for us, especially on only 1.5 days notice. Karen and I getting 2.5 hours of biking along the river, through tons of small towns, and vineyards covering 22 miles was magnificent.

Nicole, the room attendant, felt like a friend by the end of the week. She works hard and cares deeply about her Mom who she helps take care of.

Jahz and Renee, our waiters, were fantastic – providing awesome service, lots of humor, and whatever someone wanted. Dragan was a delightful bartender who always had a smile on his face. As you can tell, I could go on and on. The setting is so intimate that everyone felt close to the Captain of the boat. You saw him every day and probably shook his hand each day.

Budapest at night.

Budapest at night.

THE SIGHTS & TOURS
When you are visiting places you’ve never been, its easy to just walk around in awe. Having a guided tour included in each location completely changes that experience. While still in awe, you get an understanding and great appreciation for what you are seeing (and the history behind it). From palaces to cathedrals to visiting the Vienna Residence Orchestra, the places the ship took us were continually amazing.

Choosing a single image for this part of the blog was difficult. One image did stick out. As we rode into Budapest, the lights of the city left everyone speechless.

FREEDOM of WALKING, RUNNING, & BIKING
Because we were one of the youngest people aboard the “Prestige,” you could mistakenly assume this cruise was not as active as the large cruise ships are. Just the opposite.

Sunrise over Budapest.

Sunrise over Budapest.

River cruises enable you to come and go aboard the ship MUCH easier than large cruise ships. I ran in the morning 6 of the first 7 days (sometimes with Rita, Karen, or by myself). Plus, Karen and I biked twice (Rita joined us for one of those bike rides). The final morning, my Mom, Karen, and I got up at 4am to walk up the mountain where Hungary’s “Statue of Liberty” stands – to watch the morning sunrise over the city. The time together and the view was spectacular!!

Plus, the tours and exploring we did resulted in us walking around 70 miles over the 9 days. For those who didn’t want as much walking, they had the option to take more moderate walking/bus tours. You can be as active as you want on a River Cruise.

Outside St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

Outside St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.

THE INVESTMENT
Yes, river cruises can cost more money upfront than typical cruising. We saved up for this trip, including saving lots of airplane miles to cover the roundtrip flights. Financially, river cruising has some benefits. Each location includes a tour (unless you choose additional ones you want to pay for) and all drinks are included at every meal. Those savings on excursions and beverages alone can equal a lot of money from a typical cruise. Plus, we were never being “sold to” on this cruise.

For us, the investment was worth every penny and moment in time. Memories like this cannot be replaced.

UNFORGETTABLE
In the end, UNFORGETTABLE is the word that best describes this trip with my Mom, Rita, and Karen.

If you are interested in checking out river cruising, we loved sailing with Viking Cruises at http://www.vikingrivercruises.com, In the Comments section below, feel free to ask any questions you may have.

Unforgettable and often because of the amazing family I was traveling with: my Mom, Rita, and Karen.

Unforgettable and often because of the amazing family I was traveling with: my Mom, Rita, and Karen.

 

 

 

Are you living by rules that don’t exist?

penguins-living-by-rulesDo you ever feel an urge to do something fun, goofy, or just “because”, BUT you don’t? What stopped you? What rule was running through your head that make you think you better not? Imagine living a life free of ridiculous rules we’ve put on ourselves.

Penguin’s Can’t Fly +39 Other Rules That Don’t Exist by Jason Kotecki is a book for adults that uncovers some of the most useless so-called rules we can find ourselves living by. It explores some small but mighty actions you can take to turn your life into the fun, adventurous and exciting story you deserve. This beautiful 240-page hardcover work of art is a magical combination of Jason’s whimsical illustrations, humorous wit, and poignant anecdotes.

Jason is a dear friend of mine and so I get to see him and his partner, Kim, LIVE this book in every aspect of their life – parenting, relationships, and business. The 2 of them and their children are the epitome of living without rules that never belonged in our lives in the first place. Watching them live freely is invigorating. Capture what they’ve discovered in this BEAUTIFUL book!

A beautiful book? YES!! Jason is a sensational artist who brings the pages to life with characters and colors that will make you smile, think, and definitely laugh!!!

Treat yourself and your friends with this awesome gift. Please help others discover this incredible book by sharing this post and/or the following link to learn more about the book:

Get More: http://rulesthatdontexist.com

Will you dance with me?

Will you dance with me?

While we sit on a plane listening to music – music that was made to move us, will you dance with me?

dancewithmeWill you let the words, the tempo, and energy of the music come forward through dance?

Will you ignore judgment – the fear of what others on the flight will think?

Will you be moved, touched, and inspired by the music you are listening to right now?

Will you go for it, bounce your head to the beat and let your hands dance in their own rhythm?

Will you live in the moment?

Will you dance with me?

Here I go . . .

A Concert, a Flight, and Memories of Aunt Mar

As I sit on an airplane at 20,000 feet above the ground, the song “The Prayer” sung by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion playing on my iPhone takes me back to the All State Arena in Chicago in November of 2013 where Andrea Bocelli was performing.

That night, my Mom, her sister Janet, my Dad, Karen, and I went to the Bocelli concert together. We had purchased the tickets almost 8 months earlier to take my Aunt Mar, my Mom’s sister, to her favorite singer.

From the time we originally got the tickets to the night of the concert, Aunt Mar’s health had weakened. She was battling cancer and in a struggle for her life. Sadly, she was not able to go with us that night.

Being at the concert without her was surreal and at the same time felt like a way of honoring Aunt Mar – being there on her behalf. While she was not physically able to be with us, her spirit was.

A few songs brought tears to my eyes during that concert, specifically “The Prayer” and “Ave Maria.” Scenes of Aunt Mar in my life came to mind – her life; who she was; and her battle with cancer.

Aunt Mar, My Mom, and Aunt Janet

Aunt Mar, My Mom, and Aunt Janet

Memories included being out on the boat with her and Uncle Mike when I was a young kid. The smile on her face as she’d bask in the joy of being out on the water. Her spaghetti. Her laugh. and her deep love of her family.

When the concert was over, we went back to the nursing home where Aunt Mar was sleeping at the time. A month later Aunt Mar passed on.

Upon death, Aunt Mar did not leave us. Memories never allow a person to “leave.” This morning as I travel across the sky, Aunt Mar is with me – thanks to the beauty of music and the memories each song evokes. As scenes of Aunt Mar came to my mind, her sister (Aunt Kay), and her Mom (Grandma) also came forward. Awesome!

May the power of a memory be evoked in each of us through music.

Do you have a story of music touching or moving you? Please share in the Comments section below.

During the National Anthem

Last night right before my niece played in the biggest game of her high school basketball career (2 undefeated teams playing for the opportunity to advance to Sectionals), the announcer asked those who could to stand. Our family was sitting together. 19 of us cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and children ready to cheer her on.

nationalanthemAs the National Anthem began, my mind started to think about individuals throughout the world who are currently serving each of us for the freedoms the flag represents.

As we were singing, I began thinking about all the active duty military members I was going to be meeting over the next 2 weeks – in locations most Americans would not want to live.

Imagine living for a year on a small military installation where you do not leave the location. What would you miss? Unlimited TV? Fast Food? Surfing on the web whenever you want? Going out for a nice dinner?

For most people, the answer is, “My loved ones” and that is true for our military around the world. When I go on these trips, sometimes I can get a little down about being away from my family for 14 days – when in fact the people I am going to serve can be away from their families for 365 days. 26 times longer.

When I have reflections on being gone for 14 days, I now remind myself how quick of a trip that is compared to those I am going to serve. Being overseas working with our military continually reminds me how special the individuals are who serve on our country’s behalf. Moms and Dads. Sons and Daughters. Partners. Best Friends.

The next time each of us hears the National Anthem, may we each think of and be grateful for those who are serving our country away from their loved ones at that very moment we are celebrating an event with ours.

My MOM and why last night was AMAZING.

Jon, my nephew, and his teammates on state championship relay.

Jon, my nephew, and his teammates on the State Championship 200 Medley Relay.

Seeing my nephew, Jon, and his teammates win the first event of the Wisconsin State High School Boys Swimming Championships and then continuing to have sensational swims throughout the meet last night was incredible.

The boys’ dedication to their training and each other paid off – including bringing their school their first ever state champion (and doing so in 2 events)! Especially wonderful was knowing my Mom got to experience the joy of one of her swimmers (4 in this case) becoming a state champion.

Thanks to an amazing group of high school swimmers 17 years ago, I got to experience the joy of coaching a team that won the WI State Championships. AND thanks to my Mom.

Everything I knew about swimming, especially coaching swimming was from my Mom. She taught me about training, challenging athletes, leading with integrity, goal setting, visualization, and soo much more. In many ways, my Mom had a massive influence on our team winning back in 1998. Throughout that season, I could always ask myself, “What would my Mom do?”. She was and has been a constant role model throughout my life.

Mom-2015-WIAA-StateWhile last night was her first state titles as a high school coach, she was partly responsible for helping a team in 1998 win their first state title too. For that very reason, the emotion that hit me last night when the 200 Medley Relay she coaches touched in 1st Place is a moment I will never forget. To feel the fulfillment of seeing your Mom succeed at her life’s greatest passion is priceless. To know that her passion and dedication has and continues to help impact the lives of countless swimmers brings tears of joy to me as I type these words.

And in all this, she is our MOM!!!

“Join Up Dots” Podcast is FANTASTIC!

JoinUpDotsDo you listen to podcasts? Do you love having moments of discovery for yourself and your life – while also being entertained? If so, check out David Ralph’s sensational Join Up Dots” Podcast. David’s theme of “Join Up Dots” is inspired by the commencement speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford where Jobs shared that you can’t join up the dots of life beforehand.

Each day (yes this is a DAILY podcast), David interviews a different individual from around world. His interviews are fun, insightful, and revealing.

When I was on David’s podcast a few months back, I shared with friends and colleagues that he was the most skilled and gifted host I had been interviewed by. Since that time, some of my friends have been on his show and all have agreed at what an incredible podcast David Ralph has created.

Through his down-to-earth approach and his ability to listen for the gifts inside of each comment a guest shares, David takes you, the listener, on a journey you might not have expected, especially when it comes to moments of self-discovery.

David helps each of us listeners discover the journeys of others. By the end of each episode, his guest and him has discussed how the dots joined up to get where they are today. By listening, you gain inspiration and specific strategies for making your own dreams and goals become reality.

Because the show is daily and David’s guests are so different in lifestyles, careers, and stories, you can always find an episode to connect with.

Find “Join Up Dots” and David Ralph on iTunes or at www.joinupdots.com.

After you listen to your first episode, will you please come back here to share your reaction? I’d love to hear your experience.

To Celebrate

celebrateAre you like me on your birthday? Do you ever wonder if you might be getting surprised? When I was 30 years old, Karen did just that. She surprised me with a huge party of family and friends. There was music, a DJ, lots of food, and being surrounded by loving family and friends. I remember thinking, “Wow! This is Awesome!

Yesterday, Karen and I discussed whether we should get friends together to go out and celebrate my birthday (we wouldn’t be able to celebrate tonight because of an event already scheduled). As the day moved on, we heard a group was getting together and going out. They are lots of fun to hang out with. Do we join them or do we do our own thing?

We decided to celebrate by the two of us going out to dinner and then to see standup comedy. Time together – to share, to laugh, to look into each other’s eyes at the dinner table and exchange no words – the moments where you don’t have to talk. You can just sit quietly looking into each other’s eyes and feeling the appreciation for mutual love, attraction, and gratitude. Those minutes or sometimes seconds of being in the moment.

Following dinner was a nice walk in the surrounding neighborhood and then the comedy show. Laughing is sooo much fun! Watching Karen laugh is the best. Her smile rocks.

Today includes going out for a fun meal with Karen and the two youngest boys to their favorite restaurant. Eating at their favorite restaurant always leads to smiles. The two older boys are away at college and so talking to them on the phone brings smiles. Smiles make for a wonderful birthday.

While incredibly grateful for the memories of my 30th Birthday party, the party is not what I remember most today. When technology did not make it easy to do so, Karen produced and gave me a 30th Birthday CD as my gift. The CD was filled with over 30 people throughout my life leaving messages for me. In those recordings were shared life memories, insights, friendship, and love. To this day, sometimes when I’m listening to music on my iPhone, one of the tracks from that CD begins playing. Soon, I find myself wanting to listen to more of the messages on the CD.

The party was never the celebration. No party is. The celebration was and continues to be the LOVE shared.

A birthday is a great time to reflect. On this day 45 years ago, my Mom endured through the pain of childbirth as only Moms can understand – to bring me into this world . . . to experience love each and every day and to live as fully as possible.

To each of you who have come into my life since that day in 1970, THANK YOU for being you and for the love you continue to share.

YOU are what I celebrate today.

“In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan and My Nutritionist.

A great way to start a new year and each day is by giving our body the energy to have an amazing day. 
 
Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food” is a great foundation for how to approach choosing, buying, growing, and cooking food. While the book gives away its main lesson in the first sentence of “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”, the journey Michael takes you on from that point on is enlightening.
in-defense-of-food

What was interesting was how the book worked in conjunction with my nutritionist’s advice. I’ve struggled with a bit of intestinal annoyance for two decades – until very recently when I began working with a nutritionist. My nutritionist was unaware I was reading this book and so his suggestions were completely independent of the book. Would the book and my nutritionist conflict against each other?

Just 3 days of following my nutritionist’s advice resulted in completely eliminating my intestinal issue. The solution? Eat LOTS more healthy fats such as olive oil, macadamias, avocado, wild fish, and grass-fed meat (if I wasn’t lactose intolerant, butter would be included in this list). Ironically all of those foods follow the main guidelines this book teaches. “Mostly plants” is precisely what I was eating – more than ever.

Here were some of my highlights from the book:

  • Eat food your Great Great Grandma would recognize 
  • “Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.” 
  • “You are what what you eat eats.”
  • Garden and be part of the process
  • Cook and be part of the process
  • “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” 

For those of you like me who have seen the documentaries discussing the dangers of eating meat, my nutritionist addressed that concern. Meat only becomes unhealthy when eaten excessively and without veggies. When meat sits in your system and rots, that’s when the meat goes from good for you to potentially harmful. However when you combine it with veggies, the veggies clear/cleanse your intestines – not letting anything sit there. Thus, you get the best qualities of everything. 

Please know that I am NOT a doctor or health professional. I am a person who read a book on eating that combined with the guidance of a nutritionist helped me.