Prior to sitting down to pen my thoughts, I originally thought the following pages had been a work in progress over the course of my entire life. I now subscribe to the belief that the foundational elements for these pages were actually set prior to my existence. This belief stems from a heightened awareness and appreciation of the preciousness of human existence and the incredible significance of each and every human soul who has, is or will inhabit the earth, including yours! While I will admit that this writing endeavor was on my “to do” list for no less than three summers in a row, I know with confidence that it only now with an increased perspective on the connectedness of my ancestral roots that I can even attempt to give this endeavor the justice it deserves. After all, these words are for you, and every other perfect soul who happens to stumble upon them. I don’t take that lightly.
At my father’s suggestion and funding (thank you Dad), I decided take a short sabbatical from everyday life to write the words on these pages in Vermont sans offspring, piles of laundry, guinea pigs and other daily distractions. And yet, as I sat by the old bay window at the Moon Dog Cafe in Chester with the intent of writing, memories of my childhood summers in Vermont and generations past preoccupied my mind completely. My efforts to remove myself from distractions had gone awry.
After what seemed like several non-productive hours, it eventually occurred to me that perhaps these distractions are actually not deterrents at all. Wayward thoughts can be inspiring, if you let them be. So, I decided to do just that. I invited the bittersweet memories of my past, my kinship to these green mountains and the roots of my family lineage to be the muse  I needed to begin. And, as my father and I stood on the hillside of the Village Cemetery in Rochester, I realized the undeniable connection between my past, the present and the future endeavors that have yet to unfold.
A recent interest in genealogy led me to the Village Cemetery in the hopes of locating the final resting place of my paternal great grand-parents. Before leaving the cemetery, my father and I had stumbled upon no less than two additional generations of family members dating back to the mid-1800’s. It was incredible and overwhelming to be surrounded by the remnants (both physically and spiritually) of the land and the lineage from whence I came.
I became acutely aware of the astounding significance of each and every individual in the family line. After all, the slightest variation to their existence could have greatly altered, or prevented mine all together. I doubt they would have ever entertained the notion that each seemingly insignificant detail of their lives, each and every life event & decision they put into practice was already having an impact on someone who wouldn’t even be born for over a hundred years later.
Perhaps they didn’t have the capacity to realize the importance, or magnitude of their own lives serving as the catalyst for the foundation of mine. It was never more clear to me than at that moment that while my ancestors may have written the rough draft that is my life, only I can fill the pages with meaningful content and make the necessary edits as I see fit. I know that my purpose and responsibility is two-fold. As I live each day writing my final draft (metaphorically), I am simultaneously co-authoring the rough drafts of my children’s lives and my children’s children, and so on, etc… This is an incredible responsibility.
And, so the connection is this…that your life is all about the choices you make each day, about the kind of person you decide to be and the paths in which you choose to travel. The key term here is “CHOICE” and you would be wise to take ownership of this concept as soon as possible. While it is true that “life” does “happen” beyond your control to a certain extent, you are the author of a good majority of it. I don’t believe in fate, destiny or any other form of pre-determinism. These concepts lead to a passivity syndrome that can lead to malaise and mediocrity. I believe in free will. It is with this belief that one is forced to face the reality of their own responsibilities in life. But, this should not be daunting. It should be empowering!
After all, life is a journey in which you only get one go at. Eventually, we will all be a wayward memory, which is an undeniable truth. But, the silver lining that we often forget is that we are the authors of these memories. We actually have the privilege of crafting future memories of who we were by how we live our lives today and the choices, decisions, efforts and accomplishments of today. What a gift! And, this is my gift to you, young friends, as you embark on this extraordinary adventure called “life” in which you are privileged to author each day. YOU are the author, the artist and the inventor. This life is your canvas. Paint it beautifully.
Where there’s a relationship, there’s sure to be conflict to some degree. Most people associate the word “conflict” as a negative force in their relationship. However, it’s important to realize that conflict within any close relationship is inevitable. Rather than perceiving this conflict as a source of relationship deterioration, consider viewing it as a necessary catalyst for growth and change within your relationship. When conflict arises, try incorporating this tried and true process for resolving conflict effectively and efficiently.
1. Identify the conflict - The first step is to define the issue causing conflict. Incorporate some perception checking dialogue into your argument and make sure you and the other party/ies are on the “same page” in terms of the conflict. In other words, be sure that there is a common source of contention.
2. Examine solutions - Now that you have articulated precisely the issue you need resolved, the next step is to consider possible solutions. This needs to be a team effort. Discuss all possible methods for solving this problem together and agree to implement the best idea offered.
3. Implement the solution - After you agree to try the best solution, you now have the opportunity to test that solution by incorporating it into everyday life. Put the solution into operation and take note of its effectiveness and how you both felt during the implementation. It has to work for all involved for it to be a viable resolution.
4. Evaluate the solution - The most important stage of the series is to decide if the solution tested will be sufficient as a resolution to the problem. Although the solution may be one of compromise, each person should feel as though there is equity in terms of the gain to loss ratio of the solution. If all parties agree that the solution worked well, adopt the solution into everyday life. If a consensus cannot be reached, you will need to go back to the proverbial drawing board by revisiting step two and run another solution through the process until you find one that all parties are willing to accept.
While there is no way to avoid occasional conflict in a close relationship, there are ways to use conflict as a tool to build a healthy, more satisfying bond. Conflict has the potential to be a deteriorating force in any relationship. But, it also has the power to promote growth and intimacy. Enduring conflict can mean opportunities to address concerns and to mature within the relationship. Handling your conflict using the method mentioned above can help you work through these challenging situations in a more productive manner (note: productive does not always = easy).
According to Project C.A.S.H., one-half of American households have accumulated less than $1,000 in net financial assets. This alarming statistic is suggestive of the financial vulnerability that 50% of Americans find themselves caught up in. With financial difficulties rated at the top of the list as a major cause of depression and catalyst for relationship deterioration, there is never a better time to start a savings plan than right now. Your financial future, as well as the future of your relationships depend on it. Here are some suggestions for starting and maintaining a nest egg:
Research savings options: There are a lot of ways to save your money from basic savings accounts, to IRA’s, money market accounts, state sanctioned college funds, mutual funds, etc… Educate yourself on these options and decide as a couple which option(s) are best for you based on your current financial and personal situation. There are a wealth of books and websites from credible sources that can assist you in your research efforts. You may also want to consider meeting with a financial advisor who can explain your savings options and offer advice based on your financial goals. A quick word of wisdom imparted by my father…nobody takes care of your money the way you do. So, always empower yourself by knowing the facts before you make any financial decisions.
Create a budget: The next step to successful saving is to create a realistic budget that fits your life. Don’t forget to include categories such as entertainment, gas and miscellaneous items. Make an effort to be accurate in your expenditures rather than underestimating the true amount in each budgeted category. This is also a good time to “get real” about the total amount of debts that you have currently acquired. After the shock wears off, you are ready to create a realistic budget given your earnings and expenditures. Once you have a clear picture of how much you earn in relation to how much you spend, you are better able to evaluate how much you have to contribute to a savings plan.
Implement the savings plan: After you decide on the type of savings plan you will adopt, open the account if necessary and watch your savings grow. If you are married, or have a merged financial situation, be sure that you and your spouse/other party are committed to your goals and communicate openly regarding finances. Handle your finances as a partnership and discuss all major financial situations such as large purchases. Lastly, make necessary changes or upgrades to your savings plan as your life situation changes.
The good news is that time is on your side when you decide to save money. The sooner you start your savings plan, the more time you have to grow your nest egg. Having a solid saving plan can benefit your life in a variety of ways. Money in the bank creates peace of mind and a feeling of stability and security in your life. Savings can prevent you from going into debt when life’s little emergencies happen. I once heard a wise person say, “Money won’t buy you happiness. But, it sure takes away that nervous feeling at the end of the month!” And, that’s the truth!