Welcome to My Life

Observations and Humor from a Mother, Writer and Professional Speaker.

The Dark Days of Winter -- Mood-boosting suggestions to brighten your day

Molly Cox - Thursday, January 07, 2016

Coffee. It’s the reason I get up in the morning. Especially winter mornings when it’s cold, dark, and blah.  I consider myself lucky because coffee is worth the effort of throwing off my warm, comfy blanket and padding downstairs to shout at my Keurig to HURRY.  Coffee, it’s my reward for simply getting up.

I have a ritual of sorts in the winter. I sit in the kitchen, fingers wrapped around my coffee cup and look out into the … grey, barren tundra in hopes of spotting that one cardinal—a pop of red on a stick of a tree, or a hyper-focused squirrel that’s hell bent on getting into my neighbor’s bird feeder.  Or, a rafter of hideous turkeys strolling down the cul-de-sac. Mm hmm. We have turkeys in the suburbs.

For some people, even those who have little kids and seemingly every reason to fly out of bed in the morning and be happy to start their day— it’s not so happy. It’s stressful, and depressing.  Because it’s dark outside. And blah. And perhaps they don’t enjoy that first cup of coffee as much as I do.  

Well, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is real. And so are the blues.  If you live in Minnesota where I live, or Alaska, where I’m traveling to speak in March (because I get all the glamorous work), it’s good to be aware of how the weather and your surroundings effect you.

You may benefit from making some changes to get you through till the days are longer and the sun pokes through the clouds.  Here are a few suggestions to help navigate the season:

  1. Get (and use) a bright light treatment. I use my light every day when it’s grey and dull.  It truly helps boost my mood and energy. I have a small unit— a Lightphoria, that sits on my desk. There are many types to choose from.

  2. Play music. Dance. Whether you’re filing, cooking, or driving, playing upbeat, happy music can alter your mood. I dance every day— some days very slowly as I have a herniated disc. (Now that’s SAD). It’s the music and movement that matters. Which leads me to…

  1. Exercise. Yes. You can do something. And yes, it will help. In fact it helps a lot.  I’m not going to site studies. I know you know. The trick is to schedule it into your day. Getting your heart rate up for a just 20-minutes will make a big mood-boosting difference.

  1. Eat mood-boosting foods. Studies suggest that some foods ease anxiety, reduce stress and boost your mood.  Start with dark chocolate.  Nibble on a bit, not a bar. (A bit= small) Got it? Skip the major sweets and so many carbs! But don’t cut all carbs out because they’re necessary for a happy mood.  Add low-fat yogurt, fruits, beans and Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet too. Did I mention chocolate?

  1. Laugh. Of course I would offer this advice as I think it’s a vital part of a happy life, but in the case of SAD, or the blues, science proves it’s good for you. Laughter, and just being around upbeat, happy people or old friends who you can really laugh with will kick-up your body’s happy chemicals, such as endorphins.


The winter months are long, but if you make an effort to combat the blues instead of crumbling into them, you’ll feel better. And you won’t be so crabby to be around. I’m not judging, just sayin’.


For information on how Molly can inspire your organization or association, visit Mollyspeaks.com or call to see if she’s fit for your next event. 651.336.9896


The Talking Cork

Molly Cox - Monday, December 28, 2015

It was supposed to be a get-together for drinks and hors’doeuvres.  Just a happy-hour sort of thing. 

But when friends from grade-school through high-school get together after many life changes—both good and bad— there’s a lot to talk about.  And laugh about. And toast to, and …

That’s why a recent happy-hour gathering lasted into the wee hours of the morning, and I woke up with stomach muscle strain from laughing so hard. Snort, cry, stop breathing, convulsive laughter. Oh, and, a slight headache from red wine. Not bad, considering.

At one point in the evening there was so much over- talking, laughing and interrupting (there were just 6 of us) that the party host yelled, “Everyone shut-up, we’re going to use a talking stick.” Scary flashback from a U of M Women’s Study class.

After scanning the room she announced, “Okay, I don’t have a talking stick!” Then she rummaged around, picked up a cork, crammed a toothpick into it and, viola! She’d created a talking cork!

Necessity is the mother of invention.

The next morning I felt like I’d had a massage, a break-through therapist session, I’d worked myself into a froth in a spin class and experienced deep REM sleep.

Well, I did have that slight headache.  But that’s a pretty good feeling considering I had a blast and never actually stepped into a fitness center.

I believe that laughter is necessary to our happiness and our health. Most of us live crazy, busy lives, we don’t take time to connect with people who know us the best. People who can say things to us that no one else can— and get away with it. 

In the new year, if you have huge goals and you know (really, you know) they’re destined to crash and burn, why not start simple?  Give your mental health some much needed balance. Connect with a few people who you like, or love. Or both. They’ll get a kick out of hearing from you and you will have finally figured out how to Skype. If you're lucky you can meet them in person. 

You’ll probably pick up right where you left off last time you talked—during the Bush administration.  The first one.

 Before you know it... you’ll need a talking cork

 

Happiness is Healthy

Molly Cox - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Biology of Emotion—Happiness is Healthy

Researchers are exploring the question — do happier people live longer? Well, even if they don’t, happier people are still … happier. 

We know there’s a link between positive emotion and good health, and how sustained stress, negativity and fear can alter our biological systems. Chronic anger and anxiety can disturb cardiac function and increase systemic inflammation. 

That’s not to say that happy people don’t get sick or have diseases, but the research shows that by and large they may have stronger immune systems. And when they do catch a cold or flu it doesn’t last as long. And surprise—happy people also look after their health better. They’re more likely to be on top of their annual check-ups, to exercise and to go to the dentist. 

They like themselves enough to practice self-care.

It’s now possible to measure an emotion with PET scans and functional MRIs. This isn’t wacky science anymore. It’s measurable. Although I always believed the wacky science. 

So what does this mean for you? It means you could influence your health in a positive way by not only eating right and exercising, but by consciously being happier. A lot less chips, a few more walks and purposeful smiling. Maybe a glass of wine or two. There’s a lot of conflicting science on that one, so why not choose the theory of wine is good for you? 

Unless you drink too much already.  Enough said.

If you’re not happy, if you feel like a dark cloud is following you like a creepy stalker, or people tell you that you don’t seem happy—dig deep (or maybe you don’t have to) to find out why, then deal with it. From depression or ADHD to changing a bad work environment, there are things we can do to tip the happiness scale.

Here are some simple ideas to get your happy on:

  • Get real. What’s the problem?  Weight? Work? Depression? Relationship?

If you can’t beat a negative attitude, get help. Take classes. Practice gratitude. Learn better communication skills.

If you can’t shake the blues, go to a medical doctor. Heck, throw in a few visits to the psychologist. Exercise.  By taking positive steps toward happiness, you’ll be more productive, healthier and a lot easier to be around.

It’s okay to get help. It’s more than okay. It’s a happy thing.

Smile! Your plane is late

Molly Cox - Monday, January 06, 2014

I travel a lot for my job. From TSA to Starbucks and the airport lost and found, I get to observe many people providing exceptional service. When I’m on the ball, I comment on it and sometimes even take time to fill out an evaluation or send a note of thanks.

I will not be doing that for the service I received at the airline ticket counter in Chicago over the holidays. I won’t identify which airline. Let’s just say the definition would be:Involving people or groups working together to achieve something.”  Curiously, the definition says to achieve something. It doesn’t say, “something good.” Holy Moly Rocky!

Had I not had a five-day Christmas Bailey’s hangover, I would have taken out my phone and videotaped it. Let’s call it The Flirting With the Pilot Incident.

Our connecting flight was late. Very late. As there weren’t many updates about what was going on, I walked up to the counter to ask a question, such as “Will we be going home this week?”  Another female passenger walked up behind me. What we witnessed was so unprofessional, so loud and so rude it made the show “Housewives of New Jersey” feel like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” 

The two agents, one, a short, severe Asian woman, and the other, a tall, sexy Columbian woman, were arguing for about ten minutes.  The reason? Allegedly, Tall & Sexy boarded the plane and flirted with the pilot, while Short & Severe had to deal with…. PEOPLE.  “PEOPLE!” Two of whom were waiting for service.

The two of us (PEOPLE) kept looking at each other.  At first we were frustrated, then confused, then hilariously entertained. I seriously bonded with this other customer during The Flirting With the Pilot Incident.

At one point Short & Severe glared at us, raised an angry finger in a silent yet understandable language that conveyed, I’ll be with you when I’m damn good and ready. And that’s sure as hell not right now.

Tall & Sexy whipped her long, brown hair over her shoulder. Again. Then whined: I did not in response to everything she was accused of. I’m pretty sure she stomped her foot. Short & Severe then dismissed Tall & Sexy with a wave and shouted, “JUST GO. I’LL DO EVERTYHING. JUST GO!”  She then began click-clickedy-clicking her extremely long nails on the keyboard. Bad, bad keyboard. Take this!

At this point I wanted to check out the pilot. He must have been a hunk-and-a-half for Tall & Sexy to risk the wrath she knew she’d experience from Short & Severe.

Finally, in what seemed like time travel, Short & Severe narrowed her eyes in anger, and in a tone I’ll call holiday-hostile, demanded, “What do you want?”   I almost responded by asking for tickets to the second show, and a tall, skinny eggnog latte, but I had an inkling she didn’t have a sense of humor.

And before I could ask the question, we (as though we were the same customer) were told the plane would be here soon. There was NOTHING she could do. Then, Tall & Sexy grabbed her purse and stomped off.  Apparently there was nothing she could do either.

It was so nice to be with another customer with whom I could bond and mind-meld, thinking, “Can you frickin’ believe this?” And have her connect with me through comedic glasses. 

In my presentations I stress the importance of perspective and humor. And in my life I try to practice what I preach.  Sometimes it’s harder than others. But this time it worked like a charm.  Witnessing this interaction as a customer could have gotten someone pretty frothed up.

On the sunny side, I usually receive great service from a particular airline that involves people or groups working together to achieve something. I was able to get an answer without experiencing anger or stress. I don’t need to take time to write a positive letter to a company, and the only thing that bugs me at all is that I didn’t get to check out that pilot.

###

Remote Hell

Molly Cox - Sunday, October 20, 2013

Don’t bother reading this if you can pick up any remote control and … use it. Don’t read it if you have no problem using 3 different remotes for one TV. If you enjoy the feeling of your house shaking due to surround sound, don’t read this.

I just watched Modern Family the other night. The plot was taken from a scene in my house. Claire gets upset when Phil gets a new fancy remote control that takes a minimum of twenty minutes to learn. The bit where Phil tries to teach Claire to use the thermostat was pretty funny too. But, a little too close to home.

Who ever decided it would be a good idea to have 1,004,559 buttons and 3 devices to use a TV was crazy. A man.  As a matter of science and research I have been secretly watching both men and women use TV remotes, recording shows, and noting the differences in their ability, as well as anger or enjoyment in doing so.

I learned (having executed hundreds of blind studies and fully sighted ones), that 9 out of 10 men love these devices. EVEN WHEN IT TAKES FOREVER FOR THEM TO FIGURE THEM OUT. They like the process.  A woman, on the other hand, becomes frustrated and goes slowly insane. She just wants to watch the *&5#@ TV. And, women don’t like the house to shake because of surround sound. Especially if they’re not watching the show because… they’re two floors upstairs. Shaking. But this rant isn’t just for me. It’s for all of us who want to watch TV reasonably, and use all the features they’re paying for without needing an antidepressant.

Here’s my solution. Why don’t the buttons say what they do? Watch a DVD. Go to On Demand. Watch Premium Shows. Make the Picture Fit the Screen. And… here’s the kicker— That one button does it! You wouldn’t have to go through 4,589 more buttons. A girl can dream.

It’s probably because to make a remote easy to use, it would need to be the size of a Buick.

I think at the very least, each remote should come with the proper operating device: A man.

###

Note to reader. I know this is sexist to some people. I see it as an incredibly solid and researched white paper.

A Day with BossyPants: Declutter, Organize and Claim Your Space

Molly Cox - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.

-       Erma Bombeck

I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store the other day and skimmed the magazine headlines. Once I got past Kate’s baby bump, and the latest Kardashian crisis, I noticed a trend in topics: Declutter your life!  The Secret to Less Stress, and my favorite— Keep Calm and Organize. For me, organizing causes stress. I knew if I bought one of those magazines, it would just cause, well, clutter.

In the last few years we’ve received more messages about clearing clutter than a hoarder buying wooden clothes pins at a garage sale. We get it.

We spend 27.5 hours a month (Newsweek) looking for things we can’t find. 

So, okay, I understand it’s important to be organized and clutter-free. But, how? One trick I read was to set an appointment on your calendar that pops up every Friday afternoon: Clean desk for 15 minutes. Hmm, I could do that! Of course, then I’ll have to change my other appointment for that time: Happy Hour.

An interesting declutter tip for the home was to get your family together and set a timer for 30 minutes, then have each person find things in his or her own space to donate or throw away.  I’m laughing just thinking about that happening at my house.

If you have an area that needs some decluttering — your desk, your kitchen, your brain, but you can’t seem to get around to doing it, maybe you need to reframe the task.  I realized that I hate to clean out our store room, file things in my office, fold clothes or (fill in the blank) because it seems like a colossal waste of time. Time that I could be creating something. Now, I was onto to something! I simply don’t value the activity. So I thought— what do I value? Well, writing, theatre, time with my friends.

 Bingo: Time with my friends.

I called a bossypants friend of mine and asked her to come over for some coffee and to bark orders at me.  She immediately liked the idea. I explained that I needed someone to amuse and guide me as I cleaned out our store room.  “Give me 18 minutes to get there,” she said, eager to boss me around.

“Yuck, what the hell is this?”  She asked one too many times. Luckily, the emotionally mature me realized she was just doing her job.  Then she muttered, “This is an eye-popping look at what lurks in the annals of your nicely decorated home. Not pretty.” That’s when I created a rule.  If she were to continue this with me she must enter: The Cone of Silence. Unhappily, she agreed.

When all was done… almost (Is it ever really done?)  it was time for a reward.  She suggested shopping. Really? Are you kidding me?  On this day, a day of solid, focused organization, I couldn’t fathom so much as an Uncle Ben’s grain of rice entering my home. We went to a movie. Ahh, rewards. I do love to reward myself for a job well done. 

Once you deliberately focus on decluttering, you'll be delighted with the feeling it gives you. And if, like me, you figure out what’s holding you back from getting it done— you’ll find your answer to accomplishing more and experiencing less stress.

I’ve since decluttered my desk and surrounding area. I think I’ve done too good of a job. Perhaps a candle positioned just so, and a magazine. Yes, a magazine sporting a cover story: 25 ways to Declutter.


.

What the Golden Globes Can Teach Us

Molly Cox - Friday, January 18, 2013

So, what did we learn by watching the Golden Globes last night? We learned that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are hilarious comedians and they can play happily in the sandbox together—even when they’re up for the same award. We also learned that they’re goofy.  And who doesn’t like goofy when it’s done well?

And what can we learn from Jodi Foster’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award? The good news is she captured the audience with her beauty, poise and confidence.  Unfortunately, she talked. A lot. About everything.  And honestly, I’m still not sure what she said. 

We can learn that a great speech starts with clear writing, which depends on clear thinking.   I was so uncomfortable watching her ping in all directions that I had to get up to make popcorn. Again.

In her very convoluted speech she came out as a lesbian— which I’m sure was nerve racking.  It’s sad that it’s now Hollywood’s elite who bare the responsibility to share their personal issues to make life easier for others. But isn’t it that way with all life issues?  President Reagan announced to the world he had Alzheimer’s disease and Betty Ford came out about her addiction. 

 Which is a whole other subject I now realize. Funny how my brain works. Glad I’m not accepting an award on stage right now.

 Jodi Foster is a stellar actor regardless of her sexual orientation; this article is about speaking and writing.

Which brings me to my point. Yes, I have one.  If you are honored with stage time, use it well. To me, this means that you should have your audience in mind— instead of your ego. Jodi. Jodi. Jodi. You could have captured our hearts in an entirely different way.  But instead you left us with one thought: Huh? There most certainly will be a time in your life when you have to give a speech, say a few words, maybe even address your company at the annual conference.  Don’t blow it. Take time to think about what you want to say, how you want to say it and then—rehearse.

Tina and Amy are as good as they are because they take comedy seriously. They write, rewrite and rehearse. Of course, they’re naturals, which doesn’t hurt. One thing is certain, those  gal-pals don’t take the privilege of being on stage casually.  They worked on inviting us in and making us feel comfortable, which gave them the license to be sharply sarcastic. We were along for the ride. It was fun. 

Jody should have taken her acceptance speech as seriously as her acting. She could have hired a speech-writer — her ticket to clarity and brilliance.   She’s built a career that’s been nothing short of amazing. She blew a rare, once in a life -time (achievement) moment to clearly and passionately tell the world what she needed to say. If you’re in the meetings industry you can glean some wisdom too.  It makes sense to hire an emcee who not only has writing skills, but also improvisation skills.  We watched what happened when Julianne Moore and Rob Lowe had a teleprompter flub: Awkward.

The ability to think on your feet, combined with preparation— is a killer combination.  That's what we really learned. 

###

Walk the Talk

Molly Cox - Tuesday, October 09, 2012

What a program yesterday.  Think 100+  bankers doing improv exercises. No, I didn’t think you could picture it. But it happened. I was there.

Lake Area Bank is a community bank that walks the talk. I was so impressed with the tellers, the sellers and the President who sets the tone.  When they say the bank is about people, they mean it.  In my business I hear a lot from company leaders who think they are sending out a positive message--- but somehow it never makes it to the staff.

It’s refreshing to work with a company that puts its people first. That gives them the tools and the support they need.  And it’s a pleasure to work with people who genuinely know how to have fun!  We not only did some improv to get the group moving and to connect mind, body and spirit, we talked about the crucial elements to making the bank work, and be successful. 

Passion+ Knowledge & skill + Method.

It was a great meeting from start to finish (although I was glad I wasn’t there for all the “numbers” discussions).  It was nicely wrapped up with a social hour including an open bar , with soft drinks and food.  People stayed because they wanted to, not because they had to. They like each other.

Bravo.

Smile Shortage

Molly Cox - Thursday, September 06, 2012

I learned there was a national shortage of helium this summer when I tried to buy a balloon from a party shop in Denver. The store owner, shocked that I didn’t already know there was a helium shortage, informed me of this in a voice that sounded like he had sucked up all the helium so he could talk in the “I just sucked in helium” voice for a month.  The guy was very short and thin as a # 2 pencil. It was hard to take him seriously.

After watching the Republican Convention drop 100,000 balloons from the ceiling, I think the shortage is over. Although the Democratic National Convention didn’t have balloons so either they couldn’t get their act together, or the shortage is back. Possibly due to the Republican Convention.

Now I learn there is a smile shortage.

In the past three days I have experienced customer service (not an accurate term)  that you’d expect in Russia while waiting in line for seven hours to get a potato. 

I’m generally a pretty jolly gal. I make small talk easily, which I enjoy but which annoys my children.  Once when my daughter was a teenager she told me to please not interact with people when I was with her. 

The other day I was at Super America and the woman “helping” me must have been a member of a cult that is not allowed to smile. There I am, happy, chit- chatting, and she slams down my items and barks, “$6.73,” then stares at me like we’re going to meet me in the alley to settle something.  Maybe she didn’t have teeth and she was embarrassed.  Although her eyes didn’t smile either, so I think it was something deeper, more sinister.

At Panera, where customer service is usually a delight, I experienced something similar. No slamming—the clerk just looked through me. Bored. “Next ...”

The topper, and this is when I knew there had to be a smile shortage, was shopping (okay, returning something) at Nordstrom. WHAT? Yes. I know. I’m shouting. It seems impossible.  I returned some makeup and I think I ruined the young woman’s entire sales month. She not only did not smile, she didn’t talk. Really. I was a transaction. And, oh how I hate to be a transaction! 

On the occasion that I’m hired to train customer service employees, I’m so happy. I have an impact on the world and can help people find their smile and remember what line of work they’re in.  But what to do when I’m the customer? And that’s when I thought of it.

From now on, I’ll l carry a helium balloon. If I receive sad/mad/grumpy/no smile service, I will duck under the counter, suck up some helium and chit-chat.

I may not get a heartfelt customer service smile, but I’ll get the last laugh. 


My Sanctuary

Molly Cox - Tuesday, April 17, 2012


It seems I’m allergic to my house. I had a feeling I was and now my worst fears are confirmed.  I’m allergic to dogs, cats, dust, mold and dust- mites.

Ick. Dust mites?  You don’t take that one seriously until the doctor shows you a photo of a mite enlarged 100%. I’m surprised their office doesn’t have more people fainting.

Suffering from vertigo, clogged ear (try to imagine what it would feel like to have a very full water balloon stuffed into your ear), sniffles and watering eyes, I finally went to a specialist.  Apparently, like an addict, I need to hit bottom before I take action.

I was asked to lie on a table face down, and then the nice lady put dozens of pin pricks in my back.  She asked me to lie still for 15 minutes. Huh? Do nothing but itch for 15 minutes? Heaven.  What woman with all my responsibilities is asked to just lie down and do nothing for 15 minutes?

So, it turns out my bedroom needs to be a “sanctuary”— free of all animals. (Technically a dust-mite is not an animal but …) When the doctor used the word “sanctuary,” my itchy eyes became big and round and hopeful. I’ve always wanted my room to be a sanctuary, but my cat, Pandy, can open my door. She has a secret little kitty tool kit. Combine that with advanced “rocking the door till it pops open” skills, and she’s in.

Once in, she pads her way to my glorious bed, leaps up and gives me “the look.” She smirks and her thought bubble says: yeah, I’m on the big bed. That’s right. OUR bed. And you are too lazy to get up and move me. I know you. Then she curls up and telepathically sends her dander up my nose. 

But no more.  She’s banished to the guest room. Poor kitty.

I went to Target and bought every piece of dust mite bed covering. I cleaned the house like Heloise was coming for tea, picked up new allergy medicine, and claimed my room back.  Next I’ll have to remodel several rooms, you know, in case there could be mold. Probably all new, beautifully upholstered furniture wouldn’t hurt.

It’s unfortunate that I won’t be able to clean the garage or the storage room anymore. Or enter antique stores (which I despise). But what’s a gal with allergies supposed to do?  I teach life balance and wellness. I can’t possibly go against doctors orders!  I really should spend as much time in my “sanctuary” as possible.  With a good book, perhaps. To heal.

Next week I go back to the allergist for a check up. What are the chances they will ask me to lie down for 15 minutes again?  I am desperately anticipating they will tell me that my only hope for a healthy season will be to buy a new Audi with surround-sound and hypoallergenic upholstery—and ban all animals from it. 

So, you know where this is going. I intend to milk this for all it’s worth. (Unless I’m allergic to milk). After all, I’ve lived with a water balloon in my ear and itchy eyes and a runny nose … and vertigo. Vertigo worse than Jodie Foster suffered in the movie Contact after she had to uncontrollably vibrate during take- off.

It’s time to take control. And, a Claritin.


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