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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Analyzing Happiness

It was a most perfect day. Dazzling cobalt blue sky, abundant sunshine and springlike temps in the mid 70s. A picnic in a tree-shaded park overlooking the azure Gulf waters that shimmered like diamonds in the sunlight. For company...two laughing grandboys as sweet as angels and my beautiful daughter. After lunch, fun with the kids on the playground and later a stroll along the shoreline watching sailboats glide serenely out to sea in the gentle breeze. A happy day indeed.

What makes you happy? Does happiness need to be analyzed? Millions of self-help books offer tons of advice on how to become a happier person. I'm willing to bet that therapists and self-help gurus are not nearly as happy as they proclaim to be. But many of us are eager to shell out big bucks to learn the secret to happiness.

Most of us aspire to be happy. I suppose there are a few crusty curmudgeons out there who are perfectly comfortable in their unhappiness. But most of us seek contentment and inner peace removed from stress and worry. Personally, I don't think happiness comes from outside sources. Happiness comes from within ourselves. It's manifested in how we treat people, how we approach life and how we feel about ourselves. I believe that everyone has the potential to be happy. For some, happiness comes as easy as a sweet breeze on a sunny day. For others, happiness is like a brass ring that eludes their grasp. Are some folks just plain unhappy at their very core? Do they wallow in their unhappiness because it gives them a lopsided sense of pleasure? We all know people who appear to enjoy being unhappy. They are the kings and queens of melodrama...self-absorbed in their misery, they seem to relish spreading their woes to everyone they meet. On the other hand, we've all met remarkable individuals who endure anguish and hardships, yet they are optimistic and resilient.

Can we really become a happier person if we take time to analyze happiness? Is it worthwhile to dissect this intangible human emotion that may not be the same for everyone? Sometimes I think it can be helpful to rethink what happiness means to us look at our own life from a different understand why we may not be as happy as we think we should be and to learn how to dump our negative thinking. It's important to count our appreciate what we have and to show gratitude. One thing I know for sure: happiness can be elusive. And that's why it's something I never take for granted. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Remarkable Irish Blessing

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I am passing along these lovely and perceptive words of Irish wisdom to all my reader friends.

I wish you not a path devoid of clouds
nor a life on a bed of roses.
Not that you might never need regret
nor that you should never feel pain.

No, that is not my wish for you.
My wish for you is:
That you might be brave in times of trial
when others lay crosses upon your shoulders,
when mountains must be climbed 
and chasms are to be crossed,
When hope can scarce shine through.
That every gift God gave you might grow with you
And let you give your gift of joy 
to all who care for you.

That you may always have a friend 
who is worth that name,
whom you can trust 
and who helps you in times of sadness and
who will defy the storms of daily life at your side.
One more wish I have for you...
That in every hour of joy and pain 
you may feel God close to you.
This is my wish for you and for all who care for you
This is my hope for and forever.
                                                        unknown Irish author
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Kind of Tipper Are You?

Did you hear about the Japanese steakhouse in Winston Salem, North Carolina that banned a regular customer from ever eating there again because she was a notoriously bad tipper? What kind of tipper are you?
  • Inglorious bastard: no tip at all
  • Cheapskate and proud of it: 5-10%
  • Fiscally conservative with good intentions: 15%
  • Class act: 20% and more
The word tips is commonly thought to be an acronym for: To Insure Prompt Service. But linguistic experts who study the origin of words, debunk that derivation...claiming it has no historical authenticity. Nonetheless, tipping is generally defined as a 'reward' for good service rendered. In restaurants throughout the United States, tipping is not legally required. However, it's socially expected lest you're thought to be a stingy old coot. Many eating establishments embed a pre-set gratuity on the bill and frequently add an 18% service charge for large groups. Restaurant patrons usually base their tip assessment on the performance of the server. Yet  very often a server provides excellent service and only receives a nominal tip. Good service does not necessarily beget great tips.

Although tipping is at the discretion of the patron being served, in the United States it's customary to leave 15 to 20 percent of the total bill as a tip. Critics of tipping complain that it's not right for restaurants to pay waitstaff low wages and then expect customers to supplement the server's salary with tips. Restaurant owners argue that the cost of meals would significantly increase if their staff was paid more. It's an old conflict that is unlikely to soon change. The custom of tipping is what it is.  People who eat out recognize that fact. 

Personally, I leave a 20% tip...even if the service is inferior. If the service is exceptional, I will leave a larger percentage. I base my tipping philosophy on the fact that waiting on strangers, serving food to them and catering to their impetuous, belligerent and capricious culinary whims is not a very enjoyable occupation. Waiting on tables can often provide a fairly decent income and it's not always possible for servers to get other jobs. I am not in the restaurant business. But years ago in high school, I spent one summer waiting tables in a popular local eatery. I have never forgotten the experience nor do I ever wish to repeat it. Many of my customers were pleasant but a lot of them were uppity, obnoxious and rude. I saw the ugly side of humanity from behind my mustard-stained waitress apron. Most patrons left lousy tips to all of us servers even though we worked our butts off.  Back then, I even had to prepare some of the food. A popular item on the menu was a moo sandwich. I'm not talking hamburger here. Have you ever shoved a hunk of cow tongue through a slicing machine to make a tongue sandwich? I usually served it with a side order of gagging. Need I say more?

So that's why I have some empathy for those stalwart men and women, young and old, who work in restaurants. Speaking of old...I was having dinner with a friend at a very popular seaside resort restaurant last week and we couldn't help but notice that our server was an extremely elderly woman. I swear she had to be 85 years old. She was thin as a knife edge, wrinkled as a used napkin and was hoisting heavy serving platters loaded with dinner plates. Each platter probably weighed more than she did. Yet she whipped the plates off like they were frisbees, served her tables quickly and raced back to the kitchen for more. I never once saw her smile but she did a commendable job. My guess is that this lady did not enjoy working as a waitress in her golden years but had no other options to make ends meet. And yes, she got a hefty tip from my friend and me even though she screwed up our drink orders...twice. My friend called it the: There but for the grace of God, go us...tip.

If the service at a restaurant is deplorable, I blame it on the restaurant owner or management. They are responsible for the quality of their product and their staff. I readily admit there are some elements of society who simply should not be employed in the restaurant industry bringing food to people. We've all been served by the lazy jerk who acts like he despises mankind and we worry about what he sprinkled on our soup. My question is: Why was he hired in the first place? There are some really incompetent servers out there. For the most part, though, I think these workers do try their best to please the customer.

If a server is sloppy, inattentive or even surly...they might just be having a bad day. Maybe waiting tables is their second or third job. Maybe they got a sick kid at home or they have marital issues or their home is in foreclosure or their car broke down or the chef threw pasta at them. There's a lot of backstage drama at a I'm told. Maybe they are doing the best they can at a job they hate because there is no other work out there. Who's to say? But I try to give even the less-than-illustrious servers the benefit of the doubt along with a decent tip. As for those servers who are capable, courteous and efficient, my appreciation is duly expressed. And I never ever ask for a tongue sandwich. Sphere: Related Content
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