Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Friday, December 31, 2010

Risk . . . Just a Part of Life

I remember my first time out on a little gold 125 Honda scooter.  Fighting the handlebars, I tried to stay balanced while taking the corner on the test drive.  I yelled inside my head, “What are you DOING?!”  Then a comforting thought, “Well, if I crash, I’m right next to the hospital.”

That white-knuckle, around-the-block scooter ride finished without mishap and became the start of my motorcycling adventures.  Since then, I’ve ridden all over North America on my candyapple-red Gold Wing.

Whenever we attempt something new, we may experience butterflies in our stomachs or wobbly knees.  Maybe it’s something many folks would call dangerous.  Maybe it's something that's not in line with other people's expectations. That’s taking a risk. 

My mentor Sid Simon teaches that risk is necessary for overall wellness; physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual risks.  For me, motorcycling fills that need.  It takes strength, stamina, and learning new information to take off into the world astride an iron horse.  You deal with the gamut of emotions, from fear to exhilaration to love. And, while communing with nature, or working through sticky situations, there’s a lot of praying going on!

Everyday things involve risk; jobs, relationships, school, sports, and even deciding what to have for dinner.  But, as the poet says …the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. If you risk nothing and do nothing, you dull your spirit. 
Recall the risks you’ve taken in your life.  You survived, smarter and re-energized. 

Think about things you’ve considered doing, but the risks have seemed too great, the price too high.  Maybe you’re still wanting; maybe you’ve 'settled'.  

As we venture into this new decade, ask yourself what it is that you really, really, really, want to try.  Calculate the risk involved.  Then see what you can do to minimize that risk but still have the experience.   I’m convinced that’s why the good Lord made helmets, leather chaps, high-top boots, and crash bars.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Try Intentions instead of Resolutions

“In the new year, I’m gonna…”   Millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, putting themselves on challenge to either stop or start doing something.  Maybe it’s to lose weight, quit smoking, eat healthier, spend less money or spend more time on something or with someone.  Or, all of the above.

Millions of other people don’t bother to make resolutions.  Why?  Because they always break them.  They don’t want to feel the guilt that comes with breaking promises to themselves or to appear weak to friends and family when they don’t follow through.

But intentions are different.  I can still hear the calm voice of my yoga instructor, Margaret Blanc, at the conclusion of our relaxation phase. “Now it’s time to create an intention for yourself; for this evening, for tomorrow, or for the week.”  Silence followed, so each of us could create her personal intention, caressing it in her mind when we were most open, relaxed, and receptive. 

I’d walk away with that intention in my head.  In those days, it was always the same: “I am building my own happy life.”  Living alone for the first time ever, I was responsible only for me and to me; some days it was tough going.  And in those inevitable moments when I’d begin to feel down, that intention I’d created would pop into my head, flashing like a neon sign.  Almost instantly, I’d notice that I was standing a little taller, throwing my shoulders back, and smiling, moving on to my next task or thought. 

After awhile, I realized that I was fulfilling that particular intention, and it was time to summon another. 

They say, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”  But intentions coupled with mindfulness hold power.  Focusing on one clear intention, constructing it as a positive statement in the present tense, as if you are doing it now, makes all the difference.

Follow this formula for creating intentions:
  • Close your eyes and take a few moments to become fully relaxed. 
  • Let your mind wander until it settles upon something that you want or need to do for yourself.
  • Create your intention:  “I am _______ing ____________________________.
  • See yourself doing it.
  • Let your body and emotions feel it.

Each of us can reach inside and come up with an intention so that we can lead happier, healthier lives.  An intention becomes reality when we concentrate on it for our own personal growth and well-being.  Start your 2011 with a positive step for success.  Create your intention – for today, tomorrow, or this week.  Repeat as often as needed, and it’ll happen.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Dinner Leftovers

Our blended family -- parents, adult children, siblings, spouses, and friends -- came together in Los Angeles to enjoy each other as well as a fabulous Christmas dinner.  The variety of delectable foods reflected our traditions, our desires, and our dietary requirements. And, the common ingredient was love. 

After the initial “oohs” and squeals of delight during the plate-fixing conversations, came the silence of first bites.  Then the string of kudos to the chefs commenced:  The turkey was so tender, the fish stew so flavorsome, the mac and cheese so yummy, the chard so tasty. We were happy.

As the evening began to wind down with dessert, I looked across the room and noticed the children gathered around the table.  There they were, Amina and Juan, Asila and David, Aaron and Miriam, engaged in quiet conversation.  It was a heartwarming sight that compelled me to point it out to their friend with whom I was sitting.  “Look at that,” I said.  “That’s what Christmas is all about.” 

The day after Christmas, we departed early for the drive home, but the kids gathered again for leftovers. Everyone knows that the leftovers are flavorful and just as good as, if not better than, the first day.
I’m visualizing these extraordinary young people around the table -- family -- talking about their goals for the new year, laughing with each other, and enjoying the food and their time together.  That’s the delicious leftover for me.

What Christmas 'leftover' delights you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celebrating Siblings

Brothers and sisters share a history like no one else on the planet.  They fought against us and stood up for us.  They kept our secrets and told on us.  They wanted us around when they wanted us around and told us to scram when they didn’t.  They knew what would make us laugh and what would make us cry. We understood each other best.

Now, when we get together as adults, it’s fun and illuminating to see who remembers “the time when…” and how different each of our memories about the same incident may be.  Given the perspective of time and experience, we can laugh at those times that seemed awful in our young eyes.
Easter 1957
I want to salute and thank my brother Tom and sister Reenié as I reflect on our lifetime of love, respect, and support for each other.  Even though we are scattered across the United States and it’s sometimes too long until we’re all together again, the distance in miles does not translate to distance in our hearts.  There’s no one in the world like these fine and honorable people.  And, to quote my sis, “I am so lucky the stork took me to the right house.”

You're invited to leave a tribute to your sibling(s) in the comment box.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Create a Happy Holiday Season for Yourself

 The song goes, “’Tis the season to be jolly, fa la-la-la-la . . .” But the truth is the holidays are filled with mixed emotions for many people. While waiting for a dental appointment recently, I overheard this conversation between another patient and the dentist’s clerk:

“I love the holidays. And, I don’t like the holidays.”

“I know. When I was a kid, I really loved the holidays.” 
“I know.” (Laughter from both.)

How we perceive and experience the holidays is a matter of expectations. We may set our expectations too high, based on what we think everyone else expects or wants. When we lose sight of what’s important to us and do what we think others expect, we set ourselves up for holiday havoc.

Leading up to the holidays, one client told me she dreaded Christmas morning with her family.  There was too much stress over presents, too much noise and commotion, too much jockeying among the siblings for her parents' favor. We discussed what she wanted out of this holiday, what she enjoyed. She loved time with the children, taking pleasure in their enthusiasm and conversations with them. So she shifted her focus to creating a warm, memorable time with the kids. Concentrating on connecting with each one, she experienced a much different and better holiday.

To create the holiday season we want, we first need to identify what we don’t want to experience. In speaking with clients, many of their responses seem universal. No one relishes exhaustion, feeling left out, weight gain, or dealing with difficult people. When it comes to shopping, many are dissatisfied with holiday commercialization, incurring debt, and being rushed.

Next, we determine what we do want, what our intentions are for ourselves. Maybe it’s fun, memories, connection, a sense of peace, relaxation, time to enjoy family, everyone pitching in, or harmony.

Then, the important, shift-producing questions we ask are:  What’s it going to take from me to achieve what I want?  What do I have to do, and who do I have to be to create that experience? 

With our intentions in mind, we approach each activity or event deciding how we need to respond, and we consciously choose our yeses and nos. “No” to playing into a relative’s moodiness. “Yes” to creative gift-giving, and “no” to overspending. “No” to heavy foods on the buffet table, and “yes” to crudités (light on the creamy dip).

Holidays are like a game in which people have different sets of rules. We can be part of others’ games and still play our own game when we are fully aware of what we want and don’t want. And, we make our choices accordingly. 

Happy Holidays. Let this be your season to celebrate.     

Copyright © 2010 Annis Cassells. All rights reserved. A life coach, speaker and writer, Annis can be reached at

Friday, December 17, 2010

Where is the Kindness?

I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives. ~Tracy Chapman
"Where is the kindness in my life?" one 8th grade girl asked during a class discussion about being kind.  I can still see her anguished face as she quietly brought forth her question.  I probably said some "teacherly" thing in response, but this girl touched my heart, and I vowed to work to create an atmosphere that fostered kindness among students.  Those 8th graders got it.

Kind acts don't have to be huge. Small kindnesses qualify. Allowing someone to go first, holding a door, waiting or listening patiently, picking up something that was dropped, giving up a seat, saying a few kind words – these sorts of small gestures may touch another’s soul. We may never know, but an act that we view as a tiny thing could leave a big impression.

Each night, millions of people in the world go to bed hungry.  Millions more go to bed hungry for a kind word. The kindness is inside all of us.  We just have to unleash it on the world.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Recognizing One's Gift

David Wagner's book called out to me in a little gift shop on Maui several years ago.  I felt the author's energy as I turned to the title page and saw his autograph, "My best, David Wagner."

Leafing through the first few pages, I could see that Wagner and I were on the same wavelength.  We agreed on how we should treat the people who enter our lives, whether for the long haul -- like family, friends, students, and co-workers, or for the short term -- like cashiers, wait-staff, and fellow travelers with whom we have brief encounters.  And, David and I agreed that we each should make our own day so that we could be available and able to make others' days. I had been delivering the message of extreme self-care for years, especially for teachers, moms, and folks in the helping professions.

My being a daymaker had never crossed my mind. This was a new concept. But, I did recognize that people seemed to respond favorably to my brand of interpersonal interactions.  Maybe that's my gift, I thought -- being able to make people's days with a bit of kindness, cheer, compassion, and genuine humanity.

Who or what has made your day this week?  For whom have you been a daymaker?