2013 in review a WordPress year-end review of this bog

December 31, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Neither look ahead or behind…

December 30, 2013

Jack FreedThis past Sunday we had a guest preacher at our church. Actually he was a very familiar face, since he is the retired, founding pastor of the congregation – Jack Freed. You may recognize the name because he is also the author of the daily blog that I often quote here – Jack’s Winning Words.

One of the themes that Jack used in his sermon was not to spend lots of time looking back at things that have already happened or trying to look ahead to predict what might happen. Instead, he suggested that you look up (well, he is a preacher, after all) to God for guidance.

Good advice, but I wanted to expand a minute on the theme of not looking back or forward. It’s that time of year when we are inundated with “The Best of 2013” articles in print and on TV shows. People seem to like having lists made by others of the top 10 things in almost any category, especially within a time frame that we can relate to. There are also lots of articles by supposedly learned pundits with prognostications about the coming year.

The writers of articles about the past have a much better track record of getting things right that the predictors of the future; although, neither group is 100% accurate. Where the stories about past events stray off into the bushes is the point at which the authors abandon the reporting of known facts and start speculating upon causes, whether they be the motivation for something bad done by someone or which factors (usually out of many) can be identified as the tipping point for an event.  I always get a kick out of the Wall Street “experts” pontificating about the causes of a market rise or fall, which, by the way, they never saw coming.

fortune tellerThat brings us to the prognosticators, the forecasters, the swamis of the future. If there is one thing that everyone should have learned by now it is that the future is unpredictable and unknowable. Yet, supposedly learned men and women continue to waste their time and ours by trying to predict what will happen in the coming year. As, we, as consumers of the media, eat this drivel up. Most of the supposed seers of the future base much of their forecast upon two things – an understanding of what has happened in the past and a belief in the continuation of trends. They look at the data about whatever it is they are forecasting and projects the trends that they see out into the future – the coming year. It’s a method that appeals to our belief in the “scientific method.”

Yet, when I think back of the past few decades there doesn’t seem to be a year that I can recall where there was not some major, disruptive event; an event that interrupted the trend lines and made them irrelevant. Whether it is a terrorist attack, a major oil leak, major weather events or something else, there are always unanticipated events that provide an inflection point for radical change in the trend lines. It is the very nature of the future that it cannot really be anticipated or forecast with any degree of certainty. So take all of those articles and shows about the coming year for what they are – a different form of reality show entertainment and nothing else.

So, if you can’t predict the future, what can you do about it? There are groups, loosely categorized as “survivalist”, who spend much of their time preparing for Armageddon, the collapse of society’s as we know them.  I think that’s a bit extreme, but their extreme view of the future is as likely as the views expressed by many other so-called futurists. Perhaps the answer is to live in the moment. Certainly, you can spend some time studying the past, to see if you can learn anything from what happened; however, it is foolhardy to spend much time pondering the future, beyond things that you have some control over, such as saving for retirement.

If you look at history and spend any time contemplating your future, you will eventually realize that no one haschoices ever lived forever and that you are unlikely to become the first to break that record. That might eventually lead you to the conclusion that Jack was preaching about, that you should look up – towards God; if there is a God. That is a question that each of us deals with eventually.

So, I’ll not spend much time looking back at 2013 (or further back) and will only as an amusement read or watch the predictions for the future. As I get older I do spend a bit more time looking up and find comfort in my belief that there is a God and a future beyond death. Try as I might, I cannot wrap my head around what it must be like for those who conclude that there is no God. To have nothing at the end of life must be a desolate feeling.

I guess that does lead to one prediction for the future that I feel relatively safe in making – we will all come to the end of life on this earth, whether in 2014 or date beyond. What lies beyond that date is pretty much up to you.

Never lose the ability to pretend…

December 27, 2013

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this thought for today – “When there’s snow on the ground I like to pretend that I’m walking on clouds.”  (Ikkaku, Hosaka & Kawabata).

We use the word pretend when we are children and it is a fun thing to do. Sometimes children will use the phrase “play like”; but they are really pretending. It is the ability to pretend that allows a child to take a crude approximation of a human figure and create a super hero out of it, imagining all sorts of scenarios and outcomes to pretend battles.

boy imaginingPretending can be a great pastime and is probably actually good for us; no matter what age we happen to be. As adults we oft choose to use other words, liker daydreaming or imagining. Every time the Mega-Millions jackpot gets really huge people daydream about what they might do with the money if they won. Do you? I certainly have spent my share of time in thought about that topic. It’s fun and it’s a release from everyday life.

Retaining the ability to pretend is important for good mental health in adults. Now, that is not to say that people who have moved beyond pretending and who may be living in deep delusion are mentally healthy – quite the opposite.  But, the ability to drift off into a daydream or to sit quietly and explore an imaginary scenario or world in our minds can be a healthy release of day-to-day tensions.

I’ve written before about the need occasionally regress to one’s childhood pleasures, such as making a funny face in the mirror in the morning while shaving or perhaps engaging in a pillow fight with a loved one. As we get older, most of us get very good at controlling ourselves and bottling up our feelings and emotions. We do that because we are told that this is what adults must do; and, when we are children, we do so want to be accepted as adults.

As adults when we look around in social settings there is no one sticking out their tongue at someone else or making funny faces (at least no one who is sober), so we adopt the behavior of the crowd of other adults around us, because we want to fit in. In general and in public, that’s a good thing. It’s also a stifling thing, because to means we must constantly repress the child in all of us who just wants to come out and play once in a while.

We all need to find that inner child and let him/her out once in a while; whether it be making that funny face in girl imaginingthe mirror or finding other ways to get back in touch with that innocent level of joy and fun. I’ve known a few artists in my life and have noted that many of them still let that childish side come out in how they dress or act. They can pull that off, because everyone allows a bit more eccentricity in artists. I think that what we call eccentricity is really a little of their childish side expressing itself through their dress and that’s a wonderful thing. To be an artist is really to learn to capture and use your imagination through your art. If you listen to great sculptors they will often say that they could “see” the sculpture that they created even as they stood in front of a large, blank slab of granite. Painters, too, have the ability to see (imagine) what they are about to paint, even as they stare at a blank canvas.

Most of the widely acknowledged motivational speakers on the topics of self-improvement or success in life use the term “visualize”, which is just another way of saying pretend. They say you must visualize what you want to achieve – you must imagine it. They never use the term daydream, because that is too passive; but funny facemany use phrases like, “if you can visualize it; you can accomplish it.” Great athletes also often talk about visualizing what they want to accomplish. Sometimes they go over and over something in their minds, imagining what will happen and what they will do. Perhaps these are examples of what happens when the adult creeps back into a process that starts with the child in us all pretending; or, perhaps it is a case of the child finding a way to break out and have a little fun pretending in the adult. Let’s hope it is the latter. Now, please excuse me; I feel the need to run to the bathroom and make a funny face in the mirror.

It’s Tax time – get the best help you can…

December 25, 2013

At this time of the year when people think beyond the Holiday season they think about taxes. Those are thoughts that stir fear and trepidation in many. The tax laws just keep getting more and more complex and there are more and more of them to be concerned about. All of this complexity increases the chances that you’ll do something wrong and end up with an IRS audit. That’s the big reason to seek help with your taxes.

Hoffman Tax Services

I know of no one better to help you with your taxes and, if needed, to represent you at an IRS audit than Gerry Hoffman. Gerry holds a Master of Science in Taxation Degree and is certified to represent taxpayers before the IRS. If you spend any time just talking to Gerry about taxes you’ll come away with a couple of thoughts – this guy is passionate about his work and he knows what he’s doing. This is no “pay me $200 and I’ll fill in your tax forms” guy. Gerry studies the tax laws and keeps up with all of the changes. He knows where all of the legal tax breaks are and he knows where the lines are that you shouldn’t cross. He won’t let you wander across those lines and into trouble.
If you listen to a few of Gerry’s stories about going to IRS audits with clients you’ll quickly conclude that you’d want him there with you if you ever got called. Going into an audit situation like that without someone like Gerry is like going to trial on a potentially serious charge without a lawyer – don’t do it. I particularly like the stories he tells about sitting at the IRS Audit table with his foot on top of his client’s foot, so that he can remind the client when to keep quiet by gently (sometime not so gently) stepping down. Also his advice, about staying quiet when the auditor leaves the room and until you get all of the way out of the building, makes perfect sense – there is always a chance that they are listening in on any conversations.
Gerry’s a pleasant enough fellow that you might enjoy meeting him at a social gathering and talking about other things; however, he really comes alive when the subject turns to taxes and his passion for that topic shows through. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have a guy who is excited and committed to his profession than some part-time tax preparer trying to make a few extra bucks during tax season. That guy will likely be back at his full-time job, if you get called in for an audit. Gerry will be there, ready to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes during the audit and to defend any and all entries that he made on your return.
Give Gerry a call at 248-553-2226 and get professional help this tax season.
And once you get past the tax season, give Gerry a call for all of your accounting needs. The best way to be sure that you are ready for next year’s tax season is to use Gerry year-around as your accountant. That way you can take advantage of tax breaks during the year and not wait until tax time to claim them. He can also advise you about your business and do things like getting you set up as a corporation to get further tax advantages. Being in business is not all a DIY venture. That’s what people like your banker and your accountant are there for – to advise you on matters that you probably don’t have expertise on and to make sure that you don’t make mistakes but that you get the full advantage of the laws that govern those areas.
Call Gerry today and get started on a better 2014.

Last minute Christmas idea – the gift of relief from pain!

December 23, 2013

Want a great last minute Christmas gift idea? How about the gift of relief from pain? If you know of someone who constantly complains of their aches and pains give them the gift of relief from that pain through therapeutic massage.

Get the lowdown on massage therapy from this weekend’s USA Weekend Health column. You can watch the video from the TV show The Doctors about the benefits of massage therapy by clicking here.

esential massage logoWe are fortunate to have a great therapeutic massage practice right in our area – Essential Massage and Wellness Center – at 1641 S. Milford Road, Suite B in Highland, MI. You can go on-line to www.essentialmassagewc.com and book an appointment or buy a gift certificate as a gift. They are running a special right now for a 1 hour massage. You can order the gift certificate to be delivered by email. You can also call at 248-714-9901.

Owners Tammy Ware and Cindy McLaughlin are both certified massage therapists and have been trained in a number of different styles and techniques of massage. In addition, Tammy is a Certified Infant Massage Instructor and prenatal massage therapist. In addition she is a Bellanina Facelift Massage Specialist and has taken numerous seminars including Oncology Massage, Sports Massage, Russian Massage Technique, Myofascial Release Therapy and Thai Vinyasa Massage. Cindy has National Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, and has completed seminars in Sports Massage and Myofascial Release Therapy and received additional certification in Orthopedic Massage and Table Thai Massage.

Also on staff at Essential Massage and Wellness Center are Theresa David; a massage therapist who continued her education, after graduating from the Michigan Institute of Myomassology, and earned a degree in Medical Assisting, giving her more understanding of the human body and how to work with it especially when her clients are recovering from pain and injury. Theresa went to Thailand to study Thai Massage and has completed training in Reiki and Craniosacral Therapy.

In addition to massage therapist, the staff includes Tina Lee, L.A.c., Dipl. OM. Tina has a Master’s of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Colorado. Tina is also certified in Facial Rejuvination Acupuncture, a series of treatments designed to improve the look and vitality of the face and decrease signs of aging without the use of botox and cosmetic surgery. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture is one of the oldest medicines practiced in the world. For more than 3000 years it has been successfully used to treat a wide range of physical and emotional issues.

I have personal experience with letting the Essential Massage and Wellness Center massage away pain and can testify how great you will feel after a session of therapeutic massage. So take my advice, or that of the TV show The Doctors, and get someone the gift of relief from pain – a gift certificate from Essential Massage and Wellness Center.

Milford lost one of its own this weekend…

December 23, 2013

I received word this morning that Craig Baker passed away during the night last night. Craig was a neighbor and a friend. Craig was also a lifelong resident of Milford and the grandson of the long-time Huron Valley teacher named Bertha Baker, for who the recently demolished Baker Grade School was named when it was built. Craig’s father ran the drug store in Milford for many years.

I knew Craig as a neighbor and fellow board member on the Milford Historical Society Board of Directors. I walked my dogs by Criag’s house 3-4 times a day and often encountered he and his dog Willie out in the yard. We always stopped and chatted. Craig was a big man, as was his dog Willie, And both could appear to be intimidating, until you got to know them. Craig was a gentle giant with a soft heart who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. And Willie was a lumbering Laborador who just wanted a quick sniff and maybe a pet on the head.

Craig always had a story about something from Milford’s past and was a walking history book about people and places long gone in Milford. He had a lawn tractor with a blade on it and often cleared the snow from the sidewalks on both sides of Union Street all the way from Detroit St. to Union St. He also cleared the drives of several of the elderly widows in the area and for the last couple of year of the Milford Historical Museum, too.

I’m sure that other lifelong residents of Milford have lots of stories to share about Craig in his younger years. From the snippets that he shared with me from time to time Craig had his share of youthful adventures in Milford while growing up and a few as an adult. No one could accuse Craig of being devious or coy – he always let you know where he stood on things and held many strong opinions on local issues. We often talked about those, too.

Craig attended a little neighborhood party at my house the day before he entered the hospital for complications from kidney stones. He never returned home from that months long battle to recover in various hospitals. I will miss Craig and our little chats every day. Rest in peace Craig Baker.

To find purpose in your life, don’t look into the mirror…

December 20, 2013

QuestionsWell known pastor and author of ” Purpose Driven Life”,  Rick Warren has made a career out of helping people find purpose in their lives. It is interesting to research what various great and famous people throughout history have settled upon as the most important purpose in life and to find how consistent is the conclusions that they have reached – that to make a positive difference in someone else’s life gives purpose to our own lives.

Here are some examples from across history:

“Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)”  ― Cicero

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
― John Bunyan

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ― Charles Dickens

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”  ― Booker T. Washington

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.” ― Leo Buscaglia

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”  ― Robert F. Kennedy

“Never underestimate the difference YOU can make in the lives of others. Step forward, reach out and help. This week reach to someone that might need a lift”  ― Pablo

“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.”
― Jana Stanfield

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” ― Nelson Mandela

“When YOU stop believing one person in the world cannot make a difference; differences in the world will be made.”  ― Kellie Elmore

“To me, life is about helping people.”  – Ernie Banks

So you can see the themes that run through these quotes by people from ancient history up to modern times – making a difference in the lives of others is our purpose AND even a single act, by a single person is important.

There is a compelling call to action by most of the people quoted not to sit on the sidelines and not to be intimidated by the size of the need that you can see all around you. Get up, get out, and get busy making a positive difference in someone’s life today. You will immediately feel better because now you will be living your life with a purpose and you can end each day with a sense of accomplishment from having helped someone else. That’s why we are born. That’s what we are to do. That’s our purpose.

Be the thermostat in someone’s life…

December 19, 2013

“You’ve got to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.”  (Cornel West) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Jack went on to say a little about being the agent that helps cool down heated situations or warm up chilled relationships. I suspect that this is also what Cornel West had in mind when he coined that phrase.

thermometerWe all act much of the time in the role of the thermometer, reflecting the heat of the moment or reacting to a cold shoulder or chilled relationship. It’s human nature to sense and react to things in our surroundings; however, it is an act of conscientious human concern to act more like the thermostat and adjust what is going on in the environment to bring it more in line with the normal.

Things can get heated quickly, whether it’s an argument that gets out of hand or perhaps just a misunderstanding that is carried too far. One can move from slightly miffed to angry all too quickly if there is nothing to moderate the situation. That’s where the person acting like a thermostat comes into play. Someone who can step in and bring the cooling voice of reason to a situation is often the only thing that prevents anger from boiling over into actions or words that would be long regretted by all involved. In many cases the words have already been uttered and neither side can find a way to apologize or take them back.

In situations of chilly or cold relationships, the thermostat provides that spark of warmth to thaw the situation out and allow love back into the equation. People don’t naturally dislike or hate others; they may getthermostat into situations where something – an act or maybe a perceived snub (real or imagined) – puts a chilly barrier between them and someone that they love(d). Sometimes people get trapped by those icy barriers and can’t find their way back. A third party, acting as a thermostat, can provide the initial warmth to melt the barrier and perhaps provide the spark to rekindle the love that was there at one time.

There’s another way to look at this role and that is one that is well defined in a recent series of ads for HAP (Health Alliance Plan) on TV in which a lady who is a HAP Customer Services Rep defines her role in talking to HAP customers as a problem solver – “a human aspirin” as she puts it. She takes away their headaches over healthcare issue. The thermostat role is sort of like a human aspirin role in pained human relationships.

I suspect that the biggest roadblock for most is a reluctance to get involved. It is easier to say, “That’s their problem, let them work it out. I don’t want to seem to be a busybody.” You are willing to just observe the heat or the cold between the parties (or between yourself and someone else, but not to take any action to help).  That’s taking the thermometer approach.

At that moment when you are ready to just take the temperature of things in a situation, but not act; maybe you should ask yourself, “If it were me in this situation, would I want someone to help? If I was in danger of losing the loving relationship with a friend, a wife, a bother or mother or father over this issue or misunderstanding; would I want someone to intercede and help work this out?” You’re not being a busybody; you’re being a true friend – a thermostat in this person’s life. So, be the thermostat and not just the thermometer.

DIY only of you are capable…

December 16, 2013
DIY Stock Image By cooldesign

DIY Stock Image
By cooldesign

I see many homes that the owners would like to sell that have terrible Do-It-Yourself (DIY) jobs that were botched by the homeowners themselves. In general the bigger and more complex the job is, the more a normal homeowner should reconsider a DIY approach.

Painting a room is simple enough and many homeowners can handle that task; however, for some even painting is a challenge. For most other jobs in the home you should ask yourself several questions before tackling the task:

1. Do I have the necessary tools?  Many jobs that you see professionals doing also involve professional tools that the normal homeowner likely doesn’t have. If your toolbox consists of a hammer, a couple of screw drivers and a pair of pliers; then almost all of the jobs in your home should be farmed out to professionals.

2. Do I have the necessary skills? Even if you took a Saturday class at Home Depot on how to install tile around a bathtub; think twice (maybe thrice) before tackling such a highly visible and difficult job. Maybe you can put tile down in your small laundry room to test your skills. At least it is not in a highly visible area if you mess it up. Don’t try your skills first in your front foyer.

3. Do I have the time and patience? Most DIY jobs that homeowners attempt will take far longer than initially planned (or what the guy at Home Depot told you it would take) and many will offer challenges to your patience and persistence. If you have any Attention Deficit Disorder left in you from childhood, DIY projects can be very frustrating.

4. Do you have a good sense of style? Sometimes called fashion sense, this is your ability to put colors or shapes together in a way that is pleasing to the eye, not jarring or glaring. This is a tough one for many, since few people have a good feel for their own sense of fashion or style. Some have a sense of style, but it is so off-kilter that it puts off others. I have often seen what passes for a sense of Victorian Style in some homeowners turn into nightmarish jumbles of colors and eclectic furniture pieces.

Obviously all of these requirements for a good job can usually be assured by hiring professionals to do the design and installation work for whatever project one has in mind. Sure, it’s more costly to have a pro do the job; however, in the long run it may actually save you money, when it comes time to sell. Would be buyers make lists (mental or otherwise) of all of the things that they will need to tear out and redo. Most of the time those are lists of things that were poorly executed DIY projects. That list of projects for the buyer drives their offer pricing, since they subtract those costs from what they might have offered, had the jobs been done right at the time.

The other issues on some projects are health and safety. Many DIY projects that involve tackling the home’s electrical or plumbing systems can result in either, or both, health or safety issues. Improperly installed electrical outlets or switches can be a fire or shock hazard. Plumbing that is not properly installed almost always leaks and those leaks can cause many problems, such as mold.

Getting back to the simple task of painting a room; even this little DIY job has a whole list of skills and tools and sense of fashion involved that may be beyond the average homeowner. Certainly, just the prep work that should be done before the brush or roller ever touched any paint will test your patience and persistence. It takes professional painters years of practice to be able to use a brush to paint along the wall-ceiling interface of around a window frame in a nice straight line, without overlapping from one surface to another. Most DIY’ers use painter’s masking tape; which is OK if you get a good quality tape and have the patience to apply properly. I see messy looking DIY paint jobs all the time in houses that the owners were trying to prep for sale.

So, am I saying that the homeowner should never do it themselves? No! I am saying that the homeowner needs to take stock of their inventory of tools, skills, mental state and fashion sense before tackling each job that they see needs to be done. Homeowners are all over the spectrum in those four categories. If you have all four for the task at hand, go for it. If not, call a pro. You’ll be happy that you did and some future buyer of your home will be, too.

Be the Daffodil…

December 12, 2013

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”  (Albert Camus) from  http://www.jackswinningwords.blogspot.com/ .

The allusion to winter and summer is often used in literature when the authors are writing about good and bad times in life. We all have our “winter” times in life. It might be a time when a loved one has died or perhaps it is a time when one has lost a job and can’t see another on the horizon. Sometimes we create our own winter by letting our imagination run away with us, turning a minor issue into a huge problem. In some cases there appears to be medical reasons why some people’s brains take them off into winter. Those cases can often be help by proper medications.

For those non-medical reasons that cause us to slip into a wintry mood, we need to pause and try to find that invincible summer that is there within us all. We may have to make an extraordinary effort, but it is there.  The invincible summer is that spark of hope and faith and optimism that, if allowed to grow and flame-up within us, can get us through anything. In some cases it will be based upon faith. In some hope will provide the spark and in either case optimism will fan the spark into a flame that will drive away the darkness and cold of your winter.

Daffodil Blooming Through The Snow Stock Photo By -Marcus-

Daffodil Blooming Through The Snow Stock Photo
By -Marcus-

The images conjured up by winter are cold and darkness and perhaps loneliness. Summers bring thoughts of warmth and sunlight and good times with friends and family. I recall every Spring, when winter is giving way to summer, photos that I have seen and used in advertising over the years of a hardy little Daffodil peeking out from a snow drift, bringing its bright yellow message of hope for summer, even in the midst of winters last snowy gasp. That invincible little Daffodil is the harbinger of the summer ahead.

Perhaps you can find a Daffodil in the midst of your winter; or, better yet, be the Daffodil that brightens up someone’s wintry day and gets them started back towards summer. Taking the time to reach out to someone that you see needs help finding summer in their life can also brighten your life and help you through your own wintry periods.

So, peak out from beneath the snow of winter and let your invincible summer shine through. Be the Daffodil and bring summer on.