Three little words that can change your life… Never look back.

April 18, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

It’s Friday of Easter Weekend and I’m looking forward to having our grandchildren over for an Easter egg hunt in our yard on Sunday.  So, I’m looking forward just a bit. Today’s three little words could take us in many different directions, either as an inspirational message or diving down the rat-hole of despair. I choose not to go down that rat-hole. When I choose the three words for the day, I often do a quick search to see if there are any good quotes that might be used to illustrate or reinforce a point. I found quite a few today and will sprinkle a few into this post.  Henry David Thoreau said – “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” Well, we aren’t going that way, at least not here and not today. Never look back.

One quote that I found that I though was particularly meaningful, even if it seems superficial on the surface, was this one –“ If Cinderella went back to pick up her shoe, she wouldn’t have become a princess, so never look back.” – Ritu Ghatourey. We can all relate to the story of Cinderella and her dream of going to the ball coming true. Many young girls probably dream of their Prince Charming coming along one day. Maybe that’s why when they grow up so many women have such a fascination with shoes. I suspect that what Ritu was trying to say is that we shouldn’t spend time reliving the past in search of missing shoes or answers to questions about why something happened or why we did something that we might now regret. You have to learn to let that all go. If you spend your life living in the past and looking for that missing shoe, you will never meet your Prince Charming or achieve your potential; so, never look back.

The first part of this next quote is often used without the second part.  “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”  – Alexander Graham Bell. We have all just lived through a very rough winter and we’re still in the process of coming out of The Great Recession. Many people suffered greatly, perhaps losing their jobs, or losing their homes, or suffering the breakup of marriages; yet here we are, on the other side, still alive, still standing. Those doors may have all closed; but, we must not dwell on them; but, rather look for the doors that also opened for us. It is time to move forward and you cannot move forward in life while you are looking back. Never look back.

Quite often the things that cause us to look back are failed personal relationships – friendships or relationships that we thought were love that just didn’t work out for some reason. One quote that I found that had Unknown as the author was this one, “If you’ve found a reason to walk away, never look back; just keep walking. It’s better to get lost moving forward than to get stuck looking back.” You may stumble along, lost in tears for a while; but, it is still better to moving on than to be immobilized by regret or fear or heartache. Relationships that we stay in for the wrong reasons never work out in the long run and prolonging them just makes the inevitable end that much worse. Better to cut your losses now and walk away that to live unhappily in a bad situation. Just do it; get it over with and never look back.

Another quote that I liked had to do with letting the past go, which I discussion at some length in the post Let it be back at the start of April. This quote by Jan Glidewell sums up what can happen to us if we can’t find a way to let go of the past – “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” Do you know people like that who have become so consumed with the past that they’ve become virtual hermits in the present?  Are you like that? Do you find yourself always talking about some past relationship, some old boyfriend or girlfriend or maybe even your ex-? Perhaps you’re still talking about your days in high school or college or maybe you can’t quit bringing up your old job (the one that went away in the Great Recession). If so, keep this quote from an Unknown author in mind – “If you are still talking about what you did yesterday, you haven’t done much today.” It’s OKto reminisce from time to time over some pleasant memories; but, it’s best to put the unpleasant behind you, focus upon today and never look back.

So, I’ve got to run now. I have things to do today. I’ve got Easter eggs to get ready and a visit from our children and grandchildren to look forward to. It’s going to be a busy and fun weekend and I have no time for lingering in the past. The past is done and gone. It’s a great day today and I choose to never look back.

Have a get day!

Three little words that can change your life… in your dreams.

April 17, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences or phrases (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence or phrase that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Today’s three little words are a phrase, rather than a complete sentence. Like a few other recent examples it can and has been used is a derogatory manner from time to time to discourage people from hoping for something or trying something; but, I’d rather take a different, hopefully more positive look at it.

I watched the Masters Golf Tournament last weekend, as I’m sure millions did, and was happy to see Bubba Watson win again. He’s a pleasant enough fellow; and, who doesn’t like a golfer named Bubba? One of the things I took note of was a report by one of the key TV commentators who had interviewed Bubba two years ago when he first won. He said that he asked Bubba in the interview after his win if actually winning the Masters was everything that he dreamed it would be. Bubba answered, “I don’t know, I never got that far in my dreams.” How telling was that about Bubba -the humble, and likeable young man who dreamed of getting to the Masters but never had dreamed of actually winning it? How far do you get in your dreams?

women dreamingDreams are important to us as humans. They allow the subconscious mind to explore things that it cannot explore when under control or the rationale, conscious mind. Dreams can take you places that you’d otherwise never get to see and experience things that you conscious mind would never let you do. Dreams have been credited with inspiring some of man’s greatest discoveries and inventions, as well as some of greatest works of art. Dreams can be wild and crazy, sometimes to the point of becoming nightmares; or they can be pleasant and satisfying. Most people have only vague recollections of the dreams that they had while asleep, while others may be able to describe in vivid detail what they were dreaming about. Think about the things and people and places that are in your dreams.

Many people day-dream; and, that is how some of the greatest inventors of all time “dreamed up” man daydreamingtheir inventions. Creative people often report having dreamed about something – a picture that they would later paint, or a jingle or song, maybe a play or movie or perhaps the idea for a new gadget. Letting the mind wander, often off into dreams from time to time is a great creative exercise. When your mind wanders during the day, what’s in your dreams?

The other aspect of having dreams revolves around those that we think up while awake. They are sometimes also called aspirations or hopes; but they are things that we dream about. Sometimes there are people that we may dream about; about meeting them, befriending them or more. Young girls may dream about meeting their favorite teen singing idol and certainly young boys fantasize and dream about meeting whatever good looking girl is popular at the moment. As long as those dreams don’t turn into obsessions that’s OK, too. Who turns up in your dreams?

woman catching starAs adults we may have dreams about our future and the futures of our children and maybe grandchildren. We may dream about what it would be like to own a specific car or boat or whatever; or we may dream about a vacation we’d love to take. Some may dream about getting a better job or retiring someday. Most of us probably dream about things that we understand or that exist; however, some dream about things that they don’t understand or that don’t exist and that’s where great discoveries and new inventions come from. There may be great adventures, exciting new jobs and wonderful inventions in your dreams.

In that first interview, Bubba didn’t have any frame of reference to dream about what it would be like to win; but, in interviews this year; he admitted that he’d dreamed of winning again and getting another green jacket. Bubba expanded the horizon of his dreams and you should, too. Rather than just dream about that next small raise at work, dream about the next few promotions and becoming the person giving the raises. Instead of dreaming about doing a little better in the sport that you play, man reaching for stardream about being the best in that sport. People like Justin Verlander in baseball or LeBron James in basketball or Tom Brady in football didn’t dream about being a good player in their sport, they dreamed of being the dominant player in their sport. Instead of just dreaming about that person that you’d like to meet, dream about going out with them and beyond. Dreaming is your sub-conscious way of visualizing and visualizing is a proven step towards achieving. Take those first steps in your dreams.

Three little words that can change your life… Make my day.

April 16, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

In the beginning of the Clint Eastwood movie Dirty Harry, Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) goes into a diner for a morning cup of coffee. The waitress discreetly pours a copious amount of sugar into his coffee, and when Callahan returns to complain after taking a drink of it, he discovers a robbery is in progress. He kills the robbers in a shootout. However, a surviving robber grabs the fleeing waitress, holds his gun to her head, and threatens to shoot. Instead of backing off, Harry points his .44 Magnum revolver into the boy’s face and dares him to shoot, saying with clenched teeth and in his characteristic rough grumble, “Go ahead, make my day.”

I’d like to put those three little words to a much different use. Instead of assuming that you happen upon crimes or crises in progress on a daily basis; let’s just assume that you live a more normal life and meet regular people all day long. Many of us tend to settle into routines where we shuffle through the day sometimes barely aware of those around us, many times avoiding eye contact because we want to avoid taking the time to stop and acknowledge someone or perhaps we don’t know what we’d two women talkingsay to them.  What do you think would happen to them and to you if you chose to see each person as if they had a little sign on them that read – Make my day.

What if instead of just nodding and mumbling a quick good morning, you stopped and said to that person, “You look great today.” or maybe “What a nice dress, where did you get that?” or “Your hair looks great today, where do you get it done?” Maybe you’re a guy and the other party is too; you might say something like, “Looks like you’ve gotten out on the course? How are you hitting them?” or maybe “Looks like you’ve lost some weight, are you working out?” or maybe “How are the kids doing? Are they in sports this spring?” Why would you do that? Because, people like to be acknowledged and engaged; and, they enjoy getting compliments or talking about themselves and family. If you will businessmenaccept the challenge to initiate the process of conversation, you’ll be surprised how much joy you can bring when you just make the effort with them to Make my day.

There is a side benefit to making that effort – you’ll feel better, too. It is just too easy to fall into the habit of avoiding people, of not making any effort at conversation, of becoming a virtual hermit in your day-to-day environment. If you assume and believe that they will like talking about themselves and their family, why wouldn’t you find the same joy is given the opportunity to talk about what’s happening in your life. People like to share things; that’s what makes Facebook and Twitter so popular. So, consider the opportunities that taking this approach to life will give you to be a “reality version” of those less personal technology-based versions. This is real life and in it you have the opportunity to post a live comment or utter a Tweet that will Make my day.

Now I know that many of you may be reading this and saying to yourself, “I don’t have time for this kind of stuff. That’s why I avoid people in the first place.” I would say to you that you don’t have time in life not to do these things. This quote by Wally Lamb, author, puts that a different way – “It’s the most breathtakingly ironic things about living: the fact that we are all…alone. Singular. And yet what we seek – what saves us – is our connection to others.” So, maybe this is really the most important thing in your life, or should be; not to be alone, singular, a virtual hermit; but rather to proactively reach out to touch others, engage them.  A. A. Milne, English Author  (1882-1956), Best Known For His Books About Winnie The Pooh put it this way in Pooh-speak –“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” Pooh might have gone on to say Make my day.

So, today challenge yourself to take the initiative, to reach out and touch those that you meet alongtwo women talking the way, to engage them and with a kind word or words of encouragement or compliment help start their day off better.  You may be surprised at the impact that can have. It’s like the wake of a boat passing by that spreads and spreads across the water. “There are those whose lives affect all others around them. Quietly touching one heart, who in turn, touches another. Reaching out to ends further than they would ever know.” – William Bradfield. That’s the impact that you can have when you make the effort to Make my day.

Three little words that can change your life… Get a life!

April 15, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Adrianna Huffington is currently making the rounds of talk shows pitching her new book Thrive. In it she apparently discovers that there is more to life and to what we should be calling success in life than the things that we’ve been obsessing over as a nation for quite some time. What she and many other suddenly enlightened authors and motivational speakers have recently “discovered” is that; rather than getting more money or getting a bigger house or getting a new car, most of all people need to Get a life.
chasing brass ring

The little phrase “get a life” started our it’s life as a derogatory statement to people who didn’t seem to be doing anything, at least not anything of interest to the hip people who were judging them. Of late it is more and more often used to admonish the overworked and stressed out over-achiever generation to stop burning themselves out and get real about what is really important – their family, their friends and their health. The message now is that it is time to reassess why you are working 80 hours a week and always fell tired. It is time to stop and assess what this is really doing to you and the ones that you love and for whom you believe that you are doing it. It is time to Get a life.

It turns out that there were probably some pretty neat things going on with your son or daughter at ballplayerschool or in sports during those overtime hours that you worked. There were things that your wife really wished you had the time to do with her instead of spending that extra time at the office. There were little league coaching opportunities that you were too busy for and games that were played while you were on the road. There were buddies that wished that you had time for a round of golf with them on the weekend, instead of going into the office. You missed all of that in the past, but you don’t have to miss the things to come, if you just Get a life.

Now you may say, Norm you don’t understand; but I do, because I now have to look back on my life with a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda regrets. I didn’t get a life when my children were young. I was out shuckin’ and jivin’ and chasing those big bucks. I eventually got them. I had the big six-figure income and got the things that I thought were so important back then. What I lost were the precious moments that will never be repeated – the birthday parties, the ball games and recitals that I missed are all gone, never to be repeated.  I was working and I thought that was what I was supposed to do. There were smiles that I missed seeing, laughs that I didn’t hear, joys that were shared with those who were there, but not with me. I was not there to congratulate my son on a win or to console my daughter in a loss.  So, don’t say that I don’t understand – I do.  I was not there as a husband and a parent; but, fortunately I’m not too late to get a second chance as a husband and now as a grandparent. I’m having a ball with both now, because I eventually I figured out that what I really needed was to Get a life.

fansSo, whether you are inspired by this little blog or Adrianna’s nice new book  – Thrive; take the time to assess what it is you really want and what the best way to get that really is. If you can get past the “need” for that new car or bigger house and focus instead on the family that will ride or live in them you may be able to see that a little more money at work is less valuable than a little more time at home. Your kids won’t care if they have to ride in a three year old car, if they can ride with you to go to an amusement park or a ball game. Your wife won’t mind staying in your cozy little house if the man she fell in love with (and still wants to be with) is there more often, doing things with her. And you may find that, instead of pumping up that guy in the mirror every morning and putting on your game face, so that you can go out and work even harder for material things; now, you can relax and smile at him instead because he’s figured out what’s really important – he finally decided to Get a life.

Sure, I know that you’ve got to make the mortgage payment and put food on the table. Maybe you’re already starting to worry about putting the kids through college or have given some thought to your familyown retirement. Those are all important and worthy things to plan for and work for, but not to obsess over.  You can be successful enough to provide for your family without being gone so much that you’re almost a stranger to your family. You can have what you want in life if you focus upon what you need in life and not so much on what you don’t have. Socrates said it best hundreds of years ago –

 “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”  I’m sure that, had it been in the vernacular in Socrates day; he would have gone on to say – Get a life.

 When the time comes for others to look back over what you accomplished in life very few funeral speakers spend much time discussing your business accomplishments. They try to focus instead on the impact that your life had on those around you – your family and your friends. They relate stories about things you did with those important people in your life, the fun you had the events that you shared and how important to them it was that you were there. Let’s hope that in describing your life they won’t have to observe a moment of silence instead.  That won’t happen if you Get a life.

Three little words that can change your life… Walk the walk.

April 13, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

From the UK Web site  comes this explanation of the origin of that little phrase –

‘Walk the walk’ is almost always said in combination with ‘talk the talk’, for example, “if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk”, or “walk it like you talk it”. This is a 20th century American alternative to various old sayings which epitomise the notion that ‘talk is cheap’, for example ‘actions speak louder than words’ and ‘practice what you preach’. The context for the use of any of these expressions is in response to what is seen as empty boasting. People who are accused of such are said (in the USA) to ‘talk a good game’ or (in the UK) to be ‘all mouth and no trousers’.

manspewing adviceHave you ever met or worked with people like that – people who talk the talk but then don’t walk the walk? These are the people who volunteer for something and then don’t show up; or, if the they do show up end up standing around chatting with people instead of actually doing whatever it is they volunteered to help with. Sometimes they are the people who are oh so good at telling others what they need to change about themselves; but whom, when challenged to make a change in themselves, protest that they’ll never change and that you just have to accept them as they are. You just want to yell at them – Walk the walk.

Perhaps you have met that “perfect mother” who always has advice for you about what you are doingblah-blah wrong with your kids; while, at the same time, she is oblivious to the fact that her kids are busy destroying something in your home or running amuck unsupervised. Maybe it’s the coach of your child’s little league sports team who never played the sport but who is now in charge of trying to teach them a game that he doesn’t understand himself. You tell yourself, well at least he volunteered; but, maybe he shouldn’t have.  Maybe it is someone at work who is constantly giving you advice about how to do your job better while ignoring the fact that they are failing to do their own job. You just want to tell these people – Walk the walk.

But, rather than spend your time worrying about those other people, you need to make sure that you look at your own behavior. Are you doing what you said you would do? When you make a commitment to be somewhere at as specific time, are you there on time? If you volunteer for a job, do you do the actual work or just stand around in the area and let others do the work? Are you offering advice to others that you don’t heed yourself? Are you good at talking the talk; when what others really want from you is that you Walk the walk.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being, as the British would put it “all mouth and no trousers.” In order to be the pleasant fellow that you want to portray, you can say “Sure, I’ll buy some Girl Scout Cookies from your daughter, just bring the order form around next week”; and then proceed to hide out until the order deadline has past. True masters at the art of talking the talk would use the next meeting with that person to say something like. “Gee, why didn’t you bring that order form around, I would have ordered several boxes.” They were never going to Walk the walk.

man with talk ballonThe difference between talking the talk and walking the walk is deception. It is a deception that you play upon others and upon yourself. You deceive yourself into believing that just saying that you will do something is enough to make everybody happy and everything OK. The deception on others is obvious – you lied – and that can be especially hurtful if they went ahead to make other commitments or plans based upon your bogus commitment to them. It’s just as bad to lie your way out of making a commitment.  Maybe you’ve seen the TV ads about the guy calling his “friends” for help on moving day – they all lied to him – they were talking a different kind of deception. Not one of them was a true friend willing to Walk the walk.

So, get out that trusty hand mirror that I have advised you to use on other occasions for self-reflection (unintended, but somehow appropriate pun) and ask yourself. Am I someone that others looking in mirrormistrust to be there when I commit to be? Do I sometimes just show up and not really jump in and do the work that I volunteered to do? Do I knowingly make promises or commitments that I can’t keep? Am I saying yes just to appease others with no intention of following through or do I have good intentions that just never materialize? If you’ve answered yes to the guy in the mirror on a few of these questions; perhaps you are guilty of talking the talk and you need to get real with yourself and others and commit to Walk the walk.

Making the changes needed to be the person that you really want to be isn’t hard, but it can involve making some choices that you’d probably rather avoid. To start with; don’t tell someone that you will do something when you know that you won’t. Don’t just say yes to appease someone else or to appear to be a nice person. If you’ve been asked to do something that you really don’t want to do, tell them that you can’t and ask them to keep you in mind for future needs. Then you might want to spend a little thought time on why you didn’t want to do what they ask you. Were you just being selfish with your time? Did you really have something more important to do; or were you like a lot of people and just hoping that something more fun might come along. How does that make you feel, once you admit that to yourself? They gave you the chance which you turned down to Walk the walk.

proudSo, here’s the very straightforward choice that you have to make every day, perhaps many times in each day. You have to choose to be a person who talks a good game, but whom others come to know as undependable; or you can choose to be honest with yourself and others around you and stand behind what you say you will do. Don’t give advice to others that you don’t (or won’t) follow yourself. Don’t pretend to be an expert on things that you know nothing about. And most important; only make commitments when you are committed to keeping them. Practice these things and you will be known as a person who can be trusted to Walk the walk.

Three little words that can change your life… Be a victor.

April 11, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Today’s three little words – “Be a victor” – were coupled with three more words – “Not a victim” – in a quote by Joell Osteen; however, they have often been used within the context of articles, weighty psychological papers  and blogs about the “victim syndrome” and the tendency of many angry woman 2people to see themselves as the victims of situations that occur in life. This is the “poor me, why does this always happen to me” reaction to life. There is comfort for some to wallow in self-pity; but, in the long run that is just a precursor to depression. Don’t go there. That is the flight reaction in the “fight or flight” choice that we all have to make when faced with confrontation or issues. You can shrink back into a pitiful little ball or you can suck it up, thrust out your chin, and Be a victor.

While researching the origins of this little quote I ran across some really good reads – posts that have been done and papers that have been written about the victim syndrome and how to avoid that. One of the better ones was by Guy Harris, a motivational speaker who describes himself as The Recovering Engineer. To paraphrase Guys three suggestions for avoiding being the victim – 1. Own your piece of the problem, 2. Talk it out, and 3. Forgive the other party.  Let’s expand upon those so that we both can see how to avoid being a victim and start to Be a victor.

angry coupleAs Guy says in his blog, there are seldom any conflicts or problems that are totally one-sided. It took two to tangle and it will take two to Tango again. Perhaps the other party did something to set you off, but the fact that you responded in a way that now defines this as a conflict makes you a willing participant. You must own your piece of this brouhaha. Until you admit to yourself that you are also a player in this situation and not just some innocent bystander that got swept up in things, you are playing the role of the victim. Don’t go there. Man up. Be a victor.

Guy’s second suggestion is to initiate conversation – to talk it out. All too often we get involved in something that has offended us or caused us pain or made us mad and we just hold it in and let it fester.  Instead of confronting the issue with the other party involved, we may turn silent, perhaps angry accusereven avoiding that party. We allow our own imagination to take whatever the incident was and turn it from a minor or off-hand thing into a huge deal of epic proportions. We may even back ourselves into corners by creating elaborate scenarios of what the other party will have to do to get back into your good graces. After all, they committed this grave offense against you. You were the victim of this injustice, right? They need to apologize to you because you were the victim. Don’t go there, either. Be a victor.

Guy’s final piece of advice is one that I have written about here in an earlier post (Click here to review that post) – Forgive the other party. It is essential to being able to move on to let the issue drop in your mind and forgive the other party. Nothing can sour a friendship, a relationship or a marriage quite as much as that lingering and unresolved disagreement that floats around in the back of your mind to be dredged up again and again whenever anything new happens between you. Let it go. Put it to bed. Forgive the other party. As long as that little thought floats around in your head you are playing the role of the victim. Get it out of there and Be a victor.

While I thought that Guy’s advice is great and the best way to deal with situations that have already happened, let’s take a moment to advance the thought for today into proactive territory. When you get up in the morning, ready to face a new day; you have the same choice to make before anything has even happened that day. If you get up with a dread about going to work, afraid of what might happen or a fear in your heart about maybe facing a test at school today or ju

Joan of Arcst a general feeling of waiting for something bad to happen to you; you are setting yourself up to be a victim. Don’t go there. Instead look yourself in the mirror and say “This is my day and I’m going to handle whatever comes my way and Be a victor.”

Remember as you face the day and whatever challenges you hit that you and only you can determine whether you will retreat and hide in the mantle of the victim or take up the sword of the victor and fight back by using the advice that Guy gave you. You own your piece of the problem and your reaction to whatever it is, so talk it out and forgive the other side and forget about it. Move on because you have other more important things to do in life, now that you have decided to Be a victor.

Three little words that can change your life… War is hell.

April 10, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Today’s three little words were given to me by my ex-pastor (retired) Jack Freed, whose daily blog –Jack’s Winning Words often supplies me with inspiration for a post. Jack just returned from a brief stay in a local hospital and I wish him a speedy recovery. I missed his daily posts while he was there.

At first I was befuddled about what to do with those three words – War is hell. They certainly aren’t inspirational on the surface. Then I thought, why not write this from the perspective of trying to understand what the warriors that return from war have been through and what their needs might be. Most people have no idea what these brave men and women have been through and why it may take a while for them to assimilate back into what we call “normal” society. War is hell.

We see stories from time to time about wounded or disabled veterans returning from war and the trials that they go through. We have also had stories from time to time make the news of severe cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome. It used to be called “the fog of war.” Most people will never have an experience like going off to Afghanistan or Iraq or any of the earlier wars. That’s a good thing. Part of what the people who do go are fighting for is to make sure that others don’t have to go through a war. Some of the stories that we see and most of the stories that we never hear about come about because – War is hell.

Whether we call it the fog of war or post-traumatic stress syndrome, the effect that going off to war has on the lives of the soldiers who did go are hard for those left behind to understand. The best way I can describe it is to say that you never feel more alive, more scared, more brotherhood with those around you and more cut off from any other reality than you do when stationed in a war zone, whether it is Afghanistan or Iraq or Korea or Viet Nam or World War II. There is an old saying that there are no atheists in a foxhole. I suppose that would apply today to those out on patrol or riding in convoys in our current war zones. Nothing will get you praying faster than bullet whizzing by or mortar shells walking their way towards your position. War is hell.

So what happens to those who have been to the hell of war and back? We see the news stories about surprise homecomings, with screaming kids and a joyful wife rushing to embrace a returning soldier. Burt what happens when the cameras stop taping and the media all go away. Those who have been to war know that it is not so easy to come home. It is not easy to leave behind those brothers who had your back, like you had theirs.  It is not easy to sleep in a comfortable bed in quiet room when you are used to sleeping sitting up with the sounds of rounds going off around you. It is not easy to trust those around you and not scan around you looking for threats. You can’t just turn off what took you a year or more to get used to. War is hell.

It’s been over 50 years since I went off to my war in Viet Nam, yet I still have vivid memories from my time there. I also recall the bitterly divided nation that I returned to and the mixed feelings that I had at the time. Lots of water has flowed under the bridge and there has been a lot of change in how people think of that war, which has helped heal whatever mental wounds I had from that experience; but I still understand that War is hell.

It is important to understand and to be understanding with those returning from war, especially our youngest soldiers. We tend to pluck youth right from high school and hand them a rifle and send them off to war unprepared for what they are about to witness and be a part of. These are often youth whose biggest life decision before this was who to ask to the prom. Now they have to decide who to trust in a crowd, who they might have to shoot and who to kill. They learn that even the most innocent looking object next to the road may be a bomb ready to go off as they pass. They might encounter people ready to detonate explosives taped to their bodies; killing themselves and others. They might come face to face with death more than once themselves and they might watch their best friends get killed. Then we ship them home and tell them to be normal again. War is hell.

So be a little more understanding. Be a little more patient. Be a little more supportive. Be a lot more loving. Understand that he (or she) needs time to decompress and to suppress some of the things that have been driving their lives for the last year or so. It’s not funny to someone who’s been the target of IED attacks or gunfire when they duck for cover at the sound of loud car backfire. It might take a while for them to regain the comfort level at home with family and friends that they had with their buddies in the war zone. It’s not a testosterone thing; it’s a thing that comes from living on the edge all the time – the adrenalin high that comes from constant fear and action in a war zone – and the camaraderie that goes beyond being just friends, when you’re sharing that foxhole during a fire fight. Now that they’re back, the pleasure that you might  expect to come from going to their daughter’s concert at school is just not the same.  It will take time to adjust; and it will take lots of understanding and patience to help them find their way back.  War is hell.

Wars can be especially hard on the spouses who stay behind and try to kept things in the family together while their significant others are off in some strange foreign land. Spouses often just want things to be as they were before. That may not happen, because things aren’t the way they were before. For one thing a returning soldier has not been a part of the spouses’ life and frame of reference for a long time. They may have little in common to talk about for some time. The soldier is used to talking with his buddies about the latest skirmish or mission and not about the upcoming bake sale at school or whether to redecorate the house or not. Believe me that there is a significant difference between the vernacular they used in a war zone verse what they are expected to use at home. There may be a significant disconnect between you for some time. He may have to relearn how to enjoy just being with you again. Be patient and fight your way through that. Your soldier is trying to get back; he wants to get back; but, War is hell.

Make the pain go away…

April 9, 2014

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking; here Norm goes off on another esoteric riff on emotional pain and how to deal with it. I’ll get to that later, I promise; if I can figure out how to fit it into three little words. If you need an emotional or musical fix on that in the meantime, here’s the premier video of the band Brad doing “Make the pain go away.”

What I want to talk about today is real, physical pain; the kind you get when you do something stupid to your aging body and now it hurts. I guess it also applies to younger bodies too; I just have an easier time relating to the old dude doing stupid things description.

Actually it doesn’t really even require doing stupid things. As we get older our bodied change and not necessarily for the better. We get less limber, less able to stretch into the positions (yoga or otherwise) that we used to do with ease. And, we become more prone to slip and fall accidents. But falling down stairsmaybe for you who are younger it’s just pushing that one little bit beyond what you are still capable of doing. In any case, you can hurt yourself and you need help to make the pain go away.

Today I want to relate a wonderful experience that I’ve recently had and give a shout out to a particular practitioner of a healing art who helped make the pain go away.

I was out walking my dogs in February, when took one of those falls that you can only take when you hit an icy patch in the dark. Down you go, before you know it. I was just thankful that I didn’t break anything. At my age, breaking stuff is really bad. Anyway I landed on my shoulder after a failed attempt to catch myself and hurt something bad. I got up and made it home OK; but, I could not make the pain go away.

Being from the “old school”, I determined that there were no bones sticking out anywhere and I could move my arm, so nothing was apparently broken. There was pain; but, I thought it would get better over time. Weeks when by and it didn’t get better. I needed to do something more than just take Aleve to make the pain go away.

Tammy ware 2Fortunately I have a cohort in the local Chamber of Commerce referral network that I’m in who is a Massage therapist. Tammy Ware is co-owner of Essential Massage and Wellness Center in Highland, Michigan. Tammy has over 20 years of massage therapy experience and is trained and experienced in many different massage techniques. I decided it was to see if Tammy could make the pain go away.

What a wonderful experience! I had been having trouble sleeping because of the pain in my shoulder. On the first visit I nearing fell asleep on the massage table because of the wonderful relief from pain that Tammy was able to provide.  Just a half-hour of deep tissue massage was able to loosen all of the muscles in my shoulder that had tied themselves in knots because of the pain. Tammy was able to make the pain go away.

The relief provided by the massage session eventually faded and I returned a couple of more time, each one a respite from the pain. Tammy advised me to seek the opinion of a doctor because my shoulder was not getting better and it turned out that I have a torn rotator cuff that will require surgery and rehab. You can bet that a part of my rehab will be regular visit s to Tammy because I know that I will need someone thin who can make the pain go away.

Tammy and the massage therapy that she represents so well is just one of the alternative medicine approaches that are currently gaining support and credence in the healthcare world. There is growing recognition that therapies and alternative treatments, such as Chiropractic, massage, acupuncture and meditation and yoga have a place on the spectrum of care for many non-disease conditions. It turns out that modern medicine doesn’t have a pill to prescribe for everything. And sometimes what they can’t drug or operate on will respond to other approaches. In the case of many muscular-skeletal issues massage therapy is the best way to make the pain go away.

I certainly endorse it and wholeheartedly recommend Tammy Ware and her business – Essential esential massage logo
Massage and Wellness Center
–   if you happen to be I the southeastern Michigan area. If you are not from around here; at least make sure to get a therapist who has extensive training, certifications and experience. In Michigan massage therapists now have to be licensed as healthcare providers. That’s a good thing and is leading to more and more healthcare plans covering massage therapy as a valid treatment option to make the pain go away.

Of course there are other reasons that one might get a massage. It is a wonderful reward for yourself (do they call that selfie reward?) after a long hard week or just because you need to relax. Tammy also specializes in pregnancy massages because pregnancy can apparently make things hurt in places where you didn’t even know you had places. There are also the self-indulgent hot rock and aroma therapy massages, as well as the facial and sinus massages to relieve tension and sinus pressure. She even does Thai massage which looks in the pictures more like she’s trying to make pretzel out of you, but which is wonderful for maintaining flexibility. Whatever choice you make, remember that above all she has the ability to make the pain away.

Three little words that can change your life… Don’t give up.

April 8, 2014

It’s back to basics and three little words. I just needed yesterday’s break. Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world. I decided to stop numbering these posts, because who care how many there are.

dispairToday’s three little word – Don’t give up – has a corollary from the opposite perspective – “I won’t quit”. When one encourages someone else with the phrase, “ Don’t give up”, the hope is that their retort will be, I won’t quit. Most of us have family or friend to help with this; maybe a wife or BFF. It is important for us to have a support system of some sort, someone to cheer us on and push us with applause and cheers and to yell – Don’t give up.

In the health and fitness world that is a role often filled by a personal trainer, a person to be there during workouts to hold you accountable, to encourage and cajole you to do that next sit-up or lift that barbell one more time and whatever. The basis for success in personal training is personal accountability, having that tainer there to tell you – Don’t give up.

In many of life’s day-to-day trails or challenges we don’t necessarily have personal trainers, but we
eventsmay have life partners or even best friends to who we can turn for support and encouragement. Maybe it’s a bad situation at work or even a personal conflict. Our support team seldom recommends that you quit and wallow in self-pity; instead they buck you up, cheer for you and  tell you that they still love you and say or whisper to you – Don’t give up.

Sometimes the unthinkable happens and you lose that loved one that you had depended upon for encouragement in your life. Things can be overwhelming and confusing. In times like that you may be helped by a clergyman who will encourage you to find comfort and hope in your faith. If you turn to that faith you will find the peace of knowing that you will be reunited in eternal life and that will give you the strength that you need to endure even this tragedy. Don’t give up.

pushing uphillSo the message today is one of perseverance and persistence. You can withstand much more than you give yourself credit for and you can be successful in the face of any adversity by continuing the struggle. Do not turn away. Do not fear failure. Do not allow yourself to be swayed by what others may do or say. Don’t give up.

At the end of the day or at the end of life, there is no comfort to be found in a life filled with coulda, woulda, shoulda’s. Remember this –

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”― John Greenleaf Whittier

Don’t put yourself in that position – Don’t give up.

The music in our lives…

April 7, 2014

I won’t start another numbered series. I probably won’t write more than once about this topic, especially since tastes in music can vary so widely. I must also admit that I’m not a big music listener anymore. I guess I just drifted away from the need to feel or express my emotions through the songs of others. However, I can still relate to that as I used to when it was a more important part of my life.

Music stanzaI grew up during the birth of rock and roll and still recall how scandalous some of the early rock songs were considered. Most of the early rock songs seemed to focus on rebellion or unrequited love (many with sexual undertones).  Just the notion of rocking and rolling was initially met with disdain (do you remember Kevin Bacon’s movie Footloose?); but early rockers like Bill Haley and Bo Didley, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Gene Vincent kept rockin’ on and a new music genre was born out of the fusion of R&B, Jazz and folk music. A rockabilly element was added by Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. We had greats like Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis and Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins and Peggy Sue by Buddy electric baseHolly and the Crickets.

Then, along came Do-Wop, with the multipart harmonies that gave us such greats as The Great Pretender by the Platters and Yakety Yak by the Coasters. We also had Do-Wop groups like the Del Vikings , Dion and the Belmonts and the Mystics (with Paul Simon as lead singer on their hit “All Through the Night”). I have albums (mostly on cassette tapes) from most of the big acts from that era)

The early 60’s were considered to be the time when rock was in decline, but it was also a time of diversity for the genre as more and more girl groups started hitting the charts. Several new sub-genres also grew during this time, including surfer music, garage band music and specialty dance music, such as “The Twist” by Chubby Checker. Rebellion and love were still the dominant themes of the music. Who can forget the 1964 hit “The Leader of the Pack” by the Shangiri-Las. I’ve got a lot of that music on cassettes, too, and a few LPs.

Then there was the British invasion, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones leading the way. The Beatles were the cute bubble gum band of the era initially, with songs like “I want to hold your Hand”; while the Stones were the bad boys.   I remember that the Rolling Stones hit “Let’s spend the night together” was banned on some radio station for a while.  I have LPs from that era by the Beatles, the Stones, the Mamas and Papas and other groups. I mostly have LPs from this era, although like many I went back and bought the cassettes and later the CDs for many.

The counterculture movement took hold in the late 60’s with great opposition to the war in Viet Nam and much experimenting with drugs in the late 60’s and 70’s and the music of those times followed those trends. Message songs about peace and not war were popular and messengers metal rockerlike Bob Dylan grew up musically in that culture. The Heavy Metal genre was born and very pronounced drum and bass beats took hold. I still have the original 23 minute LP version of In-A-Godda-Da-Vida by the Iron Butterfly. Groups like King Crimson and Black Sabbath provided the ubiquitous beat that some many listened to while stoned. I recall hearing that incessant beat while sitting in my hootch in Viet Nam.

The 70’s saw the introduction of disco music, which was great to dance to and relatively harmless. Disco divas such as Donna Summers and Anita Ward were big in the disco club music genre. Late in the 70’s a new  wave style developed with bands like Blondie introducing electronic and synthesized music to rock hit like “Heart of Glass”. Soft rock also gained in popularity with groups like the Carpenters, the Jackson Five and the Osmonds cranking out hits. Hard rock was still alive and well on the big show arena circuit with groups like Blood Sweat and Tears, Foreigner, Journey and Styx out on the road. The rise of what is called Country Rock or Southern Rock happened in the mid to late 70’s with groups like the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, and The Marshall Tucker Band. The Eagles “Hotel California” album was probably the best album of that era. Individual performers also became very popular again in the 70’s with Billy Joel, Jim Croce, John Denver and Bruce Springsteen leading the men and Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Dionne Warwick, Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand, Rita Coolidge, and Helen Reddy holding forth on the female side. For me this was my age of working hard and raising a family. My involvement with musicrocker had waned but I was still buying music – cassette tapes back then. I did like the fluffy stuff that Abba was putting out and

The 80’s are probably what most people relate to the most, with stars like Michael Jackson and Madonna emerging. Jackson recorded his Thriller album ( one of the best-selling albums of all time) and Madonna had True Blue and Like a Virgin (which was also the best-selling album for a female artist). The late 80’s also saw the rise of so-called teen-pop, with groups like New Kids on the Block and other music aimed at the younger audience. Prince also arrived on the music scene and his Purple Rain album reviled the success of Michael Jackson. All was not bubble gum and pop however, with heavy metal bands like Van Halen, Queen, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Alice Cooper out on the arena circuit and doing well. Other genres were developing larger followings such as hip hop and punk rock. I had progressed to music on CDCD’s and still bought some music although my tastes had mellowed out quite a bit, so it was probably stuff by Springsteen or Tina Turner or maybe Whitney Houston. I also started buying the CDs of t groups called the Eurhythmics and later those of Anne Lennox.

In the 90’s saw lots of splintering into sub-genres with the main rock categories being Alternative Rock and Metal trends, Grunge, Indie Rock, Ska, Punk Rock, Nu Metal, Heavy Metal, Pop, Contemporary R&B, Neo Soul and Hip Hop (which had morphed mainly into rap). I had left most music behind by then, so my experiences are limited. Those same categories seem to have progressed forward in to the 2000’s, perhaps with the reemergence of the teen pop performers added.  Country music also started showing up more as the cross-over style of country emerged.

So for me personally lots of my experience with music was some time ago. I do recall quitter vividly how powerful a song can be as either a reflection of the pain of a lost love or finding the strength to go on after a breakup. The Paul McCartney song Yesterday was especially meaningful for me during a breakup back in my college days, before I met my wife. Music could also make you feel good.  I also loved Monday, Monday by the Mamas and Papas back then. I have the Viet Nam era records by groups like King Crimson, Black Sabbath and Iron Butterfly, but I don’t revisit them.

I have a complete boxed set of the Simon and Garfunkel recordings and most of what Paul Simon did as a solo artist. I also have the complete works of the Beatles, though not of individual members after the breakup. I have disco stuff by the Bee Gees but not the heavy metal stuff of the era. I have some stuff by the modern day divas of rock – Carey, Estaban, Dion, the Bangles and Blondie to go with my favorite from an earlier era – Janice Joplin.  I also have some pretty obscure stuff, like several albums by Laura Nyro (Look that one up) and eclectic little albums by Melanie, Enya and Nora Jones to go along with my albums by Anne Lennox. I croonerhave most of the albums that Simply Red has done and a nice collection of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett stuff. Somewhere in the early 90’s I got into Garth Brooks for a while, so I have his albums on CDs, too. I have no modern rock of any of the various genres or any rap.

I’m not sure when I wandered away from music, but it doesn’t have much of a roll in my life anymore. Sure I have music on my iPhone and playlists all set up and I have ear buds in every coat; but it’s that I don’t use them very often.  I can’t even say what I would take with me to a dessert island if I was to be stranded there. Perhaps I would just relax and listen to the sea.

Music can just be something in the background like noise or it can move us greatly. What songs have had great meaning in your life? What events do you relate to a particular song? What song can bring a tear to your eyes? Try this country song by George Jones, considered by many to be the saddest song ever written. If that didn’t work, then here’s a site that advertises the 28 saddest songs ever. If you need a good cry, go there.  There are also songs that make you feelisland good. Here’s one site’s top ten list for feel good songs.

What music would you take with you to that dessert island?