Three little words – Be my Valentine

February 14, 2015

‘Tis a day to dismiss the pithy or snarky and focus upon the import of the moment – Valentine’s Day. I recall this day from my youth as one of great hope and sometimes dashed dreams. It was the day when you saved your biggest and best Valentine card at school for the one that you secretly loved (or so you thought). Valentine cards were valentine kidsexchanged by walking around dropping the cards into the little bags on each other’s desks, in hopes that there would be some in your bag when you got back. As I got older it became a time of the year to try to impress the girl (or girls) of my dreams or perhaps to ask them out. All too often that resulted in finding an empty bag, too. Won’t you Be my Valentine?

Once I had found my life mate the day became one of giving something special to show my love and appreciation – sometimes candy and flowers, sometimes jewelry or other special or sparkly things. As we both grew older the day refocused upon our children and making it a special day for them. By the time we became empty-nesters again the holiday had taken on such a commercial air that it became tedious and boring, something to be largely ignored. After all, the Valentine’s candy and stuff had been out on the store shelves since mid-January in many cases. One can only look at so many frilly, heart shaped boxes before getting sick of them; especially the ones with the words Be my Valentine.

Still, it is a time for the young to chase their dreams of romance with the unapproachable apples of their eyes and for the Tween and teens to try to quench their burning hormones in chocolate. It is th time to see if a huge bouquet of flowers or a nice piece of jewelry will atone for a year’s worth of working too late and not having time for your mate. Hopefully you can take the time away from other distractions to helping handsask honestly that your life mate Be my Valentine.

If you take the time to pause and engage in a meaningful conversation, you might find that the answer to your request that your life mate be your valentine is something like, “Just be here” or “Pay attention to me” or perhaps even “Be who you were when we met.”  Valentine’s Day should be used for that pause and that reflection with your significant other and if you do say Be my Valentine, it should be felt and said with the same passion and dedication that got you together in the first place. So, rather than asking them to do something for you, perhaps you should ask them for permission for you to Be their Valentine.

Use Valentine’s Day not for gift giving and cutesy cards, but rather as a time to re-kindle the love that brought you together. A long hug and a lingering kiss that brings back memories will last longer and have a greater meaning for you both than all of the happy valentines dayflowers and candy you could buy. You will never have to be disappointed by an empty bag on your desk if you take the time to show love to the one that has chosen to spend their life with you. So grab a couple glasses of wine and snuggle down in front of the fire and raise a toast together that you both will always Be my Valentine.

Doing the right thing is never wrong…

February 13, 2015

There’s a song with lyrics that say, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” That’s a touching claim to make, especially around Valentine’s Day; however, another saying that I saw in a recent post from the Jack’s Winning Words blog contained this piece of advice:

“Never do a wrong thing to make a friend…or to keep one.”  (R.E. Lee)

That is particularly hard advice to live by for many confused and anxious young people, especially in their tween and teen years. It is also hard for many even after getting kids at schoolthrough the years of raging libido and crippling insecurity that sometimes define those tween and teen years. Even, so-called “grown-ups” often suffer from enough insecurity to do things that they realize later were out of character at best and just plain stupid at worst, all in the name of trying to “fit in” and make new friends.

The most basic problem with doing the wrong things to make a friend or to try to keep one is that your change of character is always just temporary and the burden of living the lie that you have created is not one that can be borne for long. The eventual revelation and correction of whatever that wrong was does not only take way any temporary advantage that you may have thought that you had gained, but also damages forever your credibility with that “friend.” They will realize that they can’t trust you to be honest about yourself or about them.

What is so hard about just saying “No, I can’t do that or won’t do that” in the face of the temptation to do the wrong things? Is it a lack of understanding of what is right or listeningwrong; or is it a fear of being rejected because you do understand that difference and chose not to do the wrong thing? How can that be bad? More important, perhaps; why do you want to be friends with someone who is urging you to do the wrong thing? What will that friendship be based upon? How can you grow that relationship when you can start off on such questionable grounds? Which direction will that friendship go from such a beginning – further down the path of wrong?

I don’t think that there is any valid argument that can be made that you are going into such a friendship in order to save that other person by compromising yourself and your values first. If you cannot get a positive reaction to someone accepting you for who you are and what you believe is right and wrong, then turn and walk away. That is not a relationship worth having.  I have only read some of the reviews of the book and the movie (disappointing according to most); but I suspect that at the core of the story of 50 Shades of Grey is a choice that was made by the young lady, perhaps out of naive curiosity as some reviewers have written, that was out of character for her. She friends at schoolabandoned her values for the thrill the unknown and the friendship (some may say the mentor-ship) of Mr. Grey. In the end, was that the right thing to do?

Sometimes we are faced with what can be even harder for us – doing the right thing in the face of a challenge or request from someone who is already our friend or loved one for all of the right reasons (or so we thought).  I have bailed friends out of jail or picked them up from hospitals when they had done something stupid; but I have also refused to hide someone who was on the run after doing something stupid. I tried to talk them into turning themselves in or to seek professional counseling help to avoid any more stupidity – I was not always successful at that. I lost some friends that way and I’m OK wioth that. I felt bad at the time, mainly for them; however, I felt good about not compromising myself or my values long after the incidents were over. Let’s face it, friends come and go, but you have to live with yourself forever and that’s a long time to be someone that you no smiling manlonger like. The old saying “to thine own self be true“, comes to mind.

So, as we head into another weekend, resolve to stay true to your values and not to do anything stupid or wrong just to try to impress someone so that they will be your friend. In fact, if you really want to be a valuable friend to them, make the effort to talk them out of doing those stupid or wrong things, too. Think of it this way: would the next lemming in line go ahead and jump off the cliff if his friend right behind grabbed him and suggested that they go get a Starbucks instead. They could have a lively discussion about what might be at the bottom of the cliff instead.

Have a great weekend and be a good friend…

Google – Have they become the bully in the room?

February 12, 2015

Recently I got an email that started off…

Hi Webmaster,

Due to Google’s algorithmic changes we reviewed’s (the real URL is unimportant to this discussion) link profile for our client.  Our client has asked us to request removal of their content / specific links to their site.

The link(s) your site has to our client’s site are on the list of links needing to be removed.  We respectfully ask that you remove these links. Blah, blah, blah…

I’m a Realtor® and I own and maintain several web sites that are aimed at providing useful information to people who may be interested in the learning more about the real estate process or who may wish to buy or sell a house.  As part of the content of my real estate web sites, I have written a series of informational articles, which are available there and I have researched the Internet for other sites that have useful information about the real estate process or information on ancillary topics that I feel my customers might want.

I’m not an expert on many of the topics that might be helpful for my clients, so I established links to those web sites that have articles posted by people who are experts. Those topics might include things like advice for people getting divorces (real estate usually plays into that action), or people dealing with the estates of recently deceased family members, or people with tax questions about the sale of a property, or any number of other topical areas for which there are great web sites with meaningful reading for my clients. The link mentioned above was one such link. I also note that I have never asked any of those sites for as reciprocal link back to my sites and as far as I know none have ever placed links back to my sites.

Now, due to “Google’s algorithmic changes” more than one of the web sites that I have links to for my client’s benefit have sent me similar emails, asking that the links be removed. Google somehow ends up being happier (I guess) and the web sites that I remove the links to end up being less threatened by Google (I guess) and I know that my clients end up with less helpful information on those topics. It doesn’t make sense. It’s unfortunate that an algorithm, instead of a live person, makes those calls, since any reasonable person after looking at the page and links in question could have seen that they were not SEO-driven links meant to game the system, but rather an integral part of the service that I was trying to render to my clients through my site.

Let me hasten to add that I understand that the whole search environment has ended up being compromised and perverted by the SEO crowd who make their money trying to game the Google and Bing search algorithms and achieve a higher ranking for their clients (likely higher than the sites deserve, based upon their content and real value). Not a week goes by that I don’t get 3-4 calls from these helpful people, many of whom try to use high-pressure sales techniques to get me to sign up. I have never used an SEO company and never will; but I have witnessed the corruption of the original intent of the Internet and of search engines, because of the greed and lack of scruples of many of hose SEO companies. They have mostly succeeded in closing out the little guys who have honest, simple little web site and no money for SEO. I think that is what Google has been working to try to prevent, but in their quest to outsmart the SEO crowd they have ended up becoming the bully in the room and compromised their own motto of “do no harm” (or “do no evil”). Perhaps we little guy web sites have just become collateral damage in the constant war between Google and SEO’ers trying to game their system.

I even get emails directly from Google telling me how I have to change my web sites to be more “mobile friendly” or face the wrath of the Google algorithm and relegation to the search results hinterlands. I’m working on that, but it’s not always easy for a one-man show to keep up with the demands of Google. Somehow, Google has become much less like the friendly Wizard depicted in the movie The Wizard of Oz and much more like the sinister and controlling wizard of the play Wicked. Unfortunately, banishment from the favor of Google means far worse than banishment from Oz. It means you are relegated to page 20 or higher in the search results and your web site becomes invisible, a non-entity. Monkeys really will fly before anyone sees your site. That is really sad and not at all consistent with the original intent of search engines.

So; off I go to remove links on my web sites that lead to great content on other web sites for my clients; not because they still aren’t very good places to visit with meaningful content, but because they offend the great and powerful Oz, oops I meant Google Algorithm. Hopefully, you’ll still be able to find my websites; but you might have difficulty if you Google them, because I’ll probably be invisible there, somewhere down around page 40 or 50 in the search results, I suppose. I may end up so far down the Google results list that only Bing will be able to find my sites. Oh, the pain of it all! Oops, I hope that link was alright. Oh, that’s right, I forgot, Google owns YouTube, too. Now I’ll get emails from YouTube asking me to remove that link from this post. Sigh!

Three little words – Choice, Chance, Change

February 10, 2015

“Choice, Chance, Change.  You must make the choice, to take the chance, if you want anything to change.”  (Unknown) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

How often we dream of things we’d like to do, places we’d like to go or people that we’d like to meet; only to sit and watch those dreams evaporate because we don’t make the choice to the take the chances that are needed to make the dreams come true – to man daydreamingchange things. A dream without a plan to accomplish it is just an idol wish – a waste of the time that it took to dream it in the first place. Choice, Chance, Change.

Maybe you have a dream of a better job; but you can’t make the choice to take the chance, so nothing changes. That job is not likely to come looking for you and maybe it even requires some skills or education that you don’t have yet. The choice then might be to enroll in a community college or a businessmenregular college and take the chance of learning what you need to know to change your life so that you are equipped for that new job. Choice, Chance, Change.

Maybe your dream is to meet Mr./Ms. Right and have a lasting and meaningful relationship, perhaps even marriage. There are TV commercials for sites like that constantly ask why you have not signed up for their service; why you have not made the choice to take the chance that this site and their service will change you r life? Whether you believe in
handshakethose sites and services are not the real questions that they are asking you are about what overt actions you have taken or are willing to take to realize your dream. Choice, Chance, Change.

Many people have the desire to travel, or so they say; yet too many never get away. They claim that they are too busy with work or with family to be able to travel and see the things that they dream of seeing. Many say that they will travel when they get older; while the elderly often lament that they wish they had travels when they were younger and could still participate in the many activities that might be available (there are few geriatric para-sailers). Taking time off and getting away to relax and rejuvenate is an important aspect of our health and most people will never be in better financial positions than they are when they are younger and working. So why don’t we go? Choice, Chance, Change.

At some point in many people’s life they start thinking about less about themselves and more about others; what could they do to help someone else. Sometimes that is forced upon us as we assume caregiver roles; but, many times it is just because we have finallytutoring become at peace with our own life and started to see more of the need around us. Perhaps we have had some cathartic religious moment or maybe we just finally looked up from our own feet and noticed that not everyone has been as fortunate as we have been. Whatever the reason, many people eventually turn to philanthropy and service to others, no matter how small the gifts or efforts. Many look back as ask why they haven’t been dog this all along. Choice, Chance, Change.

So where are you with your dreams? Have you made the choices that you needed to and taken the chances that are required to make the changes that were necessary; or, are you still sitting there dreaming about things? If you at least make the choice to try, then you can at least move on to the planning stage. That will expose the risks (chances) that you must deal with and give you a road map of the changes that are rewardrequired.

An interesting by-product of getting started is that by making choices and taking chances it will change how people perceive you – you will become a doer and not just a watcher; you move from being a fan to being a player and that will make you a whole lot more interesting person to know. You will also find that you have a different and improved self-image. No more will “coulda, woulda, shoulda” define your life; but, rather, “been there, done that and now I’m movin’ on”, will be what you and others see. Choice, Chance, Change.

What’s your choice today?

Be a good traveler, enjoy the journey…

February 9, 2015

“It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”  (Ursala Le Guin), as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

At the micro-level of a week, we often start out each week with some goals, some end that we will be journeying towards that week, or at least with a calendar of known and planned events that we intend to participate in that week.  At the end of the week, we might be able to look back with some satisfaction at having accomplished those goals or we might look back and be thankful that we survived the twists and turns that life moral compassthrew at us during that short time period. In either event what we are then looking back upon is the journey that took place during the week.

We might look back on things and, with the luxury of time to more clearly see the decision points on the journey, engage in “Monday morning quarterbacking.” We should have run the ball and not attempted the pass that was intercepted has been a favorite lament lately. That is engaging in the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” syndrome, which is largely a waste of time.

Rather, it is better to look back, if you must, and try to learn from what just transpired. What choices did you have and why did you make the ones that you ended up making? Did those choices end up playing out the way that you envisioned? Would you have made a different choice had you the time to think about it more or maybe thinking hardhave had more information upon which to base a decision? Reflecting on things is one of the more basic ways of learning and increasing your ability to deal with things in the future. It also increases your ability to lay out more clear and realistic goals for the rest of the journey ahead.

Another important point to be more aware of is that all of our journeys have the same endpoint. They all start the same way and end the same way. Some take longer than others to reach the end point, but none  (with one exception) have ever found a way beyond that endpoint.  Having said that, perhaps the goal businessman looking at watchshould be to enjoy the journey as much as possible. Enjoying the journey requires that we take the time to “stop and smell the roses” – to enjoy the people that we meet and the places that we go and the experiences that we have as we go.

Enjoying the journey means waking up each morning and being thankful for the opportunity for another day’s travel. Enjoying the journey means taking the time to stop and really listen to those that we meet, getting to know them, and sharing some stories of each other’s journeys.  Enjoying the journey means looking up from your labors to see the things around you and to appreciate the wonders that are there. Enjoying the journey means reflecting upon the experiences that we have each day, rather than rushing onto the next experience.

So, if you were thankful for the chance for another day’s journey at the start of the day; perhaps you should pause at the end of the day to savior the memories of that day. If man relaxingyou started the day thanking God for giving you another chance to travel on; perhaps you should double back and thank Him for making it memorable. You might also reflect on what you did during the day to make that day better and more memorable for those that you met along the way. Remember that, no matter what you do, the end will be the same. The differences will be found in what you do along the journey.

Did you stop and hold a door open for the next person, or just rush through the door to see what was on the other side? Did you reach into your pocket for some change to give helping handto the poor man sitting on the sidewalk or just shove your hands in your pockets and hurry by him to get to your next appointment? Did you use some of your time to help build or repair a house for another in need or were you too intent on buying more stuff for your own house? At the end of the day, is this how you would want to end your journey?

It’s Monday and you have a whole week’s worth of life’s journey ahead of you. Set some goals for yourself that don’t involve just getting ahead and making more money. Set some goals that have to do with enjoying the journey more and making a positive difference in the lives of those that you meet along the way. Then when Saturday comes along you’ll be able to look back and fondly remember the people, the places and the events of this week’s journey. Have a great week ahead!

Making the turns in life…

February 5, 2015

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn.” ― Helen Keller

With all of the snow that we’ve had locally of late, making the turns and getting up the hills while driving has proven to be quite challenging. Life can get like that some times – a little slippery and sometimes dangerous. Sometimes life throws us curves that are hard to make. We may slip off the road and end up in the ditch for a while if we don’t watch out; afraidhowever, those curves are not the end of the road (or of life), just the end of the road (and life) going in the direction that you were used to heading.

Life is more like driving at night and perhaps in a snow storm. You can see ahead a little ways ahead in the beams of your headlights, but not all that far and there are still things lurking off both sides of the road that may jump in front of you at any minute. Few ever see accidents coming – a patch of icy road, a deer running out from the side of the road or cresting a hill and finding a stopped vehicle in front of you. Life can be like that. We just can’t see the things coming that can be sharp bends in the road of life – an illness or death in the family, the unexpected loss of a job or perhaps an unanticipated move for work-related reasons. Things happen. The road bends; but, it’s not the end and it’s how you deal with thoseremorseful turns that will dictate how you feel about life.

One can see life’s changes (bends in the road) as unsettling, dangerous and frightening, or chose to see the change in direction as an exciting adventure to somewhere that you’ve never been to before.  You can have fear or you can have fun. Whichever you choose, there’s no going back. Life doesn’t come with a reverse gear.

So, after you get over the “Oh, Crap; I didn’t see that coming” moment; how do you deal with life’s bends in the road? Do you shut down in fear or do you crank it up in anticipation of the new challenges and/or adventure. Do you get all depressed, or do you get organized and come up with a plan? Do you stop and say to yourself, “I can’t do this”; or, do you swing into action and say, “I won’t let this stop me”?

surrounded by sharksWhile it is impossible to avoid the unknown twists and turns in life or to even see them coming; it is possible to go through life with a positive attitude that better prepares you for dealing with them. You can be better prepared to deal with crises if you have already made the choice to not let FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) rule your life. You may not ever be able to change things or put them back to the way that they were, but you can choose how you will continue to go forward – how soon, how far and in what new direction.

One of the absolute keys to success in dealing with life’s twists and turns is to see them and accept them as such.  Too many people spend too much time in states of denial, rather than taking action – accepting that it happened and planning your response. Once you can look at what has happened and say to yourself, “OK, it happened, what now?”;
women looking at direction signyou are on your way to dealing with whatever it was; and more importantly, to where you are now. If you ran off the road and got off into the ditch, it’s time to pick yourself up, come up with a plan and take some action. Doing something (almost anything) is better than wallowing in the ditch off the road. There’s nothing good in that ditch, just weeds.

OK, so now you’re divorced; what now? OK, so you lost that job; what are you going to do now? OK, the boy (girl) of your dreams turned you down for the dance; what now? Take note that you are still here to ask those questions. It didn’t kill you. Most of life’s curves won’t kill you; they may just cause you some temporary pain. But what choicesnow, what comes next? Do you plan to just lay there in the ditch forever? It’s time to get up and move on. Get back on the road. I wrote a post about Problem Solving 101 last year that may help you get started back down the road. The road will be taking you in a different direction now; so, there are new things to learn, new people to meet, new adventures to live; and, oh yes, more curves ahead.

Have great day on the road of life and watch out for the curves.


The will to succeed…

February 2, 2015

The will to succeed….