Some roads are bumpier than others…

May 22, 2020

“We all enjoy a trip down memory lane as long as we can avoid the potholes.”  (Anon)

That was the quote in today’s post to the blog Jack’s Winning Words.  Pastor Jack Freed opined about focusing upon one’s happy memories, instead of dredging up all of the mistakes, missteps or other potholes that may be down your memory lane.

My wife and I often go out “Bambi spotting” in our area, usually in the large Metropark that is nearby. The park has nice roads, with only the occasional pothole. We also often leave the park via a dirt road that connects to it. On that road, the potholes are more numerous and the other “features” of gravel roads in Michigan make it quite a bit bumpier; but it is a choice that we make. Life is full of choices that take one onto bumpy roads. We don’t remember the road so much as the joy of spotting a few deer while we are on it.

Trips down memory lane should be made with out regrets. Spending  time on regrets for things long in the past is more wasteful than time spent in anxious worry about things yet to come. At least when worrying about the future, one still has the ability to change the outcome. The same is certainly not true about revisiting past failures or potholes in your memories. I have posted here a few times about forgetting things and moving on – most recent in conjunction with the Corona Virus pandemic (See https://normsmilfordblog.com/2020/05/16/let-it-go-and-move-on/)

Jack’s quote was attributed to my favorite literary family – the Anons. Many of the greatest quotes and some of history’s greatest literature has been attributed to various generations of the  Anon family.  I have also posted here in the past about them – see https://normsmilfordblog.com/2013/02/03/with-tongue-firmly-in-cheek-anon-the-worlds-greatest-writer/

Perhaps it is just all of the time that one has when spending time self-quarantining, or maybe that fact that the future is so uncertain right now; but, it does seem as if I spend more time on memory lane these days, most of it pleasant but occasionally hitting a pothole. Memorial Day weekend for many is a mixed bag when it comes to memories. There are certainly many pleasant memories of family gathering, watching parades and backyard barbeques; however, the serious side of Memorial Day for me also brings back memories of serving in Viet Nam and the friends that did not come back. I prefer to remember them fondly, rather than hit the potholes that are almost certainly there. Look for the deer in life and remember the joy of seeing them and not the bumpy road that you were on at the time.

Have a safe and smooth trip down your memory lane this Memorial Day Weekend.


Find Your Happy Place…Find God

May 20, 2020

I saw “Find Your Happy Place” on the cover of the Readers Digest that my wife gets. I didn’t read the article in that edition of the Digest, but I did Google “how to find your happy place”. It turns out that there are quite a few places called Happy Place, more than a few of which are bars or liquor stores. Hopefully you don’t find what passes for your happy place in them.

The definitions and advice that comes back when you search on finding your happy place tend to involve doing things to distract and calm your mind, to stop fretting about whatever has been worrying you and focus instead on thoughts that make you happy or that made you happy once. The advice ranged from thoughts of a place that was visually satisfying or remembering an experience that was pleasant. The take-away is that your happy place is a state of mind more than a place.

The process of finding your happy pace is like de-cluttering you r mind; getting rid of all of the thoughts and imagined bad outcomes of whatever you are facing and focusing instead on thoughts that bring happiness into focus in your mind. I have opined here many times about how our imaginations, as wonderful as they are, can take us down rat holes of implausible, yet scary, outcomes to our problems. If we let our imaginations run away with us, we end up depressed about, or terrified about, things that will never happen.

The more that I thought about the advice that was available on finding your happy place, the more that it became clear that  what you were really doing is finding your way back to God. The techniques that are recommended to clear and clam the mind just allow one to get rid of the things that were keeping them from seeing God in their life and reaffirming their trust in Him. Being in one’s happy place allows one to let go of those problems and give them to God. It is a state of mind that allows one to pray, “Not my will, but thy will be done” and to give up ownership of the problem.

In the midst of the worst situation that any of us could have imagined, it is particularly important that we make the effort to find our happy place and re-engage with God. None of us is going to solve this problem by ourselves and for many it will be the most terrible thing that they have had to endure. Yet, waiting patiently in the background, in your happy place, is our God. Find Him and you will be at peace, in your happy place, unafraid of the future.

Find your happy place today…Find God.


Let’s hope that we’ve learned…

May 18, 2020

Jack had a particularly apropos quote today in his blog – Jack’s Winning Words“Experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first and the lesson afterward.”  (Vern Law)

We are all living through the test right now and the real-time grades that we see on the news every night show that many are failing and even more are failing to learn. Even the national health official in Sweden who made the call not to impose any stay at home guidance now is saying, “Gee, I didn’t realize that so many would die.” Sweden has experienced one of the highest per capita death rates in the world because of that decision.  They were going for herd immunity and instead ended up thinning the herd.

In the United States we have seen the consequences in meat packing plants across the country of some states not taking enough precautions. We will soon see the second wave of infections due to the re-opening of many states before they were ready. The focus has now turned to testing and tracing, neither one of which we are prepared to do adequately. The models predict well over 100,000 dead by mid-June. Still, some idiots claim this is all a hoax or a plot to unseat President Trump. He certainly doesn’t need the help of this pandemic to prove that he shouldn’t be President.

I’m certain that the cooler heads of the health professionals that still exist in Washington will learn from this experience; however, they will probably not be allowed to use that new knowledge as long as the Tweeter-in-Chief is in charge. He has already chosen to ignore their advice on re-opening the country and called into question their loyalty to him every time they disagree with one of his pronouncements.

Hopefully, the experience of the last four years has taught enough of us a lesson that we take actions to apply what we have learned at the ballot box in November. We shall have to wait until after the election to start to see sanity return to the decision making process at the Federal level. Until that time, remember that we are still taking the test and what you do to protect yourself and others will determine your grade.

Stay home. Stay safe. Learn from this experience.


Stuck in phase three…

May 17, 2020

I opined here a couple of times about the four phases that I predicted the people of this country would go through in this pandemic – see post What’s Your Plan? And my second post Time for Plan B. Those posts were made in March and April, which now seems like a long time ago. The first phase I liken to the shock and awe. The second phase is fear and anxiety. The third phase is frustration and anger. The fourth phase is when one accepts the current situation (it is what it is) and begins formulating and acting upon plans to make the best of it – finding ways to get on with life.

We have been through phases 1 and 2 and many have made it through phase 3 and moved on to phase 4, which is getting creative about how to live under the changes brought about by “new normal”. However, many seem to be stuck in Phase 3, primarily those who reacted in anger, due to their frustrations. Within a large population there will also ways be a significant portion who out of ignorance, obstinacy,  anger or all three will defy whatever they are advised or ordered to do. These are many of the same people who don’t stop at stop signs, because it is inconvenient for them to have to obey our stinking laws. They run around in T-shirts with “Live Free or Die” on them, which in the case of this pandemic should be changed to Live Free AND Die.

It would be easy to dismiss them as a radical fringe that should be ignored; however, their actions put other innocent people at risk. Unfortunately, when they return from their protest rallies they mix back into society (although some are easy to spot and avoid, since they refuse to wear masks in public) and go about potentially infecting others. When they get sick, they also demand treatment just like others who took precautions. No wonder the health care workers get so disgusted by their protest actions.

As Christians, this is one of those cases where we have to swallow hard and implement the advice that we have been given to “Forgive those who trespass against us”. I’m not sure that prayer is all that effective against anger and stupidity, but it is what we have to work with; so pray for those who can’t seem to get passed phase 3. Pray that patience, understanding and concern for others will overcome their frustration and anger. Pray for them to turn the energy that they are wasting in angry protest towards figuring out how to adapt to a situation that is not likely to change or go away.  Pray for them to go on to phase 4.

If you are one of those people who find themselves stuck in phase 3, you can pray, too. Perhaps praying, “Not my will, but Thy will be done” will help you pivot away from the self-destructive frustration and anger that you feel now and allow you to refocus on what you can be doing in a positive way to move on and adapt to the situation. Perhaps prayer will also help you see that the sacrifices that you have been asked to make are not a usurpation of your freedoms, but were put in place to try to help everyone be safer and able to move forward.

Get unstuck and move on to phase 4. We need your help getting on with life, not your protests. It’s not all about you, it’s all about us and a nation.


Let it go and move on…

May 16, 2020

We keep hearing about “the new normal”; but that is because most are still clinging to the hope of returning to the past – “the old normal”.

A quote from a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Word blog comes to mind – “If you have a hard time forgetting the past, remember you can’t drive a car forward by looking into the rearview mirror.”

I’ve written here in the past about letting things go, usually about mistakes that one has made or old relationships that went awry; but, this is different. When your whole way of life is impacted by events it is harder to find a way to let go of how things were and move on with how things are. Really big events, like wars or the happening of 9/11 or pandemics can dramatically reshape our lives and take a long time to put behind us.

We do need to stop looking back at how things were and start figuring out the best way forward in our “new normal”. Many have already taken the step of procuring stylish face masks, having decided that if one has to wear a mask, it should at least be stylish or attractive. I suspect that most also carry hand sanitizer with them and take the time to sanitize often. Most are practicing some amount of social distancing and I suspect that will continue for a while. It may take a while for many of us to get comfortable in crowded spaces or to allow personal touch at places, such as barbershops and hair salons, but that will come out of necessity.

We must also deal with the permanent changes in our economy that this crisis has caused– the companies, stores and restaurants that will now be gone and the business practices that have changed. This crisis exacerbated an already troublesome trend for some merchants of people shopping on-line instead of in their stores. Many more people stayed home and shopped at Amazon, Wayfair, Chewy or other on-line stores than would have otherwise.  Many local merchants also joined the on-line trend as a way to survive during the crisis, but they will likely still depend upon local foot traffic for their future; it will just be a little different in the stores.

Restaurants were probably hardest hit, with many not expected to reopen (estimates are that between 10-15% of all restaurants will be permanently closed). Those that do reopen will present a very different look to patrons, with capacity limitations and social distancing constraints greatly impacting the dining experience. The menu’s may be the same, but “going out to eat” will never quite be the same. Still, it’s better than staying home to eat and we can still see other people – they are only 6’ away.

It can take a generation or two for these big, life-changing events to be pushed down in our consciousness to the point where we don’t think of them often. Those who lived through them seldom forget them, because they remember what life was like before them. Those born after the event have no frame of reference for how things here. For them “the new normal” is just normal.

So, here we are, about to start the “new normal”. A big first step will be putting the old normal behind us instead of continuing to look in that rear view mirror. Let it go and let’s move on.

 My, what a stylish mask you have on, where did you get that?


Blissful ignorance…

May 14, 2020

“It is sometimes easier to be happy if you don’t know everything.”  (Alexander McCall Smith) 

That was the quote in today’s installment of the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I’ll bet you know someone who is happy because they don’t know everything that’s going on around them. We sometimes call that being blissfully ignorant. In today’s technology driven world that could be someone who has no email or Facebook account and could care less. I sometimes long to join them, especially when I read some of the vitriolic posts on Facebook these days. I’ve had to “unfriend” several people on Facebook this year, when their posts, especially on politics, got out of hand.

There is another saying about knowing things that I would paraphrase, “Knowledge is power”. Some people try to use their access to knowledge on a specific subject as a power over those who don’t have that knowledge. For many years Realtors used their exclusive access to listing information as power to over would be buyers. If you wanted to know about a specific house that was for sale, you had to go to a Realtor to get that information. The Internet changed all of that. Now the real power that Realtor possess and use is their ability to help the buyers and sellers navigate through the transaction process.

One reason that blissfully ignorant people are so happy is that they don’t know what they don’t know. In addition, they could care less. We sometimes feel sorry for people with no computer skills and no access to the wonderful world of knowledge that we find there, but that is really just a self-centered feeling of superiority. “How sad for them”, we think, that they cannot enjoy all of the posts and Tweets and other electronic mumbo-jumbo that we revel in. How can one know what the weather is outside, if one cannot look at one’s phone to find out? Their reply is, “Go outside and see.” How quaint.

There is always a risk that being so disconnected and blissfully ignorant of events unfolding in the world could be dangerous. Bundled along with the trivial, meaningless or offensive content that one encounters on-line these days is also valuable information about things like the current Corona Virus pandemic and instructions on what steps to take to protect oneself. Fortunately, those who stay uber-connected usually can’t wait to find someone who is ignorant, so that they can show of how much more they know. Therefore, the word usually gets out.

Blissful ignorance is definitely different from the ignorance that is on display in Washington; especially that of Senator Rand Paul and our Tweeter-in-Chief about the recent Senate hearings on the guidance being given by health authorities  for reopening  the country. There is a difference between ignorance and malevolence that is often lost in Washington.  

If you know or encounter someone who is blissfully ignorant, just leave them that way. It is not your duty in life to make them as miserably intelligent as you are by pointing out to them all of the things that you know that they should be worrying about. If it makes you happier, just add your concern about their ignorance to your list of things that you are worrying about. Alternatively, you could just forget about it yourself and be a little more blissfully ignorant.

Maybe we can change the Bobby McFerrin song to be, “Don’t know about it, Be happy.”


A test of patience and resolve…

May 12, 2020

The Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote today – “How long is a minute?  It depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.” 

Our recent collective experience with the COVID-19 pandemic has really been a test of our patience and resolve as a people and many have failed that test miserably. For many it really depended upon which side of the economic-impact “door” they were on when the crisis hit. Some had the wherewithal to withstand an interruption in their normal revenue stream and others did not. Many entered this crisis already in “barely hanging on” mode in their business or life and for them any interruption was bound to be devastating. Others either had sufficient reserves to whether the storm or they were able to work from home without an interruption of their pay.

The problems caused by the business interruptions was exacerbated by the almost total failure of the systems that state governments had in place to deal with job loss benefits. Michigan was particularly ill prepared and its unemployment system failed the State’s population miserably. The effort at the Federal level was similarly flawed as many still await their so-called “stimulus checks” over two months into the crisis. The bright spots that have been reported, such as community food banks stepping up, were primarily driven at the grass-roots level and not by any government actions.

Further straining our patience and resolve were the cretins who came out from under various rocks to put forth their conspiracy theories and claim that the whole thing is a hoax. It wears one down to have to continually deal with such stupidity, but it provided all of the cover that many needed to justify their defiance of the advice of health and governmental leaders. Most of them were on the other side of the economic door to begin with and needed only a little push to join the dark side.

One of the things that it was very easy to get impatient with is the messaging that we are bombarded with in the media. Everyone is here for us. We are all in this together. These are uncertain times. This is an unprecedented experience for us all. Yada, yada, yada. You would think that someone in those high-priced ad agencies could come up with a different message – one that doesn’t sound like a repeat of what everyone else is saying. Just say, “This sucks” and then provide a message of hope and patience.

We have now entered the “re-opening America” phase at the national and most states level. We will soon see stories of the virus reappearing and new “hot spots” developing in states that reopened first. Have we become conditioned, perhaps numbed, to a nightly body-count report and impatient enough to accept that report and the risk that we will become personally involved in the statistics? We have been through this kind of numbing experience and loss of national resolve before as a nation – the Viet Nam war comes immediately to mind and more recently the wars in the Middle East. We’ll probably even see some entrepreneurial merchant start selling “I survived COVID-19” t-shirts this summer.

As has happened in our national politics, we have quickly separated into the two camps. There are those who are cautious and concerned about the disease, willing to head the advice to stay away from others until it subsides ; and those who are impatient and perhaps unconvinced that the disease is a real threat and who want to (they say need to) get back to work. It is unfortunate that the camp that is willing to take that risk is able to do so only by putting us all at risk and finds comfort and support in messages from our Head Tweeter in Charge.

We all have a choice to make, again. One can regain their resolve and re-set their patience to wait this thing out in safety or one can go get a haircut and join the crowds at the newly reopened malls and hope that it was all an overblown hoax. It must sadden (perhaps anger) the brave men and women in the health care industry who have lived through caring for the first wave of this disease to see the second wave so eager to join the statistics.

The choice is yours to make. As for me, I’ll be at home praying for you to be safe.