Have a good laugh…

July 13, 2020

“People who have a sense of humor get through life more comfortably than those who don’t.”  (Carl Reiner)

That was the quote that Jack used in a recent post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Life without a sense of humor must be a mentally desolate place to live. There are certainly many things in life that are serious matters, but a life spent focused only upon only the dangers or sadness or anxiety in life is one that is usually shorter and much less satisfying than a life filled with humor and laughter. My wife and I often say in the midst of some calamity or setback that we’ll look back on this someday and laugh. Just saying that to each other is usually enough to lighten the moment.

The quick smile or laughter involved with turning something into a humorous thought is enough to break the grip of the tension that being too serious brings with it. You can actually feel your body letting go of the tension. Some people use other techniques, such as yoga to deal with that tension. It is the ability to refocus yourself away from the thoughts that are causing that tension that really makes them work.

There is an old bit of wisdom that states that when we are confronted with a threat or defensive response may be characterized as “fight or flight”. Do we turn to face and fight the threat or do we take flight to avoid it? Perhaps those with a good sense of humor find a way to get a laugh out of the situation. For them the situation may be defused by seeing the absurdity in it or in their reaction to it. How many times have you been frightened by a surprise happening, only to laugh at it, or your reaction to it, when you finally see that it is not the scary thing that you initially thought it was – like a baby with a Jack-in-the-box?

The death of a loved one or friend would seem to be the last place that one could find relief from grief through humor; yet, it is in the telling of stories, many of them recounting humorous events during  the deceased one’s life, that we find comfort. Those stories of good times often involved things that were laughed at and enjoyed together.

People who can laugh at themselves are especially blessed because they can also forgive themselves. Being down on yourself all the time is a sure recipe for depression. We all make mistakes or do stupid things every now and then. Being able to step back and say to yourself, “boy, that was really stupid” and then having a good laugh at your own expense is a great way to let yourself off the hook and go on with life. Those who cannot do so are destined for a life of self-inflicted misery.

So, lighten up people.  Find your sense of humor. Life is too short to spend it in a gloomy mood. Go to a mirror and make a funny face at yourself. Then say aloud, “Look at that dork!” Have a good laugh! That dork will be a happier person.

A year of great discontent…

July 11, 2020

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, pastor Freed used this very apropos quote – “Progress is not created by contented people.”  (Frank Tyger)

One does not need to be a scholar or history buff to know that most, if not all, of the changes (both large and small) that have happened in America grew out of someone’s discontent with the status quo. Even at our beginning as a new nation, many in what became known as America were content to be subjects of England and the rule of the English King. Throughout our history as a nation is has been discontent that changed the course of that history. Our discontent with staying put on the eastern side of the continent took the form of “Manifest Destiny” that drove explorers (and later settlers) westward. Discontent with the immorality of slavery eventually led to the Emancipation Proclamation. Later, discontent with the social, legal and economic situation that had evolved in the nation, mostly in the southern regions of the country, led to the Civil Rights Movement. It could be said that man’s discontent with being stuck on the surface of our planet led to the creation of aviation and later space flight and our moon landing. There are tons of other examples and all were driven by someone’s discontent with the existing situation.

The word “content” is relatively benign. It means – “in a state of peaceful happiness”. For some who do not see the problems at hand, that may actually mean “in a state of blissful ignorance”. For others is more of a state of “resigned acceptance” of things that are wrong. A lack of concern about anyone but ourselves can lead to a state of numbness or callousness about the events happening around us. Others may take offense at any disturbance of their otherwise serene and prosaic environment.

The year 2020 is proving to be a year of great discontent. The discontent over the sexual exploitation of women in the educational, entertainment and business worlds carried over from 2019, with almost weekly exposures of new grievances. The jarring changes mandated by state governments in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic caused great discontent and exposed a long-festering rebellion against government authority and the basic concepts of society by groups on the fringes of society. Discontent boiled over into the streets in matters of race and inequality of opportunity in America. While the trigger for the protests in the street was the murder of a black man in Minnesota, the underlying discontent was with the continued and pervasive racial biases that dictate the day-to-day lives of people of color in America.

What will come out of all of this discontent? The hope is that changes will be made at a systemic level. Changes will be required to laws that support the bad behavior; but more importantly, changes will be required at the personal level. It really doesn’t matter if the law says it is illegal to discriminate, if we still do that in our hearts and minds at every encounter with someone different from us. That change will take longer and is impossible to legislate. Real change starts with you and with me. We must become discontented with not only the things that are happening around us that we know are wrong, but with our reaction (or lack of reaction) to those things. As I have opined here a few times, it is those “things left undone” that we must pray for forgiveness about, as well as the things that we may have done.

If you are to “love thy neighbor as yourself” you cannot start from a position of fear, hate and bias. Be discontented with that state of mind and seek to change it. Do not become satisfied and content with a state of affairs that positions you in comfort and safety while leaving many of those around you in poverty and despair. Take no comfort from your good fortune while ignoring the needs of your neighbors. Inequities are at the root of many of the problems that are causing the discontent that we see in our society right now – inequities of positional power or economics or opportunity. The systemic changes that are need must be aimed at identifying and righting those inequities.

If Tyger was right, this should be a year of great change, since it is already a year of great discontent. Let’s all look for the good that can come out of this discontent.

Buying A Home For Your Needs Today And In The Future

July 8, 2020

This is a guest article from Patrick Young. As a Realtor, I am often asked about homes that can accommodate people with disabilities, especially those who must use wheelchairs. This article offers good, practical advice for people with disabilities who may be looking for a new home.

If you have a disability or are entering your senior years and are concerned about your future mobility, one of your biggest concerns might be your home. When it is already difficult to maneuver, it may be time to look for a more accessible living arrangement to ensure your quality of life. But finding a home is already difficult. When you add in the need for accessibility, house hunting becomes a daunting quest.

What is an accessible home?

An accessible home means different things to different people. The core of the definition, however, is a house with certain features that make living there easier. People with wheelchairs, for example, may need a home with no stairs and a special inclined ramp at the entryway. Dreamscape Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities, notes that modifications may be as simple as handicap grab bars.

Long-term goals

Before deciding what accommodations you need when you’re looking for your new home, it is wise to determine if living in a single-family residence or apartment is the best option. If you are a senior citizen with current health problems, consider exploring the option of assisted living. These are mobility-friendly apartments in a community environment, and they are explicitly designed to improve independence. You’ll also receive services such as meal preparation and possibly access to a fitness center, barbershop, and planned activities.

Keep in mind, however, that no two facilities are alike. Be open to touring several different places so that you can confirm both the services they provide and the environment. Ask for pricing during your tour, but keep in mind these can change. Also, know that you might be asked to pay a deposit or prepay your first month’s rent before moving in.

Moving on

If you decide that assisted living is not for you, there are several things to keep in mind as you look for your next home. One of these is the home’s price. Before choosing an area to move to, be sure to research local real estate trends and prices (e.g., the average sale price for a home in Milford is $560,000).

You’ll also need to consider the home’s age. Older homes were not designed with aging in place in mind. In recent years, however, many home builders have started looking at the principles of universal design when creating new housing developments.

The Universal Design Living Laboratory explains that there are seven principles of universal design. These are equitable use, flexibility, perceptibility, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and having the right size and space for each user. Get to know each and how they can work for you.

Once you are acquainted with universal design, you can ask the right questions. When you find a home you might like, ask the following questions before scheduling a visit:

  • Are the doors wide enough for a wheelchair?
  • How will I enter and exit?
  • Can I reach all of the switches and outlets?
  • Does it have a main-level bedroom plus a bath or shower that I can get into and out of easily?
  • What is the parking situation?
  • Does the home have or can it be outfitted with door handles instead of knobs?

Your real estate agent can help you get answers to these and any other questions you might have.

Financial matters

When you have a lot of needs but you are on a fixed income, you may need some assistance paying for your new home or for modifications to make it more accessible (disability remodeling averages $9,000). Bankrate explains that there are a few programs that might be able to help. This includes the Homeownership Voucher Program through HUD, Fannie Mae HomeChoice, and Habitat for Humanity. Further, if you are a veteran, you may have financial assistance available through the Veterans Affairs Specially Adapted Housing grant program.

While this is not a comprehensive guide to buying an accessible home, it should serve as a starting point. You can read more real estate tips by checking out the blog The Milford Real Estate Scene. Take the time to get to know your needs, and don’t forget to consider the future. Everyone deserves a comfortable place to call home, but it is up to you to decide where, exactly, that will be.

(NOTE: You may see more by Patrick at his blog – Ableusa.info or contact him at patrickyoung@ableusa.info)

What is the new normal? It is simple.

July 7, 2020

Pastor Jack Freed used this quote this morning in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Everything is simple.”  (Mike Corrao)

Jack when on to write about keeping things simple and not overthinking things. He used the example of how a child might think about things – simple and straightforward, without the guile that comes with age. He also cited the words of Jesus – “Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 18:9-17)

The point is that, in order to keep things simple, we need to avoid overthinking them and loading them up with interpretations, conspiracy theories and other mental baggage that are just figments of our imagination. We must accept things as they are and as they happen and then adjust our lives to fit the situation. Changing the way things are is not an option. Changing the way we react to things is within our power.

We hear a lot about the “new normal” these days, on the news shows and in conversations. We also see quite a few stories about people who are trying to deny or resist the changes that are required to live normally these days – those who refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing is the name of personal freedom.

One might logically ask, what is “normal”? The dictionary defines it as “the usual, average, or typical state or condition”. The thing is that normal is, and always will be, a moving target. What was normal yesterday will not necessarily define what is normal today.  A simple example is how we dress each day. “Normal” dress during the summer months is quite different from that which is expected and normal during the winter months.

The reason that we seldom notice and rail against most of the changes to our normal lives is that those changes usually take place over an extended period. We have time to adjust. Certain events like deaths often happen suddenly and without warning and they do disturb our normal lives. Many changes are so small that we don’t perceive how our lives have changed to accommodate them or we have time to adjust our reactions to those changes.

Then there is a pandemic and everything changes rapidly and greatly. Our “normal” lives are turned upside down and nothing feels normal anymore. What are we to do? Perhaps the advice that Jesus was trying to convey provides the answer. We must become like children, accept the changes and go on with life. Trying to resist the change that COVID-19 has brought with it is both futile and harmful. Those who refuse to accept it, refuse to wear masks in public and refuse to social distance as a means of keeping others safe are like the little child who throws a fit when things don’t go his or her way. Central to their behavior is their absolute self-centered refusal to be concerned for the safety and well-being of others.

Jesus told us that we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39), not that we must love ourselves above our neighbors. Not practicing the safety measures that our health experts have recommended to keep others safe is a sure sign that we are not heading Jesus message. Wearing a mask and social distancing is not about you; it is about committing to the safety of those around you – it is about loving your neighbors. It is simple. It is about doing what is right.

So, what is our new normal? It is all of the things that are expected of us to fulfill our roll as part of a society and not as an anarchy of individuals. It is showing love and respect for our neighbors by doing the things that have been recommended to keep us all safe. It is being childlike in our acceptance of the changes required in our daily lives without throwing childlike fits when those changes make reasonable demands upon us. It is acting upon the words of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves and doing our part to keep them safe.

It really is simple.  It is the new normal.

A self-inflicted wound…

July 6, 2020

This morning I read a story posted by an American Ex-pat who currently lives in France (see Do Americans Understand How Badly They’re Doing?). The story was focused upon the difference between the coordinated, national-level measures that European Countries have taken to control and contain the Corona Virus vs. the chaotic and rudderless efforts in the United States. The U.S. ranks with Brazil in the out-of-control spread of the pandemic – see chart.

By The New York Times | Source: Johns Hopkins University

I posted about that last week – see How Embarrassing. One phrase that the author used that seems to apply to the response to both the pandemic and to the lack of national leadership that is contributing to the unfolding disaster is “self-inflicted wound”.  Indeed POTUS could easily switch out his MAGA logo on his red baseball caps with Self-Inflicted Wound and they would immediately become much more meaningful and accurate.

Several states that rushed to reopen have also discovered that they have caused self-inflicted wounds upon their populations. The southern and western states that reopened everything are now having to backtrack and take measures that were obvious from the get-go – closing venues where large, unruly crowns might gather and requiring masks in enclosed spaces. It is only a matter of time until regulation or common sense causes the airlines that decided to fully pack their planes to back off that decision. No one in his or her right mind would get onto a fully loaded plane.  

I also posted here last week about the lack of will that American have displayed in dealing with this crisis – see Felled by a lack of patience and resolve. What I did not state strongly enough was the devastating impact of not only a lack of leadership sat the national level, but indeed a leadership that seems to be only concerned with political survival. This is a self-inflicted wound on America; but, it is one that we can  correct in November. We need only hope that our Tweeter-in-Chief’s self-aggrandizing and delusional leadership is kept somewhat in check until then. One can also hope that his Senate toady Mitch McConnell stands proudly at attention saluting and goes down with that ship.

Until November we will all have to watch the embarrassment unfold on the nightly news as POTUS keeps claiming what a great job he is dong and the successful countries of the world keep their borders closed to Americans. I guess it is good in one way that we can’t ravel to those countries, since we would be subjected to their laughter and derision about our self-inflicted wound.

What would you see?

July 5, 2020

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “I want to meet myself from someone else’s point of view.”  (Converse shoe ad)

It is very difficult for anyone to take an objective look at himself or herself. Every now and then, I’ll see a picture that someone else took of me and maybe posted on social media and it always surprises me that I look like the picture. I know it is m;, but, it is not how I picture myself in my mind. I’m not sure what veil of ego or deception I pull over my eyes when I look in a mirror, but somehow I don’t quite see what the camera saw.

Of more importance than our physical appearance to others, it is the “person” that others see that would be most interesting to understand. Do they see the thoughtful, honest and kind person that I think I am; or, do they see someone different?  Do vestiges of prejudice or racism somehow show through the façade that I may think I am displaying? Do the overt actions that I am taking sufficiently cover the nagging fears or uncertainties that persist in the recesses of my mind? What would I “see” if I could see me from the viewpoint of others?

An interesting observation that I have shared here before is that most people don’t realize how uninviting or even threatening their “at rest” facial appears can be to others.  When we are not overtly trying to smile or even to frown, our faces settle into a relaxed or “at rest” state. Our face sags a bit and our lips droop, sometimes turning into a frown. For many it just looks like we are being serious about something, but for some, our continence takes on a look of anger or disgust. To find to what your at rest face looks like have someone take pictures of you when you are not expecting it and not doing anything in particular. You may be surprised.

Physical appearances aside, the person that others “see” is heavily influenced by things like what you say and how you talk, as well as the thing that you actually do. How differently do you see (judge) people who use good English and can talk in complete sentences verses those who punctuate their conversation with vapid verbal fillers, such as “like” or “you know”. How much more attention do you pay to the words of a person who is able to express themselves well verses those who couch everything they say in slang or vulgarity. What would I see if I were able to listen to myself as others do? Would I be likely to believe what I am hearing, at least accept it as a reasonable, albeit different point of view, or just dismiss it as the ravings of an ignorant person?

While it is impossible to really see yourself as others see you, there is value in pausing every now and then to examine one’s position on matters that are occurring in our lives. We are seldom self-aware enough to really understand what is motivating our actions and decisions unless we take that pause and think about it. As I have opined here in the past, we use a prayer for forgiveness in our church service that asks God for forgiveness for the things that we have done and those that we have left undone. We may be more aware of why we do the things that we do, but less aware of the things that we leave undone for reasons that we just don’t think about. The man begging on the street that I did not stop to help sees the things that I left undone, not the many good things that I may have done.

As you pause and try to understand what is motivating your actions and reactions, you may catch glimpses of what others “see” in you. If you don’t like what you see, it’s time to make changes. See the post, “What to change to make real change”.

I’ll be seeing you.

How embarrassing…

July 1, 2020

On last night’s national news it was reported that the United States has been listed as a travel banned country by the European Union, due to our inability to bring the Corona Virus under control in our country. How embarrassing is that? To be lumped in with Russia and Brazil as countries without the political will, resolve or discipline within their populations to stop the spread of this pandemic. You really can’t blame them. See my post from yesterday – Felled by a lack of patience…

The American traveling public earned the nickname “Ugly Americans” from the title of a 1958 book by authors William Lederer and Eugene Burdick, due to their arrogant and entitled behavior when traveling abroad. Now, perhaps the “Contagious Americans” or “Stupid Americans” might better fit. The news report said that Europeans are appalled by the scenes that they see on their news shows of Americans ignoring all health rules and congregating in public. Our skyrocketing infection rate and climbing death rate are proof to them of our selfish disregard for the well-being of others.

Probably as strange to them is the total lack of national leadership on this issue from our Tweeter-in-Chief and his band of clowns in Washington. No other country in the world, including many developing nations that are well ahead of us on this issue, has as vapid a group of so-called leaders at the top of their governments. And, the response from fearless leader was “So I told them to slow down the testing.”

Now, we find ourselves banned from travel to countries that have taken effective, if sometimes painful, steps to contain the pandemic. While in the Wild, Wild West of America, POTUS worries about how he looks in a mask and frets that people are wearing them just to slight him. How pathetic is that?  Instead of a slogan built upon the initials MAGA, perhaps we should use SEA – Stop Embarrassing America. The good news is that we will have the opportunity to make a SEA change in November.