Another year…another Halloween

October 31, 2022

For whatever reason that I cannot fathom, each year Halloween seems to be the day that serves to mark the passing of another year for me. It has been a very cold night for the past few years, although not so much tonight, if the weather holds to the forecast.

Halloween is the night when kids dress up and pretend that they are their favorite adult heroes (real or imagined) and when adults can dress up and pretend that they are children again. It has become the second biggest retail event of the year after Christmas, with candy, costumes and home decorations raking in millions of dollars.

And, while we still have all of the scary skeletons, ghosts and ghouls decorating our homes, Halloween has shifted from a scary night into a fun night for most. Casper the Friendly Ghost and Scooby Do grace as many lawns as Frankenstein these days. That’s a good thing. We certainly have enough scary stuff going on in the world with hunger, homelessness, pandemics and wars going on. We need a little comic relief and a good laugh.

I’ve even noticed over the last few Halloweens that the traditional greeting from kids of “Trick or Treat” is usually followed by “Happy Halloween.” That’s a good thing, too.

So, tonight I’ll mark another year handing out candy and saying Happy Halloween to our little visitors. None of us will be afraid tonight. What’s really frightening is what’s coming next week on November 8th. One has only to watch the constant negative TV ads to become very scared. It would seem from the ads that no matter which candidate we vote far we will be electing lying, cheating and dishonest scumbags who will lead us into oblivion. Now that’s scary. Maybe we should write in Scooby Do for some of those political positions.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Stop and listen first…

October 25, 2022

A couple of quotes that I’ve saved seem to go together to make a good point about listening.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  (Stephen Covey)

“The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.” (Keanu Reeves)

Today’s politicians in both major parties seem to have gone beyond Covey’s observation. They not only are not listening to each other’s point of view or concerns but are also not waiting to reply. They are just trying to shout each other down.

The seemingly lost art of compromise requires that both sides listen and try to understand the differences that exist and then try to find a way to satisfy at least some of the concerns of the other side. One must first listen and then try to understand before replying or working towards a compromise.

Covey’s point in particular points out the issue that ego brings into the picture. It starts with the thought “I am right, and I need for you to see and admit that”. That is the impetus behind the intent to reply. If we start instead from the position “I hadn’t considered that point of view before, let me think about that”, it might allow us to have a civil discourse that could lead to compromise.

If your immediate reaction is “Why should I consider the other persons point of view? It is obviously wrong”; then stop and realize that you are a part of the problem and not the solution. Take Reeves advice and pay attention, not to reply but in order to understand.

Some points of view that you may encounter are so alien to your own way of thinking that it is easy to dismiss them as crackpot or too extreme. The task then is not so much to understand the point of view (that may be impossible) but, rather, to understand what is motivating or driving that point of view.

If you pay attention, you may find that fear is the key driver in many, if not all, very extreme points of view. Fear of loss of power, money or control. Fear of the unknown or misunderstood. Fear drives bigotry. Fear drives homophobia. Fear drives misogyny. Fear drives misinformation and conspiracy theories. The anger that you may encounter is just a reaction to those fears.

Trying to understand what the person with whom you are talking is afraid of changes the dynamics of the conversation and allows a path to compromise by allaying those fears. If one starts from the position of “what would it take to lessen your fears and make you more comfortable with this situation or person?”, you are at least on the path towards compromise. You can find that path if you pay attention and listen to understand rather than to reply.

Some of the best listeners that I’ve encountered also make the best conversationists. Conversations with them are satisfying and rewarding because they listen and explore your comments with questions or remarks that bring out more from you. They seem to be more interested in what you will say next than in what they will say next. Somehow that makes what they will say next all the more interesting.

So, take the advice of our quotes today and pay attention. Listen not to reply but to understand. Reply with a question, not a retort. Consider that there may be alternatives to your current point of view.  Understand the underlying fears that may be motivating the other person. Look for the path to a possible compromise.

Stop and listen first.

Can’t stop it…gotta love it…

October 24, 2022

I received this graphic today in a daily feed that I get for my real estate business. I have to admit that the word “love” is not the first thing that comes to mind for me when confronted with change. Fear, maybe. Anxiety, certainly. Excitement, maybe. But love – not really.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever see change as beautiful; however, I am trying to deal with the inevitability of change is a better way than fear or anxiety. Perhaps the excitement factor of change is the aspect that would allow us to love it. Heading into unknown waters with a sense of wonder and excitement allows us to put aside our fears and refocus on making the real-time decisions needed in the moment. The old saw – Live in the Moment- is essentially living through the changes, big and small, that are constantly occurring in our lives.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that life without changes can get boring pretty fast. We need changes to keep us challenged and motivated. We also need it to keep learning. Life is not a boring straight line. It is full of twists and turns, of things unexpected and things not turning out as planned. Many of those things can be humorous (witness the success of the America’s Funniest Home Videos TV show) and all of them provide learning opportunities.

walking man

Changes may take old friends out of our lives, but they also bring new friends into it. Changes may redirect our careers, sometimes ending one only to provide the start to another. We may see changes as good or bad but in reality, they are just things that are different. We can’t stop changes, so we might as well get used to them and get on with our new lives. We might not love change but we can’t stop living due to change. Maybe we should start each day with the thought, “Well this is different. What good can I do with this?” Seeing change as an exciting challenge each day may help you get over your fears or anxiety and help you focus on meeting those challenges and you’ve got to love that.

Change. Can’t stop it…gotta love it!

What about the thorns?

October 20, 2022

I saw this quote, some time ago in the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Anyone can love a rose, but it takes a lot to love a leaf.  It’s ordinary to love the beautiful, but it’s beautiful to love the ordinary.”  (Unknown)

It is true that it is easier to love the rose than it is to think enough about the leaf to love it, too. Life has many more leaves than roses, but we tend to just look past them and focus upon the roses – the beautiful things and people that we encounter in our lives or that we strive to achieve.

But what about the things that are not only not beautiful, but perhaps even painful in life – the thorns that we encounter. If there is beauty in loving the ordinary in life, maybe there is even more beauty in leaning to love the thorns.

Both the leaves and the thorns are an integral part of the rose bush that produces the roses, just as the ordinary, day-to-day things that we experience and even the painful or hurtful things that we endure are a part of life. We must learn to love them, too.

Most of the “thorns” that we experience in life are not necessarily harmful or painful; they are just things that didn’t turn out the way we had hoped or envisioned that they would. They may be failures or disappointments or even rejections.

Just like the experience of grabbing a rose stem the wrong way teaches us about thorns and causes us to use a different approach the next time, we also learn from the life thorns that we encounter. “How we handle what’s ahead of us will be determined by what we learned from everything that’s behind us.”  (Craig Lounsbrough)

I’m not sure that we can ever learn to love the thorns that we encounter in life; however, we can decide to learn from them to make the road ahead a little less bumpy and dangerous – a little more beautiful. We can accept them and learn from them.

I find it sadly interesting that it seems to be easier to focus upon and love the ordinary and even the thorns in life once one gets older. When we are young, we are so focused and consumed with the pursuit of “getting ahead” in life (the roses that we are reaching for) that we don’t take the time to appreciate the ordinary (the leaves), much less to love the thorns.

I’m not sure that love is the right way to describe the ability to accept and learn from life’s thorns. Perhaps “appreciate” is a better description of the change that occurs as we get older or maybe just “accept” works best. One stops taking life for granted and becomes thankful for each day – for the ordinary and even for the thorns that come along with the day.

So, go ahead and stop and smell the roses, but also pause to appreciate the leaves and even to accept the thorns.  They are all part of this wonderful journey called life. What will you learn from today?

Take the chance to change today…

October 17, 2022

It’s Monday, so you have a new chance to, and a new week in which to, change your life. Every day and every week start with a blank map to where you will end up. Each change that you consciously make changes the trajectory of your life, no matter how small.

There was an attention-grabbing story in the new recently about the crashing of a small spacecraft into a huge asteroid in order to see how that might change the trajectory of the asteroid. The experiment was conducted to see if we might be able to prevent a collision of an asteroid with earth by altering its path. The experiment was deemed a success and pointed to a way to protect Earth from possible cataclysmic asteroid strikes like those thought to have killed off the dinosaurs.  

I bring that up because people often think that they must make big changes to their lives all at once in order to change their trajectories. That is not true, but it prevents many from even trying. The fact is that we can effect big changes by doing a series of little things, each of which provides a nudge away from what seemed to be our old destiny.

I think a key is found in believing the message in today’s graphic that each day brings a new opportunity to change your life is some way, no matter how small. Those changes will add up over time.

Perhaps the change that you make will be to smile and say hello to a stranger today. That doesn’t sound like much, but that smile, and greeting could make a big difference in that person’s day and you making the effort will make a difference in your day. That difference will nudge you in a new direction.

Just taking the time each morning to think about making some small change in your life will result in changes to what might have happened during the day. It also changes you from being into reactive mode to a more pro-active mode. That in itself will change your life.

So, take the chance to change today. Think about it and then make it happen. Welcome to the new you!

Give yourself some credit…

October 15, 2022

In my church we take time at the beginning of each service to ask for forgiveness for “things that we have done and those things that we have left undone.” I have posted here in the past about the things left undone. The things that we have done that are wrong needs little definition, although sometimes we need help “seeing” those things as wrong.

But what about taking time to reflect and celebrate those things that we did right and the good things that we have accomplished in life. Why do we take so much time focusing upon the negative and not very much on the positives of our lives? There is little or no time set aside for that. I’m not talking about being modest about your accomplishments or not bragging about a success or win in life. Too many of the accomplishments that we have in life go unrecognized even by ourselves. Give yourself some credit.

The parents who successfully raised their children and sent them off in the world prepared to be responsible adults (and those still working on that) should stop and congratulate themselves for a job well done. That was hard work involving a great deal of self-sacrifice that you better than anyone else understand. Congratulate yourself and feel good about that accomplishment. Give yourself some credit.

Individuals who see injustice or prejudice being practiced in schools or in the workplace and who stand up to it need to stop and congratulate themselves for not passively remaining silent or for ignoring those practices. If nothing else, you have exposed those practices and you need to feel good about that. Those who try to ridicule you for being “woke” to those wrongs are a part of the problem. Congratulate yourself for not still being asleep to those wrongs. Give yourself some credit.

Those who volunteer at local non-profits organizations, at community food banks or for events in their communities like parades or festivals seldom expect or get the praise that they deserve, but those events and those community non-profit organizations would not be possible without them. Stop and feel good about yourself for being a volunteer in your community or church. Give yourself some credit.

Sometimes the accomplishment that needs to be celebrated it is just through living your life in such a way that others might be inspired to make changes in their lives by seeing what you are doing. Take time to congratulate yourself for that and to reinforce the resolve to continue down that path in life. Give yourself some credit.

There will be plenty of time to get done the things that you still want to do and perhaps change some things in your life to correct some wrongs; but, for now, take a moment to think about all that you have accomplished to get here and congratulate yourself. You deserve it. Give yourself some credit.

Who lost sight of who?

October 13, 2022

A September post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote-

“Thank you, Lord for seeing me.  It’s so easy to get lost these days in the shuffle and the noise.”    (George Beverly Shea song)

My immediate thought was, who really got lost? It wasn’t God who lost track of you; it was you who let the noises of the day distract you away from God. Thankfully God never loses track of us and is always there when we need Him.

This morning as I was scrolling through the daily news feed that shows up on my computer, I noticed a story about God being in our DNA, or at least the concept of God being inherent in humans. It went into a deep scientific explanation of the very universal human tendency to come to a conclusion that God exists. One has only to Google the question, “Does God exist” to see the vast library of articles and scientific papers that have been written on the topic.

Of course, the faster way to answer that question is to get down on your knees and ask God directly. Once you empty your mind of all other thoughts and block out the noise of the world, the whisper in the back of your mind that is God’s way of communicating with you becomes clear.

So, take some time each day to just stop the shuffle and block out the noise of the world and just talk to God. Let down your shields, turn off your ego, drop the pretense of being in charge of things and say the little prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”. God sees you. God hears you. Listen and you will also hear Him.

Have a great day. You’re in good hands and it’s not Allstate.

Create yourself…

October 12, 2022

I like the graphic below that was in an email that I got recently…

Create yourself graphic

I think too many people (especially the young) wander around in life professing that they are trying to “find themselves”. That is such a passive cop-out to making the effort required to be (create) yourself. Life isn’t just a passive thing that you just experience as it happens. Living is an active verb and to live life to the fullest one must take actions to make it what you want it to be. Create yourself.

If you want life to be more interesting and fulfilling, you must do things that are more interesting and fulfilling, to create a “you” that is more interesting and fulfilled. That is an active approach to life. Another cop-out is allowing yourself to be labeled and then accepting those labels and allowing them to dictate your life. That seems to me to be surrendering to a “victim” complex about life – the “poor me, life is so unfair” approach. Don’t go there. Create yourself.

A key to taking a more active, positive and fulfilling view of life is to first accept the wisdom of this quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog today – “One of the happiest moments in life is when you have the courage to let go of what you can’t change.”  (Lessons Learned in Life, Inc) Have courage. Create yourself.

Many of us (I too often must include myself in this group) spend entirely too much time wrestling with issues or problems that we cannot change, especially in remorse over things that have already happened. It’s over, let it go and move on. Learn from the past, don’t dwell in it.  Create yourself.

Some spend so much time worrying about possible negative outcomes of future events that they don’t have time for the here and now. If we let worry about possible negative outcomes stop us from acting, we will be forever stuck in the past. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  (T.S. Eliot) Create yourself.

Perhaps if one starts each day with some new goal in mind – maybe making a new friend or trying a new food or going to a new place – you will find at the end of the day that you have created a new person, one with new experiences and knowledge. A new you. Try it.

Forget about finding yourself. Create yourself.

Forgive yourself…free yourself…move on…

October 8, 2022

Every so often I see a series of quotes on a topic that just seem to make sense when put together, Such was the case this morning in an email that contained a series of quotes by separate people on the topic of letting go of things.

All I had to do was to arrange them in the proper order and they made perfect sense.

You have two choices: to control your mind or to let your mind control you. – Paulo Coelho

“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” – Steve Maraboli

You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending. – James R. Sherman

Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future. The past is closed and limited; the future is open and free. – Deepak Chopra

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forgiveness is just another name for freedom. – Byron Katie

Forgive yourself…free yourself…move on. – Norm Werner

Have a great new beginning. Move on and enjoy the brand new outcome.

Work at it…

October 7, 2022

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” (Mister Rogers)

My children grew up watching Mr. Rogers, so I ended up watching a lot of it, too. I like this piece of advice from Fred Rogers because it correctly states a fact about love that is oft overlooked. Society has too often accepted the idealized notion that we “fall in love”. I have learned over time that love is not a passive thing that one falls into. Love must be worked at to be successful. A big part of that effort is the acceptance of the things that one might wish were different about the person that they love. Work at it.

Couples whom you might know who appear to have loving successful relationships do not live in some dream world of perfection; instead, they have worked at understanding and accepting each other. They have found ways, not to overlook their partner’s faults (if that is even the right way to express differences) but to accept them and go on with life. Work at it.

The young often mistake physical attraction and sexual pleasures for love, but both change over time and if there is not more to the relationship the result is most often divorce. I often hear from loving couples that their partner is also their best friend – the person that they most enjoy being around and the one person that they can count on. Those are people who have worked at love. Work at it.

Trust, openness, sharing, and acceptance are all parts of what makes up a successful relationship – a loving relationship. Those things are only possible once both partners start accepting the other as they are. Work at it.

There is a quote attributed to the late Queen Elizabeth II – “Grief is the price we pay for love.” Grief is a past-tense way of looking at love. I would submit that a present-tense way of looking at love is – “Acceptance is the price we pay for love.” Love is an active, living thing that must be worked at to be successful. Work at it.

I cannot complete my thoughts on this topic without touching upon abusive relationships. In those cases, it is a big mistake to accept that abusive behavior or to believe that you can somehow change that partner. An even bigger mistake is believing that it somehow your fault that you are being abused. The only thing that is your fault is staying in that relationship. Get out and get on with life. The love that you are seeking to share will not be found in that type of relationship. Life will never be perfect, but it does not have to be abusive. Work on it.