What will you do with your opportunities today?

October 16, 2019

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog come s this tidbit of wisdom – “The world is full of abundance and opportunity.  Too many come with a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel.”  (Ben Sweetland) 

This refers to the preverbal “toe in the water” approach to life and the opportunities that we encounter. Far too many allow their fear of failure prevent them from even trying, when opportunity knocks at their door.  Others may be held back by prejudices or misunderstanding, especially in opportunities that require that we interact with someone who is “different.”

The opportunities to know someone else are abundant for most. Just think about the number of people that you encounter during a normal day. Do you come with a teaspoon to those opportunities or do you embrace them whole-heartedly with a steam shovel, open-arms approach? What are your first thoughts when encountering someone new? Are they questions about who they are, where they come from and what fascinating things you might learn from them? Perhaps they are thoughts of fear or distrust and perhaps even hate, because of how they look? Do you go in the offensive to welcome and greet them or put up your defenses to avoid or put them off?

Each encounter with someone new should be viewed as an opportunity, not a threat. These are people who bring with them memories and knowledge about things that you have not encountered. They have back-stories that can be fascinating. They have opinions and points of view that you may never have considered. They allow you to add their perspective to your view of things. They expand your realm of human experience by sharing theirs. You can’t achieve that with an object, a non-human thing. No matter how fascinating it might seem initially, it cannot share with you. Even a beloved pet provides only a one-sided relationship, as much as we try to give voice to them. Only a relationship with another human is one that may be truly enrich our lives through its sharing.

Can you put aside your fears and prejudices long enough to allow yourself a real opportunity for a relationship with someone new and perhaps different? Opportunities often hold out the chance for rewards, if you take advantage of them. The rewards of friendship, companionship and perhaps even love are there for the taking in your encounters with new people. How you chose to share those opportunities for relationships is up to you. Will you use a teaspoon or bring your steam shovel into the relationship? Are you willing to give the relationship as much as you get from it? A lot depends upon how you approach it. The opportunities are all around you. I suggest that you get out your steam shovel and dig in.

Hi, my name’s Norm and I’m glad to meet you.


What meals do you remember?

September 4, 2019

In today’s entry to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack writes about his childhood memories of meals at home and used this quote – “As a child our family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it.”  (Buddy Hackett)

Of course, Jack’s post brought back a flood of memories from my own childhood and the meals that we used to get back then. On today’s restaurant menus, what passed for a salad in our house would be called a Wedge Salad; although when my mom was served it back then, itlettuce wedge only came with a spoonful of mayonnaise as a dressing. Chopping a wedge out of a head of lettuce was a quick and easy way to have a salad. Most of the time the salad might have consisted of orange Jell-O with shredded carrot in it or perhaps the always-popular canned mixed fruit (one always hoped to get the cherry slices).

Jack mentioned liver and onions and that was big at our house, too; although as a child I hated it. My dad was a hunter and during rabbit and bird seasons, there was sometimes game on the table – mostly rabbit. It was always a joke that whoever got a piece of bird shot in their portion won the prize for the night. If we had chicken, it was always a whole bird and there was always a “wishbone” to be pulled. My sister and I would each take an end and pull until it broke. Iwishbone have discovered later in life that there are two different interpretations of who wins when the wishbone breaks. At our house, it was the short piece that the rules declared was the winner and the loser could hang their piece on a doorknob. In other houses it was apparently the longer piece that won.

Vegetables that were served with meals were most often canned – corn, peas, green beans, mixed peas and carrots, black-eyed peas, butter beans and the ever popular creamed corn. During the summer, we might actually have some fresh vegetables, especially snap beans or butter beans, and corm on the cob was a favorite. Occasionally, mom might cook up some greens (collard greens or spinach with bacon grease) as a nod to her southern heritage.

Desserts were rare, with Jell-O cubes again being a favored go-to for mom or occasionally ice cream – it seemed almost always to be Neapolitan. Of course there was the occasional pie or cake (angel food or pineapple upside down cake seemed to be the favorites at our watermelonhouse. In the summer months, a watermelon often served as dessert and we had fun spitting seeds to see who could launch them the furthest. The fall usually meant pumpkin pies and the occasional mincemeat pie or a shoofly pie (my dad was Pennsylvania Dutch, so that was a favorite of his). If all else failed, mom would just shift the canned fruit salad from the salad course to the dessert course.

What meals do you remember from your childhood? Do you remember when TV dinners were introduced and became a big thing? Have you ever eaten a TV dinner?How about fish sticks ( the go-to for fish for myTV dinners mom)?  Can you remember back before pizzas were available everywhere? What was your favorite “take out” family meal back then? Do you recall what it was like for the whole family to gather for dinner and not have a TV going or everyone looking at their phones?

Many of us have fond memories or maybe just vivid memories of childhood meals – loved or hated. What meals do you remember from your childhood?  As a matter of fact, how many of you even remember Buddy Hackett? Thanks Jack, for bringing back fond childhood memories.


Look for good and focus upon it…

August 29, 2019

The quote that Jack used in his Jack’s Winning Words blog today is this short phrase – “Focus on the Good!”  (The Christophers)

Yesterday I wrote about putting a smile in your voice to make your day better and Jack left this comment – “SOMETIMES////EASIER SAID THAN DONE”. I suppose that I could return his comment as a comment on his post this morning.

It is sometimes very hard to focus upon the good because there is so much noise made about the bad. The evening news casts provide a prime example. Both local and national news shows seem to be focused upon telling us about all of the bad that has occurred. Locally it’s about who shot who, who robbed who, who carjacked who and on and on. At fire burning homethe national level it’s about large scale disasters or foreign wars (trade wars or shooting wars) or plane crashes or other bad news.

The national news organizations often fly their talking head to the scene so that he/she can stand in the devastation and report. The dumbest and most insensitive thing that all of the newscasters do, including Lester Holt, is to thrust a microphone in the face of a grieving person at the disaster scene and ask, “How does it feel to lose your entire family?” Just once, I wish someone would tell them to get the hell out of their face and leave them alone; but that response probably wouldn’t be shown on the newscast.

Some local newscasts and even at the national level, have been trying to balance things out a bit by taking a minute or two at the end of the newscast to show a good news or feels good story. It’s a start, but one has to endure the first 25 minutes to get to that part at the end.

smiling manHow does one focus on the good? It begins by resolving to look for the good – in situations and in people. There are many situations that are real or perceived setbacks in life – things that didn’t go as planned or as hoped. It is too easy to just see the bad in those situations and get down on life or on yourself. However, if you look hard enough there is good in even those situations, usually to be found in what didn’t happen or in the knowledge that you have gained.

A friend taught me a valuable lesson for life when he said, in response to me expressing my disappointment over something that had gone wrong with an event that we were responsible for running; “Well, at least nobody died.”  He was right. I was beating myself up for something that, in the great scheme of things, didn’t really matter all that much. Nobody died. I was focusing upon the bad and not all of the good that came out of the event. Now my wife and I both use that little phrase to stop ourselves from wasting too much time worrying about or regretting something that happened or didn’t happen that we probably had no control over in the first place.

What steps can you take to allow yourself to focus upon the good? First, you have to be looking for it. Go into every situation and every new relationship with someone looking for the good in it or in them. Second, you need to recognize the good. Sometimes the only good to come out of a situation is the learning that you get from it. If that is it, so be it. Learn from it and move on.

Finding the good in people is sometimes harder because it is difficult to put aside your preconceptions and prejudices. A good example is encountering someone that you don’t girl with nose chainknow who has visible tattoos or maybe a nose ring or perhaps just purple colored hair. Picture that and get a feel for your immediate reaction. Was it “Oh, wow, that’s so cool. I want to get to know this person better” or did you have a defensive reaction that caused you to shrink back from meeting that person? How will you be able to find the good in that person if you can’t even bring yourself to meet them and look for it?

How can you get in the right frame of mind to focus upon the good? Perhaps it is something as simple as asking God each morning to, “Help me see the good man prayingin all things and in all people today.”  At least you will start out the day looking for the good.  You may have to remind yourself several times during the day and maybe even remember that “at least nobody died” when you have a setback; but, I’m pretty sure that you’ll find some good in the things that occur and the people that you meet if you focus upon it. And that’s a good thing.

Have a great and focused day. Find the good!


The search for contentment…

August 17, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words contained this quote – “We may pass violets looking for roses.  We may pass contentment looking for victory.”  (Bernard Williams)

Jack went on to call into question the popular sports-oriented saying “Winning is the only thing.”

As a society, I think that our obsession with winning and not allowing ourselves to be content with having made our best effort is contributing to the tensions and unrest that we see on the nightly news. It also is a major contributing factor to the current politicaldebaters divide, where compromise, which could lead to contentment, is considered failure. The two political parties have abandoned any search for a middle ground on most issues and seek only to win, to beat the other side. We saw that locally this past week were the scrum to choose a successor to the late L. Brooks Paterson turned nasty and completely partisan from the get-go.

I have from time to time called for the creation of a third party in the middle of the political spectrum  a party of compromise and reason. At least a new party would not disagreement2carry with it the baggage that the current parties have accumulated of late. It would also allow those who are uncomfortable with the extreme on both sides to fins anew home that perhaps with which they could become content. I suspect that quite a few who call themselves Republicans or Democrats would welcome a party with less strident positions on the issues and one which relied more on common sense than the political litmus tests that the current parties use on issues.

In life, as in politics, winning isn’t really everything. Giving it your best effort is more important. It’s not that you will be unhappy if you don’t win; but, rather, that you will be pecial olympics 2unhappy with yourself if you didn’t give it your best shot. If you made your best effort, but that fell short of winning, you can still feel good about yourself. In sports, even competitive athletes are often happy if they achieve a person best – they know that they did the best that they can for that event or race. Maybe you can look at the events in your life the same way. If you’ve achieved your person best, be happy, celebrate your achievement, use that experience to plan way to do better next time. Stop and smell the violets. Find contentment.

Have a great weekend of contentment!


Life is never boring if you keep the wonder in it…

July 14, 2019

Do you ever hear someone say that they are bored and wonder why? Maybe it’s because they’ve stopped wondering. Wondering is a great way to stay mentally occupied. You can wonder why. You can wonder how or who. You can wonder if. There are lots of ways to let your mind wander and wonder and all of them give your mind something to do.smirk

These days when we wonder bot things or people, we most often Google the topic about which we ae wondering. If you do that you will see that Goggle returns page after page of responses, including a link to the web site Woderopolis.org – yes there is a wondering web site. It’s helpful to have such a site bookmarked, in case you can’t think of anything to wonder about, you can just go there and share in the wondering of other people – sort of wondering voyeurism, I guess.

boredWondering is often connected with wandering, which, I guess, is natural, since the mind often also wanders when it wonders. That brings to mind that old saying “All who wander are not lost”. Neither are those who wonder. Yet some do not spend much time wondering, because they mistakenly think that they already know. Their minds are made up; which is sometimes called beliefs and sometimes called prejudices. I found a great quote that covers that – “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” (Gerry Spence)

Socrates knew the importance of wondering about things. He said –  “Wonder is the Socratesbeginning of wisdom.” Eventually the tendency to wonder will always bring you full circle back to wondering about yourself. It may take some time, as Saint Augustine said – “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

gods-hands-2When you do get back to considering the questions of why and how and for what purpose about yourself, it doesn’t take too long before you wander into wondering about God. There’s a web site for that too – Closer to truth – Wondering about God. You really don’t need Google or a web site to tell you about God. If you take the time in prayer to ask Him, he will reveal Himself to you and you will see the wonder.

chimpanzeeOne can get caught up in wandering in wonder and never get anything done.  Craig D. Lounsbrough put it well when he said – “I wonder what life would have been like if I would have taken all that time I spent wondering what life would have been like, and instead used that time to make it what I wanted it to be like.”

So, while wondering is good; actually doing is even better.  I wonder what things I can actually get done today? Maybe I’ll meet you. I wonder where you live. I wonder what you do? I wonder about you. But the mind wanders. It’s another wonderful day.

 


I love a parade…

July 3, 2019

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog today comes this – “A love for tradition has never weakened a nation; indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril.”  (Churchill)

Jack went on to write – There are 10 National Holidays, but 4 stand out in my mind as days that especially define America: Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving Day, Memorial Day.  The others are significant, too, but think today about these 4, particularly the 4th of July, a day to celebrate the history of a great nation, not perfect, but in the process.  😉  Jack

Parades are a way to pause and celebrate holidays in your hometown and in our p5nation. I organize the 4th of July Parade in my home town of Milford, Michigan. I march, as a veteran, in the Memorial Day parade and I work as a volunteer in the Christmas Parade, which always takes place Thanksgiving weekend. We don’t have a parade for Veteran’s Day.  We also have parades for the start of Little League Baseball, and the local high school homecoming. Obviously, we love traditions in Milford.

Huron Valley Middle School BandThe parades that we have in Milford mean that Main Street is shut down for s few hours and a crowd gathers to watch. The biggest parade, by far is our Memorial Day parade, which draws a crowd of several thousand to watch and which has almost 1,000 vets marching.  The Christmas Parade features the arrival of Santa Claus to Milford for the Christmas Season. The Independence Day parade usually draws a big crowd to watch, too.

Sadly, the Independence Day Parade on the 4th of July has been declining in both attendance and participation for the last few years. What used to be a parade with 70-80 participating groups is now down to about 50 groups marching or riding in the parade. The viewing audience is also down a bit. It seems that the same reasons thatHistorical Society marchers in 2017 parade are causing the decline in church attendance effects the parade on the 4th – people are just too busy with other things to do.

Of course, the summer months are vacation months, so many families are traveling while school is out. Still, the fact that fewer local businesses and groups participate is troubling. We used to have 6-7 Boy and Girl Scout troops and Brownies and Cub Packs, but now only get 1-2. We had participation by many of the local churches, but now again only get 1 or 2. Many of the local service organizations used to march, now we are lucky if any participate. The excuses are always the same – “We couldn’t get enough people to be in the parade.”

What we are really saying is that we are too busy, too distracted or overwhelmed by Bridge to Unity floatlife to pause and take a moment to just enjoy a shared celebration of thankfulness for things like the birth of our nation or those who served our country. We have become so wrapped up in ME that we don’t have time to celebrate the things that make us WE. I am not sure whether this is an indicator of, or a cause of, the state of unrest, distrust and hatefulness across the nation that seems to be reflected in nightly news stories.

Still, there is hope. We are carrying on the traditions, like the Independence Day parade, in the hope that providing events that allows us to celebrate the great WE20160704_114059 events of the past will once again remind us that we have more in common than the differences that want to drive us apart. We stop to celebrate the events that were put in motion by those seeking the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is still a work in process, as Jack said; but it is worth pausing and having a parade.

Maybe I’ll see you at the Milford Independence Day parade. The parade starts at 11 PM. I’ll be announcing the participants as they march by. Pause for a moment and celebrate WE.


Jumping off the hack bandwagon…

June 15, 2019

It seems that everything is a “hack” these days. The use of the term hack is getting a bit hackneyed, i.e.  overused, overworked, overdone, worn out, timeworn, platitudinous, vapid, stale, tired, threadbare. Hack that all you marketing types who can’t think of a better way to say something than to call it a hack.  This morning I even got and email from L.L. Bean with the headline “Camping Hacks”. It was about camping gear and clothing that they sell.

boredWhat the heck is a hack, anyway? If you look up the term hack the definitions tend to center around the original computer terms for illegally gaining entry into a system or program. The more traditional definition of crudely chopping away at something is also there. What’s not there is a definition that covers the current use of the term as somehow representing a new of different way of doing something or using something. Hacks for living seems to be a very modern and inventive way of using the word. It apparently is supposed to be shorthand for describing something that the writer didn’t want to take the time to write out, so it becomes a hack. According to the web site Daily Writing Tips, The term hack, which entered general usage with a new, nontechnological sense of “solution” or “work-around,” as in the phrase “life hack”.

Our language is full of terms that seem to come and go with each new generation. Many of them last only a short time before that are discarded onto the junk heap of misused and overused words. I’m sure that hack has already peaked and is on it’s way out; however, for now, we all have to put up with lazy writers of ads and other material using this convenient term instead of taking the time to write out a complete thought.

I guess I was never on the hack bandwagon, so my headline today is not accurate. I couldman praying describe the type of posts that I normally place here as “life hacks”, but I won’t. They are usually just common sense advice written from a faith-based point of view. I suppose a belief in God is the ultimate life hack, since that is the solution to most of life’s perceived problems.

So hack your day by starting off with a little prayer time with the ultimate life hacker – God. Have a great weekend, fellow hackers!