Lighten up and remember how to play…

July 6, 2021

Watching children play can bring back memories of when your life was as carefree and play came naturally. Two quotes that I had in my quote collect seemed to go together and cry out today for a blog post –

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

And

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw (I’ve used Shaw’s quote in this blog in the past.)

I’m not sure when most people stop taking time to just play, but I can remember people telling me, “Grow up. You’re too old to play.” How sad that we use “play shaming” to discourage children from playing. Somehow taking away that hallmark of childhood sems important to adults. Perhaps they just want to share their unhappiness at not being able to play anymore themselves.

So, somewhere along the way in life we lose that ability to just play – oblivious to the rest of the world and content in the fantasy land of our play.”  I think that may happen somewhere around middle school time, when recess turns from random fun on the playground to “organized activities” – how adult of us.

We were not competing when we played, just playing for the fun of it. Remember when “Who’s it?”, was more important than, “What was your score on that last hole?” Most of what we adults call play is just another competition, slightly different from work but something that we “work at” all the same. Even adult Dodge Ball is not the same playful game that we knew as kids. We forgot how to just play – without rules and competition, without winners and losers, without a plan other than to have fun.

Sometimes you might see an elderly person engaging in playful behavior (at least as much as they are able) with their grandchildren or just neighborhood kids. Many older people have decided that they have been taking life much too seriously and need to relearn how to let go and just play. They may say, “I don’t care what you think, I’m having fun.” They are playing again; sometimes, if only in their minds.

We can’t stop the progression of age, but we do not have to grow “old” if we can recapture the ability to play. So, lighten up, don’t be so serious all the time. Re-develop the happy talent that Emerson spoke of and relearn how to play.  You don’t have to be competing to play, there is no score kept when you play, just fun.

Come on. Let’s go out and play.

Now, “Who’s it?”


Wander your Wonders…

July 5, 2021

Travelocity has a new ad campaign out based on the theme “Wander wisely”. But how does one wander wisely through life? I suggest that you should “wander your wonders”.  Rather than wandering aimlessly through life, seize upon the things that you wonder about and use them as motivation and a guide.

Do you wonder what a specific place is like or even a whole country? Find out. Go there and wander about. Do you wonder if you would like a specific restaurant or maybe a food type? Go there to eat, or go to a restaurant that specializes in that type of food, and wander through the items on their menu. Do you wonder what someone that you just encountered is like? Find out. Engage them in conversation and wander through their mind.

Some may say that this is just another way to say, “Follow your dreams”, and I’m OK with that as a part of this. Dreams are just another form of wondering. The point may be that following up on thing that you wonder about is different than just wandering about aimlessly. You are learning as you wander when you pursue the answers to your wonders.

Perhaps life is nothing but a journey of wandering to answer our wonders. There are those who wander about for their whole life trying to answer their wonder about why they are here. They wonder about the meaning or purpose of their life? Other, less philosophical people, focus on the more mundane or routine issues of life like wondering how they will making a living and provide for their family.

We all wonder about things and many of us wander about through life.  So, why not put the two together and wander our wonders? I wonder why not?

Excuse me while I wander away thinking about that.


Just say it…

June 16, 2021

In yesterday’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed reminds us not to hesitate to say nice things to people with this quote – “Why do we have to wait for special moments to say nice things or tell people we care about them?”  (Randy Milholland)

I suspect that we are embarrassed, or think we would be, if we just blurted out a complement to someone that we met during the day (t least men might be). Telling someone that they look nice or that they are wearing a nice outfit shouldn’t be embarrassing to you or to them. Nike uses the tag line, “Just do it”; perhaps, if a compliment comes to mind when we are with someone, we should all use the tag line, “Just say it”.

We don’t seem to be embarrassed asking them the largely rhetorical question, “How are you?” or maybe “How’s it going?” Those are certainly more intrusive questions into the person’s personal life than just saying, “You look great today.” Just say it…

Of course, men have to be careful with complements that could be taken the wrong way by a woman. She may think that he is fliting with her or hitting on her. It is even more difficult to express that we care about a woman friend or acquaintance in a way that cannot be mistaken for an inappropriate remark. Things have gotten much more difficult of late, with all the revelations in the news about inappropriate behaviors, but we cannot let that stop us. Just say it…

Parents shouldn’t wait for special moments, like a graduation ceremony to tell their children that they are proud of them. We toss off air kisses and “I love you” without putting a lot of meaning behind either. We should take every opportunity that we can to let our kids and grandkids know that we recognize their accomplishments and that we are proud of them. Just say it…

Husbands and wives also need to be more cognizant of and appreciative of their mates and let them know it through compliments. Everyone loves to be appreciated, especially for the little things that they do that usually go unnoticed or at least not verbally recognized.  Rather than just sit there at the dinner table wolfing down the meal, take a moment to thank your mate for making it and maybe mention how nice it is to come home from work to them each day (now that we actually get to go to work again). Just say it…

Make it a habit to find something each day to compliment your significant other about. That will force you to stop, think and take notice of them and your home environment. It may even cause you to think about how you can help them with some of the things that they (and wouldn’t that be a good thing?). Just say it…

If you make it a practice to find something nice to say to or about each person that you meet during the day, I suspect that you will find life to be a much brighter and happier experience. Just say it…


What’s playing in your mind?

March 1, 2021

A few days ago, Pastor Freed wrote this in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”  (Aldous Huxley)  I know the thought that Huxley is expressing, but the passing thought that comes to my mind is how Charlie Chaplin was able to use music in his silent movies…a talent for putting silence and music together. 

The use of music to set a mood or pace in a movie is still used today. We seldom notice it because we have grown to expect it, rather than silence. In fact, total silence can be disturbing, just as total darkness is frightening and disturbing. We are used to being immersed in sounds. Many people have music constantly playing around them, either for real or imagined. I have little songs playing out in my head as I walk my dog. The imagined music fills a void in the mind and keeps it amused and active.

I will admit to not being a music person, someone who has to have songs playing around them in the background as they drive or just sit there. I went through a phase in life where music was more important to me and I have an extensive collection of music in various, now-outdated recording formats, most of which is now to old to even make it onto the Classic Rock stations.

Now instead of donning ear pods to listen, I can just turn my mind loose on the music that is stored there. Often the little songs that we use for our gospel acclimation in our church service will pop to mind. They are catchy little tunes and easy to repeat over and over in one’s mind.

While we listen to the words (if there are words) in the songs that we hear (real or imagined), I suspect that it is really the melody that catches the attention of the mind. Music and math are inextricably linked in the mind. Our brains are wired for the mathematical order that the melody in music brings with it. Whether aware of it or not, the melody writers are creating mathematical sequences of notes or melodies that appeal to our brains. Great classical music of operas and symphonies are mathematical tours-de-force. The Norwegian composer Marcus Paus has argued: Melody is to music what a scent is to the senses: it jogs our memory. It gives face to form, and identity and character to the process and proceedings.”

There has also been a small, but dedicated, movement for some time focused upon non-melodic music, which is now called experimental music. It is hard to imagine music from that genre getting stuck in the mind and playing away in the background as I walk the dog.

Perhaps what Huxley was trying to say is that music brings with it an orderliness which helps the mind express the inexpressible. Music can certainly calm the mind by drowning out the noise of the world and bringing order out of chaos. One can go from neurons randomly firing off in all directions, within the confused or frightened mind, to the order and smoothness found in a good melody by just conjuring up a good tune. Try thinking of your favorite song the next time that you are anxious or confused about life. Let the melody play out in your mind and seek comfort in orderliness of it.

What music is playing in your mind?


Yolanda is soooooo over…

November 15, 2020

I get several emails a day that are apparently misaddressed because they are all supposed to be for someone named Yolanda. That’s the “cute” opening written by some hack with too little imagination to come up with something original. The Yolanda opening was cute, perhaps one time, but it is just tedious now and sufficient reason to hit delete without even reading the rest of the missive.

If one Googles “Who is Yolanda? The Google answer is – Yolanda Hadid – a Dutch-American television personality and former model. She is best known as a star of the American reality-television show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

So, perhaps all of those emails addressed to Yolanda that I got from the political parties asking for contributions were meant for her. I also get emails from companies advertising various products, so perhaps Ms. Hadid is also an avid on-line shopper.

Like so many other cultural things that go viral in today’s world, the Yolanda things seems to be yet another cute idea that quickly went viral and stale at the same time. It is a Beanie-Babies moment for the late 20-teens and 2020 – over used and quickly tiresome.

I sure some inventive soul will come up with the next cute thing that all of the hacks of the world can jump on. Until that time, I will probably have to keep deleting emails to Yolanda before I read them. Speaking of hacks, remember when that was the big thing? Everything new or any suggestion for doing something differently quickly became a “hack” of some sort. Was that annoying or what? The originality-challenged are still using the term “hack” as they bring up the rear of things grammatically.

What will be the next big thing? I don’t know, but it is sure to be fresh and original for a nano-second or two before “going viral” and becoming overused and stale. The internet is the fastest way to spread and to kill a good new idea, phrase or approach. Once out there on the web, it becomes repetitive and tedious almost immediately.

Hey, Yolanda, have you heard about…


Ready or not, here it comes…

October 20, 2020

Fall has definitely arrived in Michigan and winter cannot be far behind. Pastor Freed used this quote in today’s post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Listen!  The wind is rising and the air is wild with leaves.  We’ve had our summer evenings; now for October eves.”  (Humbert Wolfe)

I know that the weather doesn’t care, but I wasn’t quite ready for the changes this year, especially the shorter days. Perhaps it’s just a consequence of getting older, but the aches and pains in my body seem to linger a little longer in the day with no warming sun to help them fade and I do miss being able to take a ride with my wife after dinner to see if we can spot any deer. Of course, that disappointment is mitigated somewhat by being able to instead turn on the fireplace and sit watching the flames dance. Each season has it’s own pleasures if one just looks for them; although, it is getting harder and harder to find the good things to say about winter.

I saw a young mother and her little girl make a huge pile of leave the other day and then sit in the pile, pretending that it was a fort of some sort.  They found a way to have fun with the fallen leaves. I tried to remember the last time that I made a big pile of leaves and then jumped into it, but that memory has faded to far into the background. I can remember my kids doing that and the times I spent burning big piles of leaves (before that became an incorrect thing to do).  What memories do you have about fall and leaves?

The coming winter always brings memories of snow and the days in which that snowfall was welcomed because it meant no school, the fun of sledding, snowball fights and other fun things to do. Now it is more about getting out the snow blower and shoveling off the steps. My wife always comments about how beautiful everything looks with a fresh coat of snow, as I grumble about having to clear the driveway and clean off the cars. I must admit that a fresh snowfall looks good for a few moments and the fireplace feels even better when one comes back inside after blowing snow for an hour.

So, I guess Wolfe’s advice to listen to the rustling leaves in the October winds is as good a way as any to get in the proper mood for accepting the changes that are occurring in the weather and  in our lives and make the best of them. There are lots of things that happen in our lives over which we have no control – the weather is just one of them. The key may be to accept the fact that they are occurring and find a happy place in your memories to retreat to in front of a crackling fire. If reliving some pleasant experiences from the past isn’t your thing; then, use the down time to think about some fun things to do in the future, after the winter, when spring again foretells of the rebirth of the trees and flowers and the warmth of a mid-day sun.

What memories will you turn to in front of the fireplace or what wonderful new adventures will you plan?


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.


An implausible explanation

April 22, 2020

It is amazing to me the level of gullibility that a portion of the public displays during crisis like the one that we are in today. One doesn’t know whether to be amused or alarmed at the reports that some believe that the virus is caused by cell phone towers that have implemented the new Gen 5 phone communications standard. There were even reported attempts to burn down the towers by people who believed that rumor.  I also saw on our nightly news that some Chinese news outlets are now saying that the virus was created in the U.S. by our intelligence community and loosed on China by them.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I decided to try my hand at creating an explanation that, while still ludicrous, might tie a few things together logically and appeal to the cell phone tower fringe.

I postulated that the COVID-19 virus is actually a computer virus that was created by U.S. cyber forces to combat Chinese interference with the 2020 election. That computer virus, I theorized, was injected into selected Chinese computers in approximately May or June of 2019, at sites that the U.S. cyber forces had identified as sources of disinformation and disruption concerning the 2020 election. 

The original intent was to have the virus monitor the activities of those groups and report back. However, built into the virus was the ability to effectively render the computers useless, if it was remotely ordered to do so. The virus was designed to learn and intelligently find ways to infect other computers that might be in close proximity on the network – say within 6 feet.  

My theory was that all was gong according to plan until the virus became intelligent enough to find a way to escape the confines of the computers and networks that is was originally designed to live within.

It has been well documented, Chinese chip foundries that supply many of the circuit boards, components and chips for use within modern computers had for years been adding potentially malicious circuits to the designs that they were given to produce – See MALICIOUS COMPONENT FOUND ON SERVER MOTHERBOARDS SUPPLIED TO NUMEROUS COMPANIES.

Less well known, and certainly not admitted to by the Chinese government, was the possibility that the Chinese had developed secret coating  to put on computer touch screen membranes. This coating was designed to act as an RNA sensor to human DNA. (NOTE: RNA – ribonucleic acid, a nucleic acid present in all living cells. Its principal role is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for controlling the synthesis of proteins, although in some viruses RNA rather than DNA carries the genetic information.)

When combined with the secret circuits that they had embedded in the screen’s video controller, the RNA sensor sent the DNA pattern of the user to the computer. Just touching the screen provides enough DNA from the user’s fingertip to allow this system to identify the user. This coating allowed the Chinese internal security spies to identify users, just by them touching the screen. Basically, it “learned” and remembered their DNA sequence. The Chinese internal security forces found that to be a very important tool for them to identify any wayward or suspect citizens.

It turned out that the screen coating and the controlling circuits were not just one-way avenues for collecting data, but rather were capable of allowing communications back through the touch screen to the DNA of the user. An obscure fact that scientists have known for a long time is that human brains actually contain snippets of an ancient virus that facilitates our thoughts and intelligence – see  An Ancient Virus May Be Responsible for Human Consciousness .

The virus injected into the Chinese computers discovered this route to the outside world and set about trying to exploit it, as it was designed to do.  After months of pattern analysis and failed attempts, in November of 2019, the injected computer virus succeeded in sequencing itself into the DNA of a Chinese user through the RNA touchscreen of his computer. He became the first officially reported case of the COVID-19 virus. The virus has used its human hosts to replicate and spread itself ever since.

Somewhere in the process a small mutation in the some of the new human viruses caused it to turn on the destructive code that had been embedded  within it, which caused it to attack its host. That mutation only occurred in a subset of the viruses that where circulating at the time, thus explaining the differences in human reaction to the virus – some becoming very sick and some displaying almost no symptoms.

Is this explanation any more farfetched than the rumors about it being caused by Gen5 cell towers? No. In fact it is much more believable, because we have all been pre-conditioned by fantasy and sci-fi movies to believe science-based and computer-based explanations, no matter how off-the-wall they may be. Do you remember the TRON movies? How about the Matrix series of movies? And, remember that in the movie The Lawnmower Man, the evil cyber-being that escaped into the Internet at the last second said that it would be back. Just throw in a couple of scientific articles from the Internet as supporting “proof” and you have a great explanation that will appeal to the cell-tower crowd.

Now, you won’t have to sound like a fool by repeating the ridiculous story about cell towers spreading the COVID-19 virus. Now, you know a better explanation – that it is a computer virus gone awry.

Medical scientists are working on treatments for the disease and a vaccine for humans while computer scientists at McAfee, Norton and Total AV are working together on a new anti-virus tool that will scan and remove it from the world’s computers.

In the meantime, wash your hands, don’t touch your face and don’t touch your computer screen.

You saw it on the Internet, so it must be true.


What makes you laugh?

February 5, 2020

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog got me to thinking about what makes me laugh. Jack posted this bit from Steven Wright – “Right now I’m having amnesia and deja vu at the same time… I think I’ve forgotten this before.”

I remember really liking Wright’s humor and his ability to deliver it deadpan. Here are examples of some of his best routines – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9ciHpT4WuM

I grew up on a different kind of humor, the monologues and routines of Milton Berle, Sid Caesar and Red Skelton come to mind. Of course there was also George Burns, who used deadpan delivery and Groucho Marks, who off-hand and sarcastic remarks I found funny. One of the earlier wordsmithing comics that I remember was George Carlen, who could take a single word or theme and turn it into a whole routine. George suffered through the period in TV where the sensors restricted what he could say or at least what we could see of what he said. Here’s some of his best routines.

 I especially like comedians who play with words or whose humor forces one to think about what was just said and consider why we thought that was funny.

Some people prefer physical comedy, with prat falls or other visual things that tickle our funny bone. All of the early, silent film humor was based upon visual humor, since we couldn’t hear any funny lines. The Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello,and Martin and Lewis were more modern comedic teams that still relied quite a bit on the visual aspect in their humor. On the Carol Burnet Show, the humor of Tim Conway really came through when he was portraying the little old man shuffling as fast as he could from place to place. He always broke up Harvey Korman with that routine. Me, too.

Here are some of Tim’s best routines from that show – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me-BOWwtm2Q

I think we all need a little humor in our lives. Being too serious all of the time is a sure formula for health problems. Laughter allows us to break the tension of everyday life and, just for those few moments, get back to the innocence that we had as children. So find something that makes you laugh and take some time each day to go there and let go – laugh.

What makes you laugh?


Talking for our animals…

December 26, 2019

It is time for a post that is less weighty and serious. Pastor Jack Freed used this quote in a recent post to his blog – Jack’s Winning Words.

“I wanted to talk to the animals like Dr, Dolittle.”  (Jane Goodall) 

Jane spent her life living amongst animals, but never was able to talk to them. There have been notable experiments in teaching animals to recognize certain words and to associate those words with some activity or choice, but no one has yet to achieve the ability to have two-way communications or to understand what animals are “saying” using whatever combination of sounds and gestures that they use to communicate with each other.

Sometimes people seem to adopt whatever “voice” we may have heard in a cartoon or movie for a specific animal. Thus, a large animal that was voices by a deep voiced actor forever is lodged in our minds with that voice; whereas small (and cuter) animals will have a high-pitched voice or that of a female actor.

We also put intonations into the voice that seem to characterize the animal as smart and witty or dull and slow. Think of how you hear Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh movies and now think of how you would voice a donkey if you saw one. Those things stick with us. We recently had a children’s Christmas play at church in which the children played the animals in the manger the night of Jesus’ birth. The cows not only sounded different; they also used different words and language structure than the pigs or the goats. The dialogue given to each animal reflected how the writers imagined the “character” of each animal.

It is never more painful for us not to be able to talk to, or understand, our pets than when they are sick or suffering somehow. That is even frustrating for the vets involved. The fact that they cannot help by telling us where it hurts or how they feel makes treating them all the more difficult. We tend to nurse them with cuddles and soft talk; much as we might do for a human baby or hugs that we save for a good friends.

Many people (and I’m certainly among this group) try to talk for the animals by “voicing” what we think (or would like to think) they are trying to say or would say, if they could. I’ve noticed (and admit again to being guilty of this) that much of what we “voice” for our pets is couched in the language of baby talk, as if our adult dogs are not capable of conversing with us above a 2- or 3-year old level. Perhaps that’s what we also call them our fur babies. I’ve noticed lately that my dogs both have silver muzzles.  Maybe it’s time that they started talking like little old ladies and men.  I’ll have to go re-watch the movie Grumpy Old Men to get some pointers.

Some dogs are now classified as “therapy dogs”, because having them around is good therapy for someone who may be experiencing depression, PTSD or other mental health issues. Some of those dogs use their heightened senses of smell to sense the onset of a medical emergency and alert their owners in time to take corrective actions. Some may act as the hands and feet of their owners, retrieving items for them or doing simple tasks such as opening a door. I suspect that the simple act of voicing for our pets is a form of therapy. We can actually avoid a feeling of loneliness by carrying on a “conversation” with our pet. The best thing is that they never argue with us.

There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with giving a “voice” to your pet. It’s sort of like a form of ventriloquism. It’s not scary until the doll (or dog) starts talking for itself. That would be the time to seek help for yourself. So, go ahead and act as the voice for your pet. It’s good therapy for you and he/she may get a kick out of it too. After all they’ve never heard what you think that they may be thinking. It would get boring for them, too; if all they thought was, “throw the ball” or “give me a treat”. You can do better than that. Give them a voice.

Now, excuse me, I have to go talk to Skippy and Sadie. They want to tell me in which direction we should go on our next walk. They can be quite vocal about that.