History lesson…

September 12, 2021

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”  (Georg Hegel) 

I’ve had that quote around for a week or so and it seemed to be appropriate for this weekend, with the anniversary of the attack on America by Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda that took 2,977 lives that day and which has claimed many more since from the ranks of first responders.

It has been 20 years since the American response to that attack was to launch the “War on Terrorism” which, considering our recent embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan and the reemergence of the Taliban, has largely been as unsuccessful as the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs or the efforts to end racism and discrimination in America. The protagonists in these wars, whether from outside or within, have all discovered that the best route to defeat America’s well-intentioned, if ill-conceived, wars is through patience and persistence.

There have been many articles written about factors that cause these failures, mostly about how ill-defined the goals were to begin with and about the constant “mission-creep” that kept re-defining what or who it was that we were fighting or the reason that we were even fighting.  However, one of the most obvious is the lack of political will to see these “Wars” through to a conclusion. I hesitate to use the word victory, since that word has so often been usurped to cover our eventual withdrawals from the fights.

Even now, we are fighting wars on several fronts against cyber attacks mainly from outside our country, but from a few internal sources, too. We are also fighting an unseen enemy in the form of a pandemic that has turned us against ourselves with disastrous consequences. Diseases like other enemies patiently wait for us to let our guard down and then swoop back in to claim more lives.

Even Nature, to whom we assigned the benign personality of “Mother Nature”, is now exacting a terrible toll in retribution for our wanton disregard for the planet. I’m not sure that we ever declared “war” on global warming, but if we did, we are losing that war, too.

What have we really learned from the history of these failed wars? Hopefully that loud thumping of our chests as we declare “War” and military might alone does not assure victory; and perhaps that vigilance and preparedness are never-ending requirements for our nation’s safety. Both require patience and persistence, plus political will.

In our fights against diseases and global warming our efforts have been disrupted by misinformation or, even worse, by disinformation. So, we must also work to get back onto the team those whose “beliefs” have replaced the facts and work harder to combat the bad players who spread misinformation and conspiracy theories in place of the truth.

Perhaps Hegel is right that we don’t appear to learn what we could from history. We cannot change history anyway. But we do have choices in front of us that can change the future. Have we at least learned that? I hope so.

Where do you turn for comfort?

September 10, 2021

Pastor Freed took us all back to our childhood days with his quote in today’s post to his blog, Jack’s  Winning Words – “I miss the days when all it took to make me feel better was my Teddy Bear.”  (Unknown) 

As children, many find comfort or relief in some familiar physical thing, be it a Teddy Bear or maybe a soft crib blanket, like Linus in the Peanuts cartoon. When we grow up our Teddy Bears and blankies are left behind and many don’t seem to find a new way to make themselves feel better – something to turn to for comfort and maybe reassurance in tough times.

Unfortunately, many turn to alcohol or drugs when seeking relief in in times of stress. Some don’t find any way out of the situations that they find themselves in and sink into depression.

However, there is always someone to turn to when you need comfort, because God is always there.

Finding comfort in troubled times is really about being at peace and the best way to be at peace is to surrender to the comfort of God’s love for you. If you tell yourself that no matter what it is that is troubling you, God loves you and will help you get through it, you will feel the peace of the Lord settle over you like a warm embrace.

There is a peace that surpasses all understanding out there for you if you just reach for it. So let go of your Teddy Bear or blankie and turn to God for comfort and peace in times of trouble as well as in the good times.

Peace be with you.

Making life-or-death decisions…

July 29, 2021

Most people don’t get involved in making life or death decisions, especially about other people, unless it involves decisions that they have to make about relatives in hospice care. Many people, however, do get involved in making life or death decisions about their pets. While we euphemistically call it “putting them down”, it is basically a decision that one makes to cause the death of their pet. I had to do that yesterday with my bog- Sadie.

Sadie was a Blue Tick Coon Hound – a cross between a German Shorthair and a hound of some sort and she was a great dog who was a part of our family for over 10 years. It was a tough decision but one that I know that I had to make. Sadie had developed cancer and it was eating her up. She had lost over 10 pounds and was so weak that she could barely stand at the end. Yet she was loyally and valiantly trying to please us right to the end. She was the perfect representation of unconditional love, and we will miss her dearly.

I was overcome by the weight of the decision that I had to make, but I know that it was the right one for her and for us. The vet who has been caring for her said that we had done everything that we could for her and that it was time to let her go. I knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier. We stayed with her through the process. I don’t often cry, but I cried then and I am crying as I write this. Making that kind of life-or-death decision is a gut wrenching experience and one that I would not want to go through again, if I could avoid it. And yet, I probably will have to again sometime in the future.

We have always had dogs in our family life. Looking back over the years of our marriage we have had 10 dogs (sometimes 2 at once) over half of which had to be put down at the end. A few just passed away at home, but most just got to the point where a vet recommended ending their misery through euthanasia. It was never an easy decision to make and never easy to go through, but I find some comfort in remembering the good times that we had together with Sadie – the long walks, the trips to the dog park and the love that we shared.

My wife often told the story of how Sadie actually picked us. We had lost our lost dog Odie, a Black Lab, a month or so earlier and decided to go to an Adopt a Friend event event at the Detroit Zoo that was being run by the Michigan Humane Society. We were there to search for another Black Lab when Sadie walked up and leaned on my wife’s leg, wanting to be petted. That was that and she went home with us. She turned out to be the best dog ever.

Goodbye, Sadie. You were a good dog.

There’s no BandAid for…

July 23, 2021

In the post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words , today, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Sweat dries, blood clots and bones heal.  Suck it up, princess, this is softball.”  (Unknown) 

Jack went on to write – Anyone who’s played competitive sports knows about injuries.  Some can be serious (for sure), but most tend to heal on their own.  I’ve also noticed that a stop at the DQ after the game helps alleviate the pain.  Sometimes when we grow frustrated with the hurts of life, a trip to the ice cream shop with a friend might help? 

The bravado world of sports always seems to glorify the thought of sucking it up, shaking it off and getting back in the game. Recent medical and scientific evidence has shown that trying to shake off a concussion is the wrong thing for athletes to do. Most sports have adopted concussion protocols to deals with the seriousness of “getting your bell rung.”

We tend to adopt sports phrases and advice when trying to cope with life, telling others to suck it up or shake it off and get back in the game. But for those suffering from mental illnesses or depression there is no way to shake it off, there are no BandAids for the hurts that take place in the mind.

I posted here back in 2016 about what Autism feels like – See Trying to understand others without a frame of reference. That post resulted in quite a bit of feedback and eventually led to another post – What does depression feel like. In both cases I was writing blind, from the point of view of someone who had little to no first-hand experience with either of those hurts. Both contained links to blog posts or web sites suggested by readers who had dealt with the issues.

 Those and other mental conditions are examples of hurts in life to which we cannot just say, “Suck it up” or “Shale it off”.  While there are no BandAids for most mental illnesses, many do have treatments that can help. As with physical hurts, it is important to recognize when someone has a mental hurt that needs attention, usually the attention of a professional.

One could add to the list of life’s mental hurts those who are addicted, whether to alcohol or drugs. They tend to hear lots of advice to suck it up and quit cold turkey, but that seldom works. There are effective support programs to help with the pain (real and imagined) of freeing oneself from addiction.

Some mental conditions are temporary, but many are permanent and the best that can be done is to manage them and the effects that they have on the life of the sufferer. There are treatment plans that take into consideration that there are no BandAids for many of these conditions, but there are plans that can improve and seek to maintain a better quality of life for the sufferer.

So, what is one to do, if you know someone who is in pain from one of life’s many painful mental conditions?  Advising them to Suck it up and Shale it off is not the answer. Showing compassion and understanding is a start but helping them recognize that they cannot resolve it themselves and advising them to seek professional help is the best thing that you can do. Just as they cannot heal themselves, you are not the answer either (unless you happen to be a health professional in the mental health field). What you can be is a friend, a supporter during a tough time and maybe a facilitator (offer to drive them to the appointment) of the treatments that will help.

Resolve to be a part of the solution for the pain in your friend’s life. Instead of yelling “Suck it up” or “Sake it off”, quietly ask “How can I help?” Perhaps being that caring and compassionate friend in their time of need is the trip to the DQ that they need most right now. There are no BandAids for the hurt that they are suffering, but there is you.

Be there for them. Be the BandAid that they need.

How to get rich quick…

April 13, 2021

The blog, Jack’s Winning Words, contained advice this morning on how to become rich that originated from an ancient Greek philosopher – “By desiring little a poor man makes himself rich.”  (Democritus)

Pastor Freed referenced the movie The Jerk and its main character Navin as an example of someone who was happy (rich) with just the few simple things around him. All of us are not simpletons like Navin, but we can all still be happy and feel rich by appreciating the things that we have and not lusting after things that we don’t have.

The starting point for that happiness and rich feeling is to be thankful for what you do have – starting with life. If you wake up in the morning and feel grateful that God has given you another day. That is a good start. Taking the new day for granted is a start down the wrong path- the path of entitlement. It is this feeling of entitlement that eggs us on to lust after the things that we don’t have.

A good way to ground yourself at the start of each day is to utter a short prayer to God, thanking Him for giving you another day and another opportunity to appreciate the things and people around you. Assuming that you are not in survival mode, scrambling for your next meal and your very existence, you can also be more aware of and thankful for the things that you already have.

Most in America, and in most civilized countries of the world, have much more than someone living at subsistence level or in survival mode out in the jungle somewhere. We may have a roof over our heads or at least somewhere to stay. Most have enough food to survive readily available and most have more than one set of cloths. There are many in the extremely poor parts of the world who would consider themselves rich if they had just those things. So, right away, you are richer than that poor, starving naked person huddling under a tree for shelter somewhere.

The real key to becoming rich quick is to control your desire for more, for things that you don’t have. There is already a scientific explanation for not being happy by accumulating more things. It is called “The law of diminishing returns.” This axiom basically states that the satisfaction or happiness realized by obtaining another item of a certain type diminishes with each added item. So maybe you were still very happy when you got your second pair of pants or shirt; however, buying the 10th or 20th pair of pants or shirt is much less satisfying. The thrill is gone, and you may event start to question yourself about why you “needed” another pair of pants or another shirt or blouse? The real answer is that you don’t need them.

So, why do we keep accumulating things that we really don’t need? I suspect that the answer in most cases is that we think that owning them will make us happy. For some it is the pursuit of that ownership that provide them the happiness; a happiness that quickly fades once it has been achieved. It turns out for them that victory in one pursuit just leads to the start of another chase for the next shiny thing.

Maybe, after you thank God for giving you another day, you can ask Him to help you find happiness is what you have. Ask God to open your eyes to see the beauty in the things and people around you and to appreciate them. Once you stop to think about all that you already have and the love that you share with those around you, you may find that you are already a rich person indeed.

So, the secret to getting rich quick it to be thankful for, and happy with, the things that God has already given you. Then you can stop chasing the next shiny thing and start enjoying the things and people who are already there. Instead of buying that 10th pair of pants for yourself, buy them and donate them to a charity and see if that doesn’t make you feel richer than hanging them in your closet.

God has given you another day. What more do you really need? Be happy. Enjoy the riches that God has already given you.

You can do this…

January 16, 2021

Pastor Freed used this quote some time ago in his blog Jack’s Winning Words  – “Essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less.”  (Greg McKeown)

I happen to have clients that categorize themselves as essentialists. At one time they thought that they were minimalists, but have come to realize the differences and are happy being essentialists. One major difference is that they do allow themselves a few, non-essential indulgences in life, where a minimalist would eschew anything above the bare minimum altogether.

Essentialism isn’t a bad thing and the key to it – discipline – is actually a good thing, because it spills over into all aspects of one’s life. That means that essentialists are usually more healthy, because they are disciplined eaters and have the discipline to get enough exercise. That discipline also means that they have fewer possessions and probably are in better financial shape, even if they aren’t considered to  be wealthy.  They are disciplined savers and likely have a nice nest egg for retirement building.

So, why should you consider becoming an essentialist? Because there is really no justification for the opposite approach to life – that of constantly chasing more. More money, more things. MORE. To what end? Is the person with more at the end of their life able to take it with them any more than the person with less?

An interesting side effect of the two approaches to life is that those who seek more are seldom happy with whatever they have accomplished and have at the time – they want more. Whereas, the person seeking only the essentials in their life can find happiness in not having or eliminating something – success is found in less.

So, should you run off and live in a cave with no possessions or amenities? No, that would be the minimalist approach. Just stop to consider before you buy that next thing and ask yourself  if it is really essential. Have the discipline to think about what you need and of what use you might put something to, if you bought it. Would it be used often or just sit in a closet or be over next to the exercise equipment, gathering dust. Are you buying this item because you actually need it (essential) or just because you want it (and why do you want it – is it because someone else has one).

You won’t become a hermit or even an essentialist overnight, just because you stopped to think about it before you buy things; however,, it might help you get your credit card debt under control and that’s a good first step. Adopting that small step of discipline in your life make be he first step to getting back control of your life. Once you have regained control over yourself, you will probably notice that what is important in life is not possessions but the relationships that you have with those around you – family and friends. Now you know what is really essential for a happy life.

Let me know how that works for you. I’m off to buy things that I don’t need with money I don’t have. My bad.

I found the right words…

December 21, 2020

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”  (Jack Kerouac-poet) –  From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Ways blog. Pastor Freed when on to write about trying to be brief in his blog,

I guess I cannot claim to be brief in this blog. I often take the one-paragraph posts that I see in Pastor Freed blog and turn them into 4-5 paragraphs (sometimes more). One reader even commented that it was like encountering a “wall of words.” Ouch!

OK, so, I get wordy most of the time. Sorry about that, but I love words and how one can flow them together to express a thought. Maybe I should stop thinking so much and that might cut down the number of words needed. My wife accuses me (and rightfully so most of the time) of being too much like Captain Obvious too much of the time.

The one area of my life that I have found the right words (at least for me) that are simple and short is in my prayers. I have posted this here a few times that my favorite and most often used prayer is the simple line – “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

I think the reason that I love that simple little prayer is that it represents a release of my own ego and an acceptance of the will of God in my life, no matter what the situation is that is prompting the prayer. I have also posted here many times about how one’s inability to let go of the need to solve a problem or work out an issue can get in the way of moving forward – see Let it Go. Spit it out.

There are times when I use others prayers, especially when I remember to stop and thank God for some wonderful thing that has just happened or some terrible thing that I just avoided; but that is my “go-to” prayer.

I’m sure that many people have their own “go-to” prayer; but if you don’t have one, feel free to use my little prayer. It works wonders for me and will put you in the right frame of mind to experience wonders in your life, too.

Have a great week ahead. It’s Christmas week and a time to celebrate.

May His will be done in your life.

Open the door…

December 3, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “God enters, by a private door, into every individual.”  (Emerson)

The tormented minds of many who have descended into depression may have attempted to slam the door shut on God; however, God is both patient and persistent. That door is still there.  Unlock it and let God enter into your life. The key to that door is acceptance…acceptance of God’s presence and help in your life. The dungeon that is depression is a lonely place. Open that door to God and you will never be alone again.

There was a popular TV game show that presented contestants with 3 doors, behind which were hidden either great prizes or great disappointments. Contestants were asked to choose a door. Life can seem like that sometimes. Sometimes we make the wrong choices and open the door to disappointment or worse. The choices that we are faced with in life can seem both scary and mysterious. We really can’t see what’s behind the doors.

However, over in the corner, maybe just out of our vision, there is another door and that door is clearly marked – “God is here”. We know that it is there, but our own ego sometimes stubbornly prevents us from opening that door. We keep trying to do it alone, to face our challenges on our own, and to exert our free will. What we fail to realize is that same free will is what allows us to open that fourth door and seek God’s help. When God gave us that free will he also put that door there in our lives. He put it there for two reasons – 1. Just in case, we needed to open it and get his help and 2. To give us a direct way to communicate with and worship Him.

If it’s been a while since you opened that door in your life, or maybe you’ve never tried that door to see what’s there; maybe it’s time go see what’s behind door number 4. God will be there for you. He has always been there, patiently waiting for you, as we are told in the Bible –

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Don’t be confused about the word repentance. The repentance that you have just reached when you opened that door is the release of your own ego and the acceptance of God in your life, That’s all He was waiting for. Now you can take step two and say, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” You have flung open the door and God will work wonders in your life.

Open that door today and receive that rewards that are behind door number 4.

What will you throw back?

December 1, 2020

Today is Giving Tuesday in America ad Pastor Freed used this appropriate quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“You can’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands.  You need to be able to throw something back.”  (Maya Angelou)

Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 to May 28, 2014) was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degreesWikipedia

It is easy to visualize people standing there with catcher’s mitts on both hands. They are the “takers” of life who constantly accept things from others, but who do not give back. You may know some people like that. I prefer to think that we all are not just takers, but we give back in different ways and to different causes.

There has been much already written about the harsh impact that the COVID -19 pandemic has had on charities and non-profits. The financial impact on so many people from the actions taken to slow the spread of the disease has been the subject of almost nightly news show coverage. That impact has had the secondary effect of limiting the giving of those whose own livelihood has been disrupted. Many small local entities like churches, community arts associations and local museums have also been devastated by the cancellation of all fund raising activities or suspension of their services, due to the virus. Fortunately there is some relief available to some of the non-profit organizations through grants.

A less –well documented impact was the subject of the feature article in this morning’s New York Times daily E-Newsletter – The devastation of small local newspapers and the impact on their communities of the loss of their local news reporting services.

Many readers of this blog may already know that in addition to being a Realtor®, I also work part-time for the Spinal Column, a small weekly newspaper with editions for Milford, Highland, White Lake and Commerce Township (including Wixom and Walled Lake). The Spinal Column has been around since 1961 and its name reflects the belief of the founders (and the current owners) that small, independent newspapers are the backbone of democracy in their communities, thus the name. Indeed, our country might not have been born were it not for the local pamphlets, such as James Otis’s Rights of the British Colonies (1764), John Dickinson’s Farmer’s Letters (1768), and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (1776). Many of those pamphlets were the equivalent of some or our modern day small local papers.

The Spinal Column Newsweeklies, like other small local papers is dependent upon the revenues from advertising to support its free distribution to homes in the communities that it serves. The current pandemic has wreaked havoc on the local businesses that normally advertise in the paper, especially local restaurants and small local stores. The revenue needed to support the staff needed to put out the local papers are drastically down. That is the reason that The Spinal Column is currently seeking donations from its readers.

There are certainly many worthy causes vying for any charity dollars that are available this year. That makes it all the more important to keep our local channels of communications viable. Yes, there will still be the internet; however, the internet does not have reporters digging into and reporting the stories of importance in your local neighborhoods. The internet does not send people to the local Village Council meetings or the Zoning Board meeting to report on issues of local importance only. The internet may report the scores of your local high school games, but it doesn’t do the post-game interviews or post the pictures of the game that your local newspaper might. There might be a post on Facebook about an imagined conspiracy behind a local school board vote, but only the local newspapers actually have people out interviewing the school board members to report the facts behind that vote.

So on this Giving Tuesday, I’m asking you to take off the catcher’s mitts and consider throwing something back to your local newspapers, especially in this area to the Spinal Column. As the New York Times reported, these are the backbones of democracy in our townships, towns and villages You can go to our web site,  http://www.spinalcolumnonline.com and use the Donate to the Spinal Colum choice in the banner  to make a safe donation to keep democracy alive in this area.

What will you throw back today?

Giving voices to our pets…

October 18, 2020

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote –

“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.”  (Jane Goodall)

Jack went on to write about Jane’s long career of understanding and giving voice to the Chimpanzees that she loved. Most of us don’t spend our lived living in the jungle with Chimps, but many of us may have pets that we give voices to on a daily basis.

Our dogs, cats and birds seldom talk back (well maybe some of the birds do), but it is a way to try to express what we think they that may be thinking or what they might say, if they could talk. For some it’s a way to have a conversation with ourselves, by using the pet as a surrogate other self. That can get as spooky as the movies about conversations between the ventriloquists and their dummies.

I’ve noticed that many people tend to slip into a kind of baby talk when talking to or for their pets. I suppose that there is a certain cuteness factor to that, but it does tend to limit the intellectual content of the conversation. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if the pet talked in an educated adult voice? Maybe you’d even learn something from the discussions.

The toughest discussion to have for them is when they are obviously not feeling well or have been hurt. We try to express their pain or discomfort but find it frustrating that we really don’t understand what they are feeling or why. Maybe at those times we should have them just blurt out, ”take me to the vet you big dummy.”

Sometime our pets serve the purpose of being a good listener. Since they can’t talk back, they just sit there patiently listening to us drone on about our problems or perhaps they are just happy that we are petting them or giving them treats while we talk. They are usually ready to give us a big wet kiss if we need it, too.

The efforts that we may make to calm them also work to calm us and that’s a good thing. It also gives us “someone” that we can share our pains and disappointments with who will never judge us based upon what we tell them. So, perhaps it isn’t all that bad that we talk for and to our pets. That provides a voice to them that we sometimes need to hear to keep ourselves sane.

Well, I’ve got to go, now. My dog Sadie wants to have a talk with me about the things that happened yesterday and plan out what we are going to do together today. She can be quite talkative, but sometimes I think I may bore her in our conversations. She’s a good listener, even if she does sometimes snore during our conversations.