Monthly Archives: October 2009

Lessons from Death – Part Two

If you missed Part One, you can find it here Lessons from Death – Part One

My father always checked the obituary page in the paper first.  He said it was to make sure that he wasn’t listed.  For the longest while, he would attend many of the funerals of people or families that he knew.  It probably isn’t true, but it seemed as though my father knew most of the families in the county.  If he didn’t attend the funeral, then sometimes he would stop and deliver his condolences to the family home in person.

   My father’s “funeral” ministry ended when my mother died.  He stopped going to funerals.  He said that funerals were too painful, that it reminded him too much of losing my mother.  I would have thought that it would have made consoling others even more meaningful but I suppose that the pain was too great.  The only funeral that he attended after my mother’s death, at least that I’m aware of, was that of his own mother.

   My father suffered from multiple cancers for over five years.  He lived with my sister, who worked a lot of overtime hours.  Early on, my father remained quite independent, but as his illness progressed, his geographic world began to shrink.  I had asked him to come live with my family and me.  He turned down this invitation time and time again, stating that his friends lived in Maryland.  He spent most of his life in Cecil County, Maryland.  I live in Upstate New York.

   In late 2005, my father’s cancer tightened its grip on his life.  He was in and out of hospital and rehabilitation.  Chemotherapy and blood transfusion became more regular.  He participated in a drug study that, I believe, extended his life.

   In January 2006, my father, exhausted from his long fight, asked if he could live with me – to spend his last days with me.  This was an incredibly emotional request for me to consider.  Of course, I blurted out “Yes” right away.

  I asked, “What about your friends?”

  “They are all dead,” my father replied.  I knew that was not true, but I did not protest his answer.

   This was the last leg of my father’s journey and an incredible path that was an honor and a great privilege for me to travel.

   To be continued…

Follow this link to Lessons from Death – Part Three

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Lessons from Death – Part One

Even from the time I was young, I have been familiar with death. My father was a tenant farmer and a factory worker. His factory work left many of the farm chores to my siblings and me. I had an opportunity to see the cycle of life repeatedly. I understood that death was natural. We raised animals for market and for food. The striving for survival is an incredible urge. When a sow gives birth, we marketed the piglets after a short while, which caused the sow to stress and urge her to gestate.

Unlike what I learned to feel about farm animals, the loss of a loved one is an incredibly emotional event. We read about people dying everyday and if we have no close attachment, it affects us differently. My mother passed away in 1994. She suffered a very sudden death, like the kind that everyone wishes to experience.

I had a difficult time accepting that she was gone. It didn’t become real to me until the funeral. I finally allowed my emotions to surface and I sobbed at the loss. I was taught that boys don’t cry, that displaying emotion is a sign of weakness. I cannot agree. Being afraid to show emotion comes from a place of fear and shame. Acknowledging your feelings is reflective and comes from a place of strength and acceptance. If you don’t acknowledge such strong emotions then they will manifest in other ways, usually in negative ways or in ways that make it difficult to move forward.

Accepting my mother’s death allowed me to see life as more precious and finite. The idea of mortality is one we don’t want to entertain, especially our own. Youth is reckless as they envision themselves immortal creatures. They really don’t understand that they can die. Dying is something that others do.

Take care, stay well and be safe

Follow this link to Lessons from Death – Part Two

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Belonging, What Is It?

   Do you belong?  I belong to many things, but do I really have a sense of belonging? What is belonging?  A sense of belonging is essential to our human psyche, but I think each of us require different levels of belonging.  Belonging to a group gives us esteem but can also make us targets by others.  Belonging gives us a sense of community, a connection with others.

   Our sense of belonging may be stronger for one community than another.  I consider myself a citizen of the world, though admittedly, I haven’t seen all that much of it – saving it for retirement, I guess.  I am also a citizen of the USA.  I belong to a group called American.  I belong to other groups as well.

   Where I get my strongest sense of belonging is among those that accept and love me.  I suppose you can call them family, even though they aren’t all related to me by bloodline.  So, is belonging a matter of acceptance?  Is it a matter of deep connection?  I think so.

   Belonging can provide us with a sense of self, a measure of who we are.  I ask you to remember that no matter what group or community you belong to, you are unique in your own way.  You can still belong and still be a true reflection of yourself.  Find your talents, reach for your dreams — who are you to deny the world your special gifts?  You belong to the world and the community that it represents.  You belong to the Creator and Master of the Universe.

Take care, stay well, and be safe.

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New Connections Page

Blog Updates by Email

   I have added a connections page and a connections link that will send me an email to add you to my email list so that you can receive an update when I post a new blog or make significant changes to my blog space.  The connections page also contains a link so that you can discontinue receiving the updates by email.

   You can also connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Yahoo from my connection page or connections links.

   Click below to go to my connections page.

 https://truetobeyou.wordpress.com/connections/

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Congratulations, You’re a Mentor!

   You affect people’s lives because, whether you know it or not, your attitude and actions impact others throughout the day.  You are an example of what you believe and how you think.  So how do you want to affect those around you?  Positively, I hope.  If you project kindness and abundance, then you will attract the same.

   The proper definition of mentor is a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.  I have no argument with this definition.  I have several mentor relationships where I coach, constructively critique, encourage, hold accountable, support and cheer on my mentee.  But, I think all of us are capable of casually mentoring others even for a moment, without establishing a true mentor/mentee relationship.  And the most wonderful product of mentoring is not only the knowledge and attitudes that are passed on, but that the mentor learns from the mentee.  The mentor hones their skills, reinforces their skill sets, and builds a better world one mentee at a time.

   Mentors are all around us, both living and dead.  Certain individuals will impact society for centuries or even millennia to come.  Jesus, Ghandi, Buddha, Einstein are examples of mentors.  They teach us by their thoughts, actions and legacy.  They can become our mentors.  If they affect our lives profoundly and we pass on their knowledge, we are not only teachers, but mentors for those that learn from us.

   When we are honest with ourselves and reflect on what we know and don’t know, we can seek out mentors to help us learn what we don’t know and help us overcome our weaknesses.  We can seek out accountability partners who will keep us on task or at least working towards our goals.  You can do this for others.

   Mentoring is sometimes viewed as a one way process, the mentor teaches, the student learns.  But I think mentoring is more fluid than that.  I think we have mini-mentoring opportunities each and every day.  If you are a parent, it is your duty to mentor your children.  They naturally observe and learn from you every day.  Mentoring is serious business, one that can be incorporated into your life and be a source of joy and satisfaction, a fulfillment of your purpose.

   So congratulations, now that you know you are and can be a mentor, a shining example, each day, you can affect lives in a positive way and improve yourself in the process.  Learn by teaching and teach by learning, it’s a two way street.  Use the strengths and lessons that you have learned through your own struggles to help those who may be going through the same thing.  You may not even see results right away, maybe not at all, but you never know, that one brush with mentoring today just may change someone’s life forever.  Never underestimate the power you have to affect others, and use that power wisely.

   Take care, stay well, and be safe.

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Food, Hope and Encouragement in a Box

   In whatever way you may be struggling, know that you are loved and that people do care.  Think about what you can learn from your struggles, because those lessons will make you a truer you.  Find the strength and self-respect that your struggles demand.

   I suggested that one of my mentees, who is experiencing financial struggles, to avail themselves of the service provided by Angel Food Ministries.  It is a ministry that provides food relief for hundreds of thousands of families across 35 states.  I had learned of them from an outreach article in a local newsletter.  I sought out information on the web and was impressed with their website and their ambition.

   The time of package pickup of food items was scheduled for today.  I did a follow-up call to my mentee to check on her experience.  She was overcome and gratefully cried because of the wonderful service provided by the volunteers, the amount of food that she received, and their caring nature.  The volunteers even inquired as to her well-being at home.  She told me that she thanked them repeatedly.

  You can explore their site at http://www.angelfoodministries.com

   This was a very humbling experience for a fiercely independent woman.  It took courage and humility to ask for the help she was given, even though the providers more than wanted to help her in her difficulty.  Pride could have kept her from getting the help but I reminded her that it was the situation, not her lack of effort or ambition.  She has been working very hard to monetize her dream and her talents in an economy of scarce resources.

   Angel Food Ministries not only provided food to sustain her body, but also showed her the love and conviction of strangers who just wanted to help.  She cried because she was so touched by their kindness and caring.  Their inquiry as to her well being further reinforced their caring attitude and gave her encouragement that there are those willing to listen.

   I am very proud of my mentee, because she overcame her pride and realized that she needed help – that she could accept help.  She is an activist for her community and the well-being of others.  This experience will turn her sympathy into empathy and understanding.  This struggle will hone her inner strength and allow her to be strong for others.

   I am grateful to Angel Food Ministries for their wonderful work and the volunteers at the host site (I think it was a church).  They truly made a remarkable impact on my mentee.

   Take care, stay well, and be safe.

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The Things We Do For Love

   I had promised my son last weekend that we would go to the movies.  He had his driving test today so I hoped that the movies would also serve as a celebration.  However, he failed his driver’s test and was certainly not happy about it.

  Those of you close to me would know that I do not like horror or scary movies.  I have a vivid imagination and I am afraid that horror images will haunt me in my sleep.  I volunteered to take my son to see Zombieland.  This movie is presented as a horror comedy.  I was hoping for more comedy than horror.  I survived the viewing.

  The beginning bothered me and my son offered me a chance to leave, but I refused because zombie and vampire movies are his favorite genre of movies.  His mother likes them as well.  I stepped out of my comfort zone, and suffered through uncomfortable images so that my son could have a great evening after a trying day.  I am not looking for any rewards, but I did think that parents do this often for their children.  The love for a child is a great motivator, a coat of armor that allows us to face uncomfortable circumstances.

   This isn’t just restricted to the love for our children.  Our love extends to parents, siblings, friends, and yes, sometimes even strangers.  This love is demonstrated by a: pastor towards their congregation; a soldier towards their country and fellow citizens; a fireman rescuing people in danger; a mother offering her favorite dessert to her children; and even a father sitting through a horror comedy for his son.  Moreover, let us not forget the love that we receive always from God.

   Whoever you are and wherever you are, know that you are loved.  Let those that love you know that you are grateful and let them know they are loved in returned.  Random acts of kindness and other acts of love surround us each day.  Take time to notice and appreciate the love that abounds.

   Take care, stay well, and be safe.

 

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Sometimes It’s About Attitude

   We all have an attitude.  We carry it with us everywhere we go.  It is a culmination of our life experiences mixed with present circumstances and flavored with our mood and thought.  If someone tells us that we “have” an attitude, it usually refers to a negative attitude.  Nevertheless, we always have an attitude.  I hope that yours is usually positive.

   We don’t always realize how much our attitude affects others and even the way things come to us.  If we act negatively all the time, it brings those around us down.  We don’t get the positive outcomes that we hope for.  A negative attitude will even feed on itself, which is where we get the phase that misery loves company.  If we have a positive attitude, it lifts everyone up, or at least annoys them.  I am all for annoying the naysayer.  They always seem to think I am up to something.

   When I do find myself feeling down or turning negative, I try to examine my way of thinking.  Just putting a different spin on things can help a great deal.  If I am doing a task that I really dislike, I think about what positive things will come out of my completing the task.  We can defeat negative feelings by re-thinking the situation.

   I often think of the grandmotherly advice of counting your blessings.  We all have things for which to be thankful.  When we place too much value on things that we don’t have, we sometimes forget to value the things that we already have.

   Buddha said, “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

   Having a great attitude will serve us well.  When we think and act as if we have abundance, it will surely come our way.  When you are the customer, who do you want to serve you?  Do you want to be served by the happy, smiling, energetic employee or the grumpy, grumbling employee who finds you an interruption in an already unpleasant life?  You would probably choose the cheerful employee, and so would I.  I might try to cheer up the grumpy one if I could or at least annoy him or her with a cheerful smile and heartfelt gratitude.

   Remember that attitude matters.  It matters to those around you and it should matter to you.  It reflects who and what you are inside and I know that you are a wonderful person.  Who are you to deny such a gift from the rest of the world?  Thank you for being you.

   Take care, stay well, and be safe.

 

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My Second Million – Part Two

You can find Part 1 here: My Second Million – Part One

   When should you start saving?  NOW!  It is never a bad time to start.  If you already started, then great, if not, why not start now.  Of course, the younger you are, the greater impact your savings will have since time allows for the magic of compounding interest.

    The first priority is to save $1000 as a starter emergency fund.  Then accelerate your debt payments (except for your mortgage, which comes later).  You can use some of your savings to continue to build your emergency fund to a level that is equal to three months expenses or more.  Then concentrate on retirement savings and mortgage reduction.  If your employer offers a 401k with a match, then fund your 401k enough to get the full match.  That is free money – take it.

 Spending Tomorrow’s Money Today

   I am going to use myself as an example.  I am very nearly 50 years old.  That is five decades on the planet, five decades of experience and still learning each day.  According to the latest Social Security retirement tables, I will be eligible for full benefits at age 67, just 17 years from now.  Normally that would seem like a long time, but since the last 50 years flew by, I suspect that my retirement date will soon be upon me.

    TVM (Time Value of Money) says that for every dollar that I invest today at an assumed earnings rate of 8.5% per year, that dollar would grow to be $4.  My savings factor is four.  Therefore, if I buy that burger meal for $6 then I have forfeited $24 of my future savings.  Now, I am not saying that you should never buy a burger meal.  However, if I really love burgers and bought that meal five days per week for a year (250x$6), I would be spending $6000 of my future dollars.  Those burgers just aren’t that good and certainly not good for me!

    We each can find ways to save money, whether it is to save for our future or pay off debt.  The younger you are, and its never too late, the greater your savings factor is going to be.  If you are 25 and retire at 67, your savings factor is 30.76 @ 8.5%.  Now there is an expensive burger meal.  Time allows the magic of compounding interest to grow your dollars.

    Keep in mind that as your money grows so does the cost of living.  If we assume an average inflation rate of 3%, the cost of living would double every 24 years.  That means our 25 year old would have to spend $3.46 for every dollar spent today.  Therefore, you can see where savings is vitally important.

    My favorite investment site for people just starting out is http://www.sharebuilder.com/ because it demands no minimum deposits; allows you to automate your investments; and allows you to buy incremental shares.  It is one among many great sites.

 Take care, stay well, and be safe.

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Our Deepest Fear

Are you afraid of what you might manifest if you were to reach your full potential?  I never really thought of it, but after reading the quote below it really makes sense to me.  I hope you enjoy it.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so
other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God
that is within us.
– Nelson Mandela, inaugural address, written by Marianne Williamson