Monthly Archives: April 2010

Changes, Changes, Changes

We are all faced with changes, little changes almost daily, but sometimes we are faced with major changes. Changes in the major area of our lives, such as employment, residence, relationships, and health, can cause much stress and even joy. All changes cause us some stress, both good and bad. Not all stress is bad. Stress is what can give us the ambition to move forward, to conquer the challenge in front of us. Stress can also wear us down and, if we aren’t careful, can defeat us.

   Like everyone else, I have had significant changes in my life. Joining the Army was a great thing for me. When I first experienced basic training, it was a shock to my system, a cultural shock. I survived. There was a time I wanted to give up, but I was forced to muddle through. I had to find the courage to get through the technical brainwashing of tearing a person down and then building that person back up in the form of a soldier. Sure, that sounds terrible at first, but I am the better for it.

   Then there was the transition of moving from a structured life of the Army back to the civilian life. You see, the soldiers have to give up the rights that civilians enjoy in order to protect those very rights for others. When I entered the Army, I don’t think I really appreciated the freedoms and privileges that I had. When I came out, I knew just how important, just how bloody important, those rights and privileges were, paid for by the sweat, life and blood of soldiers long before I had the honor to serve.

   The next change was marriage. I married a wonderful girl from Upstate NY, as this was the place of my final assignment in the Army. Another big change came when my oldest son was born on my 26th birthday. Oh, what a wonderful birthday present! Married life was hard. Relationships are hard work. I know that I didn’t get it all right, but I did my best to support my wife and children. It is my opinion that I had a good marriage that ended badly. I will be forever grateful to my loving wife who spent her time and energy to that most noble profession of wife and mother. I will always love her.

   Another change that affected me very deeply was the final days of my father’s life. You can read all of that in my blogs concerning Lessons from Death.

   Now, I am faced with many, many changes. I pray fervently for direction and that God reveals his will to me. This is all happening close together. My challenges are:

  • Employment: After a reorganization at my  workplace, I kept my job but the responsibilities have increased and changed. I am still trying to sort out priorities and procedures that will lead to daily success in my job.
  • Residence: I plan to move to another town, leaving my home to my son and his new bride. I will miss my home of 12 years. I just love my kitchen and master bathroom. But I look forward to experiencing a new chapter of home, building memories and comfortable, loving surroundings.
  • Relationships: I am moving from romance toward a marriage-minded romantic situation based on Proverbs 31. As well as working to stay connected to my, now married, son. My other son is still with me. I recently experienced the death of a loved one, who I often think of and I miss her.
  • Health: I am dealing with the ever-growing pain of arthritis and inflammation, and the daily stiffness and challenges that come with controlling chronic pain.
  • Financially: I have willingly increased my financial burdens by promising to help my sons, my girlfriend, and my favorite charities even more than before and also increase the amount that I pay towards debt.
  • Spiritually: My prayer life has increased with the diverse changes and stresses that are presented everyday. Luckily, someone who loves me dearly, reminds me of my own words to look on the bright side and trust in God.

But, alas, I will survive. These changes are temporary, character building and more of life’s adventures. I know that all of this will turn out for the best. I trust God to guide my course to love, happiness and fulfillment.

   I found a song by Rebelution called Courage to Grow. I thought I would share it here. I hope you enjoy it. My best to all my readers. May you all be blessed with love and abundance. Take care, stay well and be safe.

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The Power of Touch

   “Oh, that feels good. A little to the left –  now down –  yep, right there.” No, this is not dialog from an adult movie. It could be something you might say while you were receiving a very wonderful massage.  For thousands of years, people have used touch to sooth, to comfort and to heal. I am speaking about positive touch, not inappropriate touching. There is certainly not enough touching nowadays. Everyone wants their own space. People think negatively about touching. I am a touchy, feely person. I know I make people uncomfortable because I hug them or hold their hand. They are usually resistant at first but usually they appreciate it. Our culture has so many taboos about touch. We equate touch with sexual advance, and that is not always the case.

   Research has shown over and over again that touch and massage greatly improves the survivability of babies, both premature and newborn. The skin is our largest organ. It is our main sensory input when we are born. We explore our world with our hands. How many times have you picked something up to “look” at it. We want to feel the shape, the texture, the weight. And the benefits of touch are not restricted to the very young. Studies have shown that touch affects us at any age.

   People connect through touch. Touch can be the safe feeling of holding hands. It can also be the encouraging pat on the back. It can be a loving embrace that says “everything will be okay. You will get through this.” Touch can even be a hand shake, a soft touch on the back of the hand that says “I am here for you.” Touch can connect you with someone else to heal their soul. Touch is a form of communication. It speaks to the soul.

   Touch is very powerful, and when touch is violent or inappropriate, it can do much damage. It is much like fire – it can cook your meal or it can burn down your house. Touch, like fire, must be used carefully. Touch releases a hormone called oxytocin which helps reduce blood pressure, reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) levels, helps one to relax, increases pain thresholds, stimulates feelings of closeness and trust, and has anti-anxiety effects. Oxytocin also promotes healing and growth. Pregnant women have increased levels of oxytocin to promote bonding with their child. You can view abstracts of studies concerning touch at the website for the Touch Research Institute at the University of  Miami School of Medicine. These are only a very few of the many studies done concerning touch.

   Throughout the Bible, Jesus and others practiced their healing touch, called the “laying on of hands.” Jesus connected with many through his touch. His hands were instruments of power. The followers of Jesus knew that if he would just touch them, they would be healed.

   Theraputic touch has been used to treat chronic pain and immune disorders. It is a powerful tool that activates the healing powers of the body and brings a relaxing sense of well being. Ever had a good massage? Then you know how great it feels and the results often last longer than the touch.

   I like to hold hands. I like to hug. I give kisses on the cheeks. I like to demonstrate to people that I truly love and care about them. I want them to know that it is okay to demonstrate affection. I want them to see that touch does not necessarily lead to sexual activity. Touch can be a pure, sweet, powerful communication tool.

   Increase your “feel good” hormones today. Hug someone you love. Be the pillar of strength for someone to lean on, hold them while they cry into your shoulder. Let them know that they have a safe and loving place in your heart. Connect with them, not only with your words, but also with your touch. Positive touch means positive results. Positive touch means positive people. Use the power of touch to connect with those you love and care about. They will feel even more connected with you.

   I pray every day that God gives me the blessing of a healing touch. I strongly believe in its power. Take care, stay well and be safe.

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Adding by Taking Away

   I just said to someone I love that my goal is to add to their life. Then, for no reason I can fathom, it was revealed to me that I add to lives by taking negative feelings and negative beliefs away.

   These are some of the ways that you can ADD to someone’s life:

  • Take away the cold and damp by giving them shelter and a warm embrace.
  • Take away loneliness by showing them friendship and caring.
  • Take away the fear of rejection by showing them that they are loved for who they are now and their potential to come.
  • Take away idleness by showing them a vision they can obtain.
  • Take away their despair by giving them hope and encouragement.
  • Take away their anger and frustration by understanding their point of view and providing different ways to see the same situation.
  • Take away their feelings of worthlessness by demonstrating that they are valued. God doesn’t make junk!
  • Take away their depression by offering love, support and understanding.
  • Take away their poverty by teaching them to monetize their talents.
  • Take away their feeling of “being lost” by giving them a safe P.LA.C.E. in your heart.
  • Take away sadness by providing joy and situations where it is easy for one to choose happiness.

   How many other negative feelings and negative beliefs can you think of to take away that will add to one’s life?

   I hope you have added good to someone’s life today. I hope someone added to your life today. God bless you.

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The Butterfly Budget

   This is the fifth article in the My Second Million series.

   You’ve tracked your spending. You have categorized your expenses so that you have an idea of where you spend your money. Hopefully, you also have an inkling as to how you spend your money and maybe even why. The more you understand your own habits and are honest about those habits, the easier it will be to make plans that work.

   My vision of a butterfly is a creature that changes into something free and beautiful. The metamorphosis from a caterpillar into a winged beauty. The cocoon is made by the caterpillar to protect it while it goes through its transformation. The cocoon that we often find ourselves in is usually a cage of our own making. It is cage that is locked from the inside. I know that I buy too much food and snacks. I attribute that to an existence of lack when I was young. My mother did a wonderful job of making sure we had enough, but I knew that we could have more. My father severely restricted my mother’s budget for food. So that is why I like to have lots of food and snacks around, it is a comfort to me. Sounds like an excuse, and it is. I know I do this and it is up to me to be honest and logical about it. Do I always win? Not at all, but I am trying.

   There is no perfect budget. Life will happen! The car will break down. A child will be sick. You have an emergency home repair. The budget is a spending plan. It should reflect your goals and your values. How do you expect to emerge a butterfly if you are not working towards your goals?

   If you are with someone special, it is important, vitally important, that they are part of the budgeting process. What are your dreams? Not just yours alone, but what is the goal that the two of you have together? Is it to be debt free? Is it to have a bigger home? Is it a safe and comfortable retirement? Do you want to travel? Your goals as a couple will determine the important aspects of the budget. It is, however, important that your goals be realistic. Make several smaller benchmarks that lead to your ultimate goal, that way you will know that you are gaining ground and succeeding.

   One of you may be better with finances or figures, the other more aloof or even uninterested. But it is important to at least know the direction you both want to move in. Money and arguments about money can bring incredible strife to a relationship, but working together with your partner in respectful and thoughtful discussion can move couples closer. If you live alone, do not dismiss your future. Where do you want to be in the future? How do you want to get there and what do you want for that someone special that may come into your life?

   The mechanics are simple but the implementation takes conviction. Begin with your income, your net income. If you tithe, that should come off the top, if not automatic. Know what you owe. Know when your bills are due. This simple information will create the basic structure of your budget. Define bills that are stable, such as mortgage and car payments. These are fixed amounts.

    Then define your bills that are variable, the ones that change each month, such as energy bills, grocery bills, etc. These bills are usually somewhat controllable. You can find some savings here.

   Then decide what your discretionary spending looks like. Much of your savings can occur here. Subtract your bills from your income. This is your discretionary funds. Your savings and goals come from here, as well as bills that can be cut or reduced. Don’t be afraid to set up multiple savings accounts. Maybe one for vacation, another for gift giving, but the priority should be a well maintained emergency fund. Or maybe some of the discretionary funds become extra principle payments on other bills. The choice is up to you. It won’t work if you don’t decide and follow through.

   You should be able to take these amounts and decide how much you can save. Once you decide a reasonable amount for saving, then mark that amount a fixed liability. Pay yourself first! Your first goal should be to have an emergency fund. It is best to have an amount automatically withdrawn from your checking to an online savings account that pays higher interest. Once your emergency fund is fully established, you can concentrate on other goals. Knowing that your emergency fund is there for life’s little surprises will relieve a great deal of stress and worry.

   Your first few budget months will probably not seem to work as you like, but this is normal. It takes time for the budget to be made reasonable, and it takes hard work on your part to make it work. Soon, there should be a balance between the needs and wants of today and the responsible planning for tomorrow. Some people like others to create the spending plan and provide structure. If that is what you need, then find someone you trust that you know is already financially responsible. If you have the courage to do it yourself, then establish an accountability partner, whether that be your partner, your kids, your parents, your friend or even a professional to keep you on track and hopefully give you lots of guidance and encouragement along the way.

   I hope that at least in this area of your life, you emerge a beautiful butterfly from a restrictive cocoon into a comfortable nest from which to take flight.

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