Category Archives: Life’s Journey

The Blind Spot

Each workday I travel a busy highway system to and from work. If you are a driver, you already know that there are blind spots that prevent you from seeing and knowing all that is happening around you. It seems that, like magic, cars on the side of us materialize out of thin air. I usually turn my head and check behind me when I am changing lanes, but even then, things might be happen in front of me while I am checking.

Another type of blind spot are the things that keep us distracted. Some of us are engrossed with entertainment media, others with hobbies and activities. There is nothing wrong with escaping the daily grind and enjoying distractions, but there are times we need to check our blind spots and pay attention to what is going on around us.

I am concerned about what is going on in our world. I am very concerned with the success of ISIS. I am also concerned with the growing debts, not only of individuals, but of countries around the world. Greece is just the first example of the debt problems that will soon face other countries. Puerto Rico, our protectorate, is finding it difficult to pay its growing debt. These events should warn us to what might happen with the USA debt that is growing out of control and eventually will have to be dealt with. Austerity, whether voluntary or enforced out of necessity is the only solution to debt. How will our citizens handle the evaporation of government handouts? I believe they will handle it as well as the Greek people, with riots, protests, bank closures, and account seizures.

I believe there are lots of warning signs as to what may lie ahead. We are seeing more and more terror inspired attacks all around the world. It could easily become much worse here. If you are a bible believer, you may have noticed signs such as the blood moon tetrad, the Bethlehem Star, the end of the Shemitah year and the beginning of a Jubilee year, which all points to a fulfillment of prophecy. I also understand that there is a red heifer that can qualify as a proper sacrifice in a yet to be constructed new temple.

I will say that, even though ISIS and other threats, such as Iran, North Korea, and others are popular in the news, as well as horrible events that happen here at home, the vast majority of people are good. I wish that each night the news would highlight and celebrate the contributions of the many people that make our community better. They could highlight an ambulance driver, a soup kitchen volunteer, an afterschool activities director, a police officer, a nurse, a social worker, and so many others. It would remind us that there are great people in our world. That our world is not just full of murderers and terrorists. Of course, I doubt if the media would ever move from its “if it bleeds, it leads” but I definitely hope they will.

So when we are distracted by life, let’s remember to stop and check our blind spots, because we just may never know what we might find there.

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New Paint

We have decided to place our home on the market, for the third time. In preparation, I am scraping down the old paint on the porch so that I can add a layer of adhesive primer and then some fresh paint. My son and I did something similar a couple of years ago to the same porch but without the adhesive primer. It looked great for a while, but after some time and weathering, the wood did not truly accept the paint and it began to lift off.

This reminded me of the process that we go through to become better people. Sometimes, we brush off the old habits, attitudes and thought processes so that we can take on new ones. A lot of the times, we find that without a proper foundation, the new habits, attitudes and thought processes just don’t stick like we thought they would. We find ourselves falling back into our old patterns. It certainly is easy enough to do.

I think that is why we need a life changing event, an ‘aha’ moment, a strong source of motivation to act as the adhesive primer to create the proper foundation for our newness. We need something that makes the new habits stick. My sister had complimented me on my will-power to avoid gluten containing foods, but I attributed that not to will-power, but a motivation to avoid the arthritis and pain that the inflammation gives me as a result from eating gluten and high sugar containing foods. That experience of overall pain and lack of mobility helps me want to avoid the same in the future.

“You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.” – Marianne Williamson, American spiritual teacher, author and lecturer.

To have a different attitude or develop a different habit, we need to change the way we think. We must make a conscience effort to change and be better. It is like putting on a new coat of paint. To make sure the paint sticks, we need a good foundation, which is why this time, I am using an adhesive primer on the porch. I don’t want the porch to look good temporarily, but for it to look good for the new owners for many years. I don’t want to change myself for the better just to fall back to where I was. I want to change myself for the better so that I can create a firm foundation to continue getting better. I know that I will never be perfect, but that doesn’t matter, as long as I try daily to be better than I was the day before.

I hope to have the porch painted by the end of the week. It is a good exercise in reminding me that, like the porch getting new paint, that I must continually strive to improve myself as well. Take this time to be thankful for all that you have, all that you are and ask for guidance to be all that you are meant to be. Take care and be well.

Your World Community

I was thinking about the vast array of connections that we have in our everyday objects. We don’t normally consider the tens, hundreds or even thousands of people, often in diverse places, that are involved in procuring, designing, producing, transporting and retailing the products and services in your life. I am amazed at the ingenuity and design that go into the products that we use every day. For instance, the car you may drive has so many different materials and technologies. It is quite possible that several hundreds of people were involved in producing it. As much as those people put their touch into your car, you affected them with your purchase. No matter what your job is, your efforts and your consumption adds to the community. So even if you are a loner, hiding from the world, the efforts of the world are still around you.

Think about how people you will probably never meet have made your life better. This isn’t necessarily the things you own, but the roads you use, the sidewalks, the buildings, everything you see and do have been made possible by community. Think about the community that supported you – not just your parents, but other relatives, friends, teachers, bosses, co-workers, etc. All of these people and many more have touched your life. More importantly, in ways you may never realize, you have touched many lives as well, not only personally, but through you work and consumption. You need the community and the community needs you.

Holiday Season

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is often called the Holiday Season. My favorite part of this time of the year is the time spent with family. Most families make a special effort to be together. Hopefully, it is a joyful time that reinforces the connections that bind us, whether it be through blood or mutual caring.

It is a time that we send and receive cards and letters, emails and texts to one another, establishing even the briefest of connections. It is a chance to let those you care about know that you are there. And it is a chance to reminisce, even painfully, those that are no longer with us.

It is a time that we are reminded to wish well our fellow man, to seek goodness in others and demonstrate love and generosity to those around us. It really is a mission that should be the goal of every day.

Now that we have entered a new year, we may or may not make resolutions, but each day in this new year is another chance to make our path and lives better by choosing wisely, loving deeply and learning from life’s lessons. It is a time that we are reminded of new opportunities in moments not yet realized.

I hope you experienced a wonderful holiday season. I hope you take this and every opportunity to look around you, realize the world is full of wonder and awe, and to be thankful for all that you have.

Paying Attention to your Surroundings

May we marvel at the beauty and splendor around us.

May we marvel at the beauty and splendor around us.

My wife is writing a beautiful book about the 10 moons of Native American legend. I found it interesting when I received a calendar book from a charity for the Lakota (Sioux) and read that the months were named after the change that occurred month to month. For instance, February is called Moon of the Popping Trees because the frost, ice and snow caused the tree limbs to pop. I have heard the same thing here in upstate NY when we have our occasional ice storms and you can hear the limbs break as the shatter from the freezing and the weight of ice and snow. June is called Moon of Good Berries. The Lakota people were hunters and gatherers. The months were sometimes related to the food and conditions that were prevalent that month. They observed the changes of the season and what those seasons offered them.

I have always respected Native American culture. They were connected to nature and its marvelous mysteries and splendor. They studied the movements and changes of the seasons and the effects on their food supply. They paid attention to their surroundings, not only because they needed to do that to survive, but also to understand the wisdom of nature.

I suppose I admire those who are aware, because, honestly, I am not always aware of my surroundings. I get caught up in my thoughts. I have been accused at work of “zoning out” when I am trying to problem solve because I am busy visualizing how the problem was created so that I can pinpoint a solution.

I do think it is important to stop and look around. I try to be aware of the little issues that may be getting in the way of keeping people happy. Sometimes the smallest of changes can have a big effect. Someone may be looking at a larger goal that seems almost impossible but may miss the small step that might get them towards the goal. I once was listening to a radio host who had always dreamed of working as a radio host, but could not seem to land the opportunity. Even though it was not his goal, he took a job as a library person at a radio station, pulling tapes and keeping track of their audio inventory. At least he was in radio, if not on the air. One day, the regular radio host could not make the show for one reason or another. The owner of the station asked the librarian to step in. It was an emergency and the station owner needed a voice on the air. This librarian, who had always wanted to be a radio host, finally had a chance to be on the air. He did so well, that he scored his own show.

Even though he was not meeting his dream at first, he paid attention to what he wanted, paid attention to the tasks behind the scenes which gave him a better understanding of how the radio host was supported. He finally reached his goal of becoming a radio host.

Things are changing where I work. Our procedures are changing. We are still working out how our work is going to be done. By paying attention to our workflow and what needs to be done, we will find efficient ways to get them done.

Just as we are often forced to look around to fix problems. But we should remember to look around and see all the things that are good. We can count our blessings and be glad to have what we do. It is so hard to find happiness if we don’t appreciate what we already have. We should pay attention to the good things that can lead to better things as well as the not-so-good things that have to be changed.

It is wise to stop and smell the roses, but I think it is just as wise to stop and look at the garden. It is a chance to think globally as well as locally. You can change your world and you get to decide how big that world is. I hope that you look around and find that your blessings are many.

No Left Turn

On the road where I work, there is a bridge over a main interstate artery for our city. The area around the bridge has been under construction for almost two years. There are two traffic lights on the bridge to allow left turns from both sides to access the artery below. The traffic on the bridge was always congested. On my way home each evening, I would wait in line to turn left. It was not unusual to wait two to four cycles of the traffic light to execute the turn. Yesterday, they finished building the new ramps to allow both lanes to turn right to go either north or south. No more left turns! Traffic today moved much smoother and much faster. This will make my commute home each night much easier.

Speaking of new traffic patterns, I survived yet another layoff from my work. The department I worked in was outsourced to a third party contractor. I am in the process of learning what my new duties and responsibilities are in the new reality of my job. I am exploring the paths that define my new work. It is an interesting adventure. On top of the new duties, our overall processes have changed because of the off-site processing. This is giving me the opportunity to learn the new system and develop efficiencies around them, trying to avoid the left turns that create difficulties. I am enjoying the challenge. I see both the road work and work changes as positive. Both are efforts to improve and enhance their respective purposes.

I am saddened that some of my co-workers are losing their positions because of the changes. They were good at what they did and they worked earnestly and honestly. Of course this leaves fewer people to do the work, but the new procedures places many of the stresses on the contractor and away from the employees.

Changes for the better

Last week, my wife and I helped my son move from our home to his own apartment – his first. He was dealing with the nervousness and excitement of the prospect of living on his own. He now would be making his own decisions, preparing his own meals and taking care of his own place. It was a task that he was looking forward to, but at the same time, just a bit unsure of himself.

We all go through times like this, whether it is a dwelling place move, a new job, or opening a new business. These opportunities mix nervousness, fear, excitement, and joy. Each time we overcome even a small obstacle it boots our confidence. It can boost our self-reliance, and if we do need help, it can shine a light on who can help us and who really cares. It is a very broad learning opportunity.

My wife has been an empty-nester before, but this is the first time for me. I am very proud of my son for making this leap. We did our best to set him up with the basics that he needed to help ensure that he would succeed. I went on a strenuous hike with him yesterday at Stony Brook State Park in Dansville, NY. It is a beautiful park and very well maintained. We had a chance to talk while we climbed up and down steps more numerous than I cared to count.  My son told me that he is excited about his new life but that he missed me. I admitted, gladly, that I missed him too. But I assured him, that no matter where we were geographically, I would be there for him. This was especially true since just the night before, I went to the hospital with Brandon as he cut his finger with a knife so deeply that he required stitches. He was preparing a salad for his work that night. I am so glad that he is carrying on good eating habits. I know that he will do well. Knowing that will make my transition to becoming comfortable as an empty-nester that much easier.

Ceasless Wonderment

I have embarked on an online study program for nutrition and I signed up for a second class to learn about plant-based nutrition. I have always had an incredible thirst for learning. The more I learn, the more I realize that there is so much more to learn. If God gives me 5,000 years to live on this earth, I still don’t think I would run out of things to learn about. In that time, there would be more discoveries, more understanding, rethinking things that were once thought to be understood as well as the social, civil and moral changes that would take place.

The universe is a ceaseless source of wonderment. Think back, if you will, to a time when you were just a child. Things were magic then. You could imagine anything at all. You could see castles, dragons, jungles and pirates on the sea. The magic was all around you and most importantly, the magic was in you. It was that wonderment that made you appreciate the most mundane thing. A cardboard box could magically become a boat, a car, a lion’s cage or a treasure chest.

We think that when we set aside those types of thoughts that we become more mature, a grown up. But really, you can bring that magic with you even today. It just takes being mindful of what is around you, paying attention to the moment, savoring the experience.

Since I started my grain free diet, I have a better appreciation for the food that I eat. I taste it. I experience the texture, the taste while it is in my mouth and the finish after I swallow. It is magical. That attention to the food helps me pay attention to other areas in my life. While I am hiking with my son, or walking through the parks with my dog, I am awed by the diversity the universe affords us. The vast number of plants, insects, wildlife that abounds. It makes each walk an incredible journey in the intelligence of nature, the infinite touch of God.

Even as we strive to understand quantum physics, genetic expression, and the human mind, each discovery leads to more questions and more opportunity to be in awe of what is around us. And just as we do understand some universal law, we can find exceptions. Everything in the universe expands when it is heated and contracts when it is cooled – everything that is except for water. Water expands when it is heated and when it freezes. The reason and mechanism is an understanding beyond me. It is magic.

Magic can be the awe of those things that are not yet understood. Rabbits come from magician hats and if you put two of them in a closet, you find 200 when you open the door 10 minutes later. That’s how it works in the cartoons. But really, the universe has such incredible diversity, that there is no one person that could possibly learn everything there is to learn. But, I promise, that as long as I am able and cognitively aware, I will wear myself out trying to learn more and more. Knowing that all that I learn will show me how much I have left to learn. In the global library of knowledge, I know next to nothing. But what I do know I hope will settle in my heart as wisdom.

Be in the moment, pay attention to what is around you and do forget the magic that fills every day. Heck, I think that just waking up in the morning is such a blessing. It means that I get to enjoy another day in God’s incredible creation and experience the ceaseless diversity and wonderment that waits for me.

Quit Playing God

When I sit back and point out all the sins of others, look for opportunities to criticize them, and getting angry that they don’t do as I would do, or think as I think, I am playing God. It is not my job to pass judgment on everything that others do. So many of us take on the roll as the General Manager of the Universe. We actually believe that everyone should act and do as we expect them.

If taken too far, this causes resentment towards us in others and bitterness in ourselves. I believe that the root of bitterness is anger. When anger is closely held onto and unforgiven, it results in bitterness. Bitterness is a focus on the faults of others. We focus on those faults because we won’t forgive and we are sure that the person is going to once again let us down, or anger us, or hurt us in some way.

If we are not careful, bitterness eats at us, consumes us, and affects those around us. The solution is simple. To realize that I am not perfect. That everyone has their bad days, bad moods, and deal with their own situations. Often what they do or say has absolutely nothing to do with me. Once I realize that I have no real control over the universe and everyone who inhabits it, I can give myself a break from managing the universe and realize it’s just not my job.

Can’t I influence others? Yes, I can. But in the end, everyone is a free will creature and will do what they will do. I can pressure them, but if I push, they have three options: be pushed, push back, or just ignore me. It’s still their choice. They may do what I think they should do, but in their time, not mine.

Fred Rogers wrote in The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember, “Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”

The solution is simple, to give up the anger, the judgment, and forgive. But even though it is simple, it is hard to do. It is hard for us to let go. It is hard for us to allow the world around us to be outside of our control. But peace and joy lie in our ability to let go and forgive. Anger without forgiveness is a bitter poison and a cancer that eats us alive. Will Davis Jr. in 10 Things Jesus Never Said: And Why You Should Stop Believing Them, wrote: “Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of defense but it does start you on the road to recovery.”

So, if you are weary from running the universe, take down your shingle, leave the office and let our Maker do the job. Relieve yourself of the anxiety and disappointment that others will not follow your plan, your expectation, your will on your time.

I am happy not to be in charge of the universe. It is too much responsibility. The help is unreliable because they will do what they do. They do because they are free will creatures just like me. They are imperfect just like me. They suffer emotions, uneasiness, fear just like me. And I hope that they feel joy, happiness and contentment, just like me. I hope that I don’t steal their joy. I hope that I remember to always see their value as God’s child with God’s heart. As Dieter F. Uchdorf said, “There is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.”

We are all imperfect. Do not be bitter, be better. Forgive whoever you might be angry with and then forgive yourself for just being human. There is so little in our life that we can control, but we can control our own actions. We cannot control the actions of others, even God has surrendered controlling his children because He wants us to choose. That is why we have “free will”, and so does everyone else.

Why I Give Blood

I participated in a blood drive recently. When I was done donating, I rested, as instructed, with a small can of cranberry juice and a small bag of raisins. The manager asked me why I give blood. This was my second donation, my first donation took place on 4/25/2014.

I would have started much earlier. I first entertained the idea of donating blood in late 2005. I was told that because I have a heart condition, I was not eligible to give. What prompted me to consider giving is that my father was a cancer patient and required occasional blood transfusions. I wanted to give back to the community and have a chance to help others, like my father. I was disappointed that I could not donate.

Then earlier this year, I read an article that pointed towards a study in Europe that showed that men who donated blood reduced their own risk of heart attack and stroke, and not by an insignificant amount. So, I think of this as a gift of life, not only for those who might receive my blood but for myself as well. And being a gift of life, it is also a gift of love. I will never know who might benefit from my donations. I am not looking for them to thank me personally. It does make me feel good to know that I have helped, and possibly saved someone’s life.

On April 25th, 2014, I decided to walk into a blood collection drive location. I read the literature there. I asked if I would be eligible. I had also read that the requirements are reviewed time and time again to protect the blood supply. The receptionist recommended that I go through the screening process and I would learn for sure if I was eligible or not. I followed her suggestion. Much to my surprise, I was eligible. There was some concern, but after checking their computers, they decided that my condition did not prevent my donation.

Now, why didn’t I consider it before 2005? I am not sure. I probably was: too busy; afraid of the needle; afraid of the process; not concerned with mortality. None of these were good reasons then or now. The procedure is safe. I don’t like needles, so I just don’t watch. I take a book with me and read during the donation process.

Each donation of a pint (you have 10), can help or even save up to three persons. Blood is constantly needed. The Red Cross Blood services began in 1940, and now supplies about 40% of the blood needed in the US. 41,000 blood donations are needed each day. 38% of the population in the US are eligible to donate blood but less than 10% actually do.

So think about giving the gift of life. You can visit RedCrossBlood.org to learn more. You never know, someone might be alive tomorrow because of your gift today. The need is constant. If you are eligible, it is a gift for them and for you.