Tag Archives: appreciation

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Looking for Joy

   We all experience things that steal our joy. Fear, worry, anger and stress are common elements in our lives that steal our joy. Our economic stresses can permeate every part of our lives. We worry about job security and adequate income. Constantly flowing bad news from our televisions and radio cause us to fear the world we live in.

The Affordable Care Act has caused worry for many and relief for some. My medical coverage has had to change because of the ACA. Because of my zip code, I was offered an equivalent policy that did not include my doctors or hospitals. To keep the care that I have grown comfortable with, I chose a less efficient policy.

The stress that steals our joy the most is that over situations that we cannot change or have no control over. These things can be anywhere in our lives. Work policies, school policies, new schedules, pressures at home can all cause stress.

Sometimes, the joy stealer comes from within us. We might feel inadequate, just not good enough. We are all different. We all have our own skills and gifts. None of us is great at everything. We all deserve to give ourselves a break. Do we have flaws? Of course. If  it something we cannot change, then we need to accept that it cannot change. If it can change, then we can work towards improving that. This gives us the confidence and self-esteem that we need to defeat the things in our life that steal our joy.

Anger gets in our way. Sure, people and even family push our buttons. But we have to realize that anger can rob of us of our joy, our relationships and even our health. Anger is not always bad. Sometimes it is good to be angry. But mostly, it does not solve anything and usually makes bad situations even worse. Forgiving those that anger you frees you from the control that they have from pressing your buttons.

So how do we get our joy back or find the joy we have lost? Instead of focusing on what is wrong, we should seek out what is good. Look for the good things in life, in others and in ourselves. We are responsible for our own joy. It is our choice. Always do your best, but even the best of us cannot live up to other people’s expectation. You always want to improve but you still have to be yourself.

Know what you can and cannot do. Try new things out of your comfort zone. If you succeed, you improve your confidence. If it didn’t work out, you still have improved your confidence because you know you tried, you learned that it was difficult, and you learned where you need to improve if you want to tackle it again.

Life will sometimes let you down. That is just the way it is because there is so much that we cannot control. We can learn from all these times, both good and bad. Having expectations of how everything should be will definitely lead to disappointment. Again, even if people don’t live up to your expectations, be patient with them. They may need nurturing, guidance. It could even mean that the person cannot meet your expectations. Your expectations may have to change.

Bottom line, your joy can be be stolen by others, but joy is found within yourself. You don’t have to let others steal your joy. This is a difficult skill to learn. It is one that I struggle with. Even those of us that try to stay positive all the time allow others to steal the joy we have. It is up to us to return the joy to our hearts and minds by trusting in ourselves, trusting in God, and being thankful for all the good in our lives. Look for and find the joy in your heart.

It’s Always Been That Way

As humans, we usually look for patterns. Even if we go out and look for the exotic, we still find comfort in the routine. We feel comfortable in knowing that things will be as we expect them to be. Life is challenging and ever changing. Events and relationships have a way of upsetting our comfortable setting.

Many times at work, I question why we do things a certain way. The answer I usually receive is that it is just the way it’s always been done. I might even hear, it works, so don’t change it. I like to try to streamline reporting and tasks to make it easier for everyone involved. It usually works, but sometimes what is easier for me, isn’t necessarily easier for someone else. What I change might make someone else very uncomfortable. I am sure that you have had this happen to  you as well. What makes perfect sense to me might befuddle someone else and vice versa.

This can happen in relationships too. We rely on our experiences from our childhood. Our family worked in a particular way, whether we liked it or not, that is the way it was. Sometimes we don’t think it could be different because it’s always been that way.

In a family relationship, especially in a blended family, bringing all these expectations and traditions together can result in a confusing mix of priorities. What is very important to one person may not be important at all to another. It isn’t right or wrong, it is just different. We bring with us our own understanding of what is normal and natural and how it should be done.

What might be very important to one might make another downright uncomfortable. Usually out of love, we genuinely try to respect and honor the differences. But it is difficult to always be mindful of what is important to someone else when it might not hold such gravity with us. It is part of being selfless, but our minds and bodies will remind us of our own needs.

I think the difference between work and home is that we expect work to dictate our actions and activities even when they don’t necessarily make sense to us. We usually do not practice that same flexibility at home, which is both good and bad. It is good that I can be myself at home but sometimes being myself might irritate others, just as they might irritate me. Any time you bring two or more people together for any reason; there is a possibility of conflict. It takes concerted effort to agree to goals and actions and move forward. It’s always been that way.

So we need to be mindful that everyone comes from their own series of experiences that colors their behavior and beliefs. In a work environment, it is to recognize the talents and strengths of those around us. We need to offer our own strengths and talents to lead to success.  In our family relationships we need to recognize that each of us have traditions ingrained in us by our childhood. It is up to us to decide which traditions to keep, which to discard, and which to meld into the tradition of others. In a sense, we need to make new traditions that not only work for us but for those around us.

Change is tough. Challenges are real. Opportunities to be better exist. It requires us to be mindful. It requires us to be present. But then again, it’s always been that way.

I am not worthy

Even though I am not worthy, God still loves me. These words continually bring me great comfort. I am not perfect and won’t be. It is not in my nature to be perfect. Now knowing this does not give me an excuse to be unloving to people. It is still my responsibility to always try to do what is good and loving.

For several years, I had a young man work for me that was often disappointed in himself because he wasn’t doing everything perfectly.  I appreciated his efforts and stressed to him over a long period of time that what I wanted was his best.  I believe that when he was extremely overwhelmed, he finally figured it out. He could not always be perfect at everything he did. I am not sure where he learned this insecurity because I never explored that with him.

We tend to beat ourselves up when things don’t go as well as planned. Maybe we made mistakes or didn’t try hard enough. But it is up to us to examine the events and learn from them. Then again, it could be that we just might not be capable or talented for that particular task. I will never be a Russian ballerina. I am not Russian nor am I female and I am not particularly graceful. So I don’t beat myself up for not being a Russian ballerina. I know that is extreme, but the point is, there are just some things that others are better at.

I am not worthy but I try my best. I know that God is patient. I look at the men and women that God used throughout the Bible. These were not the top of the class, spotlight of the world people. They were everyday people. They often balked at the mission God gave them, giving God reasons why they were not worthy of such an assignment.

It didn’t seem to matter to God. He basically communicated that He knew they were not worthy but He would give them the strength and tools to get it done. I am not worthy but God has shown over and over again that He works through people. People, just like you and me.

I am glad that I do not have to be perfect to be loved by God or anyone else. If we had to be perfect, none of us would be loved. So, it comforts me to know that even though I am not worthy, God still loves me. He expects me to be human, which is a good thing, because that is what and where I am.

So don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Try to be the best you can be knowing that you can never be perfect. Know that even though you can never be perfect, that God’s grace and mercy are already waiting for you.

Spring Forward

It is that time when we move our clocks ahead one hour. These events allow me to stop and consider time. It is very subjective. There are days at work when I arrive at work in the morning, look up at the clock and read 11:30 and swear that only 20 minutes went by, and other instances when the same time feels like a week long. Of course this has happened to you. As I grow older, time seems to slip by faster and faster. I actually wish it would slow down. Time passed so slow when I was very young and at times, I wish I had that again.

There are different calendars around the world. Even though the world at large recognizes the Gregorian calendar, native calendars are often used for religious and national holidays. In the Thai Buddhist calendar, the year is 2556.  It is the Chinese Year of the Snake (Gui Si Year).  It is year 1419 in the Bengali calendar. The current year of the Jewish calendar is 5773. So your concept of where we are in time depends on which calendar is on your wall.

As humans, we want to measure things, what’s bigger, what’s smaller, what’s better, what’s more valuable. Time measures when, how long and in what order. Time is fleeting. Another way we can measure time is the amount we spend with the ones we love. I read today a post of a boy who offered his father an hour’s pay so that he could spend more time with him, as his father worked all the time. I thought that was sad. But, I’m afraid that I could relate. I did the same thing when my sons were young. As the sole earner in the family, I dedicated much of my time working to support my family. Even though this is quite laudable, I believe I missed some valuable time with my sons. I needed to work but I do miss the time that could have been.

Fast forward to now. I try to make sure that I take the time to spend with my loved ones. I have dinner with my son and his wife at least once a month. They live over an hour away. My son works two jobs but still finds the time to have dinner. We meet him at a restaurant that is half way between us. I really appreciate that he understands how important it is to gather together.  It is important that we work and provide. It is important that we let the ones we love know that we love them and spend quality time with them. Your employer can replace you readily but your loved ones can miss out on you for the rest of their lives.

Time slips by quietly and quickly. Don’t let the opportunities to spend quality time with your loved ones slip by as well. Spring forward to new opportunities. The future is made by the choices we make today.

Valentines of the Heart

The time around Valentine’s Day is a bittersweet time of year. Theresa lost her father around this time last year. I lost a loved one as well around this time. I am glad that there is a reminder during the year to recognize our loved ones and let them know that we love and care for them. I certainly believe that it needs to be a daily occurrence. Even those people who have difficulty saying those three words…I love you…I need you…I want you.

I celebrated with my loved ones, but I also remembered very fondly those who are no longer here.  Both of my parents, my Butterfly, and other loved ones have passed away. But I carry a valentine for them in my heart. I love them and miss them. I appreciate the time they spent in my life.

Each year, around Valentine’s day, I place a rose on the grave of my Butterfly. I tried to do that this year, but we have had lots of snow and the drive lanes of the cemetery were not plowed. I did not dare drive back into the cemetery. I will just have to try later when the weather is better.

My family has been suffering from the flu for the last three weeks, but I hope that you are well. I hope that you enjoyed your Valentine’s Day giving and receiving love. Remember that you carry the Valentines for all those that you love throughout the year. Any day or time you wish to let those you care about know you love them, you will never be without a valentine.

Take care, stay well and be blessed.