American Politics: An Illegible Mess!

Americans are very fortunate. Our rights, privileges and entitlements are massive in comparison to what citizens of other countries enjoy. We may not be able to afford it, but we are very happy to have it? Just imagine a life without something you maybe never think about; the freedom of information. No one now living in America can comprehend living life without such a basic right. But citizens whom reside in many 1st world countries are living such an existence every day. Life and government in places like Italy, China or Russia are oh so different. Government corruption is so pervasive in those places that I’m not sure it can be stopped and the citizens there have no rights to know of the details.

Does government corruption exist in America? Absolutely. There is and there always will be some level of corruption in American government for at least one very good reason…power. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton 1887). But, the biggest difference here is that with our Freedom of Information Act, we have the ability to uncover most if not all of what occurs in our government so long as we know the right questions to ask. Couple our right to all non-privileged information with the advent and widespread use of pocket communications devices with video/audio recording capabilities, social media mania, mass media and the occasional whistle blower and you end up with a place which presents big problems for people who tend to abuse power for illegal or unauthorized purposes. Just ask Edward Snowden, he’d be happy to let you listen to an NSA wiretap and show you surveillance photos of you stealing a box of crayons from Lucy May’s lunchbox in 1973 then later bragging about it to your brother on your Midland hand held walkie-talkies while playing army in the back yard.

If you are able to expose corruption, that doesn’t necessarily mean that people will listen nor does it mean that people will care. It just means that the information is usually available for anyone who wants to know. Mass media, in particular, news and political journalism, presents its own set of problems. Blogging, what I am doing right now, essentially rose in popularity out of two things…access and popularity of social media together with a desire to present both unfiltered or alternatively biased news and information. Much of the motivation to blog was brought about by the widespread abuse of bias in mass media. When we read something in a newspaper or watch it on the Nightly News broadcast, we once assumed we were learning facts. But in reality, Walter Cronkite is dead and so is non-biased news reporting.

The end result is multifaceted. On one hand we have a large demographic of people who only watch or listen to liberal media, a large demographic who only watch and listen to conservative media, a large demographic who are repulsed by both, and a large demographic who couldn’t care less because it is ALL seen to have no credibility or in some cases they just don’t really care at all. In my opinion, the divisiveness we see in Washington DC is a direct by-product of what our mass media has unintentionally created. In a narcissistic way, mass media conglomerates decided years ago that they were smarter than the average Joe and they could use that intelligence to embed ideas into their stories or frame a particular story in a certain way in order to push the American consciousness toward whatever agenda they supported.

The problem is that Joe was a lot smarter than was expected and Joe’s political perspectives, if they were naturally opposite from those propagated by media bias, became much more serious and perhaps a bit extreme. But Jane, in reaction to Joe’s spirited contempt for opposing political views, became more protective of her own political views in order to promote her own agenda. Now, instead of having a broad centrist political ideology in America as we once did, we have two teams fighting for their lives for a collective of ideas in which we may only agree with half. The few remaining centrists are so hamstrung by focused ideological positions that they have little influence and no voice. Probably half or more of the die-hard conservatives or die-hard liberals really subscribe to ALL of the platform of either party. The rest of them only support the party vigorously because they want their party to win, regardless of their more centrist leanings.

Journalists in general can be divided into a few small groups: the independents and bloggers (few, heroic and frequently marginalized), the slaves (numerous, exploited and paid per article to have a particular opinion), and the great mouthpieces of the system hired or appointed to important positions by the parties and the lobbies (newspaper editors, editors in chief, famous names, or academics who are well-known in their field). Although we have this wonderful power over our government, The Freedom of Information Act, how that information is framed and presented to us is determined by whether that actor/hero/offender is a friend or foe of the media giant who is providing the information. We don’t get the whole story and decide for ourselves if it is good or bad, we get only bits and pieces of the story that appear to be either wholesome, moronic or demonic, depending upon how the media wants us to view it.

Who decides whether we will get the CNN version of Hillary Clinton or the FOX News version? I ask this because the two versions are rife with differences and anomalies you wouldn’t otherwise hear about from the other side. It is, of course, we ourselves who decide what we listen to but it’s the decision itself that bothers me. Why are we forced to watch biased news? We as Americans are forced to make a deliberate decision to have our news filtered to our own ideological standards. If news weren’t biased, then we wouldn’t have to watch the version which most appeals to our sense of right and wrong. If this weren’t happening, would we really be so disagreeable in the political spectrum? Could we then expect our politicians to actually accomplish things in Washington as we once did?

Our un-governed and unlimited 1st Amendment has worked to completely eradicate the role of “statesmen” from the American vernacular. George Washington himself could not have survived the onslaught of media bias in today’s political environment. Abe Lincoln would likely have been pinned a radical tea-party wacko and closeted girly-man for his rumored sleepovers with his BFF. Perhaps the brilliant statesman known the world over would never have emerged at all because he’d have been too busy poling voters and defending his awkward man-scaping. How many would-be statesmen have we sent to Washington that will never realize their potential – our potential – because of sleazy political correspondents whose sole purpose in life is to ruin the career of a candidate who represents a certain political party? It’s a sad reality when we would so quickly deny ourselves of a great leader just because he liked to wear onesies and wake up next to a bearded assistant.

Americans are being manipulated by the parties, the banks and by industry and these all use the media to distort reality. America has become one enormous reality show of three hundred million people that listen to fairy stories, and fantastic tales in such massive doses and for so long that they have transformed the country into a gigantic “Truman Show” in which truth is a lie and a lie is the truth. The more the system decomposes, the more the media becomes the last ferocious rampart (in fact, there is no further line of defense) losing every scrap of restraint and shame.

We witness the in-fighting and feigned hate in political dialogue, especially at election time, and I say to myself that it is incredible that anyone could accomplish a single goal. The ferocity with which the disagreements are carried can only result in a complete inability to listen to anyone who disagrees. And the worst part is that most of it is staged anyway. The majority of those guys who are beating each other up on stage are having dinner together to discuss strategy afterwards. They’re just pandering to the vocal majority of each of their particular groups. In reality, they just want to keep you entertained long enough to get another 4 years. In Washington, you’re either at the table or on the table. Strong public support gets you a seat at the table so you can feast on the carcasses of the once principled and incorruptible.

The moral of my blog today is that America has many items which should be on a to-do list. But in order to check them off that list, our system of collaboration (House of Representatives and Senate) requires that we hold the hands of others as we grasp the pencil to write. If one is left hand dominant and the other is right hand dominant, the pencil remains unmoved or scratches an illegible mess on the paper. Both hands must find balance and each must allow the other to have its moments. The incredible system we have never allows for an all-out win…never. Such a feat is impossible and for good reasons. You must accept each win with some concessions for the opposing force or you must accept abject failure. The American system of government, as I understand it, does not allow for tyrannical dominance, even if the views of the tyrant are pure or even best.

On that to-do list, first and foremost, should be the creation of some 1st Amendment don’ts for mass media and some sweeping election reform. There are some limits to free speech…you can’t yell “fire” in a movie theater unless there is a fire. So, let’s also make political comments free from annotation. Until we can erase media bias as a go-to lexicon for American political commentary, we will continue to propagate divisiveness and political radicalism. The term “spin” should be a dirty word. Both sides do it and both sides are wrong. Its manipulation plain and simple and it should be illegal because the fabric of a strong government rests on an educated public, not bamboozled bobble-head dolls.

Am I crazy or did our American forefathers study thousands of years of civilized society and politics in order to invent something original, lasting and as close to perfect as could be possible only to allow modern politicians, in an attempt to make it more perfect, try to change it into quasi-versions of other failed political and economic systems from fallen or bankrupt governments all over the industrialized world? I mean, what part of “almost perfect” don’t you get? Nothing is perfect except one thing and I promise you He/She/It will not have anything to do with running our government.

So everyone please forget the idea of sweeping change, it is an impossibility in the democratic system of government. Expectation is everything. Instead, look for a scaled and reciprocal approach which will have the ability to be hung and flown on a pole. Then democratically choose the pole. Otherwise, we can begin creating bronze plaques that read, “On this the 14th day of October in the year of our Lord 2014, NOTHING HAPPENED”.

Luck: The Good Choices We Had Nothing To Do With

“You’re so lucky”, how many times have you heard that? Luck — good and bad — plays a big role in all of our lives, right? I know I am lucky — ridiculously, amazingly, fantastically lucky. And I am ever so grateful. I
am lucky to be alive; I am lucky to be healthy; I am lucky to have been born into a family that could care for me, and in a place where I did not have to fight medical odds just to survive infancy; I am lucky to possess the DNA to let my body develop in a way that is acceptable to my mind; I am also lucky that I was born with a decent amount of intelligence and natural tenacity to steer me where my luck may provide advantage; I am lucky to have a healthy and intelligent child who loves me back and who I can proudly observe as he discovers all the things I write about independently of me; I am lucky to have found and successfully trapped a wonderful woman who loves me like crazy and whom I love the same way back; I’m lucky to have a good job when a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet; I’m lucky to have a fantastic mother who has always been attentive to both my physical and mental well-being; I am lucky to have wonderful siblings who have continued to support me emotionally throughout my entire life; yes, I am one lucky SOB.

Every single one of those things, I would say, make me one of the luckiest people on this planet. I had nothing to do with most of those things, partial responsibility for a few, and I am lucky as crap they all went in my favor. Heck, one time I found a McDonald’s bag in a rental car with $500 cash in it…that’s pretty darn lucky huh? Has everything gone perfectly in my life? Please. We all have bad luck too, but more than that, we all have challenges and struggles and disappointments and just plain ole crappy times. But none of those things – good, bad, lucky, indifferent, or unlucky – are what defines us. We’re way more complicated than that.

The way in which each of us handle good as well as bad luck is what best defines who we really are. If we are willing to learn, the way we deal with both positive and tough times can teach us a lot of what we need to know about ourselves. If things go your way do you get cocky or appreciative…if things go South do you pout and feel sorry for yourself or just try again and again? The knowledge gained from both situations becomes useful in many situations, but especially when we face hard decisions and potential life-changing opportunities. Because even if you have the best opportunities always seemingly falling into your lap, luck is never going to be what pushes you forward to take advantage of or get the highest use of that opportunity. More often, it’s what you’ve learned from failures that will be the thing that propels you forward when an opportunity presents itself.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca (2 BC-ish)

I drank it

Making the most of any opportunity, indeed even to recognize an opportunity for what it is, you have to be prepared. You must do the hard work to put yourself in the mindset that makes you ready to jump when your “luck” shines upon you, when you see that sliver of light, that tiny bit of hope, that opportunity you have been waiting for, which sometimes comes cleverly disguised as the exact opposite of what you had been waiting for. Luck has a strange sense of humor. She is a 1st cousin to karma.

What happens at that point is called choice.

No matter our relative luck levels and no matter how dire our emotional, financial, work, or other situations…that choice – that free will — that is what makes us human, right? The ability to step back, look at our lives, and decide what to do next is so very precious. But sometimes we do not notice an opportunity for what it is because it is up to us to really make it one. That cannot happen if we are not ready or prepared to do that. Circumstances sometimes limit our choices, but even not choosing — being a chronic non-decider who just lets things happen around them — is too a choice.

Tough decisions, the ones that tend to yield the highest rewards, are called “tough” for a good reason. So how do we become more self-prepared? Well-informed decisions and smart choices are built on a lifetime of getting to know better who you are, what you want, what makes you happy, what makes you anxious, what makes you intolerable — and you do not learn that kind of thing in the Valley of Unicorns and Leprechauns.

In Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Polonius told Laertes, his son, “To thine own self be true.” Timeless advice yes, but the only way to know thine own self is to put yourself out there, try new experiences, and make lots of mistakes. Through this “trial and error”, you will learn what works for you and what does not, where you want to be, and an amazing amount of other knowledge about yourself that you never even knew you wouldn’t have known otherwise. Although that particular line in Hamlet is one of the more recognizable lines, another of Polonius’ lines I find to be equally valuable is, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”. Remember that line when you’re out on a limb doing something unorthodox and people are giving you a funny look.

In case you are looking for some sort of reward for all that hard work – your journey to self-awareness not only becomes enlightening along the way but it WILL make tough choices down the road a lot easier for you. Easier to make, that is. Not necessarily easier to carry through. After that initial choice, you see, comes the all-important follow-through, and that consists of tiny choices every single day to continue on the path you have now chosen. And now we are getting to the real important part, Thoreau’s “suck[ing] the marrow out of life” I mentioned in my last blog.

This very blog, the one you are reading now, was written because of a series of small choices made each and every day. I love writing and I love teaching. Making the choice to write more, to teach those around me who I really am inside, to help those I care about navigate life’s up and downs…these are all things that I can do because of decisions I’ve made in my life that allow me to do it – and some good ole luck which provided me with the DNA needed to develop a love for words. The doors we open AND close each day will decide what we become and how we live our lives.

But, sometimes doubt creeps in because I would dearly love to be writing for a living. My failure or lack of initiative or lack of time and money and other distractions in my early life has delayed my own ability to finish what I started with my formal education. I continue to tinker with it but I never seem to find the time to just commit to finishing school. I changed majors 3 times and finally I know what I want to do, I just haven’t done it. That lack of a diploma closes a lot of doors for someone who likes to write…thus some bad choices were made.

Hey, no one ever promised that living life on our own terms would be easy, and sadly, no magic unicorns have shown up to guide me, I never found that pot-o-gold at the end of a rainbow, and I still do not have a rocket propelled jet-pack to travel back and forth to work on. Perhaps I would if some rocket scientist out there had taken an unconventional path instead of the NASA path of least resistance. But, that’s another story. Getting to know yourself and making conscious, informed choices on how to live your life, your one and only life, is based on what you should now know to be true – and that is experiencing life to the fullest without fear of failure. I do not know of any better way to move closer toward Shangri-La, which, by the way, is a moving target if you are doing things right.

Indeed, the learning process, realizing things about yourself, looking at situations from different angles, dreaming up of new ideas, goals, and adventures — those never end if you don’t let them. How lucky are we? How lucky are people with luck? Well, if we have learned anything at all I think it would be that lucky doesn’t necessarily mean successful. Make choices and make every choice matter – good or bad. Living deliberately doesn’t give you the key to every door, it IS the key to building your own door.

Getting The Most From Life…

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What a subjective title I chose…somebody please stop me now before I try to explain what color car is best or which species of animal is most beneficial for the environment. I mean, seriously, what makes my belly quiver in laughter and what makes my wife do so can sometimes be miles apart, and that’s just a comparison between two people on this planet doing one thing. Imagine trying to find consensus in what makes the typical American happy versus a typical Asian or Colombian or Eastern European. I know it seems like I’m arguing with myself but I just wanted to lay a little groundwork and say out-loud that talking about getting the most from life is certainly not as easy as doing it. Whether you lived in the 1800s or are living now, the path to getting the most out of life and living on your own terms was/is paved with challenges and complexities, including having to deal with folks who do not or cannot understand the concept at all.

Henry David Thoreau, in his book “Walden, Where I lived, and What I lived For” wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. …I wanted to suck out all the marrow of life…” Profound as some people believe his writing was, there were those around him, his peers, who not only couldn’t appreciate what he was writing about but who were also openly critical of his the ideas and the inspirations behind what he wrote about. It seems that good writing along with good anything lies in the eyes of the beholder.

In fact, another popular author of the time, Robert Louis Stevenson, called Thoreau’s journey into the woods “unmanly” and something he “tended with womanish solicitude.” John Greenleaf Whittier wrote that Thoreau would have man “lower himself to the level of a woodchuck and walk on four legs.” I think it is safe to say that neither of those men “got” what Thoreau was preaching about. Instead, they took a much more literal approach to his subject than he would have wanted them to take. Author George Eliot did get it though: “People—very wise in their own eyes—who would have every man’s life ordered according to a particular pattern, and who are intolerant of every existence the utility of which is not palpable to them, may pooh-pooh Mr. Thoreau and this episode in his history, as unpractical and dreamy.”

What? Another intelligent opinion which differs? Actually, this very wise man and famous novelist of the era George Eliot, was not a man at all. Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans who authored seven novels from 1859 to the 1880’s. It‘s amazing how wise her words still are today, especially now considering the plethora of accepted alternative lifestyles of today versus that of the Victorian period when she lived and wrote. The main idea I am trying to convey here is that people around you, including family, will not always agree with the path you are taking and may sometimes be very critical of you. Opinions, no matter how trusted the source, may or may not always be relevant at all to your decisions and choices. We should always appreciate the thought behind a person’s opinions and reasonably consider them but it is US who find the applicability of those opinions or not and US who bear responsibility for following or not following that advice.

Living deliberately, as Thoreau was instructing us to do, if you’re really serious about it, requires first that you know who the hell you are. How do we really get to know ourselves if all we are doing is sticking our toes in the water? Even if you’re taking a road well-traveled, that doesn’t mean that you have to do it in a Chevy just like Paw did. Perhaps you will invent the next means of transportation? If that is your dream, then by all means pursue it. The only promise I can make you is that there will be lots of people along the way who will criticize every idea, every vision, and every version you have about your dream. Trust yourself when everyone else is doubting you but always make allowances for a person’s doubts because tucked away inside those doubts are another person’s failures that you can learn from.

When we or our loved ones carve life paths that are independent, open, and outside of conventional boundaries, we always run the very real risk of losing people along the way. If you are a doctor and your father was a doctor and suddenly your child wants to be an artist or musician, then everyone stops to offer free advice to the young person which may or may not be all that wise for him/her. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not well-intentioned, but equally it doesn’t mean that it’s all that wise. What about college? If you strongly believe your child needs to get that diploma, what do you do when they reject the idea and move on to employment and financial freedom? What if…OMG, your child wants to marry a person outside of his/her race? There are lots of scenarios here, you fill in the very broad blank here.

I wish I could tell you that when you take your life into your own hands and create your own path, all of your loved ones will be overjoyed for you. That they will excitedly continue loving and supporting you, so very proud that you not only know what you want but are also working your ass off to get there — learning, growing, and confronting challenges you had no idea existed. That no matter what you do in life or where you go, you will always be able to lean on the support network you thought was solid. But alas I cannot offer this to you. Some of your loved ones not only will not get it, they will not even care to try. But God doesn’t create perfect humans and never promised any so we have to work with the imperfections. It’s up to the more thoughtful and intelligent ones to not only ignore the emotional clutter caused by ignorant family members but to also empathize with why they care so damn much about what you are doing.

Guess what, living deliberately, sucking the marrow from life, and creating your own path is not about them and their judgments, it’s always going to be about you and your commitment to yourself and your vision for who you are or will become. What are you about? Who will you be? Those things are decided by you every time you make a choice, or respond to a stressful event in your life. Will you go down the road someone else took to get to the real you or will your journey to “self” be independent and directed in a way which best reflects who you strive to become? We are all works in progress and the beauty of life is that we can make bad decisions then later decide to make better ones. Screwing up is just a metaphor for a crash-course. So get out your cliff notes and start screwing up and…yes…grow!.

We all grow up with certain influences, then we live our lives based on certain pre-conceived ideas mixed with those influences. Then, with those pre-conceived ideas and influences, we carve a path through life touching and being touched along the way. Those personal experiences add to our realm of reality. That reality, the one we and our loved ones inherit then expand, is different for us all. It governs our consciousness which makes us want to save you from making mistakes that we recognize do not to fit within our own set of parameters. So don’t take it personal. We just don’t know that you have a different set of parameters because we can’t be expected to know what we don’t know.

Now let me be very clear. It is completely understandable that your mom may not immediately get why you are suddenly writing incessantly about people she doesn’t know, or if she learns of your plan to spend a year practicing Yoga in India; or, that your childhood best-friend cannot wrap his head around your career change from investment banking for teaching; or, that you’re concerned father is freaked out about you leaving the crappy newspaper you work for to do a stint as a photojournalist in Afghanistan. You cannot make enormous life changes and expect that everyone you know will understand your choices and motivations. Sometimes its just love and concern that drive suspicion and insecurity.

But, aside from the concerned, if you are lucky, you will have some people around you who care enough to try to understand. I will…I think.

Throughout your life’s journey, some in your inner circle will prove to be your lifelong connections, regardless of how much you’re stressing them out; they will do so by hanging in there with you even when they question your logic and your sanity. They will talk to you about your life, your goals, your dreams, your decisions, your actions, and try to understand where you are coming from — and hopefully you will reciprocate and keep up your end of the relationship you have always known, only enriched by new experiences and a deeper level of understanding. But don’t grow dependent upon adulation. You don’t need it to succeed. Instead, just be thankful you have it. Success stems from many things but hard work and confidence are among the top contributors.

Now, what about those other folks? The ones that cannot bend and will not try? Unfortunately, we all have those other types of people in our spheres of family and friends — the kind who absolutely refuse to try to understand your life as you envision it, or perhaps as you are already living it. These are people with closed minds and strict ideas not only of their own lives but also of yours and everyone else’s, or as Eliot wrote much more poetically, “intolerant of every existence the utility of which is not palpable to them.” They cannot fit you comfortably into a proverbial box, which means you threaten everything they think they know as absolute.

You thought these people loved you unconditionally, but, as it turns out, they only support you when you live on their terms, according to their plans and expectations. They may or may not confront you about the mistakes they think you are making, but regardless they cannot help but judge your decisions and withhold love and support based on those judgments, whether they are based in fact or assumption (usually assumption since they do not know enough about your life on which to base a valid opinion anyway).

Continued sanity and lifelong productivity requires us to learn who really has our backs and who among our circles will only be there for us when it is convenient or comfortable for them. I call these types of people conditional lovers. The only way to objectively deal with these folks, sometimes our grandparents, parents, aunt’s and uncles, is to embrace them honestly and accept that they do not have the capacity either socially or mentally to ever understand who you are, and that’s OK.

People who offer conditional love can suck the energy, inspiration, and dreams right the hell out of you if you let them. So do not let them. When it becomes painfully obvious that in certain places all you will find is a wall of judgment, condescension, and conditional love, you have no choice but to either avoid it altogether or to confront it with an ultimatum. When you have tried for days, weeks, months, or even years to keep a relationship going, but you get nothing but criticism and judgment in return, offer them a choice of acceptance or avoidance. Let them take some ownership in whatever the outcome.

If you are otherwise living a good life and someone else is judging or criticizing you, it is not about you. It is about them. It is either about their own insecurities, failures and unhappiness or perhaps it’s about their own inability to move on and forgive your mistakes of the past. If they do not want to make the effort to understand you and your life, that is their loss — and not your problem.

How you react to the actions of others is always your choice, and you can either allow conditional lovers to suck up your time and energy, letting their snide comments, judgments, and lack of a desire to understand break your heart over and over again, or you can follow Thoreau’s example and continue to suck the marrow out of life on your own terms, live-deliberately, be mindful of each and every precious moment, and cherish the wonderful people around you who do love and support you unconditionally.

And for the subjective record, I think fish are the coolest animal species on the planet because you can catch and eat them whenever you want but you don’t have feed them, clean up after them or step in their doodoo. Just sayin.

Casual Observers Need Not Apply

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In November of last year, my wife and I along with my son vacationed in several European countries in and around the former Yugoslavia. These included Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Montenegro then we polished off the the two-week trip with a few extra days in Venice, Italy. During our time there we were expertly guided by a friendly Slovenian named Elvis.

Not exactly the most popular name in Slovenia, no. Elvis was awesome, of course, and provided some particularly informative local-information and history about the areas we were visiting as he had lived and grown up there during the former Communist regime of Yugoslavia. What made Elvis so great was that he also watched and lived through the transition (1989 to present) of the entire region to what I would now consider quasi-capitalism.

Don’t you just love seeing a place through the eyes of someone who is utterly and madly in love with it? Elvis obviously loved his home-country and his colorful stories and self-deprecating style of humor made the trip so much more fun than it would have been with any ole other guide. The travel experience which would have normally been full of uncertainty and apprehension was instead transformed into almost full-immersion. I think, as a family, we have come to enjoy and appreciate guided vacations much more than the typical do-it-yourself trips for that very reason. Another unexpected bonus is that my son made friends with Elvis and they’ve continued to communicate long after our return to Tennessee.

While we were there, we stumbled upon a couple who were deeply involved in sponsoring the educations of young women and girls in Africa. Their devotion to this cause was obvious and inspiring. So inspiring, in fact, that Emily decided right then to also sponsor a young African girl. Her name is Peace and we’ve really enjoyed sending and receiving letters from her about her life and the African perspective. I don’t exactly know what happens in a person’s life that causes them to take on these enormous responsibilities such as this couple is doing but it is truly moving and inspirational to watch how their passion for doing good envelopes and captures others along the way to do the same.

I guess paying it forward begets paying it forward which makes for better karma if you believe in such things. But regardless of what we call it or how we frame it, we’re really talking about people who refuse to be normal, who refuse to be casual observers. These are people who go the extra mile, make the extra effort and spread the extra icing on the proverbial cake while they are simultaneously eating it. They’ve found something that they truly care about and they’ve found the passion within themselves to do it 110% and really make a difference in the world around them.

Each of us are deeply moved or affected by different experiences in our own way but one common truth we all recognize is that in life there are few accidents, at least as it pertains to success, failure or opportunity. Great things can happen to you organically but you must be out there experiencing life in order for them to present themselves to you. Ripe apples don’t fall in your lap unless you’re intentionally sitting underneath an apple tree.

On a crisp November day, these kind people stopped what they were doing to make a sincere effort to get to know us. There are some people in this world who God put here for the sole purpose of listening, Dave Thelen is one of those people. At the time, I had just lost my brother so it wasn’t particularly easy for me to open up to a stranger but miraculously I did. He and his wife shared their lives and experiences with us and we were moved enough to do the same and we’re both much better off today because of it.

So many small moments of that vacation were magical, but something that has stayed with me was when Dave launched into a lyrical Aristotelian lecture about how important it is for people to work together in order to bring ideas to fruition, for each person to share his or her talents to work toward a common goal. It is all “a process,” he said, one that requires different perspectives and skills. The greater the width, breadth and diversity of the talent pool, the better the result. But you have to be invested, you have to work at it if you expect any real change.

As my wife rattled off sentence after sentence, I said next to nothing during the hour (or was it two?) we walked the road encircling the enchanted Bled Lake. While in full view of the misty snow-capped Julian Alps, the 17th Century island-church in the middle of the lake and ancient Bled Castle on over-watch, I tried my best to concentrate on what was being said. Instead, I just snapped lots of photographs and listened — allowing Dave’s words and the surreal surroundings to wrap themselves around me, seep inside my brain, and make such an impression that I would never forget them even without the pictures.

I am naturally a quiet person and a listener at heart, but I am especially silent when I am in awe of someone, when I know this person has so much to teach me that my best course of action is to just shut my mouth and listen. In those situations, I relish the chance to absorb the information and tuck it all away to process later in quiet moments of reflection.

Now, almost exactly a year later, I realize that during those moments, I was gradually reaching a precipice to begin a new chapter of my life in order to write, blog (in whatever means) and encourage others to find and appreciate simple pleasures, live more deliberately, and to cut out the physical and emotional clutter from their lives.

By that point, I had been considering the thought of writing more seriously for years, but I was at that proverbial crossroads, still unsure of so many things — how would my family and longtime friends respond, etc.? I didn’t want to have one of those “Who are you and what did you do with my dad?” kinda moments, mainly because I’m not generally a vocal person.

Wanting to make a difference, I’ve realized that my greatest natural gift is my ability to communicate in writing. So here I am, doing what I’ve always done best, in order to help, promote, encourage, facilitate, inspire, or whatever. Although I hope that I can eventually achieve at least one of those, it will probably be “whatever”, and I’m completely ok with that.

I love to write, so I took this man’s thoughts about community, humanity and “process,” and applied them here among an already growing community of readers. I put faith in the idea that by writing about what I believe in and feel passionate about, those on the same wavelength will willingly offer up their own talents, skills, and visions, and together we can learn and grow together as a community.

Though my soft spot is for my son and his life’s expeditions and tribulations, I try very hard to write to everyone so that others can benefit from the rare positive energy I occasionally expel at a moment’s notice. I want Dave’s unselfish wisdom to be used and cultivated among anyone who cares to read it and pass it on.

That short visit to Europe reinforced my desire to not only keep this dream of writing and blogging alive, but also to make my ideas stronger, to enrich connections with family and friends, to explore topics and ideas that dig a little deeper, to make us all think and feel a little bit more — and, most of all, to continue to share our positive experiences with one another. Said differently, casual observers need not apply, because being a friend, spouse, parent or member of a community requires real effort, real honesty and real generosity. Not necessarily generosity of things; but, generosity of thought, vision, historical and contextual view, passion and advice.

Today I want to be your new friend like Dave was to me that day. I want to encourage you to get out there and seek connections, overtly enrich the lives of your friends and family by opening up and sharing yourself and your ideas with those who may not know you as well as they’d like to. Don’t just be a parent or a brother or a sister or a spouse. Be real.

Allow the real you to be known and understood. I want my child to really know who his father is, not just that I was his father…not just the parental side of me. I want to plant the seeds of acceptance and understanding so that when I’m gone, I haven’t inadvertently deprived anyone that I love, including my own child, of the one thing they will never be able to know afterward. Me.

DNA You Can Count On

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“I scarcely know where to begin, but love is always a safe place.” Emily Dickinson

They say you can’t choose your family. In some cases, the context of that statement can resonate a little louder than in others. But, in rare but glorious instances, we find gems among our own families that make us feel a little cocky about having some of that same DNA. David White was one of those people that could inspire such a synergistic sense of genetic pride and privilege. David could literally do anything!

David, my first cousin and the eldest of my generation of White’s, died on Saturday morning 9/13 at the age of 54. He apparently suffered some sort of massive heart attack but it’s really too soon to know the exact cause. But this blog is not about how David died, but how he lived. Growing up, I looked up to David, who was four years and 363 days older than me; celebrating our birthdays only two days apart. He was just a few months older than my eldest sister Cindy and he had two siblings; Debbie who is a few days older than my brother Mike and Donna who was a few years younger than me.

As children, David’s parents and my parents all four worked full-time jobs so both sets of parents would drop us kids off at our Mamaw and Papaw White’s house in Antioch during the summer months while we weren’t otherwise in school. We all played together every day and every summer until we were old enough to feed ourselves or drive, whichever came first. Some of my most fond memories are of David filming home-made movies with his super 8 reel-to-reel video camera. My brother and I starred in several of his hilarious early-70’s era productions which included the occasional butt-race around his neighborhood or other silly adolescent storylines using the most creative of special effects for the time.

In my younger years I was a musician. I played drums. David, older than I, was an incredibly gifted guitar, banjo, mandolin and upright bass player even as a teenager so we always had that connection with music. Later, when I became a police officer in Murfreesboro and moved out of my parents’ house for the first time, David and I lived together. We both shared a strong interest in firearms, camping and rappelling as well; each of which provided numerous experiences and memories that pop up in my mind occasionally which generate the energy my face needs to form a random smile now and then.

David the man? He was funny, generous, personable, outgoing, helpful, quick-witted, and empathic. David owned a smile that lit up his whole face and any room he was in. His mind was always at work, whether he wanted it to be or not, and he was prone to interrupt his own detailed explanations of todays project as he organically and verbally solved a problem from yesterday’s project out-loud.

David’s back yard was a fun-house of projects. Any frustration he may have expressed about issues which would occasionally perplex his active mind for a few hours was delivered in the most sarcastic and animated fashion complete with anecdotal what-if’s that made you roll on the floor in laughter. It was his way, and you had to love it.

Who could ever forget his mechanical scare-crow? What about the self-orienting pilot wheel on his ultralight? Do you remember the home-made hot-water-heater he made with muffler pipes and a 55 gal. drum to heat his pool water? Or, my favorite “Piẻce de rẻsistance”, the outdoor pool which converts to an indoor pool by means of a track-sliding monolithic quanza hut that easily slides away when not needed. If John Deere engineers would design and build an inferior part, David White would quickly determine the corrective measures needed then build a replacement part which would outlast the rest of the mower.

Oh, so many stories and yet so few people who can relate. The one’s who can relate, you know who you are, will be tattooed forever, spread-eagle on our chests, with his indelible spirit and his enormous heart. The sad thing is that I could never tell a story like him. My stories, the one’s I shared with him, have overnight become way more boring. In fact, we’ve all become just a little more boring today without David around to narrate our lives.

As far as that precious DNA; once I get the sad slump out of my back, I know I will stand just a little taller knowing that I was David White’s 1st cousin. That somewhere inside me lies the ingredients that helped to create David Ray White. That’s DNA you can count on.

Grow! (Re-Post from FB)

Spending so much of my off time this year writing about negative things, I decided to begin writing about positive and hopeful subjects in an effort to evolve last year’s sarcasm into a brighter theme for the remainder of the year. Perhaps a new theme every year might be in order, maybe not. Let’s just see where this takes us. That said, my last blog was about thinking outside the box. Honestly, I was just writing my thoughts on the matter to my son who always surprises me with his intuitiveness but in the end I thought others might enjoy my journalistic journeys in the same way that people sometimes enjoy watching bloopers on television or turtles getting stuck upside-down.

What I optimistically think I will end up with are short but insightful vignettes of life. The ramblings, mid-life assumptions and truths of “my-world” honed by experience, tribulations and incredibly stupid decisions. Since everyone knows I am fond of assigning short and pointed phrases or words that get right to my points or ideas (laughing), I have decided for the remainder of 2014 to have a one-word theme: GROW.

At this age, one never enjoys wishing away time, but for me, I couldn’t be more ready for 2014 to end and for 2015 to begin. Adopting this one-word theme may, in some way, help to guide us through the next four months, embarking on a new year with enthusiasm and gratitude for having survived 2014. This year has been one of my most challenging — certainly not what I had envisioned when I was thinking about the context of my New Year’s resolution, because I had not bothered to think about this year’s elections. Who would have imagined how I would have been thrust into such a thing, nor how I would have reacted? I guess I’m growing as a person and a reprobate all at the same time.

It seems unfair to me that experience, in some situations, actually does more to stifle a good time than to play saxophone for it. When you’re 20, life is all conga’s and bongo’s; at 50, it’s a tambourine baby. Now even the perpetually young Dick Clark has euphemistically walked-the-plank of the USS Minnow along with dozens of my other childhood benchmarks, all being replaced by their Generation X versions of which I seem less and less connected. Growth is not always appealing.
While there were some amazing highs in 2012 and 2013 like finally seeing Hawaii with Emily or her and me vacationing with my son in Europe, the emotional investment of an online inquisition has pretty much deflated my hot air balloon. Although 75% of people loved it, 25% are now my sworn enemies. But the canvas of 2015 is yet before us. Whatever images or color palette that make their way onto the tautly stretched fabric of our lives will come from how well we interpret our subjects and how we position our brushes for the down stroke. The main idea is that we are growing our works. We may have to sidestep or even back up occasionally but we’re moving and improving nonetheless.

A decidedly up-hill year like this can either break or make you stronger, and I feel confident I will be falling into the latter group. Though, of course, nothing worthwhile comes easy. Happiness, a basic human desire, cannot be obtained without emotional and intellectual growth and maturity. For this type of emotional growth to occur, we need to teach ourselves to be more expressive of our feelings and come to terms with whatever outcomes rise ahead. Intellectual growth is best achieved by expanding your knowledge through cultural, technical, professional and scholastic endeavors. If you are not pushing yourself into uncomfortable places, you’re probably not growing. Being open to new ideas, learning new skills, considering opposing views, involving yourself in the community, reading books or attending lectures, art exhibits or traveling to faraway places to experience alternative cultures can all provide great opportunities to grow.

How we react to challenges and obstacles can really define us? If you’re unable to rationally respond to a mini-crisis, then you could benefit from a broader perspective. Perspective and perception are so important in approaching life’s big and little challenges. Most of what we hear from others are opinions, not facts. Everything we see is a perspective, not necessarily truth. So don’t let others control your direction. Grow your perspective through experiences of every kind so that what you see is closer to reality and stop giving other people the power to set your limitations. If you take the time to listen to good and bad, real and fake, truth and lies…you will grow.

I love GROW because it encompasses many different types of improvements — the continued development of our religion, education, relationships with family, our children, grandchildren and spouses, a new or evolving professional direction or talent, or just the intimate relationship with ourselves. I also like GROW because the concept is closely related to increases instead of losses. Much as I would love to slam the door shut on 2014 and never open it again, I know this year’s events will continue to influence me in 2015 and beyond . . . and that is never a bad thing. That indeed is the very concept of growth isn’t it?

So bring it on, 2015, because you when you get here, we will potentially be armed with an entirely new one-word theme. I’m just not sure what it will be yet.

An Exercise in Envy

My wife and I, along with some friends, vacationed in the Mediterranean a few years back and while we were touring through the country of Turkey I kept noticing that the people there were consistently wearing and carrying a small blue and black figurine. Some were like small medallions on necklaces and some were made into rings and some were just carried in their hands. Of course, since the bus driver also had a large one hanging from his rearview mirror, I had to ask our tour guide what it was. He called it an “evil eye”. Since the locals seem to use it almost religiously, and since we were in a predominantly Muslim country, I was very curious. He was adamant that it was a non-religious icon which intrigued me even more.

Now that we are about to vacation in Turkey again in a few months, I thought I would do more research on the subject which also inspired me to dive a little deeper. It turns out that the Evil Eye is not religious at all but is based instead in regional superstition, similar to how we use a rabbit’s foot here in America, only instead of just bringing good luck it also gives bad luck to your enemies. The evil-eye is one of the most prevalent superstitions in many Mediterranean cultures including the Italians.

Its roots are based in envy, i.e., someone feels envious of another person, even without a malicious intent behind it, thereby bringing bad luck upon the person being envied. It is believed that the evil eye can manifest itself in the victim physically via headache and/or general malaise or it may bring about acts of misfortune. Envy, of course, is a completely natural emotion, and if you happen to believe in the Seven Deadly Sins business, well you know it is one of the biggies. But why? What is so horrible about envy?

Aside from it just not being very nice to covet your neighbor’s job, success, wife, husband, family, looks, life, whatever…, there can be very personal effects turned inward as well. Envy can prevent us from working on ourselves and our own goals. We can become so fixated on what someone else does or has (or seems to do or have) that we may neglect the importance of working on improving ourselves and our own situations. Or it can simply plant seeds of doubt that we are not good enough, not smart enough, or do not have the right genetics or connections.

Literally, envy can be one of the most potent causes of unhappiness because not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but he may also wish to inflict misfortune on others. Possessing malicious envy is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. If you allow yourself to swim in materialistic desire, it begins a sort of self-destructive emptiness inside oneself that completely blinds you to the things to which God has provided to you. It is the root of pride, vanity, narcissism and eventually mental illness.

In its most malicious form, envy can even lead someone to try to destroy another’s happiness — but that extreme is not what happens with most of us. And yes, I say us. I am certainly not immune to an occasional bout of benign jealously, especially when someone shows up at the gun range with an expensive new rifle or a fancy Hensoldt rifle scope. Several years ago I began reading about various different religions and comparing the similarities, I was immediately drawn to a Buddhist concept of acknowledging feelings and letting them pass. I began my life as a Baptist and marriage has proudly made me a Methodist but even though I’ve been an undeserving Christian my whole life, I have always been profoundly interested in the teachings of all religions and their similarities to each other. Lately, in this era of terrorism, I’ve also focused on some particularly disturbing religious principles too but that’s for another blog.

In particular, this Buddhist concept speaks deeply to my soul because I’ve always sort of had this innate ability to shrug stressful things off my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that you have to accept Buddhism as a religion in order to benefit from some of its beliefs nor should Muslims be afraid to embrace commonly held Christian teachings. Accepting a positive life principle, no matter the source, is always a good thing and there are lots of commonalities found in many religions. So, let’s get back to this principle I was talking about.

When something stressful occurs or if we have unhealthy feelings like greed, lust or envy, we simply have to decide to acknowledge our feelings and then let them pass. If that sounds too easy to you, believe me, I know the feeling. But broken down to its most basic form, it’s simply saying “let it be”. Using mindfulness to overcome anxiety, no matter where the anxiety is centered. It’s a subtle yet powerful process when you think about it. When something negative comes, you simply acknowledge it and welcome it, recognizing that we are all born imperfect and we all experience the temptation of sin. God made us that way. Having bad thoughts is not what defines us, how we react to them is what defines us.

As human beings, we are all the same so there is no need to build barriers between us that don’t already exist. Whether it’s an issue of race, gender, sexual orientation or whatever, we can all find things that are common among us and we can all easily spot the sins or inadequacies of the other. We all have strengths and weaknesses, God was careful to create a diverse group of humanity, we just have to look harder to find out why. If we spend more time working on how to release negative energy rather than trying to fuel it, we’d all be better for it.

This release of negative energy has become a vital component of my own mental health. There is much more to this concept for the serious student of Buddhism, of course, but for me, a Christian trying to learn something from Buddhism, recognizing this one little aspect has been a game-changer because even though I already possessed the ability to decompress naturally, now I am more aware of what is happening on the inside which gives me more power over it. The act of renunciation is not about giving up the finer things of the world, but instead, recognizing that they all go away eventually and being completely content with that understanding.

But what do we gain by choosing to let envious feelings pass us? This is the best part. As a reward of letting go of envy, we receive the gifts of more time and increased focus to keep our eyes on our own prizes, stay in our own lanes, and not worry so much about what other people are doing and achieving. We no longer feel the urge or need to compare what is happening in our lives with what someone else is experiencing. We should measure ourselves on what we have thus far achieved versus our personal goals, not on what others achieve or of what they are doing.

Don’t fall into the trap of comparisons. Instead set goals for yourself which are realistic and complete them one by one. Your own success comes with sticking to your plan, being honest, working hard and then making sacrifices to achieve your goals. A man I respect dearly told me once, “People don’t mind you having things, they just don’t want you having more than them.” There’s a good bit of truth in that statement due in large part to this issue of envy. People who suffer from envy often have a skewed perception of how to achieve happiness. The true meaning of fortune is sometimes concealed behind a veil of other more tempting but mostly empty packages.

We each have our own unique paths, and that is exactly as it should be. Besides, keeping up with the Jones’ had become so 20th century that someone had to invent the Kardashians. Hey Kim, the 21st Century just called and we want our Jones’ back…just sayin. I mean, just watch two episodes of that show and focus on Sir Scott Disick, boyfriend and baby-daddy for Kourtney Kardashian, and you’ll see a poster child for depression, alcoholism and overall unhappiness, only with diamond Rolex watches and expensive sports cars. You can’t cure alcoholism with more alcohol; you can’t cure diabetes with more sugar; and you can’t cure envy with more stuff.

Benign envy, though, is perhaps a good thing so long as you focus your attention on what you want, then work to achieve or acquire it without wishing ill will on someone else in the process. We also shouldn’t isolate ourselves from our friends’, family and colleagues’ successes and happiness — quite the contrary! I find nothing more inspiring than watching my wife win a sales award or seeing my sister create beautiful paintings and sculptures, or being there while my son continues to grow in his maturity, confidence, and his career. In that sense, I’m not being envious of my sister’s talent in a negative way, just a little jealous – wishing I could do it too.

Happiness and success come in infinite quantities — there’s no reason to believe someone else is taking your share. If you’re fortunate enough to be the recipient of someone else’s hard work, be content. You didn’t earn it, you were just fortunate to benefit from it. Truly appreciating others’ success and happiness — but not coveting it — opens up your own path to personal and professional growth and fulfillment on your own terms, and not on anyone else’s. What could be better than that? Hmm, maybe Emily’s homemade cheesecake, but that’s about it.

As for the evil eye, well, since we are not all going to suddenly live in a world without envy, there are a few precautions you can take to combat any envious feelings coming your way. In pure Mediterranean style, you can sprinkle some salt around your house now and again, wear red, pepper your place with hanging pepperoncini – the symbol that protects against the Evil Eye, and also make the “le corna” (sign of the horns) with your hand (pinky finger and point finger sticking up, thumb holds the two middle fingers down) if and when you think someone is envying a bit too much.

Or you can always try my preferred method, attacking the dragon in its lair with a full frontal assault — though personally, I kind of think the sign of the horns is just too irresistible to ignore. Just in case.

Starting Where You Are

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The phrase “start where you are” has been rattling around inside my hard head for a few days now. I am not exactly sure where I first heard it, but I immediately recognized the value of writing about it. Now that I just launched my own blog, it seems especially poignant that my first official blog would be about starting wherever you are with whatever idea or project or goal that you may have.

Trying to find the meaning of a phrase like this could take us in several directions, any of which would be equally worthy of exploration. One direction my mind initially took was about allowing ourselves to move forward by embracing rather than denying the painful aspects or events of our lives. I think most of us can find, though some have done a good job of repressing, painful or hurtful circumstances or events in which we’ve been wounded without having properly dealt with the aftermath. Sometimes we are hesitant to move ahead after a traumatic event, if for no other reason than to show respect and remembrance for what or whom we may have lost. Just that word “aftermath” evokes a powerful memory for me after having recently dealt with my brother Mikes’ death.

One of the most important steps forward I made emotionally with that event was coming to terms with it on my brothers’ terms, not mine. It’s so easy for us to internalize what others do; and in fact, I believe that is what generally hurts us most. Being a man, husband, father, uncle, brother… you don’t always get to grieve with the rest of your family because you’re too busy making sure everything is taken care of so others don’t have to deal with the difficult parts. When I finally started to vocalize my feelings out-loud to others and remove the weight of my own emotional state, I could more easily empathize with what was going on with him. Suddenly I wasn’t so concerned with myself and how it affected me but instead my thoughts were directed my brother and his feelings. It was literally like flipping a switch. I remember so clearly the day I suddenly recognized that I was no longer thinking about him while bathing in the morning because that had been my daily ritual for months.

But that’s what we do isn’t it? We assign our own logic and our own feelings to everything that others do, like somehow others make their own choices based upon what we think. They don’t. Not only are people not respecting our values or our feelings when they do things in which we don’t approve, they probably don’t even share the same logic, mores, or reality that we have. Like I said before, our reality is shaped by our own personal experiences. Our realities are not always the same. So before embarking on something new, let’s first shed some old skin from our past and gain a fresh perspective. Forgive what you can never fully comprehend anyway, recognizing first and foremost that it was never about you.

But that concept, as important as it is, is not what I have been equating with “starting where you are” in my head over the past few days. Instead, I was interpreting it much more literally, much more practically:

To stop making excuses for why you can’t do something, and just do it.

I don’t know about you, but I have a perfectionist inside of me who defers to waiting until the “right” moment, until I have all the necessary tools or facts or information or whatever it is he believes I need to begin. An example is when I was 5 and my mom enrolled me and my siblings into a YMCA swimming class. My mom is fond of telling that for the first few days I refused to participate, patiently watching others swim from the edge of the pool, until suddenly and unexpectedly, after having learned from watching everyone else, I just jumped in the pool and started swimming.

That perfectionist in my head, as humorous as his stories are now, has not really been the best role model for me. He’s quietly worked behind the scenes of my life to write a script that is much more reserved and skeptical than I wish it had been. I have had to fight that guy mightily over the years, and I have won a few battles, but he can be stubborn. He rears his curly head any and every time I think about trying something new, doing something outside of my comfort zone, or when confronted with stretching my possibilities.

Will I be smart enough?
Am I adequately prepared to go down this path?
Will I *gulp* fail?

As I have clawed my way forward and pushed through those seeds of doubt for nearly five decades the result has surprisingly always been the same; Yes, I actually can. No matter where I was, I started right there and I succeeded by learning and growing into a new starting place. Like a caterpillar inching along at a snail’s pace, I and you slowly but eventually find our center then quickly re-orient ourselves to a new normal. An old proverb says that just when the caterpillar believes his life is over – God says nope, you’re a butterfly. Although it couldn’t fly yesterday, today always marks the beginning of a new story – a new life.

As so often happens in my life, opportunities come to me at exactly the right time. Precisely when I need to hear a word of encouragement or to feel like I’m somehow making a difference, an opportunity or a person comes along to fulfill that need. There’s no guarantee, however, that we will even notice that opportunity or that special individual. You have to be aware and observant of your own needs to recognize it. When it happens, you can’t be afraid to own it. You can’t allow yourself to believe that you don’t deserve it or that you’re not prepared to accept it. We all know I could never deserve a wife like Emily. Yet, here we are married and happy. This is a perfect example of me starting where I was, woefully inadequate for the task, then believing with all my heart that I could eventually grow into the role. I’m still growing…

Sometimes we hear words of encouragement from others that we should be able to tell ourselves, but that perfectionist inside us can gobble those words up before they can reach our brain, or heart, or wherever. Don’t be afraid to recognize how awesome you are. If you don’t believe you deserve something good, you’ll never recognize the good that waits for you all around. Somehow words of encouragement come so much easier when inspiring someone else to follow his or her path. So just in case you need to hear some words of encouragement, here you go:

Start where you are.
You can do it.
Now go and do.

Do not let anyone, especially that perfectionist in your head, tell you that you cannot succeed or that you are not smart enough. Also understand that painful events happen to everyone. It’s our ability to hear our own voices that helps us recognize what we need to do to move beyond. If you can’t hear yourself very well, no one else will either; speak up! You are good enough and you are smart enough — or at least you will be — but you will never be either without starting…right where you are.

Welcome to my blog

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You may of noticed that I enjoy writing. I know that it seems strange to some of my friends and to others it makes perfect sense. Whether you are alarmed, pleased, or just amused, know that I have always enjoyed writing, I just haven’t always expressed myself this formally. It seems that the older I get, the more I enjoy rambling about literalogically. Don’t even try to look that word up, I just made it up.

If you have been one of my Facebook friends then you already know that I spent a good bit of energy this summer writing about a long-time elected official who poked at me long enough until I exploded with a series of investigative vignettes which exposed a long history of public corruption. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t particularly valuable, but it was incredibly fulfilling. Honestly, I don’t know how valuable it was because I honestly thought he would get beat handily anyway. I just grew tired of him attacking me for no reason. You know what they say about that…when someone hates you for no reason, give that SOB a reason!

Well, I did that pretty effectively and in the process I gained a couple hundred new Facebook friends. Most of them were enjoying the posts and patiently waiting for the next entry. Some were just curious and a few others were spy’s who were gathering intelligence. But regardless of people’s motivations, the whole process renewed a spark of enthusiasm for writing which had in some ways only surfaced when I needed to write technical or training manuals, business and bid proposals or professional letters. The encouragement I received was a little bit intoxicating and I was admittedly becoming somewhat obsessive over my desire to keep people informed.

After the election was over and the tyrant was defeated, it left me a bit deflated. I had become accustomed to being committed to a cause which was no more. Then, as if on cue, my son called me for a pep talk. That conversation led me to writing down some inspirational ideas which were tailored to his journey and after posting it on my FB page, I realized that others were finding some nuggets of useful stoicism here and there. Suddenly, people were asking me to start a blog. Personally, I know there are much better examples to follow than anything I could conjure up about myself. But, much like contemporary art, it’s not always the art that people find most interesting, sometimes it’s the colorful interpretations.

That said, I have no idea what will come next. Will it be more inspirational ideas or will it be about the law, technology, firearms, local issues, or just plain sarcasm? I have no idea. But, whatever it is, I hope that you will at least enjoy it enough to subscribe for more. It’s highly likely that the ensuing dialogue will provide far better and more entertaining insights than anything I could have ever written about. Plus, it’s worth every penny you’ll paying for it.