Monday, September 29, 2014


I will be the first to admit that I can be an intense person on occasion, especially when I’m being an advocate for someone that is figuring out life or in great need. It is very easy in the middle of a passionate discussion to end up not listening to the other person and just be waiting for the opportunity to get your point across. This can happen often when you are working directly with people who have very different views than you. I’m learning that it is ok or actually beneficial to step back at times and give yourself space and that person space from your relationship.

Often the ability to see a situation more clearly comes when you step back from the discussion or argument that pushed you to the edge. I know that it is difficult for lots of people, myself included, not to get the last word in during a heated discussion. It is easy to believe that the world can’t go on without your opinion being heard. The reality is that the world will and does continue regardless of whether your point has been expressed. This can be a difficult fact to accept but it is true and can actually help create later opportunity for there to be reconciliation and a renewed and better relationship!

I confess that often I become too involved with helping people where there is an emotional attachment that makes it difficult to let go and back off. I’m getting old and realize that the path to healing and putting the pieces of a person’s life puzzle back together has to be initiated by that individual and not anyone else. This is where allowing there to be space in relationships can be healthy and bring a better sense of understanding in the future.

It’s also possible that relationships can go on the rocks and change. Yes, it isn’t possible to have hundreds of best friends regardless of what social media might say! I think it is important at times to take stock or inventory to see who is using up your emotional energy and assess whether this is how you want to live. I try to find a balance between having friends that energize you and others that you energize. This is just a normal part of life. The challenge is when all of your friends end up ‘sucking’ the life out of you.

This post was influenced by a quote that affirmed the need of having distance with people you love because of circumstances. I don’t totally agree with the quote because it gives a sense that you are on the right track and the other person is off. I’m becoming quicker to admit that I might be the person who is off track and need space for the other person to allow me to put my mind back together. Regardless, space sometimes can bring back perspective for all parties involved and create a healthier setting!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Leftovers? Toss or Transform?

As I kid that grew up in a rather normal home where I was told by my mom to finish what was on my plate or she would ‘beat me’. My mom was an amazing cook and seldom did she make something that I didn’t devour usually all at once. I’ve lived around people most of my life that had the means to eat as much as they wanted as often as they wanted. Over the last decade of my life I have lived in a marginalized neighborhoods where the experience of many is that there isn’t enough to go around. Tough choice; do I put money on the empower box, so there are lights and more importantly air for the next day or so or do we eat?

As I have had a family over the last 40 years my wife has always joked about what you didn’t finish on your plate would be given to some starving child in Africa. We would laugh at this but my wife actually lived in Ethiopia for a year in the early 70’s and saw first hand the impact of serve famine and draught on everyone. So most today don’t believe that anyone could be starving in any large city in America. Yet, I know from first hand experience that leftovers for many would be considered a treat or even a feast.

As I have aged I’ve become more selective and don’t get thrilled over leftovers usually. So we joke about it and in our home context there is always someone who comes over that usually empties out the frig, so the leftovers vaporize. It’s when I’m on vacation that I rebel a little if I get stuck eating something that’s a week old. I totally understand not wasting and sharing in a larger context. I’m fortunate to get leftovers from my Starbucks that become special snacks for many would don’t have treats often if at all.

My real point in this blog is that too often people are made to feel like leftovers. You can be around someone who you make feel like a leftover, which can be intentional or accidental. I know that those that aren’t blessed with sports ability tire of being chosen last in a team setting. Whereas those that are awesome at athletics get picked first and get to help select the team. I’ve had the experience of finding something in the frig that has grown some type of odd-looking fungus and has a rather fascinating smell. As people are being treated like leftovers at times they can start feeling like them too. It doesn’t take long before someone gives up on themselves and becomes careless about life.

I’m not sure if there is a solution to leftovers without better planning or heightened consumptionism. There is a path to help someone around you not feel like a leftover. I’m amazed at how a quick hi, hello or my name is……. what is your name can help someone go from feeling like that mildewed leftover to someone who is alive and able to take on the world. The difficulty is that you can always toss out the leftovers in the frig after a week but people, kids, teens or seniors can’t be tossed but can be transformed!

So instead of tossing someone out of your life consider what has to happen to help you and them live a transformed life?

Retire? Not Today!

I have had the privilege or blessing of hanging out at a very expensive beachfront condo this last week. It has been a lot of fun watching the various types of people that jog or walk past on the boardwalk. I truly don’t want to admit that if I had lived a more normal corporate life, if I had followed my career path of being a chemist or researcher, I could retire in the next year or so. Yet, God had a different path for me to pursue and retirement is the last thing on my brain. I’m around so many different people who seem to find themselves in their 60’s and then live their second life during their golden years!

I have been involved with Habit for Humanity for a decade as a board member and president only to see that a good majority of the HFH volunteer force are what I call senior saints. These are those that lived the good life but then have chosen to give back in their retirement by helping construct low-income housing for those less fortunate! What is amazing about HFH is that this organization isn’t a give away but partnership that helps everyone come together and learn from one another.

Yes, I would love to be around the ocean more often but what is the biggest draw in my life was a text from an 11 year-old little guy. He’s very much part of my life. I get at least a dozen texts from him each day that are rather simple – HI! He along with many others that come out of very unfortunate circumstances have captured my heart. The question to consider is what has captured your heart? What can’t you walk away from in your life?

As we were lazing on the couches watching the evening news, as we heard the ocean roar in the background, there was a news highlight on second careers. It was so refreshing to see someone in their 60’s who had worked in a corporate office setting decide to walk away and open up her own Pet Store that catered to dogs and cats. She was in her glory and realized that she was making it and had six full time employees that benefited from her passion. There was another young 60 something that had gone into helping seniors transition into assisted living settings.

I know that my wife, my best friend, at times joke about the fact that we won’t have a huge amount in our old age but don’t fear being greeters at Wal-Mart. The reality is that there is a large group of baby boomers that will enter into their second phase of life and will get bored sitting or golfing all of the time. I’m excited to see how many will choose to give back as much as they have received over their lifetime? My selfish hope is that many will choose to partner with existing groups that help those that have struggled in life without a family or much support. I look forward to getting lots of texts from my younger kids until the day that I die or transition into heavenly retirement! J  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Walk - start pounding the pavement!

I will be the first to confess that there isn’t any thing sexy or necessarily invigorating about walking.  Yet, the results are in that walking is the best form of long-term exercise! I will probably be one of the first to get the Apple Watch and will use it for my jogging and walking to keep track of my levels of exertion and how many calories I’ve burnt. It is so easy in today’s competitive world to think that unless I’ve spent big bucks on fancy high tech gear or the best running shoes that I’m out of it.

This last week I’ve had the blessings from my in-laws to enjoy a week at the beach enjoying the sound of the surf and the smell of the ocean. What is fascinating is how many people walk along the boardwalk. The group reflects all ages, socio-economics and racial backgrounds. Everyone dresses from being stylish to being in rags. The common element is that everyone knows that walking for 30 minutes to an hour will make your day go further and better!

It has been fun walking along the lower boardwalk that is actually on the beach but is a concrete walkway that has a three-foot ocean wall to protect it from the tide and too much sand. Each morning we have seen the same people walking in groups of two or three or taking their dogs along to get exercise. What is incredible is seeing this one gentleman who is on the large size greet us with this incredible smile and friendly hello. It’s fascinating how walking brings out the best in everyone! The boardwalk in this area isn’t dominated by the young and beautiful but the old whose looks vary.

Yes, I have many friends who are able to afford a personal trainer and clearly benefit for a season from this oversight. Yet, I also see another group of friends that are determined to stay in shape and the secret is rather simple, just get up early and DO IT! As I age I see that my physical features are a byproduct of my genetics and life patterns. I have been blessed to have inherited my mom’s high metabolism and my dad’s commitment to exercise. We argue often about whether we need to be doing more but the reality is that we walk or jog usually twice a day. It’s a treat because we take our herd of dogs out on the canal out in the open.

I have persevered through running eight marathons where I have learned the secret of pacing yourself. It doesn’t matter how fast you start from the gate it is all about how you finish. Can I save up enough to make it through miles 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26? It doesn’t matter if I’ve run a 5-minute mile at mile 1 or 2 but whether I can do an 8-minute mile as I finish my 26.2. The challenge today is that speed seems to be the fascination whether it be in cycling, Nascar or running. I confess that I have various devices that will tell me how fast, far and how many calories I’ve burned. These devices remind me daily to get up and do something.

Walking is no longer an old people’s sport but now practiced by all ages. It is incredible how much better you feel after you have walked a couple of miles and gotten your heart rate up and actually sweated. My inspiration is watching my almost 90-year-old father in-law up early moving it along the boardwalk.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Little Things Do Matter!

So often in life I’m so busy doing what I perceive to be what is truly important only to miss out on the little things that ultimately are more important. I’ve read most of Covey’s books over the years and the issue that always screams back at me is that being busy is never a substitute for quality relationships. Hopefully no one will actually believe that when they are on their deathbed that they had wished to have spent more time at the office or on the road away from family and special friends.

What’s really important in life? Is it that promotion, funds in the bank, that large house or specialty car or something totally different? I’ve come to discover that it isn’t the ‘what’ of life that really counts but the actually the ‘how’. As I get to do a large variety of things in my work what usually satisfies me is being with little kids at times. I get to observe and listen to life from a totally different slant. Often I get an earful that helps to keep me young and more apt to see what is most important in life – healthy relationships and not THINGS.

The challenge is that too often we get caught in the pursuit of things in life and the false notion that success in life is defined by a long list of accomplishments. The more aggressive and direct I become the more likely great things will happen to me and those around me. Don’t misunderstand me because I’m truly someone that is driven to see life get better but not from a perspective that is totally geared towards possessions, position or power. I reflect back on the impact of spending time with a lonely senior or an elementary student who feels left in the shadows by their older siblings or parents.

I have chosen to rethink what I consider to be little or not so little in life! Attending a special birthday party for a niece or nephew or the grandma who has adopted you over the years should take priority over any type of business meeting. Yet, too often we get looks from those around us that we are crazy thinking we could go home on time for dinner or get away early on a Friday for that special retreat with your spouse or special friends. It’s as if the world totally depends upon you to stay late assuming that your efficiency increases after eight hours of work.

One of the favorite expressions of my teens is that the struggle is real. The assumption is that everyone has issues in life that cause problems. This is real life and the answer to the struggle is to make the little things that don’t seem to matter in life actually matter. So I do care about how another person feels regardless of whether it is considered worthy of my time. So yes that smile and hello to a stranger is important! Taking the time and effort to help someone stranded who is a total stranger might be what helps someone actually have a better day and a better life!