Monday, March 27, 2017

Dreams don’t WORK unless you DO!

A close friend of mine reiterated the old adage that hard work won’t kill you but being lazy might! This was one of my 80 plus year old grandmas who shared with a group of High School students about her life in Phoenix as a cotton picker who went to the fields every day. Her simple message was ‘you gotta do what you gotta do’ to make it happen.  Grandma Johnson was a single mom who picked cotton and then worked in a local factory for 25 years before retiring. Her legacy humbles me to consider how often I complain about life, work and stuff. Yet, as I watched this group of affluent teens it struck me how easy it would be to live off mom and dad’s efforts for a life time.

One of the tragedies of today’s society is that too many kids and teens growing up have been told NO too often about their dreams or plans. This stops them sadly from taking a risk to see something considered impossible from happening. We had a great Saturday afternoon attending a play, Fools by Neil Simmons, produced by a local Youth Theater Group. It was so much fun watching both adults and teens live out their dreams in acting and performing. What was fascinating for me was to see the look on one of my little kids, Maya whose seven, have that twinkle because she’s someone who loves to dance and perform. She was mesmerized by her tutor and her daughter who were involved in the play.

So how is it possible that so many believe that you can get great things out of doing NOTHING? Is it possible to have money fall out of the sky? Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Why would anyone who has been a hard worker share the rewards of their labor with someone who is on the sidelines of life watching? Is it possible that the short cut or texting mentality has taken over? Why read a book, practice or ask questions when you can google anything and get answers in seconds? Why knock yourself out anymore? Is it not the case that I deserve something for no efforts? Isn’t it both my divine right or governmental duty to have  a car when I turn sixteen?

Everything you do involves choosing to make a whole-hearted effort! Most struggle with finding genuine relationships in life because conflict and selfishness require real effort to resolve and compromise to have a best friend or a spouse that knows you’ve got their back. Yet, how often do we walk away from a relationship because we don’t get it our way? How often do teachers in school, regardless of whether it’s first grade or college, get their buttons push because of the disparity of students who come prepared and are excited about learning versus those that see the teacher as an entertainer?

I had a fascinating conversation with a group of kids talking about how much work it would take to do a two-hour play? Clearly few had any idea how many months of practice and behind the scene memorizing it would take. Yet, the assumption too often is that most things in life are effortless and will help mysteriously by accident so that the hard work element seems to be absent. As many are overwhelmed by basketball sensation who scored 70 points it still comes back to hard work on the part of a team to see anyone accomplish this amazing feat. Yet, how often do our dreams seem devoid of the work that must go hand in hand with seeing a better tomorrow!

I listened to a new friend recently share about his life story as he reflected on what it was like to grow up with a dad who left his mom before he was even born. He knew that his dad would have rather had his mom abort him than raise him. Yet, despite such a horrible start in life my friend reflected on the impact of a grandpa type that choose to do the hard work of mentoring for years. The result was a transformed life on the part of a kid who initially grew up fatherless but now has a special mentor friend and discovered God as his father!

Grandma’s simple advice was to no longer fear hard work, getting dirty, being late or putting yourself out if you want to see your dreams happen in life!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Dogs are Man or Women’s best friend or at times only friends?

I can remember an early morning walk on our canal almost 5 years ago when we rescued a little puppy that ultimately rescued me! As we were walking our dogs on the canal path there was a school bus that abruptly stopped and the Lady Bus Driver screeched out for our help to get a dog that was underneath her bus. I was able to capture this little spotted puppy and eventually get her in the back of my truck with me as we rode back to our house. Little did I know that this Pit-Dalmatian mix pup would capture not just my heart but the hearts of many!

My wife nicked name Freckles, Kong because of her ‘King Kong’ type qualities of being able to literally fly through the air and be able to bounce off walls or couches. I continue to chuckle when Freckles wants to sit on my lap when we’re going for a ride in my truck. She clearly remembers the days when she was a puppy and easily fit on my lap. Today she is a 50 pounder that takes up my entire seat. So, unless I give her a real hug and a gentle push she will remain in my seat assuming she can drive the truck.

What strikes me as I age is that my dogs over the years have given me unconditional love, affection and attention regardless of how I have treated them. Incredible to think that I have few friends who have withstood the test of time when it comes to these endearing qualities. My incredible wife is the one who has taught me so much about loving strays and seeing a 100-fold return on rescuing a mutt! I must admit that in many ways she has rescued me the bigger Mutt.

One of the more difficult aspects of having your dog as your bestie is that you will outlive many dogs during your life time. I will always remember the last months of our beloved Penny our Red Merle Aussie. Penny lived to be 19 because she was my incredible jogging dog. I have memories of being crazy stupid during Penny’s last couple of months by getting another pound puppy, Graham, who now is the aging grandpa in our family. Amazingly old graham has had a resurgence in his life after getting on a pain med regiment!

The real heart breaking point of my post is to remember Mango, my brother’s family English Lab. Mango was a gigantic Lab who had such an incredible heart to love, listen and obey. We had the privilege over the years of having Mango spend the summer with our herd while my brother was off on various trips all over the world. It was so sad to hear the news of Mango having cancer 6 months ago. I knew that one day we would be with my brother and family as Mango came to the end of a very full life! The difficulty is that none of us, myself included were ready to say good-bye.

As I watched Mango take his last breath I could see the love that he had given to his family over his 12 years of life. As I write this tears come so easily because cancer should never take any life whether that be of your parent, grandparent or a child, yet it does. I know one of the most difficult decisions to make was not to allow Mango to suffer anymore. Just as He had given all of us a taste of heavenly love and patience, we now had the opportunity to allow our special friend to enter into his rest and no longer suffer!
My awesome wife wrote a tribute to Mango that finished with his going to his heavenly home to greet my mom, dad and our dogs that had preceded him, Penny, Truly, Rosie and our cats Blackie and Rascal.

I know that my Graham won’t be around too much longer but I’m so thankful for Graham’s love and reminder of my dad or grandpa Ed who had his moments where he would space out.

Yes, dogs, Penny, Clyde, Matilda, Penny, Graham, Truly, Rosy, Peanut, Carly, Freckles & Gus have been my best friends over my lifetime! I thank my Creator for giving me these incredible gifts as pet-friends!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Respect the old!! Guess what? You'll be old soon!

 One of the more difficult aspects of my life is admitting to the fact that I’m a senior! As I visited with many seniors over the last few months with setting up for our recent painting blitz, it struck me how too often the ‘old’ are literally left alone and often forgotten. I have a key neighborhood leader in Miss Martha, who recently turned 90. She’s so funny, alive and will often remind me that 63 isn’t old and that I should call her MAMMA. She reprimanded me a few weeks ago when I ended up laughing during our phone conversation. I tried to make it sound as if I was laughing with her and not at her. She helped me see that even really old people have feelings and demand respect and need genuine care!

During the recent painting blitz where we painted six houses of grandmas and grandpas I was reminded that I shouldn’t be too quick to react to someone that I have labeled as old and crotchety! My initial meeting with grandpa Willie was through ‘Mamma’ and it was a very cordial ‘hook up’. It wasn’t until I attempted to meet before our painting blitz that my ‘ire’ got raised because Willie started to moan and groan about a few things. I reminded myself that it was a privilege to be able to connect a diverse group of people with these seniors who in the end be blessed and thankful for their house being painted.

The issue at hand was the color of the paint. I had reassured Willie that the color was similar to what he already had with the caveat being that his house was in horrible shape so anything would be better than what it was. I attempted to meet him on a couple of times before our blitz with no success. The morning of the blitz he was up early and I had already arranged for a friend, a guy, to help with the project because the supervisor was a gal youth leader. My fear was that Willie might be weird. BOY, was I WRONG about Willie! As we were prepping his house for the group of 30 that would transform it he received a call from a mutual friend. Once Willie realized who I was, a neighborhood leader and friend of ‘wacky Wanda’, he became my bestie.

As I returned to see the finished paint job I was so jazzed to see that Willie had been part of the project and was Mr. Nice guy and very social to the group. Yikes! I had mislabeled Willie as an old grumpy guy when he was a very gentile guy with a big HEART! I was thrilled to see my key leader, Sean, praying for Willie as the group finished. It struck me as I got to know the real Willie that day how easy it would have been for me to casually allow Willie to be just a name on a list. As the group left I was humbled to realize that Willie had serious health challenges and had been at the ER the day we were supposed to meet.

I confess to the fact that too often my ego and male hormone ‘thing’ rules the way I treat people, even my son and that it’s time to admit that I’m not as strong as I have been, I definitely can’t run a marathon and yes soon I will need help. OUCH! This is so difficult to admit.

The greatest joy I have received, next to being a grandpa is being genuine friends with many seniors! It’s been the Bernie’s, Maddy’s, Ladde’s and Miss Martha’s who have taught me that life can been good even at 90 with a little help from your friends!