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Nov 28, 2011


In thinking of some of the worst times of my life – times I’ve lost jobs, lost friendships, ended a marriage – there seems to be a common thread that runs through them all. That thread is pride – not the confident, assertive kind, but the haughty kind that “goeth before the fall.”
I won’t go into any details, but I was once fired from my job because I thought I was too important and placed myself above the goal of the project. Another time, for nearly a decade I was estranged from a once-close circle of friends when I believed they were disrespecting me and my talent. My marriage failed, and when the final straw broke, it was more about my personal dignity than the actions or events that had happened. Most recently, I broke off my engagement and much of it was due to my ego and what I felt I deserved without expressing what I needed from her; in fact, I even gave her permission to go against my wishes, then turned those actions against her.
However, my point has nothing to do with the details, but I offer a glimpse to illustrate my puffed-up ego and perception of my own self-importance in each of these cases. Later, after the dust of my pride settled, I suffered deep regret from each of these happenings. Sadly, these are not the only episodes of my life where this lack of humility exists, but they are significant events where my point is easily identified.
To be fair, I am not the sole villain in these tales. This is not some self-piteous crisis that I decry. The other people in each story are not innocent and did things I believe they now regret as well. However, I cannot control or be responsible for what anyone else does. I don’t get to correct and build character from their mistakes and actions. I can only do those things about my own behavior and my own mindset. Regardless of anyone else’ actions, I must still be true to myself.
This makes me think of the passage in Second Chronicles, where it says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I note that Ezra does not address the wrong-doing of others or blame enemies for things that had happened to the Israelites. He talks about their actions, their responsibilities and their humility.
I can’t point the finger at others and blame them for the results. Others may play a factor and influence the outcome, but ultimately I make choices. I am held accountable for those choices, regardless of those around me. When I choice with a spirit of pride and without humility, the results are often wasteful – and become chapters of my life filled with remorse.
Today, I pray that I stay humble in every encounter I have and that I remember I am not as important as my pride whispers. I will cherish everything as if it were a gift – because it is.

Nov 27, 2011

A New Season, A New Cause

The Advent Season is upon us. Those who know me well or have followed my blog for a while are aware of the personal tradition I started a few years back when I decided to Fight the Establishment. In some ways, this is my own Occupy Wall Street movement, but in my opinion following this idea is far more realistic to bring about a positive change for those in need.
Three years ago, I discovered that Americans spend over $450 billion on Christmas gifts each year. Now, I have no breakdown for the one-percenters spending versus the working class citizen, but according to the American Consumer Credit Council, the average American spends $925 on Christmas each year. Also, a Gallup poll found that 36 percent of shoppers thought this spending to be a chore-like activity.
It was that Holiday season of 2008 when I changed my personal practice for Christmas. I still bought gifts for my family and close friends; however, I asked everyone who would spend even $5 on me for a card to take a different action instead. I realized that I didn’t need the esteem of knowing someone cared by receiving a trinket. Most things I received at Christmas-time were items I rarely used or cards I would throw away. Instead I asked those who wanted to give me a gift to donate the equivalent money to a worthy charity, the Rwanda Clean Water Project.
If there is something I want, I have the means to get it. However, many people in Rwanda go without clean water on a daily basis. And for that $5 card/gift spent on me, one more person can have drinkable water for life if it were donated to this cause.
However, this year I would like to add another cause to the list, should someone wish to donate in my name for Christmas. A new charity I have taken on is the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. Rett Syndrome is debilitating genetic, non-hereditary disease that affects around 4000 girls in the United States alone. And those are the ones who have been properly diagnosed, but the actual number is estimated to be 1 in every 10,000 girls around the world.
The affliction, a mutation on the MECP2 gene, prevents proper neurological development in young girls. Because it is on the X chromosome, boys rarely survive beyond a few weeks after birth. Girls, however, have 2 X chromosomes, allowing a back-up gene for development and permits them to live, but this compensation leaves them with a range of neurological issues. Because each girl has her own unique genetic set, her symptoms are different and specific to her. However, common drawbacks include slowed development, the loss of purposeful use of the hands, stunted physical head and brain growth, problems walking, seizures and the inability to speak.
I know there are many horrid diseases and worthy research causes to which one can donate. I have heard others say that in syndromes such as Rett, the money is just prevention-style research to find ways to identify the disease and stop it for future generations, but donations do not really help those currently stricken with it. This is sometimes the excuse not to give. However, I want to dispel that type of thinking if anyone reading this is of similar mind.
In 2007, Dr. Adrian Bird announced the reversal of Rett syndrome symptoms in a mouse model. In afflicted mice the treatment allowed breathing and weight to normalize, mobility and gait to restore and tremors to cease. More importantly, this treatment appears to be reversible even in the late stages of the disease. This means young girls who are affected today might be restored to normal lives with further research and funding.
I personally know a young girl, almost five years old now, who has Rett Syndrome. At one time, she was to become my step-daughter. But regardless of familial status nor whether she is ever cured or not, I will always have love in my heart for this beautiful angel. However, if I had the power, I would give her the cure, but I can’t do it alone. This is why I have added the IRSF to the list of charities I support and ask others to donate to it instead of buying me a Christmas gift. The small trinket to let me know I’m loved is nice, but that same money spent to restore the quality of life for this little girl (and others like her) would mean much, much more to me.
Please keep this in mind when making out your shopping list this season. Also, please consider asking your friends and family to forego the gift-giving to you and to donate in your name to this cause instead.

Nov 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Life

It’s early Thanksgiving morning, and I’m the only one up so far. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the blessings in my life this week. Further, I‘ve examine how bad my attitude has been. While I may have gone through some difficult episodes recently that explain my view, a bad attitude is something that cannot be permitted to continue regardless of the excuse. Perhaps that’s why Thanksgiving comes around – so that at least once each year we have the opportunity to stop, be grateful and reset our mindsets.
Without getting political, because that is far from the point, but I read an article about those living below the poverty line here in America now live more comfortably than most European royalty of four hundred years ago. In fact this article stated that the “non-homeless poor” owned more household amenities than the middle-class did two decades ago. Yet, we have people ignoring their blessings and occupying Some Street in protest of the economic travesty. So many Americans, like me, have lost focus of how amazingly blessed they really are.
But it’s not just about materialism. Yes, I am blessed with more wonderful items than I can say grace over. And yes, I take that for granted. That is something I plan to change and be more cognizant of.
However, the true blessings and true riches I have are the people in my life. I’ve heard some cliché sounding similar to that statement so many times, and nonchalantly nodded in agreement. But recently, I’ve become increasingly appreciative of the connections, the conversations, the experiences and the rapport I have with other people, and how often I miss great opportunities and blessings because I am focused so intently on the wrong thing. Either I’m grumbling over a problem or I’m waiting on the “next thing” to happen, and I miss some gems surrounding me.
I’ve come to realize that men tend to be “fixers.” One step further, I am an analyst and solution developer in my career. I have been trained to find problems, to envision beyond the scope and anticipate problems that don’t even exist yet. Then I determine their risk and take pre-emptive actions to mitigate those risks. In business this makes great sense. However, as that permeates into my life-living philosophy, it creates great tragedy.
I focus too much on the negative and ignore or forget to appreciate all the success that goes on routinely. In my friendships and romantic relationships, I ferret out “the problems” that need to be mitigated, often before they even exist. These issues linger in my brain because people cannot be quickly re-coded like software; thus, those “problems” (real or not) are always a risk with that person, a subconscious label I place.
Wow! How sick is that? Yet, I imagine many more people think like that than just me. I spoke with a stunningly beautiful woman yesterday who complained of the onset of some wrinkles around her eyes. I begged her not to focus on the less than one-percent she felt was bad when all else was phenomenally gorgeous. There are many other examples. I’m sure we each have our personal anecdotes to support how we notice the dirty house, but ignore the clean one.
So, this is my new character project: to make every day Thanksgiving. I am resetting my focus away from the problems, at least the ones that don’t yet exist, and appreciate what is good and pure and beautiful in my life – because there really is so much more of that to notice in my charmed life. Every morning I will remind myself to look for these things and to catch myself when inappropriately focusing on the negative.
Also, with each encounter, every conversation or experience I have with those close to me, I will make a mental note to ask myself, “If this were the last time I saw this person alive, would I be content with how I interacted with him or her? Would I be proud of the attentiveness I gave this moment?” It is important for me to start cherishing moments, in the moment, rather than wait until it’s too late and wishing I had that time back again. Regret is not the intangible I want surrounding me. I want to be a man who carries his treasured memories…so much so that I glow from them.
So, this Thanksgiving, I will take the moments to remind those in my life just how special they are to me. I will be truly Thankful for them. I hope everyone who reads this will reserve a few moments to do the same. God bless you and have a fantastic Thanksgiving Day (and life).

Nov 18, 2011

The Plum - Reposted

Original Post Date: Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 9:00am
This is not mine. A friend posted it on FaceBook, but I found it too invaluable not to share.
You should learn you cannot be loved by all people. You can be the finest PLUM in the world: ripe, juicy, succulent, a positive delight.
But you must remember there will be people who do not like plums.
You must understand that if you are the World's Finest Plum, and someone you like does not like plums, you have a choice of becoming a banana. BUT you must be warned should you choose to become a banana, you will always be a a second-rate banana instead of the Best Plum.
You must realize if you choose to be a second-rate banana, there will also be people who don't like bananas.
Further, you can spend your life trying to become the best banana, which is impossible if you are a plum. Or you can seek again to be the Best Plum.

Nov 15, 2011

Project Post-Mortem

The room-makeover project was a wonderful experience in many ways. As I mentioned before, it was nice to see the results of my efforts in an obvious and tangible way. So much of what I do at work and in my relationships don’t have that sort of real evidence. It was a great reminder that a good effort made does yield a good outcome.
Secondly, this was a physical work effort, something I’ve been unable to do for several weeks. That measure may be shy too. Not only am I healed from my surgery, but I now realize how much I hurt prior to it and did not recognize it. To be physically normal again is an amazing blessing and is having a “runneth over” effect on my psyche as well.
Perhaps it’s Providence that I was in so much pain while I was recently engaged. I’m convinced we were not meant to be – or at least we were not joining together for the right reasons. That said; I can see where much of my physical pain created anger, frustration and reactions from me that probably would not have ordinarily been there. In truth, that uncomfortableness probably is the blame for our break-up, which is both sad and fortunate.
As I said, there were unspoken issues that would have made our coupling difficult, but at the same time, it is heartbreaking to think we called off a lifetime together over a hernia. But alas, I now look at this somewhat like a vacation. My three-month engagement was beautiful, exciting, thrilling and wonderful; it was a great place to visit, but living there isn't something I will do. Just because the vacation comes to an end, doesn’t mean I feel bad for not having moved there. I don't have to be angry that the vacation is over. I still think of the visit fondly and with beautiful memories. Vacations are often high points of life that are remembered always.
But now it is back to reality and living where I am, no longer on that vacation. There are many wonderful things about “living at home” too. It’s comfortable; it’s safe; it doesn’t have to be about the next big thrill. I am free to be “me” again – and now that I am no longer in pain, I really have returned home to the me I really am.
So, all of that from painting my bedroom. Not to mention, I have a great looking room too. I wonder what revelations my next home project will bring.

Nov 13, 2011

Bedroom 2.0 - Day 3 and fini

The painting is complete. I’ve even hung the décor back up. However, the weight bench I planned to buy won’t fit in the remaining space. I might have to go with a smaller one, which is fine because I doubt I work over a 300 lb press. But we’re not talking about my training; we’re talking about the room.
Anyway, the photos don’t really do the room justice, but it gives a bit of an idea. The room is a tad darker in reality; I suppose the flash lightens the image a little more than normal. At any rate, I shot the first image outside looking in through the doorway, then the others inside the room, corner to corner, starting at the entryway and then rotating to my right each shot.
I stayed close to the budget (over about $40) but did not purchase a headboard. So, there are two more additions to come over the next few weeks: the headboard plus weight bench, if you weren’t paying attention.
Anyway, I’m very pleased. Even when my fiancée lived here, she wanted to paint the room. I agreed it needed some pizazz. However, I suppose this was my way of “remarking” the territory. Nonetheless, it is nice to complete a project and actually get to observe the fruits of my labor. This was beneficial in many ways.

Picture 1, From Entryway

Picture 2, Looking to the bathroom door

Picture 3, All three doors; far left is entry

Picture 4, Where the weights should be

Nov 11, 2011

Bedroom 2.0 - Day 2

Well, I had to take a couple of days break from my inspiring room project. There were just more important issues with which to deal, specifically some special daughter-time and a friend in need. So tonight I took back to the paint. Of course, having a water main break down the street causing the water to be shut off in the house made for an interesting start. But all turned out well.
Not a lot done tonight, but I did apply two coats of paint to the accent wall behind the bed. I’m still waiting for it to dry so I can touch up the edges and move the bed back. However, I think the simulated pictures are fairly close, although the real color is slightly more purple than I expected, but then again it’s not yet dry in the picture.

Computer-Generated Wall Color

Still wet after 2 coats
Slow and steady wins the race...

Nov 9, 2011

Bedroom 2.0 - Day 1

Last night I bought paint, curtain rods, sheets, a new bedspread, sham and accent pillows. My original estimate is now almost blown, so I may wait on the headboard for a week or two. Plus I'm still planning on a few other additions, so the final revealing may be after Thanksgiving.
Now, it was too late to paint anything large scale, like the walls. However, I did change out the linens and paint doors, two coats. So, the pictures below in the top row are real, and the ones below have predicted wall color by PhotoShop. It will be nice to have this complete because I don't think the photos do the red accents justice, and comparing them side-by-side make them appear to fight much more than they do in real life.

Painted Door

New Bed Decor

Real Doors, Generated Wall Color

Computer-Generated Wall Color
Not too bad for one day. Of course, one problem with painting with red is drips outside the splash sheet are harder to get out of the carpet. More to come...

Nov 8, 2011

Alone In My Room

So, I thought I'd give a quick update. I used the Behr website to select a color scheme. This is not final, but a general idea of what I'm thinking. My sister's suggestion of accenting with red is interesting. I'd probably use a darker red, and I might paint the interior side of the door red. Also, for these pictures, I deliberately darkened my existing bedspread to closer match what I'm thinking as a final result.

Blue/Gray No Soffits Painted

Blue/Gray with Soffits Painted

Reverse Corner with Door
There is my idea at the moment. I am still unsure what to do with the soffits. I also think the website program tends to be a little brighter than reality. It was close when painting Rachel's room, but I remember thinking the result was just slightly darker than the computer mock-up.
I'm looking for a little feedback and other suggestions, but I will probably settle on paint colors in the next day or two. Worst case, I don't like it and paint again. Give me your thoughts, please.

Nov 7, 2011

Go To Your Room!

This may not be an exciting topic – or perhaps some will find it a refreshing change. However, I thought I would share the plans for my newest project at home. As most know, I recently purchased a new house late last spring. I absolutely love my new house, but now I can’t just call the landlord when I want something done – not that I did much of that previously.
It’s interesting to note what one does and doesn’t have when moving from bachelor-style renting to home-ownership. And in all fairness, this latest project was inspired by my former fiancée who had several good ideas for decoration when she lived here. So, I am starting with the Master bedroom. Part of a schema has been started there anyway; now I’ll just finish it out.
As I said, it is interesting what is missing. I have no curtains anywhere in the house. Now, the blinds that I have in the living areas may mean I don’t need them everywhere. I’m sure there is a wide variety of opinion on this topic. However, in the bedroom, there are times one needs to “black out” the world around. While I was recovering from surgery, that early morning sun pierced through my blinds quite easily, making the additional rest I needed not so simple.
Last night I purchased two panels of Roberta-textured thermal curtains. They are black, but because of the textured style they have more of a peppered look. And honestly, I’m not sure what “Roberta” means in this context, but they’re going to look good. However, what I forgot to buy with them was curtain rods. But Lowes is only a mile and a half away.
I also plan to paint the walls and neutral-ish blue-gray of some sort. I’m still picking the color. I’m struggling with exactly how much to paint. I may do two tones on opposing walls, like navy versus gray – or I might just hit all four walls the same color. Besides just the color and number of walls, I must decide what to do with the two 4x20 foot soffits in the room. I’m not sure whether those are “part of the ceiling” or whether to paint them as well.
Finally, I will replace my bedspread with a gray-matching one. Also I will find a headboard to match the recently-purchased dresser pieces that are in the room now. Ironically, one of those pieces is sitting empty, but that story has been told enough.
If I tabulate only my expenses from last night forward, I think the whole renovation of the room will cost under $500. Of course that mainly depends on the headboard I choose. Curtains and paint won’t come close to that figure; the bedspread could be a factor but shouldn’t be too pricey.
Anyway, this is what I will be working on in my spare time between now and Thanksgiving. Please feel free to share ideas with me, and I will keep everyone apprised of the progress.

Nov 5, 2011

What Difference Does It Make

This week has been a strange one, but as Shakespeare said, "All's well that ends well." And this week did end well for me in the sense of personal and emotional comfort in many ways.
I had many issues flaring up this week, most of which I did not handle well early on. Stress was at one of the highest points it has been probably in the past five years. However, some specific moments of clarity befell me, and life in so many areas started to become far less burdensome. The problems or the pain still existed, but my perspective changed - and that made a huge difference.
So to better explain, I am going to share a specific struggle - one I've written a lot about this past month, my recent break-up. I contemplated whether or not to share this specific topic because in the past she had expressed discomfort with me blogging about her. However, after a moment of consideration, I realized what I'm about to state is ever-so-much not about her; it is about me.
I came to some very real honesty about me, how I felt, and the angry side I harbored over the break-up. For events involving my former fiancée this week, I had both poor and mannerly responses. Nonetheless, I did reach a point of healthy closure and took a therapeutic exercise to accept that closure. Doing so, freed my heart in an amazing way. My thoughts still go back to our time together; she lived in this house and we spent time together at many places I still frequent - so there is an unavoidable nostalgia that exists.
However, my thoughts are no longer weepie or angry. I am able to look at these memories with a strange and wonderful fondness. Whether a fool or not, I loved this woman very much. How she felt in return cannot diminish what I gave and cannot lessen what I felt. And I am no longer making myself be responsible for whatever it was she felt, didn't feel, what she did or didn't do. What difference does that make? I know what I had (and still have) and what I felt (and still feel) and I can enjoy and cherish those intangibles that live within me. Those don't have to be affected by anyone or any event outside of me.
Yes, through therapy this week, through gaining new insight about trust and relationships, through personal conversations with others, my outlook (regardless of my circumstance) is strong in many areas of my life where I struggled only a few days ago. Yes, it has been a strange but good week.

Nov 4, 2011

Young Brilliance

My daughter, Rachel (Age 13), has been rather creative lately and has been writing several prose and poems. She recently penned a poem that not only I found quite discerning, but also has a nice meter and rhyme. She has given me permission to publish it here, and I'm very proud to share it.
    Some people lie, some people steal
    Some people give, some people heal
    Some people hate, and some people love
    But most of us do all the above

    All people hurt, all people feel
    All people wish some things weren't real
    All people hope, all people dream
    But not all people are quite what they seem

    We all have a life to make or to waste
    We all have something we have to face
    We all have little time before we are ghosts
    So with that time we must make the most

    So find a person that you hold dear
    And keep them close, oh so very near
    So try to live with more love than hate
    Before you meet an untimely fate

    You will be missed, this is true
    But we will remember the life you knew
    A life filled with faith, hope and love
    And wait until we meet again, way up above

    Some people lie, some people steal
    Some people give, some people heal
    Some people hate, and some people love
    But we are all equal way up above

Nov 3, 2011

Weak Trust

Today we had a seminar at work on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. We discussed the issue of trust, and I gained some very interesting perspective.
We often consider trust as something earned or that a person must have strong qualities to be trusted. We think that proven accomplishments over time is what establishes trust. However, that is a semantic game. What this describes is not trust, but responsibility and reputation.
Oddly enough, trust is not about being strong; trust is about sharing vulnerabilities. So to earn trust from another person, one must actually be weak rather than strong, open up and share fears or failures, explain trials or difficulties and be genuinely human.
Counter-intuitive as it seems at first, stop and think about it. We all know of someone who goes to painstaking effort to appear strong, to hide his or her weaknesses, and cover up their mistakes. At the end of all that, what opinion do we form? That they are shifty, sneaky, fake – and should not be trusted.
However, when someone shares a story of difficulty where they were hurt and struggled, how they suffered through a trying time or about a lacking skill he or she is trying to improve…what do we think then? Usually, it is along the lines of “Wow…that person is so honest with their own personal life” – and we conclude he or she is someone we can trust.
So, as I have overly stated this past month, I have been through an awful lot. The result of so much of this has become a barrier from trust built up around me. It’s so surprising I would have trust issues out of everything; right?
However, today was huge for me. I don’t want to have trust issues, and I want to move past them. I no longer want to focus on the problems or define what I’ve suffered. I am ready for recovery, and I need to build trust again. So, it was a wonderful revelation to me how trust really works. I feel confident that I can rebuild myself and trust in others not by trying to become “strong” again, but rather by sharing and connecting with others, admitting my wrongs and allowing myself to be vulnerable.
It won’t happen quickly. It won’t happen overnight. But it will happen as I continue to be honest, be loyal and be real.

Nov 1, 2011

The Measure of a Man

It's been a difficult time this past month. I've had a major surgery which kept me bedridden for days. It was a week before I could even return to work, and only now am I even close to being recovered. During the first few days post-surgery, my fiancé and I decided to end our engagement. She moved out, and I (well, we both I suppose) had to adjust to living alone again. My daughter had her thirteen birthday, and I had promised to celebrate it larger than normal because it’s what our family calls a “milestone” age. The event went wonderfully, but not without some ugly exchanges with her mother and what I interpret as attempts to manipulate the celebration.
The one point of pride, besides my daughters, that remained was my job. Today, however, that died too. I am still employed, and the details are not appropriate to air in public, but I discovered I am far less valued there and was even conspired against. While I was looking out for the interest of the project and its success; others used that desire to their advantage to damage me professionally.
I have taken the day off from work to consider all that has happened. And I find myself in a dark place. I no longer know how to measure myself, how to gauge my value…or whether I have any.
But I fight off the dark thoughts, knowing I will have great material for my next therapy session. And I look for inspiring words and things I can do. I am still planning to serve food to the homeless this weekend. As sorry as I feel for myself, I’m still in better standing than many others. And helping those in need will act to fulfill me.
In light of my questioning my value, I wish to share this poem I found:
   Not - How did he die? But - How did he live?
   Not - What did he gain? But - What did he give?
   These are the things that measure the worth
   Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.
   Not - What was his station? But - had he a heart?
   And - How did he play his God-given part?
   Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer?
   To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
   Not - What was his church? Not - What was his creed?
   But - Had he befriended those really in need?
   Not - What did the sketch in the newspaper say?
   But - How many were sorry when he passed away?
   These are the things that measure the worth
   Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.

These words have helped me to remember that I have value beyond how most of society assess. Even in dark times, I must keep my spirit strong and my character right. I must acknowledge where I’ve done wrong and make amends for such, while still striving to do what I know is proper. And I thank God for my daughter, the incredible relationship we share and the blessing of having her live with me.
I’ve told my girls, the one still in the house as well as the two now living on their own, that stress is not a result of circumstances but rather a result from unmet expectations. I must remember I am not entitled to everything going well for me; I should not expect it. However, I can expect that joy, happiness and fellowship can still exist even when times are tough.
That is where I will set my focus. I will continue to be honest, to be loyal and to be real.