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June 30, 2004

It's all good

Last week I missed class because of other obligations and I havenít studied for two weeks so tonightís class was rough. And during class my mind was a blank, like I forgot everything I learned in the past. I worked through the lesson and tried my best to learn what was being taught tonight, and made a lot of notes about things I should have learned over the last two weeks.
Sometimes we have rough days when things just donít seem easy. Itís ok. We are bound to have off days full of ups and downs. I think itís in how we deal with it that makes a difference. In class I focused on the new lesson. Right now, Iím happy to be done with class for the night, and Iím motivated to work harder over the next week to catch up on what I missed. In my view, itís better to catch up than get further in the hole. Also, itís better to start fresh today and not get caught up, than it is to be bogged down with too much to do and not get any of it done. In any case, itís 10:00pm, itís been a long day, I have a plan, and now itís time for rest.
As my sister says so often, ďItís all good.Ē

Posted by carl1236 at 10:23 PM

June 29, 2004

Drafting

Today I learned a lesson in cycling about drafting. My friend Dan who is an avid bike racer said that he would leave work at the same time as me to show me a nice biking trail. We started out riding down along the river against a headwind. He must have seen me struggling to keep my speed up, so he passed me and I fell in behind him.
I had heard about drafting by reading Lance Armstrongís two books, but had never experienced it for myself. Today with the headwind I could feel the difference. When I was riding directly behind Dan with our wheels about a foot apart, there was much less resistance. When I pulled out to one side I felt the resistance increase by about 30 percent. It felt like a lot. Moving back in line with Dan, the resistance diminished again.
I took my turn at the front after a while and I did my best to keep a fast steady pace so Dan could draft behind me. Sometimes itís nice to draft behind someone else for a while so we have the energy to ride harder later.
I donít know enough about cycling to know the rest of the secrets involved in that sport, but I do know that drafting works. In life we can draft behind people we love and trust. I remember having my dad help me with things that I didnít have the courage or strength to do myself. But with his attitude and experience he handled it easily. I learned some valuable lessons from my dad, including how to put my fears aside to get something done.
One time my mom went to my younger brotherís apartment, which was totally trashed. When my mom told him she was coming over, he tried to stall. My mom went anyway and when she walked in, she said, ďWell, letís get to it.Ē She went to work and he fell in behind and started cleaning. When they were done cleaning the whole apartment, my brother wanted to invite everyone over for dinner. He was embarrassed about his apartment before but was stuck in a rut.
Sometimes life is not easy, but itís nice to have friends and family who are willing to dig in and get to it. Sometimes we need to draft behind someone who can get the job done. Eventually we will have our turn in the lead and we need to learn how to be strong and fit for that role.

As a side note, Crosby Park and Hidden Falls park along the River are very nice parks. If you havenít been there, itís worth checking out. Crosby park is off Shepard road, and Hidden Falls park is off East River Road.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:23 PM

June 28, 2004

Transitions

Not here, nor there, but in-between, we look forward to what will happen and wait for the new, while we still live in our current lives and situations. Itís difficult sometimes to know what to do or how to handle things.
My coworker is going through a rough time with her father who is in a nursing home. His medical condition is changing and the nurse practitioner is asking her mom what she wants to do about some of the changes. Her mom is really unsure about what to do. But one way they are dealing with it is by calling a family meeting to talk about it. All of the brothers and sisters and mom are getting together to discuss all of the options. Good, honest communication is helpful during transitions.
She told me that the time for denial is over. Often in times of transition we want to deny whatís happening, but that usually doesnít help and often makes things more difficult later.
My sister is losing her business partner in February and she wants to take care of transferring ownership of assets and buy her partners share of the company, and fill the vacuum created when her partner leaves, but her partner does not want to even deal with it until February. Delaying action on our decisions also may cause problems later.
My younger brother is thinking about looking for another job because he is getting burnt out at his current job. But trying to look for work while heís working so many hours is difficult. He also feels kind of guilty for thinking about leaving when itís been a good job for him and the pay is good. For him the transition is just beginning. Before he can take action he has to make the decision to leave.
Tonight my mom came to our house and had dinner with us and was talking about how retirement is going and how different things are. She is planning a vacation to go see my older brother in New Mexico to get a break from my dad. Heís off work all summer and sheís spending all day with him every day so feels like she needs a vacation now.
Transition is about change. How many people are afraid of change? Most of us like to have things stable, without change. But change happens. Accepting change can be one of the biggest challenges we face. Growing old is a change. We have to learn to adjust our whole way of life as we get older. We adapt. Being able to accept change and adapt is a good way to handle transitions.
As my children get older and move on in life my wife and I are finding more time together. Itís sometimes like re-learning who we are. This is a positive thing. We could look at it as losing our children, or as gaining a better relationship and recapturing some of what we might have lost. Handling transition has a lot to do with our perspective on things.
I never forget that during transitions there will be some rough spots. How we deal with them is just as important as what we are doing. In my life, good communication, giving up denial, actually making decisions, following through with actions on our decisions, accepting change, learning to adjust our lives, adapting, and changing our viewpoint helps me through these times of transitions.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:37 PM

June 27, 2004

Tour of Saints

Today it rained for almost the entire bike ride. My friends decided they wanted to take the 35 mile route and I decided I'd still like to do the 50 mile route. Shortly after I turned off for the extra 15 miles, the sky cleared and the sun started coming out. It was great.
The first 35 miles of our adventure were really wet. We were soaked, even with rain gear on. There were over 1100 people there all riding in the rain. It was interesting and festive and wet.
This event is held every year to raise money to help people with cranial facial disorders. Our entrance fee was a donation to this cause, which we paid ahead of time. So, in a sense if we wanted to give money to this cause, we could have done so without riding our bikes at all.
So why did all these people show up and ride 35 or 50 miles in the rain?

Posted by carl1236 at 10:33 PM

June 26, 2004

Preparation

Tonight I worked on my bike and got it ready for the bike tour tomorrow. Itíll be a nice 50 mile ride with about 1500 other people. I thought of several things as I was cleaning my bike up and greasing the chain. . I have a toolkit, I have a spare inner tube and patches, I have water and snacks and I have a camera. I think Iím set. There are many things in life we have to prepare for: A final exam, our driverís test, having someone over for dinner, a trip, etc. They always go better when we do a little work up front and prepare for them.
Each day we can prepare to have a good day. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually we can prepare ourselves. We can clear out the old, drop our fears, stop worrying, pray, meditate, contemplate and be ready for the day.
Preparation is good for all the other events of our lives, and itís not really different for our spirituality each day. Preparation makes it go better. With a little effort up front, we can be more aware and alive and live the day with intention and purpose.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:52 PM

June 25, 2004

Samadhi

Samadhi is union, becoming one with the object of meditation. It is Oneness. Itís also the title of one of the songs on his new CD, June Generation. Bringing together sounds from a wide range of traditions with mental concentration, flying fingers and everyone who listens, Jeff Rayís performance is brilliant and clear.
Listening to Jeff perform could be a liberating experience in itself. With a steel guitar, a microphone, a friendly smile, easy laugh and a heart of gold, Jeff banishes Samsara and liberates the soul in the process. We can search a lifetime for answers, and practice methods of meditation and still miss something that is obvious. Life is living.
I really enjoyed your performance tonight Jeff, and I hope others can hear and see you play sometime.

Jeff Ray posted his performance schedule online and information about his two CDís:

http://www.jeffraymusic.com/

and

http://www.junegeneration.com/


Posted by carl1236 at 11:16 PM

June 24, 2004

Med Administration Errors

Tonight I went to a med follow-up class which is required by the company I work for on the weekends. I work for a group home and part of my duties is to administer medications to the people who live there. There are specific requirements we have to go through in order to pass meds. First there is basic med administration training. Then after a month there is a supervised med pass at the house we are working at by a nurse. If that goes ok, then we are allowed to start passing meds. After a period of time there is a med follow-up class taught by a nurse to make sure we are doing it correctly.
The med follow-up class is part instruction, then a test. Thankfully on the test I caught all of the built-in errors and responded appropriately for given situation. When we give medications there is definitely a proper procedure we are required to follow. Each time we give a medication we have to check for the 6 rights of med administration: The right person, the right medication, the right strength/dosage, the right mode of administration, the right time and the right documentation. We have to check these before we take the med out of the package, and after we take it out to re-verify what we just took out. Then we give the med and document that it was taken.
The built-in errors in the test were meant to see how we would respond to those situations. That reminded me of an observation I had over the last few months. I see that the real danger in passing medications doesnít have so much to do with the med itself, but more with complacency.
When we are doing something every day, we get used to the routine. We are familiar with the meds and the people and we do what we know has to be done. Often shortcuts are taken because we are satisfied with what we are doing and how we are doing it. That usually works but sometimes there is a danger involved and an error is not caught because we followed our normal routine.
A real world example might be this: Every day at 7am Mary takes 100mg of a specific medication. The morning staff person comes in, gives the medications for 4 different people, gives baths, makes breakfast, helps them get dressed, makes sure they wash their hands, helps them shave, and so on. During the previous shift this particular medication of Mary's ran out and a new bottle was picked up at the drug store. The staff person picking up the med did not notice that the strength on the bottle was now 75mg. instead of 100mg. Everything else was the same. The bottle looked the same, the name on it was the same. The strength was different. The person giving the morning meds did not notice the change in strength and gave a lower dosage than originally prescribed. There is a med error that would have been caught if the 6 rights of med administration was followed with every med pass as required.
This is just an example to illustrate the point. Too often complacency can lead to problems. When a married couple becomes complacent in their relationship itís easy to forget about doing things that built the relationship in the first place, that made it so good.
When we get complacent spiritually, itís easy to forget what works and what doesnít work, and easy to stop doing the things that we know are right. Frankly there is a lot going on in life and we tend to take shortcuts but in doing so, itís easy to overlook something important and essential. Itís easy to be smug in our knowledge and routine and not even realize we are missing something.
As we are going about our daily routines, itís helpful to look at life freshly to make sure we are doing what we know works, and is required of us. When we are complacent it's easy to overlook treat others with respect and love, or easy to not be as honest or forget to pray and talk to God on a regular basis. Sometimes we become complacent, smug in our set routines and attitudes. Complacency often is not a problem until there is an error, then we look back and feel foolish for missing it.
Life in this bodily form is very short. Live it fresh each day, with eyes for what works, like the set of 6 rights. Right person, right intentions, right heart, right attitude, right thoughts, right actions. I just made those up, but you get the idea. You can make your own checks. Live life intentionally and with awareness. Complacency has no place in a fresh new look at how and what we are doing each day.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:13 PM

June 23, 2004

One of my heroes died today

I just read in the paper that 13 year old Mattie Stepanek died yesterday. A couple of years ago I was in a book store and saw a couple of his books laying on one of the clearance tables. I was instantly drawn to the colorful drawings on the covers and my heart was touched by the words inside.

This is my tribute to a boy who inspired me to be more thankful for what I have and who I am. Through Mattieís words I found a fountain of life. There is a truth in the words that help us make it through the darkest storms in life. Itís not so much in the words but in the attitude of living and being thankful.

See the Pioneer Press article:
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/nation/8988725.htm

See Mattieís website:
http://www.mattieonline.com/

Poet Heroes page:
http://www.myhero.com/myhero/hero.asp?hero=mattieStepanek

Thank you Mattie for sharing your life with us.

Posted by carl1236 at 4:00 PM

June 22, 2004

Coincidence

Today was a beautiful sunny day and just cool enough that it felt comfortable. I love days like this. It makes cycling nicer too. But the weather doesnít always cooperate like it did today. Sometimes itís sunny like today and sometimes itís rainy or hot and humid.
A couple of weeks ago I had an interesting day with many coincidences related to my new cycling hobby. When I got up for work it was raining and it didnít look like it would subside anytime soon, so I showered, got dressed and walked to the bus stop. When I got almost there the rain let up and stopped. I thought, ďI could have rode my bike today.Ē But I was already dressed and almost to the bus stop so I took a break from exercise for the morning.
When I was waiting at the bus stop I met a woman that works for the same company. We started talking and she told me that there was a bike locker available for my bike when I commute, and that I should contact another person in our office to sign up for it.
After I got to work I forgot about the locker and was busy working on a project. I stepped away from my computer a few times, and once when I returned I found the application for the bike locker laying on my computer chair. She had remembered my name and brought the application to me.
I filled out the application and took it upstairs to turn in. Towards the end of the day I had one assigned to me. There is a small rental fee, but itís minor compared to parking ramp fees for my car. Working downtown there really are no cheap parking spots, which makes bussing or biking much more attractive.
As I was turning in the application, I noticed a display case with a cycling jersey in it. It looked kind of cool, so I asked about it. I have been looking at these in the bike shops for several reasons. First, they are specially constructed to wick away the water from the skin so it evaporates. Second, they are brightly colored for better visibility. Third, they have pockets on the back of the shirt to carry my CD Player, food, etc. Itís convenient to reach while riding bike. The problem is, that they are a specialty item and are kind of expensive in the sporting goods stores and cyclist catalogs. Most of them sell for 60 to 100 dollars each. They were selling these for 40 dollars. I bought it.
When I went back upstairs to get my key for the bike locker I had a good conversation about exercise and health with the people who work there. They were feeling a little down about how hard exercise was for them and I was able to share a positive thought with themÖĒAnything we do above and beyond nothing is better than what we were doing.Ē I encouraged them to not give up.
In retrospect itís much easier to see these events as linked and not just coincidence. If it had not been raining, I would not have met this woman at the bus stop, I would not have found out about the bike locker and I would not have seen that jersey, and I would not have encouraged two people to keep trying and not give up on exercise. In each case my choices led to different options that became available. Like dominoes falling, each event lined up and started the chain falling into place.
I donít really believe in coincidence, but I do believe in purpose and free choice. Everything has a purpose and we always get to choose. I could have chosen to be silent and not talk to this woman at the bus stop. Then none of these events would have happened.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:24 PM

June 21, 2004

Proof that it can work

It seems to be a time when many marriages dissolve. And some people are afraid to make commitments because of the relationships theyíve seen their parents have. My parents are still together but it often wasnít pleasant for any of us. One of my old neighbors had been married for over 50 years, but they slept in separate rooms and fought all the time.
My wedding anniversary is coming up soon. Itís hard to believe that weíve been married for 21 years already. In one way it feels like weíve always been together, and in another way it seems like the last 21 years flew by.
When we got married we were both relatively young. I was 20 and my wife was 18. We both went to the same high school, but never formally dated. Right after High School I left for the Army. My wife and her girlfriend both came to my graduation party. I gave everyone I knew my mailing address in the Army and many of them wrote to me at first. It was great receiving mail and fun to write back telling everyone what was going on. Over the next two years my wife was the only one to keep writing and we got to know each other through letters. When it came time for her to graduate from High School, I took leave from the Army and came home.
I went to her graduation and to a party she had the following weekend, and spent a lot of time with her. I only had about a week left before I had to go back to Texas where I was stationed and I asked her to come with me. She said yes, and then I had to talk to her dad. It was very difficult and he wasnít happy. I think there was a threat of dismemberment or something if I hurt his little girl. But I give him a lot of credit because he let her make her own choice after presenting his views. Then once she made up her mind he supported her.
After a couple of weeks in Texas we decided we wanted to get married. It was very late on a Wednesday night and we were laying there talking about how we felt about each other and we decided that since we both felt the same way, we should get married. On Thursday and Friday we took care of getting the blood test, which was still required at that time in Texas, we got our marriage license and arranged with a Chaplain to marry us in a small Chapel on the Army base. Saturday we took a break and Sunday we were married right after the church service. One of the church members volunteered to stay and play the wedding song for us. It was very nice.
Between the ages of 16 and 30 we think we know everything. And we really do know a lot, and have drive and ambition, but what we lack is life experience. Neither of us really knew what it meant to get married or have children. But we did it without thinking.
It might sound romantic now, but really we were just doing what came naturally. We did not really think about Ďwhat ifís.í We thought about the moment and how it felt to be together. And after 21 years we still know that it just feels good to be together. Itís hard to imagine not being together.
I know it might not be considered ideal now days to get married so young. In the past it happened all the time. And for us it wasnít always easy, mainly because we both had to grow up. There were definitely growing pains! But it was worth it.
Yes, it can work, but it isnít really the years that matter, itís about the relationship as we are going through it. Itís about the moment and how it feels to be together. Making today count makes a difference in the long run and immediately. The proof that it can work is not really in the years, itís in the relationship now, and how we work through our troubles and share in our joys.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:49 PM

June 20, 2004

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers reading this. My son gave me a card that said,
"When I was a little child,
you knew everything
about everything.
Then when I was a teenager,
suddenly you didn't know
anything at all.
Now, you know everything again...
You must have just been
going through a phase, right?"
I laughed. I think I felt that way about my dad when I was a teenager. I'm happy though that I see my dad in a different light now. When I called him to talk tonight, he was really happy to hear from me and it was good to catch up on what was going on in each other's lives.
Being a father I know it feels good to really communicate with my son. Just as my love doesn't fade away for my son, I know my father loves me, no matter how old we get or how often we talk.
I think part of the meaning of that card I got from my son was in the process of maturing I went through as I grew up. During different phases in my life, I had different views of my father. Now I see part of it is that we are all human beings, just trying to figure out life the best we can. Each of us does what we think is best and our fathers are no different. They have Just done it before us.
Even if you are not a father, most of us have fathers and a special day like this is a good opportunity to catch up with our fathers. Then it's not about us, or what we need, it's about making a father happy on his day.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:20 PM

June 19, 2004

When the spirits are low

Recently I got a flyer for the twenty-fourth annual Tour of the Saints bike tour. According to the flyer there will be about Fifteen hundred cyclists in a ten-mile ribbon of bikes wending itís way along a verdant, rolling landscape on beautiful country roads. How could I pass all of that up? This will be my first ever bike tour and it's 50 miles long. It should be fun.
On the registration form there was a good quote by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who said in 1896,

ďWhen the spirits are low,
when the day appears dark,
when work becomes monotonous,
when hope hardly seems worth having,
just mount a bicycle and go out
for a spin down the road,
without thought on anything
but the ride you are taking.Ē

I was never a cyclist until this year, but I remember the same feeling when I was younger as a runner. I used to run about seven and a half miles every other day. I was living in California at the time and running along the beach was one of my favorite things to do. At times I felt like the runner in the movie, Chariots of Fire. I was soaring like the seagulls dodging in and out as the endless waves poured onto the shore. Whenever I would get out there alone and feel the beating of my heart and the rhythmic breathing, I would forget all about the troubles and worries I left behind.
The longest distance Iíve done in one bike ride so far is twenty miles. Normally I ride thirteen miles at a time. And it feels good. When Iím riding my bike I am not focusing on worries, bills, house repairs, school or work. I am focusing on the ride, the scenery and my body. Itís stress relieving and gives me have more energy for everything else I do throughout the day. I come out of these rides stronger, fresher and ready to tackle other challenges in life.
To me physical activity is good for more than just our bodies. I think an exercise bike, a treadmill, aerobics, a good long walk or whatever gets our heart going and blood flowing can do wonders for our attitudes, stress levels, and overall well-being. Physical exertion has a way of clearing our minds and improving our circulation. Itís important to our physical and mental health.
So when the spirits are lowÖget up and go.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:17 PM

June 18, 2004

Seeing a Fox

Today I was riding my bike into work along the river. There were a lot of cyclists out this morning. There is one spot along the trail where the grass widens out in front of the woods. There standing in the grass was a beautiful fox. Iím lucky that I didnít crash. I had to stop and admire the fox. It was the highlight of my ride. It is not often that we get to see these creatures up-close. Our society and theirs donít usually mix.
We have come a long way in technology and convenience in our society but it often means isolation from nature and the elements. We drive in our cars with the air conditioner running to shield us from the heat and humidity. We close up our homes in the winter and summer to shield us from the cold and heat. We build fences around our yards to shield us from neighbors, and walls and gates around our communities to shield us from the rif-raf. We can isolate ourselves for convenience and comfort but when we do we often miss out on a major portion of life around us.
I think I am very fortunate to have seen the fox today and I learned that itís easy to take for granted and forget about everything, and everyone we have shut out or set aside in our society. When we come face to face with it though, itís a good reminder that we are not alone and that we are all part of the whole.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:20 PM

June 17, 2004

Flying at the right altitude

An airplane takes off from the runway, pushing to gain speed and rise up, then climbs to a sufficient altitude for the flight to the destination. Depending on the turbulence the altitude is adjusted to make the flight smoother. The pilot watches carefully to make sure the correct altitude is maintained and the flight goes according to the plan.
Today I thought about life and what it takes to keep it in the air. If our life was like that airplane, then we would have to be at the right altitude at the right time so our flight goes according to plan. In this thought I equate the airplaneís altitude with our attitudes. What keeps us going? What motivates us? What colors our view? From the moment we take off in life, we are flying to the best of our abilities to reach our destination. Flying in life with the right attitude makes all the difference. When there is turbulence it helps to have the right attitude. If not, we can adjust our attitude.
Attitude is one of the biggest problems we have in life. Itís what many of our lifeís lessons are all about. And until we learn them, we get to keep experiencing the turbulence. Most of our ancient Religious teachings are about attitude. In Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, I can find hundreds of examples of teachings that challenge our attitudes. These are attitudes concerning how we give, how we live with others, and how we view life.
Most of us have heard the phrase, ďIs the cup half empty or half full?Ē Another one is ďWhen life gives you lemons, make lemonade.Ē These are about having a positive attitude. A negative attitude can kill friendships, can lose business deals, and can create turbulence. Throughout all of life, which is very short relative to eternity, we are learning, adjusting, and applying our attitudes to living. We all take off and we all land, or crash. In-between we have to fly the course. Life cannot be just about the destination. Our purpose has to include how we fly.
Some of us talk about being lonely, yet we push others away or are rude and obnoxious. Some of us talk about how unfair life is; yet we are not willing to work towards a better life. We can be stubborn, selfish, greedy, needy, or whiny and refuse to see how it effects others and us. Some of us are caring, hardworking, and positive and it effects our journey. All of these are attitudes that we live in.
We have direct control over our attitudes. When we really look at ourselves, we often find that it is our own attitudes affecting our happiness and the quality of our lives. We canít always control our surroundings and other people, but we can change our own attitude.
When I was in elementary school, my older brother came home once with a chessboard. He had learned how to play chess and was in a chess club at school. So he taught me how to play. I played and learned, but he was really good at it and really beat me every time. To me it seemed he was gloating and rubbing it in, and instead of just winning quietly, he used to make this triumphant, Ďha-ha!í sound when he would get me in checkmate. I used to get so mad that I would often throw the chessboard over sending all the pieces flying and accused him of cheating.
Much later in life, I met a Russian immigrant who was very good at chess. He played his chess computer regularly and beat it on every level. I told him that I liked to play chess and he invited me to play one day. We sat down and he really whooped me about 20 games in a row. But he didnít stop; he just kept playing game after game with me. After about the sixth game he started making ďoohĒ and ďAhhhĒ sounds and said, ďyou are learning. Good.Ē I kept playing until I was tired. Instead of throwing the board over, I did not take it personally and kept playing, adjusting my strategies and methods. With a positive attitude that I could learn and adapt, It was not about winning or losing at all. It was about how I was playing the game. My attitude made all the difference.
Life is full of turbulence and inferior positions and gloating brothers. But our attitude is our choice and if things are not working smoothly, we can change it.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:53 PM

June 16, 2004

Responsibility

My wife is reading a book right now called ďThe Five people you meet in Heaven.Ē I didnít read the book myself, but she was telling me that one of the lessons that the main character had to learn was how all life is interconnected and what we do effects other people in ways we may not even know. One story told of two boys who were playing by the street. Their ball rolled out into the street and one boy chased after it. He didnít look before running out there and was nearly hit. The brakes screeched and a man yelled out of the window to be more careful. He drove for another block, but the adrenaline rush and excitement had triggered a heart attack and he died. The boys had no idea how their play had affected this man.
There is an old piece of wisdom that says, ĎDonít overextend yourself on extravagant expenses to make appearances.í This is a foolish endeavor that causes us and our families hardship. Yet today many Americans are in debt and canít see the light of day from the hole they have dug. They have become prisoners of their finances.
In retrospect itís easier to see how a little responsibility could have prevented the problems. We donít always know how we effect others when we are being irresponsible, but we do know that some responsibility is good for our current lives. When you get a job youíll want to make sure that you at least think about retirement, because itís much easier to start when you are younger. Paying bills on time doesnít seem like that big of a deal, until you try to get a car loan and they charge you a higher interest rate because your credit is bad. That makes life right now just a little bit tougher. When that student loan bill or the interest bill comes instead of throwing it on the desk and letting it sit for a week or a month, a few minutes of work can take care of it.
Responsibility often is viewed as work. Itís often easier to not do something if it requires some effort. Thatís why itís so easy to be irresponsible. But Responsibility is also being more aware. Like the little boy playing did not look to make sure there were no cars coming. Like once when my son didnít take out the garbage in time for the collection, they charged us extra for the following weeks load. One time I did not come home from work right away and didnít call to tell my wife where I was. She was worried and waiting for me because It was out of my normal routine. Because of that it detracted from her whole evening.. Being aware of how our choices and actions effect others is being more responsible.
All of us have total free choice in everything we do. All of us effect everyone around us and they effect us. We are all connected in life. Being responsible seems like work at first but taking the easy route can sometimes cause more hardship for ourselves and for others. Responsibility is a choice we can make. Being more aware is a choice we can make.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:23 PM

June 15, 2004

Complaining

People can be very vocal about their opinions sometimes. I get an odd feeling though when they are complaining to me about something that I happen to like. Today it happened several times. First I was going to the cash machine in the skyway downtown and I ran into a friend. It was lunch-time so we casually talked about what we were doing for lunch. When I told him I was going to the Chinese food place at the other end of the skyway, he said, ďOh good, this one over here really sucks, doesnít it!Ē I thought to myself, Ďno it really doesnít, I like their Kung Pao Chicken at this one.í Iíve eaten at both places and the food is good. I donít have any complaints. Of course I can eat almost any food and like it.
This afternoon a coworker was talking to me about biking in the heat this summer. He said, ďIíd never bike in that kind of heat. Youíd have to be crazy to ride through that hot muggy weather!Ē I thought, Ďwell, maybe Iíll drink more water and make sure Iím not overheating, and maybe ride some at night when itís cooler.í But I commute by bike, so if it gets a little hot and muggy, I can always walk or drink more water if I have to. Thatíll make it better right? Then it was about the hills. He said, ďNo, I would avoid those hills. Theyíre too hard on the knees. Just think of the pressure you are putting on them!Ē To me hills are great. Hills are a challenge and build my strength so I love hills.
I ran into an artist friend that I know, and was talking to him about his artwork, and he said, ďI have to leave this town. Itís so unfriendlyĒ He went on to explain how rude and unfriendly people in the twin cities are and that ďMinnesota NiceĒ is a myth. So I was thinking, ďwow, itís sure good you have a friend to listen to this. Otherwise you might be really miserable.Ē I think Minnesota is one of the best places to live in the country. Iíve been to other places and I think the people here are nice.
I am not trying to be mean to these people, but itís truly an interesting position to be in when someone is complaining about something we like. I like these people, and donít wish to be rude to them either. I canít agree with what they are complaining about, but feel everyone is entitled to their opinions.
I have found that complaining often is an attitude based on our perception of how things really are. Keeping things in perspective and looking for the positive side of a situation allows us to be happier about it. Sometimes the complaining will fall away. A coworker at a previous job had a good attitude. Every time that I would ask him how work was going heíd say, ďIt sure beats killing sheep!Ē He used to work in a slaughter house. I canít imagine doing that, but I can imagine that almost anything is better than that!
So when we are complaining sometimes itís helpful to remember a phrase like that to keep things in perspective.
If much of what we are complaining about is based on our attitude and viewpoint, then it makes sense that this is one area we can change in our lives. It sure beats complaining about everything.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:10 PM

June 14, 2004

How do we know God?

It seems most of us seek a lifetime for something that is illusive: Happiness. If we cannot even find happiness, how can we find God? Maybe if we find God we will know happiness. But where do we look for God? The Christian and Jewish Scriptures list Godís names in various forms over 9500 times. We also hear about God from other Religions and traditions. Native Americans believe God is in and through everything so everything is sacred. Here are some descriptions of God that people have heard, but find difficult to know and experience:
The Creator.
God is everywhere.
We are all part of God.
God is in all of us.
God is in Everything.
Our existence depends on God.
God is Existence.
The great I AM.
God is the Universe.
God is the Tao.
God is the way.
God is truth
God is Life.
God is Love.
God is all knowing and all seeing.
God is good.
The First
The Last
Strength
Existence
God is our Friend
God is Faithful
God is Wisdom
God isÖ
There are literally thousands of descriptions of God. Ask anyone who they think God is, and you will probably get a description of God, or some of his/her attributes. Itís often difficult for us to put God into words, and we canít just take one of the descriptions of God and forget about the rest. We have to take them all as a whole, because God is all of them.
In Islam there is a list of the 100 most beautiful names of God. Here are a few:
The Bringer of Life
The One and Only
The Last
The Fulfiller
The Restorer
The Eternal
The sufficer
God

These are attributes of God. One way to get to know God is to get to know the Attributes of God. If God is Love, then we can give and receive true Love as God gives it. If God is forgiveness, then we can give and receive forgiveness. If God is the Sufficer, then God is enough for us. We can drop our neediness, lust and greed. If God is our friend then we can be a friend to others. If God is in other people and all of creation, then we can learn to see God there, through the barriers we put up. God is not revealed in all of the holy scriptures and ancient writings to remain hidden from us.
Another way to Get to know God is to talk to God. Often we only do that when we are in deep trouble. We say, ďGod, please get me out of this. I promise I will never do this again.Ē Then as the trouble clears, and our minds and hearts settle down, we forget that God always hears us. God not only listens to our words but to our intentions and motives. We donít need to get fancy and recite specific prayers, although special prayers can be good reminders of some things to talk to God about. God hears everything. And God is always talking to us. Too often we donít listen. How does God talk to us? God talks to us in any way that God is able to communicate to us. Thoughts, Images, a person talking, the radio, TV, books we read, scriptures, teachers, pastors, parents, friendsÖGod speaks to our hearts. Learning to listen is a matter of being open and then allowing God to transform us. Itís taking it to heart. Talking to God on a regular basis is getting to know God. Can we be friends with someone if we never talk to them, listen to them and donít try to get to know them?
Our own spirituality takes on a whole new dimension when we get to know God. Knowing and applying the attributes of God to our hearts and attitudes and talking to God regularly brings us closer to God. Thatís not all there is to a relationship, but itís a good start. Wayne Gretzky, the hockey player once said, ďYou miss 100% of the shots you donít take.Ē In this case the score is true, lasting happiness.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:21 PM

June 13, 2004

What is fair?

Last night in a discussion group, the topic was ĎWhat is Fair?í Someone brought a newspaper article that gave the top Salaries with Stock Options, bonuses and other perks of top CEOís in Minnesota. One of the highest listed was 49 million dollars per year by a leading health organization CEO. Other CEOís were listed at all different ranges in the millions.
In a different article, 90 year old Al Millinczek was honored for his philanthropic activities. In the news article he made a comment that sums up a lot of peopleís feelings on this subject. The May 23 Pioneer Press columnist stated, ďIn larger society, he thinks basic fairness is undermined by the widening gap between employee wages and CEO salaries. "How can there be that big of a profit for a CEO?" (Al) asked. "You know he's not doing it himself."
In our discussion group, most people agreed that it was disgusting that a CEO of a health organization would make that kind of money when there is a crisis in affordable health care for our citizens. At the same time that these same health organizations are claiming low profits and losses, the CEOís are getting bonuses.
Sports figures make large amounts of money also, but at least the fans have a choice of whether to support them or not, by either buying their product or not. With Health Care there is no option. Our health plans are dictated by our employers or by need. Every person needs at least basic health care at one time or another.
When we look around the world, our country and our city, we might see a lot of unfairness going on. Where is the line drawn between fair and unfair? It doesnít seem that unfairness is only present when money is involved, although itís very common to think that.
One would think that even something like a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby would be fair. Yet many Cub Scout packs had to implement rules saying the boys had to make their own cars. Many parents were making the cars for their boys, hoping their son would win the race. Most people would agree that itís not fair to the other boys who did all the work themselves. Iíve witnessed it. Iíve seen the disappointment on the faces of the parents who tried to encourage their son to do the work himself, to have his car finish close to last because the axels werenít polished enough. Iíve seen the competition in the eyes of the adults as their son constructs and races his car.
Someone in our discussion group suggested that unfairness happens when there is a lack of compassion in peopleís hearts. At some point those CEOís have to remove and isolate themselves from the real issues going on around them and have to justify to themselves that they deserve what they are getting. Another person said that unfairness is part of life. So how do we deal with unfairness in life?
Jealousy doesnít seem to help us or the situation. It eats at us and causes resentment. Neediness doesnít seem help us either. When we feel like we need something that we are lacking, we become prisoners of that need. Jealousy and Need reduce our freedom and joy.
We can detach ourselves from material objects. We can ask ourselves, how much money do we really need to be happy? Often we come to the realization that everything we need to be happy is inside of us. We can remember that we canít take it with us. Doing this frees us from the bondage of jealousy and need.
We can believe in ultimate justice. That everyone is accountable for their own actions, good or bad. We only get this limited time on earth and it goes by quickly. Each of us came into this world with different, unique abilities, talents, gifts, and resources. What we do with them is up to us. Each of us is accountable for what we have done with our lives.
We cannot control what others do or what kind of incomes they receive or what their attitudes are. That doesnít mean that we sit by and allow an unfair situation to continue. When we are activated by our hearts we can accomplish a lot and effect many people. Making the cub-scout races fair for all children was a good choice. Not everyone liked the idea at first, but the races became more fun for everyone. To alleviate the anxiety of the competitive parents, some Cub Scout Packs made a separate race for the adults, and the boys got to cheer for their parents and got to compete against other boys their own age. Everybody won. In the case of health care, a system where everyone has adequate health care would alleviate the unfairness. We can advocate for that and fight for that.
We can choose to change ourselves and to make sure our hearts are in the right place and that we are doing all we can to make life fair for all people.
In Godís eyes, each person is just as valuable as everyone else. We can choose to make choices based on that. We can look at life in a new way; to not think Ďwhat can I get out of life,í but to take stock of our skills, resources, talents, gifts, interests and see how we can contribute to life. We cannot control who takes for themselves, but we can control what we do and how we feel about other people.
When we ask what is fair, we can also ask if we are doing all we can with what weíve been given.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:29 PM

June 12, 2004

Can't see the forest through the trees

This last week it rained a lot. One morning I rode my bike 13 miles through the rain. Along the way I saw a city worker out mowing the grass along the bike trail, wearing a raincoat. I think he was surprised to see me out there. He stopped driving the mower and stared as I rode by him.
A little later I was riding along the river and someone yelled at me, ďHey!Ē I turned and looked toward the river and down by the pier were a couple of workers doing something with their tugboats. One had his thumb up in the air, grinning at me. He must have thought I was crazy. Other than that I didnít see anyone until I arrived downtown. This ride, even in the rain, was great! It felt good. It was not too cold, and I could work a little harder without overheating. I felt really good for doing it and not missing my day of exercise.
I wouldnít say that it was all pleasurable, because my eyes were stinging with rain and my glasses got all fogged and covered with water. Several times I couldnít see and once I hit a big pothole that jarred me to the bones. I rode through several deep puddles and drenched my feet from the spray. When I finished I was soaking wet from head to toes. But I was happy. I canít complain about any of it.
Throughout life we all want and seek happiness. Often we seek happiness in things that bring us pleasure, but it doesnít last. And where do we draw the line? How much of something is enough to make us happy? Did you ever notice that some people are happy no matter what they are doing? Happiness is a state of being, not an object we can acquire.
All of life is like the forest. When we are deep in the middle of it, itís sometimes hard to see or visualize the whole forest. All we can see is the trunks of the trees. Happiness is like appreciating the whole forest while walking through it, and then appreciating the trees for being part of it.
When I was riding my bike in the rain, I did not sit there and complain about it. It was too late, haha. I was already wet. My overall goal was still the same and I now had the opportunity to go beyond my previous limits. I discovered earlier that I didnít melt in the rain, and that It was actually fun, but some days itís easier to take it easy and stay dry. Last year I would not have biked in the rain at all. This year it doesnít matter as much. I did it, and now I know I can do more.
Itís easy to give up on life and complain about it too. When I was in college the first time, in 1985, I was a blamer. There was always some reason, some excuse for all of my problems. I could not see the forest through the trees. My life was out of perspective. I got bogged down in the struggles of life because I could not see a bigger picture.
Some things that are helpful to our happiness, are the awareness that we wonít melt in the rain, lifes struggles are temporary, through experience we can surpass our own limits and expectations and our view may be limited until we can see a bigger picture. Donít get too bogged down in the struggles of life to appreciate the whole of it. Itís all part of life and happiness is a state of being while living it.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:02 PM

June 11, 2004

Not just another tourist

This morning someone came into the coffee shop and was talking about a history tour they signed up for, through Community Ed. We talked about how itís funny that we can live in a place for so many years and donít know the history or recognize the monuments and other tourist attractions.
Itís not really that surprising though. For us, living in any location is just part of our lives. We go to work, we shop, we worship together, we go to entertainment venues, we picnic in the parks, we exercise, we talk with our neighbors, we spend time with our families, we work in our gardens, we play at our hobbies, we read books, and the beat goes on. Itís pretty much the daily beat of our hearts; the actions of living life the best we know how.
When we go to other places we tend to look for the tourist spots, to see the sights. How many people here take the Mall of America for granted? Tourists come from all over the world to see it. If we looked into the photo albums of everyone who visited our city, what would we see? Probably the same sights, with different people.
Julie Roberts had a great line in the movie, Pretty Woman. She was asked by Richard Gereís character to be his Ďbeck and call girlí and to move into his penthouse apartment. He said it was to get her off the streets. She replied, ďItís just geography.Ē When we interact with other people isnít it how we treat them and how we are treated that makes a difference?
A few years ago we had a big family reunion, with relatives coming from all over. Some from California, some from Toronto, some from Ohio and some from Norway. It was a great experience. There were over a hundred people here. Some stayed in our homes and ate with us. We planned this event for a whole year, which included some tourist attractions and activities. But the main thing everyone remembers is the great conversations we had as we retraced our roots and caught up on the generations of changes and challenges in everyoneís lives.
A while ago I read an interesting article by a very inspirational woman, Han Bi Ya, who is a travel writer, among other things. She visits a lot of exotic places and writes about them. She said that part of the reason she is so successful is that she doesnít focus on the tourist attractions, but on the people and their lives. In essence, if a person is visiting a place, what they want is to connect with the heartbeat of that place, and that is in the people who live there.
That also goes for the people we travel with. Vacations are not just about changing geography. Itís about relaxing together, laughing and talking. Taking the time to share in each otherís lives. We can do that whether standing in front of Old Faithful or sitting on the patio in our back yard. Itís just Geography otherwise. Iím looking forward to our annual family vacation before school starts again in September.
Keeping things in perspective, we can be more than just another tourist wherever we go. The photos we take may have some family and friends and scenery but the memories wonít be in the tourist attractions, but will be in the sharing of our hearts with those around us.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:28 PM

June 10, 2004

Super Models

I was going for a daily walk through the park with my coworkers and we were talking about exercise. One of them wanted her husband to walk with her but he wonít. She says he always has excuses, like having too much to do. My wife doesnít exercise with me, but she tries a little on her own. As I talked about my exercise and how itís been making me feel, my coworker said that she should start biking or walking herself. She said that she recognizes the benefits of regular exercise, so she is willing to put a little effort into it.
Whatever the action, each person has to want to do it. One person cannot expect to tell another person whatís good for them and have them obey. Thatís kind of a controlling attitude. One of my friends bought two bikes, one for himself and one for his wife to get her to lose weight. He rode a couple of times and fought with his wife to try it, and she wouldnít. She didnít like riding bikes. After a few weeks he gave up on it altogether and got rid of the bikes.
Maybe you have heard this phrase, especially if you are a parent, ďDo as I say, not as I do!Ē And did you ever hear someone mention, ďyou are just like you father!Ē Or ďjust like your mother?Ē We would all like our children to turn out better than us. And it happens but mostly our children turn out very much like us. With raising children, we are the ultimate models. When our children are younger they idolize us and would do anything to gain our approval. We are Super Models, selling an image for our children to live up to, for better or worse. This has almost nothing to do with physical beauty, but everything to do with attitude.
But it goes much further than our immediate family. We are models for everyone else as well. And everyone else is a model for us. We are constantly observing everyone around us and adjusting our idea of who we are.
My friend Marc, who is an alcoholic and has spent many years leading AA groups told me once, ďThe best way to help someone is to be as healthy as you can yourself.Ē It gives the people struggling with addiction hope. It shows them that it works and that itís worth it. It gives them something stable and sane in a world that is turned upside down. We have to want it ourselves, no one can do it for us. And we are the models everyone else is looking at.
So, if we look around the world and donít like what we see, we can change it by changing our self. We can be a Super Model of what we want the world to be. Others will see, and if itís good they will know what can be done and have hope.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:55 PM

June 9, 2004

reaching milestones

Today I passed 625 miles on my bike commuting to and from work and school! It feels good. I finally feel like my overall physical condition is improving. Last month I calculated my average miles per week and saw that if I kept at that pace I would reach 1000 miles by the end of September. Since then I changed routes and increased my mileage so now Iím estimating Iíll reach 1000 miles by the middle of July.
Last summer I rode my bike for 13 weeks and my goal then was to ride at least 3 days per week. But I wasnít very consistent. When I started riding my bike this season, my goal was to ride every day unless something drastic interfered. But after riding every day and tracking my miles and times for a while, I changed my goal from a number of days to a number of miles. I made 1000 miles my goal because it appeared attainable but still challenging in one season. But maybe just because it sounded like a lot of miles and was a nice even number.

Setting milestones is something we often do to reach a goal. My goal with biking is for better health and a cleaner environment. How much pollution am I responsible for? At least what my car was producing, somewhere around 12.9 pounds of smog-forming pollution per 15000 miles. And itís improving my lungs. Haha, that would not have helped me when I intentionally inhaled pollution. It is estimated that half a million people die prematurely every year in the United States as a result of smoking cigarettes. But I quit that many years ago. Itís difficult to measure the effects of one less car on the road 5 or 6 days per week. Itís also hard to measure a goal like, ďbetter health,Ē because itís subjective. There is no finality to it. My health will keep improving as I go along. But milestones are attainable and I feel good when I surpass them. I have a chart on my wall where I mark off the miles, but my friend has a goal of 10,000 miles per year riding his bike.

I wonder why we donít often set spiritual goals and milestones. The benefits are great, but itís hard to measure. How do we measure ďmore spiritual,Ē or ďmore Godly?Ē What is one good deed worth to society as a whole? What ripple effects are there when we treat someone with love and dignity and respect? When we are talking about our spirituality we often canít measure the overall effectiveness of reaching our goal, but we can still set milestones that tell us we are working in the right direction. Such as donating a certain percentage of our income to a worthy cause, spending a specific amount of our free time per year helping others or volunteering three times this year at the local food shelf or homeless shelter. Itís a novel idea and as a tool to reach our spiritual goals, itís inspiring to see how we can surpass our milestones.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:23 PM

June 8, 2004

Worthless

Rust on the hinges,
worthless it seems.
But treasure's hidden,
by worthless means.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:51 PM

June 7, 2004

Working Together

I talked to my new supervisor at work today about some problems that I had at work this weekend. She was frustrated with what happened partly because of a mistake on a form she filled out incorrectly and partly because no-one told her about it until I came to work almost a week after she did it. Every staff person has to look at this form and do the work instructions according to the form. So, theoretically someone should have caught the mistake and told her about it.
One thing my supervisor said out of frustration was, ďWe all have to work together. Someone should have told me about this sooner.Ē It was kind of a critical task and I agree with my supervisor. Part of the problem was that no-one wanted to fix the mistake, they just wanted to place the blame on the new supervisor, as if they were absolved of all responsibility. We all have to work together is a truth that eludes many workplaces. Teamwork requires effort and an attitude of looking out for everyoneís best interest. Keeping the team functioning requires good communication between all members of the team.
I once taught a computer class at a technical college with another person. The class ran 3 nights per week and I taught on Mondays and Wednesdays. My co-teacher taught on Tuesday nights. We were both working out of the same syllabus for the whole semester.
We discovered right away that we needed to agree on what we were teaching and communicate to each other after every class period so the other teacher knew what was covered and what the problems were. The students invariable asked us both the same questions. We needed to have a unified and correct answer for them.
Some of the students even tried to blame the other teacher for teaching them something that wasnít working correctly. We had to have a level of trust and professionalism with each other. So we emailed each other every day and copied our supervisor on our communications. He was grateful for the updates and the school used our communications as a model for other courses with multiple teachers. It works really well as long as we are working together.
Teams work better when everyone is working together for a common cause. Having attitudes against other team members doesn't help. Life is like this. When we work together in life and help each other out then humanity works better.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:12 PM

June 6, 2004

We have no choice

I began reading a headline in a newspaper about a company who is sending the manufacturing of their parts to China because they only have to pay 47 cents per hour in wages there. According to the CEO of the company, this makes it more economical than in the U.S. The CEO said, ďWe have no choice. We canít compete with 47 cents per hour.Ē To me this is just another way of saying, ďWe are choosing to send it overseas to increase our profits.Ē

Regardless of whether itís profitable or not, can you imagine a CEO not having a choice in any matter concerning their company? This CEO has already made a choice to send their parts manufacturing to China and is now saying that there is no choice.

Since the CEO is consciously choosing to send their companyís parts manufacturing to China, then we can ask why? Is this CEO directly competing with people who make 47 cents an hour? Or is it just too tempting to pass up?

If a job is worth paying 15 dollars an hour to one human being here, why is the same job only worth 47 cents per hour there? Doesnít that devalue that other human being? The Chinese Government has one of the worldís worst human rights records. Are working and living conditions there are not equal to conditions in the U.S?

A business owner can rationalize this because their goal is to try to make a profit. They are in business to make money not lose money. I say to this CEO, ďGood points and we know where you stand on global and human issues, but donít try to tell us you have no choice.Ē

A couple of years ago my wife asked me to create a web site for her business. I was really busy so we decided to pay someone to do it. She left me in charge of getting it done and I selected the web designer and worked with her to get the site just right. When it was done to my wifeís satisfaction with all the revisions, I paid the designer. It was a good job and worth every penny. I paid 400 dollars, or 100 dollars per page for 4 pages. At that time that was the going rate for basic web pages. The person who created my wifeís site lives in Argentina. Their economy was in the dumps and wages are much lower there. I could have paid at least half that price, maybe even a quarter of it. Do you know what 400 dollars did for this web designer? It paid off past due bills, it bought art supplies, books for school, bought some new computer software so she could build better web pages, bought a scanner and web cam, and helped pay for her brother to burn some of his music onto a CD for a demo. In short, it improved the quality of their lives and gave them more tools to work on their future livelihoods.

ďI have no choice,Ē could also be translated as ďI choose to send my partís manufacturing jobs to China so I can make more profit, even if I take advantage of someone elseís impoverished living conditions.Ē We do have choices and we make them and justify them.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:26 PM

June 5, 2004

Good Relationships

I have heard many people say that we as humans only do things if there is something in it for us. They say that some kind of gain or self-satisfaction is the primary motivator behind all of our actions. That is one philosophy, and is kind of cynical, but it doesnít totally hold up in the realm of love. Sometimes we are motivated by a genuine care about another person, even if it means self-sacrifice and foregoing our needs for theirs.
How many married women in the past have given up their lifelong dreams in order to help fulfill a partnerís dreams? How many Grandparents have raised their grandchildren while their own children become adults? How many spouses stood by their husband or wife while they wasted away in the hospital or even forgot who they were? How many parents have worked two jobs and sacrificed luxuries to put their children through college?
One of my good friends died a few years ago of cancer. He was only 50. He fought for almost 2 years with intense chemo treatments. They were hopeful, but it didnít work. His wife sacrificed a lot during that time and gave up everything to try to save her husband.
There are many selfless acts we donít see. People who give blood or donate platelets through aphaeresis are saving lives every day, but do not look for rewards. They keep coming back.
One of my friends gave up college to take care of her sick grandfather. She didnít have a mother and her father was busy working, so she was the primary caregiver. After her grandfather passed away 5 years later, her college life was gone.
There are youth leaders working with the toughest kids. They are spending thousands of hours trying to make the lives of these kids better than what they might have been. When I was a youth worker, I have had many sleepless nights trying to prepare for some activity with boys that were not my own.
If I were doing it for myself, for some kind of gain, I would have quit, because there is often no reward and no pleasure involved in the things we do. But there is dedication and love and caring for the well-being of another.
I look around me and see so many unbalanced and unloving relationships. One of my classmates told me, ďBoys are really mean,Ē just after her boyfriend cheated on her. My next door neighbors had been married for about 7 years and finally the wife had her husband arrested for beating her. She was bruised physically, but even worse she was battered emotionally. One of my friends is married and spends all of his free time looking for an escape. Not just any escape, but one far, far away from his wife and children. Another person I know has been married for one year and is already cheating on her husband. She says, ďAs long as he doesnít know, it wonít hurt him.Ē
All relationships are not bad, because there are some really great ones. My wife and I have been married for 21 years and we are closer now than we ever were. My friend Sam and his wife adore each other. You can see it in their eyes and their actions. They are friends and a tribute to good relationships. Are they in it for themselves?
The difference between bad and good relationships, in my experience, is that relationships fall apart when we are self-centered and self-serving. If we come into relationships thinking, ďWhat can I get out of this?Ē we are sure to be disappointed. And once we obtained what we were after, we would want to bail. There would be no longer anything of interest or value in the relationship to keep us there.
My marriage went through a lot of ups and downs and rocky paths, but we also came through the struggles together and one truth sticks out more than anything: When we are in a relationship for ourselves it falls apart, but when we are in it to benefit the other person, then it works much better and the relationship gets deeper and more meaningful. Looking out for each otherís best interests, giving to each other and loving each other ultimately does come back to us in the form of Happiness and Love. But if we are only seeking benefit, happiness and love will elude us.
In every relationship we only bring ourselves. Thatís what we have to offer the other person. If we are there to take, then we are taking advantage of our partner who came to offer their own self. Eventually it will collapse and someone will be hurt.
Relationships by nature have to be trusting. We open up our deepest secrets to our partners. We give our partners a great gift in being trustworthy with their hearts. We give our partners a great gift when we actually listen to them and care about their needs and their fulfillment. We find that what is in their best interest really is also in ours. Our relationship is deeper and richer.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:07 PM

June 4, 2004

What a difference a Smile makes

All day today I became aware of smiles. When I smiled at people and was genuinely happy to see someone, they would smile back. Not just any smile but a big ear to ear grin. It feels good. You know the feeling when someone you know smiles at you. You cannot help but smile back. Why do people have this effect on us? This is real power! Light bulb: If they can make us smile with a smile, then what are we doing to others?
A smile is something we all have that we can use to improve the lives of other people. And it works. We can feel the difference a smile makes.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:12 PM

June 3, 2004

I know it's good for me but why can't I do it?

One of my coworkers went to a free physical health screening today at work and we were talking about the results. Her blood pressure was good, but her overall cholesterol and cholesterol ratio were high. I did the same screening last week and realized that my cholesterol was also high. But this is not the first time Iíve been told this. This is the first time that I paid attention though.
These kinds of events are good for us, because they generate a lot of discussion and raise awareness. My co-worker was telling me that her husband was diagnosed with cancer last year and he was going through treatment. She said that for the first month of the treatment she prepared a lot of vegetables and fruits for him to eat throughout the day to improve his diet. Instead of spreading it out during the day he ate all of it at once during lunch. Eventually he got sick of five servings of fruits and vegetables in one meal. And when she was busy and could not prepare his lunch, he skipped it altogether.
I know when I tried to change my diet in the past, I kept at it for a few days, maybe a week, then went back to my normal routine. I knew a better diet would help my overall health, but I was having a hard time breaking my old routine which amounted to basically not thinking about what I ate and sometimes not eating at all until I was really hungry. It wasnít until I started exercising every day that I really noticed the need for a better diet.
When I started biking every day, at first it was good and I noticed a rise in energy levels, but then I started getting tired and my rides were losing speed. I talked to a fitness instructor and she basically told me that I wasnít getting enough calories. So I started eating more, but since I had just had my health screening, I learned that just any food was not good for high levels of physical activity. Like I couldnít just eat donuts, haha.
I learned that to help fight high cholesterol we can increase physical exercise and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables we eat. Since my overall goal is to increase my health, or at least stop destroying myself, I paid attention and am doing it. It requires me to change my whole routine though. I have to buy my fruits and vegetables ahead of time and prepare my nutritious snacks the day before when Iím not really thinking about the next day.
I am only able to do this because I am motivated to change. I have known for years that improving my diet and exercising regularly was good for me, but why couldnít I do it before? Mostly because of attitude: I didnít think I needed to worry about it, I had not experienced problems from a poor diet before, at least not that I could associate with my diet, and I was not motivated.
Many of us find ourselves in recurring struggles in our lives. We are trying to lose weight, manage our money or time, quit smoking, get our assignments done on time, etc. Even though we know what is good for us, we justify and rationalize our choices, and we cannot bring ourselves to follow through with it. Whatever our problems, they seem to happen over and over until we make it through them. Then we wonder why we couldnít do it before. The bulk of our problem is attitude. Remember that phrase, ďYou can lead a horse to water, but you canít make him drink?Ē We donít change unless we are willing to. So to break out of a cycle of self-abuse, we have to change our attitude, not just our routine. If we donít, we tire of it and go back to our old comfortable patterns. I can look back and see my attitude changes and how they effected the quality of my life:
I decided a while ago that I would stop putting Ďtoxinsí in my body. My new philosophy was that if I was not actively trying to become healthier I should at least not contribute to the rapid destruction of my body. I quit smoking many years ago. It made a huge difference in my health and general well being. Before I was robbing myself of oxygen to my brain and overall vitality. I quit drinking things with caffeine in it. I did not know how this would effect me, but this is what happened. I used to get sick a lot each year, but when I did this, I have been getting sick less and less frequently. I also quit drinking all alcohol. Even though I cannot pinpoint these things as the cause of my better health, I at least know that Iím not becoming less healthy because of my choices. And my Ďno added toxinsí attitude seems to be helping me a lot.
So if you know something that is good for you, but find it hard to do, donít give up or lose hope. You can change anytime, with the right attitude. No-one else can do it for us. Work on the underlying attitude and motives first and then change comes more naturally.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:07 PM

June 2, 2004

This is what I get for being nice?

It seems this is a common sentiment when someone has just done something to us that violates our trust in them. The whole time I was growing up I heard this phrase used by many people. Today my wife said it. She works at a coffee shop and had mistakenly accepted a travelers check that was altered to read one hundred dollars instead of one dollar. Her boss was upset and she felt really bad about it. Enough to tell her boss that he could take it out of her paycheck. He told her that she should have called the 800 number on the back of the travelers check to verify it. But at the time, she had customers lined up behind them, and they were a chatty, nice looking couple that talked about going to Duluth for the weekend. They had purchased their espresso drinks and pastries and sat at one of the tables, joking and relaxing. Somehow in their minds they justify their actions and attitudes. My wife is out 100 dollars because she took these nice people and their money order at face value. Her conclusion was, ďThis job is making me lose my faith in humanity.Ē It seems there are so many people that are willing to take advantage of another human being for their own gain.

The Dalai Lama in one of his talks gave an interesting reversal on this feeling of violation. The meaning is this: When we are kind and compassionate to another human being itís considered a good thing. At the time we carry out the act, itís done for itís own purpose and has itís own reward. Regardless of what the receiving person does with it, we have already carried out our act and received the benefit for it. What they did or how they treated us does not diminish the original act of kindness. The lesson we can learn in this, is that itís still good to treat people with kindness, dignity and respect. If they choose to violate our trust, they are choosing that. Itís not our fault that someone makes choices harmful to others. Place of blame should not be on ourselves for being too kind. What we get for trusting people and being kind and compassionate is a sense of friendship, community and goodwill. The reward is in the giving. What we get when we violate someone elseís trust is a dead-end road with shallow rewards that donít last. Eventually it catches up to us and we are alone.
Our faith in humanity is restored by doing what we know is right and treating others how we know we should treat them, because we are part of humanity and contribute to it. That is still our choice to make.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:52 PM

June 1, 2004

Friendship

My friend sent me a resumeí cover letter to proof-read this morning. I thought it was fairly well written. I only made a few small changes and sent it back with a description of why I changed those sentences. He was really happy with the changes and called me on the phone. As we were talking about it, he also brought up another concern about one sentence. This one sentence seemed a little disjointed from the rest of the paragraph. After discussing it I had an idea that made the transition better. He was really excited and I could feel his emotions. ďYou always help me. You are a wonderful friend!Ē he said.

How do we define friendship? In the Merriam-Webster dictionary it says friendship is the state of being friends. A Friend is defined as:
Main Entry: 1friend
Pronunciation: 'frend
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English frend, from Old English frEond; akin to Old High German friunt friend, Old English frEon to love, frEo free
1 a : one attached to another by affection or esteem b : ACQUAINTANCE
2 a : one that is not hostile b : one that is of the same nation, party, or group
3 : one that favors or promotes something (as a charity)
4 : a favored companion

Most of these definitions apply to my friendship with this man. I find the sources of the word friend to be very interesting. Old English fr Eon to love, and fr Eo free. It could be a free association of people, who share a common love for each other. Or free love that is given without expectation of return. I feel like all of my friendships have a base in mutual love. When a friend sends their resume cover letter, I do the best I can to help them look good on paper. I feel that what is in their best interest is also in my best interest.
I first met this friend about eight or nine years ago. I was working at a software vendor, doing training, technical support and programming. He was one of my customers. He called with many questions, and came to some training classes our company offered. I got to know him better and enjoyed helping him. And I could see his learning progress and enthusiasm grow. Then something tragic happened. Our company was sold, and then involved in a lawsuit pertaining to the sale of the company. It eventually had to be shut down and I moved on to another company. But when I did, I gave my friend my new contact information. I didnít want him to be left without a person to talk to and get help from.

I cannot explain how this friendship was created, except that it has to do with helping another human being succeed. We can always find faults in other people, but can we find a friend in the people we interact with?
He has since helped me re-roof my house, and we play golf and tennis together and enjoy each otherís company. Too often as human beings we are afraid of attachments and think we have to go it alone. This kind of conventional wisdom only leads to feeling alone. We get our wish.
A long time ago I received an email chain-letter with the following poem in it. I have it hanging up by my desk:

There are no conditions placed on true friendship,
No hidden agendas or expectations of a return on investment.
Friendship has needs that are not met with greed,
Not furthered with pride, not put aside by shame,
Nor are Friends jealous or afraid to confide,
But filled with giving, and sharing of life.
Friends are mirrors into our own souls, but the reflection
We see is somehow better than we thought of ourselves.

To me Friendship is about what we can bring to it. Itís about what we give, not about what we expect to get out of it. Whether itís an ear to listen, or a hug, or a resume revision, each of us has what it takes to make and keep good, strong and lasting friendships. When we look back on life isnít it our friends who seem to be in most of our memories?

In appreciation of my Friends who make life better, I dedicate this thought to you and want you to know I appreciate you, ďThank you!Ē

Posted by carl1236 at 2:48 PM