Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day, Year of Our Lord 2008

My name is Dana Hansen. I am a child of the King. If I die today, it is enough. If I live today, it is enough. For I am a child of the King. He supplies my needs for today. Tomorrow is not my concern, it is His. I can say with Paul, “To live is Christ, and to die, is gain.”

I am a child of the King.

It has taken me more than fifty years to learn this.

Please, learn it sooner, for your sake.

Yes, you can.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"So, It's Been a Year...

... Have I accomplished my goals?

In a word: no.

What did I set out to do?

Well, specifically, with this blog identity I wanted to:

  • Shout and be heard,
  • Get a little buzz going about Yes, You Can! (Sorry, Obama, I, and a few others, said it first),
  • Get a different job that pays better,
  • Get The Book finished.

The only goal that has been accomplished so far is to get the book finished. And yet, it (The Book) could still use much in the way of editing.

So, I'm giving it away for free. (See the link to the left.)

Make comments. Send them to me. PLEASE. I need the feedback. The second edition, when (not "if") I get to it will have the best of the necessary corrections.

And if you feel it (The Book) is worthwhile, send it on to your friends or even your enemies.

It couldn't hurt to get everyone thinking a little more positively.

Including yourself.

The whole point of Yes, You Can! was to first of all encourage ME! And if I could encourage myself out of my depression and into the land of accomplishment, maybe, just maybe, I could do the same for you.

I was my first lab rat, if you will.

When I started writing the Yes, You Can! stories and thoughts, I thought I'd be able to knock them out about one a week. Since I started this process, long about spring of 2002, by now I should have about 6x52= 300+ little stories.

It didn't happen that way.

The things I was trying to combat ended up winning more often than I did. This continues to the present time.

Looking back over this year, I cannot even see 52 postings, even with the weeks that got posted twice, my total of stories might be fifty, for the six-plus years I've been doing this.

Yet, that's looking at the half-empty end of the glass. The truth is, I've posted quite a few little homilies. I've put the electronic book together. Most of the better posts went into the book, as did the better stories written over the previous five or so years. Some things were created from scratch to fill gaps or to make The Book more readable.

In all I've done a lot.

If you google my name, "Dana E. Hansen", references specific to me appear four times in the first ten hits.

That's not bad.

And none of them are things I'm embarrassed about.

A .250 batting average is not great. But it's not all that bad, and shows that I have room to grow.

So, an early New Year's Resolution:

  • regain my focus by setting clear goals
  • strengthen my will to achieve said goals
  • put the pedal to the metal and (cue PetSmart/Bar None dog sock puppet) DO IT!

And If I Can, So Can You.

(You knew it was coming) Yes, You Can!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


There is a verse, from the Psalms, I think, that reads: "Be still, and know that I am God."

Today, Thanksgiving, marks on the calendar the official jump day from the merely normal mad scramble of juggling job, family, bills, special obligations, a second job and special projects (and the list goes on) to the truly insane mad scramble of shopping, getting the best deals, measuring to the penny how much we can put on the charge card, getting the emergency car repair done ("Why did it have to break down now?"), baking, special concerts, special programs, travel (and this list goes on as well), on top of the "normal" amounts of everyday craziness.

Is it any wonder that people tend to fly off their nut a little bit this time of year?

It didn't used to be this way.

So, before you sit down to the turkey and gravy (or ham, or lobster, or lentil loaf, depending on your preferences), take a moment to be still. Be still in your activity, be still in your mind.

Be still in your soul.

Remember the five kernels of corn the Pilgrims called supper that first winter. Remember the help the Native Americans provided. Remember the long days of toil and sweat the Plymouth colony exerted the following summer in preparation against a repeat of that winter.

Remember their thankfulness to their God, who taught them that, there would be troubles, but that, with Divine Providence (I believe their term was), they would win through.

Thanksgiving is not Turkey Day. It's not just the kick-off to the Xmas season, or the day we pull names from a hat to see whom we will gift this year. It is not just a day we gather with family for the obligatory nod to the people that we would not ordinarily associate with if we weren't family. It's not even a day to renew old friendships in that same family. All of this goes on, it is true, to a greater or lesser extent, in each family.

But that's not what Thanksgiving is all about.

It is a time to indeed be still, and know that God is God, and to properly observe and recognize all that He has done throughout the year, and throughout our lives.

Don't be like I was, blaming God for all that was wrong in my life. He may have allowed it, but He did not cause it. And He was there to lend me a hand whenever I let Him. Not choosing to let Him help, that was me. I've learned a little, though.

My life is by no means perfect, or even calm. And I still have days where I go off my nut (this past week, for example) when the crises become too many for me to handle, and I forget to ask for help. That's an old habit, and hard to break. (And besides, it goes against my prideful nature.)

But God is still faithful, even when I am not. And He is sustaining me and my family.

And, looking over the last week, the last year, the last five years, the last ten years, in fact, my entire life, I have a lot to be thankful for. I'll spare you the list. Just know that it begins with my first breath, and ends with my last breath, whenever that will be.

Be still, and KNOW!

Yes, You Can!

Friday, November 14, 2008

"I Screwed Up. What Do I Do Now?"

Have you ever said this?

Yeah, I thought so. Me, too.

All of us have, in one way or another.

So, what do you do about it? Blow it off? Walk away? Pretend nothing is wrong?

What if the screwup has BIG consequences, something you can't just walk away from? What do you do then?

In my own life, I've tried to duck the consequences by various methods. I've covered it up, lied about it or scurried to fix it before consequences came to light (one of the better of the bad ways, but still a bad way of dealing with it).

What is the best way of dealing with a screwup?

Face it. Admit it. Fix it. Apologise for it. Don't repeat it.

What if this is just the latest in a long line of screwups and apologising doesn't work any more? Now you have to do the hardest part of dealing with the last of a string of screwups:


I'm not talking about just the particular little thing that caused the problem, though certainly that needs to be done.

I'm talking about looking at the whole fabric of your life. It may be a small, little item in your life; a tiny idea that has gotten hold of your soul. A tiny thesis statement of a philosophy, no matter that it sounds trivial, that you (or I) have based our existence around.

These tiny ideas are powerful.

My folks tried to make me into an optimist, imbue me with the "Can Do" spirit. I preferred to be a pessimist. My thesis statement: "If I'm pessimistic about something, I'm pleasantly surprised when I'm wrong."

I was pleasantly surprised now and again. Looking back, though, it wasn't enough. If you look hard enough for the hole you'll find it, and completely miss the doughnut.

But being a pessimist requires little effort. That was the unspoken, little, idea that held sway over my thinking. As a consequence (there's that word again), I put forth minimal effort to take care of my immediate needs, and not much else.

The odd thing about pessimism, is that it tends to have a hidden bit of blind optimism: things will work out somehow. Or if they don't they weren't meant to anyway. One more rock on the Pessimism Pile.

One thing more: it backs up another thesis statement: God Hates Me. Maybe you've said or thought that yourself. Maybe you are even blaming God for the mess of your screwup? Me, too. I didn't always think that way, but a string of big trials came my way. Instead of trusting that He would get me through it, I blamed Him for the problems in the first place.

That's okay, though. God has big shoulders. He can take it.

But you have to realize something: God DOESN'T hate you. In fact, God loves you, and he has a plan for you. He even has a reason for all the hard rocks in the road. You may never know the reason, but it's there. Even if the only reasons are to toughen you up, or encourage you to trust in Him.

That's a hard lesson to learn. And a freeing one. Then the "It'll all work out," notion actually makes sense.

At this point I can tell you, I've screwed up. I'm trying to learn from my misteaks, er, mistakes. I'm trying to fix it.

It's hard to try to fix your life when you've lived more than half of it. But if I'm not done by the time I die, I'm going to make sure that it won't be for lack of trying. Yes, I can.

So can you.

Yes, You Can.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Spoonful of Sugar...

Last night I watched a movie that I hadn't really watched in twenty years or more. The first time I saw it was in 1966, at a theater, I forget which one, in the Denver area. Probably the Woodlawn in Littleton. This was back when especially good (read: profitable) movies were chased through the theaters a second time before being turned into TV specials.

I remember growing up with Saturday matinee movies in my home town of Stoughton. The Badger Theater was just around the corner from where my mom worked at the library. On Saturday I'd get up, clean my room (sort of), and watch cartoons. Around 11:30 or so, I'd collect fifteen (15!) cents and walk the umpty-ump blocks (give me a moment and I could count them, but it wasn't far, even though it was sort of across town).

By the way, that fifteen cents went like this: a dime for the movie, and a nickel for whatever candy I wanted. What I wanted, typically, was the cherry licorice whips (not the black), but those cost a dime a package.

I never figured out saving a nickel one week and doing without so I could get the licorice whips the next week. At five, six, seven, eight years old the idea didn't stick in my head.

I saw oh, "Dondi", the original "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (tacky sci-fi by today's standards, but it did get turned into a TV show, and made the transition to Color TV, about the same time as "Gilligan's Island"), one or another Santa Claus movie around Christmas time, the various "Lassie" movies, and many, many others. Most movies didn't catch my attention that much, but since it was a movie it was special.

Really special movies were things like: "The Three Lives of Thomasina," "The Sword in the Stone" and "The Absent-Minded Professor."

And any of you are bristling about all of those being Disney movies, remember how old I was, please.

I was about seven years old when "Thomasina" hit the theater, and my toy kitten was promptly renamed "Thomasina" in honor. I cried when the little girl's cat was hurt, seemingly dead, and very glad when she (the cat) started her next life. The next time I saw the movie was decades later, with my own little girl. I cried again, but for different, more adult reasons. Say what you will, Walt Disney knew how to tell a story that got your attention.

"Mary Poppins" was one such story. I hadn't gotten to see it when it first came out. It was a Special (about fifty cents or more) for-the-evening showing, we were busy, money was tight, and we were going to move to Colorado soon. I didn't appreciate all of that, so I was disappointed when "Mary Poppins" was replaced by "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

But, I did get the soundtrack record.

Seeing the movies years later, I, as an adult, noticed things like a slightly younger Jane and Michael Banks were the little girl and one of her friends in "Thomasina". Mr. Banks had been the street corner vendor/magician teacher in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks", and I think Michael Banks had been the little boy in that movie as well.
Watching Mary Poppins with the newest tow-headed member of the family, I got to see the story-telling all over again, with enough time to help me forget and make it new again, and with my grown-up perspective.

Folks, I'll say it now, and I'll say it again: don't just drop your kids off at these "kid's movies." Watch the movie with them. This does many things: it helps you bond with your child (believe me, we can ALL use more bonding), if there's a scarey part in the move the ads didn't warn you about (anymore, filmmakers are not as aware of children's and parent's sensibilities as perhaps they should be), you can answer those delicate questions ("I don't know why the Hulk's pants don't rip to shreds like his shirt does, son."). And occasionally, you'll get hit by piece of story-telling intended for you, not your child.

That's what happened last night.

Despite all the movie magic, and glitz, the story was really aimed at the grown-ups, and we see it clearly in the duet between Mr. Banks, the bank officer, and Bert, the chimney sweep. It's summed up by Bert's lyric: "You've got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone/Though childhood slips, like sand through a sieve./Pretty soon they've up and grown, and then they've flown,/And it's to late for you to give."

The little one had slipped off to sleep by then, but I wept bitter tears.

I'll spare you the details of the missed years, missed love given, missed ... well, you get the idea.

I WILL tell you that I have renewed my resolve not to let it happen again. This little one will get the best of my love and attention that I am able to give. Success at any other level takes a backseat to this.

It's not often life gives you second chances. Make the most of them.

Yes, You Can!

P.S. Free plug for Disney (not that they need it): rent, better yet, buy a copy of Mary Poppins and watch it with your kids.

You'll all have fun!

Yes, You Can!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Is It Fun Being You?"

You know that the whole idea of this blog is to encourage you to be better at what you do, to achieve more, stretch more, learn more, be more. And I hope you accomplish all of that.

I hope you clear out the dead wood, winnow the wheat from the chaff, throw the dross on the slagpile and keep the precious metal of your personal art and craft.

But at the end of the day, after you've paid that bill, banked that dollar, put away your tools, and put up your feet to rest, ask yourself the question: "Is it fun being me?"

If you can answer "Yes," or "Yes, most of the time," then you are probably striking that balance that makes sure you aren't getting lost in the shuffle of your life. If it's "No," or "Not often," then do the reevaluation of your life, to see what you want out of life, and where you want to be in the one year, five years and ten years.

In other words, it's time once again to make sure the path you're on will get you where you want to go.

This is a small blip on your radar scope today, today being the day after the presidential election. Some of you are elated, while others are sad at the outcome. Still others of you (amazingly) couldn't care less about the outcome. Whatever camp you fall into, take it in stride, remember that ancient phrase: "This, too, shall pass."

Whatever else happens, I want to be earning enough that I am a net tax payer, instead of a tax receiver.

Whatever you need to do, within the limits of legality and ethics, do it. But, remember your core, the you that you are. Make others around you smile.

Have fun being you.

Yes, you can!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Out From Under

Sorry it has been so long, folks.

While it is good to know that Yes, You Can, it is also wise to remember the number of hours in the day, and try not to overplan.

On the other hand, it was good to get up to the hills before the snowflakes came and just enjoy a fall afternoon at nine thousand feet elevation.

By the way, it is wise, despite time crunches, to plan some away time now and again, in order to get in touch with your soul. In my case, the mountains have been a part of my life ever since moving here at age eight. I won't say how long ago that was, but I learned to ski at Berthoud Pass ski area, and T-bar tickets were $2.00 a day.

But enough of that.

My biggest project (apart from survival) is getting my organizational plan put together. As is normal, the one most needing my advice is myself.

So, in a nutshell, here it is:

* List the tasks to be done (that's all the tasks, including sleep and meals)
* Determine importance with A, B or C (Now is the time to drop 'Watching "Gilligan's Island" reruns' off of the list, by the way. Time enough for 'D' list items when everything else is done.)
* Determine relative importance of everything in the 'A' list, and how much time it takes.
* Schedule the most important/time-consuming 'A' list item in your largest blocks of time. Follow with the next important/time-taking, then the next, and so forth.
* Repeat with the 'B' list, then the 'C' list.

It goes without saying that you may not get all of the 'C' list stuff into the schedule. It also should go without saying that the list needs to be reevaluated from time to time, remembering that 'C' list items ignored too long can become 'A' list items. Or some 'A' list items (like: "setting up the store" or "sell the property") can be moved off the list entirely.

The only thing finite and unchangeable is the number of hours in a day. Some of your tasks will end, to be replaced with other tasks, and the moving of lower priority items to prominence.

Always remember to keep your goal in front of your eyes. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the minutiae of the day-to-day and find yourself sidetracked.

Remember the Why of the doing as well as the What.

If you can do all that, you're on your way.

Oh, One Last Thing: don't be afraid to use some paper, a pencil (with a big eraser), and a calendar. This helps you keep track of stuff, and also serves to inform when your time estimates are off.

You CAN do it.

Yes, You Can!

By The Way, I'll be moving the last posting to a new blog soon: GhOsTcAtZrEvEnGe. See it Soon!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

From a Gun-Totin', Bible Thumper...

Today being the 28th day of the month, my daily bible reading includes a chapter of Proverbs.
Prov 28:2 jumped out at me:

"When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but when the ruler is a man of discernment, understanding, and knowledge, its stability will long continue."

Then Prov 28:12:

"When the [uncompromisingly] righteous triumph, there is great glory and celebration; but when the wicked rise [to power], men hide themselves."

(Both from the Amplified Bible)

Considering we're facing an election in just over a month, I hope the candidates are keeping these principles in mind.

We in the United States have the great privilege, right and responsibility to elect our leaders to office, rather than let the strongest man who wins in a battle or war be king. We must choose wisely, elect someone who has the best interests of the nation as a whole at heart, not just one who promises us the most goodies.

No, I'm not going to tell you who to vote for. I will give you advice (worth every penny you paid for it) on how to vote: vote for the candidates who are committed to making These United States the strongest, most prosperous, best shining example of how to live as a people our county can be.

Remember those passages from Proverbs is started with. Heck, read the entire chapter. For those of you who are not religious, take a chance. In most translations there's not a specific reference to God until verses 25 and 26. Otherwise, it acknowledges the rule of law, and, may I remind you, we are a Nation of Laws, rather than a Nation of Men (and Women).

Remember: Vote! If you don't, you have no right to complain about your leaders.

And if you think you can't make a difference: think again! Keep in mind this principle: "What is best for the nation," when you vote for your leaders and ballot measures. Remember that Status Quo is sometimes better that a Change with an unknown consequence; not all change is good.

Those of you who are prayerfully inclined, pray. Then vote your conscience.

I am purposefully NOT pointing you to a particular candidate. If you do as I suggest, I don't need to. You will make the best choice in the face of the opposition. That's the beauty of a secret ballot.

In my state you have five (count 'em: 5) short days to register to vote if you still need to. Get 'Er Done! Then get to the voting booth in November!

Yes, you must!

Yes you can!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Learning to Walk Like a Child of the King

You'd think I'd have this down by now.

Part of the learning process is to start where you are and expand your boundaries little by little.

I'm seldom patient enough for that. Instead, I want to leapfrog to the end result; I see little point in most of the intervening steps. I forget that learning to do anything requires taking it a bit at a time and mastering that bit before going further.

A classic example is weight training: if all you've ever picked up is a glass of milk, you are hardly likely to pick up that 100 lb. barbell on your first try. You have to start small and work up to the barbell.

The same with the Walk.

You're probably asking yourself, 'What does he mean "Child of the King"?' and 'How do you walk like one?' Good questions. Taking the second question first, it's not about how you move your feet, or the latest dance step.

Okay, you knew that.

It's about behaving in a manner that marks you as a certain kind of person.

You know what I'm taking about. An athlete who is serious about his sport will take care of his tools (his body), learn his sport, and repeat movements until they become second nature. And, since he knows that what the body doesn't use it lets go of ("Use it or lose it."), he continues to train his body and exercise it to keep it running well. He also feeds himself good stuff, in the right amounts. He allows his body to rest and recuperate. He is a detail person on how he can improve himself. He also has a sharply defined goal to strive for.

Tiger Woods is a great example of this. He once changed his entire swing and trained for months to unlearn his old way and learn the new one, all in order to send the ball farther down the fairway.

That's not 'Hard Way' thinking. That's 'Best Way' thinking.

You can tell such a person when they walk into a room, they don't have to tell you. You can see it in the grace of their movements, and the aspect of easy, controlled strength in their bearing.

The true athlete is not a braggart; he lets his ability do the talking. This aspect of self control expresses itself in how he looks at the world, and interacts with it. He is not a bully; he has no need to be. He's not perfect, but if he's smart he knows this, and knows that perfection is an exemplary goal, but an unattainable one. I think even Michael Phillips would say that. Even after taking all those gold medals, he would say 'There's room for improvement on my style, maybe even a total reworking of it, to get better performance.' Getting better is a never ending path, and perfection will always be out of reach.

I'll say that again:

Getting better is a never ending path, and perfection will always be out of reach.

Now that you know what I mean by 'walking', let me tell you what I mean by 'Child of the King'.

Now, the 'King' I'm talking about isn't Elvis. He's not Julius Caesar, or Harald Fine Hair, or even Holy Olaf. Nor is he any king you can name, all the way back to king Solomon, David, and especially not Saul (never mind Atila the Hun!).

This king was physically strong, mentally sharp, and attitudinally dedicated. He had a good idea of right and wrong, but, more importantly, he knew the difference between acting good and being good. He knew when to be forceful, and when to be gentle. He knew how to sacrifice the right things for the right reasons to get the right things done.

He gave himself away to the world, and stood between the forces of evil for the benefit of his subjects, even those who would side with evil against him. He even grants pardon to those who see the error of their ways. (Yes, he is still doing that today.)

I could go on, but I'd be here all day, and the next few days besides.

This King was worth following for all the right reasons. He was perfect example of how to interact with the world around him. He granted the right to be a part of his family, not by blood oaths, or by enormous sacrifice of self-worth, or by buying oneself into it (I couldn't afford it anyway, neither could you), but by allowing you and me to accept his kingship and rule.

Who would want to follow such a king, and be a part of his family? I dare say most folks.

The pity is, most people never see the King, just the pitiful examples most of his followers provide, myself included.

That's why I'm learning, all over again, how to walk in his footsteps, do the things he did, and as best as I can, be a reflection of his strength and wisdom and good-ness.

Here's the catch, though: through all of this the guiding principle is to show his kindness through humility. He even said, "To be great in my kingdom, you must become the servant of all."

I have a hard time with that.

Even when I was 'doing it', when a friend wrote in my high school yearbook that he hoped that I'd become the 'servant of all men', I was offended, though I didn't say so aloud at the time. I think that offends most of us in the Kingdom, until we truly understand what the point of the kingdom is: giving, healing, and loving.

I can't do those things with a selfish attitude. But I'm working on changing my attitude. And I'm practicing all those things that truly reflect that changed attitude. So can you.

I need to be humble enough to ask the King for help on doing this, for I can't do it by myself. I need his strength.

So do you.

I ain't there yet, by any stretch of the imagination. Just because perfection isn't attainable, doesn't mean I shouldn't try!

By the way, for those of you who, like me, have fought with the idea of having money versus being 'better' by not having money, remember, money is not evil. The love of money is the root of all evil. In other words, it's all about attitude, again. The more I have, the more I have to give.

Be rich, but be good. Put your riches, such as you may have, to good use. Walk like a child of the King.

Yes, you can!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Not a dimes' worth of difference..."

This campaign sound bite leaped out at me this morning, as it was meant to.

The candidate who prefers change says the current economic policy's are failed, and we need change. Perhaps he's right.

On the other hand change is not always good. A bad fiscal policy can be followed by a worse one, and, taking JFK's economic stimulus from the Sixties as an example, lowering private sector taxes, both on income and business, did improve the economy.

What do you think raising taxes might do, economy-wise?

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

And those who are in power will have us (the common folk) repeat history whether we want to or not.

I was hearing noises from the pundits on Sunday that blasted Reagan's supply-side economics, saying it didn't work. Yet, plainly it did, as when our personal taxes went down, including income taxes on the rich, tax revenue increased!

(Don't take my word for it. Check out the government's own figures.)

Anyway, that's all I have to say about that.

How's by you this Tuesday morning? Shaken off the Monday blahs, and the effects of housing on the stock market? Remember that within adversity is opportunity, if you're quick enough to see it.

Ah, well. Constant change is here to stay, as my mother tried to tell me so long ago. Just remember, not all change is good, just as not all current policies are bad.

I remember a time when punishments were severe, and consequences were stiff, for wrong behavior. This was a time when gum-chewing in class and whistling in the halls were considered major disciplinary issues in school. Change brought us a kinder, gentler outcome for school infractions. The result? Schools would love to have those old problems back, as they've been pushed off the radar by things like drugs, guns, and schoolhouse mayhem of all sorts.

Imagine That!

I'm generalizing, of course. But forty and fifty years ago schoolhouse shootings just did not occur. And I'll give you a weird factoid to go with that: a lot of boys brought their shotguns and twenty-two calibre rifles to school, so they could hunt game on the way home, leaving the guns in the cloak room. And the teachers and principal were okay with this! No mass murders ensued. Kids were trusted to know what to do and what not to do with firearms.

One final word about change: it ain't all it's cracked up to be.

What can you and I do?

We can hold the line on the good things, the helpful things. And change things that need to be changed.

Good Book time: "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire"; by Rafe Esquith, available at Amazon and other bookstores. (side note: it's time to throw out Skinnerian Psychology from the classroom, for something better. Kohlberg comes to mind...)

If you teach, or otherwise work with kids, this is a much better book than the one I was handed in my student teaching days: "Teaching As a Subversive Activity"; by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner. Parents have been largely disappointed in what has been taught to their young subversively over the years, and are clamoring for choice. That the Powers That Be are not allowing easy school choice is a shame.

We can work to change things for the better, by encouraging teachers like Rafe to get the best out of our children. We can even teach our children like this, ourselves! For those of you who remember "Little Women" by Louisa Mae Alcott, did you not try your best to recreate the kind of atmosphere the Marches had in their home? It was a fun learning environment, wasn't it?

Do you think you could create this environment at home? That would be a good change.

Can you teach like your hair is on fire?

Yes, you can!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fight For ...

This is the year, and time of year especially, for political speeches. Each side getting in their licks, and the other side picking the speech apart and making sometimes snide comments on it.

This year one candidate’s speech was rated by the opposition as “…Typical…” and “…Not as good as Kennedy’s…,” referring to JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” speech. Admittedly, it would be hard to top that speech, and that line in particular.

But, try this one on for size:

“Fight for a cause bigger than yourself.”

I think that one has potential to be a catchphrase for the future. It enlists you to work, hard, for something. It forces you to look beyond your personal horizon. It makes you choose something worthy of all the hard work, something that will benefit others as well as yourself.

It compels you to be generous and courageous.

Hmm. If the candidate is being judged on his speech, relative to JFK’s, perhaps the candidates should be judged on the content as well as how pretty the speech was.

Given that, which of the current candidates asks you to give to our country, rather than receive from our country? And I don't mean in the form of more taxes.

You will note that I haven’t mention which candidate used the phrase. I’ll let you work that out for yourself.

Yes, giving is hard, if you’re not used to it. Maybe we should get used to it (myself very much included).

The benefits of not giving: you have more for yourself. More pizza, beer and pretzels. A bigger car. A designer-label set of jeans. Y’know, the typical stuff.

The benefit of giving, however: everyone has more of the important things, such as fresh-water well where the had bad water before; a reading program for adult literacy; a reading program for children to prevent adult illiteracy in the first place; food for the hungry; shelter for the homeless; a sense of community.

America is well known for its rugged individualism. It is less known for something equally important: its sense of community, of pulling together in times of need. We saw how this happened in a small way in New Orleans, after Katrina. We saw this in a bigger way (when we thought to look) where towns were blown away by tornadoes, and flooded away by the Mississippi River this early summer.

Fight for a cause bigger than myself.

I like the sound of that. It’ll be a challenge, and it’s time I was properly challenged

Fight for a cause bigger than yourself

Yes, you can!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Convention Time!

This post has nothing to do with the convention, except I've been hearing about nothing else this past week. And I'm tired of it.

After all, it was a forgone conclusion. Minor surprises were when Hillary called for Barack to be nominated by general acclamation, and the choice of Joe Biden as a running mate. Minor surprises.

I've finished "The Book" and will be publishing it via Kindle, CreateSpace and CafePress as soon as I'm done formatting it, get some cover art put together, and create the .pdf file. Really, that just means getting the cover art done.

An e-book version will be available for free, for a limited time (look for it here) at I expect to have that in place by this time next week (pending that artwork!).

So, I did it, or nearly so.

What did you do?

Bet you can.

Yes, you can!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Strong Wills

This, in spite of the fact that it's been a month, will have to be quick.

To succeed, you have to be strong.

Strong in your abilities.

Strong in your plan.

Most importantly, strong in your Will.

Most of us are strong in our Won't. Right up there with 'Can't', 'Won't' prevents us taking a necessary step because it's distasteful to us, often for reasons known only to ourselves.

What are your 'Won'ts'? Assuming they're otherwise legal and ethical, are they merely distasteful? Can you choose to take that dose of castor oil
this once and make the won't a will?

Bend your 'won't' around your iron Will, and Get It Done!

Yes you can!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Priority One

What could keep a dedicated computer nut away from his favorite keyboard, and not adding to his favorite blog for almost a month?

His favorite little girl.

Not to mention trying to keep the household afloat.

June was busy, but July was busier, with trips to the big city, rushing our little one to Children's Hospital a total of three times (not counting scheduled appointments).

I only just discovered the hospital library has Internet access the last time we were down there, but limited to 1/2 hour sessions.

Such is life.

Not to worry, though. The bigger picture is looking good, our little girl is doing better. Life is slowly approaching its more-or-less nominal status again. All with a layer of known uncertainty on top of the unknown uncertainty.

What do I mean?

The Unknown Uncertainty is stuff like:

  • getting hit by a car
  • getting hit by a meteor
  • getting struck by lightning

You know, the stuff you know could happen but isn't likely to. Like getting childhood cancer.

Thankfully, our little girl doesn't have cancer.

But, she has had seizures.

If the first time, one-and-a-half years ago, was the last time, then we wouldn't be so nervous. But it hasn't been. Especially these past two months she's had several days of nothing but seizures.

On the other hand, most of the time she is seizure-free.

However, we are watching extra closely, just in case.

That's what I mean by Known Uncertainty.

We have to be careful to not second-guess ourselves and our child; to not over-protect her, to let her be a kid and not a fragile hot-house flower, untested by normal weather.

It gets a tad nerve-wracking.

On the other hand, we have had mountains of support, prayer, even an offer of a Sioux cleansing ritual, by way of helping her get better. You can't buy such love and giving, and I am wonderfully grateful to all involved.

Thank You.

You folks collectively and individually have helped in ways you don't know. I don't know the full extent of your concern, either. All I know, is that our child is still our happy child, still spreading sunshine, giving hugs wherever she goes.

Thank you for helping her spread her love throughout her corner of the world.

Just in case you thought you don't make a difference.

Yes, You Do.

P.S. Just so you know, all of her tests have come back clear: no known organic cause. That means the docs are still scratching their heads. But no injury, no tumor, no visible flaw in brain development. All signs that she will eventually 'grow out' of this. Our trips to Children's Hospital have reminded us, as bad as it is, it could be much worse.

Have a great day!

Yes, You Can

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Overheard in the Breakroom ...

"Heaven's nasty, full of all those self righteous bastards, but hell's worse because it's full of all the truly hateful people."

Not much of a choice, eh?

Not much of a ringing endorsement of heaven, either, is it? But, judging from all of the people who say they're going there, he's not far off. I have to admit it, I can be just as self-righteous as the worst of them. And that's after knowing that our own righteousness (even the "best" of us) is as filthy rags, and that the only way any of us get into heaven is by grace. "By Grace you are saved, not of works - it is a gift from God - lest any man should boast."

Many of us boast in our abilities nontheless. But our ability to get into heaven on our own is nil. If we could do it on our own strength, there would be no need for Jesus' sacrifice.

Self-righteousness is matter of pride. We're saying: "You're not doing that as well you should!" Implying that we do "it" better, whatever "it" is. Self-righteousness in the realm of sin is sin in its own right. Jesus spoke of this when he was talking about seeing the mote in the other person's eye, while not noticing the two-by-four in your own eye. Er, um, excuse me; I mean in MY own eye. As I said earlier, I can keep up with the worst of us, especially in the area of driving. But I nit-pick in other areas, too.

It comes from being a know-it-all.

But, if our goal is to bring people together in the family of God, then our pride and self-righteousness (as expressed by exacting adherance to rules, most of which do not come from scripture) only serves to drive people away.

Jesus said it during the Last Supper: "You whom I love, love one another, even as I have loved you, love one another." This is followed by a most important line: "By this shall all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love, one for another."

Love, by the way, is a highly misunderstood word nowadays. Most people think that is a feeling, some thing you "fall into" or "fall out of". Truly, though, love is a verb: you show your love by your actions. Whenever I put food on the table for our little one, make sure my wife has gas in the car after I borrow it, or keep a promise to a friend, I show love.

So when the Bible says "Love your neighbor as yourself," it's not saying to find some sack time with them, but to be as kind to them as you would be to yourself.

Hey, just a thought: If we are kind to our neighbor instead of preaching at them, maybe, just maybe, they'll stop worrying about us being self-righteous and start wondering why we're being kind. Especially if they know that they wouldn't bother if the roles were reversed. They might even ask us "Why?"

When they do, what will you tell them?

A great quote I've heard lately, and it fits right in:

"Everyone is fighting some sort of battle; be kinder than necessary."

Yes, you can!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Better to be a Happy Pauper Than a Miserable Prince." – Part III, or "What if I'm an UNhappy Pauper?"

(I'm writing this during a low point of my life, so my apologies in advance for unintended negativisms that may creep in. As far as the intended negativisms ... Well, you'll just have to sort them out yourself.)

There's only one thing, really, that is worse than being miserable and rich:
Being miserable and poor.

"Alright, Clyde," I can hear you saying, "You're stating the obvious. What's your solution?"

MY solution is to try to find an alternative means of income that works for me. Specifically, writing. That it has earned me no income yet is beside the point. You don't know how often I've felt like chucking it all, burning it all down to ashes, and go running into the night, screaming.. Yet, I'm always drawn back to putting words to paper, or electrons to computer screen, or whatever. In spite of myself. When the pipeline from my muse is running hot I can write reams in a day. Which is good, because that gives me a lot to edit and clean up, and afterward I am actually left with something.

Even if it doesn't make me rich, it helps make me happy.

Now, what YOU do has to come from inside YOU. I cannot tell you what is in your soul to do. Like a carpenter I work at crafting my house of words so it can stand on it's own, and when I change a word, add a comma, clean up a phrase, it is with the desire to craft a house with square corners, tight-fitting windows and doors, well balanced proportions, and toned with an appropriate use of paint for walls and trim. Your work, whatever you choose to do, should come under the same exacting scrutiny that only you can give to it.

There's a Ballad of John Henry done by the New Christy Minstrels some decades back that contains the lines:

"... I can work all day in the burning sun, and lay ev'ry stroke just right,
And when you're talkin' quits, I've just begun, and I'll finish it, just for spite..."

That's what I'm talking about. Every time John Henry came down on that star drill it bit the rock and rang with a purpose. Every bit of of the force of the blow was transmitted to the rock; none was wasted, all of it was used. And it was the dedication to the precision of purpose that made John Henry the legend he was.

While the legend has it that he died in the effort to best the machine, he still won. All the machine could do was attack the rock with brute force. John Henry did so with a focus of purpose and a song in his heart.

John Henry's spirit lives on. He's built everything from railroads to rocket ships. He'll be there when we build the Lunar base and the Mars colony. He'll help us get to where we're going, wherever that is.

Read Heinlein's short story The Cool Green Hills of Earth for another embodiment of that spirit (and an excellent example of what made Heinlein another John Henry).

You have to decide what the thing you must do, is. But John Henry's spirit is there within you, waiting to help you do your thing, just right.

You can do it.

Yes, you can.

- dedicated to Snuggles, the FizzKit, a damn fine cat.
She did it all just right.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

This is Probably Not the Best Time to do this...

But, I have to say, having a pet die is right up there with the top ten worst ways to spend a Sunday evening.

Snuggles' time came when she could no longer walk or stand, so we had her put down. As is my habit, I insisted that I be there to be whatever comfort a pet can have in their final minutes. God love her, she resisted the inevitable to the very end. I'm thinking of burying her next to Mike, under the peach tree.

When I am in a more together frame of mind I'll write her elegy. Not right now. But I felt the need to say something. For whatever it's worth.

This is the one time I'm not ending with "Yes, you can."

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die..."
--Ecclesiates 3:1,2a

Good night folks. God Bless.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends..."

"... For a Duck may be somebody's Mother..."

As I've said earlier, life deals us lemons and left-handed monkey wrenches, and the best we can do some days is to keep on keeping on. This has been the story for most of the past few weeks. Mind you, my life has been far and away easier to deal with than the folks in Windsor, or, more recently, the people in Iowa.

Last night's news brought a sound bite saying that President Bush is making sure Federal assistance is available through FEMA, unlike with Hurricane Katrina.


While there were major glitches with Fema's response in Louisiana, the time the Federal government can act is after it has been asked to. Remember, Federal agencies cannot usurp or preempt State or Local authorities' powers. (Interestingly, the situation that caused that rule to be established in the first place dates from the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War, when martial law was about to be declared in Louisiana to force a 'fair' election. But I digress...)

I don't recall that FEMA took over before the Iowa flooding, did it?

In any case, Bush toured, FEMA is assessing and all will be right again.

All of that is by way of saying that a lot of water has gone over my personal dam, and it's been a long time since I wrote here. Sorry about that.

Mind you, I havent been close to a CNN channel to listen to Nancy Grace, but I don't think that the Iowans have been nearly so whiny as the Louisianans. (Feel free to correct me). In any case, the good people of Iowa, as well as the good people of Windsor, will, with help, pull it all together and put it back together as good or better than it was before.

And I'll get my life put back together and better organised.

Yes, I can!

"You may think that this is the end...
Well, it IS."
(Apologies to Mitch Miller, and thanks for all the memories.)
PS: the photo is of the Windsor Tornado when it was west of Greeley and still south of Windsor (taken from the vicinity of the State Farm Insurance building, in The Promontory, an industrial office park).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Windsor Tornado

You may have seen pictures of what happened last Thursday in our little bit of paradise.

To put this in perspective, tornados have been plowing through our neck of the woods for decades. It's just with the most recent housing boom, the crop and pasture land that previously it blew through have grown houses, not wheat or corn.

It is true that the Brown Cow Dairy operation near the missle silo has been there for years, and it is cerainly unfortunate that Oscar Michael Manchester lost his life in the same vicinity. But, as I said, in prior times, the tornados flattened crops and the occasional outbuilding, and seldom struck populated areas.

For all of that, the sounds I have been hearing from Windsor have been along the line of: "We'll get through this."

It is also important to note that later Thursday evening, Windsor's mayor John Vazquez declared a Disaster and requested aid from our Governor Ritter. Governor Ritter officially declared it a disaster area as well, and placed a request to FEMA for federal aid. In other words, they followed chain of command, and didn't just assume FEMA was going to pop up and take care of them (certain cities and state to the south, please take note). And most of the work will be done by the good people of Windsor, helped out by friends and neighbors from nearby towns. I understand that Larimer County to our west has given Weld County (where Windsor is located) one million dollars from their own disaster budget.

But, as I said, the majority work will be done by the good citizens of Windsor. They have been working through the holiday weekend to clean up the debris. Their rest will come later.

What keeps them going, though, is the notion of getting it done; some need to fall back and regroup (who wouldn't?), others are doing what they can already.

And if they can do it, so can you.

Yes, you can.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Now, for Something Completely Different...

... I must have been in a half doze these past two weeks to not have written at least something! I can't offer any excuse except that of poor planning (Click here) and a new work schedule.

The real reason? I didn't make the time for it.

What's the real reason that things don't get done in your life? When we face facts, it's pretty much the same thing: we didn't make time for it.

There's many ways of saying the same thing, ways that offload the responsibility to someone or something else, if only a little bit: "I'm over-committed", "Something came up", "I got too busy with (name the important thing done instead)", etc.

We are all well-meaning on our commitments, and our inability to say "no" to a new commitment means that we have plenty of excuses when the important things fall by the wayside. Important things like getting that gift for your wife/hubby/child -- a gift that's not just the first thing you see at the store. Like taking time to listen to the conversation; taking time to have the conversation in the first place; playing catch with the little one before he or she grows out of the 'fun' stage. With luck and attention, the 'fun' stage of their life will continue through to adulthood.

If you haven't done this before, or even if you have, take a piece of paper, fold it in half length-wise and write down all the things that are important to you to accomplish before-- well, for me at my age it'll be before I die -- on the left side. On the right side of the paper list all of your responsibilities. Now prioritize them.

On my "want to accomplish" side I have listed: write a book. On my "responsibility" side I have taking care of our little one until she's all grown up. One of my "want to accomplish" is "visit Easter Island during the total solar eclipse, something I think would be great to take the little one along so she could see something special first-hand.

So, some of your "want to accomplish" goals can dovetail with your responsibilities. See how many you can dovetail like that.

Have Fun! Be Responsible! Plan and Prioritize!

Yes You Can!

Monday, April 28, 2008

"My weapons are..."

It's funny what occurs to a person in a half-doze.

I was laying on the couch, trying to encourage our little one to go to sleep, watching Disney's Pocahontas (historically inaccurate, but more on that another time). I was succeeding in dozing off myself, while little one was still a bit restive.

While dozing (and I'm sure this phrase is not in the movie) these words came to me: "My weapons are light and love."

Odd weapons, don't you think?

But not so odd, when you realize our mission in life is to bring people together.

"A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love, one for another." - John 13:34,35, (Madman's paraphrase).

Strictly speaking, these weapons wage war on our true enemy, the powers of darkness. They negate the powers of darkness, and allow those who have been bound by them to see the light and feel the love. However, it can take a lot of loving to break through the walls of darkness and let the light shine in on a person's heart and soul. And we risk much hurt along the way.

But isn't it worth it? When you were reclaimed, wasn't it worth it? I thought so.

So use the weapons of light and love to defeat the true enemy, and win a soul to freedom.

With Christ's Help,
Yes, You Can!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April 20th (a.k.a. "420", "four-twenty", etc. day)

Today is a counterculture holiday of sorts. 420, either the date or the time, was a code to meet to get high, exchange 'goodies', and otherwise get recreationally wasted.

It's surprising that it took me this long (age fifty-one) to find out about it.

Then again, I tended to run in difference circles. Still do, come to that.

As regarding recreational pharma of any sort, the temptation is there, but the fear of consequences is also there. I guess I came to that early, in high school. From everything I hear, I was unusual in this regard. Teens are not supposed to be able to think these things through like that. A recent Scientific American article (March, '08) states that the human forebrain (where higher reasoning functions are processed) doesn't get fully myelinated until age twenty years old, or so. A lot of people write off kids thinking on a higher level because of that.

I don't think so.

Just because it's more difficult, doesn't mean they can't. Many kids/teens think better than some adults.

Then again, some don't.

Check out this link:

Randy Cassingham's Blog: Two Teen Tales

Go ahead, I'll wait.

Now that you're back, you tell me, which teen did the better thinking?

Use that lump of gray/white matter between your years.

Yes, you can.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Go Not Gentle Into That Good Night

There's a lot you can learn from your pets.

Take our last dog and current cat, for instances:

Our dog, Missy, was the outdoors dog's outdoors dog. She gloried in snow storms, rejoiced in rainstorms, and whenever the occasion arose, revelled in running free with the steers on the in-laws' ranch.

She was never trained as a hunting dog, but she knew how to hunt: she did so to survive and feed her pups. That's how she came to us in the first place; somebody had dumped her, either pregnant or with her puppies, out in the middle Weld County. They lived a semi-feral existence until a farmer family found them. The farmer was able to find homes for the pups easily enough, but with the uncertain history of the mother was unable to find a home for her. Until my wife came along.

Our family at the time (specifically the two girls) wanted a dog. I'm not a dog person, and my wife, due to childhood traumas, detested dogs in general. But, the girls wanted a dog for Christmas, so my wife set out to look for one.

Missy saw my wife, knew that she had to win her over if she was to find a new home, and did her level best to do so. My wife took the dog home, and while we brought her home for "the kids", she remained forever my wife's dog.

Mike the Tomcat was the only one to have any real misgivings. Eventually they settled there differences and agreed to disagree, staying on opposite sides of whichever room. Since Mike was my cat, this made for some interesting moments when my wife and I sat side-by-side on the sofa: we would cuddle a bit, the dog and cat would growl, we would have to break up an alley fight in the living room, then go back to trying to get some time together again. Sometimes the dog went outside, sometimes the cat was sent to the basement. Sometimes we just sat on opposite sides of the room. (In compromise, nobody wins, everyone is merely equally unhappy.)

I guess I'll have to include Mike, though that was not my original thought. Mike died sometime before Missy did, being quite old when Missy came to us. Even though he had cataracts, he still wanted to go out, especially at night, to 'cat around' a bit. At this point, he'd stay out most of the night (except for bad weather) and be waiting at the door in the morning.

One morning he wasn't there.

I won't go into detail as to what went through my heart and mind. We called and whistled for him every day for the next three days. Our kids had given up on him and were beginning to think I was a little nuts to continue to whistle for him, especially since the weather had turned cold. I knew he couldn't see well enough to find his way back from where ever. But I knew, if he could hear me whistle, he would follow the whistle home.

On the evening of the fourth day, while I was whistling for him, I heard a plaintive "meow." And there he was, cold and bedraggled, but generally healthy. I was never so glad that I had taught him to come to a whistle than that night. After getting a good supper, he alternately shivered and purred himself to sleep on my lap, Missy notwithstanding.

After that, his catabout times were restricted to about ten-minutes' time in the evening. I think he understood, a little, that it was for his own good. But he always drug his heels (unless it was raining) on his way back in.

He died a couple of years later when he was seventeen years old, his old cat body finally wearing out on him, just after Easter that year. We buried him under the peach tree. For what it's worth, that was the first year that tree put on fruit.

Missy, as I said, threw herself into enjoying life, protecting the family from steers at the ranch, and even a bear, once, while on a camping trip. She never walked when she could run. The squirrels were never safe in our yard as she leaped to catch them. They generally gained the height of a tree or the top of our privacy fence in time. but they were certainly a good deal slimmer than they would have liked.

What laid her low was a stroke early one Sunday morning. By this time the kids had moved out, and Missy was very much 'our' dog now. I say 'our', but really, she liked me, but she loved my wife. She was too big to be a lap dog, but she tried to be one anyway.

I awoke early that morning, and walking into the kitchen to find Missy lying on the floor, staring sightlessly, her legs making scrabbling motions as if she were running (like dogs sometimes do when they're dreaming). She yipped occasionally as if in fear, running as fast as she could from the darkness overtaking her, as if she could out run death itself. With a final shake, she stopped.

I put my ear to her side, and listened as her heart ran down from it's racing to nothing at all, like an old wind-up clock ticking it's last tick. I told my wife, who had joined me by that time in trying to comfort Missy, that it was over.

Uncharacteristically, she started to cry (I'm more likely to, and I hadn't), berating herself for crying over a "... Damn, Dumb dog!" There was not much left to do but hold my wife and cry with her.

I've written Missy's elegy some time ago, so I won't repeat it here. I'll try to post a link to it later.

The last two lines of Dylan Thomas' poem reads: "Go not gentle into that good night./Rage, rage against the dying of the light." I think that just about sums up Missy.

Snuggles, our current cat, is on her way out. I can say that in full certainty. She has developed a cancer on her abdomen that would surely qualify her for euthanasia if I took her to a vet. Yet she still lives her life as best she can as an old lady kitty, not quite up to her kitten name of "Fizz Kit" any longer, except when the three-year-old comes careening through the house.

I ask her, not really expecting a reply, whether it's time to be put down, to end it. The only reply I get is her steady cat stare, and her steady purr.

I take that as a "Let's keep it going a while longer." We can learn a lesson from that cat.

"Go not gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Yes, You Can

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A little Bit Behind ...

While the theme of this blog is "Yes, You Can!" it is important to remember a couple of things:

Time Management
and Sleep.

I've managed to over commit on my personal projects, with the end result of not getting any of them done. Specifically: Progress on editing Yes, You Can: the Book, writing two nutshell reviews of places I've recently dined at that were good enough to talk about, writing at least one more entry here (since the 9th), and getting to the doctor.

Note that the last item should have come first. In fact, it didn't get done at all.

So, to begin:

Time Management:
We all have a thousand and one things demanding our attention every day. As the saying goes, though, we gotta keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. Set the priorities. Be ruthless. Get the "Have-to's" done ahead of the "Want-to's."

And among the Have-to's, make sure you include your proper rest. If that means eight (8) hours to feel at your best, get your eight hours! Most of us (myself included) are "just getting by" with enough sleep to keep us functioning, but not enough to be 100%.

And along with the "Have-to's" include time for your spirit. For me, that means joining with others in worship, praise and learning at my church. Sometimes I get to help with the teaching side of that (which is good for my spirit, as I am a teacher at heart).

Reading over the above, I see that Sleep made it into the list already. No need to rehash.

Just keep the priorities straight.

God Bless!

Yes, You Can!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The First Day ...

... Of the rest of your life.

Yeah, another hackneyed phrase.

I just wanted you all (y'all) to remember, the last page in your book isn't written yet.

If you have regrets, if you're not proud of your life, you've lived down to expectations instead of up, you can still change your direction and actions, and start doing things you ARE proud of. You can do things that make people proud to know you, proud to call you their friend, and feel lucky to be called your friend.

Even if you feel you have let everyone around you down, you aren't done until your last page is written.

Make the change.

Write something good on today's (and then next, and the next...) page of your life.

Yes, You Can!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Best Sales Pitch ...

Today's blog is short and sweet. (but it's potentially a lot of work.)

The Best Sales Pitch in the World gets you no sales...

... Unless a buyer hears or reads it.

Get the word out.

Yes, You CAN!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I have to make a correction to an earlier post (see: "Balance" below)

"There was a man, though some counted him mad;
The more he cast away, the more he had."
And the author was John Bunyan, who wrote The Pilgrim's Progress while in jail. A classic example of making the best of a bad situation. (J. S. Bach did that, too, by the way.)

Correction is a good thing. It makes good writers better. It makes good singers better. It makes good athletes better. It ...

Well, you get the idea.

Work to improve!

Yes, You Can!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Law of the Garbage Truck

I get a lot of stuff in my email inbox. I expect that you do, too.

Some gets roundfiled, some gets forwarded, some gets saved for a day we need a laugh and need to pass it along.

Some gets added to the Blog, as being better that I can come up with on my own. Here is one of those things:

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his breaks, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly.

So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!' This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.'

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so..... 'Love the people who treat you right - Pray for the ones who don't.'

There you have it. I can't say it any better than that.

When we return good responses for frustrated people's bad acts, it can help make the world better.

I haven't arrived there yet. But I'll get there.

Yes I Can.

So Can You.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Carpe Diem and Miss Bimbo

Okay, I admit I bit at the media bait and checked out the Miss Bimbo site.

Not much of anything socially redeeming there, and no, I wouldn't let my little girl have a bimbet there.

On the other hand, I feel the same way about Worlds of Warcraft. And I'm personally more likely to participate there.

For myself, nowadays, I feel it's a waste of my time, in spite of the fact I used to have some fun with Dungeons and Dragons.

Which leads me to the true topic of the day: seizing it.

Warning: Hackneyed Phrase coming up. "We receive a gift of 1440 minutes every day."

But, it's true. Each minute should be filled with living your life in as full a manner as possible. That none of us truly do is beside the point. Many of us (dare I say most of us?) don't even come close to filling sixty (60) of those minutes in any given day. Myself, unfortunately, included.

I'm not meaning to get on the case of someone who is taking a well-earned rest in his or her hammock. I mean the rest of us who, in spite of our selves, are spinning our wheels. We routinely waste time better spent trying to do our work, raise our kids, do our shopping, and, yes, relaxing without worries. I'm told that lack of effective rest undermines all of our daily activities.

If you've ever been up all night because of some malady or worry. Were you anywhere near one hundred percent the next day?

I thought not.

How about if you were playing some online game all night? Or doing some heavy partying? Surely you were one hundred percent the next day?

Alright, you can stop laughing now. You get my point, don't you?

Seizing the day means different things to different people. That's as it should be. It should also mean 'make the most of your opportunity.'

A word about making the most of your opportunity. In the play Cyrano De Bergerac, the man with the long nose and longer sword, someone, wanting to pick a fight with him, told him his nose was "Rather large". Instead of immediately drawing his sword, Cyrano replied, "Is that all?", then proceeds to give example after example of truly witty insults about his nose. Then returns the insult with "These are things you might have said, had you had any letters (reading) or wit." Then Cyrano proceeds to sword fight with the ignoble fellow while composing a poem about the fight in progress, running the man through at the last line "... Then as I end the refrain, thrust home!" (for the complete list I commend to you the Brian Hooker translation of Edmond Rostand's play Cyrano De Bergerac, you'll find it in Act I)

The moral of that story is, if you're going to get yourself into trouble anyway, make the most of it (or don't cross swords or cross wits unless you are suitably skilled yourself).

Donald Trump has similar advice: "If you're going to think anyway, you might as well think BIG!"

Chelsea Clinton, in my humble opinion, missed an opportunity last week to properly answer back her questioner with style and grace, but instead responded in anger. Personally speaking, my angry moments have seldom been my best moments. I get tongue-tied, illogical, and prone to hit things. When I keep my temper I keep my wits. I can even remember license plate numbers (see: "What's in a Note, you say?" below).

In short, thinking makes you better able to seize the moment, and make the most of your opportunity.

Make each moment count. The folks at Miss Bimbo have tapped into something potentially big, if perhaps only short-lived (think: Pocket Pets & Tamagotchis) They're making the most of it. If they're smart they're scouting for the more possible Next Big Thing our there.

Make each moment count. Enjoy your relaxation. Our family trip yesterday to a snowed-in Rocky Mountain National Park was priceless to my spirit, and a wonderful experience for our snow-suited little girl, and a vital recharge for my wife.

Make each moment count. Including the ones where you just get your night time rest.

Seize the Day!

Make each moment count!

Yes, You Can!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

If At First You Don't Succeed ...

You might end up decorating cakes at WalMart.

One hopes that the cake decorator was given some remedial instruction regarding cake inscriptions. At least the script is legible, and the cake is quite pretty.

I think this is more amusing than aggravating. But, more to the point: if you make a mistake, learn from it.

To quote Marie Antoinette: "Let them eat cake!"

Have a great day!

Yes, you can!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


This is something of a follow up on my "Good Enough" essay (see below), and is to remind all of us that, whatever our work, whatever our passion, whatever our mission, we must find a balance.

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Trite, but true.

In my younger days, I liked to listen to the late Harry Chapin's music. All of us who heard Taxi for the first time knew that here was a story teller. When I got a cd collection of his greatest hits, one of my daughter's favorites was Cat's in the Cradle.

It took me some time to realize what she was trying to tell me.

She didn't realize that she was trying to tell me anything, of course. And by the time I got the message it was pretty much too late. But by picking that as one of her favorite songs she was saying "Pay attention to me!" Much of our heartache then, and problems now, might have been avoided had I done so. But like the Dad in the song, I was wrapped up in business, and had pretty much checked out of the family life.

As much as we would like them, we don't get "Do-Overs" in the game of life. We may get another chance to do better. That's one thing I'm working on now.

There's a poem that I'm learning the truth of, slowly:

"There was a man,
They called him mad:
The more he gave,
The more he had."

Balance is what makes us whole. Even more, it's what makes the people around us whole. We need to share ourselves with each other. When we give of ourselves, we get back more in return. But don't give expecting to get back. What you get will not come in the fashion you expect in any case.

But it will come.

Find the balance.

Yes, you can!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Good Enough is Not Good Enough

This weekend brought many things to my personal inbox of Eyes and Ears. My schedule is such that my sleep rhythms are not what they should be. I often find myself awake at three in the morning. Depending on the next day’s duties I try to get back to sleep, or get up and do something productive.

This particular morning I tried going back to sleep, with the aid of boring early morning television (not infomercials, please, those keep me awake, or, if I do doze off, I’m quoting their nonsense for the rest of the day. Which is what they hope for, of course…).

The show I lucked into was not boring, though, at least not to me, a musician of sorts.

It was about a chamber orchestra, conducted by an amazing woman, and comprised of highly skilled and talented women musicians. I emphasize the fact of their gender because the program emphasized it. That, and the fact that they were from and based in Cuba.

What they are, in fact, are great!

I found myself needing to retrain my ear a bit to keep up with the music I was hearing. It wasn’t just classical string quartet, chamber music, or other such, though it certainly was that. It was Cuban rhythms and themes set to the voices of violin, viola, cello and bass. It was the cry of sorrow, and the song of triumph; the moan of defeat, and the exultation of joy!

In short, that orchestra was good!

How did they get that way?

Those of you who are musicians may recall the old joke of a man running down a New York street carrying an instrument case. He asks a street musician, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The street musician tells him, “Practice, man, practice!”

These women balance hectic lives as students, workers or mothers (sometimes all of the above) and still find time to practice, pay for lessons, and take direction from a singularly driven conductor. The conductor herself is driven to achieve a result as close to perfection as is humanly possible.

The result could be chaos.

What it is: a thing of beauty.

How do they achieve this result? Two things are required: a goal, and the will to achieve it.

Each of these women chose to follow a hard road. Music lessons cost money that could be put to use paying bills or buying food. The instruments themselves are costly. The time to practice might be better used to work to bring in a little more money, or to spend time with friends and family. Musicians sacrifice much for their goal: perhaps unattainable musical perfection.

They know sorrow.

But they also know joy. Their music comes from their hearts and souls. And long, hard practice.

In my humble opinion, the violin is second only to the human voice in its expressiveness. Some would say that, in the hands of a talented and trained musician, the violin surpasses the human voice, literally singing trills, runs, and duets. These same people tell me that to become that accomplished is a lot of work.

These women are united by a common vision provided by their conductor, and by combined decades of practice, lessons and training in the pursuit of excellence.

In short, a goal, and the force of will to achieve it.

You may not be following the musician’s path, but you can take a lesson away from this essay today. Follow your vision (you may need to find it first). Set your goal. Dedicate the necessary effort to achieve it.

Yes, you CAN!

PS: As it happened, I ended up getting up and doing something productive anyway. The Hot Cross Buns were delicious!

Promised Land

This is Easter weekend.

How many of you fully appreciate what that means?

In true Shakespearian fashion there’s a story within a story here. The redemption of the Children of Jacob (Israel). And the redemption of Mankind.

In both stories redemption comes from the Hand of God, working through the hands of a man.

Let me tell you what I mean.

Moses, a man who means well, kills an overseer who was abusing a slave. Knowing what he has done is wrong, albeit done for the right reasons, he takes off to go into hiding, spending forty years in the land of Midian, and building a new life.

God gets his attention and sends him back to rescue the nation of Israel from bondage to Egypt and Pharaoh.

Pharaoh isn’t having any, considering the impact of the loss of labor on the Egyptian lifestyle.

God visits a number of demonstrations on Egypt, leading up to the killing of all the first-born in the land, except for those who have chosen to follow Moses’ instructions in a ritual that has come to be known as the Passover, because the Angel of Death passed over the houses marked with the blood of a lamb.

Pharaoh sends them away, but has second thoughts, and tries to capture and/or kill the Children of Israel by main force. Moses, directed by God to stretch out his staff, parts the Red Sea, the Children cross over and Pharaoh’s army drowns in the sea when it rushes back into place.

(A little side note: there’s a story about a man who asked a Jew, “Do you really think that God parted the Red Sea to let you cross over?” To which the Jew replied, “Well, here we are...”)

Now, fast forward a millennium or so. Jesus, a man who has made something of a name for himself by generally doing good deeds, has also managed to raise the hackles of the religious leaders of the day. They scheme for a way to eliminate him and return to a comfortable (for them) status quo. That’s their view of things.

From Jesus’ standpoint of being a man, but also the Son of God, he sees it as the reason He came to earth: to become the Passover lamb for the world, allowing anyone who would to take His blood upon themselves, and thus escape the eternal death.

He proved it, not by dying, but by returning from the dead.

Thus Easter is a second Passover, writ large on the canvas of the entire world, and for all of time.

Satan, like Pharaoh, is not content to let his captives go, even after the battle is over. He continues to strive against us, lying to us, turn us one against another, causing us to try to harm each other.

That’s the only way Satan can get his licks in.

Like Pharaoh, Satan will meet his end when the portion of the human race that chooses to passes through the Red Sea of death into the Promised Land of eternal life at the end of time.

Do I really believe this?

Well, He rose. Eleven men, plus Paul (formerly known as Saul the Persecutor), staked their very lives on it. If Jesus had not risen, the scattered followers would have remained scattered, and this would have been a curious blip in history.

Can you believe it?

Yes, you can!

(Will you believe it? Only you, and God, know.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

"What's in a Note, you say?"

Folks have asked me (well, one person anyway) what was in the note I would have stuck on the guy's windshield the other day. Well, here it is:

Don't throw this away!
The life you save may be your own!

I have to tell you something very important. But for you to see how important it is I have to tell you what I saw a little while ago

I was heading west on the bypass, doing the limit when something zoomed by. At first I thought it was a state patrol car, and wondered how I had missed the flashing lights.

But, no. It was a little red Mitsubishi sports sedan.

The driver zipped over to the left lane, hugging the bumper of the car in front of him, and the absolute moment he could he dashed in front of me to race down the mile or so of free space in the right lane.

I saw his brake lights come on as he came up on the next car.

Then I saw something amazing: he started to signal a left lane change. he squeezed in between two big bruiser-type pick-up trucks that had barely a car length between them. I saw what the driver couldn't: the truck behind hit it's brakes to allow a safety margin for the Mitsubishi to get in.

Then, as we all slowed down for the red light I saw why the Mitsubishi driver sqeezed back into the fast lane: he needed to take the left at the light to (I imagine) take the Johnstown Cutoff to get to Denver. And I pulled up even with the little red sports car in my '72 Olds as we both sat at the light.

For all of his maneuvering, he gained nothing that just staying in the "fast lane" would have gotten him. And he would have risked (in terms of life and limb) NOTHING!

As it was he risked a minimum of a two-car accident, possibly a multi-car pile up (everyone in the fast lane was ignoring proper following distance), just to shave a few seconds off his trip time.

Which didn't work.

By now my story might be sounding a little familiar. It should. You see, I was able to read the license tag as the Mitsubishi zipped into my lane: 000-ZZZ (plate number changed to protect identity). That's your tag.

What I need to tell you:

Don't Kill Yourself (or others) to save a few seconds time. Most of the drivers in our neck of the woods aren't expecting Indy 500 speeds on the highways, and may react badly to the sudden hazard (YOU). Even if you're not directly involved in an accident, you might be an indirect cause of one, Or you may have been already.

Slow down. Follow those "boring" traffic safety rules. Live long enough to enjoy your prosperity.

And, if you really need the speed: Drive the Autobahn, or take up closed-track racing.

But please, in the interest of your life and ours: Be Careful Out There!

If I do get the chance to post the note on his windshield I think I have a better chance of his reading it than if I post a "You Stupid @#$%#$!" type of note. What do you think?

Imagine getting a note like that on your car. Even better, imagine leaving a note like that on someone else's!

Maybe the driver will read this and see himself, and take heed. I DID take down the plate number. Maybe I'll get a chance to leave the note some day.

By the way, to write this note I used priciples I learned from reading two books: Hypnotic Writing; by Joe Vitale, and The Adweek Copywriting Handbook; by Joe Sugarman (see the book list at the left). Hopefully I was able to catch your attention enough so you would finish the note.

Meanwhile, a couple of things for you to take away today: You can get a handle on your emotions. You can learn to write more effectively. You can achieve your goals.

Yes, You Can!