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A Sonic Mint and Holden Caulfield

I sometimes consider taking a picture to catalog all the weird things I see on my walks. I’ve found money, seen lost toys, socks, gloves, you name it. Each item gets me wondering about how it found its way to that place on the street. This morning I found a Sonic mint.

I wondered what the story was of the mint. I imagined a car load of teens making a late night food run, not unlike my son and his friends. Easter break started on Thursday. My son and his friends made a McDonald’s and DQ run that night. How do I know? Because the family room where they hangout was littered with McNugget boxes, McDonald’s bags, and DQ cups with red spoons in them. Normal teenage behavior. 

I continued down the street thinking about the Sonic mint. Did they search the bag inside the house wondering where the mint went? I smiled at that thought. I started to think about how crazy life is. Whoever lost the mint had no idea that I discovered it. That I would write a blog post about that mint. 

Then Holden Caulfield came to mind. And I stopped for a minute because my eyes started to tear up.

I had one of those deep moments of understanding brought on when your life experiences connect to a book, or song, or other media. I understood why Holden didn’t want time to move on. Why he didn’t want to grow up. But standing in the middle of a street a few yards away from a Sonic mint I felt the weight of change Salinger was writing about in The Catcher in the Rye

Especially over the last year, I have walked the streets of my neighborhood a lot. During the lockdown last spring, I would walk a few times a day. Sometimes with my kids, sometimes alone. It felt like the world had stopped… but life didn’t. Each day I was different. Today, I felt it. I understood how heavy life’s change is. Simultaneously, I felt joy and sadness. 

Joy because life is an adventure. Each day brings opportunities to grow, to discover new things, to learn, to laugh, and to love. Yes, there are negative things that happen each day, but we can learn from them, too.

The wave of sadness was the strongest, though, standing there. Rationally we all know that time doesn’t stop. My second son will graduate in May. My youngest daughter is seven. I will turn 50 this year!. We all know the truth about time, but what hit me was the reality of all the good things that have ended. This morning there were only 5 Easter baskets, instead of 6. I will never watch my son wear number 15 in a varsity game. I will never be 18 again. I felt all those endings this morning.

I’m not sharing this to paint a picture that life is sad, on the contrary, those endings mean there were beginnings, middles, and stories to tell. But Holden was right. Every day we are different in some small way, even if you see a rainbow, it is sad knowing that rainbows have an end, too.

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An Open Letter to the Pandemic

Dear Pandemic,

I got it. I cry uncle. You win. Whatever it takes for you to leave, I’m ready to do.

I’m not sure you understand the destruction you have caused. You have killed us, divided us, and have brought us to the verge of total chaos. You win. I’m done.

I don’t know why you appeared. Was it to teach us a lesson about the butterfly effect? I already blogged about that in 2012 (“The Butterfly Effect”) in a more positive light.

Maybe you just wanted to stir things up. To teach us a lesson. The lesson I gained was that we need each other more than we will admit. You took everything that brings us together away, concerts, sporting events, weddings, birthday parties, and even simply eating out. At the moment we as a nation may be the most divided we have ever been. There are so many lines drawn in our culture. If you wanted to see us fall, I fear you might achieve that.

Why? Why are you here?

I will admit that personally, you have forced me to reevaluate some things. There have been some positive effects from you being here. I wrote a book, April 2020. The whole family plays tennis now.  We have some new recipes for dinner (also a few that we won’t make again). I do appreciate the time and the people in my life.  But the negative outweigh the positive.

There is an underlying current of fear and anger that perpetuates our everyday existence. There is a sense of mistrust of everyone. That connection of energy from a smile or laugh is gone. Not knowing if someone is positive with COVID weighs down every interaction. The list goes on for us as a country and my personally. You have had an effect on every single person in this world.

Is that the lesson? By taking away our connections, even the simplest gestures of a smile, you are showing us that we are all connected?

If so, this is the toughest lesson I have ever had to learn… I hope we all pass this test, together.

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The Power of Together

I bet you have heard the word Synergy before.

Or maybe have read about how two horses can pull three times the weight of one horse. If you add in the factor that the horses were raised together, they can pull four times the weight. This is the example many people use to show the power of synergy.

But synergy is not just for horses, it is an important element to our lives. There are a few aspects to understand about the synergy concept to gain the most from it.

One, the idea of synergy is often renamed depending on the environment. In sports we call it team. In life it is family and friends. In business it has been labeled tribe and team. At the heart of the matter, it is the idea of everyone working together. Working together for a common goal. That is the second aspect.

Horses don’t just pull 30,000 pounds around the field for fun. It is work and there is a destination for the load. No matter the situation: a basketball season, a happy family, reaching a sales goal, there has to be a unifying destination for the work. A WHY. Simon Senik’s book, Start with Why, is a great resource for diving deeper into this part of synergy. At the surface, though, it means everyone working toward a common goal.

A hard truth here, synergy has always been used to highlight the positive. The truth is that synergy can also destroy. In real life you can have a group of people who build momentum in their negative attitude and destroy a team. Destroy the culture of a business. So called friends that bring you down from accomplishing your goals. Synergy is about how much a group can accomplish together. That means both positive and negative outcomes. This truth highlights the importance of the destination. It also explains the importance of the third factor, the right team.

The example of how much weight horses can pull has an interesting twist. As the story goes, a single Belgian draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds. Two Belgian draft horses that are “strangers” can pull over 20,000 pounds. But a pair of horses that are raised and trained together can pull over 30,000. Consider that idea for a moment.

A team that has been together over time, who have gone through the same training or life experiences, has the greatest outcome. I hate to bring it up again, but that means both positive and negative outcomes. It is important to remember as we deal with changing things for the better. Back to the idea of a team that has grown together and the work they can accomplish.

This is powerful. This is a factor in an outstanding life. At the moment of writing this blog it is state basketball time. Eight teams in each class have made it to the state tournament. Teams have grown together over the season to reach this goal. You will hear the word “team” in the interviews, from both the winning and losing coaches. It might be a cliche in a way, but it is true. It takes a team to get to this level. A group coming together for a common goal. Synergy in action.

The same happens in our personal lives. Our friends, our family, are part of our personal synergy. The difficult part is that there is not always an end goal with these relationships. Sometimes the reason, or the why, of our relationships is lost. Then we feel like we are drifting. Relationships feel shallow. Understanding and working for the WHY of our relationships is paramount. A strong marriage or friendship takes work. There are many ways to do that work. One example from my life is our tradition as a family for each person to choose a word of the year, then displaying that word in a unique way in our home (Living by One Word). Throughout the year we check-in on how we are doing with our words. We grow together.

Creating positive synergy is a powerful element for any team. No matter what type of team you are on; basketball, sales team, or family.

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Our Gift is for Others

The hardest part of our gifts – of our talents – is that they are not made for us; they are made for other people.

Let me explain…

Yes, there is a payoff for our gifts for us. Our talents enrich our lives, brings us joy. In some cases we even become rich and famous from our talents. There is a payoff for us. But we can live our whole life without expressing our talents. We can be happy. We can even be rich and famous without spending a day working on or sharing our talents.

I am a writer, a poet, a blogger. But I could spend my time not writing and be fine…

Here’s the catch.

My gift, your gifts, are meant for other people.

We have a responsibility to give our talents to the world. This is where I am going to dive deep; the why of it all.

I’ll continue to use my writing as an example, but you can swap in your gift for the rest of the blog. Ready?

A void. There is a void in our lives and in the world if we don’t share our gifts. Yes, the world will go on. Our lives, as mentioned before, will go on, but there is a void. We and others will miss moments of joy and inspiration that can change the world. I know, you think I am using a hyperbole here. I am not.

You may have seen the movie, Coach Carter, where the above clip originates from. Or have read the quote, “Our Deepest Fear” from Marianne Williamson. Part of our light is our talents. Our gifts are meant for others.

One of my favorite moments as a poet was the night I attended an open mic in Omaha where I was able to meet a young poet who was inspired by my first book of poetry that I self published in college (And I Never Told You: 20 Year Anniversary Edition). His mom bought him a copy of the book at a local coffee shop when he was in high school. He is now a regular performing artist in Omaha and Lincoln. It was only because of social media that I got to meet him and know the story.

My story highlights a hardship of our gifts… knowing what happens after we give our talent to the world. Even if we become rich and famous, we don’t know how our talent helped someone.

Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. He knows his talent is appreciated by people because of the money he earns, by his popularity. But he has no idea how his books gave me an escape during some tough times. Stephen King doesn’t know the joy I’ve experienced sharing his stories with my kids. Taking them to see the new movie version of It. He doesn’t know… and that is OK because his gift was meant for me.

As a writer I know it is hard dealing with not knowing how my words affect the world. I am sure it is the same for you. I write something I think is awesome and nothing. No thumbs up, no like or love icon activated. No retweet. I have to be OK with that because my words are meant for other people. Writing brings me a sense of joy. It is awesome when a poem finds it way out of my head and onto the page. Then I must give that poem to the world for others to use. The same applies to you and your talents. If we learn how our gifts helped someone, inspired them, that’s cool, but usually we will never know. That’s not the reason for giving.

Do you see the void now? If you do nothing with your talents you miss out on a deeper joy in your life, but the world suffers more. When you share your talents you gift the world opportunities. Opportunities of inspiration. Opportunities of joy. Opportunities to change. Your talent is a gift… give it.

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

 

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One Word 2020

New Year, new word…

But I will get to that in a moment. First, I do have some resolutions this year and I am going to share them in this post. My plan is to update my progress on my resolutions through a blog post each month. It is a way to be held accountable for my goals. SO, here are my resolutions.

  • Weigh 200 pounds by Dec 31, 2020. Current weight: 221.
  • Have an average screen time of just two hours a day. Current average is 4.5 hours a day.
  • Read sixty books in 2020.
  • Write the blog that takes me over 100,000 words posted on my main blog, It is all Connected. Current word count: 93332 (And I have a plan for the 100,000 word…).
  • Publish my poetry book, These Words Believe in Ghosts
  • Publish one of my fiction books that I have in drafts.

As the year progresses, I will keep you updated.

So, it is time for my one word for the year…

I really struggled finding the right word for my vision for this year. Even this word doesn’t “click” as a perfect fit, but it will work. The simple idea is to have experiences that leave me and others saying, “That was cool!” Simple enough.

Thank you for reading in 2019. I look forward to sharing more posts with you in 2020… and maybe even hearing from you in the comment section how cool the post was. Happy New Year!

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L is for

The L in L.I.F.E. stands for love.

And I mean all aspects of love; romantic, sibling, friendship, and humanity. I have written about the power of love before (Why Love Series), but this post is centered on three ideas that make love a foundation to a great life.

  • First, love is action.
  • Second, love is showing a person that their life matters to you.
  • Finally, love is a choice.

All three work together to create a powerful life. Before I dive into the aspects I just mentioned, I want you to know that I also know that there is a magical aspect to love, an unexplainable power that no blog post can express. There is an emotional aspect of love, a crazy stirring in our hearts when we gaze into the eyes of our partner. Or a joyful pain in our chest when our children hug us. But the power of love is not just in those magical moments. Love is a factor in our lives when we choose to act so that another person knows they matter.

Action is important. Yes, saying that you love someone is important but love is expressed through action. A date night. Playing My Little Pony on the living room floor. Taking a walk. Watching a movie (without a phone). Dancing in the kitchen. All relationships need action to grow. This is the most powerful way you show someone they matter to you; spend time together.

Action isn’t the only way that you can show someone you care about them… how you talk is important, too. How you talk to a person and how you talk about them with other people makes a difference in the relationship. I’m learning that how you talk about a person to others is a factor that builds or destroys a relationship over time. A powerful factor. If you tear down a person to others, if you bring up all their faults, just vent to others, that negativity will filter into your view of that person. You’ll soon find that negativity move into the way you talk in the relationship. That’s not love.

We are not perfect. We all have flaws. We all are works in progress. Our words either build or destroy people. That includes text or social media. The way you speak shows people how much they matter to you. Your words are one example of how we choose to love.

The most important factor is to be honest about how much of love is a choice. You decide to open your heart. You decide to be respectful. You decide if you are going to love someone. There is an emotional aspect to love, but those emotions can be generated by the actions you take. It doesn’t matter what type of love or relationship it is.

Want your relationship with your partner to be more romantic? Do something to generate those emotions, like buy flowers, or dance in the kitchen. Want to have a better relationship with a friend? Do something. Send them a handwritten note or go out for coffee.

It sounds simple because it is. Love is choosing to act in a loving way to the people who matter to you. And that is part of a great life of a great relationships.

Below are a few media recommendations that correlate with this blog post.

Books

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a must read for so many different reasons. But at the heart of the book is the idea of how important love is in all relationships.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a great book to consider how the people in your life view actions as a way of understanding love. The book will equip you with ways to express love to people.

Movies

Hoosiers is more than a basketball movie. The movie deals with the idea of forgiveness, family, and why it matters to do the right thing in relationships.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a great movie that highlights the importance of action in life. Now, I don’t endorse missing school, but can’t deny the message about friendship and living life.

Songs

Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw is just a great song!

Tim McGraw on Stage

My photo of Tim on stage singing the song.

Share this post with anyone you feel would enjoy it.

I is for… (you will have to read the next post).

 

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2019 Word

It is only a few hours until 2019. I am ready for the new year for a number of reasons, which I won’t get into for this post, but I am excited for 2019 because of the word I chose for the new year: Write.

My focus for 2019 will be on my writing; on my poetry, my blog, and my novel ideas. I have already entered a chapbook contest with Button Poetry. I will be performing at some open-mics in Lincoln and Omaha. I have a first draft of a new novel done (time to edit that) and have scenes written for two other books. This is the year I breakthrough.

Over the next year I have all my past blog posts from this blog, from my education blog (Ideas for Education) and my creative blog (Creative Corner) scheduled to run on the day I posted something from that blog. That is 354 past posts… some days have content from all three blogs.

If you have enjoyed any of my writings, let me know, or share a post with someone who would enjoy reading it. Don’t forget you can add to your collection of books with one of my books: Amazon Author Page.

Here is to a fantastic 2019! Share your word of the year in the comment section.

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Change Part One: One Step at a Time

I recently finished reading, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation, by Alexandra Horowitz. The book is centered on Alexandra taking walks with experts in different fields. She walks with a sound designer for theater, a senior scientist for the Humane Society, and many other experts that teach her (and us, the readers) about the world around her through their perspectives. It is a fascinating read. One chapter, no, one anecdote really got me thinking about the power of taking one step. And how that changes things.

As shared on page 44:

Together we climbed up a few marble steps out of the museum. Each step was irregularly concave, worn down by the foot falls of countless visitors ascending, and rounded at their  leading corners, from countless descents. This erosion is petrified human activity. Each of those steppers toed the marble and push seventeen (or so) of its molecules forward, or to the side. After millions of steps these gentle shovings change the shape of the rock from tabletop flat to soft undulance.

Below is a picture from a gazebo on the Hastings Campus of CCC.

Worm Wood steps

In the picture you can see the effects of the steps people have taken on the paint and the wood. You can see how the wood has also been worn down by each step over the years.

The marble steps, from the book, and the wooden steps, from the picture, show how a collection of single steps can affect our world. It is a circular idea. A single step doesn’t seem to make much difference. It takes a lot of steps to create enough force to change something (marble stairs), but that doesn’t happen without a single step.

Change can’t happen without you taking the first step. You won’t see the effects of that change until you have taken a lot of steps, then all of a sudden there it is. There was no single step that made the change in the marble or wooden steps, but without all those steps the stairs wouldn’t be affected.

So, if you want to make a difference in your life. If you want to change something, all it takes is a step, then another step, then another step… until the effects of those steps change your life.

The next post will look at how belief is an important part of change.

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Trees…

Storm DamageIt was 2 o’clock Sunday morning and I was feeding my youngest a bottle. I could see lightening flash between the curtains. The wind picked up and I carried my daughter with her bottle to the front door so I could remove our flower decoration before it started to bang against the door. This summer has been active with major storms. As I sat feeding my daughter and listening to the storm, I started to think about the trees. We have a park about a mile away that had a number of trees that were damaged from the last couple of storms. Sunday’s storm didn’t sound too intense, but I wondered if there would be any more trees damaged.

And as thoughts at 2 in the morning can become deep, I started to think of us, people, as trees.

Let’s take a pause for a second to understand how I started to think about people as trees. At the moment I’m reading One Yard Short by Les Steckel. I’m at the point where the Patriots fired him in 1988 and he is talking about being broken from a few rough years of coaching.

I have had a tough transition to losing my head coaching position in May. But this post is not about how dreams change, that is for a later post.

This post is a reflection on why trees get damaged in storms.

Sunday's StormThe picture above is from Sunday. It is a tree in the park I mentioned above. The tree has withstood all the other severe storms through the summer. So why did the Sunday morning storm, which was calm compared to others we have experienced, take down the tree?

Why didn’t other trees have damage?

Why did the already damaged trees stand strong through Sunday’s storm?

I don’t have an answer.

Just as I don’t know which “storm” in life will bring a person down. We never know which storm we will be able to withstand, to be strong through, and which storm may break us. Even if it is a smaller storm.

In the park there are trees that seem to have not been affected by any of the storms. Why? All the trees experienced the same winds, the same rain, but each storm damaged different trees.

In our lives we are faced with all kinds of storms. And we prepare for them, we strengthen our character, consider the consequence of our actions, but we really don’t know which storm my totally uproot us.

What I do know is that storms will come, and that we may experience damage, but unlike trees we have family and friends to help pick up the leaves and branches. To help get our roots back into the ground and help us grow stronger before the next storm.

 

 

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PicLit Poem: These Hands

Designed at PicLits.com

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