My Brother’s Writing Page I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my older brother, Marty, has been composing essays for a few years. I thought I’d share them with you here. The first one he sent me I posted as a blog on my homepage. Click here to read it. Below are some of his most recent essays. Others can be found in the archives by clicking on and opening the documents:
Marty’s bound collection of his essays is available on Amazon.
That’s a Curious Combination Download Thats a curious combination (August 1, 2009) Unrelated Assortedness and Assorted Unrelatedness Download Unrelated assortedness and assorted unrelatedness (July 31, 2009)
That’s a Curious Combination Download Thats a curious combination (August 1, 2009)
Unrelated Assortedness and Assorted Unrelatedness Download Unrelated assortedness and assorted unrelatedness (July 31, 2009)
The Telltale Sliver of Light Download The telltale sliver of light (July 28, 2009)
It’s Not About Me Download Its not about me (July 22, 2009)
Lumpy and the Cream of Wheat Download Lumpy and the Cream of Wheat (July 17, 2009)
Did You Hear That? Download Did you hear that (July 15, 2009)
The Wayward Sprinkler Download The wayward sprinkler (July 12, 2009)
I’ve Run Out of Excuses Download I’ve run out of excuses (July 12, 2009)
I Cannot Walk Through Walls Download I cannot walk through walls (July 8, 2009)
How Do You Look? Download How do you look (July 6, 2009)
Traveling In My Lawn Chair Download Traveling in my lawn chair (July 6, 2009)
Why Bother With An Air Freshener? Download Why bother with an air freshener (July 1, 2009)
The Well-Traveled Coin Download The well traveled coin (July 1, 2009)
To Shave or Not To Shave Download To shave or not to shave (July 1, 2009)
The Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Download The self propelled lawnmower (June 23, 2009)
How Many More? Download How many more (June 17, 2009)
Bad Things Happen To Good People Download Bad things happen to good people (June 12, 2009)
I Have To Stay Awake Download I have to stay awake (June 9, 2009)
On Speaking Terms With God Download On speaking terms with God (June 2, 2009)
Stuff Download Stuff (May 26, 2009)
Degunkifying Download De gunkifying (May 13, 2009)
A Visit to a Strange Land Download A visit to a strange land (May 6, 2009)
It Doesn’t Go Any Faster Download It doesnt go any faster (April 30, 2009)
100 and 30 Download 100 and 30 (April 23, 2009)
Emulating Fred Couples Download Emulating Fred Couples (April 23, 2009)
Straight in the Eyes Download Straight in the eyes (April 19, 2009)
Green Pickles and Red Jell-O Download Green pickles and red Jell-o (April 15, 2009)
Sitting On the Back Step Clipping My Nails Download Sitting on the back step clipping my nails (April 13, 2009)
When and Where Download When and where (April 10, 2009)
Empty Birdfeeders Download Empty birdfeeders (March 31, 2009)
Have You Ever Googled Yourself? Download Have you (March 17, 2009)
Expiration Dates: Download Expiration dates (Feb. 19, 2009)
Hidden From View: Download Hidden from view (Feb. 19, 2009)
Living At Ground Level: Download Living at ground level (Feb. 18, 2009)
It Will Never Be Perfectly Quiet: Download It will never be perfectly quiet (Feb. 16, 2009)
The Radio: Download The Radio (Feb. 10, 2009)
Saturday Mornings: Download Saturday mornings (Jan. 22, 2009)
Turning into a Softie: Download Turning into a softie (Jan. 19, 2009)
Too Digital: Download Too digital (Jan. 7, 2009)
The Not-Importants: Download The not importants (Jan. 2, 2009)
That Personal Touch: Download That personal touch (Dec. 23, 2008)
Driving Down An Unplowed Road: Download Driving down an unplowed road (Dec. 23, 2008)
Rejection: Download Rejection (Dec. 17, 2008)
In keeping with Marty’s love of pica font, I give you his next two essays as .pdf files. They’re easy to open. Hope you enjoy.
Marty’s essay called “I Just Bought A Typewriter” (Dec. 5, 2008) can be read by clicking on this file: Download I just bought a typewriter
Because he wrote it using a typewriter, it isn’t “real” computer text, the irony of which will not be lost after you’ve read this post.
“No” (November 30, 2008)
It’s a short word, “no”. It’s only two letters long. I doubt that the word “no” has ever stumped a competitor in any spelling bee. Chances are that a desperate person looking at their lousy line-up of letters while playing Scrabble has resorted to placing the letters “N” or “O” on the board to form the word “NO”.
“No” is one of the very first words that children, learning to talk, add to their vocabulary. It soon becomes their indignant response to every request and question that mom or dad asks. “Won’t you eat your vegetables?” “No!” “Will you be a good boy or girl?” Again, the answer is, “No!”
I could go on and on with many classic examples of obstinate refusals.
As the years go by, they reach ten or eleven years of age and the word “no” is used less and less. When asked by friends if they want to come along and throw rocks at cars and windows or steal something, the answer might be “yes” or “sure”. It’s the beginning of peer pressure. It escalates through time. The other kids might try smoking, drinking or experimenting with drugs. Unless the kid has some backbone or a sense of what’s right or wrong, it gets harder to say “no” when asked to join along.
If I could tell kids anything, I would tell them not to be afraid to be an individual. I would encourage them to be brave enough to say “no”. Being your own person is the greatest feeling in the world. To stand up for yourself and what you believe in is life itself.
This inability to say “no” and being spineless has a lasting effect as we get older. We allow bad habits and bad attitudes to keep us prisoner. Instead of improving our lives, we continue to stagnate and decay simply because we did not have the courage to say “no” when it was so vitally important to do so. The longer we allow bad habits and bad attitudes to pollute our lives, the harder it gets to say “no”.
For such a short word, it wields tremendous power and holds such possibilities. Just imagine the incredible changes we could experience in our own lives if we would only say “no”. I realize this takes a change of mind and a change of heart. I believe each one of us has the unlimited capacity to say and do what we want. If we cannot say “no” to something we know we should, we need to re-evaluate what that “something” is. If we find ourselves powerless and unable to say, “no”, it might be time to ask for help.
Giving in and saying “yes” to something we know is not right takes no courage or discipline at all. It is failure, pure and simple. There are so many people walking around everyday that are living failures. The key to breaking any bad habit or changing any bad attitude is having mental wherewithal and the desire to be free. Taking control of our bodies and our minds is within our reach. There is a real sense of accomplishment whenever we do take a stand and say “no!” It’s the first step for more victories ahead.
Laziness, complacency, and our lack of pride will always be in the way. Fortunately, we can sidestep these barriers by simply saying “no”. Dare to be different! Dare to make a change! Why not give “no” a chance to make a difference in your life? We used that word like crazy when we first started out in life. Let’s add “no” to our vocabulary once again.
Are you willing to give “no” a go?
“You are awesome, Ariel” (Nov. 21, 2008)
Occasionally, the inspiration to write one of my short essays will come from a person. This person can be someone I know very well or a complete stranger. That’s how I first got started writing these pieces. Back in June of 2007, I received an email from the daughter of an elderly woman, my former neighbor and friend, telling me of her passing. I cried at my desk that morning. For some reason I felt compelled to write a piece about my elderly friend. It was well received. I have continued writing ever since.
My inspiration for this particular composition is a young lady I dearly love. I’ve known her since she was born. Along with her three sisters, I’ve been a babysitter and a friend for all four of them. This young lady, Ariel, is a senior in high school. Like the Ariel in the Disney movies, she is a gifted swimmer and a member of her high school swimming team.
I found out the other day that she missed qualifying for the State High School Tournament in her individual competition by six tenths of a second. I can’t even blink that fast! It seems to me that you have to be very good to even compete at that level to miss the mark by only six tenths of a second. Ariel is very good. I know she was disappointed. She did qualify for State as a member of the medley relay team.
I’ve seen Ariel swim in relay events. Her team can be trailing, but as soon as she hits the water and begins her powerful, graceful strokes, her team catches up. She, alone, can make up the difference. I know that her teammates look up to her and consider her such an asset to the team. Going to State, as a “team” member is certainly something to be proud of. I’m very proud of her.
Ariel’s experience is something I can relate to and learn from. Last year, 2007, was my best year ever in sales since joining the company in 1979. This year’s numbers, although respectable, will fall short of last years pinnacle. It has been a bit of a struggle this year. I am sending out quotes for equipment, but people are slower in delivering purchase orders. The present state of our economy has much to do with that. I am a person who places too much emphasis on personal performance. This is true professionally and personally.
Like my friend, Ariel, I am good at what I do. I always give it my best effort. Even so, things happen outside of my control. I ought not hang my head. I need to remind myself that I am part of a team here at the company. People here depend on me not only for my individual sales numbers, but also for the help and time I give them.
It’s not uncommon for another sales person to stop by my office looking for help in selecting the right product or solution to satisfy their customer’s needs. My years of experience are available to all. As a team member, helping others to be successful is an important role. Like my friend, Ariel, I should take pride in that. It really is satisfying to help someone else look good to their customer and experience success.
Go with your team to the State Tournament, Ariel, with your head held high. You have so much to be proud of and grateful for. I do not care about six tenths of a second. I care about you. You are awesome, Ariel!
“I can see more clearly now” (Nov. 20, 2008)
Each of the four seasons here in Minnesota has unique characteristics and subtleties to be appreciated. Spring brings the promise of warmth once again to a frosty and cold people. Summer provides unlimited access to fun and recreation.
Winter, in spite of the cold and the occasional challenges it presents in getting around has its merit as well. The landscape after fresh fallen snow is hard to beat. There is a quietness about the season that is restful and relaxing. It’s peaceful sitting indoors where it’s warm reading a book or watching TV. The neighborhood is quiet as people are indoors rather than outdoors. That is until after it snows and everyone has started up the snow throwers. But that din, too, quiets down and tranquility once again settles in.
While driving to the office this morning, one thing became very “clear” to me. I could see many more things while driving along than I could just one or two months ago. Prestigious homes and mansions, once hidden from view by hedges and trees, are now in plain sight. Ponds and small lakes I never knew existed now exist! All of the fairways and greens at the country club golf course are now visible. They’ve always been there. I just couldn’t see them before. What’s that old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”?
Intersections that once were blind are now wide open. I can actually see if there is a car coming to the left or right. I no longer creep dangerously into the intersection hoping for the best. I must say that it’s a different experience being able to see more clearly. It’s like getting glasses for the first time and being able to read without squinting or closing one eye.
What has changed? I’m driving the same streets and the same routes I always have. My glasses are no different. I didn’t give my truck windows an extra special washing. It’s the obstacles that have been removed. It’s mid-November and the leaves are gone from the trees. Even the most stubborn maple tree has relinquished its leafy cloak. Those leaves had been blocking my view up until now. The clutter is gone. There is nothing in the way. It’s just like life isn’t it?
Often times we cannot see things clearly. We travel the same paths, practice the same habits, and see the same people, but we have obstructed vision.
We look at people with biased perspectives. Our view on life and what life hands us is distorted by clutter and mental debris. Like some of those maple trees we, too, are stubborn, refusing to let go of decaying leaves as it were. We don’t want to change our minds, our views, our policies, not matter how wrong or insensitive they may be. Day after day, year after year, we allow decaying leaves to collect, hiding us from others and keeping others out.
We don’t see clearly beyond ourselves. We are in cruise control, paying little attention to others around us. We cannot see those who may need our attention, our love, and our help. We barrel through life looking only straight ahead at our own goals, our own needs, and our own pleasures.
What convinces those stubborn maple trees to finally drop their leaves? It’s usually several days of cold November winds and nights with temperatures below freezing. It’s the “uncomfortable’s” that shake things up. It’s the same with us. Sooner or later, the “uncomfortables” of life cross our path. Those cold blustery winds stop us in our tracks forcing us to take a good look at ourselves. One by one, our decaying leaves begin to fall. The biases, the mistrust, the fears, the petty things, our dislikes, and our selfishness begin to drop like fallen leaves. We can see further now and others can see us more clearly.
We must learn from these trees. They stand tall, firmly rooted, enduring the “uncomfortables” of nature. They must know that by doing so there is the promise of warmth reappearing and life and growth ahead. It might take an “uncomfortable” experience to get us to drop our dead leaves, our clutter and baggage in order to open our eyes to a better way of living. It can be a wonderful experience to see things differently, to appreciate the people and the sights around us without obstructed vision.
I enjoy the drive to work even more these mornings because I see things I did not see before. Our drive or journey through life should be a pleasant adventure as well. Why wait until one of the “uncomfortables” crosses our paths before we consider making some changes in our way of thinking or with our lifestyles? Shake things up and let the clutter and mental trash fall away like dead leaves.
Driving through neighborhoods or out in the country are new adventures now. I keep my eyes open for some new sight or vista to enjoy. I’d much rather see things clearly. How about you?
“Passwords!!!!!!!” (Nov. 14, 2006)
There will never come a day when I will require you to use a “log-in” and a “password” to open a PDF attachment containing my latest short essay. My essays are yours to enjoy and to share with whomever you wish. They do not contain any hidden government secrets scrambled in code which in the wrong hands and seen by the wrong eyes spell eminent doom for our country or galaxy.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick and tired of having to create passwords and log-in’s every time I visit a website just to look at photo’s of a one-year old’s birthday party, read a technical bulletin, set up my homepage, check my pathetic golf score, or see when I last visited my dentist. I can’t remember my cell phone number let alone umpteen million passwords.
Creating a password is not always that proverbial piece of cake that it should be. There are many different stipulations and requirements. Some require that your password contain at least seven letters, two of which are upper case, and three odd numbers when added together equal a double-digit even number. Huh? Some passwords must include the last three letters from the maiden name of the second wife of Henry VIII. Various punctuation marks and spaces may be necessary when creating a legitimate password. They can be very tricky.
Just when I’m feeling pretty sporty and proud of myself because I have managed to actually remember several of my idiotic passwords, I am required to change them! I am told they are out of date and need to be changed. Why? Has a top agent from an enemy nation hacked my password and is dangerously close to downloading the digital snapshots from the birthday party of my one-year old grand niece? We’re doomed!
When you get right down to it, who would want to pretend to be me anyway? Is what I have to look at really all that important to someone else? If someone really wants to hack into my information, they can. People are smart. I guess I’m a little more trusting than most people. I don’t even lock my garage door. Anyone can walk in and walk out with anything they want. That’s why I leave it unlocked. If a neighbor needs to borrow a ladder, a shovel, snow thrower, or whatever, they can. No key or password is required to gain entry. If a thief chooses to walk in and walk out with whatever they want, they can. I can always replace it. Having things available to my friends and neighbors is more important than lock down security.
Back in the “olden days” of sales, before computers, our dealer price lists were printed documents. These documents were sent to us by mail, UPS, by fax machine, or hand delivered by the factory sales rep. Yes, these were “confidential” documents. They contained the actual dealer costs for the products. Even so, anyone could photocopy the price list and give it to someone. Today’s dealer price lists are contained in electronic documents sent by email. Other price lists are kept electronically at the manufacturer website accessible only to dealers. We are required to use passwords to gain access to these price lists. I have no problem with that. Even with all of this “security”, anyone can copy and transmit a price file to anyone they chose.
I draw the line when companies and websites make it so complicated and difficult for the legitimate user to gain access to information that is needed. This morning I was able to log in to a vendor site for dealer prices. When I clicked the link to look at marketing bulletins, I was re-directed to another section that required a different password and log-in. The information I was seeking was less confidential than the information I already had access to. I sent an email to their help desk asking why they are making it so difficult for me, a bona-fide dealer of their products, to gain access to information? I’m looking forward to their reply.
As you have undoubtedly guessed by now, this has more to do with than just passwords. If you’ve read any of my previous short essays, you know how a certain topic will lead me to related thoughts. What about those other non-computer passwords in our lives, those barriers we establish between ourselves and other people? These barriers can be intentional or unintentional. We make people jump through hoops as it were to gain our friendship or attention. Instead of typing in some stupid nonsensical password, we ask people to do just the right things or do things just the right way before we accept them and love them.
That’s not right. As a parent, do you place conditions on your children? Do you tell them that they must act a certain way or be a certain way before you will spend time with them, help them, or accept them? If they slip up do you forgive them and accept them? Like a website, do you require that their password be spelled perfectly before you will consider “letting them in”?
Are we misers with our time, our money, our gifts, and our talents? Do we open up and only let others in who know the exact passwords, who know what it takes to get our attention? If so, may I suggest that it’s time for a change? Let’s be willing to be generous towards others rather than tightly sealed, locked up individuals accessible to no one. My friends and neighbors know that a password is not required to enlist my help when needed. They need only ask. How about you? Are you a “password protected” person?
“One hour” (Nov. 12, 2008)
One hour. We can think of it as 60 minutes or 3,600 seconds if we’d rather. No matter how we slice it, an hour is an hour. But, an hour of time can be a relative thing, don’t you think? It can fly by quickly or it can seem to be long and grueling.
Consider the young girl waiting by the phone for that certain boy to call to ask her out to the school dance. He said he’d call within the hour. That hour wait seems to take an eternity. The phone does finally ring, the date is set, and all is well. The night of the dance arrives and the boy stops by to pick her up. Her parent’s last words as she exits the house are, “Be home by midnight”. She thinks to herself, “If only that last hour from 11 to midnight could last as long as that hour did when waiting for his phone call”. It does not. It zips by at light speed and before she knows it, he is dropping her off at her front door, a short hour, to be sure.
An hour stuck in traffic seems to take longer than that pleasant one-hour drive through the country to visit friends. Waiting an hour to see the doctor when we are in pain always takes forever. I’m sure that any woman who has endured labor pains for an hour would insist that the hour had more than 60 minutes in it.
We just set our clocks back one hour two weekends ago. We are no longer on daylight savings time but standard time. Did that one single hour make a difference? It sure did. All of us who work from 8 to 5 are now driving home in the dark. I do enjoy the extra hour of light the morning now provides. I take the back roads to work in the morning. The trip in is relaxing and pleasant. It’s always more enjoyable when I can “see” the neighborhoods I’m driving through.
Having it get dark one hour earlier makes for a more relaxing evening. Whenever I would get home after work while it was still light outside, I felt obligated to work on a project or do some yard work. When I get home now, in the dark, I don’t feel guilty about plopping in front of the TV to watch a sporting event or a movie. My rationale? It’s too dark to do any work outside. One seemingly insignificant hour has made a difference in my thinking and my schedule.
We all know it’s physically impossible to “stretch” time and make an hour last longer. We cannot make time stand still. It marches ever on, second by second, in one direction only – forward. It does not operate in reverse. What an awesome responsibility it is to be the stewards of “time”, the stewards of one hour after another. Should we not more carefully consider what we do with the seconds, the minutes, and eventual hours that we are given? How we spend our time is solely up to each one of us.
Whether an hour flies by in a flash or seems to drag on endlessly, it is a valuable allotment of time. It’s amazing how much we can actually accomplish in one hour’s time. One extra hour of sleep can mean the difference between being tired all day or energized during the day. An extra hour of practice several times a week can give the athlete a competitive edge. Devoting an extra hour to studies at various times can be the difference between a C and a B on that report card. The man or woman of God who regularly devotes an hour of time praying for others can really set spiritual forces at work and make things happen.
Are you a person who volunteers their time? You know very well what an hour of time can mean to someone. From time to time I will assist seniors and disabled people in my community with repairs and chores. I’ll get a call from someone who has a number of things that need to be attended to. It can be hanging shelves, mending fences, fixing or cleaning gutters, repairing faucets or light fixtures, any number of things.
Each task on it’s own is not too time consuming. I can stop by a person’s house and attend to several tasks all in one hours time. This single hour given to that person is very meaningful. Perhaps you enjoy visiting people in hospitals or nursing homes? A one hour visit to a lonely person is wonderful. Are there children in your life? Children who would absolutely be delighted to spend an hour or two with you, throwing a ball, reading a book, riding a bike, or going out for ice cream? Need I say more?
It’s my hope that we stop to consider how we spend each hour. An hour spent mad at someone or in anger is surely a wasted hour. An hour spent getting high or drunk does not waste one hour only, but the hours following as well. I think it’s important to spend time “thinking” about things. We need to take stock of who we are, what we are doing, and where we are going. An hour spent in careful deliberate thought can put us in a better frame of mind, establish the right attitude, and help us set a course for the “hours” that hopefully are ahead.
I challenge each of us to waste less of our hours, to be more productive, to spend quality time not only with those we love, but also with those who can use our help. Many volunteer organizations do not ask that people commit many, many hours of time. They usually ask for those who can devote one or two hours a week. It may be to give someone a ride to an appointment, deliver meals to shut-ins, or help someone with household chores or yard work.
You are the one in charge of each of your hours. Whether they seem slow or fast is up to you. When faced with the possibility of a “slow” hour, why not be productive so it moves along a little quicker? When faced with the possibility of an “hour” going by too fast, make the most of it and enjoy it to the fullest.
An hour, 60 minutes, or 3,600 seconds, no matter how you look at it is really a big deal. I wish you many “good” hours ahead.
“I’m looking forward to laxative commercials” (October 28, 2008)
Hi. My name is Marty and I endorse this essay. Today is Tuesday, October 28, 2008. There is just one week to go before the elections on November 04. Even more significant to most Americans is the fact that there is just one week to go of those annoying political campaign commercials.
I’m looking forward to “regular” (pun intended) commercials on laxatives and anti-acid tablets. Even commercials advertising foot odor relief and hemorrhoid relief will be more tolerable than some politician bashing another in an attempt to make he or she look better. It doesn’t work that way. If you recall from one of my earliest essays, I wrote about “blowing out candles”. It was a lesson I learned long ago. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours burn any brighter. This is true personally as well as professionally.
After this continual barrage of bad-mouthing and mud slinging, I’m not sure whom to select when I step into the voting booth. My decisions will be not be based upon fundamental beliefs and platforms, but rather, who tells the least amount of lies or who has received the least amount of money from lobbyists and big companies. I no longer feel confident with voting along party lines like I have done in the past. I wish we had other choices of who to vote for. I may have to write in names of who I’d rather see be in office. This is fruitless of course. Not too many other people in this country know who my weekend golfing buddies are. I doubt they’ll actually get elected.
As we draw closer to Election Day, some of the candidates are trying a new approach in their annoying campaign commercials. They try to look as sincere as possible into the camera while telling us that they no longer think that negative ads are effective. Well, duh. They say they are taking their negative ads off the air and promoting the positive side of their campaign. I think the damage has already been done. As we all know, you can hear nine good things about a person and one bad thing. What do most people remember? That’s right, the one bad thing. We humans gravitate towards the negative side of things. We want to hear the juicy gossip about people. Our news is saturated with bad news and very little good news.
Good news, evidently, is boring. Who wants to hear about that? Until we change, I guess we cannot expect our politicians to take a different tact when campaigning or advertising. Had some of the candidates running for public office taken a different approach and chosen not to run one single negative ad or commercial, and focused on their accomplishments and their agenda, what do you think their chances would be of getting elected? I would have paid attention to such a candidate, particularly if I agreed with their agenda. It would have been interesting to see.
Do you like hanging around someone who is always negative? Someone who is continually finding fault in others and berating others? Well, of course not. Why should these politicians think that we would race to the polls to elect them when they are continually negative, finding fault with others, and berating their opponents? What ever happened to the likeable candidate? The one people wanted to be around, the one who kissed babies, signed autographs, and shook hands with everybody? What happened to courtesy and graciousness?
What’s that old expression? Ah, yes, “the lesser of two evils”. It almost seems like this is the theme of the election this year. Which of the candidates is not as bad as the other? Consider the father whose daughter will be going out on her first date. His daughter has two boys in mind to go out with. One drinks, but doesn’t touch drugs. The other boy does not drink, but has tried drugs. Which of the two is the least “baddest”? I know this is rotten grammar, but you get the message. Is he excited about either candidate? I rest my case. I can hardly wait for those laxative commercials to begin. What a refreshing change it will be to watch them again.
“Filling the cookie jar” (October 24, 2008)
For years now, my office has been sort of a “supply center” for the people who work here at the office. If anyone has bad breath, they can head straight to my office for some Big Red cinnamon gum. When someone has a craving for sweets, they can stop by for Oreo cookies. I keep a glass cookie jar full of Oreo cookies in my office. And for those times when people are ailing or in pain, they can find relief in bottles of Advil, Excedrin, and Tylenol next to the cookies and gum. I tell people that having these things in my office is the only way I can entice anyone to stop by and visit me. That’s sad isn’t it?
We have an unwritten rule concerning the cookie jar. If you are the one who takes the last cookie, you must refill the jar. There are boxes of cookies in a plastic storage tub also located in my office. It’s not a difficult task, but it is amazing how many times people will avoid taking that last cookie because they do not want to take those few minutes to refill the jar.
I stepped into the back storage closet this morning where our paper shredder is located to shred some documents only to find the box of shredded paper overflowing. Apparently, people who use this shredder must think that emptying the box of shredded paper is “someone else’s “ job. All it takes is a quick trip to the warehouse dock where it can be dumped into a large yellow can labeled, “Re-cycle”.
I’ll be walking through my neighborhood and find a piece of trash laying in front of a neighbors house on the street. It probably fell off of the garbage truck. If I don’t pick it up and throw it away, chances are no one will. There seems to be this perceived mentality in our society, which says, “It’s not my job”. Are we so narrow-minded and self-centered that we can only focus on our own agendas and our own little world?
You have encountered similar situations I’m sure. Perhaps people in your office or home will turn down that cup of coffee because the coffee maker needs to be filled. I’ve seen people avoid using copiers or printers simply because they were out of paper or toner. They will postpone their tasks in hopes that “someone else” will come along and take care of things.
Listen up everybody; we are that “someone else”! We should be pitching in and washing the dishes, picking up trash, filling the coffeepot, and doing whatever we see that needs to be done. If we are not capable or qualified to do what needs to be done, go and find someone who is.
Not everyone knows how to refill toner in the copier. I’m glad to do it when someone asks. At least they do not ignore it nor avoid it.
This whole idea of “It’s not my job” is the biggest reason why so many good deeds go undone. I would daresay that many of our social problems would be minimized if people would adopt the attitude that pitching in and helping “Is my job. Have you ever noticed how much nicer those streets look that have been adopted by so-and-so? You’ve seen the signs along the road. These signs will say, “This road adopted by the Lion’s Club of ________.” Members of that particular Lion’s Club or whatever organization, will volunteer to pick up litter along that stretch of road from time to time.
Technically, “It’s not their job.” It is the job of the Highway Department. The Highway Department doesn’t have the manpower to pick up every road and street. The same is true in our neighborhoods, our places of work, our churches, our schools, and our homes. To put it in bad grammar, “If it needs doin’, and you can do, then do it.” This is not rocket science. This is a wake-up call to common sense and courtesy. Let’s all make an effort to fill those “cookie jars” in our lives each and every day. Okay? Have a good day.
“Farewell, leisure suit lime green” (October 23, 2008)
I went around the offices here today conducting an informal survey. I asked everyone what his or her favorite color was? The overwhelming first choice was, blue. In second place, was British racing car green. Not one person said, “leisure suit lime green”.
What exactly is “leisure suit lime green”. It was one of those awful color choices offered by the makers of those hideous polyester leisure suits of the 70’s and 80’s. Other colors included orange, powder blue, red, and pink, all equally disturbing.
As of this past Saturday, I am free of “leisure suit lime green”. Seventeen years ago, I bought a nice little house in a great neighborhood. The color? You guessed it, “LSLG” (I thought I’d abbreviate “leisure suit lime green”). I’m not sure why the occupants before me chose that color. I’m convinced it had something to do with alien abduction and brainwashing. Since it was metal siding and in relatively good condition, I saw no reason to hurry to replace it. I couldn’t anyway. I had just bought the house. I was broke.
I thought about painting it, but that was a bust. The surface of the LSLG siding was powdery and did not accept paint very well. Unfortunately, my scientific paint test was performed on the front of the house, which was prominently visible to all who passed by. Why I did not conduct my scientific paint test on the back of the house remains a mystery to me. But, as we all know, I am fully capable of doing mysterious things.
Thanks to my cousins, Andy and Tom of Kuzmich Construction, my house has been gloriously transformed into an attractive domicile in “Harbor Blue” with white trim. I feel like I should have my house relocated to a seaside cliff overlooking an ocean bay in California or Maine. Andy and Tom extolled the virtues of choosing a premium quality vinyl siding in a premium color. Guess what? LSLG was not one of the premium color choices. Imagine that.
I guess you can say, “It’s out with the old and in with the new”. I have new siding, new gutters, new shingles, new vents, and new insulation. I can honestly say that I will not miss the “leisure suit lime green” color. This whole affair got me to thinking about other things I would not miss if they were gone.
There was a message on my answering machine when I returned home the other day. Actually, there are always three or four messages everyday. They’re the usual calls from companies telling me I qualify for their debt reduction program or satellite TV offers. One annoying caller continues to say, “This is our third time trying to reach you”. Third time? They’ve left over thirty messages! One message did attract my attention. A local grocery store had called to say that a Salvation Army truck would be located in their parking lot this coming Saturday. They were looking for donations of clothing and furniture.
I‘m glad they called. Like so many of US, I have closets and drawers full of clothes that I have not worn in the past year, to say the least. Many of these items do not fit. Why do we hang on to these items? It was time to say, “farewell to the old”. Without second thought, I found myself piling one article of clothing after another on top of my bed in a heap. There is nothing wrong with any one of these items. Someone who can surely use them should receive them. I filled bag after bag with shirts, pants, and jackets. It was a good feeling having done that. I’m looking forward to Saturday.
Saying “farewell” does not need be limited to clothing we no longer wear. It can be furniture, tools, dishware, books (especially books), toys, school supplies, etc. There are many people who are in need of those items you and I take for granted. If “it” isn’t being used and you have no real plans of using “it”, why not consider donating “it”? Like “leisure suit lime green” I doubt you’ll ever miss “it”.
I hope I’ve given you some reason to stop and think about the “leisure suit lime green” things cluttering up your life. Clutter. We can all live without it. Excess. We can live without that, too.
Boring. Life is too short to be boring. Change. It’s good for us once in awhile. I hope you plan to go through your closets, drawers, and cabinets and to look around the house or apartment for those items you can say “farewell” to. It’s a good feeling sending these things on their way to someone who can really use them. Don’t worry. Like LSLG, you’ll never miss them.
Have a good day.
“Judging by appearances” (October 18, 2008)
This particular topic is generally associated with how we misjudge others based upon appearances alone. While that is true at times and we will touch on that a bit later, there are many other occasions in life where judging by appearances is normal, healthy, and sometimes life-saving.
The observant grocery shopper carefully selects produce, fruits, and meats by appearances. If there were a bit of mold appearing on a bakery item, we would not buy that item. Who would select fruit that appears to be bruised or spoiled? Would we buy meat that had a tinge of green? Of course we wouldn’t. Judging by appearances is prudent in these circumstances.
Judging by appearances is how we are attracted to someone, our first date, our friends or partner for life. It’s how we decide which clothes to wear or how to wear our hair. My lease will expire on my truck in two months. I have already begun looking for my next new vehicle. I certainly will be judging the possible selections by appearances.
Although I do not have documented statistics, I would daresay that doctors make many of their decisions of what’s wrong with us judging by appearances. There are many outward indicators of possible maladies. With all of the high tech medical imaging equipment available today, doctors can literally “see inside” of us. They can diagnose problems on the inside of us as well judging by appearances.
I have been watching the baseball playoff series, both American League and National League. The managers and coaches of these teams are always keeping a sharp eye on their players for signs of fatigue, physical stress, and emotional stress. Judging by appearances is very important in order to keep a team in tip-top shape. If the manager or pitching coach sees the pitcher throwing differently or erratically they will probably replace him. When a player gets “out of sorts” and upset, they may decide to substitute for that player.
The golfer makes decisions on which club to use or how to play the shot judging by appearances. Is the ball laying in short grass or long grass? Is the ball on a hillside or in a sand trap? Does the wind appear to be blowing in a particular direction? What is the distance to the green?
My brother and dad are both avid fisherman. I expect that they determine which part of a lake to fish judging by appearances. They look for reeds or rocks, peninsulas or bays, deep water or shallow water. I expect they use a depth finder and fish locater. This enables them to judge by appearances even under the water. With all of this going for them, I expect that they meet with tremendous success every time they cast a line.
As you can see, there are many situations in our daily lives where judging by appearances is a normal part of life. But what about those times when we misjudge others based upon appearances? This should not be a normal part of life. We are all guilty of it. I witnessed such a situation just the other day.
I decided to stop in at the shop to get my hair cut on my way home from work. When I pulled into a parking spot in front, I noticed a man in front of the shop. He “appeared” to be down on his luck. His clothes were old and he looked rather unkempt. As I entered the shop I noticed that he was counting the very few one-dollar bills he held in his hand. Shortly after I had sat down in the waiting area he walked in. The attendant asked him his name. He spoke with difficulty. She was finally able to determine that his name was William.
She told him that it would be about a ten or fifteen minute wait. He sat down in one of the chairs. I was called to the chair to have my hair cut. I always have the same woman cut my hair. She knows what I want. I don’t like having to explain what I want to someone new each time I get a haircut. She and I have become good friends and we are usually laughing the entire time I’m in the chair.
This shop has a number of stylists on duty. When one of them is done with a customer they take the next customer in line in the waiting area. I was still in the chair getting my haircut. William was the only person waiting to be served. Several stylists had finished with customers, but they delayed in offering to wait on William. They were taking more time than was needed to tidy up their workstations. Some were going in back for one reason or another. It appeared to me that they were deliberately taking their time in hopes that “someone else” would wait on William.
My haircut was done. As I got up from my chair I paid my friend for my haircut and tip. I also gave her a twenty-dollar bill asking her to give this to the stylist to pay for William’s haircut and tip. I told her that I saw the money he had in his hand and it did not look to be enough for a haircut. As I’ve said before, I share a story with you not to bring attention to something I may have done. Many of you would have done the same thing. It’s the message I wish to convey.
Here was a man who was being unfairly judged by his appearance. The irony of this situation is he was trying to “improve” his appearance by getting a good haircut. We should be ashamed of ourselves for judging others by appearances. We should be even more ashamed if we deliberately go out of our way to avoid helping someone.
This doesn’t mean that we sell all that we have and move to the streets of Calcutta. We should simply take every opportunity to extend kindness and mercy to those who cross our paths. If you can contribute some time, contribute some time. If you can contribute some cash, contribute some cash. It doesn’t have to be a large amount. If you can contribute clothing, contribute clothing. If you can contribute toys, contribute toys. It’s really quite simple.
Let’s all try to stick to the normal everyday “judging by appearances” and avoid misjudging others by appearances.
“I couldn’t think of a title” (October 18, 2008)
Over time, I will collect a number of thoughts, observations, and experiences and store them in vacant recesses within my brain. There seems to be no lack of vacant recesses. Eventually the time comes when I must put these things to written words. Each one on it’s own does not merit an essay. So, I’ll assemble them together and give them a collective title. My previous such compilation of “miscellaneous-ness” was called, “Assorted Ponderisms”. I’m sorry dear reader that I was unable to come up with a witty title for this essay.
When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, it was very “clear cut” (pun intended) where men and women would go to have their hair cut and styled. Men would go to the barbershop. The barber’s on duty were usually men. They wore crew cuts or had flat tops complete with wax in the front to make sure that those hairs stood at attention. I had a flat top as a kid for a short time. Each morning I would dispense gooey wax from a roll-on dispenser that looked like a deodorant stick.
We would walk in and sit down and read magazines while waiting for the next chair to become available. When seated in the barber chair, we’d ask for “the regular”. It was all quite simple. Many of the barbershops were named after the owner. We went to “Bill’s Barbershop”.
For the ladies, they would visit the “beauty salon” or “beauty parlor”. It wasn’t just a haircut they were looking for. It was a manicure, possibly a pedicure, a facial, and whatever else it took to make them beautiful once again. They could choose a haircut, a permanent, a coloring, curling, or straightening. Obviously, the ladies spent a considerably larger amount of money with each visit than the men.
Although there are random barbershops still scattered about and the occasional beauty salon that caters to women only, the majority of hair cutting establishments are “uni-sex”. These new places cater to men and women as well as children. The problem? I just don’t know what to call these places.
Technically, they are not a “barbershop”. I certainly do not want to tell anyone that I visit a “beauty parlor” or “beauty shop” for a haircut. I suppose “hair salon” is a good catchall name for these places. It just does not sound too manly to say that I’m going to the hair salon. Not knowing what to call the place, I’ll continue to say, “I’m going to the place where I get my haircut”. I don’t mind visiting them except when the lady next to me is getting a permanent. Time has done nothing to improve the nasty smell of a permanent. Wouldn’t you agree?
Well, enough about hair and the “places where they “do” hair”. Have you seen what people and some government buildings are doing in their efforts to “go green”? These people are planting grasses and plants on their roofs. Instead of shingles, tiles, or other traditional roof coverings, they’ve decided to go “ala natural”. I suppose this is all fine and good, but I think I’d have a problem with that. How in the heck am I suppose to haul my lawnmower up to the roof? I also do not think it’s a good idea for me to be pushing a power lawnmower on an angled roof ten or twelve feet above the ground. For those who know me, this would be a very bad idea. I am the “master of mishaps”. Until someone figures out a safe and easy way for me to cut the grass on the roof, I’ll stick with the new shingles that were recently installed.
How many times do you hear that expression, “going green”? It’s becoming quite annoying. It appears that the qualifications to be considered a “green” product are quite loose and unclear. I received an email the other day from a conservation group asking if my bathroom was “green”?
I make it a point to clean my bathroom once a week to prevent it from turning green with mold and algae. I suppose this is not what they meant. My toilet paper is not recycled. I flush it away after each use. I find that to be best. The soap I use is “Ivory”. It’s been around forever and claims to be 100% pure soap. I figure that counts for something.
We should all run out and purchase fluorescent light bulbs and replace our incandescent light bulbs. I tried one of those. Except for the unnatural light and flickering, the fluorescent was just fine. I prefer a bulb that casts a softer light that is easier on the eyes. I’m not a big fan of flickering. These new bulbs have been relegated to outdoor duty in my front light fixture. At least I won’t have to look at them. You have my permission to report my behavior to the “Go Green” society if you wish.
You can’t go anywhere without seeing a product classified as “green”. The office supply store offers several pens that are “green”. They claim that the composition of the pen is made from recycled materials. It’s still plastic. Hmmmm. Some vehicles are being advertised as “green”.
I think it has something to do with the foam material in the seats. This new foam is made from biodegradable soy products or some such material. I guess that would come in handy if your vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere. At least you won’t starve to death. You can always eat the foam in the seats.
Going “green” is a positive trend I guess. I only hope it doesn’t go to extremes. You can now buy paper products made from elephant dung. Nothing says, “I love you” more than a love letter written on recycled elephant dung. I dread the day when scientists find ways to incorporate elephant dung or cow manure into the fabrics of the clothes we wear. No amount of deodorant will hold back what happens when we sweat. I have a nice fountain pen. I’m sure that some scientist will figure out a way to make ink out of monkey pee. Won’t that be special? Writing a love letter with monkey pee on recycled elephant poo.
Let’s hope this going “green” trend doesn’t get too far out of hand like this essay. That’s about enough rambling about different topics for this edition. I still can’t think of a better title than, “I couldn’t think of a title”. Have a good day.
“Caught in the act” (October 13, 2008)
Although I never had the pleasure of meeting this young man, the story of how he lived his life and how he tragically died, has had a profound affect on me. So much so, it has prompted me to compose this short essay.
When we hear that someone was “caught in the act”, it generally means that they were caught doing something wrong, dishonest, illegal, and against the law. I’d like to consider the positive side of being “caught in the act”. Let’s consider this young man’s story. Andy had turned 26 years old four days prior to the auto accident. Although he was a gifted athlete in high school and college, it was what he did for people that set him apart. A disabled man was able to attend the college basketball games where Andy played because Andy and two other players gave him a ride. A fifth grader, homebound because of a bus accident, received weekly visits from Andy. He would also reach out to other students struggling with drugs and alcohol.
his young man spent time with senior citizens. On short-term mission trips, he would mix concrete, pound nails, and spend time with kids teaching them how to play basketball. The list of his unselfish acts is too long to list here. What he did during his last minutes of life are perhaps the most significant. I’d like to quote from the article in the Minneapolis “StarTribune” newspaper.
Occupants of the van in which Andy was riding report, “When Andy saw the other vehicle bearing down on them, he grabbed the young woman beside him, putting his arms around her to shield her from the impact. She is recovering, but he took a terrific blow, and was thrown from the van and killed. Don’t mourn for Andy. God surely reached out and grabbed him moments later.”
I cannot type that report without tears. “Caught in the act”. None of us knows when our last minute on earth will be. Do we really want to be caught angry and uncaring, thinking only of ourselves? Do we want to be caught lying, cheating, doing something wrong? Have you ever been caught lying or cheating? I have. It’s a terrible feeling. I worked in an old-fashioned hardware store in high school. I recall the owner catching me lying about something. I don’t remember what it was, but I sure do remember how awful it was. It goes without saying that being “caught in the act” by God carries far graver consequences.
How many of us in a similar circumstance like this auto accident would find God reaching out and grabbing us moments later? Do we want to run the risk of God ignoring us after we breath our last? Like Andy, I would prefer that God would grab me, too, shortly thereafter and take me home.
Each one of us must choose daily how we will live our lives. We can throw caution to the wind and live with reckless abandon, caring for no one else but ourselves. We can be angry and selfish, critical and cold. I’m sure Andy had his down times. We all do. But it appears that this young man made it a priority to live for others and for his God. There were over 1,000 people in attendance at his funeral. People stood up to tell how Andy made a difference in their lives. What will people say about you and I at our funerals? Will anyone even show up?
We have a choice in how we conduct ourselves, how we live among others. We don’t change the way we live just for those last few moments. We need to live this way each minute of our lives. It’s the only way we can prepare ourselves to be “caught in the act”. No matter what time of the day or night, I’d like to be “caught in the act” of unselfishness, kindness, generosity, and thinking good thoughts. Thank you, Andy, for your example.
“Providence” (October 8, 2008)
Except for the residents of the city in Rhode Island that bears this name, very few of us use the word, “providence” in our everyday conversations. Actually, there are quite a few words in the English language that have disappeared from our spoken vocabulary today. It’s too bad. One of my favorite words is, “appropriate”. It’s a word you don’t hear spoken too often.
My favorite movies of all time were made in the early 1960’s in England. These were four murder mystery movies based upon the character, Miss Marple, created by the mystery novelist, Agatha Christie. Dame Margaret Rutherford played the lead role magnificently. Each movie was approximately 90 minutes in length and filmed in “glorious black and white”. That’s what the cover of the DVD box boldly advertised. Mystery movies are always better in black and white don’t you think?
Although I have watched each one many times and know the plot, the lines, and who “dunnit”, I never tire of watching them again and again. Why? There are two reasons actually. The first reason is the music. The background music really describes each scene most “appropriately”. The second reason? I enjoy listening to the dialogue. It’s not just the English accent I enjoy, but also the proper, formal way in which they talk.
Unlike we Americans, these actors do not butcher the English language. We are quick to abbreviate our sentences, use slang, and use the wrong words. When someone says, “thank you’, how do we reply? Rather than say, “you’re welcome” we say things like, “no problem”, “no big deal”, or “you bet”. What’s with that?
The English characters in these movies spoke in full sentences using proper words. Their speech was gracious and a refreshing change of pace. I get tired of listening to people talk like rap singers. So many people do not understand proper grammar. They cannot speak correctly let alone write or spell. It’s true with politicians, professional athletes (they are the worst), and many Hollywood celebrities. Mastery of the English language has become a lost art.
I suppose I should get back on track. This was not my original intent in writing this short essay. Let’s see, where was I? Oh, yes, “providence”. The word “providence” is defined as, “an influence, which is not human in origin” and “care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth”. Providence has played a big part in my life. Too many things have happened that cannot be attributed to chance or coincidence. It’s no secret that I have a firm, personal belief in God. Although I cannot see Him, I sense his presence. Many years ago I deliberately invited Him to come into my life and direct my life. It’s a responsibility that He does not take lightly.
Providence started early for me. It wasn’t until my adult life that I actually learned the details surrounding my birth. I was born nearly two months early. With the equipment and staff available in hospitals today, that is not as much of a concern as it was back in the early 1950’s. I was born in an army hospital in Hawaii, which at that time was a territorial possession, not a state. The doctors told my parents my chances of survival were slim. If I did survive, they told my parents that I may be blind. What a horrible thing to tell first-time parents. Well, I did survive and I can see, although at 55 I need glasses. I consider that whole experience to be “providence”.
Throughout my life, it is well documented that I have had some serious accidents, injuries, and illnesses. I tell people that I’ve used three of my nine lives. Again, I consider this to be “providence”.
Providence does not need be limited to life threatening situations or huge, dramatic affairs in our lives. It can be what guides us in our everyday decisions. Providence can be what brings people and opportunities our way. While finishing my last year in college, I began doing what every graduate does. I pondered my next step. This is where providence has been the most visible in my life.
A friend was visiting the campus. We started talking about what he was doing. He asked what my plans were? He then offered me a job working at the company where he was employed. I decided to have a chat with one of the pastors on campus about this opportunity. He wisely told me to “pursue wholesome interests. God can direct your life in that way”. I accepted the job offer. It was a satisfying experience. Towards the end of my fourth year at this position, the general manager of another company invited me to come work for him in sales. He made me an offer, which I accepted. Thirty years later, I’m still with that same company in sales.
I’ve not had to beat the bushes for employment. I’ve hunted down temporary jobs and part time jobs, but full-time employment opportunities have always presented themselves to me. The same is true for the people that have crossed my path during my life. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do what I love most, which is helping people. I can recall many stories of people whose lives I have touched and whose lives have touched me. Providence pointed these people in my direction. My life is far better because of it.
With providence should come gratitude. If we continue to accept providence thinking we deserve it or it is something we’ve earned, we become hard and insensitive. It’s appropriate to take the time to express our gratitude for providence. A quick prayer thanking God for that job, that neighbor or friend, or for our health is not out of order. It need not be a long and formal recital. It can be quietly giving thanks while driving or working in the yard. It can be out on the golf course or before a meal.
Why not take the time to remember the times in your life where providence intervened? You may not have invited God to direct your life, but He probably has been looking out for you anyway. It’s in His nature to do that. He can’t help it. He certainly was looking out for me long before I even knew Who He was.
I just thought this was too good of a word to keep to myself. “Providence” is a most appropriate word to describe the events in my life. I think I’ll brush up on a few more of those words that are seldom used. Who knows? If I lose my job in sales, perhaps I can land a part as an actor in an English murder mystery movie. I think I’ll leave that up to “providence”.