It's About Time

Imagine for a moment that you are in the process of paying bills. The mortgage is 33 hours, the car payment is 20 hours, utilities, about 12 hours, groceries for a month about 20 hours, and the the list goes on to include things like insurance, gas, clothing and more. We don’t pay for things with money but with hours of our lives.

I have always been a more of a saver than a spender. Perhaps it is because when I got my first job waiting tables for a dollar and hour in a restaurant where tips were rare it impacted how I looked at purchasing things. I would see a record album or a pair of jeans that I really wanted then I would ask myself if I wanted the album enough to work ten hours for it. Were the jeans really worth 35 hours?

Even after college when my work became salaried I would do the math and average out, as best I could, how much I was earning per hour. It really helps with cutting down on impulse purchases. This mindset led me to completely buy into the time/money ratio and how they work.

We can make more money but we can’t make or buy time. When it’s gone, it’s gone. I can look at my bank accounts and investments on my phone and quickly ballpark my net worth. There is no app to tell me my worth in time. Time is priceless. I may have years or I may only have minutes. I suppose that is why I have little tolerance for people that disrespect me by wasting my time. Do you know any of these people?

The Late One This person doesn’t just arrive late once in awhile they make it a habit. It never occurs to this person that the 15 -30 minutes you spend waiting on them is 15-30 minutes that you could be doing something more productive, entertaining or relaxing than waiting on their self-centered butt. Years ago I had a friend that was so bad about being late that I got in the habit of requesting her arrival 30 minutes before I actually wanted her to arrive. I wouldn’t do that now and would kindly tell her why. I have a limited amount of time in my life and is not okay for people to act as though it is not important or less important than their life/time.

The Non-Committal Planner These are the folks that ignore the RSVP part of an invitation. They might show-up, they might not, but you won’t know ahead of time. More laid back people just roll with this but it is just plain rude.

These people aren’t good at committing even when it is a laid back get together like going to a movie. You call or text several days in advance and extend an invitation. When they respond, which is often 24 hours or more later, they ask if they can get back to you or ask when you need to know. What it sounds like is that they might go with you but they want the flexibility of backing out if they get a more enticing invitation from someone else. There are times when a person legitimately has to wait for more information before deciding, I get it, and it’s okay. Just say when you will let me know and then I can choose to either wait for your response or I can proceed with plans that do not include you.

The Egocentric This person only considers their own needs and believes their time is more special than everyone else’s. I have been volunteering at an assisted living and over time have become friends with several residents. Unfortunately, The Enrichment Coordinator, is a very egocentric person. She would tell me I was on the schedule to lead an event but I would often show up and the residents and other staff had not been informed. When I tried to talk to her about it she at first made light of it then became defensive blaming having a lot going on in her life. I wasn’t volunteering to gain friendship points with her which is good since she never once said thank you. She also never apologized for the times I rushed in from work and skipped dinner to arrive at my designated time. She disrespected me and all the residents that didn’t get the opportunity to participate in activities. It makes me sad, but I have decided that I will drop in and visit with my senior friends during a meal time and explain to them why I will no longer be leading activities.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with having stated, “Time is money”. Yes, but when we really think about it, time is all any of us have and it is quickly slipping away. My advice, don’t waste it on people that aren’t worth it.

Thanks to the following that shared their time and talent through photographs; Aron Visuals, Jon Tyson, Malvestida Magazine and neonbrand.

When You Are Going Through Hell

It seemed to come out of nowhere. Life flung a wild pitch that took me down. Once knocked to the ground I was pelted with curve balls, sliders and various other painful pitches.

We’ve all have had a bad day or bad week. Ever had a bad year? The past two years have had some bright moments, but overall I would give them a D-. I lived to tell so I can’t quite assign an F.

I am a creature of habit; isn’t everyone? With no conscious thought to the effects of being pummeled by life, my brain adapted to the D- life. My new normal was so rooted in D- that I barely remembered A- and B+.

It is part of our survival instinct. If you walk into the kitchen for a drink of water but find the room engulfed in flames you don’t open a cabinet and take out a glass. Survival mode has no room for thinking about how to get back to A- or B+.

Thank you, Winston Churchill

Recently, something amazing happened. It was as if a tiny but powerful speaker in my brain suddenly became blue-tooth connected to Winston Churchill, I remembered, “When you’re going through Hell keep on going.”

Waking up in Hell and deciding not to stay won’t transport one to carefree bliss. Steps must be taken. Another smart man named Robert Frost said, “The only way out is through.”

Feeling physically strong and being healthy will elevate that D- to at least a B. I am investing time with running and going to the gym and it is once again intentional and with purpose. I never completely stopped these activities during recovery from bunion surgery or when dealing with shingles. I can come up with all sorts of reasons to add to the list including getting older, but Hell loves excuses. I bet there are large gatherings in Hell where folks can talk about that sort of thing for eons. I don’t have time to slow down and have a chat over tea in Fire Lake, I am on my way out!

During my two year tour of duty I lost more than a few friends. Some walked away from me, I left some others behind. When you are at your lowest it becomes easier to see who your real friends are and who doesn’t have time to reach out a hand and help you back up. I was really blessed with two new friends that like me for who I am. I also had some family members that made the effort to connect with me and they are now some of the most important people in my life. Two other friends that have been with me for decades stayed as close as ever.

Sometimes we have to put things down simply because they are heavy.

As I wallowed in the crap that collects at the bottom of a D- life I also realized I had some unfinished business. I can’t say I was in denial or had repressed memories. It was more like the cucumber or zucchini that hides under the lettuce and behind the carrots in the vegetable drawer. It may not stink for a very long time, but it is always there, lurking around waiting for the worst possible moment to pop back into the front and spread it’s slimy stink over everything it touches.

I talked to a professional, dealt with the rotten stuff and left knowing that if I ever need to go back, I can and I will. It isn’t embarrassing, it is empowering.

Finally, I have given myself long overdue permission to speak my truth and call people out for their bad behavior. Me, the one that always feared getting into trouble, may just tick off a whole bunch of people when I no longer pretend that I am not offended or have hurt feelings. Oh well, that is just too bad.

When I encounter racism, rudeness and unfairness I won’t look the other way or pretend to not hear. I may not be able to change it, but I won’t ignore it. That is apt to make some people angry with me. Oh well!

Getting out of Hell may not take as long as I first thought it would. I may get evicted!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comments and emails.

People That Can Read, Should

I have always been a reader, as long as I have vision, I always will be. I can’t walk past a sign and ignore it. I read t-shirts of people passing me on sidewalks and the titles on the back of books others are reading at the airport. Heck, I used to read the Dictionary! I read labels, news, books, cereal boxes and pretty much anything that is within my field of vision. People like me, that read even when we don’t have to, or especially when we aren’t required, are now the minority. That is sad, but hey, you are reading this so that gives us common ground. Yeah!

I started 2019 in three book clubs but then dropped to two. Later I added another and for a short period of time was in three clubs again before dropping out of two. One because the selections didn’t appeal to me and the other because an otherwise nice, former U.S. Marine thought his opinion was so special and insightful that he should do 90 percent of the talking. November rolled around and I joined another club that I am not sure about just yet. Of course, I like to read stuff other than book club selections so my reading time is never lacking of literature.

The best thing about book clubs is that it prompts you to read books you otherwise would not have considered. Granted, some of them suck, but you may just find another genre that you had previously discounted. For me it is memoirs.

I am going to share my 2019 reads and my rating of one to five stars, I would be excited to hear form you if you enjoyed some of the same books or if you disagree with my rating. Let’s talk about books! I also note that life is too short to read boring or poorly written books. I started many that I did not finish and have not included them in my list since it isn’t really fair to rate something that I didn’t complete.

Friend me on Good Reads to check out my reviews and we can share even more about the love of books.

My 2019 Book List

  • Ghosted Rosie Walsh *****
  • Fly Boys James Franco *****
  • The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini *****
  • The Guy Not Taken Jennifer Weiner **
  • Calling Me Home Julie Kibler ****
  • A Spark of Light Jodi Picoult ***
  • Duped Abby Ellin **
  • Who Do You Love Jennifer Weiner ***
  • Before She Was Found Heather Gudenkauf ***
  • After Anna Lisa Scottoline ****
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez *
  • No Shroud of Silence Sandi Keaton-Wilson ****
  • It’s Not About Me Max Lucado *****
  • Becoming Michelle Obama *****
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman ***
  • Little Bee Chris Cleave ***
  • Pie Sarah Weeks ***
  • Behind Closed Doors B.A. Paris ****
  • The River Witch Anne Griffin *****
  • The Good Daughter Karen Slaughter ****
  • The Flight of Gemma Hardy Margot Livesay **
  • Lying Sam Harris ****
  • Where the Crawdads Sing Delia Owens *****
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone Lori Gottlieb *****
  • Before We Were Yours Lisa Wingate *****
  • Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth Sarah Smarsh *****
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Taylor Jenkins Reid ****
  • The Last Mile David Baldcci ***
  • Hillbilly Elegy J.D. Vance ****
  • Go Set a Watchman Harper Lee **
  • An Anonymous Girl Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen ****
  • Song of Solomon Toni Morrison ***
  • Finally Wendy Mass ****
  • Grey Mountain John Grisham **
  • The Red Tent Anita Diamant ****
  • This Is Where It Ends Marieke Nijkam **
  • A Man Called Ove Fredik Backman *****
  • Mrs Everything Jennifer Weiner *****
  • All We Ever Wanted Emily Griffin ****
  • One Second After William R. Forstchen ****
  • Never Have I Ever Joshilyn Jackson ****
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz Heather Morris ****
  • The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden **
  • Furiously Happy Jenny Lawson ***
  • Animal Farm George Orwell ****

That’s a lot of books to squeeze in between cereal boxes, blogs and everything else in print that lands in front of me! And just to be completely honest, about 1 in three were audio books. I am fortunate to have more reading time than some. I recommend all that I have given 4 or 5 stars but the five really think you should read are in bold.

Dear Millionaires, If you don’t have a bookcase in your home that opens into a secret room then consider this your wake up call and call a contractor….Now!!

Thankful A-Z

A. Attitude (it is my choice day by day and minute by minute).

B. Bella, my fur-baby.

C. Challenges (They keep my brain sharp and focused).

D. Democracy

E. Elastic for keeping my socks and undies in place!

F. Forgiveness

G. God

H. Hindsight that is 20/20, sometimes it keeps me from repeating mistakes.

I. Inspiration

K. Kids

L. Laughter

M. Mountains with snow on top on a hot July day

N. New beginnings every morning

O. Open-minded people

P. Potato Chips

Q. Questions that make me learn and think

R. Running

S. Sisters from other mothers

T. Time

U. Understanding granted from others

V. Violin music, especially Lindsey Sterling

W. Water that is clean and fresh

X. Xenial (look it up).

Y. You (thanks for reading)

Z. Zippers, even the ones that one go up because of P.

Fly My Pretties, Fly!

According to the Mayo Clinic cases of Narcissistic Personality Disorder are rare. I am not going to say that is wrong but I also bet that you know know several people that display more than one or two of the traits. The narcissist doesn’t seek treatment or counseling because, in their mind, they are beyond okay, they are fabulous. Anyone that can’t see their awesomeness is the one that is crazy.

Someone that has Narcissistic Personality Disorder has a history of having an exaggerated sense of self worth. They don’t just see themselves as important, intelligent and special but more important, extremely intelligent and incredibly special.

Flying Monkeys have a tough job. One wrong move and you risk being exiled from the clan

The Narcissist thrives in the limelight and is gifted at controlling conversations and situations so as to keep the focus on themselves or what they want to talk about or do.

It would make sense that such a person would not have friends or romantic relationships. That, however, is seldom the case. Initially the narcissist is charming and interesting. Early on they even seem to be fascinated by you and your life. Just as a person that abuses their spouse didn’t smack them around on their first date the narcissist trains their flying monkeys gradually.

Flying Monkeys are loyal and accept that the witch is in charge.

If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist think back to when you you were first getting to know them. Did they say and do things that boosted your feeling of self worth and made you feel special? This happens in a lesser degree in healthy relationships too but the narcissist draw you in and helps you be accepted by the team of existing flying monkeys (enablers). The other monkeys may not readily accept you in the beginning but the Witch (narcissist) will keep them in line as s/he adds you to the ranks. You may even feel indebted to the witch because for awhile it can be exciting and fun to be with the witch and the other flying monkeys. We all like to be part of something and feel connected.

The problem arises when you think for yourself and offer ideas or opinions different from the witch. A true narcissist will either ignore you, make you feel inferior for even suggesting your thoughts or ideas or subtly make it clear that they are in control. You must comply to remain part of the band of flying monkeys otherwise you get kicked to the curb. The monkeys don’t talk about it, but they all know who is in charge. Don’t look to the other flying monkeys for support. It is a dictatorship, not a democracy.

It sounds a lot like bullying or an issue that wouldn’t come up in adulthood, right? Narcissists attend the school of, “I’m not getting older; I’m getting better.” They have honed their skills over years, even decades.

Perhaps you have worked with a boss or supervisor that keeps employees in line through intimidation? Perhaps it is a spouse that always manages to get their way or the friend that always dominates the conversation and mostly talks about themselves?

Am I right that you know some of these people? It can be difficult to break ties with the witch and the flying monkeys.

If the witch is a spouse or parent they have likely lead you down a long path of low self-esteem making you believe that you are such a looser that you are just lucky they still throw you a few crumbs from time to time.

If the witch is a friend it can be hard to break free since you accidentally distanced yourself from other relationships as you were drawn into the the flying monkey clan.

The Narcissistic wife or husband will have you convinced that you are unworthy and maybe even crazy. Given the opportunity they will also convince relatives and friends that any problems are because of your mental state, difficult personality or character flaws.

It isn’t easy to break away from any kind of abusive relationship without a support system. You may need counseling to get through the hurt as you rebuild trust in yourself.

If you are being victimized by a Narcissist seek help. The abuse they have dolled upon you isn’t visible like a bruise, or heard like name calling. It attacks you at your core and eats you up from the inside. The witch has the disease but his/her victims are the ones suffering and in some cases dying.

You can call the Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 . Not every abuser hits or calls names.

I’m Confused

I live in the part of the United States that is nicknamed the Bible Belt. More and more I am getting the vibe that some of the people I consider to be friends are annoyed or perhaps even angry because of my faith. According to Wikipedia, “The Bible Belt is an informal region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in society and politics, and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation’s average.”

Being a Christian doesn’t mean I follow blindly.

Knowing that definition sheds a good bit of light on my confusion Since while I am a Christian, I don’t fit into the mold described as the Bible Belt. I was born to Protestant (Baptist) parents but converted to Catholicism in my 30’s. It works for me even though I admit there are certain aspects of being Catholic that I don’t necessarily embrace. That is pretty much true for me being part any formal group. I will go a step further, at the risk of stepping on toes,and say it is part of being an intelligent human being. We question things that are considered fact or truth; it is how we attain the highest levels of learning.

I describe myself as a liberal that at times leans towards the conservative side. I am a Catholic convert raised by Baptist parents. That makes me somewhat of a freak here in the Bible Belt and I am okay with that.

I am also more liberal than conservative. It is very unpopular stance in my community and I accept that some will avoid me for that reason, that is their prerogative. I just don’t understand why that should keep us from being friends. Can’t we still watch a movie, share a meal or have non-political conversations?

I believe that God gave us all free will. As an American citizen I can still enjoy freedoms including voting. I respect that others don’t always share my views and only find it annoying when they treat me as less because of them.

An acquaintance from one of my book clubs proudly shares that she is a member of a local meet-up group called the Godless Heathens. She knows I am a Christian and, at least so far, our differences have not created any tension. While I am concerned about her when it comes to eternity, I don’t preach to her. She in turn doesn’t disrespect my faith or try to change me. Clearly, we don’t agree, yet we can be respectful.

I am totally unprepared for a zombie invasion, yet I still sleep great.

Still, I am confused. If one doesn’t believe in God or a higher power why do you need a group that proclaims it? I don’t believe in zombies but I also don’t need to start a group. I don’t eat beets, I think they taste like dirt, but I don’t need to start a group of beet haters.

Can beet haters and beet lovers live in harmony?

In an online group for writers a member shared a post, an excerpt from their memoir, making it known that they are atheist. A few paragraphs later they described a time of stress and heartache and recounted how they had looked at the other person and cried, “Why, in the name of God would you do that to me?” I commented that I meant no disrespect, but wondered why anyone would cry out to God if they don’t believe in him. It would be like me saying that I cried out in the name of the Tooth Fairy.

The precepts of my faith instruct me to treat all with kindness and love and cautions me that I will be judged as I judge. I try, and frequently fall short of my goal but not everything is about being perfect. My effort gives me a more abundant and happy life. I think I am right, but even if I am not, who am I hurting as a result of my faith?

Thanks for reading. Remember to vote on Tuesday even if it is just to cancel out my vote!!

Special thanks to the following for the use of their photographs; Nick Collins, Zahre E., Aaron Burden, Karl Fredrickson and Zorik D.

19 Things to Love during Autumn 2019

As of tomorrow we can exclaim, “Happy Fall Y’All!”  I enjoy all of the seasons, but if I must have a favorite, then autumn is the winner.  Here is my list of 19 things to celebrate before winter. I call it my, Everything Nice Except Pumpkin Spice, list.

What would you add? Football, tail-gating, hiking, Haunted Houses, pumpkin spice? What made me list that wouldn’t be on yours? Please share your comments below. Have a blessed and beautiful autumn.

Thanks to the following for the use of their photographs; Yours truly, Ron McClenny, Josh Campbell, Patrick Fore, Sara Dubler, Jessica-d-vega, Alex Geerts, Joanna Karsinkaua, Alas, Krivec and Corwin Thiessen

A Forest for the Trees

Today’s post is a fictional piece that, like many of my stories, seemed to take over and write itself. I have completed a full 26.2 marathon (Indianapolis, November 2017) and that experience is part of the inspiration for this piece. To all of those that have run the Boston Marathon or know the intricacies of being an elite runner, I ask for your tolerance regarding the poetic license I used for the sake of the story.

I understood what it would take to win, to be number one, the victor, the champion, the best.  I knew that to be these things I had to focus and not let distractions keep me from my goal.  

It wasn’t unusual for me to hear bits of conversation that tended to swirl around me rather than be said to me, “He is very tenacious” or “ He never quits.”  I enjoyed these sound bites, knowing they were said in my praise, but I didn’t turn my head. Pride, being full of myself or listening to praise might slow me down.  I was on a mission and I appreciated that they understood, even when they didn’t.

Sleeping late on Saturdays was an indulgence that I could not afford.  Everyone knows that Saturday is Long Run Day. Contrary to how it sounds, it isn’t just a day.  It starts on Thursday,well, actually on Sunday, with the perfect blend of complex carbs and proteins, strength training and the study of split times and cadence.  Thursday and Friday’s menu is tailored to my body’s particular quirks rather than my pallette. Low fat, but high carb, shrimp, pasta with minimal seasoning and lowered fiber for the next two days.  The end of the work week is not celebrated with friends or a late evening with the wife or kids; 3:00 a.m. comes early. The weather is studied and clothes and shoes are set out for the morning. Hydration belt, headlamp, goos and portable carbs are tucked into my clothes designed specifically for such activity.  9:00 p.m. finds me sound asleep dreaming of things like heartbreak hill, and ancient civilizations in remote Mexico desserts where men run without science and can kick my ass without planning or GPS.

Saturday afternoon, while lounging in a tub of ice, I ponder negative splits and what it will take for a new PR. The study of the mechanics and the plans are as intricate as blueprint. A glorious nap follows while the wife and kids take in the latest Pixar at the matinee show.

Sunday, I plan the rest of the week making time for the necessary work that ends in a paycheck.  Distance, pace and mathematical formulas that provide the best odds for winning. Things like the 10% rule, ice baths,tempo runs and fartleks grab my attention. The average person doesn’t realize much less comprehend that to run 26.2 miles at a pace of 4:53 per mile that the man will log an average of 100-110 miles a week.  Even a newbie, that just wants to complete a full 26.2 needs to be at 30-35 miles a week to start training.

Patriot’s Day

We stand packed together like cattle in the corral, yeah, that’s what it’s called. Then we stretch or shift our weight from foot to foot and check our gear while we wait for the gun to fire and start the race.  I go through the motions of respecting my country and the flag during the national anthem but my mind is already on mile 20 and climbing heartbreak hill. There is a guy not far away that is carrying an ultrasound picture of his yet to be born child, he says this is his final race because God and family will always come first. A woman I passed earlier was chatting up about how she was running for charity, raising money for research for cancer or alzheimer’s or some other disease that would probably, regardless of how much she raises, take her life in a number of years.  I blocked it out, there was no room for that at the moment.

I think I hear the sound of my own child proudly shouting, “Daddy, my daddy is going to win!”  I don’t look, I can’t, I must stay in the zone.  

The gun sounds and my body knows what to do, my brain is along for the ride for at least the first 20 miles.  It’s job will be to get me through the final 6.2 miles including lactate thresholds from Hell and emptied glycogen stores.

At mile five my eyes try to turn to a cheering, waving, spectator that might be my wife.  I don’t blink even when I hear my name being chanted by voices that must belong to family and friends.  I stare straight ahead, looking could cost me a whole second. It isn’t worth the chance. There will be time after the finish line.

At mile 20 I start up Heartbreak Hill with only 3 men ahead of me and all of them in sight.  At the crest there are only 2 ahead of me. It is tempting to go all in but I resist. Not yet; not yet.

At the end of mile 23 runner two makes his break.  I could laugh or even smirk, but I won’t use any precious energy.  He lacks patience and at mile 25 I pass him without increasing my speed.  I start to gain, on number one but hang back, 5 strides behind. He can’t see me but knows I am there; he didn’t get this good, this elite, without developing the sixth sense of knowing exactly where I am and how much I have left in reserve. I evaluate his energy and fortitude, he won’t go down easy. 

I allow myself to fall in beside him, less than 6 inches in second place.  At 25.7 miles I summon my brain, my energy and even my faith and pull into the lead. I am going to win, I am going to receive the prize I have longed for my entire life. I can smell it and my mouth waters in anticipation of the rare flavor.

I break the ribbon as the world turns to shades of grey.  It occurs to me that I may pass out, but it’s okay, that no longer matters. I have won!  The grey images begin to blur. I see my family, my wife, my parents, my kids and many others but they are turning away, their heads down.  Are they crying?  

Don’t they realize that I won?  

I stumble on becoming increasingly confused but I find that there is a line forming comprised of other runners that have just finished.  I see a light ahead and move that way thinking it must be the podium where I will receive my winnings. Others are ahead of me in this line and while that is still more confusing I stand and wait my turn thinking it not all that unusual to be in a brain fog after such a feat and monumental victory.

I didn’t notice all the trees before but now the line seems to be weaving through a wide variety of deciduous timbers, and while I know it isn’t possible, there seems to be more trees everytime I blink or exhale.  I see the female winner at the front of the line. Words are exchanged and then she turns around, her expression is empty.  She takes two steps and when she stops she is suddenly no longer a woman, she is a tree. The same scene plays out as other runners get to the front of the line, then after a brief exchange of words with whoever is in the light, they too turn into trees.  Finally, only two runners in the line are ahead of me. I am suddenly terrified and I try to flee, but all of my energy is spent. The next person to face the light is the woman who was running for charity. The light is too intense, I can’t look at it straight on but I hear a strong voice lovingly say,  “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  The next person in line is the father that commented before the start of the race that it would be his last due to family obligations. He hears the same words as the woman before him and then steps into the light where I can no longer see him.

Understanding fills me with sick certainty. I fall on my face knowing that I am not worthy. Mercy is the prayer arising from my soul.  I plead, “ I worked hard, I wasn’t a bad man. I just wanted to win the race.” The voice of my God commands me to look behind me and to describe what I see there.  I obey; anything for a chance. “I see trees, lots and lots of trees.” “Keep looking” instructs the Lord. I start to notice the trees have words on them, the words are prayers.  Some ask for love, others for shelter or food, still others have prayers for peace or for safety. “Tell me what you see” commands the Lord. I weep as I say, “I see the woods, a dense forest full of people and their prayers.”  

“Yes,” said the Lord “and you ran past each one ignoring their needs, their hurts and their unanswered prayers.  My child, you didn’t see the forest for the trees.”

I wail, “But I just wanted to win the race!”  

 My limbs stiffen as my body turns to wood, roots sprout from my feet digging themselves into the soil below, anchoring me in place.

The last thing I hear is my creator explaining, “It wasn’t a race; it was never a race. It was your life and now the real prize will forever be very close, but always just out of reach.”  Just before my eyes seal themselves shut and become covered in bark someone hangs a winners medal on one of my branches, I try unsuccessfully to shake it off as the aroma of acrid wood smoke fills my nose.

*Matthew 25:23, Holy Bible, KJV

Thank you for reading. I appreciate the following for the use of their photographs; Chase Clark, Jakob Kriz, Matt Howard, Tikko Maciel, Joshua J. Cotten, Jennifer Birdie, Shawker and Natalie Desirre Mottet.

Just Say No

While it is not a bad idea for people to just say no to things like drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; that is not what I will be discussing with you today.  I want to talk about the lame excuses that people offer up to us instead of simply saying the magical two letter word.

Example: Liz calls up her friend Kathy and asks if she wants to go see a particular movie the next day. Kathy doesn’t want to see the movie with Liz even though she and Liz are friends.  Perhaps, Kathy just wants to spend the evening at home, or she doesn’t think she will enjoy that particular film. It could be that she doesn’t like watching movies with Liz because Liz chats throughout the movie, something that both Kathy and other movie goers doesn’t like. There are a zillion reasons why Kathy may not want to go to the movie on that particular day or with Liz, yet if Kathy is like most people she won’t simply say no.  Unless she already has a commitment for the following evening the odds are that she will make an excuse.

Why do so many of us struggle so much with that simple little word?  I only know one person that has refined this skill into an art form.  A friend, that I won’t call by name, (you know who you are) will simply, yet politely, decline an invitation by honestly saying, “I don’t want to do that.”  I don’t get my feelings hurt, in part because I am an adult, also because I know I can be just as frank with her when I turn down an invitation. It is so much simpler this way.

Another reason most of us struggle with saying no is that we don’t want to hurt a person’s feelings.  If Kathy tells Liz she doesn’t like how she chats nonstop during movies it is possible that Kathy will get angry.  It could damage or even end the friendship. Perhaps, Liz has never had anyone tell her this before and if made aware of the issue she might change her ways. Tough Call.

Another reason could be that while Kathy doesn’t want to go to the movies the next day she hesitates to say no because she fears that Liz will not ask again in the future. Fear of rejection is the number one reason that lots of people struggle to say no.

In recent years I have noticed a trend where instead of saying no, people just avoid giving any response at all.  I am dubbing a new name for this, let’s call it selective ghosting.  Almost everyone has experienced this a time or two, or 200.  You send out an email asking people on your team to let you know if they can attend and assist with an upcoming event that your mutual organization is sponsoring.  Some will say yes, a few may tell you why they must decline and the rest will make less noise than crickets. They know that it would be easier for you to proceed if they would just act as an adult and say no, but they won’t do it.  Do they fear you will hound them or try to change their minds? I can only speak for myself; I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to hound someone about volunteering. I take their no as a no. But I need them to cough it up.

The same kind of thing happens with text messages and voice mail. I know there are exceptions, everyone forgets once in awhile.  But I suspect about 90% of the time it is selective ghosting and it is, at best, highly frustrating.

There are also people that prefer to make you regret contacting them at all.  I know a few of these and I admit their tactics work. It goes something like this:  After you send out the email or text the person asks you to call. You do as asked but you get voicemail or worse you hear this, “The party you have dialed has a voice-mail-box that has not been set up. Goodbye.”  If you are one of those folks just realize that you are not fooling anyone. You;re screening your calls. There is nothing inherently bad about screening calls unless you use it because you are not adult enough to say no.  Later, you reach out again to the person or they call you back and they start in telling you about their third cousin’s new baby and how they have been busy with helping decorate the nursery and that they have been working long hours and their cat just got neutered and shouldn’t be left alone.  They are waiting for the cable company to call, while they bake cupcakes for P.T.A and their fibromyalgia is acting up. They pepper the conversation with little comments about how they are interested in whatever it is you are suggesting as to string you along. Eventually, you get so tired of listening to them going on about Aunt Ethel’s gallbladder surgery that you just say no for them. They make you so sorry that you asked them and waste so much of your time that you promise yourself to never ask them again. 

A couple of years ago I was doing some freelance work for a magazine.  The editor called me and was interested in an article about The March of Dimes.  He was hoping I knew a local person that was involved with this charity so that the interview would have a personal flare.  I informed him that I did know such a person and that I could take the assignment.

The lady I had in mind had been a pretty good friend in years past when we were both involved in a social group.  She was always very active in raising money for March of Dimes and I had always contributed as generously as I could when I received her annual appeal in the mail.  The social group we had both been involved in had dismantled a few years prior and while our paths seldom crossed, I still considered her to be at least a good acquaintance.  

I called her office and left a message with her secretary asking that she return my call.  Two days later when I had not heard from her I sent a message via Facebook messenger. No Luck.

I few more days went by and my deadline was inching closer.  I again called her office and again had to leave a message to which she didn’t reply.

The next day I saw her husband while working out at the gym. I told him about the magazine article and asked if he would relay the message to her.  I also added that if she was just to busy to grant me a twenty minute interview then I understood but my deadline was approaching and I really hoped to hear from her, even if it was just for her to say no.  Nothing. Not so much as a cricket chirp. I had to call my editor and apologize that I couldn’t write the story because my “friend” was ghosting me. I didn’t count on the pay from my freelance work to make ends meet but it was a missed opportunity and payment.

About a year later I started seeing campaign signs for this lady.  She was running for office. As the election day drew closer I would sometimes see her, her husband or even her teenage kids out knocking on doors asking for votes.  What was I going to say if one of them approached me?

I decided an appropriate response would go something like. “Yes, I have seen Betty’s (not her real name) campaign signs. By the way, you (she) never got back with me about that article I was trying to write about how she always worked so hard supporting March of Dimes.  I would have thought she would welcome positive press.” I would wait for whatever excuse she or one of her family members would conjure up while sitting on the hot seat. If they continued to pursue having me verbally commit my vote to her I would tell them that her not returning my call to even say no made me concerned that she would not be a voice for the people she would represent in office.  I would not vote for her.

When the election rolled around I didn’t forget.

That scenario was only slightly nerve-racking when it played out in my imagination.  It was different when two days later someone rang my doorbell. It wasn’t her or her husband, but some relative that I didn’t know.  He quickly handed me a campaign card and said she would appreciate my vote. He didn’t ask if I would vote for her and I simply took the card.  

Later that same week I showed up at a small community event. I spotted Betty’s husband who was milling around asking people to vote for his wife.  I tried to casually stay out of his radar, but after awhile I turned around and there he was. He was more direct and after a few pleasantries he abruptly asked if he and Betty could count on my support.

I didn’t say yes, but I totally wimped out.  I tried asking about their triplets, if he was still going to the same gym, blah, blah.  I talked around the question and lost my nerve.  

I admit it. I am a chicken and at times have difficulty saying no. I didn’t promise my vote but I also didn’t actually say, “No, I will not vote for her.” I didn’t vote for her, end of story.

How do you handle being selectively ghosted?  Can you say no regardless of the circumstances? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Happy Labor Day, especially to all of you that will clock in at your work place without a day off. I appreciate you and hope that you at least earn time and a half for your loyalty.

Photo Credit to the following; Max Kleinen, Andy Tootell, Element 5, Gemma Evens and Patrick Tomasso and Heiko Haller

Let Us Pray…in school?

Pardon me a moment while I put on some protective gear. It may be needed once this post becomes public. Okay, now that I am suited up in Kevlar, tucked away in my safe room, and brandishing my weapons, let’s talk about prayer in school. (Next week I will move on from school related posts.)

I am a Catholic Christian, and as I have said before, make no apologies for that.  The reason that I add the, “no apology part,” is that I live in a place where being Christian is the norm but many don’t accept Catholics as being Christian.

Before I get around to my personal opinion on the matter let’s quickly review why prayer in public school is such a hot topic to both those that are opposed and those that are in favor.

Those in Favor Claim: *

 School prayer would allow students an opportunity to observe their religious beliefs during the school day.

Schools must do more than train children’s minds academically. They must also nurture their souls and reinforce the values taught at home and in the community.

A simple and voluntary school prayer does not amount to the government establishing a religion, any more than do other practices common in the U.S. such as the employment of Congressional chaplains or government recognition of holidays with religious significance and National Days of Prayer.

To ban school prayer diminishes the religious freedom of students who would like to pray.

Those Opposed Claim* 

School prayer violates the separation of church and state clause of the Constitution

School prayer is inherently coercive and cannot be implemented in a way that is truly voluntary.

Prayer in school is already legal. Students are already allowed to pray on a voluntary, non-disruptive way. 

The public school system is created for all students and supported by all taxpayers. It should therefore remain neutral on religious issues over which students and taxpayers will differ.

My Two Cents Worth

I honestly don’t understand why this topic is so prone to causing argument and division.  First of all, prayer has not been banned in public schools. I know of several schools in my area where voluntary, student initiated and student lead prayer circles are held on a regular basis.  Staff are present at these times because any student activity at school must be monitored for safety.  At one particular school, I know that staff often volunteer to be present during prayer circle time because they know that just being there demonstrates their support. Also note that monitoring students during prayer circle time is done on a voluntary basis; no teacher is assigned to this as a required duty.

Let’s talk about the part of the Constitution that mandates a “separation of church and state.”  Have you read that document recently? The Constitution does not address this topic. That comment  about separation of church and state was made by Thomas Jefferson is a letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists.

What the U.S. Constitution does say is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Sound familiar?  Our country was founded in large part because people wanted freedom to practice their faith even if it wasn’t totally in line with the reining government. They didn’t want the politics or politicians controlling their spiritual lives; I don’t either (Can I get an amen?).  The other part is that the government can’t prohibit the free exercise of religion. I never want that to change either (Can I get another amen?).

I know there are some people reading this that will claim that back when the school day was opened with a teacher led prayer we didn’t have all the problems we have today.  Mass shootings have become common, drug use is destroying lives more than any other time in history and people in general (not just kids) are more disengaged from one another.  Is the absence of teacher lead prayer related to the increase in our society’s problems or is it that fewer families. I say no, the two are not connected.

According to self reporting through the Gallup pole questions, 40% of Americans report regular church attendance. The actual percentage is below 20%.* It is no longer reasonable to expect public schools to reinforce the values that children are taught at home because in truth there is a significant number of parents that are better at lip service than they are about teaching morality and character to their little ones.

We are a diverse nation and not every home embraces the same moral compass.  Those that smirk and say, “Well, they should.” would quickly change their minds if it turned out that what was taught wasn’t in line with their own idea of what is scrupulous. 

Several years back I was talking with a group of educators and the topic of school prayer came up.  I tried to hold my tongue (I was only one of two Catholic Christians in a staff of almost 100) as they all seemed to agree that teacher lead prayer would make a positive difference in the students and thus the community and the country.

While I tried to refrain from sharing my opinion my mind wandered to the the time my son was young and he came to me very distraught.  I learned his friend Michael had informed him (according to Michael’s mother) that he would be going to Hell after he died as would his entire family.  Michael had been taught that Catholics worship idols and are not real Christians.  

I had to say something yet I didn’t want to offend these ladies; several I considered to be friends. I wanted to make them think.  I started by asking a clarifying question. “Are you saying that you think it would be good for us to start our day with teacher lead prayer?”  

The neighbor that had told her child, who in turn told my son that his family would spend eternity in Hell certainly wasn’t a person that I wanted to lead a prayer that my child would have to hear. This neighbor earned her paycheck teaching in the district schools.

My next question cut to the chase. “How would you feel about me leading the students in reciting the “Hail Mary” prayer?”  Their eyes grew wide and jaws fell slightly slack, followed by two seconds of pregnant silence. Finally, one person mumbled, “That would be different, you can’t do that.”  The bell rang and the school day started.  

I know of at least three of these banners displayed at private residences in my city and a couple more at local businesses. I love the message!

They never discussed the topic again in my presence, although I would venture to say they did revisit it in my absence.  I hope they thought more about my question. My intention wasn’t to divide, but to give reason to reflect on how respect should be granted to all, not just to those that pray the same way that we do.

I value prayer, it is an important part of my life.  I can pray anytime and anywhere that I want to communicate with my God. Sometimes that is when I am at church, other times I may be at home, driving my vehicle, at a restaurant or even in a school.  What’s amazing is that this privilege doesn’t discriminate; it is available to any American that chooses to enjoy it. The Constitution has it covered, let’s not mess with it.

Please share your thoughts (prayers are welcome too) in the comments or feel free to email me at May the peace of the Lord be with you.

*Information regarding the pros and cons of school prayer was gleaned from


Thanks to the following for providing photographs; Ben White, NEonbrand, David Beale, and yours truly