Learning from Foolish Mistakes

As the eagle catches the snake

As the eagle catches the snake

You got to be kidding me! Don’t tell me you made another stupid mistake?!  What is the matter with you? Didn’t you learn from the last time you did something this stupid?

Sounds familiar? If it does, you should keep in mind that we all make mistakes.  Edison made 1001 attempts by his own counting before he invented the light bulb, but thank God he kept trying, or we’d all be in the dark right now.  Walt Disney declared bankruptcy more than once, but if he hadn’t gone on, in spite of himself, Mickey would be starving in the street instead of living in that lavish palace of his.  Babe Ruth struck out many more times than he hit home runs, and everybody thought he was “bats” until he turned it towards his advantage (Sorry…couldn’t resist that one).  And you too will fail, again and again.  But the secret to success is forgiving yourself and to keep trying.

Some of these famous predecessors  have demonstrated that we only have failed, when we quit. If you cannot make a successful decision, then every aspect of your behavior is affected. Emotionally, you are hurting inside and not at all aware of how to stop that inner storm. Outside, you attempt to seem like everything is okay, and you are stable and calm, making your inner storm even greater, because you are living your own personal lie. Let me make an attempt to help you out of some of this storm.

Perhaps some of these suggestions will bring you enough calm to get back on the path of making successful decisions that can turn your life around. Before we even begin the decision process, you have to be aware of who you are and where you are going. Millions of people have no idea who they are or why they are here. So many of us wander in mental oblivion, making wrong decisions and watching our world crumble before our eyes, and not even knowing why.

If you need statistics, all you have to do is examine the number of divorces in your county (approximately 2 out of 3 marriages end in divorce), number of murders in the past six months, assaults by juvenile delinquents who are being brought up by confused parents who have no idea how to raise their children, theft and robberies, war, and I could go on and on, and so could you. And of course, the results reveal that all of this is unsuccessful decision making. A simple examination of who you are and why you are making wrong decisions could turn this troubling trend around in no time, and sometimes the solution is no further than a simple change of your mind.

You must match your goals to the decision you are making, determining first if your goal is worthwhile, and then why there are problems that need decisions because of the activity that is bringing you to your goals. And now you are ready to deal with the problem by going through the decision process. Expert decision makers can go through this process quickly and solve many problems, both theirs and others, and they become known for their wisdom. Too many people rely on impulse or intuition to make their decisions, which ultimately causes us to experience divorce, or delinquency, or war. And many besides just the decision makers live with the consequences.

If we walk before we run, if we slow ourselves down to determine the good and bad of what we are about to do, and why we are about to do it, then we can greatly improve our activity and the quality of our life. Now you are ready to begin the Decision-making Process. And just because you have done the research, you still have to supply the input as to what is better or worse for the decision-making process. You must honestly ask questions objectively and see where your research takes you.

Maybe you have a talent for math, but you still hate the idea of being an accountant. You have to pay attention to yourself and the advantages as well as the disadvantage to make your decisions properly. Sometimes a “best choice” is temporary, depending on the circumstances, and that means that the choice will only work for a period of time. There are very few permanent decisions. In fact, believing that a decision is permanent is usually fatal. Getting married and assuming marriage is going to be permanent no matter what, is almost always fatal. We can lose it if we don’t make the decision to refresh our marriage every day. Every new day of our job needs to be refreshing, and any relationship without fresh decisions is almost always fatal. There are short term goals and long term goals, and we must identify which is which, and how each applies to our situation, or situations, as the case may be. Each plan, each decision, is simply a starting point for living right, for making proper decisions, for making your life what you want it to be. Be creative: Search your options and make a decision. Change them as they need to be refreshed, and learn to live happy and in the wisdom of making right and proper decisions.

He who does not pay attention to his personal history and the lessons to be learned from his own experience will be forced to repeat it. And last but not least, learn from those who have gone before us, even if they have already passed away. They also went through a life of experiences, of trials and tribulations, often forced by the same experiences of having made the obvious mistakes.

Rita Kirkland Named Mentor of the Year

Rita Kirkland Named Mentor of the Year

Josilyn and Rita

Yulee, FL – On February 12, 2014 a Leadership Summit was held in Tallahassee for Take Stock in Children’s State Office. Rita Kirkland, a mentor in the Take Stock in Children Nassau program, and a resident of Hilliard, was honored at this gathering as the “2014 Mentor of the Year.” This award was presented to Rita after a very thorough selection process—hundreds and hundreds of mentors all across the state of Florida were nominated. However, the compelling testimonies of all five of Rita’s mentees helped tip the scales in her favor for this honor.

Chetney Woodburn, one of Rita’s students from Hilliard Middle-Senior High School, wrote, “It’s hard to explain how one person can affect your life so deeply in such a short amount of time. I am forever in awe of Rita’s compassion and serving nature.”

Since 2003, Rita has mentored five different students in the Take Stock program, including Chetney. She has helped pave individual paths of success for each one of them. Through her time with these mentees, she has been witness to many personal and academic growths and achievements.

Kenny and Rita

Kenny and Rita

Rita has provided guidance to her students to help them face the many obstacles and challenges in life that make it difficult for them to finish high school and/or go onto college. Rita focuses on teaching them life skills, which she says are as important as academics. Over the years, Rita’s relationship and trust with her students has acted as a platform to help them think through their actions and consequences and confidently accomplish their goals in school and life.

With kindness and compassion, Rita puts a personal touch to the advice and guidance she offers each mentee. For her current student, Josilyn Newman, she offered her direction with her dreams of Veterinary School by connecting her to the program, “Juss Horsing Around.” For Chetney Woodburn, Rita offered balance and stability as Chetney weathered tough personal experiences including her parent’s divorce. For her first mentee, Amanda Woods, Rita helped her grow from a child to a teenager by broadening her experiences through education and exposure to out-of-classroom learning models. For Kenny Zodel, Rita was more than just a mentor. She was the mother-like figure he needed in his life when he lost both of his parents suddenly in middle school. Rita still continues to be involved in Kenny’s life to this day.

Take Stock in Children Nassau is so proud of all of our mentors who dedicate their time and show compassion to all of the students in our program in an effort to help provide them the guidance and direction they need to succeed. If you would like more information on becoming a mentor in the Take Stock program, please call Sharon Collins, Executive Director at 904-548-4464.

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Targeting Innovations in Veteran Mental Health

Targeting Innovations in Veteran Mental HealthWashington DC – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced the first of multiple Industry Innovation Competitions in 2014, which identifies, tests, and evaluates promising innovations that enhance the accessibility and quality of mental health care and services delivered to Veterans.

“VA has established a track record as an innovative organization that welcomes new ideas,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This competition represents an important way for us to tap the significant pool of talent and expertise inside and outside of government to improve mental health care and services for our Nation’s Veterans, their families, and survivors.”

The innovations from this competition will add to VA’s already extensive mental health programs, which can be found at www.mentalhealth.va.gov.

The competition is part of the VA Center for Innovation (VACI), a department-wide program that seeks the most promising innovations from employees, the private sector, non-profits, and academia to increase Veterans’ access to VA services, improve the quality of services delivered, enhance the performance of VA operations, and reduce or control the cost of delivering those services.

“With this competition we are focused on challenges that affect a population much larger than our Veterans; these are challenges facing our entire nation as we rethink our approaches to mental health care and services,” said Patrick Littlefield, Acting Director, VA Center for Innovation. “We anticipate these efforts will benefit a very large community of providers and customers. Here at VA, we continue to be focused on bringing to bear the best-of-breed solutions to serve our Veterans and their mentally healthy futures.”

This Industry Innovation Competition seeks creative solutions in three areas of significant importance to VA. Public and private companies, entrepreneurs, universities and non-profits are encouraged to propose new ways to respond to Veteran mental health challenges specific to the topics:
-Upstream Suicide Intervention
-Improving Veterans Receptivity to Mental Health Care to Promote Treatment, Engagement, and Participation
-Innovative Methods of Incentivizing Behavior to Improve Mental Wellness

These topics and processes are detailed in the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) and can be found at www.fbo.gov (RFP No. VA118-14-R-0077) and at: www.innovation.va.gov/.

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More Pitfalls in the English Language

We pump what our competition talk - Louis

While discussing the virtues of horse shit (I use the word “shit” as long as I don’t say it out loud, can I?), one morning over coffee, I mused once again how moronically complicated and confusing the English language can be. Horse dodo is great fertilizer but somehow the word fertilizer seems inappropriate in transferring a mental picture. Germanic languages use the word “mest” for excrements, which somehow just seems to sound much more in line with the fertilizing qualities of shit. When looking for the word ‘excrement’ the dictionary explains that it pertains to waste, expelled from the body after digestion. Like any good farmer knows, “shit is great fertilizer”. It makes plants and trees grow healthy and big. The redeeming quality of shit is that in nature it rebuilds in a continuous cycle. It’s one of nature’s natural growth enhancers.
But apparently in our language and culture it has been degraded to waste.

So I started thinking about all the bleeps I hear these days on TV when an anchor or actor says ‘SHIT’, because somehow this is considered a curse word. I hear young parent whisper ‘S  H   I   T’ so their offspring does not pick up a word associated for some incredibly moronic reason with cursing. Living on the beach I see people walking their dogs, which eventually bent down in a strained position and relief themselves. The next thing I see is plastic bags coming out of pockets and the shit is carefully scooped into the bag to be discarded in containers at the respective beach entrances. Yes this is considerate behavior when it comes to fellow beach goers. Problem again is that something potentially positive for a healthy environment, ends up in plastic, which is incredibly dangerous for the environment.

Obviously it’s not the language’s fault that humans turn words into meanings they were never intended for. I remember the looks I got the first time I announced here in the States that I was going to take a douche. Considering that English is a derivative language, the word douche should never have been interpreted as dealing with cleanliness of female private parts. The word comes from the Latin word duction-, ductio means of conveying water, from ducere to lead, a water pipe or conduit. In Italian as in most other European languages, douche means SHOWER! I accuse English to be a lazy language, that picks from many other languages, often without properly researching the cultural meaning and thus interpreting loosely.

Here are some other enigmas put forward by the English language, that at some time may or may not become violations of etiquette by the language police.
Homographs are words with the same spelling but with more than one meaning. And then there is the ultimate complication when a homograph is also pronounced differently, which is called a heteronym. Here are some examples that fit either one or both in some weird combination:
•    The bandage was wound around the wound.
•    The farm was used to produce produce.
•    The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
•    We must polish the Polish furniture.
•    He could lead if he would get the lead out.
•    The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
•    Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
•    A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
•    When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
•    I did not object to the object.
•    Can you bank on the Bank you keep your accounts with?

Just saying…

Language Humor

Now humor is always a great language inspiration as you can read from the following examples of business signs:

Sign over a gynecologist’s office:
“Dr. Jones, at your cervix.”
**************************
In a podiatrist’s office:
“Time wounds all heels.”
**************************
On a septic tank truck:
Yesterday’s Meals on Wheels
**************************
At an optometrist’s office:
“If you don’t see what you’re looking for,
you’ve come to the right place.”
**************************
On a plumber’s truck:
“We repair what your husband fixed.”
**************************
On another plumber’s truck:
“Don’t sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.”
**************************
At a tire shop in Milwaukee:
“Invite us to your next blowout.”
**************************
On an electrician’s truck:
“Let us remove your shorts.”
**************************
In a non-smoking area:
“If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action.”
**************************
On a maternity room door:
“Push. Push. Push.”
**************************
At a car dealership:
“The best way to get back on your feet—miss a car payment.”
**************************
Outside a muffler shop:
“No appointment necessary. We hear you coming.”
**************************
In a veterinarian’s waiting room:
“Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!”
**************************
At the electric company:
“We would be delighted if you send in your payment.
However, if you don’t, you will be.”
**************************
In a restaurant window:
“Don’t stand there and be hungry;
come on in and get fed up.”
**************************
In the front yard of a funeral home:
“Drive carefully. We’ll wait.”
**************************
And don’t forget the sign at a
Chicago radiator shop:
“Best place in town to take a leak.”
**************************
And the best one for last
Sign on the back of another septic tank truck:
“Caution—This Truck is full of political promises”

or as a sceptic truck down in beautiful St.Maartin reads on both sides:
“We pump what our competition talk.

Are You a Fan of In God We Trust

Are You a Fan of In God We TrustThere has been a lot of legal talk in the media lately about removing In God we Trust from post offices, and even our United States currency, but there is a movement for payback

for the Texas post offices that were force to take dow their small posters with the impassioned quote. The idea was sent to me after a friend heard the idea on the radio.

Simply write, In God We Trust, on the back of your envelopes.

After all, that’s our National Motto and it is on all of the money we use to buy those stamps that support post offices!

If you want to make an effort to take back our nation from all the people who think that anything that offends them should be removed, well, now is your chance.

Perhaps you can put it on facebook, have a rubber stamp made, add the quote to your email signature, too.

If the majority of Americans believe in God, why on earth is there such a mess about saying, “In God We Trust”?

If God is on our money and in our Pledge of Allegiance, then the next time we “stand up” for our country’s anthem, the rest of you all can just sit the Hell back down and shut up!

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Las Vegas: Age and Skill Usually Beats Youthful Arrogance

Boomer Humor delivered by deNiro,Douglas,Morgan and Kline

I actually often think that I’m a 25 year old mind trapped in a 63 year old body. And the line coming from Michael Douglas in the feelgood funny movie Las Vegas sounded something like: “I went to bed last night and was 19 and woke up 70 this morning.”

If you’re a boomer and haven’t seen the movie yet with co-stars Robert de Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and amazingly well voiced Mary Steenburgen, you should rent it. Not because it’s so amazingly acted, or the aging topics at hand have not been covered a thousand times before, but because it is a feel good movie for baby boomers who are getting squeezed into society’s collection bin of “used to be”. That’s why I smiled when the following dog tale crossed my screen as a lesson I would like to share with you.

Smart Old Dog Tale

One day an old German Shepherd forgetting his age, started chasing rabbits and before long, discovered he was lost. Wandering about, he became aware of a young panther heading rapidly in his direction with the clear intention of having lunch.
The old German Shepherd thought, “Uh oh! I’m in deep trouble now!”

Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settled down to chew on them with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther was about to leap, the old German Shepherd exclaimed, “Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder if there are any more around here?”

Hearing this, the young panther halted his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror came over him, and he rapidly slunk away into the trees.
“Whew!” said the panther, “That was close! That old German Shepherd nearly had me!”

Meanwhile, a squirrel, who had watched the whole scene from a nearby tree, figured he could put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he went to spill the beans and strike a deal. The young panther was furious at being made a fool of and said, “Here, squirrel, hop on my back and watch what I do to that conniving canine!”

Once again, the old German Shepherd saw the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thought, “Oh shit, what am I going to do now?” Yet instead of running, the dog sat down with his back to his attacker and pretended he hadn’t seen them yet. And when they get close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd said…

“Where the hell is that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!”

Don’t mess with the old dogs! Age and skill for now will still overcome youth.

Everyone is Afraid of Something

Searchamelia inspirational

What is your biggest Fear?

We all fear something, even though sometimes exactly what we’re afraid of, stays in hiding, because we live in a society that manages to paint over the emotions of fear. We also seem to fear the anticipation of the unknown, like the current snow weather alert here in North Florida, that keeps thousands in house because of fear to drive.

Look at that apparently self-assured man in a nice suit going to work.  And see that mom struggling to keep her four kids nearby so they don’t get lost?  And this may surprise you, but the same fears that you felt fall upon you this morning as you were getting dressed are the same fears inside these people about to face the challenges of the day.

We are all afraid of something, and most of the time, it is something that hides in the dark crevices of our mind of which we normally never reveal. But the fact is, most of us are afraid daily of many things. People you may meet on a daily basis are far more afraid of life and its personal dangers than what you would presume, and you would be very surprised if you knew what it was that plagues them. Would you be surprised to know that the greatest fear is Public Speaking? And that most everybody is afraid of the dark?

We all have things we fear. And when that fear takes over, it is demoralizing, paralyzing, and waiting for us to fail. Fear has kept us from so many of our successes, and to this day causes many to not see what they could enjoy if they were not afraid. And usually their greatest fear is failure. So many dreams and plans have been spoiled or not even ventured simply because we are afraid to get out there and find or even build whatever it takes to make our dreams come true. It destroys our own security and distinctly refuses to allow us the experience of going into newfound places and/or the meeting of new people with ideas different from our own.

Fantastic opportunities available to all of us get destroyed or even ignored simply because we have developed a fear, sometimes because of our experience, or our disappointment, or because we have been lied to, cheated, or just ignored.

Fear paralyzes our movement, and certainly kills our desire to try something new. And what is even worse, somebody takes the opportunity that you had offered to you because you refused to go into that area and try it yourself because you were afraid. But the problem of your fear doesn’t just fade with the loss of opportunity. It leaves residuals that you have not been prepared to deal with, like rejection and anger and bitterness. You are mad at yourself, and sometimes you even turn that anger on to the rest of the world, making you angry with the world and the way it has treated you. Or sometimes you will turn everything inward, angry and bitter, and refusing to leave the house or venture in a new opportunity that just might bring you more happiness, you instead sit in your anger and disappointment, and it shows in your future endeavors. You refuse it because it’s risky, or might hurt you in some way. You would rather stay safe and rejected, often that very rejection coming from yourself.

Often this path is the path that we most choose, a life without risk, a path of security. You hate the job, but you will stay there for 40 years because they offer a retirement plan that you can use in your final years, if you reach that stage. You never meet the man or woman of your dreams because you refuse to experience the rejection of talking to some one new. The levels of happiness you reach are slight, but at least you ponder they are without risk. So what does it take to overcome such fear and to make yourself a success?

Well, one suggestion would be to search your inner heart, the being in the part of you that no one else knows, and you learn whatever it is that you dream and really want. And if the dream is healthy and meaningful, and could make you happy, then you make it come true, no matter what the risk. You move in directions that only appear when you bring your dream into existence, and you follow those road maps within you until you get some kind of success.

Afraid to take the steps? Then start with some small ones. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Ask for advice as you carefully try to get closer to whatever dreams you have. And when you have finally accomplished what you want, when you have finally seen some success, whether it be in a significant relationship, or the way you raise your kids, or your dream job, or even just your dream vacation, you will find that a small success burns into your life a bigger one, and the bigger they get, the more success you will experience. Don’t let fear paralyze you.

Dream, and then make it happen. The risk will be worth it. And remember, you’re not the only one that is afraid: We all are afraid.

(Get his newest book, “If Life Is A Grocery Store, I Need Better Coupons!” by Dr. Keith Johnson at Amazon.com)

Council on Aging Fix It Volunteers at Your Service

Searchamelia: Nassau County Council on Aging Fix It Volunteers

COA Volunteers Suggest Calling them long before this occurs

Here on Amelia Island and Nassau County Florida, we all know of the 5 outreach programs offered to the senior community by the Council on Aging. From transportation services and meals on wheels to Adult Day Healthcare, in-home services and 2 senior centers, COA serves the needs of seniors in this county for more than 40 years.

The Fix It Volunteers is a “new” service that assist seniors with repair issues in their homeplace.

One of Nassau County’s many charms is the sense of rustic Florida with all the nature that comes with it. Sometimes the natural world gets a bit too close, however. Homeowners all over Nassau County are all too familiar with raccoons and possums, and the occasional loud bump as tree limbs or heavy branches hit the roof during storms. But what happens when you’re an elderly person, living alone, and a heavy tree branch lands on the roof?   Unfortunately, there are often no immediate symptoms and soon it’s forgotten.  Time and weather may then become the enemy.

Seniors throughout the county have this happen to their homes regularly.  If there’s no damage to the roof, the branch is just a nuisance. However, if the limb or branch rips a shingle or punctures the roof underlayment, this leads to a cascading deterioration of the home.

Bart Cormier, a Council on Aging of Nassau County (COA) Fix it volunteer, says little roof problems will grow into large expensive roof problems over time.
“The cost of replacing a few shingles or even a small segment of a roof pales in comparison to the many thousands it would take to re-roof a home and perform interior restoration.” he says.

“When I get a call to an elderly person’s home where there is a complaint of water leaks from the roof, I hope to make a small roof repair, but too often the problem has festered far too long, and there’s severe water damage manifested in wood rot and interior mold.  That’s when the WHOLE roof needs to be replaced along with an interior restoration!” he explains. “I went to one seniors’ home and the roof was literally rotted all the way through with extensive damage to both the attic area and the interior ceilings due to repeated rain storms and animal infestations,” Cormier explained, “It severely limits our ability to help them”.

The Council on Aging wants to spread the word that if you are a senior who needs help in any number of areas, give them a call (904) 261-0701. The agency has lots of volunteers with different skill-sets who want to help out in a variety of ways.  Most importantly, the COA asks that you become vigilant of things that happen during storms affecting your roof.  Also, be sure to alert your neighbors if you see something they might have missed, such as a large fallen limb.

The COA Fix it volunteers continue to reach out and assist as many seniors as time and budgets allow.  Unfortunately, the scope of the repairs that the COA Fix-it volunteers can do is mostly limited to common handyman skills, as volunteers may have no professional repair skills beyond the basics, limited tools, and general capabilities of typical Do-It-Yourself (DIY) homeowners.

However, they are driven with a willingness to make a difference, and a sincere desire to keep the seniors living in a safe dwelling.
“Your day isn’t close to perfect unless you can help someone that you know cannot pay you back. I really subscribe to that,” Cormier says.

Put the Glass Down As Often as You Can

When the glass runs over

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question.

Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
The answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
Then she said, “The absolute weight doesn’t really matter. What does however, is how long I can hold it.
If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem.
If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm.
If I hold it for several hours, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. And holding it for a day will probably send me to my grave.

In any of these time frames, the weight of the glass doesn’t change; yet the longer I hold it, the heavier it will become.” (I remember growing up that mom had us hold a plastic glass or carafe with water, arm stretched out, if any of her five sons became to full of himself!)

The psychologist continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a short while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them for hours, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything. Think about them all day long or for days on end and you find yourself on a shortcut to eternity. Remember to put the glass down.”

I was thinking about the power of stress this afternoon after I read a true to form passage on religious eternity from author, polemicist, debater, and journalist Christopher Hitchins, who departed us at age 62 in 2011 and I wondered if he had found the truth about the religious premise he projected during his life, that at one point in time you get tapped on the shoulder and someone says: The Party is over. Worse yet, the party is going on but you have to leave. The party is going on without you.
He wondered if that could be what upsets people most about their anticipated demise; the fact that the party goes on.
I have promised myself from here on on to put the glass down more often.

There is Great Value in Pacing Yourself

The depth of time disappears in spiral circles

The depth of time disappears in clockwise spiral circles

I sit inside my rocker and feel wind upon my face,

I know within an hour I begin a hectic pace

of problems and contentions, of anger and array,

of the many personalities presented to me every day.

Yet now the time is peaceful, the presence is so dark.

Soon upon my very crevice a new days’ sun will embark.

My mind prepares for battle; My heart seeks to try the stretch,

my talents coil in awareness, conflicting duties will now fetch.

I ponder dreams forgotten, I seek to bury past

in a present touch of whirlwind where my life has now been cast.

Yet I cannot see the tempest, and I do not feel the fates

of whirlwind opposing virtue, of the conflict at the gates,

for I feel a peace within me, a very calming of the soul,

even with the stroking awareness that today’s life will take its toll,

for I do not feel alone in this battle and this strife,

but a calling, reason, purpose, of a meaning to this life.

I am asked to heed and listen, to make a difference in this world,

to overcome my own desires and slow troubles yet unfurled.

Within a couple hours I will take the chains of right

and shackle many problems that right now are out of sight.

Already in my mind are my prayers that beg for strength,

for courage, hope and victory, when fear seems so at length.

Will I make the right decisions? Will I stand in my own way?

Will I face the tribulation? Am I up to facing the frey?

But for now the tempest is stilled. At the present I can see

that nature still is willing to offer all of its’ best to me,

for I see a bird fly high above, a squirrel climbs up a tree,

A duck waddles up. I give her some bread. Somehow she understands me.

And the wind speaks to my heart as it rustles through the trees,

and says, “Be still for this moment. The best is yet to be.”

There is no doubt that in many moments I face conflict galore,

where people bring their troubles, and solving them becomes our chore.

But for the minute that I sit here I see calm on God’s Great Earth,

and I know that what I feel right now is calm and peace and worth.

We all are taken care of, our problems are so minute.

Our plans so minscule, compared to the grass growing under foot.

Such a giant universe, so filled with love and care,

intricately planned, such a privilege just to be here.

And life is oh so short on this earth that we call home.

To get lost in our silly problems is to make our purpose roam.

So I sit here in my rocker knowing soon I face the day,

but for now I rest and feel the wind and let nature have her say.

I will not be here long; I now know to love my presence

in a universe well planned and brought to give me all some essence

of a thankful being with one more day to offer up a prayer

of thanks and love and service; For now I rock here in my chair.

(Watch FOCUS ON JACKSONVILLE hosted by Dr. Keith Johnson on COMCAST TV Channel 99 every Wednesday at 5:30 PM)

My Favorite January Poem

Time for a Change

With all the diet and exercise hype going around I’d like to pass along a poem, which is a favorite of mine. It was obviously written by a woman, but there is a male version hidden somewhere in there between the lines.

I too have been trying to recover from our annual holiday eating experience and a year of too many hollow excuses for not doing what was supposed to have been done. Enjoy

A January Poem
‘Twas the month after Christmas, and all through the house
Nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.
The cookies I’d nibbled, the eggnog I’d taste
At the holiday parties had gone to my waist.
When I got on the scale there arose such a number!
When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber),
I’d remember the marvelous meals I’d prepared,
The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rared.
The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese,
And the way that I’d not said “No thank you, please.”
As I dressed myself in my husband’s old shirt
And prepared once again to do battle with dirt,
I said to myself, as I only can,
“You can’t spend a winter disguised as a man!”
So away with the last of the sour cream dip.
Get rid of the fruitcake, every cracker and chip.
Every last bit of food that I like must be banished
‘Till all the additional ounces have vanished.
I won’t have a cookie, not even a lick.
I’ll want only to chew on a long celery stick.
I won’t have hot biscuits, or corn bread or pie.
I’ll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.
I’m hungry, I’m lonesome, and life is a bore,
But isn’t that just what January’s for?
Unable to giggle, no longer a riot.
Happy New Year to all and to all a good diet.
PS Sometimes the Animal Wins!!!

Being Kind Does Not Cost a Penny

For starters, here is an idea list for Acts of Kindness

The teacher went to the board at the front of the room and wrote the question, “What does it mean to be kind?” The assignment then given by the teacher was for each student to write a short essay on the question. As the students began to think and then write, I noticed one little girl continued to think, and she seemed to be running out of time to write. I also noticed the expression on her face was anything but pleasant.

Finally that same little girl raised her hand, still having written nothing. The teacher acknowledged her raised hand, anticipating that perhaps the little girl wanted to be excused to use the rest room. Maybe she wasn’t feeling well. But instead, the little girl asked, “What does kind mean?” Taken aback a bit by the innocence of the question, the teacher replied, “Well, to be kind is to help someone, often without being asked to help, to meet a need, to offer some kind of hope when there is none.” I could tell that even in the answer that the teacher had offered, she wasn’t sure her comments were really sufficient to answering the question. The little girl retorted with, “I don’t understand.”  The teacher replied: “Do you mean, you don’t understand the question, or you don’t understand my answer.”

I wasn’t certain whether her attempt was to be either sarcastic or disrespectful, but as I watched the little girl, I began to realize she really was asking a sincere question, and responding honestly. “Both!” the little girl answered loudly. The girl was so insistent that she didn’t understand the word “kind” that she never did write anything on her paper while I was there. And a discussion with the teacher later reassured me that the little girl really didn’t understand what the word “kind” meant, especially in a pragmatic sense.

Could it be that this young lady in the sixth grade had never encountered an act of kindness? And if she had never encountered such an act, how could she return what she had never been offered? How does one learn kindness? I would expect first and foremost kindness must be shown to those who would learn it.

Kindness is not just something that you do, it is something you offer after you have been taught, and I would presuppose mostly by example, found in the attitude of someone whop is truly kind in heart and intention. And since this little girl did not understand the definition of kindness, nor could she come up with anything to write about kindness on her school assignments, I would suppose that the parents were evidently not terribly kind, and certainly not teaching their children the meaning of kindness, which probably comes most often by example.

When was the last time you went out of your way to be kind to someone less fortunate than yourself? Who has learned the act of kindness from your example? Do you know what it means to be kind? Have you made certain that your children understand the meaning of kindness? What a different world this would be if everyone were kind.

It would seem to me that in all things we are required more than anything else to be kind first. No matter how badly someone hurts you or how offended by someone you might be, isn’t the wisest road of action always to be kind first, even in dealing with some of the worst situations. So many people are wounded, hurting, not knowing why life has treated them the way it does, and only seek a kind word from someone who can ease some of the pain.

No matter how offensive someone is, the best defense is always kindness. Being kind is not always easy, but it is never put under repute, as is anger and fear and hostility. “Be ye kind, one to another.” Is not just a suggestion. It is a command. And in doing so, we give an example to those who are watching us that often reverberates into their life and action, simply because they first saw the kindness coming from you.

Kindness is contagious.  Be kind, and in showing kindness, you bring an example that is followed by many who saw your kindness, and they too begin to share the kindness that they have seen you activate. And the activation of kindness can stop wars.
“Love is Kind.” (I Corinthians 13:4)

Better Decisions for a New Year

Prepare yourself to make better decisions in 2014

Welcome, Willkommen, Bienvenu 2014.  Never thought you would make it, but here we are.  And it’s time for better decisions for a New Year!

Millions of people have no idea who they are or why they are here. So many of us wander in mental oblivion, making wrong decisions and watching our world crumble before our eyes, and not even knowing why. If you need statistics, all you have to do is examine the number of divorces in your county (approximately 2 out of 3 marriages end in divorce), number of murders in the past six months, assaults by juvenile delinquents who are being brought up by confused parents who have no idea how to raise their children, theft and robberies, war, and I could go on and on, and so could you. No one who gets married expects a divorce.  No one who gives birth expects their child to be a delinquent.  So what is the problem?  It is the refusal through trial and error to make decisions and learn from our wrong decisions how to make and perform the right choice.  And of course, the results reveal that all of this is unsuccessful decision making. A simple examination of who you are and why you are making wrong decisions could turn this troubling trend around in no time, and sometimes the solution is no further than a simple change of your mind.

One of our biggest problems is that we assume everything is going to turn out all right without any planning or making of definite decisions that affect our future and the future of those who depend on us.  The essence of Critical Living is making decisions, and too many of us think that we can avoid these decisions, simply because we do not have the courage to say “Yes” or “No.”  It’s time for us to step up to the plate and take our personal swing at the ball.

Before you even begin to wrestle with the process of making successful decisions, you need to understand your goals. What do you want to accomplish? Where are you trying to go? It is your goal that will determine your behavior, and if your goal is wrong, is it possible that you need to change your goal? And you spend your time and your life at the place that you have targeted as a goal.

If your goal is to rob a bank, (don’t be stupid!) you may spend a lot of time at that bank studying the activity so you know how to rob it. If your desire is to get a college degree, you will spend a lot of time at the college getting the credits that make it possible to get your degree. If your goal is to get a significant other, you will spend time getting to know the person in which you find an interest. Whatever your goal determines your behavior. If you have not clarified your goal, then you are wandering in a world of personal emptiness, uncertain what target you are supposed to hit.  And like a boat without a rudder, you wander in a mindless sea.  At least if you made a wrong decision, you could learn from it and get direction.  Most of us have no personal direction.  Go to work; go home; eat supper; watch TV; go to bed.  No goals, no reason to live.  If you don’t make a comprehensive plan to make more money than you are making right now, you will make the same amount or less than what you are presently making.

Don’t you want to do better next year?  Don’t you need a plan?

You must match your goals to the decision you are making, determining first if your goal is worthwhile, and then why there are problems that need decisions because of the activity that is bringing you to your goals. And now you are ready to deal with the problem by going through the decision process.  Expert decision makers can go through this process quickly and solve many problems, both theirs and others, and they become known for their wisdom. Too many people rely on impulse or intuition to make their decisions, which ultimately causes us to experience divorce, or delinquency, or war. And many besides just the decision makers live with the consequences. If we walk before we run, if we slow ourselves down to determine the good and bad of what we are about to do, and why we are about to do it, then we can greatly improve our activity and the quality of our life. Now you are ready to begin the Decision-making Process.

What do you want to do, and why is it causing you problems? Why is there a decision necessary, and what methods are you going to take to get there? Do you want a significant other? Do you want more romance? Do you want a close friendship, or more social life? Are you unhappy with your job? Would a raise in pay solve that problem, and if you determine that such is the case, what are you doing to make certain you deserve a raise? Are you using your talents, and why or why not? Where is your passion? Where are you unhappy and why do you need to make a decision in the first place? These basic questions are all decisions that must be made in the midst of problems that you face, and if you are not asking these questions, you are riding on your impulse alone, and though that may work sometimes, it will more often make you perplexed and frustrated. There are many ways to define a problem that you probably have not ventured, and the more specific you become about the problem, the more accurate you will be in making a proper decision to eliminate the problem.

And part of your success is based in the morality of the decision you are trying to make.  Experience has probably already told you that there is always more than one way to solve a problem, and not all of these routes are right or healthy. If you are poor, there are many ways that you can try to get rich, but some of the decisions many people make to get their newfound money are neither healthy nor morally right. And one of the greatest ways to help you make a decision is to study your own passions and desires, and to understand where your talents want to take you. If you follow your passion, you will be doing what you want, and what your own life is saying to your psyche. College Students that come to me wanting to know what College Major they should study to get a degree always hear me ask the most important question: “What do your talents tell you about yourself?” If you are poor in math, you shouldn’t be an accountant. If you have an excellent singing voice, and you enjoy singing, you should consider making a living with your talent, whatever it is.

Are you making a properly balanced choice that will guide your life because you are educated in your possible solutions, or are you just taking a guess and a gamble and seeing what happens? If I ask you, “What are your talents?” do you have an educated answer? If there is a career that you want to pursue, do you know what education is required so that you can get that career? If as a parent you are having trouble raising your child, have you ever gone to a seminar on Parent-training skills? Are you aware of the education available to help you become a better parent? These solutions need to be researched. If you are not doing your homework, you’re going to fail the test of life.

And just because you have done the research, you still have to supply the input as to what is better or worse for the decision-making process. You must honestly ask questions objectively and see where your research takes you. Maybe you have a talent for math, but you still hate the idea of being an accountant. You have to pay attention to yourself and the advantages as well as the personal disadvantages to make your decisions properly.

Sometimes even a “best choice” is temporary, depending on the circumstances, and that means that the choice will only work for a period of time. There are very few permanent decisions. In fact, believing that a decision is permanent is usually fatal. Getting married and assuming marriage is going to be permanent no matter what is almost always fatal. We can lose it if we don’t make the decision to refresh our marriage every day. Every new day of our job needs to be refreshing, and any relationship without fresh decisions is almost always fatal.

There are short term goals and long term goals, and we must identify which is which, and how each applies to our situation, or situations, as the case may be. Each plan, each decision, is simply a starting point for living right, for making proper decisions, for making your life what you want it to be.

Be creative: Search your options and make a decision. Change them as they need to be refreshed, and learn to live happy and in the wisdom of making right and proper decisions.
And have a great new year.

Japanese Rice Art

Honoring your heroes

Honoring the Heroes of the Past

The dictionaries are not very precise when it comes to formulating a clear description for art and that is probably smart as art is an expression in the eye of the beholder and definitions for the word are as as diverse as the expressions.

Art does not necessarily have to be equated with time or ages. These days and probably for all of human history, Art is often seasonal or even momentary. We cannot question the art of the coffee shop barista when he or she paints a portrait in the foam of your cappuccino. Even though the enjoyment is very personal and consumed in a matter of minutes.

I have admired many artforms over the course of 50 years, and always found it fabulously special when it concerned a fine-tuned study of cooperation between nature and man. A balance of timing, talent and precision.

Look at these Japanese rice fields and how they transform over the period of one harvest season. When the farmers are planting the rice plants, nothing unusual shows. But as the growing season moves forward, an incredible spectacle of beauty unfolds on a magnificent scale, as the fields turn into Rembrandts and van Goghs of Japanese culture and heritage.

But these artists don’t use paint or toners; they use rice plants.

For thousands of years already Japanese Rice farmers plant various rice specimen, carefully adhering to huge scale images, unveiling enormous paintings by the time harvest season comes around.
Nourishment for mind and body, a true human accomplishment.

Why Am I Doing This?

New York Cab driver takes old lady around town

A last ride around the city

I have been writing for the better part of  40 years and in the past fifteen, most of my writing involved deadlines. So about 6 months ago my inner rebel became agitated with a constantly increasing workload, topped off with deadlines that were slowly strangling my creativity resulting in bouts of performance anxiety.

Consequently I have decided to henceforth studiously avoid hard deadlines, since I can’t seem to wrestle myself loose from the joy of being involved in many different areas of life. Now please don’t get me wrong: I love writing and I love’d taking this little website that was meant as a little tribute to the island to a previous readership that toppled 2 million visitors a months in its heyday.

I loved and love my regular correspondence and interactions with so many dear readers from around the globe. Daily I answer emails about my take on Greece being in charge of the European Union for the next year, what’s happening in Buenos Aires where they are starting to pay the price again of 70 years of ruling by the Peronistas and how Washington is rapidly completing its agenda to turn this country socialist. The signs were on the wall years ago when I started writing and they are just becoming a bit clearer year after year. “Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be “;  Doris Day sang it in 1956 I believe. I took me 50 years to learn that this is different than what we mean today with “it is what it is”.

So over the holidays I came to the conclusion that my desired lifestyle scenario to dedicate as much of the rest of my life as possible to my family and searching for passions, playing music, travel and reading,…..serious deadlines could no longer be in the picture.

And then…. I read this story about a New York cabby, sent to me by a friend in England, with whom I have an ongoing online debate/discussion about the loss of civility, friendliness, courtesies, respect and compassion, and now I know…….. I Can’t Quit writing and sharing the human endeavor, the shortcomings and the victories. It’s where humanity is born….

A NYC Taxi driver wrote:
I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be the last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked..
‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.
There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’
‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’
‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..
‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice. ‘The doctor says I don’t have very long.’

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said: ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now’.
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.
Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.
‘Nothing,’ I said
‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.
‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’
I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life..

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.
But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Stories like these hit me square in the chest every time I think we are losing our grip on life’s purpose. They show that not all is lost; that not all is self serving greed. This is just one story of the handful or more I get every day in my inbox, that can be shared without feeling like deadlines and commitments, but as healing contributions to our journey.

SearchAmelia may be less of a news website with confrontational perspectives from here on, but it will share stories and show pictures that confirm the everyday uniqueness of the human experience, whether humorous, opinioned or sad.

Happy New Year

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