WHERE DID IT ALL COME FROM?

These last few days have been filled with sadness as we have been mourning the loss of Margie’s mother Ruthanne. I have always been someone who searches for the light in the darkness. There is no more difficult time to do this than when we lose somebody who means so much. If there is anything my faith has taught me is that there is always something to be grateful for.

Of course we would all very much like to have Ruthanne back to hear her sing one more song, laugh one more time with us or even just to put things in perspective the way only she could do. Thankfully we have lots of videos, pictures and memories where those moments will live on. In addition to the great lessons in life that she has left behind, there is another gift I have discovered in the midst of this somber time.

While making arrangements for the celebration of life planned for Ruthanne, there were generations worth of pictures to sift through. I am a big fan of history to begin with, but being able to see first hand the family history of the woman I love is something truly special. Of course we would love to have Margie’s mom present to go through these photos with us, especially to enlighten us as to who some of the less familiar faces may be. Yet, it is through her passing that the gift of discovery and in some cases revelation of many family facts and stories.

On a more personal note, I could not be more grateful and excited to learn more about where the love of my life came from and the people, places and events that help shape her into the amazing woman she is today. Plus, adorable baby pictures like the one above are hard to pass up. I was honored to get to know her mother and see how Margie learned a lot of the traits that make her the woman I love. I am also humbled to be the man she chose to have by her side as she goes through with what is the most difficult time of her life. It is my sincere hope that the knowledge I am gaining by listening to the stories (and Storys) and looking at the pictures will help provide me with more and better ways to help provide her the love she needs as her heart makes the long journey towards healing.

IT IS REALLY THAT SIMPLE

For most of us, despite our differences, would fit into these categories. Ironically, often we search until we can find something that makes a person different from us. It is almost as if saying, “That person is a lot like me.” Somehow diminishes either one of you. When we understand that we all share the same basic needs and wants, judgment and hatred become all but impossible.

If you are a person who loves others and does not want to harm them, and reading a blog like this it would be a safe assumption you are, then it would serve you well to surround yourself with other like-minded individuals. Does it really matter where on this planet they are from? By writing these posts I have met and befriended many other like-minded souls from over 100 different countries. They have brought not only a unique perspective, but a great deal of joy to my life. Does it really matter what color they are? I am blessed enough to have friends of every race. Not only does it include many great and loving people, but our pictures together are a lot more colorful. Politics? Ooh…that is a good one. Quite often we can almost be at each others throats because of different ways to address the same problem. Instead we should focus on the fact that we are both trying to solve the same problem. Maybe their solution takes into account something we overlooked? Maybe a combination of both solutions would work the best? We will never get to that point if we busy ourselves with such low level minutia such as what political party is the correct one.

Even my wonderful friend Nick who sent me this picture, and by doing so inspired this post, has different opinions than me on a wide array of different subjects. Do you know what? That is great to me. Often when we talk he will bring to my attention a way of looking at things I had not considered. Even on subjects where we just ‘agree to disagree’ we still have the same respect and admiration for each other. Not only is it ok with us that we are different in some regards, but it is quite cool that we are also the same in many ways. It is that similarity that prompted him to share the above picture with me and allowed me to share it with you.

Today, celebrate the fact we are all a little different, and when it comes down to the core of who we are, most of us are really the same. Both of those should be reasons to celebrate with your fellow humans.

ARE YOU AN ANGEL?

When I first saw this picture I thought to myself, “An angel, really?” After a few moments of contemplation, my thoughts changed. How do we view angels? As an entity that looks over us from above, guiding our actions, encouraging us and keeping us safe. How do we define a great friend? Someone who stays by our side, giving us advice, encouraging us and looking out for us. Other than the geographical location they are very similar.

It has me taking a more venerable look at several of my friends. Unlike the ethereal beings to which I am drawing a comparison, friends make mistakes. Even the best friend can have a bad day. Perhaps they take their frustrations of the day out on us because they feel safe and comfortable in our presence? They may put their needs ahead of ours. They may treat us harshly or say something hurtful either by accident or because they have succumb to their emotions.

Does this mean friends are not human angels? Not at all. Through those lessons, if we truly love our friends, they can teach us how to be forgiving, understanding and compassionate. Something angels cannot do. Maybe angels use these ‘human angels’ to help teach us these lessons? I am not sure. What I am sure of is that I am blessed to have many friends who have looked out for me, tried to keep me safe and gave me an encouraging word when I needed one. To me that is a definition of a human angel.

This week let us approach this idea in two ways. First, take a look at some of our closest friends. Do they qualify as human angels? Chances are in some form or fashion they just might. I hear a lot of voices throughout the day. My stomach tells me pizza for dinner everyday is ok. There are the things my body tells me after the gym, but I do not think they are fit to type here. The closest things to an angelic voice that I hear is from someone I deeply care about telling me they feel the same. Let us, in our own way, recognize these human angels. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. In fact, if you are shy or nervous as to what they may think you don’t have to tell them at all. In my life all of my friends know I am crazy, so I am not worried. Even just taking a moment to yourself to think, “This person is a human angel.” That will be enough to cause a shift in how you see that person.

The second part is being a human angel. Again, this does not mean trying to be perfect or walking around in a toga playing a harp, but doing our best to treat others the best we can. With love, respect and compassion. Do you think anyone would describe you as a human angel?

YOUR MOST USEFUL ASSET

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What is your most useful asset? Are you smart? Are you physically attractive? Maybe you are strong? Perhaps you have a lot of wealth? Maybe you are a good conversationalist? The ironic thing about any of these traits, is that they are of little use unless they are put into the service of others. If you are strong, but do nothing with your muscles how useful are they? If you acquire a great deal of wealth, but never spend anything what good does that wealth amount to?

Each one of us has assets. Maybe it is a nice smile? Maybe a good deal of compassion? As the week draws to a close, let us spend the weekend taking stock of our unique skills and talents. After we do so, let us also find ways in which we can put them into the service of others. The picture above gives us three very good ideas. Let us make sure we approach others with our hearts full of love, our ears ready to listen to all they have to share and our hands ready to help them as they need.

In our modern world many people will do anything for a feeling of significance. What many of them fail to realize is that you do not need to make a video for YouTube of you doing something ridiculous or dangerous. You do not have to prove how important or better you are than anyone else. To be a truly useful, valuable and yes, important person, all you have to do is be of service to others. Who would not want to be around someone who is loving, listens to what we have to say and is always willing to help.

If you still want to make that crazy video for the internet, why not show off your talent in the service of others? Use that amazing smile to brighten the lives of others. Use that wealth to help those less fortunate. Maybe use your muscles to help your neighbor with a project they are working on. The more you help others, the more useful you become.

JOHNNY APPLE SEED AREN’T WE ALL?

Countless are the times that people have come up to me and said things such as, “I was thinking about what we talked about a while back….” I am sure we have all heard this in our lives. We have all been on the opposite side too, haven’t we? Something someone was telling us didn’t make sense to us at the time, but through some change in life circumstance, we can appreciate it now. Maybe it is a loving thing they told us, the reminder of which has helped us make it through a tough time we are currently facing. This can work in the opposite way too. How many times have we remembered something hurtful that was said or done to us? I am not sure why we choose to do that, but that can be how the human brain works.

What we must keep in mind is that everyday we go through life we are planting seeds. Much like a farmer, what we grow will depend on what seeds we plant. We can plant beautiful flowers, fruit, or even a poisonous plant. The seed may take root or it may not. It may grow in our garden or others may be left to benefit, or be poisoned by what grows. In this way we have an ability to affect not only our life, but the world at large. Allow me to explain what I mean by use of a historical figure.

Johnny Appleseed, better known as John Chapman was an American Pioneer nurseryman who planted apple trees in several states and in part of Canada during the late 18th and early 19th century. A lot of the trees he never saw grow, but in the places he visited people were eating apples long after he was gone. We do much the same things with our words and actions. They may not be apple trees, but we are planting seeds just the same.

If we think in terms of Johnny Appleseed’s story, what will grow from the seeds we plant? If we are planting seeds of kindness and encouragement every where we go, we will see kindness blossom and grow. We will see the confidence and joy continue to grow in the hearts of our friends and family. If we plant seeds of gossip and complaint, we will see melancholy, sadness and resentment blossom all around us. In this way we do a great deal to shape the world in which we live.

What about the world at large? Truly, the seeds we plant can’t make much of a difference on a global scale? Think about this. When you go to purchase a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks, treating the employee with extra kindness could ease a tough day they are having. There you affect one person. Due to that act of kindness, they may treat the next person in line with an extra amount of customer service. Then you have affected two people. Maybe that person is on the way to the airport to fly home to a different city or even country and now feels good thanks to the good service they received. They may go on to treat people they encounter on their journey with more kindness and compassion. Thus, your simple act of kindness could affect people halfway across the world. It may not reach such global proportions, then again with comments on social media and the internet we can spread a great deal of seeds without even leaving our homes.

Although this was a positive example, the same holds true in reverse. You may think comments and they way you treat people are harmless, but you are forever planting seeds. We may not see them grow and it may take years for them to blossom, but given time they will. Let us all do our part to plant seeds of kindness, compassion, encouragement and joy. We will grow a garden of positive results. Let us be equally vigilant against casting seeds of negativity, gossip and judgment to the wind. They too, will grow into a world of negative people, places and things.

Let us all remember we are Johnny Appleseed in our own way. Let us plant seeds to grow positive families, friends, communities and the world at large.

SEE THE SIGNS

When people find that I am an advocate for positive living, the same question seems to pop up, “Why bother?” They want to know why you should bother being nice to people. Why is it important to stop and greet strangers with a smile? Why is it important to check in with friends even if you really have nothing else to say? Why is it important to keep courting the love of your life, long after they have agreed to the ‘happily ever after’?

These are all very good questions. Some people who may fit into the pessimistic lifestyle even ask me questions such as “Why bother being nice to people when all they will do is end up taking advantage of you?” No doubt this question has arises from some past experience they have had. The funny thing about that is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you treat people with the forgone conclusion that at some point they are going to take advantage of you or do something hurtful, you withhold certain things. You may not give them the full amount of trust. You may not be completely open and vulnerable with them. Perhaps you may even skip doing the little extra things that may inconvenience you but mean the world to them. After all why would you go out of your way when sooner or later you are going to end up with the short end of the stick?

The ironic thing here is by doing these actions you perpetuate those very circumstances. How? If someone makes you feel like they can’t trust you, how would that make you feel about them? If they never seem to share about themselves and seem guarded would you feel close to them? Trying to keep yourself from getting hurt ends up pushing people away.

Here is another reality – no matter how hard you try at some point you will get hurt. Your paths will cross with some malevolent people, and even good people on occasion do things that hurt us without meaning to. Especially if they don’t know you well enough to know what might upset you.

So why be nice? Why go out of your way to do the things mentioned in the first paragraph? Here’s why. In the picture you see both a sign and a card. The first my lovely Margie left the sign on the mirror while she was shopping with her daughter and I was at the gym. How do you think that sign made me feel as I left for work? Loved? Grateful? Happy? All warm and fuzzy inside? Yes to all the above! The reason she did it she told me was because of how I was making her feel.

The card is an even better story. I shared with Margie how hard it is for me when the Wisconsin State Fair ends. It is not only the end of that festival, which I have loved since a child, but the end of my vacation that year and summer coming to a close. Three things I enjoy coming to a conclusion all at the same time can leave me feeling a little blue. Knowing this the love of my life bought me a ‘get well’  card of sorts. Cheering me up and reminding me of good times to come.

Do you think that would’ve happened had I taken or relationship for granted? Assuming your relationship is ‘handled’ because it is going ok is one of the biggest mistakes a couple can make. Love is one thing you should never put on autopilot. Let me be clear, the reason I put in so much effort in making my lady understand how much she is loved and how beautiful she I find her is not so I can see what creative and wonderful surprises she can leave me. I do it because I am the man in her life and I believe that is what a real man should do. I work as hard as I can to give her a man she can be proud of. I also do my best to not only tell her, but show her how beautiful she is to me and how loved she is. As you can see, the rewards I receive are well worth it.

Here is a wonderful thing I have done with both the card and the sign. I put them inside my laptop and every time I write I open it up to find examples of the love she has shown me. This not only helps on the days when a reminder comes in handy, but each and every time that I see them. It has taken two single very thoughtful moments from my love and made them gifts that give me joy every time I open my computer to write. This not only has me feeling loved it puts me in a great mood to write. It also fills me with gratitude for the amazing woman I have.

How do you think having these reminders serves our relationship? When we are not seeing eye to eye on something, having an example of how great our love can be creates an urge to get back there. When I am away writing, looking over and seeing these reminders helps me stay focused and get my work done so I can come home to the wonderful lady who created them. They are gifts that continue to keep on giving.

Take the time to share with the one you love. The only way for them to love all of you is if all of you loves all of them. That might be tricky to read, but it certainly will make your relationship a glorious source of joy and growth like Margie and I are blessed to have. It also helps to carry reminders of your love with you when you go somewhere.

THIS CHANGED MY LIFE

The above quote changed my life! I had found myself at a point in life when it seemed every area of my life was in turmoil. My job had cut my hours to next to nothing, there was a lot of turmoil in my personal life and I had just been informed I had a problem with my heart. My life seemed to be in a very dark place. It was then that I was introduced to this quote. Ironically it was on an envelope asking for money from a charity I have forgotten.

Dealing with all of the darkness I was in at the time and doing my fair share of cursing, I found myself asking how on earth I could light a candle of positivity. A question you may have asked, or maybe are even currently asking. It was then I began my life-long journey to find the answer to that question. A lot of those answers can be found both on this website and in my book.

It is now that I would like to point out what should obvious. No amount of cursing the darkness will make it any lighter. If you don’t believe me lock yourself in a room, turn off the light and begin yelling, “I hate the darkness!!” Do this over and over. It should be apparent this is not going to make the room any lighter. This may sound silly, but this is often the same approach many of us take to like. Cursing our problems, complaining about this and that will do little if anything to make our lives better.

What can we do? It is really as simple as the dark room example. We need to shed some light on our life. Here is another thing I have learned, when you shine a light in a dark room, it does not matter how long that room has been dark. Whether it has been dark a day or several years, when you shine a light the room will brighten. The same holds true for life. It makes little difference how long someone’s life has been full of darkness, when you bring light to it you will brighten it. Whether that life belongs to a friend, a complete stranger or even yourself.

Today let us begin to stop cursing our darkness. Let us bring light to our life and the lives of others. If you need suggestions on how to do that feel free to read other posts on this website, or even ask yourself what would brighten your own life and do that for others.