Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reflections on 2013

A writer writes!

Seven days until the formal end of 2013.  Year end is always a reflective time for me.  I think about events that transpired during the year.  I review what I accomplished and what didn't go as well as I would have desired.  This was my first year of "retired" life.  I began implementing my goals related to writing and having the opportunity to express myself.  That is where this blog came from.  I had no lofty goals of having thousands of followers to this blog.  I just wanted the opportunity to say whatever is on my mind and put those thoughts out there.  If someone comes across the blog and my words inspires them into a positive direction or makes them think about an issue, that is an extra benefit.

The freedom to express myself and my views has long been a goal of mine.  Coming from a 35 year career in the Federal government, I often had to regurgitate official rules and laws, some which I did not believe were correct.  But, these were the rules I pledged to uphold.  That system was unfortunately influenced at all levels by the biases, beliefs, and opinions of those in various positions of authority.  So, there were discriminatory actions and decisions made that the Public would be amazed by.  I on occasion would come into conflict against the system and I would make my feelings known.  I'm sure my boisterous opinions kept be from rising to higher levels in the organization.  But, I would rather wake up in the morning knowing I never sold my soul to the system than to achieve a higher pay grade by "selling out".

This year has also allowed me to write comedy materials and sell them on the website Fiverr.com.  I've made what I call "pocket change" but, it's the first step in my goal to be a comedy writer who gets paid for what he writes.  The one thing I like about writing is that my success on non success is largely dependent on my actions.  If I don't write, I'm not a writer.  If I do write it doesn't matter if I don't make $30,000 plus for what I'm doing.  Just being able to write intelligent, thoughtful material is my grading curve for success.  For my comedy material, if my customers or their audience laughs, it's a success!

I live comfortably in retirement.  My health is good.  I can walk, talk, and  am able to move about freely. Sometimes we take for granted the simple things in life.  I can say, I'm at a point where I don't.  Having both hands to use to type is something I am thankful for.  Being able to see the words I type is another gift.

So, in reflecting on this year although I didn't achieve worldly accomplishments, I did do what I set out to do.  I continue to work on my personal character which is always a work in progress for me.  As of December 24, 2013 I am still alive and that by itself is an accomplishment.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

All Things Are Possible!

A writer writes!

The pastor of our church read from Luke chapter 2 for today's sermon.  Chapter 2 describes how Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph and was expecting a child.  Of course the child she was expecting was Jesus, the son of God.  Joseph knew that the child Mary was carrying was not his. Imagine the scandalous talk regarding Mary being pregnant before her marriage to Joseph.

So, why would God create a situation where His Son is brought into an environment surrounded by scandalous talk?  Why didn't God have his Son born into a "respectable" situation by worldly community standards?   Jesus was not born into a wealthy family, or born into a family of a human King where worldly power was inherent by the last name of his worldly father.  Instead Jesus Christ was born into a working man's family.  Joseph possessed the skills of a carpenter, a valuable trade, but one that did not bring riches and wealth.

What if God had chosen to have his Son born as a child to a same sex female couple?  The speculation and talk regarding who is the father surely would have existed.  Would God have allowed a situation where a couple living a life outside of God's plan be charged with raising the Son of God?  If you read the bible you will see that Jesus Christ was not selective in whom he associated with.  He spoke to those who in His day were scorned and reviled by the people.

Great things come from situations that are not perfect in the eyes of the world.  It's a lesson that we as people have not fully come to understand.  As the bible tells us, through Christ all things are possible.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dealing With Our Apples

A writer writes!

One aspect of being a human being, is having a free will that drives us to do what we want to do. Unfortunately some things we want to do involves actions that are illegal, immoral, or just plain wrong.  We violate traditions, customs, rules, laws, ethics, and ignore the clear warnings of the consequences of these actions.

Historically, we have been doing so since Eve and her spouse Adam took a bite from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  The rules were plain.  Yes, Eve, got some motivation and urging to make the decision she made.  But, the decision was hers, as it was Adam's decision to follow her lead.

What leads us to make these bad decisions?  Is the promise of instant gratification and immediate pleasure what drives us to do what we want to do?  Is it worth taking the short cut to achieve a desire rather than settling for a walk through the maze called life?  Apparently in some cases we as people do not want to wait.  We want it now and don't understand why we should wait.

The patience to be strong and fight off the temptation to take the short cut is difficult.  Who wants to do all the work when you have an option to easily get what you want?  If you can go out the front door and pick up a $100 bill you see on  your doorstep, why would you go out the back door and walk around to the front to pick up the money?  We've been taught that hard work can lead to success.  But, we often forget that principle in making decisions.

We all deal with our own apples in this life.  Most of the time we decide to leave the forbidden fruit alone.  Then there are instances when we just give in to the ease at which we can achieve something we want.  How can we stay on the path where we always make the decision to not take the forbidden fruit?  Maybe it has to be ingrained into us from birth to only do what is correct?  But who among us can achieve saint hood throughout all of our life?  Some do in specific aspects of their lives.  Not all of us resort to murder to settle a grievance.  Not all of us steal to get money to live.  Some societies have harsh penalties for those actions deemed to be unacceptable.  Even then, some of us violate those rules thinking we will not be caught.

Dealing with our apples may come down to being a day-to-day event.  The more we stay on the course where correct decisions are made, the better our chances of continuing to make the correct decisions in the future.  If you falter, don't settle for continuing to make the wrong decision.  Attempt to counteract that failure by making as many positive and correct decisions in your future actions.  We can't correct all of our mistakes, but we can consciously make better decisions in the future.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Time out from the World

A writer writes!

I often find it effective to be still.  Call time out to slow down life around me.  At times that may mean letting the world move forward while I remain still.  The waves in the world are powerful and will carry you along at its pace, if you allow it to. So at times I call time out, and on occasion take a physical step back, to stop the world from controlling me.

I do not watch much television.  Again the prospect of the world sending me images as I sit passively watching does not excite me.  I seek out those images and information on television that I want to see and hear.  Other images I just shake my head at in disgust as I can't believe we as people have resorted to idolizing each other and the tremendously stupid things we do.

I remain critical of my actions, especially any that are based on being caught up with what the world says is important.  Maybe self criticism and assessment is what we all need to do to reach our full potential? In the background I play Gospel/Christian music.  Playing such music is my attempt to let the world know that I recognize we have a creator whose accomplishments dwarfs anything we have done individually or collectively.

It's the Christmas Season.  A time we have turned into a gift buying seasonal period of decorations, and ringing of bells outside stores.  This is a good time to call time out from the world. To first realize and reflect that this season is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the human based Son of God.  So take time out to reflect on the reason for this season.  Then reflect on whether you are caught up in the events of the world.  If you find that you are, stop, and take a step back. Then move forward at your pace.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our Reactions to Encounters

A writer writes!

Every day we encounter many influences which impact decisions we make.  Many encounters require a mental on the spot decision on our part.  That decision may also be a value judgment.  What if you encounter someone standing at a stop light near the entrance or exit of a highway asking for money?  Do you feel sorry for that person or question the validity of their needing to be there?  Your decision will impact whether you roll down your window to give them money, or if you later go on line to give to an organization that feeds the homeless.  Or maybe your encounter motivates you to write a letter to an elected official complaining about people begging at inappropriate places.

Every day we encounter opportunities where follow up options exists.  An on the spot decision is sometimes needed.  Our values at times dictate what action we take.  How we emotionally feel at that moment is another factor impacting our decision.  If our focus is somewhere else the encounter may not fully have our attention.  If you are headed to the hospital in response to an emergency phone call from a family member, your thought process may not be the same as if you were having a quiet leisurely day.

Understanding yourself, the influences of the day, and your current emotional state are all factors in our reactions to encounters.  That quote, "It's a  matter of timing" truly explains some of the actions we take.  If we all had the ability to stop time and reflect before acting, many of our negative actions would not have occurred.  But, we all don't have stop watches where we can stop time and do an assessment of the situation.  How do we improve our ability to make better decisions?  Understand and think about those values you have that make up the foundation of who you are.  Think about what you represent and stand for.  From that foundation should come the ability to make follow-up on the spot decisions that reflect who you are.

When some events happen in our lives, people say, "I didn't know they were like that."  The fact is only we know who we really are.  We make conscious efforts to keep some aspects of our thoughts or actions a secret.  People do not really want to be an open book to everyone.  If just doesn't work that way.  But, in order to fit into the daily existences we all have to display acceptable behaviors and actions.

To react positively to events, we all need to call time out and determine just who we are as an individual.  Absent all of the outside influences in this life, what do we individually value, care about and why?  Take time to reflect on what you value and why.  Then apply that to your daily encounters.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thinking for Ourselves

A writer writes!

During the Christmas season, unfortunately commercialism tends to reign over the reason for the season.  Forgotten is the theme that it is a time to recognize the birth of Jesus Christ who was given to this world to save us from our sinful ways.

One of the commercial pressures of this season is to purchase "gifts" that we are told our kids need, or that we need.  I recall past years where toys were touted as being in high demand.  Because of the commercial pressure that you were not a complete human being if you didn't give your kids these toys, parents would fight over and spend inordinate amounts of money to get the toy.  The only reason we had to get the gift is because somebody told us it was important to get the gift.  Even now still fights at stores on Black Fridays are a normal occurrence.  Until a major lawsuit is initiated by a consumer hurt at one of these store events, stores and companies will not do anything to ensure these Black Friday events are peaceful and orderly.

Which comes to my point.  People need to actually call time out and think for themselves.  Ask yourself, "what do I really need?"   "What do I really want and why?"  We need to stop letting companies whose purpose is to make money, tell us what we need.  People, we actually have a brain that allows us to logically make decisions by ourselves.

Companies are good at marketing items to us in a way that tells us we need what they have to offer. Whether it is clothes, fashion, appliances, televisions, food, we are bombarded daily with images and information designed to make us buy what a company has to offer.  I recall years ago when flat screen televisions started to be sold.  I had the economic means to purchase one, but the old style televisions I had still worked.  So, my thought process was why should I buy a flat screen TV if the ones I had worked?  But, I know for a fact that people whose income was half of mine went out and purchased a flat screen TV because they could not resist the marketing from companies that they needed one to be a complete human being.

My thought process was if I needed something I would buy it.  Otherwise I would marvel at all the new items in the stores, but walk right by them as I didn't need the items at the time.  They say we as people are very intelligent.  But, it seems we also are also very gullible.  If we can be convinced to purchase a pet rock we can be convinced to buy anything.

For 2014 here is something you can do.  Think for yourself and decide what is best for you and your family.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Affordable Health Care Act - A Humorous Look

A writer writes!

The Affordable Health Care Act, also dubbed, "Obamacare" is having some growth problems as all newborns do.  I recall the day the law was passed.  The White House had a big ceremony. Everybody was all smiles and giving each other high fives.  Joe Biden told the President, “this is a big f***ing deal!”  Now jump forward a year and proponents, and former backers are jumping ship.  Vice President Biden called in sick the past 3 days to avoid questions about "Obamacare".  Michelle O'bama recently  told the President, “I guess you're not so bad now are you?”  Obama’s previous cool walk is a little less cool, a little slower, with his shoulders now hunched down.

The website HealthCare.gov bombed out.  People couldn't log in.  Those trying to log in actually got carpal tunnel from the repeated motion of trying to log on.  Then they didn't have any insurance to pay for the carpal tunnel surgery.  People got stressed out trying to get online.  Blood pressures went up.  Folks had anxiety attacks worried about getting health insurance.  By a recent poll, all of these events has made trying to get health insurance the number three reason why people get sick!

The website does have problems though.  I was in the site and typed in "sesame seed diet" to see if any health carriers paid for specific diet treatments.  The next think I know, I find myself watching a download of episodes from the children's TV show Sesame Street.  So, I watched a couple of episodes and then logged out.  It wasn't the health care research results I wanted from HealthCare.gov but it was entertaining.  I sent the HealthCare.gov website a nice note thanking them for the entertainment options provided by the website.

Well, none of the above is really true.  But, it is wishful thinking for those who want the Affordable Health Care Act to fall flat on it's face.  Let's give the Act a chance and make the necessary changes as time and conditions dictate.  It's the closest this country has come to mandatory health care.  Who wants to go backwards?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Shoppers 6, Family 4 - First Game of Consumer Playoffs

A writer writes.

Well, game one of the consumer world series was played last Thursday on Thanksgiving Day.  The visiting team was all the stores that elected to open on Thanksgiving Day.  Some stores even had the audacity to open at 8 in the morning.  Black Friday was replaced by Thankless Thursday.  The aroma of turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving Day is now being replaced by the smell of new merchandise just unpacked and placed at eye level for consumers to gobble up.

Thanksgiving Day traditionally was a time for families to spend time together.  In the past most workers were given the day off to rest and spend time with family and loved ones.  Somewhere in some corporate board rooms across the country, decisions were made to "screw the family day".  Let's sell more stuff!  Because one thing Americans like is buying "stuff" whether we need it or not.

So, Macy's, Target, and other chain stores gladly welcomed shoppers and their charge cards and cash, into their stores.  People of all races, sizes, and economic backgrounds either stood in a line or came out to the stores once they opened.  What lured them out away from family?  The promise of big bargains and the chance to purchase merchandise, that the stores otherwise could not get rid of, brought many people to the consumer playoffs.

I was hoping that people would boycott the event and let the stores know that "the people" are in charge!  The people will not be enticed to come out and shop on a day of family bonding!  What was I thinking. The lure of "stuff" was apparently too much for people to resist.  As Eve ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, so the American consumer fell for the shopping fruit.  Within 10 years Thanksgiving Day will be replaced by "Shoppers Day".  Dinners will still be prepared, but it will be a meal to feed the shoppers before they head to the store.

I'll miss Thanksgiving.