Communication Is The Key To Understanding!

I have lost count of how many times that I have been involved in dispute resolution that involved the contrasting individuals, or groups, failing to simply communicate with each other.

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The lack of human to human communication has always been a problem but I believe that it is exacerbated by the convenience of email and social media.

Emails are short and to the point and often seem harsh…as they do not reveal the nuances of human speech.

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Social media has reduced important and heartfelt emotions…to emojis!

During my over 32 years at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, I received numerous emails on a daily basis.  It was my practice to respond to every email that I received within a 24 hour period…and, if possible, the same day of the email.  Usually, I would telephone the writer of the email or go see them to ensure maximum communication between us!

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Most concerns that are raised by emails of phone calls can be solved, easily, through talking about the problem or brainstorming.  Those, little, problems,, that are not spoken about…turn into big problems!

We all crave respect!  We all desire to be understood…and in turn we will reciprocate by understanding!  Communication is the golden lubricant of life!

As superintendent of Building Services at SIUC I was pleased to speak with any and all who desired to speak with me.  I was honored that they wanted to talk with me!  This included all members of the university community from the president to the most recent student custodian that was hired.  When we communicated…I listened for truths that I did not understand or was not aware of!

I understood that we could always be better!  I knew that there were ideas that I needed…from the most unlikely sources!

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There were chancellors that I admired during my tenure at the university.  Jo Ann Argersinger was one of my favorites due to her willingness to listen to the ideas of civll service staff.  I have been witness to genuine willingness to communicate as well as the placating and condescending kind of faux listening that administrators portray for political expediency.

An openness to new and better ideas is the hallmark of a successful leader.  The cornerstone problem of the United States current state of affairs is a desire to return to the closed society of the 1950’s.  Our country is changing…the demography of our country is, markedly, different.  The only road to overcoming the racial divide that is crucifying our nation is for us to sit down at tables and speak, candidly, with each other…and learn of each other…and through that communication…understand our shared humanity!

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Take Time To Pause…

Our frenetic and hectic world moves much faster than what we humans are designed for.  As we strive to be the best, in every roll that we play, we often feel that we must make snap decisions regarding lifetime events!

IMG_4982Feelings or emotions can change in the light of day…or over time, as circumstances change.

Reflection and thought are beautiful things!  I have ruminated one some moves or changes in my life…for months and even years, before making the decision.

I was watching network television the other evening and I could not help but notice that the scene on the television changed every few seconds.  I found it dizzying and disorienting!  I knew that it did not appeal to me, a member in good standing of the Baby Boomer generation, but I considered that it must be inviting to the current generation?

We are a bit conditioned to believe that we should solve most pressing problems in 30 minutes or less.

We love media and movies and screens and smart phones!

IMG_4989Moses did not go up Mr. Sinai to commune with God…for 40 minutes…he went for 40 days..and he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt…to wander the desert looking for the promised land…for 40 years!

The Bible is a wonderful book describing the Hebrew and Christian faith.  It was not written during a sabbatical!

IMG_4983Our media star culture makes heroes out of people who really have not accomplished anything heroic!  We seek a panacea and a cure for our many ills by searching for someone to become our, Golden Calf!

Life occurs very fast, especially when you look back on it…but many elements that your are waring upon seem excruciatingly slow…while you are waiting?

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I recall waiting to be offered the opportunity to become a Foreman in Building Services at SIUC.  I was passed not once…but twice…and I felt like all of my hard work had gone unnoticed and that I was marked to never be chosen…and I was 27 years old!

I thought that I might never have a nice home and was a bit embarrassed for my family that I did not seem to be able to accomplish more…although I worked steadily.  We have lived in our, new house, for over 18 years…and still enjoy every minute of it.

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It seemed that I would never get the opportunity to retire!  Several years of my employment were fraught with uncertainty and worry…I have been retired 8 years!

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There is a comfort in old churches and universities.  They have an aged permanence about them.  There is a surety that although the rain and storms and snow and wind and ice…fall upon them…there is un-dying wisdom contained within!

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Wallace Postscript

So many of you have sent messages of condolence and love for our Boston Terrier, Wallace.

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His last day was spent in joy!  His mother fixed all of his favorite foods and he consumed them like a longshoreman!

His brother, Aaron, took him on a long walk and when Wallace returned he looked, somewhat like a pup!

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Jonathon spent quality time with Wallace and they both wanted more!

Wallace transitioned to the next life…on his mommies lap.

Wallace left this life enjoying sausage pizza…followed by turkey.  He was licking the turkey bowl when the angels came for him!

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Wallace

We were so happy when Mary Jane got a good report from the Ophthalmologists, in Fairview Heights, Illinois, that we decided to have a celebratory lunch at Lottawatta Creek Restaurant that is across from the St. Clair Mall.

Jonathon noted that the restaurant not only had, humongous, portions but that they had a special on Long Island Ice Tea, and we do enjoy tea!

Being both in high spirits from the good report from the eye doctor and with a, more than adequate, apportionment of Long Island Ice Tea in our bellies…we decided to go across the way to the mall and visit the pet store to see if there were any doggie Christmas surprises that we could obtain for our, only, dog….Brody.

When we entered the Pet Store I quickly pursued the isles to ascertain if they had any Boston Terrier pups?  We saw a little black and white Boston pup…but no others.  When I asked if they had any Brindle colored pups, the store attendant told me that they had a sweet seal colored Boston…and that they were quite rare!  Nothing would do me but to lay eyes upon the prize!

When the, kind, person brought Wallace T. Brooks out for us to admire…we were smitten…immediately…it was love at first sight!

He was so small and brown and white, like the color of a fawn, and he had a snotty nose!  He was so ugly…he was cute!

We, without delay, placed half of his price down to secure his ownership and returned a few days later to pick him up!  When we were finishing the purchase of Wallace T. we were told that the Vet had cleared him…only later to find out that he was close to pneumonia!

He is a Boston gentleman of dignity and character.  His mom is his idle and, often, when momie returns from a trip…a little urine drips down both of Wallace’s legs…in joyful and uncontained love and adoration!

Uncle Ron stayed overnight with us a few years ago and the following morning he was happily petting Wallace T….until I heard Ron cry out in pain and exclaim, ‘he bit me!’  When I inquired if he had brought blood…Ron responded the he had!  I noted that once in a while he was guilty of a, loving, bite!

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When anyone of our household is preparing to leave…Wallace barks his disapproval, especially Johnathon!  When someone enters our home…he does the same!  He is a good boy!

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Wallace is nearly 11 years old…and until recently has been the picture of health!

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Now he has cancer…and it is aggressive!  The description that we received today is bleak…and it is obvious that he is suffering!

The T. in Wallace T. is the result of our enjoying Long Island Iced Tea prior to his purchase!

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Join me in saying goodbye to our little friend and companion.

 

 

 

We Humans Require Understanding…Or…Err On The Side Of Mercy!

I began working as a supervisor over 40 years ago.  One of the first precepts of leadership that I learned was to exercise patience with my colleagues and to empathize with their points of view.

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I recently heard a presidential candidate say, when asked if she had thrown a file at a member of her staff, that she demanded a lot of herself and that she had high standards of job performance for those who worked for her.  That would a faulty ruler…or a poor measurement of performance progress!

 

It is folly to judge others by your ambitious job performance.  Many leaders are driven to success and the subsequently are paid accordingly for their additional duties.  While many of their colleagues may be more focused on valuable support functions to enable the leader to be, great!

Some of the most adept leaders, as regarding the handling of power, are those that lead their group without anyone realizing that they are being led!

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A natural leader will cause those associated with them to want to follow them because where they are going is; exciting and enriching and a path that has a rightness to it!

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Another valuable precept that I discovered, early on in my supervisory/management/administrative career is that I was surrounded by people that were smarter than I and that understood many issues better than I did and that were willing to help me if I just asked.

When an organization, whether a business or a housekeeping department or a church, experiences the miracle of everyone pulling in the same direction and understanding that their thoughts and ideas are as valuable as anyone in the group…you have a dynamo that can not be stopped!

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For thirteen years in Building Services I understood what the magnificent feeling of working in a cohesive organization felt like!  Everyone was accountable for the success of our custodial department and I, as the superintendent, was captivated by the awe and wonder of the majestic cleaning that my colleagues performed!

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For five years, as the president of the civil service council,  I experienced what it looks like to have item after item, that the Council brought forward to the Chancellor…accepted by him and resounding to the benefit of all civil service staff!  Our group worked as one unit with the mission of uplifting the lives of our colleagues…and it happened!

An important truth to remember, when you are attempting to lead a group…is to know your audience.  On my first, third shift, custodial crew I had two men who were in their 60’s.  One of the gentlemen had worked a career for Martin Oil Company as their Business Manger and the other had been a salesman for Bluebell Packing House of DuQuoin, Illinois.  I did not need to demonstrate to these, professionals, what it meant to produce a stellar housekeeping product!  Instead, I worked to be worthy of their approval and the right to be called their supervisor!

All of us…screw up!

Everyone has bad days…I have had bad years!  Everyone desperately needs mercy!

 

In interpersonal communication small problems will remain small…if they are dealt with expeditiously.  It is when they are left to fester and grow for years and then, suddenly, an attempt is made to fell a giant Sequoia with a dull ax…that disaster ensues!

‘You would be amazed at what can be accomplished as long as you do not care who gets the credit!’

 

 

 

 

 

Power Should Be Held With A Loose Grasp

‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’    John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton

I have had the opportunity to observe many leaders in my time.  Some were natural leaders and arrived at a position of leadership through unadulterated ability to influence those around them.

Others were leaders by virtue of a supervisory or managerial or administrative positions that they had been assigned.  With a willingness and a good heart, these people developed into sound and reliable persons of authority.

Yet, there are leaders who are leaders by avarice and deception.  These are people who seek to influence others for their own gain and benefit.  I have witnessed this type of leader in both politics and ministry.

There is especially a danger when a leader has not checks or balances or sounding board…to assure that they are on the right track!

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Our founding fathers understood that they had just left a monarchy and that they no longer wanted to live under a king or queen.  The United States equal division of power between our three branches of government is brilliant in it’s hinderance of unlimited power.

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When and if our congress is working properly they are to be a check on an executive branch, that is, ‘drunk with power!’

I remember when, republican, Senator Barry Goldwater told President Nixon that he did not have four votes in the Senate to not find him guilty  after a, certainty, of impeachment in the House of Representatives…and that his vote was not one of the four!

I have watched ministers, close-up, who have no real check on their power.  They often develop a bit of a God complex!  When no one tells you no,  and those whom you surround yourself with, repeatedly, tell you how wise and strong and powerful and good looking that you are…you, may, begin to believe it!

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‘The Emperor’s New Clothes is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, about two weavers who promise a emperor a new suit that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent – while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making everyone believe the clothes are invisible to them.  When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new ‘clothes,’ no one dares say  that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid.  Finally a child cries out, ‘But he isn’t wearing anything at all.’    Wikipedia

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Photos courtesy of Google search.

 

Welcoming The Unwanted

I began life in Chicago, Illinois.  My father was a mechanic who worked on semi-trucks.  Mom, was a stay-at-home mother, as many women were in the 1950’s.

Until the age of 5 years I lived the life of Beaver Cleaver, from the popular television show, of the time, Leave It To Beaver.  Our street in Sauk Village was tree lined with middle class homes on either side.

By the time that my parents and I moved to Eldorado, Illinois, in an attempt to save their marriage, I discovered myself in a cold-ghost-house…with a dead rat in the bathtub!

When I began the first grade my mother did not have the 20 cents per day that was required for a hot lunch…and so I was the only student in the class that carried my lunch in a brown paper bag.

After my mom and dad divorced…I saved my money in order to purchase a dime glass of whole milk at the corner restaurant as all that we had was powered milk that we were given by the commodities program.

I understand what it is like to feel like an outsider.  I know what it is like to be not seen or heard while the more attractive and better dressed kid is chosen for the, enjoyable, tasks.

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I became a christian in 1969, primarily because the minister and the congregants made me feel welcome and loved and appreciated!

I fear that we christians are looking for people that look like us…and act like us…and see the world as we see it?

Denominational churches are experiencing a reduction in their membership, and have been for years.

Perhaps we have exhausted the market for doppelgängers?

‘For I was an hungred and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, an ye gave me no drink:’

‘I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick and in prison, and ye visited me not.’

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‘Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?’

‘Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to the least of these, ye did it not to me.’    Matthew 25: 42-45   KJV

A church that will open it’s doors and not only welcome…but love…those who are unaccustomed to being welcomed and loved….is doing Christ’s work!

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It is not about increasing the membership of your congregation…it is about the message of Jesus!

The kind of love that accepts those who society shuns…is compelling and pure!

Many will be fed…many will feel love…perhaps for the first time!

If our church exhibits the christianity of our mentor, Jesus Christ, we will need a bigger building…just to serve lunch to the hungry!

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‘When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.’

‘Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bit!’

‘Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’

‘Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’  There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).  Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.  He did the same with the fish.’

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‘When they all had enough to eat he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over.  Let nothing be wasted.’  So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.’

‘After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is come into the world.’   John 6: 7-14   NIV

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Note: Images of Jesus feeding the five thousand are courtesy of Google.

Control of Your Professional Life…Enhances Your Attitude!

All too often we hear that the United States work-force…has a bad attitude!  Supervisor and managers and administrators and CEO’s will exhort their staff to, ‘exhibit a good and sunny attitude…and many of their problems will be alleviated!’

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As a former; supervisor and manager/administrator…I struggled with how to enhance the morale of my colleagues.  I discovered, many of the anxieties and depressions and the general feeling of illness-in-the-organization…could be directly be attributed to staff, at all levels, who felt that they had no control of their work-life.

I have been a part of organizations that control virtually everything from the top down in the typical, military, hierarchal model.

 

When I began working for Southern Illinois University in October, 1978…I was immediately thrilled with my assignment of cleaning the General Accounting Building, Thalman Hall, with very little supervision.  Once I had shown that I was gong to perform as a professional housekeeper…my supervisor moved on to other areas of his responsibility that required his attention.  I, quickly, understood that I was in charge of my career destiny!

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As a custodial crew leader, my foreman was more of a resource person than a supervisor of cleanliness…as I had that covered…and he respected that fact!  My name spread throughout the organization as a supervisor that got the job done and who produced supervisors for my Building Service Worker ranks.  I was both honored and humbled by this, gracious, compliment.  But, I understood by the professional manner that my leaders treated me…that I was respected…that my opinion was valued…and that they were watching my positive progress!

As superintendent of Building Services…no one looked over my shoulder!  The department achieved, much, more that the results that were expected by my leaders and they had nothing but words of praise for our accomplishments!  By this time in my career I understood that no one was responsible for my success…if I did not work hard and strive for a fair and a diverse workplace where everyone could not only feel welcome…but at home!

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Now…I have worked for more than one supervisor…who micro-managed me.  I understand what it feels like to have my word…be meaningless!  I have felt what it is like to be belittled and made fun of and criticized for attempting to perform my job in a professional manner!

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A Board of Trustee member expounded, years ago, that civil service employees should be grateful to have a job.

Have you ever worked for someone who you knew was never going to trust your work product or your decision making ability or your professionalism…even when you asked them exactly how they wanted something done…and you, subsequently, performed the task, in question, exactly as they had instructed you?

Have you ever worked, countless, hours and neither asked for recompense nor reward…and had your supervisor reward you…with more work?

Have you ever had good ideas that you shared with your supervisor and they, in turn, robbed you of those ideas and portrayed them as their own…to their manager or administrator?

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A Building Service Worker is a professional…and should be treated as one!

A Building Service Sub-foreman is a professional…and should be treated as one!

A Building Services Foreman is a professional…and should be treated as one!

Members of the clerical staff or the administrative staff or the Grounds staff…are dedicated professionals and when leaders are seeking to increase good attitudes they need to ensure that their people are empowered to perform their duties…not only professionally…but in an entrepreneurial manner!

 

Our Children Are Afraid!

‘The sixth-grader stood outside his Colorado charter school, ,one arm wrapped around his dad, while he described how he planned to thwart an active shooter.’

‘I had my hand on a metal baseball bat, just in case, ‘ Nate Holley told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, looking  straight into the camera.  ‘Cause I was going to go down fighting if I was going to go down.’    Washington Post

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When I began first grade, in 1962, the thought of an active shooter…never crossed my mind.  I was afraid of a nuclear bomb being dropped on my school…due to our incessant ‘bomb drills’ where we knelt under our desks and covered our heads with our hands!

But the bomb never dropped…and none of us died.

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‘It was three days before the last day of school, and the students inside Ms. Harper’s English classroom were whiling away the last period of the day watching, ‘The Princess Bride’ when one of their classmates walked in late and pulled out a gun.’

‘The only thing he said out loud to the students was, ‘Don’t you move,’ said Nui Giasolli, an 18 year old senior who was in the class at the time.’

‘In the moment, she recalled, Kendrick Castillo, a gentle teenager fascinated by cars and engineering, lunged to stop the gunman and and was shot dead.  Eight other students were wounded in the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch on Tuesday afternoon, which the authorities said was carried out by two other students.’    The New York Times

When we had recess in my schools of, Hillcrest and Washington School, in Eldorado, Illinois…we played on the monkey bars and enjoyed the carousel that you could spin at phenomenal speeds…and, in the cold weather, we played, ‘steal-the-bacon,’…which I never mastered!

One November day we had an announcement over the loud speaker, that was in every classroom, that President Kennedy had  been shot!  Although the tragedy took place in Texas…it seemed a millions miles away.  The danger and carnage and destruction and death…was a television event and not our, grade school reality!

It has been only a few short years ago that a school shooting was a national tragedy! Network television as well as all cable news outlets discontinued regular programing and focused on the heinous event!

Now, school shooting have become so, macabrely, common place that they merit news coveralls on the equivalent of, ‘below the fold’ on the first page or often on the sixth page of a print newspaper!

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I read about the Kent State shooting of four college students…and could not believe what our government had fallen too!

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The Vietnam war was on my television, every evening…and Walter Cronkite reported how many Vietnamese has been killed that day and how many Americans had lost their lives.

In high school our principal roamed the hallways and looked like an tough guy…and I did not want to find out if he was!

Now, armed, police officers roam many of the school hallways of our land…and still we have the scourge of mass murder of…children!

When will the deaths of our children be enough?

When we will decide that it is…wrong…that our sixth graders have a plan of fighting, active shooters?

When will it not be…an earth shattering…full stop on the accepted routine of mass murder of our young people…in the places that they go to receive an education?

When will we decide and, equate, the importance of a fetal heartbeat  and  an embryo and a zygote…with the continued, sacredness of our children’s lives?

 

 

Note: Photos of ‘Bomb Safety’ and Kent Sate Shootings are courtesy of Google.

 

 

Beginnings

There is something special about the newness of an adventure!

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I remember Christmas, so many years ago, with mom and dad and a giant Christmas Tree…and a seemingly unending amount of presents!  For my three year old mind…it seemed that there were more gifts than I could ever play with!

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I recall becoming sixteen years old.  As far as I was concerned I was an adult and a free agent and I could do whatever I chose to do!

The day after my high school graduation…I moved away from home…and discovered that I was not as grown-up as I had initially imagined!

When I became a christian and discovered the wonderful mystery of the Bible and the joys of church life…I was ecstatic.

My career at Southern Illinois University created a plethora of beginnings for me!  I relished the responsibility entrusted to me and the opportunity to help others!

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As we grow older we, sometimes, feel that our days of exciting beginnings are over.  We think that we, ‘have been there and seen, and done, that!’

Nothing could be further from the truth!  The roadblocks that we perceive are in our way…are those that we have, carefully, constructed in our head.

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If we want to loose weight…eat more healthy foods and, perhaps less quantity, and exercise more.  And, do not expect results in a day…as the extra pounds did not come on in a a day…and they will take more than a day too leave!

Develop a mental picture of how you felt when you were thin…and look at it daily!

Is your job stressing you to the point of mental and physical exhaustion?

First, deal with all unnatural stressors that can be eliminated or lessened.  If it is still more than you need for a healthy lifestyle…begin looking for another position.

No job is worth your happiness…your life!

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Are you bored to fatigue?  Find something that you enjoy and begin doing it on a regular basis.

I fear that we allow ourselves to become captives of the clock!

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Our lives are very short…yet we stop constructive living and loving and enjoying the newness and mystery of each day….far before we die!

I have had people tell me that they did not know what they were going to do when they retired as their job was their entire life!

I wonder if the workaholic remembers that when they began their career they did so to provide for a better life for themselves and their family?  No one, ever signed a offer of employment that read, Come Join Us For Your Natural Life!

I think that we must remind ourselves that our happiness or peace or satisfaction is not predicated or controlled or governed by what someone says that it should be.

Your happiness is your responsibility and no one will provide for you what your, ‘one-in-a-kind,’ unique…specialness…demands!

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Perhaps you want to climb mountains

Or swim in the sea?

Perhaps you want to sing bass

Or buzz like a bee?

Perhaps you like to see the sun shine bright

Or you feel your best in the night?

Perhaps crowds give you energy and focus and love

Or being alone gives you peace like a dove?

Perhaps you like to climb trees or fish in a pond

Or you would rather be Harry Potter with a wand?

Perhaps it is Allah you worship or Jesus or Buddah

Or your favorite food is a cheese called Gouda?

Whatever you like…there is only one you

Or beginnings make all of us feel new!