Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Fight a Wildfire Threatening Your Goals

Wildfires are common in Southern California.  They arrive without advance warning.  I know what it's like firsthand to watch burning embers blasting through the sky, shooting hand grenades at you while you're trying to escape with your family.  Some situations in life are like wildfires.  You are checking off the goals on your to do list and suddenly trouble looms.  The situation may appear hopeless.

I discovered a solution while helping deliver food and water to the firefighters in my community during our crisis.    The firefighters fought fire with fire using blow torches.  They communicated with radios and relied on shifting winds to get the job done.  I watched them set backfires with blow torches.  With teamwork, these brave men and woman eventually got control and eliminated the threat.

My wife and I have our own blow torches for fighting our debt.  We're setting backfires.  We're communicating.  We know the wildfire won't be eliminated right away.  We are doing our best to minimize the damage and re-direct the flames.  When the economic winds shift, we make adjustments in order to reach our retirement goals.  The key is to never give up, just like the firefighters who saved our home in Southern California.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Roadside Assistance

Photography is my number three interest behind writing and playing tennis.  I especially enjoy pictures of sunrises and sunsets.  Last year I got a rare opportunity to capture perhaps my favorite shot of all times.  It wasn't easy.  I felt my heart pounding as I approached mile marker 231 along the icy Interstate 80.  The sun was peeking out from its furthest point south during my December morning commute.  Outside temperatures were steady at 1ยบ and the road conditions were dangerous.  I checked my rear view mirror to make sure no one was directly behind me and slowed down before pulling over.  My model was patiently waiting for me at the top of the hill.  I grabbed my cell phone camera and stepped into the snow.  Each step felt like I was dipping into an ice bucket.  My fingers were instantly frozen.  I didn't care.  The sun had a peculiar ring around it that looked like a rainbow. Everything was in the perfect position for my photo shoot.  I snapped several pictures and returned to my car.

People ask me, "who's in the picture?"  Others tell me they see a woman who looks like she's praying.  They seem surprised when I tell them it's a tree stump.  For me, it's more than the remains of a fallen tree.  It's my roadside assistance.  Every morning when I drive by the tree stump, I get the urge to pray.  I thank God for all the symbols He uses to draw me closer to Jesus.  I will always treasure that special 12th day of December, 2013, when Mother Nature fully cooperated.  I named the tree stump Mary, in honor of the Jesus' Mother.  The photo is captioned, "There's something about Mary."  She's my daily reminder that Her Son will forever be my roadside assistance, no matter how far away from home I may be.  If you like the photo, please forward it to a friend.  Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share today's story with you.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Keep Your Cool

It's not easy sometimes.  Maybe you've got a lot on your plate today.  Perhaps the angry people around you are trying to disturb your peace.  Keep the picture you see above in your mind and let the cool breeze comfort you.  Don't let 'em see you sweat.  Just close your eyes and go to your happy place.  Stay cool. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

What Happens When You Feel What Others Feel?

90% of the world doesn't care what you think or feel.  I happen to be in the group that does care.  It's like being left-handed.  I'm in a minority.  I can't really describe what it's like to be a leftie in a right-handed world but I can identify with all the other lefties and know how they feel.  You can call me a "people whisperer."  My specialty is problem people.  Here are my thoughts about living with empathy...

There's a reason I avoid negative people.  I don't want to feel their negativity.  It's like biting into a bad apple or a sour grape.  Empathy is both a blessing and a curse.  There are levels of empathy.  Empathy 101 can be learned by observing pets and babies.  When a pet scratches at you while you're watching TV, he's telling you without words he needs to go relieve himself.  A crying baby is asking for some food or a clean diaper, also without using words.  Advanced empathy is feeling what others feel even when they don't want you to know something's up or down in their lives.  The clues are microscopic.  They may be covered up.  Once you discover the gift of empathy, it's impossible to turn it off.  If you're suffering from empathy overload, here are some ideas to help you maintain balance:
  1. Minimize your time with negative people.  You do this naturally when you stay out of the sun to avoid getting burned.
  2. Detach.  If you're living or working with someone who is headed for a train wreck, uncouple yourself.  If they come to you for help, point them in the direction of the professionals who can help and stay out of the way.
  3. Spend time with nature.  This is one of my personal favorites.  It's like recharging your cell phone.  Don't let your batteries get weak.
How do you rate yourself in the empathy department on a one to ten scale?  Are in the right-handed group, the left-handed group or maybe somewhere in the middle in the ambidextrous group?  Is empathy a gift or a curse for you?  Please share your thoughts below.  Yes, I want to know how you feel about today's post.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Difference Between a Quitter and Someone Persistent

The dream persists.  Five years ago it was more of a nightmare.  My retirement savings account bottomed out.  My cash reserves tanked.  And the creditors were relentless in their pursuit of debt collections.  My road to financial freedom looked like a dusty path with nothing but a mirage teasing me to keep going.  The easy way out would have been bankruptcy.  The irony of my situation is that I'm not the one who gave up.  Many of my creditors got tired of me saying, "I can't pay you yet.  Hold on.  I'm going to try just a little bit longer.  I might be able to figure this out."  They sold out their interests and moved on.  They quit.

Others questioned my tactics.  "Why are you choosing to pay some but not me?"  They could see from my credit report that I was trying but not hard enough in their eyes.  I found hope in fair debt collection laws.  My adventures dealing with unsavory debt buyers may turn into a future book once I fully recover and get back on my feet.  I know the feeling of those thousands of tiny moments when I say, "I'm going to try just a little bit longer."  They really do add up to a dream fulfilled.  Persistence is worth it.  Dreams deserve it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

99 Days on the Wall

Autumn is here.  The fall colors are arriving on cue.  There are only ninety-nine days left on this year's wall calendar.  It's nearly synchronized with our youngest son's departure date, five days into the New Year.  He is preparing himself for military service.  My hands-on parenting days are dwindling, like the leaves on the trees.  Many use the term empty nest to describe this time period.  I believe that label focuses on a loss rather than a healthy changing of the seasons.

The greatest joy of parenting is seeing your adult children soar to new heights.  They were born with wings.  They are meant to fly.  The nest is only a temporary place.  I'm ready for the next chapter in my life.  I'm not counting the days on the wall.  I prefer to just be in the one I have today and live it to its fullest.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Practice, Practice, Practice

 Life is not fair.  There are no entitlements.  You will get kicked.  And if you're doing anything worthwhile, you will get kicked over and over to the point where you wonder if you can get back on your feet again. 

I'm the guy Bruce Lee refers to in the quote above.  Bruce is right.  Anyone willing to stay in the arena and take 10,000 mulligans in order to master one move is a dangerous opponent.  There are times in my life when I feel like a bullfighter.  My opponent sees me standing alone in the courtroom.  He scoffs, thinking to himself, here's another pro se amateur – I'm going to kick him until he's black and blue.  He has no idea how committed I am to practice, practice, practice.

Do you want to know my secret?  I'm not afraid.  I know Jesus is with me.  I don't care how many bulls are in the arena or how many times they strike at me.  At the end of the day the judge bangs his gavel and tells me, "you're free to go."  All the bull can do is stick his tongue out at me.  A voice from the crowd shouts, "Don't be so glum, bull, this isn't his first rodeo.  We've been watching this guy's moves for a long time and he never loses.  He practices like no other."