Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How Do You See Yourself in the New Year?

The picture you see here is a screenshot from a powerful scene in the movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  George Bailey is staring at his father, Peter, who is no longer in this world.  Below the photo is a quote, "All you can take with you is that which you've given away."  The older I get, the more I realize how much I have in common with George.  I even recall a time in my teenage years when I falsely believed the world would be better off without my presence.  Thank God for the numerous angels who intervened.  Amongst them is my precious wife.  Many years ago while we were vacationing in Maui, she whispered in my ear, "my wish is to always make you happy."  Through all my trials and errors, my wife stood by my side, just like George Bailey's wife, Mary, a woman who helped George recognize what is truly important in life.

A New Year begins at Midnight.  For me, it's extra special.  This summer we will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  Our youngest son will be graduating high school.  I plan to share 365 more daily blog stories with you.  My first novel, The Caveman in the Mirror, will be published.  It's a story about a man who looks in a mirror, sees something from his past, and goes on a journey of discovery.

My wish for you today is that you see yourself becoming the person you were created to be.  You have a clean slate in front of you at midnight tonight.  Your New Year is a gift.  Open it up.  Share it.  And always remember – all you can take with you is that which you've given away.  Be generous.  Say, "I love you."  Live this New Year to its full potential.  If you have a moment, please share how you see yourself in the New Year.  I would love to hear from you. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Community of Super-charged Believers

Do you like underdogs?  The San Diego Chargers may be perhaps the best Cinderella story of the year.  Like many Charger fans, I started out rooting for them when I transplanted to California.  Even though I'm no longer a Californian, I will forever be a part of an amazing community of super-charged believers.  Today's story is dedicated to those fans who suffered through years of less than stellar seasons only to be comforted by the fair weather.  Where else can you go in December and take pictures of your family playing at the beach on a 70º day?

The San Diego Chargers did something last night that shocked even some of the most hard-core supporters – they secured the very last seed available in the playoffs.  Phil Rivers announced in his post-game interview, "the odds of us making the playoffs were about 1%."  So many events beyond their control had to happen to keep them alive before their opening kickoff yesterday.  They needed losses from the Dolphins and last year's Super Bowl champs, the Ravens to stay alive.  And they needed to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs who already earned a play-off berth.

So, what does it feel like to be a part of a community of super-charged believers?  The closest comparison I can offer is when I'm in a crowd of people who believe in Jesus.  We believe our "Quarterback" can lead us through any trial, no matter what the pundits say.  My pastor once wrote two words that summarize the final scoreboard for believers:  God Wins!

When it comes to football, God has no favorites.  I'm hoping they do well and would love to see them in the Super Bowl.  Regardless of what your football denomination may be,  I hope you enjoy the post season.  And if your team is out of the Super Bowl hunt, why not get the Charger band wagon?  At times it feels like a roller coaster.  All I can say is that it is one heck of a ride.  Way to go, San Diego fans.  I will always feel connected to you, even on days like today when the windchill is -20º.  Good luck in the playoffs.  We will be cheering for you.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why You Should Value Each Day

Another year is coming to a conclusion.  The way you choose to evaluate it and remember it has to do with how you lived each of the 365 days.  The seconds add up to minutes and the minutes become hours.  The hours turn in to days, months and years.  So, how have you done with the 362 days so far this year?  Are you planning on writing off the next three days of the remaining year because this year yielded a less than favorable outcome?   What changes are you planning on making in the New Year ahead that will add more value to your life?  If you're not sure, consider these ideas:
  1. Decide today that you will value every day, no matter what the calendar says, what Mother Nature delivers to your front door, or what others say about the future.  You are in control of how you will live each twenty-four hour period.
  2. Understand that most people begin every New Year with a belief that it will be better than any year preceding it.  The challenge with this kind of strategy is that they fail to break the old habits that led to poor results.  There are usually eleven months left in the New Year still to be lived by the time all hope is lost.  Every day is equally important.  Don't ever give up, no matter what day it is.  If your heart is still beating, you have time to break your old habits and form new ones.
  3. Concentrate on what is significant.  You may have to limit each twenty-four period to one important task.  For example, the most important task our youngest son has on his priority list is to wrestle.  As a parent, my most important task is to arrange my days in order to maximize my attendance at his meets and tournaments.  With traveling time and time on the mat, most tournaments don't finish until the end of the day.  For me, it's a high value day if the only thing I accomplish is spending the day as a spectator rooting for our son and his team.
  4. Stop worrying about all the days that came before today.  The only impact those days have on today is that the time you spend worrying about what you failed to do or that you regret because you did something wrong only take away from the time you have to do something right today.  Worry tends to make people freeze because they are stressed about the possibility of failure.  You can overcome worry by deciding you are going to live each day differently until you get it right.  
  5. Each day begins with your choice about how you will live it.  Will you get out of bed or stay in bed?  What time will you get up?  What do you want to accomplish before the sun sets?
One idea that helps me is that I place a "minimum standard" for living each twenty-four hour period of my life.  My commitment is to communicate with the world through this daily blog.  I don't let anything get in the way.  I believe there is someone out there who wants to hear from me.  So far, at least one person every day has checked in.  Maybe that one person cares about me or they are in a similar situation as mine and they are looking for hope.  I'm just happy to contribute something that others choose to read.  This idea has worked for over 1,500 consecutive days.  It works for me.  What about you?  Why do you believe you should value each day?  Don't forget to post your comment below.  Thanks for stopping by today.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Treat the New Year Like a Game of Chess

It's been a while since I played a game of chess.  My brother-in-law is one amazing opponent.  Unfortunately, we are separated by about 1,800 miles and I haven't seen him since leaving California nearly two years ago.  Much of my "free time" is devoted to activities very similar to chess.  I see the New Year as one chess game that is played continuously for 365 days.  You don't have to be a chess player to glean some pointers for starting your New Year right, managing the middle game and ending on a victorious note.  Check out these ideas:
  1. Make an intelligent opening move.  What I mean by this is start the New Year with a decision that you are playing the game to win.  Your opening move in the center of the board symbolizes you will attack your opponent head-on.  There will be no lolly-gagging on the sidelines.
  2. Be willing to make sacrifices.  Your king has the same resources as your opponent.  How you use those resources will allow you to stay in the game and thrive throughout the year.  Sometimes, you need to make sacrifices to advance.  This includes investing your time to learn new skills or further your education.  Use your time and space properly and don't be afraid to give up players like lethargy, laziness, or any other time wasters causing you to be distracted from your goals.
  3. Take time to analyze your opponent.  Are you seeing the same moves that defeated you in previous yours?  Remember this, every move your opponent makes can be matched when you make a strong counter-move.  Avoid repeating the same mistakes you made in the past and try some new moves. 
  4. Advance your pawns.  When they reach the end of the board, they are transformed into powerful team-mates that can help you reach your goals.
  5. Keep your king on the move in the end game.  If you choose to sit around, you become a target and your opponent will check-mate you.  The secret to success is to prepare a strong game plan in advance and be flexible when the game changes.  Don't let your opponent take you out early because you failed to play aggressively.  Be active.  Exercise.  Enjoy every day that you're in the game.
What will your opening move look like on January 1?  Are you prepared to manage your time and your resources for the entire 365 days?  Who is your biggest opponent?  Do you have what it takes to defeat your opponent's king?  I will leave you with one important hint:  If you are married, make sure you treat your spouse like royalty.  My number one resolution in the New Year and beyond is to protect my queen and do my best to serve her every day, every time, without fail, no exception.  Don't forget to add to the conversation below.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Does Your Ego Ever Block Your View?

If you aren't sure if your ego is blocking your view of the world, ask yourself this question:  How many times do I say "I" when I'm talking?  And the follow-up question to ask yourself is:  How many times do I say "you"?  Maybe Albert Einstein is on to something with his Ego equation.  As for me,  there are many times when I feel like I'm at the beginning of the learning curve.  In other words, there is this giant boulder in the way and the only way to remove it is to become more aware of the world around me.

What are your thoughts about your ego?  Is it increasing or decreasing in size?  You are the most important person here on this blog.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to communicate with you.  The focus of this blog in the New Year is on you.  Please let me know what topics you would like to discuss.  And thanks for stopping by today.  Don't forget to leave a reply in the comments section.  Have a great day.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Morning After

Mother Nature fully cooperated with us on Christmas Day yesterday.  We hosted our first Christmas party for all of my wife's siblings, their children, a couple of special guests and a dear aunt who braved the cold weather to be with us.

"Make sure you take lots of pictures," my wife said.  All I can say is it was a picture perfect day yesterday.  Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to post any pictures unless they are approved for publishing.  Here is the only photo I shot yesterday without people.  You will have to use your imagination to picture my precious family gathered around this Christmas tree:
It's time to get back to work now.  Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my stories.  May you continue to experience all the joys that come from the real reason for our Christmas season.  Thank you, Jesus, for coming into this world to save us.  I look forward to your return. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas.  My wife and I are hosting a family party today for our children, my wife's siblings, and numerous nephews and nieces. May your day be filled with joy and may your heart be filled with peace.

Thank you for visiting today. God bless you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Breath of Heaven

The video below features the Nativity Story.  I love the imagery.  Take a moment and watch it unfold before your eyes.  It will warm your heart.  And may you experience a joyful and Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

What Does -20º Feel Like?

The overnight low tonight will be -13º and the local weather people tell me it will feel like -20.  I suppose I will need to experience it myself before I can share how it feels.  Call me crazy but I enjoy my new surroundings.  My wife was hesitant to let me go to my day job yesterday.  I told her I was actually excited to get out on the interstate.  The scenery was incredible.  Trees sprouted icicles that sparkled in the sunlight and  leafless branches were filled with layers of fresh snow from the heavy storm passing through in the middle of the night.  I drove my wife's car which is equipped with two spiked snow tires on the front to help grip the snow and ice.

I remember days in my youth when I played tennis at noon and the Arizona sun heated the courts up to 140º.  One of my students owned a construction business and the only time he was available was in the middle of the day.  He paid me to be his sparring partner.  Neither of us minded what the court conditions were.  It was fun.  So is experiencing my new life in the Midwest.  I'm on the adventure of a lifetime.  The best feeling of all is seeing my wife and kids so happy. 

The big birthday is just two days away.  We are ready for a big celebration at our home on Christmas Day.  The weather outside will be cold but our hearts will be warm and we will be thanking God for all the blessings in our lives.  May you enjoy your Holiday season and have a Merry Christmas. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

3 Days of Snow Flurries Dancing

Our local weather reporter, known by area residents as "Animal," claims we received five inches of snowfall last night.  My snow measuring methods, though unscientific, confirm his story.  Below you will see evidence of last night's storm on my "Chair-o-meter" and my "Weber-o-meter":

I peeked out my front window and spotted an anonymous snow angel.  Here she is in action:

I'm venturing out to my day job soon.  It looks like most of the big storm clouds have moved out of the area but the winds are problematic.  The lows are expected to reach -12º overnight.  Yikes!  I'm predicting three days of snow flurries and a very White Christmas.

Have a great day.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Why the Winter Solstice is a Turning Point

Today is the shortest day of the year.  The sun in the Northern Hemisphere is at its lowest point.  Winter is officially here.  I like to think of this day as a turning point because the amount of sunshine we receive increases every day for the next six months.  Here are some things I'm looking forward to in the next six months:
  1. Celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.
  2. New Years Day.  Our family resolutions appear more like lifelong commitments and this year we are more committed than ever to simplifying our lives and living each day to its fullest.
  3. Valentine's Month.  My wife and I decided one day per year is not enough to celebrate our love for each other.
  4. St. Patrick's Day.  This is my target for completing my second book, The Caveman in the Mirror, and releasing it on Amazon.com.
  5. Increased family time.  Our first family vacation since our relocation takes place within the next six months.  We are also planning a series of three-day getaways to explore our new surroundings.  One of the biggest perks of our day jobs is the vacation time.  We are looking forward to one week of vacation every six months.
Yes, I appreciate every sunrise.  I savor every minute of sunlight.  It feels good to be at a turning point in my life and I'm looking forward to all God has planned for my family and me.  How about you?  Is today's Winter Solstice a turning point in your life?  What are you planning to do with the longer periods of sunlight in the next six months?  Please share your plans in the comment section below.

Friday, December 20, 2013

White Christmas on the Radar

Our schools are closed today.  The roads are icy and the temperature is dropping.  The biggest snow storm of the year is now on the radar and the forecast calls for up to 8" of fresh snow over the weekend.  It sure looks like we are going to have one fabulous White Christmas in our region of the country.

Christmas is only five days away.  We are busy getting ready for all the visitors from my wife's side of the family and plan to host them at our home on Christmas Day.  If you have a moment, please send me an email and let me know how you will be celebrating Christmas this year.  My prayer for you today is that all your days may be Merry and Bright and may all your Christmases be White.  See you tomorrow at 8:08.  Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fortitude Check

Fortitude:  Courage in pain or adversity.

Fortitude is like building a fort around your attitude and then defending that fort with everything you've got.  As long as your attitude remains intact, no matter what is going on in the world around you, you can endure any pain or adversity.  Here are five questions to consider about your fortitude:
  1. What price are you willing to pay to overcome the challenges in your life?
  2. Is there anything you can do today to strengthen your fort?
  3. What can you do to avoid raising the white flag of surrender?
  4. Do you have anyone you can call on when your courage is slipping?
  5. What will your life be like if you are able to have enough courage to survive your pain or adversity?
Our youngest son is a great example of what fortitude is.  He hurt his shoulder in one of his last football games of the season.  When faced with the choice to sit out his wrestling season or work through the pain, he told me it would be more painful to sit on the sidelines.  His physical therapist suggested he wrap the shoulder prior to his matches.  He replied, "when my opponents see the shoulder wrap they will attack my weakness."

This morning he recounted a story about Dan Gable, one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.  "When Dan Gable hurt his knee, he wrapped the healthy knee before his match to trick his opponent and beat him," he told my wife.  I won't be surprised if our son starts wrapping healthy body parts before entering the arena.  The young man is not going to let anyone pin him down.  How about you?  Got fortitude? 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Time to Blow Up the Death Star

The death star is fictional.  I imagine it's a place where junk debt buyers come from.  They swoop in out of nowhere and invade using a barrage of daily robo-calling tactics to harass and frighten others into submission.  Some have been charged with violating the rules of engagement by using something known as robo-signing of affidavits.  This is very illegal.  Santa Claus put them on his naughty list. 

Thirty-five days ago, one of these jdb's (junk debt buyers) from the Evil Empire  showed up on my radar screen.  I decided to go on a reconnaissance mission inside the death star to look for signs of weakness.  On the outside, the death star appears invincible.  Inside it's a different story, more like a house of cards.  I believe I can blow it up.  I can't share too much here yet because the enemy may be eavesdropping.  Remember, I'm a writer – not a lawyer.  Nothing here should be considered legal advice.  If you are under attack from a jdb, please consult a lawyer.  I'm sharing my story with you for entertainment purposes only.  Now that the legal disclaimers are out of the way, here's my idea to legally blow up the death star:
  1. Learn how to strike back at the Evil Empire.  This means learning how to file a motion for production of documents in the courts.  By law, the jdb's must respond.
  2. Learn how to file a motion to compel.  This is what is needed when the enemy gives you the brush off.
  3. Give notice to the enemy that a motion to compel will be filed with the courts if they continue to hide inside their death star.
  4. Learn every defense move available and strike back with a series of objections every time the enemy attacks.
  5. Follow Captain's Kirk's example he used in the Kobayashi Maru,  a simulation given to cadets to test their reaction to a no-win scenario.  Fighting jdb's without an experienced attorney to get you through the neutral zone may appear like a no-win scenario.  I disagree.  The trick is to stay on the bridge and fire your photon torpedoes.  I have a little "Kobayashi Maru" of my own up my sleeve.  Once I blow up the Death Star I will share the details.
Whatever "death star" you may be facing in your life right now, I want you to remember one thing – it can be defeated if you take a moment and look behind you.  Yes, the giant at your back is bigger than anything in front of you attacking you.  If you don't recognize the giant behind you, here's a hint:  His birthday is seven days away.  He is the reason for the season.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Where's the 808 Guy?

My apologies to anyone who looked for me this morning and couldn't find me at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  A family matter required my immediate attention and I had to delay my morning writing.  Everything is back on track now.  Let's just say someone in the family wasn't eating an apple a day.  Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow at 8:08.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Living in a Winter Wonderland

That's my backyard in the photo.  The falling snow you see is my first animation.  Another storm front moved in last night dropping a fresh layer of snow and guaranteeing we will have our second White Christmas in a row.  I feel like I'm living in a Winter Wonderland.

We are getting an opportunity to see the beauty of Iowa this Winter as we travel to watch our son compete in wrestling tournaments and school meets.  We are also hosting all of my wife's siblings and their families at our home on Christmas day.  This is a busy time for our family. 

If you're feeling a little Holiday stress right now because your schedule seems overwhelming, don't worry.  Take a moment and decide what's really important and what's not.  It's okay to say no.  One of my latest discoveries is the afternoon nap on days off.  There's nothing like drifting away for fifteen minutes in the middle of the day.

Have a great day today.  I look forward to sharing more with you tomorrow.  Don't forget to leave a comment about your plans for the Holiday season.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Family Reunion at the Castle

Today is a big day for all the relatives on my wife's side of the family.  This afternoon we are reuniting with three generations of classy people at the "castle," a retirement center where two of my wife's aunts are permanent residents.  It looks very much like a five star resort and there will be plenty of family, food and fun.  This is the kind of day fairy tales are made of.  It doesn't get much better than this.  Christmas is only ten days away and there is a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. I'm loving all the Christmas music filling the air, especially the song, "I'll be home for Christmas."  On this day, it has extra special meaning.

May you be surrounded by loved ones during this special Holiday season and may you experience the joy of Christmas.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

There's Something About Mary – Part III

Only a few possessions survived during our downsizing and transition to our new home in the Midwest.  We hung three paintings in our master bedroom – Jesus, Mary and two curly-haired angels.  I noticed Mary peering out from behind a candle partially covering her body when I woke up this morning.  I usually see Jesus first when I open my eyes because His painting is in plain sight just above His Mother.  Today was different.  Even Mary's face seemed peculiar.   Her grin was telling me she was hiding something.  The truth is Mary has been hiding something for a long time.  It's a message for our world and it has to do with her Son, Jesus.

Scientists are using modern technology to uncover some amazing discoveries related to an event that took place in an obscure place almost 500 years ago when Mary appeared to a thirteen-year-old boy.  She told the teenager she wanted a church built in her honor.  When the local bishop asked the boy to give him proof, Mary told the boy to bring the bishop some roses.  It was well past the growing season and the roses weren't native to Mexico.  The boy headed off with a cloak full of flowers to see the bishop a second time.  When the two met, Juan opened up his Tilma and the flowers dropped to the ground, revealing an image of Mary on the cloak.  It turns out there's more to the story.

Scientists have been trying to figure out why this garment made from a cactus plant is so durable.  Upon closer inspection, there is something highly unusual about Mary's eyes.  Photographers from our era discovered there is a reflection in the eyes that mimics human eyes.  An ophthalmologist enlarged the image by 2500x and claimed he found evidence that Mary's eyes reflected the exact moment when Juan Diego opened up his cloak and spilled out the roses in 1531.

Whatever you may believe or not believe about Mary, there is one thing she does want you to believe.  She wants you to believe in her Son.  He is coming.  Maybe that's why Mary appears to be grinning at me when I look at her image on my bedroom wall.  I feel a connection to her.  I feel a connection to her Son.  And I will be reminded of her every time I drive by that tree stump on Interstate 80 near mile marker 231 that looks a lot like Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Here is the photo I shot of the tree stump on December 12, the 482nd anniversary of the day Mary gave proof to a skeptical bishop:
What do you see in this picture?  Does it look like a tree stump or more like a woman praying?  Maybe she is praying for the world to see her Son when He rises?  I do know one thing for sure – there's something about Mary.

Friday, December 13, 2013

There's Something About Mary – Part II

Yesterday I made a promise to my blog readers that I would capture a photo of a tree stump that reminds me of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and publish the photo before Christmas.  This was on my mind when I left for work before sunrise.  I always leave early to give myself time to mentally prepare for the day.  The outside temperature was 1º when I attempted to open my garage door.  It was frozen shut.  I eventually got it open and headed off to my morning commute.  The morning sky was so beautiful.  Maybe this is the day I photograph the tree stump, I thought as the sun peeked out.  The Interstate was icy and I wasn't sure about pulling over with all the semis around me.  As I approached the area where the tree stump was located, the last semi passed me and I saw an opportunity to pull over safely.  I knew the moment I parked my car that the timing was perfect.  The tree stump on top of the rolling hill appeared to be whispering my name.  I zipped up my jacket, got out of the car, and hiked through about six inches of snow towards the tree stump.  Here is what I saw:
This morning I shared the photograph with my wife and she asked, "why is the sun in that position?"

"It has to do with the time of the year.  On December 21st the sun will be at its furthest point south," I answered.

"It really does look like a person who is praying," she said.

"The tilt in the head is what reminds me of Mary,"  I told her.  "Let me show you what I mean," I said as I did a quick internet search for Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Here is the image  I showed her:
There is one more odd similarity to these images.  The image of the Virgin Mary was revealed for the first time on December 12, 1531, the same day I took my picture.  I took this picture on the 482nd anniversary of the day when a poor young man living in a remote area opened up his cloak made from a cactus plant and unveiled an image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  The image should have shriveled up and disintegrated within twenty years.  It did not.  482 years later it's still in mint condition.  Scientists have no clue why this cactus plant is not decaying.  Maybe it has something to do with Mary.  As for me, I'm glad she said yes when an Angel appeared to her asking if she would be willing to be the mother of the Savior.  And I'm thankful a poor teenager named Juan agreed to gather up some flowers and show them to a skeptical church leader on a cold December day almost five hundred years ago.  And yes, in my life, the Son always appears at the perfect time, just like the sun showed up in time for my morning photo yesterday.  That's my stump speech.  Have a great day.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

There's Something About Mary – Part I

Mother Nature knocked down a tree along the Interstate I use for my daily commute.  The remaining stub resembles the Virgin Mary when the light hits it just right.  Even the angle of the limb appears similar to the image of her at the top of today's blog.   Every time I pass by tree stub, I tell myself, "There she is again, I must photograph her for the world to see."  And I wonder, does anyone else see what I see?  A couple of thousand years ago, she was pregnant with Jesus.  I imagine what it was like for her to be traveling with her husband late in her pregnancy, camping outside in the cold.

The photo will be challenging to take during these weather conditions.  Someone told me yesterday we may soon see wind chills in the minus 20º range.  Maybe this is why I feel so connected to Mary during the Christmas season.  There's something about her.  She shows up in the strangest places.  And she has one purpose – to get people excited about her Son.  She wants us to be ready for Him when He returns.  Are you ready?

I promise to get that photo of the tree limb soon.  You can decide for yourself if you can see the Virgin Mary in the picture.  My goal is to capture the shot before Christmas.  Can you believe Christmas is only 13 days away?  Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stormtroopers in Iowa

The locals here call us the "California people."  Yep.  We're the family that behaves like the salmon who swim upstream.  Want an example?  Most people around these parts of the country drive trucks and SUV's.  Here is our oldest son's stormtrooper vehicle...

 I like to think of us as "stormtroopers."  I'm not only talking about those pesky Winter storms like the one that hit in the middle of the night last night – I'm referring to how we respond in any kind of storm any time of the year. 

If you live on the West coast and you're wondering how we're doing, don't worry.  We are enjoying our new surroundings.  We are super excited to be with my wife's family on Sunday for a big family reunion at a place some here call the "castle."  It's like a five star resort for retirees.

On a personal note, I'm working on a plan to destroy the "death star" that showed up on my radar screen last month.  I just want my readers to know I'm committed to restoring financial peace in my household.  The Evil Empire has met a stormtrooper who knows how to use the force.  Keep your eyes on the sky.  When the death star ignites it's going to be so bright some may ask, "Is that the Star of Bethlehem?"  Have a great day.  Time for me to put on my protective gear and go battle the elements.  See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Our youngest son entered his first wrestling tournament of the season over the weekend.  He found himself in a difficult situation in his second round match.  His opponent wrapped his arms around his neck began choking him.  Our son clawed his way to the edge of the mat and managed to get out of bounds before passing out.  Once he recovered, he complained to the referee but the referee did nothing.  He got back in the ring and attacked his adversary with all his might, pinning him in the closing seconds of the final round.  When the tournament ended, he received a first place medal.

I don't have enough fingers and toes to count all the days when I felt like life was trying to pin me down.  I do know one thing – my place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

If you happen to be facing a great challenge in your life today, please stay in the arena.  Don't give up.  I'm cheering for you.  And I'm wishing you a great day. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Can You Survive a Debt Shark Attack?

Debt shark attacks are on the rise.  The most dangerous predator in the water these days is the third-party debt shark who acquires alleged debts from original creditors for pennies on the dollar.  I began studying this species after receiving an invitation from a debt shark's attorney last month.  I wanted to respond properly to keep the shark from devouring my family so I scoured the Internet for shark repellent.  My personal story is meant for your entertainment purposes only and nothing here should be considered legal advice.  If you've been bitten by a debt shark, please seek help from a licensed attorney.  Here's what I've done so far to prepare for my face-to-face encounter:
  1. I learned how to make my own pleading paper template.  The courts require all documents to be submitted on pleading paper.  You need this if you're planning on defending yourself without an attorney.  This is called "Pro Se."
  2. I learned how to file a proper response to the debt shark's complaint, called an answer, and filed it with the court before time expired.
  3. I learned how the discovery process works and filed a request for documents with the plaintiff's attorneys.  The debt shark has thirty days to answer my twenty questions.  I wish my shark good luck.  The questions aren't difficult, however, most third-party collectors attack their victims without any knowledge of the facts. 
  4. I learned how to file a motion to compel.  My belief is that the debt shark will be unable to answer my questions and may even try to ignore me.  If that happens, I plan to file a motion to compel with the courts.  In other words, I'm asking the judge to force the shark to answer and if he doesn't, I plan to get my case dismissed.
  5. I learned how to file a motion to strike.  Since the debt shark pursuing me is of the third-party variety, anything his office sends me, in my opinion, is hearsay.  If I want to keep his hearsay out of the courtroom I will file a motion to strike.
  6. I read some great articles written by law professors pertaining to the topic of debt collections.
  7. I studied all the laws written to protect swimmers from debt sharks.  When a shark violates these laws, he can be forced to pay the victim.
  8. I discovered what motivates sharks to attack.  It's really simple.  They're attracted by blood in the water, otherwise known as money.  They tend to bite once and then sit back and wait for the final kill.  If you sit there and do nothing, you get hit with something called a default judgment.  That's when the shark goes in for the final kill and devours you, your income, your home and anything you have of value.  The shark does not expect you to get out of the water alive.  If you somehow manage to survive the first bite, he may offer to dismiss as long as you keep your mouth shut about your experience.  If you happen to be a writer, like me, you decline to sign anything and publish your experience so other swimmers can learn how to survive in the water.
  9. The best lesson I learned has to do with shark repellent.  You can only get this product from a judge.  You have to ask for it.  Tell him, "your honor,  there is no evidence to support this predator's claims and I request you dismiss this case WITH PREJUDICE."  Spray it on liberally and enjoy getting back in the water.
  10. The more I read about how debt sharks behave, the more I understand their feeding habits.  Debt sharks don't like it when you challenge them, especially when every motion you file costs them about three billable hours they have to pay their attorneys.
Remember to seek professional help from a licensed attorney if you are being pursued by a debt shark.  Stay calm.  You can survive.  I will post the results of my shark encounter once the proceedings come to a conclusion.  And if there happens to be a publisher out there who is interested in the rights to my story, let's talk.  Just email me and we can team up to help millions of shark victims.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Message To Some Friends Who Are Struggling

Advent is a time of joyful preparation.  For some, joyful may not be the first word they use to describe the Holidays.  My wife lost her mother during this season many years ago when we were first married.  Some friends sent me emails asking for prayers.  Several are involved in life and death struggles.  Others are hurting from the changes in our economy.  Today's blog is dedicated to those individuals.

I'm on my way to my house of worship this morning and will be walking through the first snow flurries of the season.  With the windchill, the temperature will be in the negative numbers.  No matter how cold it is here in the Midwest, my heart will always be warm.  I will be praying for you with every step I take.  God bless you.  Peace be with you.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

When Nature Sings

Mother Nature reveals herself, often without words.  Yesterday, she sang a sweet song to me while I was driving home.  I pulled out my camera phone and snapped the picture you see here.  The clouds were dancing to her sheet music, displaying their staccato notes across the sky at sunset before disappearing into the darkness.  The trees along the interstate gave up all their leaves prior to Mother Nature's Winter Movement.  Their naked branches bask in the last remnants of sunlight and offer themselves as figurines woven into this tapestry.

Can you hear Mother Nature singing to you in this photo?  How does her song make you feel?  Please add your thoughts below.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Ho, Ho, Ho.  Christmas is only 19 days away.  Do you remember the anticipation you felt as the day approached?

What are you most excited about this Holiday season?  Will you have an opportunity to travel?  It looks like the odds are in my favor to have a White Christmas here in the Midwest.  I look forward to sitting around the Christmas tree with my family and enjoying a warm fire.  We are at the beginning stages of an arctic storm and the temperatures are dropping fast.  Snow is expected by Sunday.

May you enjoy this special time of the year.  And keep in mind the real reason for the season.  It's all about a birthday.  Not even St. Nicholas knows when He will be back.  I believe this:  Jesus is the best gift anyone can ask for.  No, you won't find Him in your chimney.  Yes, He will be with you during the Holidays and beyond.  Invite Him into your home and don't forget to wish Him a Happy Birthday.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

This Is Not a Pyramid Scheme

The search for truth can last a lifetime.  I believe I may have accumulated enough material on my journey to write a book about this subject, Wisdom for Dummies.  Here's the Reader's Digest version:
  1. Consider three parts to your life, arranged like a pyramid:  You, your family and God.
  2. Decide who to place at the top of the pyramid and who to place in the second and third position.
  3. Evaluate your life and grade yourself.
  4. If you give yourself a failing grade, think about how re-arranging the three parts of your pyramid may help you raise your grade.
  5. If you're still having trouble, here's a hint – put God in the first position, your family second and yourself last.  This solution is not a pyramid scheme.  It works.
Most of my life I've been the dummy, like the ones you see in those crash tests for automobiles.  Yep, I drove around without a seat belt and suffered greatly every time I got into an accident.  That's what happens when you put yourself first.  There were times in my life when God wasn't even on the pyramid.  I never doubted His existence, however, I did doubt He had time for my troubles.  Once I figured out how to arrange my pyramid properly, things changed.  My whole life changed.  Give it a try.  Let me know how you're doing.  And if you have time, share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Preparing for the Polar Express

Arctic air is blanketing the country this week.  Some states are seeing temperature drops of 50º in just 24 hours.  We are experiencing 0 visibility this morning due to a heavy layer of fog.  The school start times are delayed by two hours.  While these conditions may be annoying, days like these are perfect for people like me who enjoy opportunities to retreat to the basement, crank up the fireplace and spend hours writing without any outside interruptions. 

Don't let bad weather get you down.  Stay positive and find a way to win no matter what Mother Nature sends your way.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What's on Your Christmas Wish List

I asked my daughter the other day, "what's on your Christmas wish list?"

"Peace on earth," she responded.

"What's number two?" I asked.

There are over 7 billion people on the planet.  In order for peace to exist, everyone needs to get along.  I don't believe we can change the hearts of 7 billion people, however, there is one thing we can change – our own heart.  One person can make a difference.  Look at what Jesus did for the world the first time He appeared over 2,000 years ago.

What's on your Christmas wish list today?  What's on your heart?  My prayer for you is that you find peace.  Peace be with you.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Answer is Filed

The junk debt buyer's attorney who served his complaint will be getting his answer today by certified mail.  I didn't let his complaint spoil my Holiday cheer.  My wife and I spent the weekend transforming our home and we are officially ready for Christmas.  Here are some lessons I learned about civil proceedings in my new home state:
  1. When you are served with a summons and complaint, you have twenty days to file an answer in the state of Iowa.
  2. You don't need an attorney to represent you in court, although the judge expects you to know the law and follow the rules if you choose to represent yourself.
  3. Most plaintiffs in junk debt cases expect their opponents to ignore their complaints.  When the defendant fails to respond, they win by default.  This happens in 95% of all cases filed.
  4. When a defendant challenges the plaintiff, they force the attorneys to prove their case.
  5. The answer puts the plaintiff on notice what defense(s) the defendant is planning.
  6. Once the answer is filed, the process of discovery begins.  I will write more about these adventures in future updates.
  7. There are all kinds of resources available for the little guy who wants to defend himself.
  8. Preparing for the courtroom is similar to writing a book.  There is research, getting to know the characters, an antagonist and protagonist, and a plot to develop.  There is tension leading up to the climax.  I'm planning on sharing my experience in a future book.  The names will be changed to keep me out of the courtroom.  One courtroom experience is enough for me.
  9. In a civil proceeding, the defendant has nothing to prove.  It's up to the plaintiff to prove his case.  
  10. There are new laws written to protect consumers.  When a debt collector breaks these laws, there are consequences.  Read future blog stories for more about this.
Should you ever receive a summons, make sure you file an answer.  Don't be afraid to face your accuser.  Have a great day.  And remember, these posts are for entertainment purposes only – nothing here is intended to be legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please seek a licensed attorney.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Make This Month a December to Remember

It's official.  December is here.  The snow birds in my new hometown already migrated to other parts of the country.  They're missing out on a White Christmas.  For our daughter, the opportunity to be with us and celebrate December in the snow is a dream come true.  Wherever you may be, my wish for you is that you make this month a December to remember.  Here are some ideas to help you create some memories that will last a lifetime:
  1. Visit a resale shop and pick out something for your home that makes a statement.  My wife and I found the perfect addition to our Holiday items  – a small sign that reads Comfort and Joy. We like it so much that we plan to keep it up year-round.  Total price:  99 cents.
  2. Re-arrange your furniture to highlight your favorite Holiday decorations.  This was our family project yesterday.  By the time we were done, we found a way to make our manger scene the focal point in our basement where we spend most of our time.
  3. Keep your decorations up for the entire month.  The three kings didn't show up until the Epiphany on January 6.  So why do all the Christmas decorations come down so soon?  Savor the whole month.  If your Christmas tree is turning into a fire hazard and you have to toss it out as soon as Christmas is over, at least leave your manger scene up until the three kings visit Jesus on January 6.
I have to admit I'm feeling giddy today.  Although our first Christmas in Iowa last year was really special, there was one thing that felt out of place.  We left our family Christmas tree behind in California when we departed  and moved to Iowa nearly two years ago.  My wife found a replacement tree but it just didn't have the magical feeling our Costco Christmas tree gave us when we first purchased it in the early 90's.  When our oldest son relocated to be closer to us, he brought the tree with him.  Yes, I felt the magic again when we put it together yesterday.  And I won't be taking it down until the Epiphany.  This will be a December to remember.  How about you?  What memories are you creating this month?  Please share your comments below.