R-E-S-P-E-C-T

In 1967, the late Aretha Franklin released a song which would become synonymous with her name, Respect. Since that time, the song has been used to communicate a message of respecting another person. When I listen to her sing that song, I cannot help but feel her own feelings in the lyrics which she was singing. For her, she was asking to be respected for being an extremely talented black female artist in a time when being black and being female seldom received any of the respect that either social group deserved. This is the song which came to my mind the other day while I was sitting in the coffee shop.

I had gone to my regular coffee shop to enjoy a latte while I did some reading and some planning for my writing. One of the frequent events which occur during my trips to the coffee shop is my observation of the surrounding people. This happens either as I am brainstorming ideas which leads me to look around myself or if there is a sound which draws my attention. On this particular day as I was observing, I became aware public respectfulness appears to have lessened.

What I mean by public respectfulness is the manner in which a person conducts him or herself around others. With the introduction of the mobile phone, more people carry on conversations in public areas than used to be the case. This convenience has not been accompanied by an agreed upon set of behavior standards. I have no problem with people talking on their phones in public areas, in fact, I am guilty of doing so. What I have a problem with is when those conversations become loud enough to interfere with the normal actions of others. Or when those conversations lead to holding up lines because the person is distracted with the phone in their hand and is unable to take care of what is required of them at the time.

Another disrespect which I often witness is in regard to attending events. I remember my parents always making sure that if we were attending a concert, a play, or some other culture event which required sitting for a period, I was instructed to use the restroom before we entered. The reason for my parent’s instructions was in case I needed to use the restroom in the middle of the event which would cause me to get up from my seat, walk in front of others, and interrupt their enjoyment of the event. Most events which were lengthy would place an intermission in the middle so that a person could take care of this and other needs without being a distraction. These days not only do children get up and exit at any point during an event but adults do it and the adults are usually much louder and more disruptive in the process.

The lack of public respect surfaces also in regard to parents providing oversight for their children. Having been a father of two boys, I understand that there are times when a child acts out in public. This is normal. However, my parents provided an example which I followed with my children, if acting out was the plan, then I was escorted out of the public area where a conversation would occur. Unfortunately, I witness too many parents who are either more concerned about continuing a conversation they are having with a friend or focused on something on their phone than they are being aware of what their child is doing and providing appropriate redirection if a child is causing a concern. I watched a mother sitting with one of her daughters while her other daughter was dancing around breakable items, picking them up, and playing with them. The mother looked at the child but did nothing to redirect the child except to say that her daughter probably should not do that. In a short amount of time, the young girl dropped a ceramic mug which shattered on the floor. An employee came to clean it up and reached the child faster than the mother who was seated only a couple feet away. I view this as being disrespectful of the business and the patrons who were in the business.

The respect of which Aretha Franklin sang is something which is taught at home. Parents, grandparents, adult relatives, and adults as a whole need to model respect for our children. We need to take a serious look at how we display public respect. I learned respect at home from my parents, my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, and the friends of my parents. I also had the fortune of adults in my church, my teachers, and community members to teach me respect. I think we need more of this.

The Unexpected

I hope that some of you have noticed an absence in my posts over the last two weeks. Let me explain why you have not seen any posts from me lately.

When we moved to Fort Worth almost a year ago, we made the decision that we would rent a house for the first year. This would give us the opportunity to learn our new community and decide which areas would be a good fit for us. It was a fantastic idea. We quickly came to realize that we enjoyed the area of Fort Worth in which our rental home was located. We also came to understand that the neighborhood in which we were living was nice but not the one where we wanted to settle permanently. Our original time frame was to start seriously looking for the right house in November and if we did not locate the one, we could always extend our lease month by month if necessary. However, our plans changed and events occurred very quickly.

The first catalyst for our change of plans was receiving contact from the rental company on behalf of the owners of our property in September. The woman who spoke with my husband indicated that the owners wanted us to consider purchasing the home from them. This offer took us by surprise which led us into a discussion about our permanent home sooner than we had anticipated. The conditions which the current owners were placing on their offer seemed unreasonable to us even if the price sounded very good. My husband contacted the realtor who we worked with during our hunt for a rental home, and the one who we had decided would be our choice during our search for a house to buy. She agreed that the price was right but the terms were not. She also informed us after hearing our original plans that if we were to go to a month-by-month rental agreement, the owners would likely raise our rent approximately $300 a month. We were not willing to pay the additional amount so our timeline was moved up. Our lease was over on December 31, so we would need to vacate by that time.

Along comes the next catalyst for change. Since we were going to have to find a home quicker than planned, we moved up the search process start to be October and hopefully locate a house by November. If this time frame worked, we would not have a mortgage payment until January, so no month would have a rent and mortgage payment at the same time. The last weekend in September we decided to begin attending some open houses. The first home we visited was nice. It had great curb appeal along with some amenities which were inviting. The asking price was well below our top target price so that was a plus as well. The major drawback was that it was a two-story home, and we were hoping to find a single story home. The location was also outside of our preferred area. We went to two more open houses that weekend. One home was definitely not viable for us. The third was a possibility but once again was outside of our target area and the price was at the top of our budget. Since we had agreed that it would be unwise to buy the first house we viewed, we planned to move on in our search. My husband did contact our realtor on Sunday night to update her on what we had seen and set up a time to view some houses with her.

Then came the early Monday morning call. Our realtor had contacted the seller’s realtor to get more information on the first home which we liked. She called my husband as he was leaving for work to inform us that the sellers had received an offer over the weekend and were planning on determining if they would accept that offer or not by noon on Monday. Now what do we do? After a conversation, we agreed to make an offer a bit higher than the asking price. By early afternoon, we had received word that our offer had been verbally accepted by the seller. Now it was time to scramble to lock in financing and begin the endless amount of paperwork. We were on the road to becoming homeowners once again and October had not even begun.

I am not going to go through the nightmare of all the paperwork related to securing financing for a home in this post. I will save that for a future post. However, the next two weeks amounted to telling the lending company everything about us in minute detail and providing documents to prove what we said. Then it was wait time to see if we were approved for the loan. In the meantime, I had to set up an inspector for the home, secure a moving company, and begin getting utilities turned off at the rental while turning them on at the new house. The closing date of November 15 was our agreed upon target. At least we had decided to let the moving company pack us so that was one item off our list of to-do’s.

Everything was approved and our timeline was going to work out. Our official move date would be November 26 (which I had mistakenly thought was the week after Thanksgiving). Because of my mistake in planning around Thanksgiving, we were packed on Monday, moved on Tuesday, and celebrated Thanksgiving with friends on Thursday. Now you understand why my posts were less frequent for a few weeks and non-existent for a couple of weeks.

Throughout this whole process, I again discovered God at work in our lives. Through the Lord, we maneuvered the unexpected and found more than what we had originally hoped to find. We are now settled into our new home and as of this weekend, decorated for Christmas. The anticipation that accompanies Advent became a real experience for us as we officially began establishing roots in our Texas home. Thanks be to God!

I am back on track and will resume my writing. Please look for future posts on a more regular schedule.

Passion

Recently I have read some articles stating that finding one’s passion in life and then determining how to identify employment which allows you to work within your passion is not a good idea. The general argument is that if you have a passion for something and use that as your basis for employment, you will come to hate your passion and be miserable. There may be some truth in that argument, but I am not convinced. I think there is value in using your passion(s) to determine what you find for employment.

Over my years of employment, I have come to realize that there is a difference between a job and meaningful employment. I have done a number of “jobs” that provided little to no satisfaction for me in life. They were a way to earn a paycheck which allowed me to pay bills and to provide food for my household. Each of these types of jobs left me feeling like it truly was work and I would dread every time I had to go to my place of employment.

I took some time to get to a place where I could name my passion(s). A significant passion which I have is engaging in relationships with people. I enjoy finding connecting points and learning about the other individual. Assisting others in growing in their own lives adds to this passion. When I was in college, I think this is what led me to consider a teaching career. As I prepared to graduate with my degree, I had taken courses which allowed me to teach in the area of high school social studies and work with the teams in the area of athletic training. This appeared to me to be a way I could engage in relationships while assisting the teenagers who I would be working with grow in their own lives. In college, I had not been able to name my passions but looking back it now seems clear to me. However, instead of following this path, I was presented with an opportunity to accept a job in management with the Target stores and I took the opportunity. Notice that I stated I accepted a job because it quickly became only that.

Other examples from my life could be listed when I accepted a job and not a position which would allow me to use my passions. I would eventually find employment in an area where I could live out my passion at work. While no position is without its trials and challenges, if you are in one in which your passions are being addressed, it is much easier to weather through those difficult situations and times. When you work just a job, there is less of a drive to remain in the situation.

I would also point out that I think passions change in life. The things which you are passionate about when you are in your early 20s are not the same as those when you are in your 50’s. Be open to realizing that these changes occur. At different points in your life, you should pause and reassess your passion. You may discover that a change has happened or you may reaffirm the passions which you have had previously.

Contrary to recent articles which I have been reading regarding the error of following your passion into employment, my advice is to do exactly that. My experience has been that when I wake up in the morning and know I get to spend a day putting my passion to use, I am more eager to head off to the office. Here are my tips for those who may be in the employment hunting aspect of life:

  1. Identify and name those things in which you are passionate.
  2. Determine what energizes you and motivates you to go through the day.
  3. Seek input from others regarding what they see in you and where you display happiness.
  4. Explore how your passion(s) and happiness can be identified in employment opportunities.
  5. Search for work which will utilize your passion(s) as much as possible.

Making Friends

When a person starts kindergarten, one of the pieces of advice that a parent usually gives is to try to make a friend the first day. For some children this is an easy task, especially if they are social and outgoing by nature. Others tend to struggle with living out this piece of advice because they are shy and more introverted. Whichever the case might be, most children seem to be able to make at least one friend by the end of their first week. Aiding this task is the reality that there is a captive group of children in one room with the same piece of advice and dealing with the same challenges. They have some automatic commonalities.

Moving to a new community usually places a person into a similar situation as the first day of school. The person is in a new environment and is encountering people who are not familiar. Making new friends is easier if certain conditions create natural connections. An example would include having children who attend the same school and are part of a school group together. Parents who go to support their children in an extracurricular activity often engage in conversations at the various events so a bond begins to form and friendships develop.

Another example would be if the person joins a community group or faith community. Attending meetings, fundraisers, and activities provide a natural opportunity for relationships to form. In this case there is some shared interest which brings people together. Already having an interest in common with another person makes conversation easier. Sharing of personal information and stories becomes natural. Friends are found.

However, if you are an adult, do not have school-aged children or an opportunity to join a local group, making friends becomes much more difficult. This is something which my husband and I have experienced since our move at the beginning of the year. We have begun forming relationships with a few of our neighbors but schedules and commitments do not always allow for time to interact in more than just friendly greetings. Previously we were part of an awesome faith community which allowed us to establish many friendships. My husband also had been actively involved in a YMCA swim program as a coach, so he had some pre-established friendships before I moved to join him. To date, we have not been able to find a faith community which connects with our spiritual needs. Nor have we found a community group in which we have shared interests.

I share all this because I have come to realize that even for a more extroverted person, making friends is not always the easiest. As we prepare to move from our rental home to own our home, my hope is that we will be able to find connections in our new neighborhood that will assist us in developing meaningful and lasting friendships like the ones we still have back in Iowa.

My Bucket

Some years ago there was a movie entitled, The Bucket List. This movie had a cast with a lot of well-known actors in it. The two main parts were played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. These two individuals became an unlikely duo who were facing the reality of mortality. Each had been diagnosed with cancer and were hospitalized. One day they walk out of the cancer ward and begin a road trip to accomplish the to-do’s which each wanted checked off before they died. This movie launched a trend of people creating their own bucket lists and striving to complete them.

A few weeks ago, I started to think about what would be on my bucket list. Over the last couple of weeks I have been attempting to create this list but have been unsuccessful. I had intended to have a list that I could then share in one of my blog posts. Each time I sat down to try to write my bucket list, I just stared at the screen of my computer. After sitting and looking at the computer screen but unable to type anything, I started to wonder why this was such a difficult task for me.

One reason which some of you might attribute to my difficult of creating the list is that I struggle with the concept of my mortality. This reason definitely does not fit my situation. In order to not cause panic among friends and family who may read this post, I am not racing towards my own death or doing anything to hasten it. No, I am greatly enjoying my life. I have a husband who I love and who loves me deeply. I have very special friends in my life. I have wonderful sons. My life is one of relative comfort. The opportunity to launch steps toward fulfilling a dream has presented itself, and I am enjoying the new adventures. I clearly am enjoying life. However, I also do not fear death in any way. My faith has given me assurances that this life is not all there is and that what will be after my transition from this life is something that will be beyond wonderful. My difficulty in creating a bucket list has nothing to do with a fear or denial of my own mortality.

Another reason which could be the cause of my writer’s block in list creating might be that I have already accomplished everything I would ever care to accomplish in life. Again, this is not the answer. I love to travel and there are many more places in this beautiful world which God has created than I have ever had the opportunity to see. I still have experiences which I desire such as seeing my sons marry, the possibility of having grandchildren, and completing (and selling) my first book. There are books I want to read, movies I want to see, stage performances I wish to enjoy. Life holds so much I have yet to live. The bucket list issue is not due to an exhausted amount of items to be placed upon it.

After some time of pondering why I continue to grapple with the creation of my personalized bucket list, I began to have some insight. While I could create a list, the list would be so long that I would not be able to determine where to end it nor do I think I could come close to completing it. I truly love living life and experiencing all of it with each opportunity which presents itself. Instead of creating a bucket list that I then feel I must accomplish to consider myself successful, I will live each day that the Lord gives me to the fullest I can. I will travel when I am able. I will experience life with my sons, my husband, and my friends. My book will be finished when it is time and maybe I will be lucky enough to sell it. I will go to movies, see performances, attend festivals, and read books as time and money allows. My bucket list will be fulfilled in whatever way it happens and I will die a happy man.

Go Hawks!

A battle for bragging rights within the state takes place tomorrow afternoon. The time for the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones to meet on the grid iron is less than twenty-four hours away. Having spent a large portion of my life in the state of Iowa, I have been actively engaged in this rivalry for many years. I look forward to this Saturday each year and have enjoyed the years when I have actually been in the stadium to watch the game. This is one afternoon when the state is clearly divided.

I am a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes. I actually became a fan when I was in grade school. Probably the main reason I am a Hawkeye fan is that one of my friends and class rivals was a Cyclone fan. I grew up watching the Hawkeyes play football on television. Ames was closer to my hometown than Iowa City but that did not matter. I dreamed of going to Kinnick Stadium and watching them play. While in high school, I actually did get to experience that dream. Since my band director was a graduate of the University of Iowa, our band was invited to participate in an event during one of the games. Not only did I get to watch the Hawkeyes play football in the stadium but I also was able to march on the field with other high school bands and the University’s marching band.

I would not be given an opportunity to return to Kinnick Stadium for another football game until almost twenty years later. After having graduated from college, spending time in Nebraska, returning to the state for my Master’s degree, going back to Nebraska, and then moving to central Iowa, I was able to obtain two tickets for my wife and I to go watch the Hawkeyes beat Wisconsin. Then it would be a few years later before I obtained season tickets for Hawkeye football games. I loved the atmosphere of game day. There is nothing quite like being in the stadium with all the energy and traditions.

Now living in Texas, I no longer have the opportunity to watch the Hawkeyes live. Instead, my husband and I go to a local bar where a group of Hawkeye fans and alumni gather to cheer on the Hawks each game day. We will head there tomorrow and cheer for another Hawkeye victory. The group is a lot of fun. One of the members even brings a sound system so he can play music by the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band which is usually played in the stadium. Each touchdown is followed by the playing of the fight song as we clap and sing along just like what is happening at the live game. On special games, one of the members makes banana pudding which tastes great and is the color of one of the team’s colors.

Before this game and after this game, I will cheer for the Iowa State Cyclones. I truly do wish they have a successful season. However, on this Saturday, my only desire is that the Hawkeyes win and the Cyclones lose. I leave you with a few lines which I hope we sing a lot tomorrow:

The word is “Fight! Fight! Fight! for IOWA, “

Let every loyal Iowan sing;

The word is “Fight! Fight! Fight! for IOWA, “

Until the walls and rafters ring (rah! rah!)

Come on and cheer, cheer, cheer for IOWA,

Come on and cheer until you hear the final gun.

The word is “Fight! Fight! Fight! for IOWA, “

Until the game is won.

GO HAWKS!!!

Battery Recharge

As we are approaching a holiday weekend, I began thinking about how people re-energize themselves. I have discovered that each person is unique regarding how they approach refilling their life batteries. The one thing which we all have in common is the need to recharge. We were not created to go at full speed seven days a week. While this has not prevented some individuals from attempting this rate of activity, I am not aware of anyone who has been successful at achieving this goal.

My quest for recharging my life batteries has led me to discover these realities:

  • The method of recharging has changed over time.
  • I require various combinations of methods most of the time.
  • I like to combine alone time and time spent with others.
  • I enjoy quiet times and stimulating times.
  • I regularly need some form of physical activity but also need time to be at rest.

As you can see, there is no one set way for me to recharge. The way in which I accomplish this necessary task is dependent on my current mood, what I have been engaged in recently, and what might be available at the time. The issue is not what is necessary for a person to recharge; the issue is whether a person takes the time to recharge or not.

A recharging must occur on three different levels. The first level is a physical recharging. An individual must pay attention to the body to determine when the body is in need of rest, rejuvenation, and gaining of strength. Our bodies are like a machine that will wear out if we attempt to push it too hard for too long.

The second level of recharging is a mental recharging. Like the muscles and organs of our bodies, our psyche must be given the opportunity to unwind and release. This may require watching a television show which has a lower demand on our mental skills. Some individuals have found that coloring a picture provides that opportunity to let their thoughts go into a lower gear. For me, working on a jigsaw puzzle is a great way to mentally recharge.

The third level of recharging is spiritually recharging. Our spirits need to be allowed to recapture energy. I am one who uses time outdoors to do this most often. Walking is my favorite spiritual recharge method. Seeing creation, especially on a sunny day or along a body of water, reminds me that I am part of something much larger. The beauty fills my spirit with joy and energy.

What are your methods for recharging your life batteries? Are you doing a good job of making sure this happens regularly? How might you improve in this area?

Binding Ties

When I was in elementary school, we would get to watch a couple of television shows in our classroom each week. One of the shows was the Electric Company. The other show was the Big Blue Marble. The latter show would feature stories about kids from different parts of the world. The producers intended to communicate that our world is not really as big as it may seem and that by getting to know people from other parts of the world, we would build a better society together. There was even a pen-pal program (writing actual letters to another person for those who do not understand this concept) that would encourage an ongoing connection and conversation.

I share this memory from the past because I have been thinking about the connectedness of people. It is not surprising that in the age of the internet and social media, the ability to connect with others is even greater. Additionally, technology allows this connectedness to be almost instantaneous. Yet with the tools provided to us, we still seem to struggle with connecting to others.

I am a fairly outgoing person. I engage in conversations with a variety of people in a variety of settings without much difficulty most of the time. Not everyone is comfortable in social settings or in engaging in conversation with individuals whom they have not met. The challenge in being able to have a dialogue with another person is finding that connection. Sometimes the setting provides a clear connecting point such as attending a wedding, being at a job-related gathering, or being at a school event. Other times it may be harder to identify the commonalities which you might have with another person.

The truth that was presented on the television show, Big Blue Marble, is that we have more in common with one another than we ever realize. It is important to find that connection with one another. The reality is that our actions impact one another. This has become increasingly clear in regard to how we treat creation. Even greater are the acts of violence which continually shake our lives. When we acknowledge that we have more in common than differences, then we begin to see each other as valued. If we see the value in another, we are less willing to take a negative action toward that person.

We are connected in ways we have yet to discover. Our commonality far exceeds anything which would divide us. All of us live together on this big blue marble called earth. It is time we lifted up our connectedness.

#Hashtags

I am probably going to show my age with this post but it is something that has been on my mind for a while. Whatever brought on the idea that using hashtags in almost all communication was a good idea. I confess, I just do not get it. Yes, I know that it became prominent with the introduction of Twitter but it now seems to appear everywhere.

Remember long ago when this symbol – # – meant number. When I was taking typing (again a sign of my age) in high school, we would only use that symbol above the numeral 3 on the keyboard if we were trying to state a number was following. This was definitely not a symbol that I used often. If you were writing something professional, it was seldom ever used at all. Today the hashtag appears in advertisements, in all types of social media posts, and even on printed materials.

I was reading someone’s post on Facebook the other day, and they had fourteen hash tags with different words and phrases following at the end of their post. This clearly seemed like overkill from my perspective. As I looked at all those, it made me think that they were like the small print which is at the bottom of the page of a printed item. Just like I (and I think others) skip over that small print, I skipped right over all the hash tagged phrases at the end of the post.

Maybe my issue with the hashtag trend is that I struggle to come up with the right hashtags for anything I post. I see creative and somewhat brilliant ones when I take the time to actually look at them. Some of them even make me laugh. Yet every time I try to add one to my post it seems to lack anything which would generate interest in my eyes.

Someone who reads this blog post will probably have a very good explanation for why we have become a hashtagged crazy generation. A person much younger than myself will clearly not understand why I would even have an issue with this behavior. That younger person can probably give a very in depth answer for the prominence of hashtags. I am more than ready to hear it. For now, do not expect me to join this trend any time soon.

Parker County Peach Festival & More

This weekend was a fun weekend to enjoy the outdoors. It had finally cooled down to the low 90s with less humidity. Outside is where we headed for both days.

Saturday’s highlight was our trip to Weatherford, TX for the 35th Annual Parker County Peach Festival. I enjoy living in a part of the country where there is a peach harvest and it is celebrated with a festival. Since it was our first time attending this festival, we were not exactly sure what to expect. I had read an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram telling about some highlights but until you are there you really do not have a clear understanding.

The festival takes place in downtown Weatherford, a community of over 30,000 people and the county seat of Parker County. The streets around the courthouse square are lined on both sides with booths. Some larger streets have booths also running down the middle. Most of the vendors are selling either food or handmade art and crafts. You will find some vendors selling bags of peaches and/or food items with peaches in them. If you cannot find peaches at the actual festival there is a farmer’s market building located two blocks south of the square and peaches are available there. Located at a couple of places within the festival grounds are stages where local talent perform. After a couple of hours in the heat and a large crowd, it was time to head back home.

Sunday afternoon provided an opportunity to take the dogs on a car ride and a bit of a hike. We chose to head down to the Clearfork area of Fort Worth, which is located south of downtown and near the campus of TCU. There is a trailhead located in the area for the Trinity Trail which runs along the Trinity River throughout Fort Worth. We had been at this location for a farmer’s market shortly after we relocated to Fort Worth. There are biking and walking trails which make up the Trinity Trail. We took the dogs, bags, and some water along and walked about a mile down the trail before stopping to give the dogs some water in the shade. After the break, we followed the trail back to the trailhead where we gave more water to the dogs before getting in the car. It was clear that the dogs were more exhausted at the end of our walk than either of us.

Once the car had time to cool down and the dogs had their fill of water, we headed out to see some neighborhoods in the area. Looking at the houses we determined that when it comes time to buy our home, this is one of the areas which had potential. We headed home and finished the evening off with some relaxation in the nice air conditioning.

If you would like to know more about the Parker County Peach Festival or the Trinity Trail in Fort Worth, feel free to send me a message.