December 25th 2006
We received the following message from our neighbors and I thought it would be fitting to share it with you today:
At one time we all could hear the bells of Christmas and feel the magic.
As years pass they fall silent for many.
Let us always listen for their sweet sound, feel the magic and always remember the true meaning of Christmas.
We truly hope the bells still ring for you as they do for all those who truly believe.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you!
December 22nd 2006
I came across a short story by Brian Cavanaugh that succinctly makes the point that there are times we all need to look to others to be at full strength. Here’s Brian’s story:
One day a small boy was trying to lift a heavy stone, but he couldn’t budge it.
His father, passing by, stopped to watch his son’s efforts. Finally he said to his son: “Are you using all your strength?”
Exasperated, the boy cried, “Yes, I am.”
“No, you’re not,” said the father calmly. “You haven’t asked me to help you.”
December 21st 2006
I received a neat story about Santa Claus by email and felt motivated to share it in today’s blog post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It’s a great story with a terrific message about Christmas. Here it is:
I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”
My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me.
I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.
Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm.
Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.
“No Santa Claus?” She snorted. “Ridiculous! Don’t believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”
“Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked. I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.
“Where” turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything.
As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me 10 dollars. That was a bundle in those days.
“Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it.
I’ll wait for you in the car.
“Then she turned and walked out of Kerby’s. I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself.
The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that 10 dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.
I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church.
I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class.
Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough; he just didn’t have a good coat.
I fingered the 10 dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby
Decker a coat!
I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.
“Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied shyly. “It’s for Bobby.”
The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat.
I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas. That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on it.
Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over
to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa’s helpers.
Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk.
Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.”
I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.
Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open.
Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.
Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes.
That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.
I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.
May you always have LOVE to share, HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care.
And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!
December 20th 2006
Here’s a great idea, especially for all those who work long hours…plan a family night for indoor winter fun. Check out the article and enjoy some quality time with your family. I’ll do the same!
December 19th 2006
I received this short story below by email from a friend and those who have teenage kids will probably be most impacted by this note from a son to his father:
A father passing by his son’s bedroom was astonished to see the bed nicely made up and everything neat and tidy. Then he saw an envelope propped up prominently on the pillow. It was addressed, “Dad”
With the worst premonition, he opened the envelope and read the letter with trembling hands:
It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with you and Mom.
I’ve been finding real passion with Joan and she is so nice. I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercing, tattoos, her tight motorcycle clothes and because she is so much older than I am but it’s not only the passion, Dad, she’s pregnant. Joan says that we are going to be very happy.
She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood, enough for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children. Joan has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn’t really hurt anyone. We’ll be growing it and trading it with the other people in the commune for all the cocaine and ecstasy we want.
In the meantime, we’ll pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so Joan can get better; she sure deserves it! Don’t worry Dad, I’m 15 years old now and I know how to take care of myself. Someday, I’m sure we’ll be back to visit so you can get to know your grandchildren.
Your son, Chad
P. S. Dad, none of the above is true. I’m over at Tommy’s house. I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than the report card that’s in my desk drawer. I love you! Call when it is safe for me to come home.
December 18th 2006
I enjoy reading and business books dominate my book library. On occasion, and usually when traveling on business, I find a book that catches my eye that I likely wouldn’t find at our local book stores.
“The Peon Book: How to Manage Us” by Dave Haynes, self described chief executive peon, was one of those books I recently picked up and read.
It was a fascinating quick read (only 150 pages) with seemingly simple suggestions from the employee’s perspective versus the managing experts we often see and read.
December 15th 2006
I was reading a magazine on one of my recent business trips and learned that kids and senior adults – under six and over 79 – ski free at many ski resorts around the country.
It’s very similar to kids eating free at restaurants and the NCAA’s Take a Kid to the Game program where colleges offer free or discounted tickets to kids with paying adults.
These are great programs to bring families together to enjoy an evening of sports and/or entertainment at an affordable price. Although not all ski resorts and colleges offer these programs, there are some who offer more liberal freebie policies.
December 14th 2006
As I shared in yesterday’s post, I love to learn and I make it a point to try and learn something new every day.
Although I’ve always had a thirst for learning, I haven’t always made it a habit to learn daily.
There were times in life when things were coming at me so quickly I didn’t think I had time to breath let alone get my daily tasks done AND learn something new.
But at some point, I made it a priority – and now a habit – to learn daily.
So what did I learn today? The rule of threes, which says you can live:
3 minutes without air,
3 hours without shelter,
3 days without water and
3 weeks without food.
What have you learned today?
December 13th 2006
I enjoy learning and I’m not afraid to ask questions. Most people who know me might tell you that I’ve always been that way – asking question after question – but that wouldn’t be true.
I remember back in school, I was the one hoping and praying (literally at times) I wouldn’t be selected to answer a question let alone ask one. I guess I feared, like others, I’d ask a stupid question.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to ask or that I didn’t want to learn – believe me, I wanted to learn – but I often felt most people knew the answers to questions I had, so it would be a waste of everyone’s time if I asked the questions.
Now, it seems like I’m making up for all those questions I didn’t ask at a young age because much like our youngest daughter, it seems like I have many more questions than answers.
Here’s a great quote from Brian Tracy on questions: “Perhaps the very best question that you can memorize and repeat, over and over, is, ‘what is the most valuable use of my time right now?’”
Have an awesome day and ask your share of questions today.
December 12th 2006
A year ago when I traveled on business, many people in the airports and on planes had laptops and every other person had a PDA or Blackberry in hand.
Now, I see less laptop computers and many more PDAs. In fact, it’s rare to see someone without a PDA or Blackberry.
Not only fellow business people, but youth are carrying a PDA, Blackberry or cell phone and many youth can be found text-messaging on their cell phones.
Our two oldest kids are constantly text-messaging friends and I can’t help but wonder if we’re more connected or disconnected?
We seem to be more connected in the way of more frequent emails and text-messages, but more disconnected in the way of less personal contact by phone and/or in person.
Personally, I know I rely heavily on email much more today than years past, and that’s primarily due to the Blackberry.
It doesn’t stop there though. We have the ability to be wireless at the office and at home, which means people can carry their laptops anywhere in the house they choose.
There’s also webcams and web casts, which can minimize business trips – a great savings of time and money – but then again, it brings us back to less in person contact.
So, are we more connected or less connected?
December 11th 2006
I’ve received a number of mails from family and friends that mostly have a holiday theme, and the one below was one of those true stories during the holidays that makes you stop – no matter what you’re doing – and think about the true meaning of the holidays. I hope you’ll take time to enjoy it as I did:
The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.
They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, and painting, and on December 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On December 19 a terrible tempest – a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.
On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by eight feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high. The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home.
On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later.
She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder and hangers to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.
Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. “Pastor,” she asked, “where did you get that tablecloth?” The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into It there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.
The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again.
The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home; that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.
What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.
The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike.
He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between.
The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.
He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.
A true story from Pastor Rob Reid who says, “God does not work in mysterious ways.”
December 8th 2006
I received this Christmas classic from a friend via email yesterday:
There was a man who worked for the Post Office whose job it was to
process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day, a letter
came addressed in a shaky handwriting to “God” with no actual address. He
thought he should open it to see what it was about.The letter read: “Dear God, I am an 83 year old widow, living on a very
small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100 in it, which
was all the money I had until my next pension check. Next Sunday is
Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner.
Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with. I have no family to
turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?
The postal worker was touched. He showed the letter to all the other
workers. Each one dug into his or her wallet and came up with a few
dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96, which
they put into an envelope and sent to the woman. The rest of the day,
all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of Edna and the dinner she
would be able to share with her friends.
Christmas came and went.
A few days later, another letter came from the same old lady to God.
All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened.It read, “Dear God, How can I ever thank you enough for what you did
for me? Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious dinner
for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your
wonderful gift. By the way, there was $4 missing. I think it must have
been those bastards at the Post Office.
December 7th 2006
Our daughter shared this with me and my wife yesterday and I thought I’d share it in today’s blog post. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, and then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.
46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.
December 6th 2006
All this time we’ve been trying to change our kids habits and I come to find out that in a school essay on parents, a young girl wrote: “We get our parents when they are so old it is hard to change their habits.”
December 5th 2006
When it comes to traveling by air, I’ll stick to boarding planes versus the thrill of skydiving.
I’m all for adventurous activities, but skydiving hasn’t been when that has caught my interest. Probably a tad bit too dangerous for me.
As someone once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, avoid skydiving.”
December 4th 2006
I was reading some inspirational quotes about togetherness and came across a humorous one from Rod Hundley who said: “My biggest thrill came the night Elgin Baylor and I combined for seventy-three points in Madison Square Garden. Elgin had seventy-one of them.”
December 1st 2006
This week, a good friend and I were visiting about the holidays and celebrating the holidays. I proposed our families do something together during the holidays for another family. Our kids would really enjoy and the lessons and memories would be priceless.
As I researched ideas, I came across a story – “The Perfect Gift” – about a family tradition started during Christmas during the late nineties. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did. Here it is:
It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree at this time of the year for the past 10 years or so.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it. You know, the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma, the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner city church. The kids were mostly black.
These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.
As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without head gear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously couldn’t afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids-all kids. He understood kids in competitive situations, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came.
That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.
His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition – one year sending a group of mentally challenged youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas – on and on…
The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. Still, the story doesn’t end there.
You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. Yet Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.
The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further, with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation, watching as their fathers take down their envelopes.
Mike’s spirit, like the spirit of Christmas, will always be with us.