Don’t Ever Let Them Take You For Granted!

“Dont ever let the fools in life destroy your dreams!”(Yes)

I write this article as much for myself as everyone else. For much of my working life, I feel that even though I brought confidence to the table, I was often timid and subservient when speaking to superiors. Consequently I think I let myself get taken advantage of in many jobs. And after much thought and a few life changes, I realized that I had talents that the right bosses would always appreciate, and I now only work for people who I feel do not take my talents for granted!

Sometimes we can be in a situation that seems great only to watch it change dramatically. It can happen when your supervisor changes or company policy is altered. But whatever the reason is we know that like life in general most things in our employment life are never permanent. Sometimes the crap gets worse then the coin so to speak. I found myself in such a position, and sometimes you start to realize that things happen for a reason. I had gotten so bogged down in trying to be financially stable that I was working too hard for employers who didn’t appreciate me. We’ve all been there, and we all realize at that point we have hard decisions to make.

Sometimes there is nothing you can do but just suck it up, and keep going in that position. If you’re strong you can work to make a few changes to make it bearable. But we all know that can only go so far. I am now of the opinion that we all have talent, and there are people out there that will always appreciate the gifts we bring. If you’re not being appreciated, it’s important to realize that and take steps to get yourself into a better position or situation. “ The world won’t do you any favors,” but if you’re lucky, you will have people who will care for you, and want to see you be successful. It’s important to connect with those people because otherwise you’re gonna stay in the same situations that only bring you down!

I have not always felt this way, but after watching people I love be pushed around in their walks of life, I decided that I’m not going to spend anymore time being taken for granted. Life is short, and believe it or not, there are still plenty of good people out there, and if we’re not around them, we just need to find them! They will enrich our lives, and if we’re lucky enough to work for them, maybe we can make the long hours that much more enjoyable!

Not being taken for granted goes for all parts of our lives. We have lots of relationships in our lives, and it’s important that we are appreciated in all of them. I have spoken a lot about the importance of friendship and family, and both of these are places where we need to make sure that we are not being taken for granted. Even people that love us sometimes lose sight of life, and we need to just be the best person that we can so they can see who we are. I’m only talking about this because jobs come and go, and those that are dear to us remain long after we’ve collected a paycheck!

Maybe you have a different perspective on this and I decided to work long hours in a career that you maybe don’t like because you are trying to be a great provider for your family. Maybe you chose a career because of the stability and what it could provide. That’s good but please make sure that you are not being taken for granted by anyone all the same. We all make sacrifices in life. I just want everyone to make sure that they are all worth it.

I didn’t get into a lifelong career because I’ve never let go of my dreams. I chose a job that would let me have time to write and pursue my hobbies. I never imagined I would start with a blog, but here it is and I’m hoping it is a step in the right direction. I still want to get published someday, and I’m not giving up that dream anytime soon! I provide for those I care for, but it’s the experiences of life that I am a most happy about, and that’s something I will never take for granted!

So whatever you do please make sure they are not taking you for granted. I hope you are appreciated for what you do, and are rewarded greatly for it. Life is truly too short to spend it doing things that you don’t like, and not feeling appreciated at the same time. Sometimes we have to make changes, and it may be uncomfortable, but you control your destiny, and you decide where you want your life to go. If you have dreams fulfill them, and never let them drag you down!

Musical Credits: Yes, “Be the One” from the album Keys to Ascension. Spock’s Beard, “At the End of the Day” from the album V.

Life is Bigger Than Life Itself

“Can any part of life be larger than life?”(Rush)

I answer the professors question with an emphatic yes. For if we go through life “ living and not just existing,” much that we experience will seem as big as life. Living life to the fullest creates memories that can be vivid. We bridge the extraordinary between the mundane making life as full as possible. Events that are real connect us to so many others as we take in all this world has to offer. We seek adventure rather than waiting for it to come to us, taking life by the horns, and not accepting failure. We brace our setbacks in strides, and get back up to fight another day!

I spoke before about not wanting to be complacent in life. Seizing the day, and making the most of every opportunity you have is good advice because life is too short to sit and pine about all the missed opportunities we’ve had. We get one chance and we need to make it count. When you’re willing to do this, life often seems full of excitement, and adventure. Not everybody wants this, but I am sure most people appreciate the spice of life I wrote about earlier, and want to be able to live a full life. I wrote in the last blog that when you put your mind to something, more often than not, it happens. So be careful what you wish for, and be mindful to be in the present.

If you live your life ready for the next adventure, you’ll find experiences that are bigger than life. I can remember how I felt when I ran the London Marathon in 2001. It was exhilarating, and I felt connected to the thousands of people running with me, and the spectators who cheered us on. I still feel my throbbing tendons, and what it felt like to be dashing through the streets of Westminster, and London Town. I’ve ran hundreds of races in my life, and have many memories of them, yet none of them was as special as that London Marathon. That was almost 20 years ago, and it still feels like yesterday.

I remember the first time I saw the Atlantic Ocean. I was walking along the Virginia beach early in the morning, and the sun over the water was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I felt balance in the world, and that empty beach allowed me to be one with my world. I’ve been blessed to see other oceans and seas since then, but my first view of the Atlantic Ocean will always hold a special place in my heart!

These are just two things in my life which are so vivid to me that they still seem bigger than life. I could write a whole book on those experiences that I’ve been blessed to have. I have a lot of friends who could give a similar account. It’s healthy to have an appreciation for the beauty in life, and that’s one of the things that makes it seem so big, and real. We live in a vastly beautiful world, and it’s amazing even when it’s not. Count your blessings because they are in fact a gift. With a little luck and fortune, it will keep on giving!

As you experience life, remember to be grateful and always give thanks to the people in your life. Friendships are a blessing, and so is family and everything else that we find pleasure in. I love to travel, and plan on writing about that another blog. It’s a blessing to be able to see this world, and all its beauty. There are a lot of natural wonders I have yet to see, and I can’t wait to cast my eyes on as many as possible! I was able to look at the painted seashore along Lake Superior this summer and it was as beautiful as I ever could’ve imagined. There are a lot of places left in this world unmarred by the hands of man, and I’d like to see them while I still can!

And of course I also want to say that with all the adventure that I like in my life, a good lazy day is often needed and beautiful. It provides me an opportunity to cook with no time restraints, and for me that’s like a canvas that I have total control over. Mental health days, or whatever you wanna call them, are necessary for our psyche, and they are wonderful. We live in a nonstop world, and I cannot stress how important it is to take care of ourselves as well. A day to reboot is wondrous, and something I will never take for granted!

Maybe you read all this, and you’re thinking this is not me. Perhaps you’ve become jaded with all that goes on in your experience. Life is not always fair, and sometimes it’s bigger than life in ways that are not always good. Maybe you’re bogged down in those tough times that involve trials and tribulations. I say that’s when you reset and take charge of what’s going on. Remember nothing is permanent, And the great Meat Loaf says “when the thrill is gone it’s time to take it back!”

So are you living your life to the fullest? Are you experiencing things that are bigger than life? Are you going for the gusto all the while giving glory where it’s due? I truly hope you are, and I wish you all the best experiencing what life has to offer. This is our time, and this is our dance. I hope you experience a wonderful fall, and never lose sight of what’s important. And as I said before, “ at the end of the day you’ll be fine!”(Spock’s Beard)

Music Credits: Rush, “The Weapon” from Signals, and “The Enemy Within” from Grace Under Pressure. Meat Loaf, “Everything Louder Than Everything Else” from Bat Out of Hell 2:Back Into Hell. Spock’s Beard, “At the End of the Day” from V.

Life is a Series of Many Successes

“ celebrate the moment as it turns into one more, another chance at victory, another chance to score, the measure of the moment is just a difference of degree, just one little victory, a spirit breaking free, one little victory, the greatest act can be, one little victory!”(Rush)

As we trudge through life, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of things when constantly failures and setbacks come at us from multiple angles. We face challenges in many parts of our lives, and how we deal with it determines our well-being. I have quoted before that sometimes “big splashes are just ripples in the pool,” and it’s important to remember that most the time we will get through the small stuff, because that’s all that it is. And if you can look at it that way, perhaps like me, you can relish in all the little victories along the way instead.

There’s no denying that a positive outlook on life can shape our lives immensely. Being able to smile even in the midst of things goes along way. Others can see it, and hopefully you can lift them up as well. I’ve spoken in the past about making the most of every day, and I truly believe that looking for the silver lining in everything is one way to make each day better. True, somethings do suck and they can be downers, but a friend of mine once told me that nothing is permanent. This too shall pass, and then we will wonder what all the fuss was about.

I also like to think that a little discomfort now and then keeps us on our toes. I have no desire to grow complacent, and as I take life by the horns, I am constantly working on goals. I recently was working on improving my time on the battle ropes in the gym. When I first started working with them, I could barely finish a minute! I decided I wanted to improve my abilities and achieve something, and the goal of an hour on the ropes seem to me where I wanted to get. After only a few weeks, I was able to work my time up to the hour on the ropes. And “it proved to be easy, and I knew it would be, because all that’s worthwhile always is!”(Under the Sun)

If you’ve ever worked hard at something, there is great satisfaction to be had from the success of finishing. It takes a little effort, and that’s not so bad. When you’re willing to take control of things, there’s a lot you can do. Like with my battle ropes, when we set our mind on something, I find that it becomes more achievable. we all have the capacity to be something great. We just have to find out what that is!

Every day you achieve success in many aspects of your life. It might be a little mundane, but the small successes are all there. You most likely got up, and went to work, and probably did a lot. Maybe you worked out, consoled a friend, or helped a child see their potential. There is beauty in all of that, which is something we should never lose sight of. I wrote earlier in a blog that it’s the little things in life, and the small successes that we string together each day can go along way towards our well-being.

For me it doesn’t matter how I got to where I am at now. Every day is a blessing, and while I make the most of it, I want to dwell on all the successes that I achieve. I will learn from my setbacks, and I hope this will only help me grow. I will see my potential and will achieve my goals. I will celebrate my victories, and try to never lose sight of what’s important. I truly hope that you are able to do the same.

Musical Credits: Rush, “One Little Victory” from the album Vapor Trails, and “Emotional Detector” from the album Power Windows. Under the Sun, “Gardens of Autumn” from the album Under the Sun.

To Stand Among Friends

“Never trust the north wind…Never turn your back on friends!”(Blind Guardian)

In my last article, I spoke about the kindness of strangers. Friendship is a subject dear to my heart. I feel that across this beautiful world I have many people that I like to consider my friends. It covers many levels of relationships, and at the end of the day, I feel blessed to have friends. Right now with all that’s going on in the world, it is important to have people to talk to, and people to connect with. People come into our lives for many many reasons, and we stay connected with those we feel we like have things in common with. Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to make these bonds frequently, and that’s one of the things I feel that makes life very enriching!

For me I think one of the ways that I find making friends so easy is my diverse hobbies. I love to travel and have met many people all over the place because I am fairly extroverted, and don’t pass up an opportunity to talk. I like sports and working out, and have made some great friendships through these channels. I haven’t done serious weight lifting in a while, but I like to think back to the two friends I had who spent a lot of time in the gym with me, and the bond we created as we spotted for each other on the bench. We have gone our separate ways, but I still consider them good friends, and would reach out to them in a heartbeat. It’s the same way with sports. I’m very fanatical about the teams I like, and I have found many like-minded friends who I enjoy spending long hours with discussing our teams. Facebook certainly helps keep those bonds strong, and I’m thankful for those people who I get to watch sports with as well.

Music is dear to my heart, So it’s probably no surprise to you that I have met many dear friends from my love of progressive rock, and classic rock in general. A few people I consider dear friends have come about through interactions at concerts. I have attended a lot of festivals and it’s nice to see so many friends on an annual basis. And the progressive community is very close knit and it feels like I can meet new people through Facebook almost every day. We all have a favorite group, and if you read this, you probably could guess that mine is Rush. My appreciation for this band has brought me many meaningful relationships, and that’s just awesome.

As a craft beer enthusiast, I have met lots of friends, and I expect to continue to meet more people as I write and blog for various publications. The pleasure that comes from craft beer for me goes far beyond drinking the beer. I like talking to other people who enjoy good beverage. I get to go to a lot of festivals, and I also am blessed to be a part of a good beer podcast. Untapped is an App for tracking the craft beer you try, and I’m still amazed by how many awesome people I’ve met through that.

And of course if you have any sort of faith, you can make relationships through that as well. I’m thankful for all the people I met in college, and I’m blessed to still stay in touch with so many of them who are awesome. We are multi-faceted people with many interests, and if you’re anything like me, you probably may have similar stories about how you have developed a lot of friendships. Our ability to connect with others is a beautiful thing, and something I’m not going to take for granted.

As this year has been a strain upon me and everyone else, there have been many opportunities to reach out and check on our friends. I have stayed in touch with, and connected, and reconnected with so many people across 2020. I would have liked a year where I could have gone out and done a lot more, but I have made the most of the time, and I’m thankful for all the time I’ve got to spend with my friends in reality, and online. I have many different hobbies, and so do all of my friends. This makes for meaningful relationships, and it’s a blessing!

I don’t know what friendship is like for you, but I hope that you have many people that you can consider friends close acquaintances. They enrich our lives, and as humans we crave, and require fellowship on many levels. Not everybody is extroverted, and many people enjoy solitude. And that’s why there’s Facebook! We have so many different ways to connect with people in this day and age, but we are busy and sometimes life gets in the way. As everything slowed down for a little bit this year, I have had time to think about that, and while I’m not perfect, I am trying to connect with as many people as I can.

As I contemplate all the people I’ve been blessed to meet, I realize I’ve worked alongside many awesome people in my jobs. I’ve stayed in touch with many of them, And am thankful to have met them. I reconnected last weekend with a former coworker, and it was a blessing just to connect on so many levels across the decade it had been since we had last seen each other. It seems that I run into old friends and acquaintances on a regular basis, and that’s just beautiful. It’s like that theme song from Cheers because it is nice to go where “everybody knows your name!”

So as life continues to go on, and we face the trials, tribulations, and blessings, I am glad that I have friends to share these experiences with. I am not able to talk to everyone that I want to because sadly our lives are very busy. Still if you’re reading this it’s possible you are a friend of mine, and I’m glad we can at least connect this way. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read this article, and I hope that you have dear friends in your life as well. They make our road lighter, and fellowship is for me one of the greatest things in life. I’ve been blessed to fellowship many times this year,and imagine that’s not going to change. So for everyone out there in the “zone,” I want “ thank you for being my friend!”

Musical credits: IQ, “Failsafe” from the album Subterranea. Blind Guardian, “Nightfall” from the album Nightfall in Middle Earth. Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” Andrew Gold, “Thank You For Being a Friend” from the album All This and Heaven Too.

The Kindness of Strangers

“Try to hold some faith in the goodness of Humanity!”(Rush)

About 18 years ago, my little brother and I were driving west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Philadelphia when the engine of my beloved Ford Tempo started to catch on fire! Stranded on the road, we were less than ninety minutes from my sisters house which was our destination for the night. It was well past midnight, and neither of us had a cell phone at the time. Fortunately, we did not have to wait very long because an off duty military policeman stopped and offered to take us as far as Carlisle. We were grateful for this assistance, and we were happy that he could at least get us halfway to my sisters.

In Carlisle we were approached by a lady in a car at a gas station asking us for money. The man who had taken us this far suggested she give us a ride the rest of the way, and he was sure we would pay her for it. She seemed pretty hard up and did not even flinch, but asked that I put some gas in her tank which I did obligingly. We only had one more exit on the turnpike to get to Roxbury, and that’s where the adventure gets exciting.

My sister and brother-in-law lived in a cabin at the far end of a dirt road about 20 minutes beyond Roxbury deep in the woods. As we crept farther and farther along that dirt road, the lady kept asking how much further time and time again. It was very dark and I’m sure the state game lands on either side were a bit menacing to her in a car with two strange men that she could not of known were as harmless as they come. I kept trying to reassure her, and did hand her money periodically to let her know that we were seriously getting close to my sisters. I know she was desperate, but I could see that she was very close to her wits end! Eventually we got to my sisters, and I can only imagine the relief that woman felt. I thanked her, and we did have a brief conversation in which she told me she was very relieved that we were what we said we were.

As vividly as I described that story, some of it is probably lost in the telling. But the point I want to make is that two strangers did all they could to help my brother and I when we needed it. Now that I have a cell phone, I don’t see myself getting a situation like that but we all know there are areas where you have no coverage. Indeed I was vacationing on the island of Curaçao when my rental car broke down, and with my state side cell service not working there, I had to rely on a strangers cell phone to call the rental company. So far, none of these experiences have bit, me and so that’s perhaps why I still can see the goodness in humanity.

I’m not going to give examples because I’m not here to toot my own horn, but I feel that there have been many times where I have been on the other side and been able to help strangers as well. I’m sure you’ve been in similar situations, and been on both sides of the coin because we all need a little help now and then. I try to travel with friends and be around people I like, but sometimes we are out of our comfort zone, and we need to be willing to take help from those unfamiliar to us. It gives me hope to know that even in the world we live in people still help people from time to time, and that makes me happy.

I’m very pleased with the fact that I feel I can make friends very easily. I was in Mackinac Island over the summer and met a nice fellow while I was eating at a diner and we instantly became friends. Should he ever make it down to Indianapolis, I have promised him the whole complete Kurt Vonnegut experience. Not everyone is comfortable interacting with strangers, but I find it rewarding. And for me a stranger is just a friend I haven’t met. Not everyone is going to like us, but we have qualities that everyone can at least appreciate. And for me I feel good in life knowing there are other kindred spirits out there. I’ve been blessed to meet a lot of them, and know that many more will cross paths with me at some point in my life. Maybe I can help them, or maybe I will need their help, and when that time comes, I will look forward to it!

Having said all this, I do want to reiterate that we always do need to be careful in unfamiliar situations. The professor says that “folks are basically decent, but we read about the exceptions in the papers every day.” I’m not saying we all need to be leery in every situation, but when something doesn’t seem right, always proceed with caution. Learn to be a good judge of character, while at the same time looking for the good in everyone. We all live on this planet together and we are all citizens of one world. If more people thought like that, interactions between strangers would be far more positive. I could get into a lot with this topic, but I think I’ve said enough.

So the kindness of strangers is one of the better things that humanity bestows upon itself. The good Samaritan story from the Bible illustrates the point very well. It is easy to help our neighbor, and it’s easy to help our friends, but when we go the extra mile and help a stranger, we are truly doing something wonderful. I’m only challenging myself with this, but I hope that you understand that I want to be going through life being as kind as I possibly can, and hopefully I can make a difference.

Music Credits: Spock’s Beard: They have a album called The Kindness of Strangers, and I like that. Rush: “Nobody’s Hero” from the album Counterparts. “Second Nature” from the album Hold Your Fire.

When It All Hits Close To Home

“When the Levee Breaks, you’ve got no place to go!”(Led Zeppelin)

As the aftermath of Hurricane Laura is felt across the Deep South, my mind is immediately transfixed to a moment in time exactly 15 years ago that seems as vivid to me as the time it actually occurred. For me the devastation and aftermath of hurricanes hits home because when Katrina hit New Orleans, my parents were living there weathering that storm. It destabilized that city and for the better part of two weeks, I had no contact with my parents, and I sat here in Indiana praying that somehow they were safe.

Katrina wasn’t the most powerful storm ever to hit land in the United States, but a direct hit on the New Orleans levee was cataclysmic! I have many fond memories the cities French Quarter, Garden district, and so much more. I haven’t been able to stomach a trip back since 2005, but part of me would like to go back and see what it looks like now. My parents were possibly planning to retire down there, but it was not to be.

When my parents moved down in 1998, they had a hurricane scare, and that was all it was. Seven years later the big one hit and it changed everything for my family. All of a sudden my siblings and I wanted to get our parents back home so bad. The distance between us became real, and when the storm hit, there was so much uncertainty. I existed in a complete limbo as I saw the flooded streets on the news with the looting, and I was truly worried for my parents. If you’ve ever spent 10 days in this kind of a harrowing uncertainty, maybe you can fathom what went through my mind.

I remember it was Labor Day weekend while I was watching the Notre Dame football game when I finally got a call from my mom. Cell phones are working again, and she wanted me to know she and my dad were ok. They had hunkered down in the hospital she was affiliated with, and they stayed relatively safe albeit uncomfortable as they shared the facility with mental patients! I found out my dad helped the men rebuild part of the hospital that had been hit by the hurricane, and that story gives me a sense of pride. Like so many others, my parents endured that harrowing storm and it’s aftermath, And came out of it perhaps stronger. Two weeks later my family helped them salvage what they could(Thank You Uncle Greg!), and they eventually relocated back in Pennsylvania.

As Laura began to make landfall, I was beginning to think about Katrina and all it had done to me and my family. My mom has been speaking live on Facebook about that experience, and for the first time I’ve heard some of what they went through 15 years ago! We are certainly weathering plenty of storms in 2020 so for me it all hits home. My parents made it through Katrina, and somehow we’re all going to get through this year as well.

As we weather the storms of our lives, it’s crucial to remember what’s important to us. For most of us family is the most important thing we have. Remembrance of Katrina has only solidified this feeling in my heart. I encourage you to never lose sight of what’s important in your life no matter what else is going on. Storms will come and go, and we will hold on hoping for brighter days. We have endured much in the course of human events, and I’m sure we will come out of 2020 the best we can!

Music Credit: Led Zeppelin, “When the Levee Breaks” from the album IV(or Zofo).

The Spice of Life

“Jumping beans and brown eyes flashing, Long hair swinging, tell me how do you feel? Well hot and fancy, it’s the habanero reel.”(Ian Anderson)

I like spicy food. It isn’t just the intensity and heat because as I have tried hot peppers, I’ve come to appreciate many of the nuances and subtlety of the other flavors that are combined in hot dishes. Every culture in our society has something hot for the brave and the bold. The most intense are not for everyone, and we all have our levels of spice we can endure. Spice adds excitement to our lives, and while I want to talk about how much I like spicy food, I will lead it into the analogy I’m making in this article.

I think my love of spicy food started as a teenager when I found a very old bottle of crushed red pepper in my parents kitchen cabinet. I got to college and learned about Tabasco, and very soon I was cooking with everything from jalapeños, and Serranos to habaneros, and beyond. I was always looking for something to add zest to my food, and I enjoyed very much the way hot pepper seem to enhance everything I cooked. And when I started experimenting with vegan food, the lack of saturated fat only made those dishes more fiery. I try to cook everything now but it is the spicy dishes I enjoy cooking the most.

I also have come to appreciate the horseradish and I love how it’s used in everything from Bloody Mary’s to lots of Asian dishes. The hot mustard that they serve is tantalizingly intense, and wasabi was meant to clear the sinuses! I sometimes go overboard on Asian food, and this is a different kind of heat that I enjoy just as much! And when they put both peppers and horseradish together, the sky is the limit!

Recently, I’ve started exploring more international cuisine. Many cultures have a very spicy component to some of the dishes, and I have been impressed with the curries of India, and the harissa flavor dishes of the Middle East. Last month I had a chance to celebrate Eid with a group of Sudanese who introduced me to a spicy dish composed of peanut butter and Serranos along with a few other things. I have replicated it at home, and this has only sparked my interest to seek out the peppers and hot dishes of the world we live in!

So I spice my life up in many ways but I chose to focus on how it accentuates my food. We all seek excitement and thrill because it’s what makes life amazing. The bland and the dull can only satisfy us for so long, and that’s why many people become thrill seekers. This is healthy only to a point, and I am reminded of very good advice I learned from Greek Culture. They believe that one should know they self and do nothing to excess. This is good advice and it’s biblically sound. No matter who you are what you believe, we all must understand our limits and never take things too far. And that includes hot peppers!

So I hope that you can spice up your life in many ways and I hope that everything you do to find enjoyment in life is rewarding. We all have hobbies and I have shared some of mine in these blogs. I hope you like hot food, and if you don’t I understand. There are many ways to enjoy the spices of life that go far beyond food. Whatever it is that you do whether it’s traveling, hiking, reading, or just good fellowship, I truly hope you find pleasure in it.

The spice of life is there to make everything memorable, and I cherish it. I try to live an interesting life, and surround myself with people who I feel seek a likewise experience. And in the words of the professor, I want to “ freeze this moment a little bit longer, and make each sensation a little bit stronger.” We are here partly to make memories, and in the end, that’s all we have. So I will move in kindness, try to do no harm, and continue to live life to the fullest!

Music Credit: Ian Anderson, “The Habanero Reel” from the album The Secret Language of Birds. Rush, “Time Stands Still” from the album Hold Your Fire.

It’s the Little Things!

“though we might have precious little it’s still precious!”(Rush)

For this blog I’m focusing on a topic that I have strung through almost all of my previous blogs. With all the big happenings in our world, it is easy to lose sight of the little grace filled blessings we experience each and every day. There are many small things in our lives that provide joy. For me a lot of tiny things lift my spirit up in ways that larger occurrences just cannot! And sometimes when all we have is just a little, we should take the time to see just how precious it truly is!

I work nights for a large international shipping company, and ride a shuttle back to my car in the early morning. One of the drivers in an effort to social distance has buckled stuffed bunnies in the front seats of her bus. No matter what has gone on the night before, when I get in her bus and see her stuffies, I have to smile because it brings absolute joy to me. She is expressing herself and bringing a sense of whimsy to an otherwise dour situation, and for that I rejoice.

I live on a lake in a secluded part of the town I reside in. I have a balcony with a birdfeeder on it which attracts a wide variety of beautiful wild birds. I also have a neighborhood squirrel who considers my back deck to be his as well, and I catch him frequently enjoying the sunflower seeds in my feeder. I’ve given up trying to scare him away because I have found so much joy from looking out my screen door at him balancing himself to enjoy what is in my feeder.

Those are just two examples of little things in my life that bring me joy. For any of us, it could be that cup of coffee, the music during the morning or afternoon commute, or in the words of the professor, “A chance to spend an evening with a drink and a friend.” For many of my friends, it’s that daily walk or bike ride. I used to be an avid runner, and my day was usually brightened when I could get a run in first. We all have things in our lives that we find enriching, and I’m thankful for all of it.

I’ve written a lot already about how music and literature can be therapeutic, and they do enhance our imaginations greatly. Appreciating music and arts can enhance our lives immensely and allows us to see the “Bright Sides” of life. I’m a dreamer, and as I like to write, the world becomes so beautiful to me. I might be “waltzing in Vienna, or flying in a dream”, or just experiencing all the beauty that my home state of Indiana currently provides me. We live for the simple pleasures, and I’m thankful for all of that which is provided by our entertainment.

So while I focused on all that brings us joy in life, there is another side to the little things in life. Many people have a breaking point, and it often is just small things that seem to set them off. It’s one of the nuances of interpersonal relationships, and one that I find very fascinating. As I appreciate getting to know people, their quirks and such are beautiful in their own way. I got to smoke ribs with a dear friend over the weekend, and it was interesting to see how we came into the whole process from different perspectives. We had to work some things out, and in the end result was beautiful. It takes effort in life, and the little things yield results.

So whatever little things in your life bring you joy, I hope that you are thankful for them. I don’t ever want to take for granted my ability to see beauty in everything. I know it’s a gift, And I like being able to see the “bright sides” of life. I try to surround myself with like-minded people, and this isn’t always easy. It is easy to get bogged down in life, and sometimes it’s OK to be sad. Still, I never want to lose sight of what’s important in this life, and that starts with all the little things that I’m truly thankful for!

Music Credits: Rush, “Bravest Face” from the album Snakes & Arrows, “Time Stands Still” from the album Hold Your Fire. Echolyn, “Bright Sides” from the album A Little Nonsense Now and Then.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

If you’ve read some of my blogs, you probably understand that I am a big fan of music. It’s probably the only thing I like more than books. I am constantly streaming new music as often as I can discovering new bands on a daily basis. But I’m also very analog, and have a large collection of CDs and vinyl. I march to the beat of a different drummer, and feel my music tastes are mine and mine alone. As Echolyn says “ I move to a groove that never stops swinging and sing to a song that never ends!”

Music is a very vibrant part of our lives. We hear it every day, and very few of us don’t appreciate at least some aspects of it. We associate music with so many parts of our lives, and in a unique way it is the very soundtrack to our being. Everyone has the music they like, and the songs that are special to them and them alone. Online dating sites have a spot where someone can put the song that encapsulates them. I also remember when professional baseball players had a song that would play when they would come up to bat. These are just two examples of what I call the soundtrack to our lives.

Music is there to grace us through so many aspects of the day. Many people wake up to it, hear it in their car, listen to it while they work, and perhaps while they cook, clean, work out, play board games, or any of the other things we do on a regular basis. I like to listen to music while I read, and sometimes I’m good just having music on when I can experience it for exactly what it is. You can’t argue that Music is not beautiful, and can do so many things for us. The right music can lift us up, encourage us, and even inspire us to be better people. At least the music I listen to does that!!

I personally love music and I appreciate nearly every style from country to some hip-hop. I love classic rock, particularly that quirky sub genre known as progressive rock. It’s Music I know is weird to some people, but I love it and I’ve met some of the best people I know enjoying this music. My love of progressive rock has literally taken me all over the world. And on a weekly basis, my friend Tony Rowsick produces a wonderful podcast called Progwatch. Between my collection and everything that Spotify and YouTube wants to throw at me, I am never at a loss for good music. Your tastes may differ from mine, and I hope that you have outlets to get all the music you could want and need.

During these days of 2020, I am sure lots of you had plenty of time to listen to music. Maybe it helped you through long boring days, or maybe like me, it just reminded me of all the live music I was missing! You may not appreciate live music as much as me, but I recently heard a musician talk about how Music takes on a life of its own when is presented live, and I couldn’t agree more. The music experience can be enhanced in many ways, and however it is that you appreciate it, I hope it is a meaningful experience.

I remember a friend of mine told me years and years ago that no matter what was going on in her life, she always had Dave(Matthews)! I hope you have something like that in your life that you can turn to that will pick you up when you need it. For me it’s my whole catalog at large, and sometimes I can just pick up a CD and play in it my car and it will be exactly what I needed to listen to. Not everyone has that, and if you don’t I encourage you to find that outlet. Maybe you prefer quiet, but if you like music, it is out there for you to enjoy. If you have a phone, millions of songs are just seconds away from your listening pleasure.

With all this talk of streaming music, I do want to reiterate that there is something beautiful about playing records and CDs that you can’t replicate. Record stores still have that feel, and for me buying Music still holds a pleasure I can’t put any words to. I am looking at getting a new record player myself so that I can enjoy the hundreds of pieces of vinyl I feel blessed to own. For me it doesn’t get any better than that! We all have our own ways to enjoy music. I just hope that your experience is special too!

So I want to ask you as I close about your soundtrack. What does it say about you? Does your music explain who you are? Does your music lift you up when you need it to? Is your music there for you when you just need to unwind? I hope the answer is yes, and I will close with some poignant words from the professor: “in your head is the answer let it guide you along, let your heart be the anchor and the beat of your own song!”

Music Credits: Echolyn, “As the World” From the album of the same name. Rush, “Something For Nothing” from the album 2112

When All Around is Madness

“It’s a far cry from the world we thought we’d inherit It’s a far cry from the way we thought we’d share it You can almost feel the current flowing You can almost see the circuits blowing”

The professor wrote those lyrics at least 13 years ago and didn’t live to see any of this pandemic, but his words still ring true to our given state of the world. I wrote last week about how life is beautiful even when it’s not, and it’s those latter times that this blog will be focused on. We certainly live in a world of trying times and sometimes “ it takes all your strength just to keep holding on!”(Rush). And this is not always an easy task.

An old saying says that when the going gets tough the tough get going. I appreciate strength in hard times, and when applied those of us that can keep a clear head when things don’t make sense. It takes all of us to make this world go, and in moments of madness, I would like to think that I am able to make the right decisions. You cannot deny we are weathering a crisis here in America, and how we come out of it will shape our nation for a very long time. The silent majority can be silent no longer. I fear something has to give before normalcy will set in. I applaud reason, and I hope that I’m doling it out as well.

So I guess it’s safe to say that we live in a tumultuous world right now where everything is up-ending and uncertainty seems to loom on many horizons. We just have to handle adversity the best we can, and remember we really only have control of our own life. While we are called to make a difference, we must make sure that our own life is rolling along the best it can in this current Environment. “ The world won’t do us any favors until the slate is clean,”(Spock’s Beard) and that’s OK. I have my friends, and family to rely on, and these are bonds that I know will help me get through anything. I’ve already spoke about taking adversity with each step and rolling with the flow, and that’s good advice, especially now. And like the professor says, “We can only grow the way the wind blows, We can only bow to the here and now or be broken down blow by blow”(Rush).

So now we are deep into the pandemic, and we are not sure exactly how long these days will last. Some people say we are seeing the new norm as we have restrictions put in our lives that some of us have never had to deal with. If you are like me, you might feel as if some of the best things in life are not available to us right now like extensive travel, attending sporting events, and most of all just been able to fellowship in large groups with wonderful people. But I cling to the hope that someday things will be like they were, and I have to hold onto that hope just to keep going sometimes.

We can get through these trying times, and I’d like to go back to some thing I said last week about our lives being a gift. If you continue to live each day as a blessing, and do all you can do each day, you’ve lost nothing. I challenge you to still look for, and see all the small blessings in your life, and never forget that life is still beautiful. This too shall pass, and I hope that brighter days are in your future as well. And if you get discouraged, keep your head up and remember more words by the professor: “Keep holding on so long because there’s a chance that we may not be so wrong. We could be down and gone, but we hold on!”(Rush)

Music Sources:Rush, “Madrigal” from A Farewell to Kings, “At the Speed of Love” from Counterparts, “Far Cry”, “The Way the Wind Blows”, “We Hold On” from Snakes & Arrows. Spock’s Beard, “At the End of the Day” from V.