I wonder what’s wrong when everything’s going right.

My life has so many things going on that if I am not feeling pressure from somewhere, I feel pressure to … well, to feel pressure. I know this sounds a little weird, but it’s true. I seem to be loosing the ability to just chill out and veg for a while. This is an ability that I want to nurture, not negate!

I have recently read about a number of countries where the people work less hours, take more vacation, retire younger and live longer than the average U.S. citizen. I’m puzzled a bit by this. Don’t you have to work hard for all those things? I think so. At least that is what I’ve been told.

Still, I want to remove any unnecessary pressure and get rid of the annoying pressure-caused lump in my left shoulder that gives me frequent headaches.  Maybe I just need to allow myself to relax. Maybe I can figure out a way to let some of the unnecessary pressure melt away.

I hereby pledge to rebuild, restructure and recreate my self, in order to reduce stress and really enjoy my time on the space ship planet earth. I am now ready to enjoy more fully my holiday on earth by, well, focusing on the goal to recreate myself. I commit to spend more time doing the things that are really important and the things that I really love doing. I conclude that these things will recreate me and in so doing they will become my “recreation”.  With more recreation will come more peace, less pressure and even greater happiness. I know it will. It just makes sense.

Unfortunately as I start this new undertaking I feel a whole new pressure to achieve a state of feeling less pressure. Go figure.

Don’t pull off the octopus or you’ll drown.

That title doesn’t make any sense you say? Actually it does.

Years ago I was scuba diving off Catalina island with my two sons and a group of scouts. We were diving at night. I almost drowned. I panicked. I even spit out the octopus (the mouth piece connected to the air tank) and pulled of my mask. At that point I could no longer see or breath. It was my own fault. I did everything they said someone who was panicking would do, and had it not been for my son Bryce, who literally pulled me up out of the ocean as I was sinking the final time (after having resigned myself that my boys would be going home without their dad) I would not be here today.

There is a a lot more to that story, but suffice to say for our purposes here, I learned by reflecting on that experience that it was the panicking that would have killed me, not the water, not the weight, and not a lack of skill, knowledge or training. I have tried to remember and apply that lesson ever since.

Right now my life is as hectic, stressful, busy and challenging as it has ever been. During these times of uncertainty and pressure I realize that possibly the most important thing I can do is, sit back, put my feet on the desk, take a deep breath and just relax. When I relax I start to see more clearly and breath more easily. It is during those moments of relaxation that I receive a clarity of thought, a sense of purpose and more definite direction. I believe that I am able to receive those things by allowing my mind to reorder its thoughts to take advantage of education and experience; but I also recognize and accept that mostly I get those insights from the gentle calm influence of a kind and loving Father in Heaven who wants his son to achieve his potential and meet the measure of his creation, and he is helping me to do so. Knowing that I can always call out to him and have his assistance is a powerful influence for stability in my life.

Despite its ever-increasing demands, life continues to provide me with great joy, satisfaction and hope for the future. Sure maybe things are a little rough right now, but I’m still very happy. Some people have suggested that I enjoy life because I operate with blinders on and that I don’t really understand what is happening around me. I beg to differ. I know that I am happy precisely because I do understand what is happening, why and how it all fits into the great plan; not coincidentally called “The plan of happiness.”

If, as passengers on this great space ship planet earth, we are meant to be happy, then that is what I intend to be.

Never ever trust that computer thing.

Technology. I love it and I hate it. I need it but I want nothing to do with it. I want it to be part of my life, but I just can’t trust it.

Its not my fault, it my computer’s. Really. Here I am sitting at my desk. I’m typing madly away and really don’t know whether these digital 1s and 0s will ever see the light of day. I ask my computer to calculate some difficult numbers for me and it responds with gibberish. I ask it to send a message for me and it seems to forget or it sends it to the wrong person. Sometimes I type for hours, click the “save” button and it arbitrarily sends my work out into cyberspace from which it can never be retrieved.

Sometimes I look at this creation and fantasize about replacing it with a young and attractive trophy computer. Then I realize that this is probably all I deserve. I even periodically consider whether or not I may somehow be complicit in its poor behavior. Perhaps I need to better learn what buttons to push, and maybe which not to. Still, at the end of the day, I know I will keep it around and keep using it. I also know that at some given time, it will betray me. Despite this fact, I know that it has an important role to play. So I will go forward, filled with ambivalence, because I use it, as necessary, for something that only it can do. And it doesn’t even complain. After all, there are just some things that I can’t blame on either the government or my wife. For those things I have my computer.

If this blog doesn’t sound exactly right, don’t think it is a result of my ineptitude, it was perfect when it left my office. If something is wrong, its the computer’s fault. Really. Trust me on this.

Don’t yell at me.

I’m getting fed up with television salesmen yelling at me from my TV. I’m also pretty sick of the car dealers hiring radio announcers to yell at me. And now some guy I’ve never met is yelling at me while I’m driving my car about the IRS and how they are going to throw me in jail if I owe any taxes or have forgotten to file.
I can’t help but wonder if this juvenile behavior is a holdover from Junior High School when for some reason we thought that the validity of our argument or the importance of our opinion was directly tied to the decibel level with which we expressed them. I also wonder if the average American can actually be motivated into action by someone screaming at them. Maybe so, after all the car dealers have been doing it for years and don’t seem to be changing their approach.
I for one believe that it is time to take a stand against the yellers. Therefore, I hereby commit that I will no longer buy anything from someone who yells at me. In addition, I am forthwith organizing “The Association Of People With Brains Enough To Refuse To Buy Things From Other People Who Yell At Them,” also know as “TAOPWBETRTBTFOPWYAT.” Somehow I suspect that this stellar acronym will not become a household word, still I hope you agree with the fundamental right to be offended by advertising that treats us like idiots and choose to spend your money with those individuals or companies who show you at least the minimum respect your money deserves.
If on the other hand you are a mindless drone and respond by willingly giving your money to anyone who uses a loud enough voice, I have only this to say: SEND ME LARGE SUMS OF YOUR MONEY AND I WILL SEND YOU SOMETHING THAT COSTS ME PENNIES THEREBY REDISTRIBUTING WEALTH FROM YOUR POCKETS TO MINE! THANKS AND HAVE A NICE DAY!

Just what the Doctor ordered.

A while back  my wife received her Doctorate. She was already a highly successful and respected Geriatric Nurse Practitioner specializing in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia at the University Medical Center. Her Doctorate will probably not result in any more income, respect or personal recognition. So why would someone go through the headache, hassle, and extremely hard work for the degree? Its simple, and its a great example to me. My wife wasn’t after accolades or riches, she just wanted to have the best education available in her field so that she could provide the best care possible to her patients.

She knows and understands intimately the importance of making a difference in the lives of those she cares for. She was willing to make the sacrifices she has in order to help the people, one at a time, in her care. Her focus is on the patient and not on herself. That is what makes her one of the very best in her field. I am so proud of her and hold her as a model for my life. I too believe in the power of the individual. I consider it a honor and a privilege when I, like her, can help make a difference in the individual lives that I come in contact with.

I’ve had some fun since her Doctorate defense referring to her as “Doctor” all the time.  She went along with it for a while but has recently informed me that if I don’t knock it off, I wouldn’t like what the Doctor would prescribe. So I, like all wise men should, took the advise of a trained medical professional and altered my behavior. I’m back to calling her “sweetheart.” But I admit, whenever I see her in her white coat, a chill goes up my spine.

Skeleton in my doorway.

A while back my wife and I were at Warwick Castle in England, which by the way is one of the most amazing places in the whole world. I was almost speechless when I first walked up to it. Wow. I loved it and hope to return someday.

Anyhow, while we were there the original dungeon of this huge castle (more like a small city) was open and we wandered down. It was frightening to say the least. The stone floors and central gutter are still bloodstained from when unspeakable things happened there. One thing that really hit home for me was the steel cage that hung from the ceiling where real live people were locked in a standing position for days, weeks, months and frequently until death. What brought back this horrific memory was a silly decoration that hung in our kitchen doorway during Halloween and that bonked me on the head a number of times as I passed by. It was a toy steel cage with a skeleton in it. It has given me pause to think. How many of us go through life in a steel cage of our own making? How many of us are restricted, confined and imprisoned by personality traits, lack of skills or experience that keeps the key to our success and happiness far out of reach. Unfortunately, too many of us. It is also unfortunate that many people are unwilling to make the changes necessary to break those bonds and set themselves free. Even when those changes are not that hard to make.

If nothing else that little skeleton reminded me that I need to make sure that the habits, thoughts and processes that could imprison me are overcome and kept out of my life. We’re only here for a short time. We need to make the most of it. We have a choice. Let’s stay out of the dungeon.

Life is a wheel.

Sure enough. Life is a wheel, always spinning but returning again and again to where it has already been. I think that also pertains to our behaviors and actions and to the cyclical nature of this planet and all things that on it are. Even us people.

We have the rotation of the earth with the rising and setting of the Sun. We have Spring followed by Summer followed by Fall followed by Winter followed by Spring again as it all starts over. We plant, we nurture, we sustain and we harvest and then we plant again. Everywhere I look I see a cycle. Even in my own life.

My desk gets cluttered with piles of work, then somehow becomes less and less a mess until it looks pretty clean. Then suddenly, as though by magic, it is again cluttered and the whole process starts again. My brain also has it’s cycles. I find myself strangely at peace at times and then the stress grows and grows and I feel overwhelmed. So it has been in the recent past. I guess my Church, civic and business responsibilities began to weigh heavily on me.

Now the cycle has rotated to a more level field. My daughter-in-law just gave birth to a beautiful new granddaughter. My civic responsibilities are winding down to a manageable level, and my church service is less hectic.  Maybe all it took was a recommitment from me and a realignment of my priorities. Or maybe its just this part of the cycle. I’m not sure which. What I am sure of is that I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

The great flood.

Every year at this time we experience floods. Sometimes it’s our basement. Sometimes it’s a neighbors house. Today it was one of our apartment buildings.

The ground seems soaked to capacity with the melted snow so it does not welcome the inevitable addition of irrigation water from the system that gets opened up. Every year we have kids who are just been being kids and turn on hose bibs and leave them open. Over the winter we have freeze/thaw line breakage and then, as was the case today, there is often physical damage done by people running over or into stand pipes and exterior water lines.

Of course,the irrigation water fills the lines and then flows freely from the breaks and open spigots and finds it’s way to all the places that we wish it wouldn’t go. Then my office gets a series of frantic phone calls. I am always surprised at how people respond to these events. Rather that divert the water, open a drain or bail out an access area, they kind of freak out. They pace, chatter, worry and generally do nothing productive. They just let things get worse. They are looking for someone else to solve their problem. So of course we do. But inevitably the damage is worse than it should have been and expenses of restoration greater than they needed to be.

I think that by and large this is human nature. Overall people are just not taught to be problem solvers. Instead they learn to worry, rant and rave. They learn to look elsewhere for solutions. I believe that the underlying reason for this is a fundamental inability to actually think. I don’t mean this to sound harsh in any way, but “thought” is not a subject taught in schools. We learn to speak, to read, to memorize, to calculate, and to regurgitate facts. Much of our lives then is spent in reacting, responding and remembering but not all that much in “thought.” It’s really a simple process. At the very foundation, thought is the activity of asking yourself and answering a string of “what if” questions, then identifying the best answer possible and acting upon it.

Maybe thinking is painful. I know that just thinking about the events of the morning has given me a headache. So for the next little while, I’ll stop thinking and take the easy road and just react. For example, right now I am going to react to my stomach. It is thinking. It thinks it’s hungry.

Ciao; or should I say chow.

The positive spin on real estate should make you dizzy.

Here’s a little reality check on the positive spin we are seeing today on real estate.

I read and listen to a wide variety of news sources and I have to just shake my head in disgust when someone touts the great growth of the current real estate market. Recently the Standard & Poors/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released figures showing a 9.3% increase in home prices in 20 major metro areas. Sounds good hu? Before you get too excited, lets look at some facts.

First, even after the recent price increases, home prices are still about 30% lower than they were at their peak in 2006. Try to rent a vacation home in Cape Coral today vs. 10 years ago and tell me the pricing difference, I dare you. Current prices are at the level of those in 2003. So simply put, prices today are the same as they were were a decade ago. When you couple that fact with the bargain basement mortgage rates of today (that are more than 40% lower that they were in 2003) you realize that any strength being show is largely a result of the mortgage rates. If rates were where they were ten years ago (almost twice as high) I suspect that the housing market would still be sliding down and not climbing up. More “Sell my house fast Thornton” requests coming.

The single family home market was unfortunately fueled by greed and stupidity, a deadly combination. Too many people acted as though it was a huge-profit investment opportunity and it became the equivalent of a Ponzi scheme. New buyers kept paying the profits to the previous buyers, until the bubble burst.  Yes some people made money, but look at how many lost everything. There are far better ways to invest than to count on the “One greater fool theory.”  This theory says that “Even if I was stupid enough to pay too much, there will surely be one greater fool who will pay even more to but it from me.”  That’s just bad business.

If an investor will replace the greed with intelligence he/she can still find excellent ways to build wealth with real estate today. Opportunities abound. Real Estate has always been and always will be the basis of all wealth. It happens every day for those that know what they are doing, and it can happen for you. Good luck.

 

Life is like a Jack-in-the-box.

Life is like a Jack-in-the-box? That sounds a little trite you say? Maybe … maybe not. You see, when you turn the handle of a Jack-in-the-box, immediately all sorts of interesting and sometimes surprising things happen.

Recently I had the opportunity to become reacquainted with someone from my youth. It is interesting to open up those old memory boxes and brush off the events of the past. Some of the memories are faded, dusty and dog-eared. Some make you smile. Some do not. Still, they illustrate accurately events that led you to where you are today. I now better realize how the past is the genesis of the broken glass, tile shards, polished pebbles and rusty bottle caps that we have each arranged to produce the mosaic that is now “us.” I really believe that by careful tessellation of the combined past and present, we can individually produce a beautiful work of living art that we each call “life.”