Category Archives: Thoughts

Thoughts that pop into my head. Things that I ponder from time to time.

Find the bad apple, don’t throw out the whole bunch

There is no reason to legislate against a few bad apples

As Americans, we are known to be people of action.  We are creators, inventors, writers and adventurers. It was that sense of adventure that caused us to travel to the moon. When we formed that first settlement in Virginia, we weren’t happy to just stay in Virginia. We wanted to see what was beyond. Thus, we headed west to see what was beyond the Appalachian mountains.

When it came to mobilizing America  during the WW2 war effort, we turned factories into military arsenal production assembly lines in order to defend our country. Even with the pandemic that we are facing, private industries are churning out face masks, ventilators and other devices to combat this new enemy.  America has always been willing to get behind a cause worth fighting.

a bad apple in a bunch of good apples
One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch

Americans are people of action

What America is NOT good at is doing nothing. We are not good at staying at home hiding from this evil virus. We are doing everything in our power to come up with a vaccine as well as a treatment for those that are unfortunate enough to catch this virus. Isolation is just not in our DNA. Unfortunately, there are those that ruin it for all of us. It’s sort of like the one kid in school that misbehaves during class and then the entire class doesn’t get to go out for recess. As we all know, you can’t legislate against stupidity.

We have been told that we need to sanitize, wash our hands for 20 seconds, practice social distancing and that those that have any type of cough need to wear a mask to keep their germs to themselves. That is a call to action. We can do that as Americans, but if 99% of us are doing that and only a percentage or two are refusing to do so, should we then legislate that the majority of America can no longer be open for business while practicing these necessary habits?

Let’s hold those that ruin it for the rest of us accountable

Why not hold those that ignore these necessary practices accountable, but allow the rest of America to try and have some sense of normalcy? Don’t shut down the entire country due to a few idiots. Go find the idiots who are not abiding by these standards, name them, shame them and fine them, but for the rest of us, let our people go! We can be responsible. We can meet the challenge. Don’t treat us as if we are all back in grade school.

This is just my opinion, but if we can’t come up with some sort of compromise at the end of April, I don’t think things will go well for any of us. Let’s not cause a few bad apples to ruin it for us all.

I’M BOYCOTTING ALL FORMS OF NEWS UNTIL THIS IS OVER

No news
courtesy of seekingalpha

You heard me right. I can’t handle any more negative news.
Even only checking news in the morning is way too much. This pandemic isn’t going to change overnight. The “authorities” say it’s going to take weeks, maybe even months for this to ease it’s grip on our nation. If that is the case, I’m going to live my life as I have recently learned to do along with the rest of you I’m sure. No going out except for essentials and exercise. Social distancing when we do go out. Ok, I get it.

I have taken up new hobbies. I will practice my cello, maybe learn a new language and work on my new Imagineers project. I refuse to expose myself to all of the bad news. Knowing about every single statistic isn’t going to really change anything for me. If they do find a vaccine or there is a news flash, don’t you think someone will tell me? Hey, I don’t live under a rock. I have friends and family. Those of you that are glued to your phone, computer, Ipad or newspaper, you can tell me to go get the new vaccine. At least I will be in a good mood when I get my vaccine instead of near the point of slitting my wrists due to depression from all of these apocalyptic reports.

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Psalm 118:24

The creative mind as a flywheel

What is a flywheel anyway? Per Wikipedia, A flywheel is a mechanical device specifically designed to efficiently store rotational energy (kinetic energy). Flywheels resist changes in rotational speed by their moment of inertia.

image of a large flywheel
Flywheel on Trevithick Locomotive

The large round thing in the image above is an example of a very large flywheel. Basically, they keep the piece of machinery in motion. It’s not very easy to stop all of that momentum once it gets started. That being said, it’s not easy to stop our minds once they get going either. Shifting mental gears is quite a feat. To be creative, I find that it doesn’t come naturally.  My mind is quite content to keep on spinning, keeping my thoughts going on what my routine expects.

Find a different place to think, a new location

Mark Batterson says that a change of pace + a change of place = a change of perspective. To slow down the flywheel of our mind, sometimes a change of place is required. I do my best creative thinking when I am not in familiar surroundings. This change of place, automatically changes the pace of our life, allowing our minds to slow down enough to start the creative process. New sights and sounds stimulate that part of our brain that help get our creative juices flowing. I do my best thinking away from my office.

Take a walk, get your blood flowing

It’s not enough to just go find a new place to think, I find it best to also be doing something while in new surroundings. I have a favorite spot where I go to think. I go to my local zoo in the morning when nobody else is around. I’ve tried to pick a spot to sit and think, but I find that I do my best thinking when I walk around the zoo taking in the sites and sounds.

3 elephants
A zoo is one place out of your routine

The key is to change up the routines of your day. Routine is comfortable, it is safe, it is …..well…..routine.  Get out of your comfort zone. Routine produces routine results. If you are happy with the results, don’t change, but if not, why not shake things up a bit and see what your flywheel, headed in the other direction can produce?

Stop the flywheel and let the creativity begin!

Am I sitting on my hands?

To sit on one’s hands per the Cambridge Dictionary means “to do nothing about a problem or a situation that needs dealing with.” What if you are uncertain as to what needs to be done? Would this be considered sitting on your hands? I know that for the last couple of years, I have tried every which way to get some momentum going to go in a new direction vocationally. It seems that every option that I look into, the door is sealed shut. If you know me, you know that I do not like to sit around and do nothing. I love new ideas, especially when I am the one to come up with them! It feels like I am in a straight jacket. cartoon character in straight jacket
Not that I have ever been in one, but I would imagine that after a while, you just give up and sit on your hands or rather lean on your hands as they are wrapped around your back. Fighting a straight jacket is rather pointless, unless you are Houdini.

If all of your doors close, what are you to do in the meantime?

I mean, if after trying unsuccessfully to move in a positive direction, what is one to do in the meantime? I have found myself cleaning my garage, washing my car, washing the windows of my house and doing anything else that I can do just to NOT sit on my hands. Now some of you are probably saying, “Well, God probably wants you to just rest in Him.” Thanks, I’ve been doing that for 22 months. I have rested in my God created straight jacket and just prayed, read the bible and meditated for hours some days. I get up at 6AM every day just to do this. For a long time I felt that God was going to reveal His plan to me, that it was just around the corner, but now I’m not so sure. Is this a God created straight jacket or have I created my own straight jacket, stitch by stitch? Either way, I don’t like it.

In the pit of my stomach there is a churning

Have you ever told a child to sit in the corner and they obediently obey, only to hide the kinetic energy that is within them? They go to their corner, sit there and all seems well, but inside, there is a spring wound tightly that is ready to spring into action.

cartoon of dennis the menace in the corner
Hank Ketchum

The old cartoon series by Hank Ketchum about Dennis the Menace often showed Dennis in the corner for some act of neighborhood terrorism. You knew that there was still a lot of energy in Dennis, even though he was being obedient to go to his corner of punishment.

It’s not that I feel that I am being punished. I just feel lost, without a purpose. I’m a project guy. I like to be creating something new. I feel that I have had pretty good patience for almost two years, but geez, how long can a kid wait? All of the potential projects that I have thought of or been presented with have ended up being closed doors and I don’t mean doors closed politely, I mean doors slammed shut!

My last post was about the dream collapsing. When a dream collapses, you eventually wake up, if not, then you have what is called a nightmare. Enough of this nightmare, I want to wake up! I’m tired of the straight jacket and I’m tired of sitting in the corner. I have to do something different so that I will not end up with the same results. 2020 HAS to be different, if not, I will NEED to be put in a straight jacket! Until then, you will see a house with shining clean windows, not a speck of dust on the floor and absolutely no leaves in my yard. I’m running out of chores. Let me know if you need your house cleaned. I’ll run right over!

The Dream is Collapsing

A dream within a dream within a dream.

Have you ever dreamed that you were dreaming while having a dream? Now, how about dreaming about the dream where you were dreaming within a dream? That is a whole lot to wrap your mind around. Are you living within a dream right now? Do your dreams seem real to you? Does your life seem real to you? Science has proven that our minds do not know the difference between “reality” and simply imagining something. This blurs the edge between reality and your imagination.

inception the movie
Inception

It feels more like an implosion

This is going to be one of those transparent posts, not the encouraging post that I typically write. If you want to stay encouraged this Christmas season, then please skip this post and go find a funny meme that someone else has posted.

If you have watched the movie Inception and watched a building imploded, you will understand my analogies below.
Currently, my life feels as though it is imploding. I have personally witnessed a tall skyscraper being imploded. It was a strange sight. One moment it was there, and the next, it was a pile of rubble. Many of us who were alive remember seeing the twin towers imploding after the 911 attack.

In my life as in a tall building, the foundation was solid, no reason to believe that anything would change, but slowly, the weight of the top stories of my life began to grow heavier and heavier to where the walls of my life could not stand the pressure of all of that weight. The foundation, which for me is my faith in Christ was still solid, but the weight that was being added to the top stories of my life was growing. First, it was realizing that not living the purpose for which I was born, added an emotional weight to daily living. Next, it was our family business.  We had moved to Colorado to open a new branch, but within a year, employee issues back in VA started to draw us back to VA. We were spending more and more time flying back and forth to VA than building our business in CO.  The dream to open a new branch in CO was starting to fade.  After four years, we sold our mountain home in CO and moved back to VA with our proverbial tail between our legs. We were having multiple employee issues; people leaving with no notice, unable to rehire people to replace them. We were operating on a skeleton crew. The market started to change and our sales started to drop. The walls were now starting to bulge in our “building”. I experienced my first anxiety attack after back to back losses in sales. This anxiety manifested itself as muscle twitches. For 2 months, due to my PCP mentioning the letters, ALS, I was put on anxiety and anti-depressants. The “building” took a direct hit, exploding with the force that shook my entire soul.
My entire shipping department less one person slowly quit and we couldn’t find anyone to ship our products except our shipping supervisor. The glass windows in this “building” were now starting to break.  We decided to begin letting our staff, other than the warehouse work remotely from home. Maybe this would help us retain employees if they were able to work from home. The offices were now empty and quiet. I would go to work, only to find an empty building except a few people on the first floor. Due to not having warehouse staff, we decided to close our offices and warehouse and move the shipping operation to a fulfillment center in Denver. That move cost us a month of sales which affected cash flow. In the midst of all of this, we found a vendor in Taiwan that would manufacture a few of our products, thus reducing our cost of goods. We were now starting to make money again after 3 months of losing money due to the move to a fulfillment center. The dream was becoming clearer, the dust was starting to settle, but in November, this vendor’s email account was hacked. We thought we were wiring funds to them, but in fact, we were wiring funds to an unknown account in the UK, a fraudulent account. We lost the entire amount of the purchase order, for us a large dollar amount.
buildings being implodedRealizing that our sales were dwindling and that fulfillment centers were not cheap, we decided to put our house on the market to reduce expenses.  We were shoring up the collapsing “building”. We had a contract on our home in 22 days. The dream was becoming clearer and we thought that it was not collapsing. We felt as though we knew what we were supposed to do.  Maybe we can save this “building”. A few days before Christmas, our agent called to tell us, while we were at a Christmas party that the buyers were canceling the sales contract due to a small issue that was really of no consequence, but in this day and age of residential real estate, buyers can walk away from a contract for almost any reason. The dream was starting to get fuzzy, was it collapsing once again?

The dream is imploding

As of today, our sales are down 20% compared to last year. This, combined with losing a boatload of money in wire fraud is causing the dream to implode. The potential buyers renigging on the contract, (the 2nd house which they have done the same thing on) plus the money issues at work are causing this dream to collapse.

My lovely wife had her knee replaced at the end of August. The surgery went well, but the surgeon failed to tell us or schedule physical therapy for two weeks after the surgery. This has caused scar tissue to build up on her knee and she does not have the range of motion that she should. This is also causing her pain. She is currently walking with a cane. Her dream is collapsing, the dream of walking without pain, being able to start doing some of the things that her bad knee would not let her do seems like a dream unfulfilled.

Can you stop a dream from collapsing?

Now the question is, how does one keep a dream or “building” from collapsing or can you? During the beginning of a collapsing dream, everything seems to go in slow motion, but once it gains momentum, all one can do is to hold on to something and ride it down. For me, it’s my faith. I have to know that neither death nor life, nor powers or principalities can separate me from my foundation. I may end up in a rubble or awake from this dream. The inception of every dream has to have an end, and it appears that the time is now. The top has stopped spinning, but one day……..it will start to spin, yet again.

bronze spinning top

This Dream is Collapsing

 

Are you a large or a small?

I’m one to live large. I do not believe in simply existing and going with the status quo. If I want to do something in life it’s going to be on a grand scale. I was born for a reason, for a purpose that is larger than myself. If I were to live small, just trying to eek out a living, being a cog in the big wheel of life, I would be denying the very reason that I was created. I’ve tried to ignore it; I’ve asked for it to be taken away, but it can’t be removed. It’s like your height, you can’t make yourself taller or shorter, you are who you are.

I don’t want to work just to earn money, I have to have a purpose for living. I don’t want to have just a great business idea. I have tried that. The money satisfies for a very short time.  As George Bailey told Mary in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, “Now, you listen to me! I don’t want any plastics, and I don’t want any ground floors, and I don’t want to get married – ever – to anyone! You understand that? I want to do what I want to do.”

George on the phone with Mary
It’s a Wonderful Life

I believe in doing things only one way, big and dazzling, compared to doing things small and just to get by.

We only have one life to live. You can make it a wonderful life or you can be satisfied with what life gives you. The choice is yours. What’s the opposite of a wonderful life to you?

The muse can’t be ignored

Have you been kissed by a creative muse? If you have, then she cannot be ignored. She will be happy to be left alone for only a time, but will grab you with a vengeance and demand your attention. Of course, I am speaking of the mythological 9 muses. Zeus’s 9 daughters.
If you are one of those that has been “kissed” with a creative bent, then you will not survive very long before this muse demands attention. If you ignore her too long, she may curse you to a life of boredom from which you will not return.

The 9 muses

What is that creative Muse’s name?

The question is, “who” is that creative muse in your life or should I say “what”. Ok, so you know that you are creative, but creative exactly how? Are you a creative artist, musician, cook, playwright or thousands of other areas that require creativity? I have been blessed to be gifted in several things and my interests are wide and varied. I’m an excellent pianist, trained classically. I have high mechanical skills and have put that to use over the years. I love to take things apart to see what makes them tick. I like to see what I can do to make them work better. Both interests require curiosity and creativity.

For the past 10 years I put away my wrenches and my piano to make a living. I have spent it running a company. Now I type on the computer and try and figure out how to maintain our market share. Sure, it does require some creativity, but not daily. I have ignored this muse for quite a while, but now she is walking down Mt Olympus to have a very serious chat with me.  I can hear her say, “Ok, I have been quietly watching you, hoping that you would return to me, but you seem to be stuck. It’s time to return to me.”

Don’t let your Muse quit on you

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
– Stephen King

There is a time for sitting and waiting and then there is a time for action, the key is to know if this is a time of waiting, or if this is a time for action. I don’t believe in staying busy just to be busy. I think it important to stay actively involved in the area in which you know where your muse lives. If you are a writer, then spending all of your time on the golf course isn’t going to help you learn to write. It may give you some time to think, but you must at least practice writing until that great story arrives.

Demeter

If you are one to get depressed, waiting on your muse to bequeath you with that one great idea, then get to work doing something in the area of interest to get the creative juices flowing. It seems that harder I sit and consternate about what I should do, the less ideas pop into my head. This is a delicate balance. Busy enough to keep the inner demons at bay, but not so busy as to keep every creative thought from being able to rise to the surface. Many great ideas occur by accident instead of by sitting in a lotus pose waiting for that great idea to pop into our heads.

Top 7 things to keep your Muse alive

  • You need to spend your time with others that help you get your creative juices flowing.
  • Find groups of people who are like minded in the area of your muse. Even if it is only one or two people, get together with them on a regular basis to stay encouraged.
  • Stay away from those who squelch your creativity. You want to plant yourself in good soil that will be watered.
  • Limit your time on social media. It can be a creativity drain.
  • Spend time with pen and paper. Create your own images.
  • Just get started doing something.  Even if it is only 30 minutes per day, you will feel better afterwards.
  • Momentum only occurs once you start moving.

The microwave life

Slow tedious craftsmanship and hard work has seemed to come to an end. Today, we see to have evolved to a sort of microwave living. Social media has pushed the success of so many, summed up in less than 500 words as though anyone can fall upon success, as if it was something that chance and being in the right place is all that is required.

Downloads are for computers, not for humans

At least not yet that is. I’m not Neo from The Matrix. I can’t suddenly know Kung Fu.  As cool as it would be, that’s cheating. To become a master at anything, it takes time and practice.Neo has just downloaded kung fu to his brain It also requires patience. I’m not good at being patient. Owning an e-commerce store, I know that I can create a web-page and upload it to the web in less than an hour. YouTube videos can go viral creating a superstar of almost anyone overnight. Don’t even get me started on the lottery. Too much, too fast is not good for anyone as Hollywood and fame has a long trail of ruined lives that have paved Hollywood Blvd.

Building something with your hands

I used to be a general contractor. I restored homes which sometimes took years to complete. I enjoyed seeing the progress of each day, room by room. In the end, it brought a very satisfying feeling seeing what I had done, but that was years ago. Now that I have been in the eCommerce world for fifteen plus years, my patience has waned. I seem to enjoy writing a check for others to do the work I once did. I’ll admit that I am older and my body doesn’t recover as quickly as it once did, but I want things done instantly. This microwave life that I have created has lost the satisfaction that building something with my hands had once brought. It has also removed the problem solving that goes into building something as well.

Ed and Rowena Waghorn from Herefordshire

Ed wanted to build a home from scratch, using his own designs and available materials for $100,000. It has taken him and his family over 15 years in the process. They have lived off of the land while building it and the life that they created while building, has been to focus on the journey.

Ed and Rowena's handcrafted home
Grand Designs

As I watched this episode on the Netflix series called Grand Designs,  at first I said to myself, “Jeez, he makes everything by hand. Why not just go out and buy a metal hinge?” Instead, he carves them out of scrap wood from trees that he felled on his own property. He painstakingly will spend days putting detail into items that you and I would simply have overlooked.  I used to have more patience to attempt something on a much smaller scale, but not anymore. I blame myself, but I also blame allowing technology too easily to replace tasks that I once enjoyed doing the analog way. They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Today, maybe it wouldn’t be built at all because we just don’t have the time nor the craftsmanship that it would now require.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”     ― Theodore Roosevelt

Excuse me, for now I am going to go to my garage to build something, anything. I don’t care. I want to get my hands dirty. I want to see what I can create once again, and I don’t care how long it takes me!

Don’t give up, your answer is around the corner

Yes, you heard me right. Don’t give up, your answer is around the corner. If you have been pressing in to get an answer for something that you have been focused on for quite a while, I’m here to tell you that your determination will not go unrewarded, especially if you have committed it to God’s care. He hears your heart, He sees your frustrations. I know that it seems as though things will never change, yet God works behind the scenes in your life.

If you are going it on your own and you have not committed this to an entity that is more powerful than you, then you will have to just live with the results of your own efforts. We alone can’t change others or circumstances beyond our control, but God can.
“God can do anything, you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20

I know that it seems like this has been going on forever, yet if you have been faithful to commit this to Him and have been listening for HIs direction, it will arrive.
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our current condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28

Our journey to downsize our lives

I have searched the internet unsuccessfully to find stories of others that have decided to pull the emergency brake on their existing lifestyle. My wife and I have watched shows on decluttering, but we aren’t talking of just getting rid of stuff in our closet. We have done that and that does not satisfy the longing to take a hack saw to these golden handcuffs that keep us slaving away to make the mortgage payment on our million dollar home and our “way of life”. We want purpose. We want to have the freedom to not be tethered to something and someplace that forces us to not have any choices. We are going to downsize our lives.

I reinvented myself once already

Ok, now I am going to switch to moi. I started my own business about 20 years ago working with my hands, but things out of my control, mainly the internet and cheaper products from China made my services no longer needed. I had to reinvent myself, but in reinventing myself, I chose what would be a great “business idea”, not something else that I would enjoy. You see, I was in the mortgage business making a good living, but hating every minute of it. This is why 20 years ago I reinvented myself and started my own service business, but cheaper products rendered my services obsolete, so I reinvented myself and started selling replacement parts online for the products I used to service. The immediate return or should I say the slow and steady return of dollars started coming in. I had discontinued to use my troubleshooting and mechanical skills due to a lack of need and started selling the same parts that I used to install for people TO people. Just like now, I was tied to a computer screen. I was riding the surf of the internet and after 10 years, was one of the top websites to sell these parts. Life was good, financially speaking, but I had left behind the whole reason to get out of the mortgage business in the first place.

What am I complaining about?

Fast forward 18 years. We are basically living in a million dollar house. I am driving a brand new Tesla. Is it a cool house? You bet! It’s 118 years old with tons of architectural detail. It’s 5,200 sq. ft. and the previous owners fully renovated it. It has a butlers kitchen, a gourmet kitchen that any chef would love to own and inlaid French parquet flooring. I had always wanted to own a home like this in this very neighborhood.  Colonial revival home Freeze frame. We are pretty miserable. You see, stuff doesn’t bring you happiness. It does for a very short time, but not long term. Our job has tons of stress attached to it. Being in business online is like being a fish in the ocean. You never know what is going to gobble you up or if the tide is going to change and sweep you away with it. The amount of money that we have to generate to feed our lifestyle is just crazy and we don’t have any credit card debt, I’m just talking about house payment, health insurance, utilities, etc. Ok, there is the Tesla payment and I do love driving it.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Bigger isn’t always better. These are two quotes that I tell others but have obviously been ignoring myself. I knew we could afford to own this house and to buy the Tesla, but when I signed the promissory note for each, I also promised that I would make those payments and to make those payments I must generate the income, no matter if I enjoy the job that generates that income or not.  Guess what? I don’t enjoy the job and I don’t enjoy the friendly reminder that these payments are due either. Owning expensive stuff means that the expensive stuff needs to be maintained. Owning a 5,200 sq ft house when you are both working full time means hiring a housekeeper, that is unless you don’t care what your house looks like and we do. I don’t have time to do the repairs that are needed in owning a home, so I get out my checkbook and write checks for the lawn service, painters, plumbers and electricians that I would normally do myself. That is if I had the time, but guess what? I don’t have the time.

To be able to yell STOP, I have to eliminate what forces me to wake up and “make the donuts”.

baker getting ready to make donuts
Courtesy of Dunkin Donuts

It’s not that I want to retire and play golf. I just want to do something that fulfills me and uses the God given gifts that I was given. I have purposely started to step on the brakes in my business. I eliminated a number of product groups that were requiring a major investment of time, but that also resulted in less income. I had been approached by a company that every one has heard of to distribute their products, but I turned them down. They were kind of shocked, but I said no. That was VERY hard to do because I had been trying to obtain their business for years. That probably cost me a couple of million dollars a year in sales.

hand on parking brake

Now, we are pulling the emergency brake on our lives. We are putting our house up for sale and streamlining our business so that we can eventually sell it. We refuse to go another day like this. We want options for our lives. We may not even buy another house. We may just travel, to places where we can live on the cheap for a while until we figure out what we want to do next.

I am going to take you on our journey into the land of downsizing our lives. I will be honest and tell you exactly how it feels to move out of a neighborhood filled with doctors and CEO’s. It will be a change both economically and socially, but we are willing to do it.