3 Steps to Being Happy with What You Have

What is happiness? Is happiness attainable? Is it something I can give to someone else? In other words, can I make someone else happy? Or, do I need something—whatever it is—to make me happy?

These questions I will try to answer with this short article about being happy with what you have.

1. Throw Away Envy and Ambition

Remember how you felt when you received that shiny new phone for Christmas? You had resolved that nothing in the world could ever take away your happiness.

That is, until you saw someone else using the upgraded version. Now, you want one, too.

Envy and jealousy are like poison to happiness. No matter what, someone will always have it better.

3 Steps to Being Happy with What You HaveThe best way to fight the urge to compare oneself with another is to take life one day at a time. Satisfaction comes from realizing today’s problems and successes are for today. As the cliché goes, tomorrow is another day—another day to fail, another day to succeed.

As I believe Jesus is the son of God, I also look to the bible for wisdom. James 3:16 says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” NIV.

There is nothing wrong with planning. Wise stewards plan. But if planning leads to wanting to be better than others, then there will be no happiness.

Throw away envy and ambition and allow happiness to flood your heart and your mind.

2. Stop Humanizing God

There was a time in my life that I used to think God did not know what he was doing. I saw all the misery around the world, the pain people suffered and I did not believe God could ever fix this mess.

It was too great, even for him.

Thinking that way led me to invalidate God and ask that if he could not fix the world, how could he fix me? In a sense, I humanized God.

Making God equal with me made the thought of his inaction bearable.

I was wrong. Once I began to know God and to learn why he did the things he did, by reading his word, praying, going to church, I learned about real happiness.

I learned God does things in his own time. He allows things to happen because it suits his plan. I may not understand it all, but I know his decisions will make sense to me eventually.

Having the faith that God will work things for the best is my reassurance he loves me and is greater than me or anyone else. I may be a sinner, I may stumble and fall, but he will never leave me. He has never left me, nor will he ever.

That reassurance is another layer to my happiness.

3. Be Grateful

Have you ever exercised and found yourself exhausted to the point that you would give anything for a glass of water? Think about how it felt when you finally took that first gulp.

Satisfying. Thirst-quenching. Happiness.

For a single moment in time, nothing else really mattered. The neighbors could have been bickering, your car payment could have been late and your dog could have suddenly developed a case of worms.

But, for that moment—you were grateful.

Imagine carrying that grateful feeling throughout the day—all the time.

You would not complain about the noisy passenger on the train next to you. You would give food to the homeless sitting at the street corner. You would forgive those who had done you wrong.

Your life, as you know it, would change all because you were grateful with what you had.

You would not worry about money. You would not worry about peace. You would not worry about anything, really

When you are grateful, everything else falls into place.

When you are grateful—there is no reason to be unhappy.

7 Tips for Good Health

With my wife, Luana, in her final year’s certification toward graduating as a Holistic Nutritionist at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, I can also say I have learned a few things along the way.

Many of these tips I have discovered on my own. I knew they were good for me, so I did them. I found them during a period of trial-and-error. But what she taught me was why they were good for me—the effects on the body, the longevity gained, and the big rewards earned, in terms of positive mindset.

I can sit here all day giving her credit for many other things, but then where will that leave me? I will have not made any headway toward what I wanted to talk about today. And that would be a bad thing.

So, here we go. These are my tips for enjoying a life brimful and running over with good health.

1. Sleep as Much as You Can

I have written about this so many times that I think some of you may actually find it boring. That may prove beneficial, because then it would mean you would be ready to apply this energy-boosting tip.

Sleep as much as you can. There is no short-changing sleep.

For me, sleep boosts my energy levels, enhances my focus, and increases my creativity.

7 Tips for Good HealthI know that if I cheat on my sleep, my body will wreak havoc on my mind. My lack of sleep causes me to be forgetful, induces irritation, and swells my likelihood for bemoaning my life.

Nobody likes me when I complain.

Therefore, I sleep as much as I can. I make it a routine, and I am better for it.

2. Drink Loads of Water

What can be more important than to stay hydrated? I drink half my weight in ounces every day. My skin thanks me for it, my digestive system celebrates, and everything in my body works as it should. I do not think I need to be specific with that last point.

Drinking the wet stuff is a great choice for watering the tubes, but remember that fruits and vegetables are high in water content, too. Fresh cucumbers, watermelon, strawberries and celery make for great choices when you are in the mood for something else to quench your thirst.

The other big benefit to keeping hydrated is it may help prevent long-term muscle and joint damage. Add to that list dry skin, headaches, constipation, minimal urination, sunken eyes, and muscle cramps.

In other words, drink loads of water throughout the day, and stay healthy.

3. Eat Good Foods

Good food starts with a deep fryer, thick sauces, and sugars. Wait a minute, that is not right.

Let me try this again.

Good food starts with fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and fish. If you are familiar with the Mediterranean diet, then you will know olive oil is your friend. Foods rich in good fat may aid in maintaining cholesterol levels to where they should be.

7 Tips for Good HealthI noticed that when I eat a meal heavy on the carbs and low on the veggies, I feel bloated, not able to move, and extremely tired. But when I eat a meal made up of whole grain rice, salmon and steamed broccoli, I feel great.

It may have to do with the enzymes secreted in the gut. I have only so much processing power before my stomach says, “Hold on a second, you want me to work twice as hard to get you on your feet? Well, that is not happening, buddy.”

Lesson learned.

What my family and I also try doing is to always shop local. All our fruits and vegetables are from nearby farms, organic, and ready to serve. Then again, we live in farm country, so it is easier for us to buy quality produce than for those living in the big city.

Nonetheless, the point being, a vibrant life is a life given to food filled with ample vitamins and nutrients.

4. Get That Heart Pumping

I walk everywhere I go. I do take the car, yet it is not my main method of transportation. My feet keep me strong. I have had people comment that my calves are Olympic standard, whatever that means. I suppose the muscles I have there bulge a bit.

Every day I try to do something different to boost my heart rate. And really, it can be anything from walking to running on a treadmill. I even have a heart rate measuring app on my phone that shows me how I am doing in comparison to folks living in the mountains in Italy where my parents were born.

When I am fit, I can accomplish anything. Work is easier, talking with people is not a weight, and completing daily chores is manageable.

And let me not forget about the regular trips to the dentist. Keeping your teeth in tip-top shape is good for your heart and your health. Having no cavities means eating well without the burden of worrying about infections that may spread throughout the body affecting other organs. You do not want to have your heart failing because you did not take care of your teeth. That is a big no-no.

Do you want to live a life bursting with health? Begin a program that will exercise that beating organ in the center of your being. Your body will thank you for it.

5. Practice Proper Hygiene

I cannot tell you how it feels to meet someone decked out in formal attire only to sense a brutal odor contaminating my immediate vicinity. Now, I understand skipping a shower or two, but to look good and smell bad is another story.

We live in an age that no one dressed in a tux should stink. I am being truthful when I say this.

Garlic and onions is good. A toothbrush and mouthwash is better.

7 Tips for Good HealthI am paranoid with my hygiene. I wash and shave every single morning. I may miss a shower on the weekend, but when I am with family, it is not a big deal. A bar of soap should be everyone’s friend for life.

Not only that, but a shower is an amazing thing. I can be so tired, yet, once I take a shower, I am ready to conquer anything that comes my way.

Besides, looking after yourself prompts others to look after themselves.

It is a rule. I made it up just now. It works.

In all seriousness, when you feel good about yourself, you tend to feel good about life.

6. Take a Vacation

Every year, Luana and I sit down to decide where we would like to go for our annual family vacation. Sometimes, our vacation consists of a road trip with the kids, and other times we choose to spend several weekends away from it all.

A vacation is a great way to reset. It allows for whatever problems that exist to take a backseat in order for us to reconnect with our lives.

One of my favorite vacations is when I float in a pool and watch the clouds overhead form shapes of animals. I will drift back and forth from one end to the other, day dreaming those animals to life.

A change of scenery also provides for wonderful experiences that under normal circumstances I would have otherwise missed.

But taking a vacation does not have to be an annual event. Every week I take a day to step away from the regular chores of life to read God’s word and relax with the family. It is on this day that I can certainly say that my appreciation for music far exceeds that of all other days during the week.

A happy mind is a healthy body.

7. Meditate on Life’s Journey

Thinking deeply about something requires practice. What better way to practice than to apply this technique as part of a daily routine.

Meditation, when done correctly, will help maintain a positive frame of mind.

It does take a bit of effort, though. You will need a quiet time so that you can think without distractions.

How it applies to me is I take a moment to think about my life from all angles. If I find something in particular I need to resolve, I will sit in a comfortable chair and think through the situation to see if I can come up with an answer.

Another use of meditation for me is to ponder on life’s little mysteries. I like thinking about God and about how I can apply his perspective in my life.

For some, it may not be that easy to find a place where there are no interruptions.

In that case, take a walk.

A simple brisk lap around the block clears the mind of the clutter that has accumulated throughout the day, leaving you refreshed and invigorated to meditate on the important issues in your life.

With these thoughts in mind, use meditation as a key weapon in your arsenal toward better health.

This article is for information purposes only and not for medical advice.  Please see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

5 Ways to Live a Fulfilling Life

There is no trick to being happy.

Well, there is, but it has more to do with attitude. One can be a millionaire and be miserable. Money has nothing to do with it. Although, having money sure makes things easier. Still, as the old cliché goes, money does not buy happiness.

What about having the power to do just about anything? Will that bring happiness? Will that make for a fulfilling life—telling people what to do? I always thought those with the greatest power were those who served every day, unappreciated, ready and willing to surrender their lives for the downtrodden in society. At least, that is what I always thought.

I suppose there is more to leading a fulfilling life than having money and power.

There is, and it is much easier than you think.

Below is what has brought me to lead a fulfilling life filled with hope, joy and happiness. This five-point roadmap is not hard to apply on a daily basis, and its rewards are immeasurable.

1. Enjoy a Healthy Lifestyle

I get seven hours of sleep every night. I am talking about seven full hours of solid sleep without waking up. I never used to be that way. There was a time I only slept two hours a night. It was awful. Every morning I felt as if someone had run over me with a dump truck.

Paranoia also has a nice effect on someone who is an avid insomniac. I looked like a character out of a Tim Burton movie. Spiked hair, shadows under the eyes and pale skin that would make a corpse look good.

5 Ways to Live a Fulfilling LifeAfter several attempts at self-medication—not really—I took to changing my diet.

I went on a regiment of fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of fish, nuts, whole grains, and vitamin supplements. Slowly, the hours to my sleep pattern crept up to three, four and five hours nightly. I could not go beyond five hours until I introduced wine to my evening meals. Suddenly, I broke the five-hour barrier and blew past six to arrive at seven hours sleep per night.

With the added sleep, I found I could focus more, reason better, and do all the things I could not do, like, carry on an adult conversation; something my wife, Luana, now appreciates.

Oh, and before I forget, I drink lots of water every day—half my weight in ounces. Nothing oils the joints better than the wet stuff.

Once I stabilized my health, good things followed. The days were brighter and my attitude was warmer. I said goodbye to zombies and said hello to superheroes.

2. Do What You Like to Do Best

What other activity could bring fulfillment than to enjoy doing what you like doing best? Everyone is good at something.

It can be walking, running, crafting needlepoint art, singing, fishing, playing guitar, playing video games, watching the stars, listening to music, painting, playing soccer, or football for that matter, building things, traveling, relaxing on a beach; it could be anything.

For some, their job is what brings fulfillment. That is quite all right. Imagine having a job as a skydiving instructor. Would that not be the best job ever? I could never do it, but there are those who made their hobby a job.

If you could make your hobby your job, how cool would that be?

The point is, find what you like to do and do it. The joy of doing it is the reward.

3. Spend Time with Others

One of the biggest pleasures I have in life is to sit down with someone to share a meal.

The conversation can go back and forth between past and present, on common activities, or simply on family. The exchange of ideas is a thrilling thing to experience. A good conversation can bond people, create future dates for more conversations, and provide an opportunity to discover something new.

Sometimes, the biggest surprise comes when it seems you have exhausted all dialog.

In those quiet moments together is when you realize what the relationship really means to you.

5 Ways to Live a Fulfilling LifeThe simple act of playing ball with them, or singing, or doing something crazy, like, setting up soda bottles in the backyard with baking soda at the ready to produce the most awesome rocket ship ever, can make it one of your happiest memories yet.

Besides, embarrassing moments are best shared among friends.

Then, should a lull hit your life, you will have those memories to draw on, to carry you forward, and lift you to your feet.

A happy and fulfilling life is more than the dinner entrée we serve our guests.

It includes our guests.

4. Do Good

Has anyone ever held the door for you? Do you remember how it felt?

Has anyone ever given up a parking space at the mall for you, just because?

How about at the grocery store checkout, has anyone ever beaten you to the front of the line but let you go first?

Imagine doing little things like that for others all the time. What would your life be like?

The old widow across the street would have someone to mow her lawn in the summer and shovel her driveway in the winter. Your neighbor could borrow your hedge trimmer without thinking that he owed you something in return. One of your friends could ask you for a ride to the airport without worrying about imposing on you.

Communities would flourish. Cities would not need the vast policing that it does now. And everyone would be nice to one another because it would be the right thing to do.

Of course, a change like that would be unheard of, unless…

…well, unless it began with ordinary people wanting to make a difference.

Part of that willingness to make a difference can involve volunteer work. Many organizations out there need help with initiatives tailored for the community, such as spending time reading to the elderly, feeding the homeless, or planting a tree for the future. Getting involved can be as easy as making a phone call or dropping an email.

Whatever you choose to participate in, recognize that your involvement will not only benefit those in need, but also provide you with the satisfaction of knowing you have done good.

5. Believe in Something Greater Than Yourself

A life with a purpose is a powerful thing.

People who do not believe in something will fall for anything.

I think that is a quote from somewhere.

Many of the greatest heroes of our time were the ones who believed in a cause. They saw something was missing and went ahead and filled the void. Sometimes, as is the case with Leonardo Da Vinci, who conceptualized flying machines, or Isaac Newton, who formulated the Laws of Motion, they end up changing the world.

That single belief in something greater than oneself made these people rich in knowledge and productive in life.

For some, it is the belief in a higher power.

What keeps me balanced is my belief in God and in his son, Jesus, who came to take away the sin of the world.

For others, it may be the belief in making this world a better place.

Having an anchor will keep you stable from the blowing wind that may want to take you away. That very same anchor may act as the cornerstone that will keep you grounded to your goal of pursuing your life’s calling.

Again, a life filled with purpose is a life fulfilled.

Believing in something greater than yourself will keep you fulfilled and grounded in a life bursting with purpose.

Psalm 23

In the span of a month, I have memorized Psalm 23, one of King David’s most famous songs dedicated to God. It is something I have wanted to accomplish since returning to church April 10, much like reading the bible cover to cover, which I completed last year. I am rereading the bible again this year, but this time it is the New International Version.

I am not sure what the reaction to this post will be (my 500th), but I am writing it to help others who may have wondered about the meaning of the psalm. Before going on, below is the full text, as presented in the English Standard Version:

Pslam 23

  1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  2. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
  3. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
  4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
  6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The interesting thing about memorizing scripture over a long period is having the luxury to think through the verses and their meaning. I can say without a doubt, each verse has had an impact on my life.

Let me begin with Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

When David wrote this, he knew all about being a shepherd through experience. In his time working out on the field, he had saved his flock from the jaws of a ravenous lion (1 Samuel 17:34-35). For David to compare God to a shepherd was natural for him. He knew all about the life of a shepherd because he had been one before defeating Goliath (1 Samuel 17:36).

Back in February, when I was in the throes of agony, I did not desire anything from God other than relief for the pain in my neck. I would classify it as an upsetting experience. However, it encouraged my belief that nothing really mattered in life other than to be kind to one another and live as peaceable a life as I possibly could. In other words, my want—desire—was nothing in comparison to knowing God was working a miracle in my life. He was my shepherd, and I had no hesitation knowing he was on my side.

Psalm 23:2-3 continues to say, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

I cannot say how important those verses were when I was going through one of the most distressing periods of my life. I had to let go of certain things in order to let God nudge me in the right direction. Once I had done that, green pastures and still waters presented themselves for me and I finally found peace. It was not by accident. A shepherd knows where he wants to lead his sheep, and God took his time to bring me into the fold of the flock. I resisted, but he was there to lead me in the path of righteousness. It may sound corny, and I would have agreed with you several months ago, but after having lived through it, I am in no way fearful to give him all the glory and honor for my renewed spirit and attitude.

David Changes the Way He Talks About God

Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” 

Something I had not noticed before was how David refers to God in a more personal tone. Instead of using pronouns such as him, he uses you. I wondered about that. Why would he do that?

I have had my dark days where I did not see the light. I define dark days as a time when I did not know God, and led a life that went diametrically opposite to what God wanted. Nonetheless, when I did wrong, he made sure I knew about it through his correction in the form of situations that did not work quite the way I had planned. Now, that is not to say his rod and his staff are bad things, because he was purging sin from my heart, and I knew he was not about to abandon me because of my sin. No. If God was using the rod and the staff to tap me back into place along with all the other sheep, then I knew he loved me. All he wanted was for me to be safe. Moreover, yes, that was a comfort.

David felt the same way, and to express the comfort he had with God, he referred to him in the most intimate way he could.

Pslam 23:5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

When memorizing this verse, I learned that God sometimes will not get rid of a problem, but control it, which left me with no other choice than to accept it and move on. Much like a pack of wolves wanting to kill me, he did not get rid of the wolves but he protected me from them instead.

Even more so, I was in the middle of a personal anointing at my church. I had gone up to remove a root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15) from my heart, and I had gone up to ask for forgiveness for the transgressions I had committed to the Lord my god. More than anything, I wanted reconciliation (Matthew 5:23-24). Because of this, the minister left my forehead soaked with anointing oil, something I had never experienced before. The event made verse 5 all the more real to me.

God’s Grace

Lastly, Psalm 23:6 states, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

I am at the point where I know God has forgiven me and his mercy is now upon my life. I do not have to worry that I am unworthy to receive his grace, because really, he has given me his grace freely without conditions. Nothing I do will earn me salvation (John 3:16). I know that now.

And with that knowledge, I know that when I die I will dwell with God forever.

 

I Can Never Say Goodbye…

This is going to be a tough post to write.

Sometimes life throws you circumstances you just have to deal with on your own. I have to admit that I have had my trials. I would like to think, though, I have always possessed the fortitude to overcome them. Call it determination. Call it perseverance. Maybe. I call it the will to do whatever it takes to succeed.

I have been writing three posts weekly since December 17, 2012. As of next Wednesday, I would have completed 500 posts. I cannot say how grateful I am to have accomplished so much since that humble Monday Mayhem post that started it all. To put it into perspective, 498 posts at 500 words per post comes to under 250,000 words over the course of 3 years. Add to those numbers the three books I have published, weighing in at another 250,000 words, and you can quickly see a pattern.

None of it, and I say this from deep within my soul, none of it means anything without you the reader to have visited, liked, or commented on all my work. What can I say other than thank you. You are amazing. You are the one who has made JackFlacco.com a place where people can talk about anything, including life, and not be afraid.

Life. My dream was to provoke thought, interest and ideas in the impossible, no matter how improbable those ideas may have appeared to be.

Unfortunately, something has taken precedence in my life. The only thing I can say is for the next little while I have to look after my health.

In the meantime, something has to suffer. I will attempt to continue writing my books. I will continue to think about the future, but I cannot continue writing the weekly posts. You have to know it is not something I take lightly to have come to the decision of stopping. Stopping is not something I do well.

I am hoping the future will look brighter once I take care of what I have to do to carry on.

What does this feel like?

It is like telling one of your best friends you can no longer be friends. As much as it is the wrong thing to do, it is absolutely the right thing to do. How can you tell your friend you are no longer kindred spirits? That is how it feels—like I have ripped my heart from my chest and thrown it into an abyss where nothing can escape.

I plan to keep this site up during the time I am away. I am not sure when I will be back. I am hoping a few weeks. All I know is writing has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. I cannot say how honored I am to have had the opportunity to interact with each and every one of you. You certainly have made my life a joy to live. Nothing will ever replace that memory in my mind.

Thank you so much for your incredible support. I really do love you all. I will keep you in my prayers. May God bless you in everything you do.

In a bit. I promise…

Jack

Marriage and Stuff

Last week, my wife and I had the opportunity to take some time away to enjoy each other’s company. Every once in a while, we’ll leave the kids behind to visit either a place we’re familiar with or a place we’ve always wanted to go. This year, we chose to do the latter and decided to explore The Blue Mountains.

The Blue Mountains Chalet

The Blue Mountains Chalet

Located a couple of hours north of Toronto, The Blue Mountains is a resort/cottage community that hosts a large following during ski season. Along with a few friends, we managed to secure one of those fancy chalets overlooking the mountains. The view was great, but, having grown up in Italy where I would wake up to the sight of the Italian Alps every morning, it didn’t impress me as much as, say, it did with some of my friends. I can take or leave mountain views. Nonetheless, it didn’t diminish the enjoyment I had with my wife.

The vacation was a wonderful cap to my newest book release. I had been running around many weeks prior that I hadn’t realized just how much I needed the downtime to regain focus.

Rather than give you a summary of what happened every day, as I’ve done in the past with my other vacation posts, I thought I would give you the highlights of what I enjoyed most about the getaway instead, and about the lessons learned.

First off, because we were sharing the chalet with friends, we each had separate rooms and shared common areas. Kitchen, living room, hot tub and balcony were all common areas. Some couples also shared bathrooms. As troublesome as it could have been, it worked out quite well. No more than two families had to share a bathroom, so mornings were fun.

The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains

Other than breakfast, the organizer cooked everything. Kudos to her! The food was simply delicious. The meal I liked the most was also the meal served the last night we were there. It was roasted chicken with rice and veggies. I’m not sure how she made it, but the flavor led me to go for seconds without a problem.

My wife and I spent most of our time together with the exception of breakfast, lunch and dinner, which we spent with our friends. Our main entertainment was each other, and because of this, I’ve learned something interesting. I knew about this little truth but didn’t know until recently how to put it into words.

Before getting married, we did everything together because we enjoyed each another’s company. What that means is we did what we could to spend as much time with each other, not because we had to, but because we wanted to. It wasn’t duty. It was because we really enjoyed being together.

After getting married however, somewhere along the way things changed. Jobs, kids, finances, new homes, deaths, health issues–you name it, resulted in the creation of a quiet mission statement that stated we were bound to please the other person. Not to sound preachy, but the idea that we wouldn’t be happy unless the other person was happy crept into our lives. It’s not a bad thing to want to please our mates. It is, though, a bad thing doing it out of duty.

With that realization, this past year our marriage has gone through a transformation of sorts. We’re no longer doing things to please each other, but we’re doing things because we enjoy doing them together. For us, it has become a matter of perspective. The idea being, we now share acts of kindness with each other, not because we have to but because we want to. All of a sudden, the enjoyment we once felt before marriage has returned and we can’t get enough of each other.

Okay, so maybe that was an overshare.

But I don’t care. If it helps others find what they once had, then I’ll shout it from space!

Anyway, that was our weekend. What are your plans this weekend?

Get the Ranger Martin zombie trilogy now!

What do you like about traveling?

Priorities

Next Tuesday, October 20, I will be releasing my new book, the final episode in the Ranger Martin series. I think after this release, I will be taking a long break away from writing, maybe hibernate all winter until I resurface in the spring when the daisies begin pushing through the ground. Around the same time last year, I intended to do the same, but after some careful deliberations with my family—they didn’t at all like the idea of me easing on the reins for my three-times-a-week-website-writing-binge—I had decided to continue with my schedule. I may just do the same thing this year.

The priority checklist

The priority checklist

Let’s talk about priorities for today’s Freedom Friday.

Everyone has priorities in life. I don’t think anyone should feel guilty for not accomplishing certain things in life if priorities get in the way. When I say priorities I define them as life’s moments where you can’t do anything other than what you need to do.

This includes, but is not limited to the following: Cooking for the family, driving the kids to their activities, completing the taxes, being supportive to those who need support, balancing a chair on your chin—I just want to see if you’re paying attention—grocery shopping, taking the car in for maintenance, ensuring to pay all the monthly bills, spending time with the family and making money.

Family

Family

Sometimes, priorities get in the way of the things we really want to do. And that’s okay. That’s life. That is what living is all about.

The most important thing for me at the moment, and this wasn’t always the case, is family. I really wouldn’t know what I had to do without my family being there for me. They have never ceased to support my work and me. I spend a good chunk of my day with them, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

My family has taught me lessons that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. If anyone were to have told me before getting married that I was going to have a life that would be brimful and running over because of my family, I would have said, “I hope I do.”

With my family I learned:

  • Picking up my socks at the foot of the bed is a good thing.
  • Cleaning the dryer’s lint collector will prevent fires.
  • Leaving a stray rag in the sink while the washing machine performs a rinse cycle will flood the basement.
  • Cooking with extra virgin olive oil at high heat will cause my wife to whip out the extinguisher to put out the fire.
  • Thinking that you’re smart and actually proving you’re smart are two different things when taking that shortcut through the city and getting lost.
  • Lifting a heavy box without adequate stretches will cause one to book an appointment with the chiropractor in order to deal with the sudden realization one is no longer as young as one thought.

My priorities may lessen the time I have with my family, but they certainly should never get in the way of what is important in life—the ability to say no when things get so out of hand that I would need a vacation to get back in rhythm.

Hmm, now there’s a thought. That actually sounds like a great idea.

Hawaii, here we come!

Priorities

What do you think of spending time with the family?

The Decision

You’re gonna think I’m strange. In fact, you’re not only gonna think I’m strange, but you’re also gonna think I’m just plain weird. I wouldn’t blame you. If I were you, I’d think the same way. I mean, I typically have a high regard for the decisions I make. I don’t make them in a rash manner. I think about things. I ponder the consequences. And sometimes, I’m slow to act in order to gain the benefit of the doubt.

Cable

Cable

I gotta tell ya, though, for this decision, I dropped the ball.

I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, Jack. For Freedom Friday, don’t you usually write about things that are on your mind? What could be so terrible that you feel you can’t talk about it?”

Good question.

Here’s the thing—a few weeks ago I cancelled cable.

Yeah, I know—big step.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating when I say it was a big step. You have to understand the context from where this decision came. I cancelled cable and got Netflix.

Yikes! And here we go?

“You mean you’ve never had Netflix? What’s wrong with you? Have you been sleeping under a rock? Aren’t you a guy who likes growth? Netflix? You couldn’t afford Netflix? Where have you been?”

Okay, okay. I got the message. Yeah, I’ve been living my life in a box stuck on a shelf. Smack me.

But I have it now. That’s what counts, right?

Good.

Netflix

Netflix

Listen, this isn’t an ad for the service. I’m not going to get a commission or anything mentioning Netflix on my site. But know this—why hadn’t I subscribed to the service earlier? It’s great!

Let’s see, I can choose my shows and add them to a queue, which I find really cool. I can search for movies I’ve wanted to watch but never had the time to fully appreciate. The service makes recommendations based on my viewing habits. It even goes so far as to separate my watch list with those of the other members of my family. They’re not into zombies. That’s a good thing, right?

The best part about the service, and I’m not exaggerating here, is its ability to remember where I left off with a program I was viewing. By far, this has to be the one and most useful feature of the service.

I can begin watching Star Trek: The Next Generation from my TV in the family room, pause the program and continue watching the show on the TV upstairs in our bedroom. Then, if I want, after dinner I can pick up from where I left off on my phone at the kitchen table.

You might consider this a “meh” moment, but you gotta realize I’ve come out of the 20th century by getting rid of cable. Cable, folks. You know—where you only get twenty-eight channels and the best you can come up with for entertainment for the night is some guy balancing a chair on his face while someone’s sitting on it playing a rendition of Ride of the Valkyries on a clarinet.

Anyway, that’s what happened with me these past few weeks while I prep my upcoming book for release on October 20.

What have you been up to?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you tried Netflix? What do you think of the surface? It is all that you thought it would be?

The Shed

The other weekend I was tearing down the shed in our backyard and realized along with the sweat, sore muscles and tender hands gained, I was also learning a few lessons along the way. As part of my Freedom Friday series, this is what I’ve learned.

The Shed

The Shed

Tearing down a shed sounds like an easy task to accomplish. The instructions couldn’t be simpler:

1) Take hammer
2) Pull hammer back
3) Apply great force to hammer
4) Hit surface of shed where applicable
5) Repeat 1-5 until shed fully broken into pieces.

Simple. Right? Not so much.

First, the shed’s composition consisted entirely of wood, reinforced with four-inch planks, fastened together by two-inch nails that in case of a meteor assault the roof would not cave in. Second, I needed more than a hammer to take the beast down. I needed a Bobcat utility vehicle. Since I didn’t have one of those I settle on a three-foot crowbar complete with a hook that would withstand a massive beating from my hands. Last, this was not a weekend activity. I ended up taking half of it down on the weekend, leaving the rest for the week ahead.

As I was working, my brain wandered on silly things. The shed I once admired for many years had fallen apart. It deserved a final resting place before replacing it with a newer and shinier version. Similarly, there are things in my life I’ve had to remove in order to push forward. That meant replacing the bad with the good. Habits are like that. I wrote about toxic perfectionism a year ago. I had to tear apart my inner being as a means to throw away that which was causing me the greatest stress. Eventually, that old part is now gone, tossed in the dumpster. And like the shed, where I can still see bits and pieces of it littering the spot where it once stood majestically, the old self, the one wanting things in a perfect, organized box, appears every so often to remind me of the way I had once viewed life—through the doors of a rotting shed.

The remains of the shed

The remains of the shed

I also learned that with much banging of a crowbar on an immovable object, the energy I had expended needed replenishing. Drinking water. Sitting in the shade. Wiping the sweat from my brow. They all contributed to that replenishment. Again, as it is in life, I’ve had to take time away from the day-to-day grind in order to replenish my soul. Every Saturday, I disappear from Social Media and spend time with the family doing real things such as enjoying a special meal together or visiting with family and friends. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, this web site can all wait until I return online on Sunday. Saturday is mine to rest and do what I want. If I didn’t do that, then like tearing apart the shed, not taking a water break or rest in the shade, I’d collapse with a guaranteed stroke. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d like to think I have a lot more to accomplish than make my final resting place six feet under way before my time.

My final lesson I had learned that weekend is to be patient and never give up. No matter what. Slugging the crap out of a shed wall took every ounce of energy I could muster. At times, I wanted to toss the crowbar and forget about the whole thing. I stuck to it. Every hit was one hit closer to success. Every drop of sweat was one more fraction of determination spent. I would not let failure overcome my ambition to slay the beast and win the battle.

The shed died a slow death, but I learned so much from the experience. I’m sure once I raise the new shed I will also have learned something interesting about life I never knew before.

Isn’t life an amazing thing?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you had something you were doing from which you learned a lesson? What is it about life you find the most fascinating of all?

Life Is…

There are days when things don’t make sense. Like when you walk across the street and a cop stops you for jaywalking—not that it’s happened to me. Or when you step outside and it begins to rain. Or when you’ve just missed your bus by a fraction of a second and all you can see are the vehicle’s taillights trailing into the distance. Or when the movie you’ve wanted to see all spring is sold out. Or when the waiter brings you a dish you thought you hadn’t ordered and realize it is the dish you ordered. It was the wrong choice after all. Yeah, some days things don’t make sense.

Life Is…

Life Is…

This is my Freedom Friday article about—well, you’ll just have to find out.

But then there are those days you want to hold on to until the end of time. Like when you order a Greek salad and the waitress adds extra olives to the dish. Or when you’re driving and every intersection you pass there’s a green light. Or when you buy that item you’ve always wanted, and find at checkout that you’ll be saving an extra twenty percent because you came into the store at the most perfect time. Or when you find the last sale item on the shelf and wonder if life could be any more amazing. Or when someone holds the door for you, and you know it has made all the difference in the world that morning when you’d lost total faith in humanity.

Yes, we all have those days. Bad or good, they are our days. No one can take them away from us and no one can say they can relate either. Your days are your own, even if it’s happened countless times to others.

Isn’t that the purpose of life, though? To hold on to the things that no one else has experienced in order for one day to show others we can provide some wisdom worthy of learning? Of course, it’s never that simple. Every moment of every day sets the bar higher and we’re still holding our breath trying to stay ahead of it all.

Yet, regardless of how the day goes, there’s always that single instance when you feel the world and all the forces of the universe have collapsed within themselves as a means to connect with you to show there is something as perfect as hope. And it’s that hope that carries everyone forward to a better life filled with wonder.

Now, it may sound strange and in some respect seem all random. But there is a logic to this illogical existence we call life.

It’s just a matter of finding out what that logic is.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you had anything good happen to you lately? What makes it so special?

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