Having Faith

Why do bad things happen in waves? I mean, I know sometimes bad things happen for a reason, but why all bunched up, one after the other?

Just this past Saturday morning, for example, I needed to drive my son to his part-time job. We woke up early, ate, and we were out the door right on schedule. I clicked the remote several times and there was no response from the car. I even tried to use the physical key to get in, but the car would not cooperate. It was dead.

My son ended up taking the bus, while I ended up on the phone with the rental car company trying to sort out the roadside assistance call. I am thankful for the insurance company paying for all the expenses until we received our car back from the repair shop for the accident my wife had had two weeks ago. Still, I was left scratching my head trying to make sense of it all.

Sometimes God allows things to happen in order to test our faith.

I cannot help but think of Hebrews 11. This chapter of the bible is often referred to as the faith chapter, and the one scripture that pops into my mind, when I think of all that has happened these past few weeks, is the one scripture that demonstrates absolute faith in God:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:17-19 ESV).

I find it inspiring that even though my family may feel the burden of multiple trials, I have yet to hear God’s voice asking me to sacrifice my son as a means to test my faith. In other words, I would gladly suffer these minor setbacks to relieve myself of the responsibility of deciding between life and death.

I know, it sounds extreme. But God is an overwhelming God. He strengthens me when I am weak. He picks me up when I have fallen. And, most of all, he shows mercy to me when I cry out to him in repentance.

Oh, how I wish I could come into his full glory now.

What a wonderful God I serve.

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How to Recognize God’s Favor

Luana and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. With it being the huge milestone that it was, we wanted to do something special. We also needed to stay close to home because Luana was still finishing off her RHN designation in holistic nutrition, and with exams and assignments due, we had to get back quickly.

We decided to drive to Toronto for several days and enjoy the comfort of a five-star hotel. Since it was a special occasion, we wanted to splurge a little. I mean, we scrimp and save so much throughout the year, even using coupons when we can, that with this being an once-in-a-lifetime event, we expected a lot. So six months prior, I booked an upscale 500-square-foot room in the heart of the city with plans to have dinner at the rotating restaurant at the top of the CN Tower while the sun was setting.

When the day finally came, it was raining. Suffice it to say, I was disappointed. We would not be able to see the sunset as I had hoped. Being the optimist that she was, Luana said, “Think about it, Jack. No kids. No responsibilities. I am so looking forward to soaking in a hot bath and enjoying the silence.”

Little did I realize God was setting us up for a huge blessing.

The night before, I had received an email from the hotel confirming the reservation. But something did not look right. Instead of $476 per-night that I was quoted when I had made the booking, the notification said the room would be $299 instead. The hotel gave us a free upgrade. I could not believe it.

But it did not end there. When God blesses, he blesses big.

Arriving at check-in, the concierge welcomed us, and we proceeded to complete the details for our stay. We exchanged pleasantries and then I asked about the tub.

“Is it a Jacuzzi or a soaker?”

“Neither. A shower.” He said. “A King bed and a shower.”

“Any chance of getting a tub?”

“Let me see what is available.”

As he typed away, Luana and I chatted about the Victorian décor and the elegant look to the lobby. We could not help but appreciate the rich architecture all around us.

“I have another room that may work for you.” The concierge said. “It is in our renovated wing. It is a step up from the original room. It has a tub and two Queen beds.”

Luana is practical, so she nixed the idea with one of those what-are-we-going-to-do-with-two-queen-beds look.

“This is the reason we have been married for twenty-five years.” I said. ”The original room will be fine.”

He laughed, and then went back to typing on his terminal. And for a while, there was silence. It was a good five minutes before he said anything else. “I have one more option. The room has a King bed and a tub. It also has a sitting room adjacent the bedroom. A bit more spacious than the room with the two Queens. Is that something you might be interested in?”

Was he kidding? Of course! When the concierge gave us our pass cards to the room, he also handed us two gift certificates. One was for two sparkling wines and the other was for a dessert of our choice at the hotel’s lounge that evening. We were at a loss for words. We did thank him eventually, but it took some time to realize God’s favor was on us and the best had yet to come.

After we reached the top floor of the hotel, Luana and I made our way to our room. By this time, we had had so many surprises spring up on us that we thought there could not be any more.

We were wrong. Our pass cards had two room numbers, which I thought was odd. We could enter our room through two doors from opposite ends of the hall.

Once inside, we dropped our bags, stunned. There was a King bed, bath, TV, sitting area in one room—yes, one room—and in the adjacent room was another bath, TV and sitting area. The hotel had given us a 1,000-square-foot room, which was almost $1,000 a night for $299.

The first thing we said to each other was, “This is God’s favor.”

We recognized it. We knew it. It was an extraordinary doing in an ordinary setting. No way could we have pulled off anything like this on our own. This was meticulously planned and perfectly executed. God’s hand was all over this one.

Later that evening we did end up having dinner at the top of the CN Tower. It was rainy, but Luana and I did not mind. We were together, and that is all that mattered.

We went back to the hotel for dessert.

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.

A Piece of Utopia—Family Day

Stay tuned this Friday when I make a major announcement regarding the direction of JackFlacco.com.

I have to admit something. I’ve been thinking a lot about Utopia. I don’t find it a difficult thought to think about. All I have to do is to think of what would make me happy and I’m there. Given today is a holiday here in my province, I thought instead of writing a dark Monday Mayhem post filled with zombies, the undead and creatures from the abyss, I would concentrate on something light—Family Day.

A game of Apples to Apples
A game of Apples to Apples

Every year, the third Monday in February is when we Ontarians dedicate time toward the family.

Our household celebrates the day off big with board games, a special meal and perhaps some other things that we’ve wanted to do but never seem to have the time to accomplish—like tobogganing.

Casa Flacco loves board games. Over the holidays, we played a fierce battle of Monopoly while gorging on snacks. This year’s version of Monopoly featured characters from cartoons. Have I told you how much I love animated movies? The game went well and we negotiated Park Place, something my younger child was adamant to not bargain away. In the end, I lost to said younger child and it reminded me of when I was young to decline deals from my relatives ultimately winning the game.

I’m not sure what we’ll be playing today, but I’m sure whatever it is we’ll have a lot of fun doing it.

As of the time of this writing, a week ago, I had yet to decide what I wanted to make for our special meal today. In reality, I’ve been preparing the same meal every year. What meal is it? you might ask. Sushi, of course. Would you expect anything less?

I learned how to make sushi a long time ago when a friend introduced me to the delicacy during a long trip from home. I eventually loved it so much that when I returned, I scoured Google to find recipes to satisfy my palate.

If you’re interested in how I make sushi, you can find it in this Freedom Friday post I had published several years ago. The entire process does take time, but it is well worth the effort.

Okay, we spend the day playing games, eating food—basically, having fun. This year is different in that I planned to take the entire weekend off. To me it means not doing any writing whatsoever. You have to understand what that means. I take pride writing every day except Saturdays. Therefore, taking yesterday and today off to spend time with the family is a huge bonus. It means no committed deadlines. Nothing looming to review. But more importantly, it means…

Sleeping in!

There was a time I never used to be able to sleep in. Having suffered from severe bouts of insomnia, it prevented me from functioning like a normal human being. That was then. Nowadays, I live for my bed. It’s cozy. It’s comfy. It’s quiet. Gosh, I love weekends.

All right, I had better stop. I think I’ve deviated from the Family Day theme, but somehow you might not think that.

Anyway, to all those who have today off here in Ontario, Happy Family Day!

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Does your state or province have today as a day dedicated to the family?

Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m so glad you’ve taken a moment of your day to visit. It truly is a pleasure to be here as well. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. To you, I tip my hat in honor of your steadfast support of my work, and for all that you do for me over the course of the year. May this year bring you good tidings.

Happy New Year
Happy New Year

As always, my goal is to entertain you.

So, what are my plans this year? Well, last year was interesting, to say the least. I wrote tons about zombies, went off on a tangent delivering my perspective of the Jodi Arias trial, and completed my Ranger Martin trilogy.

My wish for 2016 is to be able to provide you with the best entertainment you can’t find anywhere else. This will take a lot of work from my side, delivering engaging topics, discovering new theories, and highlighting my favorite things.

I think, though, it will be worth it. Much of what I have planned for 2016 will be in the context of what I come to realize as truth then impart to my readership the information as lessons learned. I may actually write more about writing given folks have been asking via email how do I maintain a site so consistently and still deliver a book a year.

You may also find me talking more about human nature, overcoming trials, and getting along.

New York Fireworks
New York Fireworks

But not everything will be serious. I’ll always continue to provide my favorite recipes, my very best photos, my vacation summaries and most of all, an honest opinion. I really want to make this new year a banner year for creativity—not only for me, but for everyone visiting my site.

If this is your first time here, have a look through my archives. I have them grouped in sections so that you can enjoy them as individual pieces or as part of a series. I’ve written my site with two purposes in mind:

  • To attract readers interested in the topics I love writing about, and
  • To support my books

Some topics, such as cooking and family life are not what one would come to expect from a writer who has written about zombies for over three years, yet I think it’s important to get to know a writer from all angles. That’s my honest opinion.

For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, I am in awe that you are still here. The longer I keep contributing my thoughts on my site, the more I realize how wonderful a support you have been toward my writing and me. I’m very thankful for your kind words, your generous views and most of all your ceaseless faith in what I do here, week after week.

Like I said, I’m in awe.

Now, I’m not much for resolutions, yet given today is the typical beginning of New Year’s resolutions for most people, I thought I’d add one for myself.

My resolution for 2016 is to become more transparent with my writing goals in order to provide my audience a peek into what I’m working on.

What’s that? What am I working on now? I can’t say. Shh, it’s a secret.

Oh, well. So much for resolutions.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What are you doing for New Years’ Day? Have you made any resolutions for 2016?

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?

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What do you like about traveling?

Let’s Take a Walk

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The foliage changing colors brings me closer to nature. I want to sit in the woods, listen to the rustling leaves swirl, and smell the musty scent of moss floating from the log behind me.

A two-minute walk to the park next to my house.
A two-minute walk to the park next to my house.

For today’s Freedom Friday, would you take a walk with me? It won’t be long. I just would like to show you my neighborhood. Maybe even make you feel what I feel when I look at nature the way I do.

Living in farm country affords me time away from the big city. Not only do I take frequent walks in and around our neighborhood, but I also slip into the woods every so often to enjoy the silence away from it all.

Path leading to the woods.
Path leading to the woods.
Entrance to the woods.
Entrance to the woods.

Our first stop is the park next to my home. Every year at this time, it bursts with color. The mornings are as if someone had taken several buckets of paint and splashed them on all the trees. Yellows are like pots of gold. Reds are deep and rich. Why not? Maple trees line the perimeter of the park and invite the stranger to visit the inner sanctuary.

The woods begin at the park and continue for a mile in all directions, cutting across a street until it reaches the farms. I’ve strolled the distance many times, getting lost in its winding trails. The crunch under my feet stops me from going further. I look around and see trees surrounding me. They are tall and strong. The squirrels are gathering food for the winter. The birds have long left the area, searching for warmer climes, escaping the coming winter.

I turn east and head for the stream, which resides at the other side of the street. Other than the gentle breeze caressing my skin, the rushing water breaks the peace and makes my mind wander.

The woods.
The woods.
Looking high above between the trees.
Looking high above between the trees.

I wonder what it was like a hundred years ago, during the times when the colonialists settled the area. Was there ever a person who sat in the exact spot I am sitting, thinking about the coming winter, dreaming about a hot drink by the open fire? Had anyone lived there who came fishing here in the summer, craving for a good catch to bring home to the family for the evening’s meal? I’m sure there was. How could there not?

Then I see more leaves float from the branches, creating a bed for the chipmunks scampering about below. It’s nice here. The tree limbs overhead provide a comfortable roof. Thankfully, it doesn’t feel like it will rain. I can tell when that happens. The animals disappear, the air tightens and a certain smell hovers over everything until the first drop hits the ground.

It’s getting late. I head back wondering what I will have to eat. The other night my wife made fresh baked bread. Oh, how I would love that again. The sweet aroma is hard to resist. After a long walk, it also makes my house feel like home.

Home. What a beautiful word. Calming. Peaceful. Happy. Home.

Get the Ranger Martin zombie trilogy now!

What is your neighborhood like? Do you live where you can stroll in the open country?