New Day’s Eve

“Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.”

— Michael Josephson

Is a new year really that much better than a new day?

photo credit: sunface13 via photopin cc

photo credit: sunface13 via photopin cc

For all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the new year, one might be tempted to conclude that something significant was going to happen on January 1st instead of the significant amount of time we spend laying on the couch recovering.

Maybe it would be better to celebrate the start of each day with the vivacity that we exude on New Year’s Eve. After all, every morning is a chance to … well, live.

If your New Year’s resolve has already dissolved, try getting out of bed tomorrow morning with a New Year’s Eve verve.

But please do it slowly. Your zeal muscle may need a little stretching first.

Today’s gift of time … Cooked breakfast and dinner for the family, and hosted an additional exchange student last night on New Year’s Eve.

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“Improvement begins with I.”

— Arnold Glasow

photo credit: chrisinplymouth via photopin cc

photo credit: chrisinplymouth via photopin cc

I wonder sometimes if my generosity stops at the end of my pen.

When the ink hits the check and a little bit of money flows out of my account into the hands of a charity, do I bother to think about where it goes? Do I know the name of anyone I helped when I wrote that check?

I wonder sometimes if the gifts I give aren’t really gifts at all.

Is the five minutes I spend in the store enough to really find something someone wants? How many times have I bought a present for someone because I liked it, without giving much regard to what that person needs or wants? Do I expect a thanks or appreciation for my gifts?

I wonder sometimes if I’m missing the point.

Isn’t the point of Christmas to not think of myself? Are other people worth the time to pick out a gift that shows that they matter? Are they worth more than a gift?

Whatever the answers, it’s worth trying to remove the “I” from generos_ty and see what happens.

Today’s gift of time … Mailed a card to a friend in rehab. 

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Feeling Generous

photo credit: Gayle Nicholson via photopin cc

photo credit: Gayle Nicholson via photopin cc

When I am greedy, I feel poor.
When I am generous, I feel rich.

When I am greedy, I am poor.
When I am generous, I am rich.

But I repeat myself.

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Imagine Something Better

“Trapped by reality, freed by imagination.”

— Nicolas Manetta

Tragedy can consume us; tragedy can overwhelm us; and tragedy can become us. But there are those among us who, when faced with tragedy, overcome it – using a little imagination.

Jacob. Founder of Imagine Balloons

Jacob. Founder of Imagine Balloons

Earlier this year, Jacob lost his grandfather to cancer. Then, not long after, their family’s past exchange student from Japan told Jacob that he had been diagnosed with blood cancer. Tragedy times two.

It was a cruel twist of fate that would have been difficult for an adult, but doubly hard for an eighth grader.

Yet, with a resiliency that belies his age and using an imagination beyond his years, Jacob set out to overcome tragedy. Taking the skill that he knew, and with his mother’s help,  he setup a booth at one of the local Saturday markets here in the Portland area to make balloons for kids and raise money for a very important project. His goal was to earn enough money to travel to Japan to visit his sick friend.

But working at one farmer’s market wasn’t enough for this ambitious young man. He also setup a booth at the Oregon State Fair where he twisted balloons to raise money for his goal. It would have been enough to just make balloons that he knew how to make. But it takes that extra bit of imagination to do a little bit extra for a customer. Here’s Jacob’s take,

“I got a lot of practice twisting for kids when I was younger. I’ve taught myself how make a lot of new unique balloons this summer. If a child has a request for an unusual balloon, I can try to imagine it and make it! This is why I call my company Imagine Balloons.”

And there you have it. Imagine Balloons. Jacob’s company. Founded by an eighth grader who used his imagination to overcome tragedy.

We can’t avoid tragedy. Whether it is the passing of a beloved family member, a severe illness, job loss, or disaster, we must face the reality we’re dealt. But we don’t need to wrap the blanket of self pity around ourselves and hide.

Instead we can find inspiration in Jacob’s words,

 “If you have a difficult situation in your life, you can always find a way to inspire!”

— Jacob

And it starts when we imagine something better.

I met Jacob last week at Future Stars, a Toastmasters club for middle and high school students, where he spoke about his experiences and his goals. And as far as I know, he met his goal.

Gifts of time this week … Hosted a Toastmasters division contest, replaced light fixtures in our martial arts studio, ran our Feedbackers Toastmasters meeting providing a forum to teach the power of positive evaluation, volunteered as line judge for my daughters’ volleyball games, many drives to the school bus, many dishes washed so my wife didn’t have to do them.

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One Language

“Although we all speak many languages, we are here together tonight speaking only one language.”

— paraphrased from Elvera, a PAX exchange student from Kyrgyzstan

Thirteen languages were spoken tonight.

Many languages, yet only one.

Many languages, yet only one.

Each speaker came to the microphone not only to introduce themselves but to speak a little in their native language. From Filipino, German, Ukrainian, English, and Spanish to Kyrgyz, Basque, Azerbaijani, Russian, Korean, Thai, Italian, and Turkish.

Underneath a thin veneer of dinner with the students in the PAX exchange program, a program which brought Kate from Kazakhstan to our family, lay something much more profound. It was a frothing convergence of countries and languages, of recipes and ingredients, of traditions and ethnicities, of students and parents, of strangers and friends, of joy and appreciation, of many languages and of just one. A convergence of lesser differences that give rise to a similarity far greater.

Although there were many languages spoken tonight; although there are many languages spoken throughout the world, we really speak but one.

The language of humanity.

Today’s gift of time … Our family took our exchange daughter Kate’s dinner through the PAX program. 

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“con-gress [n. kong-gris; v. kuhn-gres, kuhng-]
:  the act or action of coming together and meeting”

As I watch our beloved Congress stalemate itself again and bring the American government along with it, I’m reminded of another type of congress – a congress of volunteers.

Although not commonly associated with the word, a congress can simply be the coming together of people with a purpose, to get something done.


The Sunday crew

Case in point – the students at the martial arts studio, Dragon’s Way, where my kids and I take lessons. About a dozen of us banded together this weekend to scrub carpets, build walls, paint, patch, clean, and renew. The work was long; the end result was something we could all be proud of. A congress of volunteers.

Discouraged by another shutdown?


Part of the Saturday crew.

Then look around at all the people in your community that are getting things done, every day. Volunteers, service clubs, churches, schools, and businesses to name but a few types of congresses that are meeting with passion for a purpose.

That’s the type of congress that inspires me.

The weekend’s gift of time … Worked with my fellow martial art students to improve our studio. It was a congress of which I could be proud.

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Fill ‘Er Up

“Talent is like a receptacle. Some are born with a shot glass and some are born with a keg.”

— David Hattner,
Portland Youth Philharmonic
Music Director
speaking last night

photo credit: whisperwolf via photopin cc

photo credit: whisperwolf via photopin cc

Even if talent could be measured in alcoholic beverage containers, it still bears repeating that shot glasses and kegs are of little value by themselves. It’s what’s poured in that counts.

And filling them takes time and an open top.

That’s not much different than a person if you pour in effort, coaching, diligence, knowledge, persistence, and patience into an open mind. The result will be a talent receptacle that’s overflowing.

No matter it’s size.

Yesterday’s gift of time … Took my daughter to a master instruction class tonight hosted by the Portland Youth Philharmonic and members of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra

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There’s Still A Ripple

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

— Mother Teresa

The next time life throws you a curve, it’s ok to feel bad. But try not to sit there. Find a way to do something positive. Even something small.

Go out of your way to do some small act of kindness, make a tiny gesture of generosity, or spend an hour doing volunteer work. Act differently. Act positively. Above all, though, act. It may not fix the problem, but it will sure help you focus on something better.

Even if you can’t make a splash, make a drop. There’s still a ripple.

Today’s gift of time generosity (perhaps) … Took a disappointment and turned it into, hopefully, a positive for a homeless single mom. 

(photo credit: laszlo-photo via photopin)

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Tinted Lenses

“Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”

— Merry Browne

Every day I get up and put on my tinted lenses.

Mind you, they’re not real lenses, but they affect my vision as much as any pair of prescription lenses. They’re the lenses I wear through which I judge the world.


photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

I see the world through the filter of my experiences, my habits, my problems, my schedule, my anxieties, my stress, my family, my friends, my lifestyle, my job, my class status, my skin color, my hair color, my house, my yard, my town, my expectations, my biological make-up, my self image, my health, my family’s health, and on and on and on and on.

We all wear lenses like these. The ones that tempt us to say, “If everyone just saw things as I do, then all would be well.”

And while it may not be possible to completely remove the tinted lenses, at least recognizing they are there, is a good first step to seeing things a little more clearly.

Today’s gift of time … Wrote an article for a friend’s weekly newsletter. 

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The Making Of A Memory

“People will forget what you said.
People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

— Maya Angelou

Jake French is an inspiration.

Several years ago through a freak accident, life threw him and he was left as a quadriplegic. But he didn’t throw in the towel. Today, Jake is a professional speaker, whose message is Life Happens, Live it. (book info on that attached link).


Jake French, and all the Future Stars

He told stories today at Future Stars Toastmasters about his struggles with depression in the aftermath of his accident and his choice to embark on a new career path – feeling full well the fear in his belly. He told stories of people who didn’t give up.

But he also gave the kids practical advice like advanced speaking and leadership tips. Clearly, his message and wisdom resonated because afterwards several students came up to him to chat. For that, and his daily efforts to bring light where there could have been darkness, he’s an inspiration.


Jake French, and our exchange student from Kazakhstan, Kate.

But to me, the real inspiration was how he greeted our exchange student, Kate, when I introduced them before the meeting. Jake took a few minutes to talk with her and not just to exchange pleasantries, but to really ask about her – where she was from, what she likes about America, and how school was going. He extended that courtesy during the meeting by mentioning her during his speech, as well as giving her a copy of his book afterwards. In short, he took time for her.

When people who have taken the stage in life, people we look up to, either literally or figurative, give their time to make someone else feel special, it’s inspiring to behold. Because when you see that happen – what is seen, yet unseen, is a memory being made.

Jake, thanks for helping our exchange student Kate and the other Future Stars, make a memory.

(Follow this link to contact Jake about speaking at your next event.)

Today’s gift of time … Took our exchange student to hear Jake speak.

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