Throwback Thursday: “Me and my Big Mouth!”

19940895_640I’ve  got this nasty little habit that’s gotten me into an awful lot of trouble in my lifetime, more than I care to remember. Now it’s nothing illegal, immoral or fattening, and violates no laws other than those of common sense, but it causes problems all the same. It has to do with my mouth and what comes out of it but has nothing to do with yelling, screaming or cursing although I certainly do my fair share of all three, and I don’t droll or spit when I speak. No, the source of my trouble is the fact that I sometimes allow random, personal thoughts, opinions or reactions, to take verbal form and quickly spring from my lips! So quickly at times that I don’t realize I’ve actually said them aloud until it’s too late. Yep, me and my big mouth!

I was sitting here trying to remember just when it all began and was pretty sure it started during my rebellious teens but then I remembered a second-grade experience when a verbal response resulted in my mouth being washed out with soap. I will never forget Sister Fatima and that gritty bar of Lava soap.  I may have a big mouth but that bar barely fit! Yeah, I could have probably gotten away with just a scolding for the comment but oh no, no such luck, I had to go and throw I the word ‘jackass’ into my statement (definitely not an appropriate second-grade word). Oh sure I could have said donkey or burro but no, instead ‘jackass’ came barreling out at the end of my sentence. I knew the moment I said it that I was in trouble. The look on Sister Fatima’s face said it all. My comment was rude enough without attaching an inappropriate word to it. I remember I was the first mouth washing of the year. In fact, I think I was the only one!

I do believe that was the beginning of it all. You’d think I would have learned something from that Lava soap mouth washing, but hey I was just a kid, my teacher’s advice as she scrubbed, “Think before you speak” fell on deaf ears, all I could think about was that horrible taste and the gritty, sand like feeling in my mouth. Besides, I did think before I spoke, that’s how I came up with jackass. No, my problem had nothing to do with the thinking process and more to do with my rapid response mechanism. I had no control over it, responses, smart ass and otherwise, just seemed to spring from my lips. It was my curse.

It went on that way for years and got me in trouble with my parents, teachers and occasionally my friends. I just couldn’t seem to keep my responses to myself. It wasn’t until I learned and mastered the skillful technique of biting my tongue that things got a bit better. To this day I don’t remember exactly who first told me about biting my tongue but they were truly golden words of advice. I seem to recall something about when in a conversation being free to think absolutely anything I wanted, anything at all. The real trick was to keep those thoughts in my head and not allow them to be spoken aloud. That’s where the tongue biting came into play. It sure has saved my butt on a number of occasions.

Through the years holding or biting my tongue has been a useful technique and coincides with that old saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. There have been times where the temptation to just let thoughts and words fly has been too great and the smart ass part of me wins out and I set my tongue free. I usually paid dearly for my lack of restraint, but sometimes, depending on the situation or whom I was speaking to, it was well worth it!

Of course, that which gives you pleasure can also bring you pain. The real danger in making quick wise cracks or off-handed remarks is a misinterpretation. We’ve probably all been there. We make a remark knowing exactly what we mean by it but the listener takes it a whole other way, usually the wrong way. Once spoken, the conversation immediately goes sour, for a line has been crossed, toes have been stepped on and feelings have been hurt.  Just like that, you find yourself on the defensive and boy oh boy, do you have some explaining to do!

On a recent Friday night, I found myself in just such a situation.  After going out to dinner with some close friends we returned to my home and were enjoying a cold beer and some casual conversation, casual that is until I made a remark about being educated that turned the night around! My remark was not malicious, contained no curse words and was not spoken in anger, it was simply a declaration of a fact intended only to stress a point to one particular individual, not aimed at the whole group. Instead, it was misinterpreted by everyone. And just like that, I was on the defensive, I was the bad guy. I never intended my comment as an insult to anyone or to be demeaning, but apparently, it was taken that way. I spent the next several minutes back pedaled and trying to explain what I had meant but to no avail, the damage was done. I’m truly sorry that I offended anyone. Believe me, it was unintentional. I tell you misinterpretation is a bitch! Guess it would be best if I go back to biting my tongue.

 

Yep, me and my big mouth, still at it after all these years…

Just Saying…

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Lotto Fever! What Would You Do?

What would you do if you won the state Lottery? This is a question that often comes up in conversation, particularly when the jackpot is over a $100 million. The bigger the prize money the more people play. And there are lots of ways to win, Mega Millions, Super Lotto Plus, Hot Spot, Fantasy Five, Daily Derby and a host of “instant winner” card scratchers. I’m probably missing a few but you get the picture, the state has given us lots of ways to win and make our dreams come true or have they?

Even with California’s high cost of living it is estimated that over two million people play the lottery each week. The number one reason they play is to get rich quick.  Like they say, (whoever they are) “Somebodies got to win it, may as well be me.” Seems everyone wants to win the big money. Okay, maybe not everyone, there are thousands of people who never play, any of the states get rich quick lottery games and never plan to. Like they also say, “In order to win you gotta play.”

For years we’ve played Super Lotto Plus every Wednesday and Saturday like clockwork. Obviously we haven’t won the big one, but we have won small amounts from time to time (small being the optimum word) the largest amount is $100 one hundred dollars! But truth be told, we’ve definitely spent a whole lot more than we’ve won. Schools were supposed to be the big winner when the lottery began back in 1985.  Schools were going to get the biggest piece of the pie and be rolling in money! Well I worked in the school system and I’m here to tell you, that didn’t happen. Even with the additional funds created by the Lottery California continues its decline in Education and remains near the bottom of all states in per student spending. Last year we spent more money on Welfare than education. According to a January 2013 U.S. ranking we are 49th. How sad is that? Very, when you consider that in the 60’s and 70’s we were consistently in the top 10, and 16th as recently as the mid 90’s.

Even sadder is the fact that there are people out there who shouldn’t be playing at all! They really can’t afford to be chasing a dream with money they need for more important things like the needs of their families. The idea of wining a quick fortune and having your financial prayers answered is very alluring, but your chances of doing so are slim, something like one in a million, You have a better chance of being struck by lightning.

Many Californians play the lottery for fun using money from their entertainment budget to buy a lottery ticket. But, approximately three percent of those playing the lottery suffer from a gambling addiction. These people cannot safely manage any kind of wagering. These are the people who are spending their bill and food money because they ‘know ‘ they’re going to win, they can feel it! If you’re going to play, play responsibly. Don’t spend money you don’t have, and don’t ever borrow money to play the lottery. Create a manageable lottery budget and stick to it. And if you find you have a gambling problem seek help!

Okay, with that being said let’s get back to the big question, “What would you do if you won the Lottery?  You have all heard horror stories about big lotto winners and how their big cash windfall ultimately became their downfall. I can already hear some of you saying that what you would do and how it might effect you would depend on the size of the prize. A smaller payout would keep you more modest and less extravagant, while a big pay day might take you over the edge. It can happen, and has.

My Dream Car! 1963 Porsche

If I was to win a good amount of cash I don’t think we would change that much.  I don’t see us moving to a hilltop mansion or buying a Bentley, BMW Mercedes or Porsche. (Well, I might have to think on the Porsche, I’ve always wanted an old 63 yellow bathtub style 912. I had an opportunity to buy one in 1968 for $2800 but my dad wouldn’t cosign. He cosigned on a 61 VW for $800 instead.)

We’d most likely buy a couple of energy efficient vehicles to get around in and a nice, large, gas guzzling SUV for travelling. We probably wouldn’t move  to a new home, we’d remodel our current house, put in a pool and do some traveling. We’d head out and see U.S., then maybe tour Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. We’d definitely make some hefty donations to City of Hope and the American Cancer Society, take care of the kids (but not too much care) and provide trust funds for our grandkid’s college education!

Oh yeah and I’d definitely buy a few more guitars and spend more time playing them. I air condition my man cave and spend more time writing. Yes that’s what I’d do if I won the lotto or maybe I should be a bit more optimistic and say, when I win the lotto. Somebodies got to win. Right? Might as well be me… So, what would you do?

 

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TBT: “Our Daily Bread: Let Your Gratitude Shine Through”

“If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”  Meister Eckhart                                                                                                               

 

I was driving home on the 210 freeway the other day when I spotted  an older Volvo station wagon up ahead whose tail gate was covered with classic bumper stickers. Everything from “My Child’s an Honor Student”, “Save the Whales” and “Greenpeace”,  to an old 2008 “Elect Obama”.  Judging from the tone of some of the other stickers it was obviously a woman’s vehicle, a woman with a twisted sense of humor. Some of the better ‘women’ stickers included “Women are Great Leaders – You’re Following One”, “God is Coming and Boy is She Pissed!”,”Life’s a Bitch and so am I”, “Practice Safe Sex, Go Screw Yourself!”, and my favorite, ” Be Grateful! I Could Have Been Your Wife!”

Long after the woman had gone south on the 57 at the San Dimas Curve I was still thinking about that last bumper sticker. It was pretty funny, but I was really only thinking about the first 2 words “Be Grateful”. For some reason I couldn’t get them out of my mind. They reminded me of a poster I once had or seen somewhere back in the day. A poster or picture of the sun rising, glowing golden on the horizon, still visible in the dark sky near the top of the poster were the full moon and countless stars. I remember it said something like, “Let Gratitude shine” or “shine through” “Have you thanked God today?” I could see it pretty clearly in my minds eye but just couldn’t remember the time or place that I’d seen it.

The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that I’d seen it during my Shalom years, perhaps at the home of my friends Bob and Barbara or maybe the home of one of the other Shalom members. I wasn’t sure. I tried to picture Bob’s home at the time. It was an old stucco affair, typical of homes from the thirties or even older. It wasn’t far from the busy intersection of Azusa and Gladstone Avenues, yet it was built amidst an orange grove far enough away from the highway to block the noise. Once there you felt like you were out in the middle of the countryside, it was very peaceful. I remember a lion picture or painting in the living room but I’m not sure if it was there that I saw the poster.  After a few minutes I gave up trying and drove on in silence.

Later at home, when I settled back to relax and watch some TV my thoughts returned to the poster. I was quite certain that it had said “Let your gratitude shine through… Have you thanked God today?” And as I sat there thinking I began to wonder, have I? Have I taken the time to thank God for all the gifts he’s bestowed upon me, for the life I have today, for family, friends and good fortune? I was always quick to curse Him when times were bad and blame Him for my own failings, but was I equally as quick to thank Him when things went right in my life? I don’t think so.

Gratitude as we all know is a feeling of thankfulness that is also beneficial to our emotional well being. Therefore instead of just feeling grateful about some things from time to time, we should be grateful for life in its entirety. The concept of  gratitude should be a way of life, an attitude we should reflect in our daily lives. It’s much more than just a positive emotion, Living gratuitously can also improve our health, strengthen relationships and make us better human beings.Because it is an attitude it can also help us cope with the unexpected tragedy and loss life throws our way.

Too often we get caught up in our so called ‘pursuit of happiness’ and we begin to take things for granted. We forget that we alone are not the singular source of our success. Certainly drive, ambition and inner fortitude are essential to success, but to me ,the idea of a self made man is laughable. There is no such thing. Show me a man or woman who claims they have achieved their success all on their own and I’ll show you an arrogant fool! Where do they thing those driving forces originate? Do they really believe they generate them from within, all on their own? I think not.

I actually feel sorry for anyone who believes and professes that they’ve made it all on there own!  “I did this and I did that”, “I worked my ass off”, “I worked my fingers to the bone”, “I did it! I made it” It makes me sick! These pretentious, egomaniacs should be ashamed of themselves for having forgotten the true source of their good fortune. They’ve forgotten that all good things begin and end with God.

How many times have we watched the Academy Awards and seen recipient after recipient go up to receive their golden  ‘oscar’, what they consider to be the grandest reward, the epitome of their craft, and they go on and on thanking everybody’s brother for contributing to their success. Seldom do they thank God who gave them their talent to begin with.  Oh a few do, but only a very few. I tell you, having an attitude of gratitude is life changing.  Learn to be thankful for everything, even the negative. Remember that those things that don’t work out or cause us pain also serve a purpose. We learn and grow from these instances. Giving thanks for  them serves as a reminder that there is good in just about everything that crosses our life path.

How often do you take the time to thank God for the gift of life and all he has provided for you? If you’re anything like me, it’s not often enough. But I’m definitely going to be working on it. That brings me back to the original question here. “Have You thanked God today?” “Well, have you?

Just Asking…

Be Thankful 

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?                                              

Be thankful when you don’t know something                                                                                   For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.                                                                                      

Be thankful for your limitations                                                                                                           Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes                                                                                                             They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.                                                              

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.                                                            

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are                                                                            also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.

~ Author Unknown ~

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