There is good in every day

We all have those days where we get to the end of the day and look in the mirror and question why we ever got out of bed. The shear nature of what we have to deal with daily, in regards to the world around us, almost insures that not every day is going to be perfect. We may start out with the best intentions, but someone or something comes along that we allow to alter what may have otherwise been a perfect day.

The reality is that not every day will be good. But the beautiful thing is that there is good in every day. If you have ever read The Four Agreements, you have read about the mitote. That is everything that tends to clog our minds that keeps us from being true to who we are and living a happy and blissful life. The noise that keeps us from achieving our true potential. Although we are born with a clean slate, we unfortunately are poisoned by the fears of failure and lack of self worth that keep us from being the ultimate that we were born to be.

Every single day of our life contains some good, if we only look out for it and let it in. Even when the bad things come and want to take over, concentrating and focusing on the good can often over power the negative. The mere fact that we woke up in the morning and were granted another new day is proof in itself that the day contains good, even before it starts.

Everyone says that having a bad day is only human and maybe it is. But how much that bad experience affects the rest of the day and often our very lives lies totally within our control. No one can make us feel one way or another. Only we can give them the power to affect us. Once we take that power from them, we are the ones in the drivers seat of our lives.

Mornings with Ron is available as a podcast at anchor.fm/morningswithron or on iHeartRadio, Apple or Google Podcast, Spotify or most podcast sites.

The beauty of diversity

For the past two weeks, I have had had the privilege of visiting London, Berlin and Amsterdam. As I traveled around these areas I was struck by the beauty and diversity that people bring to not only the culture, but the lifestyles of those that live in these areas. As I traveled and observed, I wondered what each of these places would have been like if there were only people from the local areas that were part of these cultures.

Think about it for a moment. If you enjoy an Indian meal, yet you had no Indian immigrants to bring their spices and recipes, how would that be possible? The same goes for Chinese, Vietnamese, African and others. What if everyone spoke the same language, looked the same and ate the same food? At what point would that become boring, mundane and leaving us wanting for something different?

While countries work hard to do everything in their power to close their borders to those that are different, we seem to forget that none of us were original settlers of our beautiful lands. Originally, we all came from somewhere far away, and arriving we brought new ways of life, new ways of thinking and a vast diversity that enhanced the place that we would occupy and call home.

This trip I got to visit my ancestral home of Rochester, England. While walking the grounds I imagined those that walked before me. I wondered what they experienced, how they lived and what ultimately brought them to the land that we call America? The ruined castles and homes no longer inhabitable gave me insight into how those that came before me lived before they discovered the new world.

One thing I realized more than anything else is that we are are all only as good as the sum of the parts that make up the fabric of who we are. The mixture of cultures stand at the forefront of what makes living all that more fun. Experiencing the world through other’s eyes and appreciating what they offer to our world is what makes life great, exciting and even grand.

One of my greatest passions is seeing different parts of the world. I have been doing that since my senior year of high school. Never once have I returned from a trip and not basked in the awe of what the many cultures of the world have to offer. Never once have I not appreciated the contributions they make to not only my world, but our world as a whole.

Mornings with Ron is available as a podcast at anchor.fm/morningswithron or in iHeartRadio, Apple or Google Podcasts, Spotify or most podcast sites.

Words Matter

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Originally Posted May 2018

Yesterday, I was thinking about how people talk to each other. Sometimes, I just like to  observe conversations between people that I happen to be a part of and take in what is being said. This can be in work or social environments and the conversations I hear are often fascinating. It is an opportunity to learn new things, observe human behavior and see what drives people to say the things they sometimes say. Once in a while what I hear isn’t all that pleasant. That got me to thinking.

When we are taking the opportunity to say what is ever in our head, sometimes unfiltered, are we really taking the time to understand that the words we may be uttering may have unintended consequences on the person on the receiving end? Things we say that may make us feel better because we are “getting it off our chest” may very well be having a profound effect on the receiving person without us even realizing it. This is especially important for consideration when speaking to younger generations that are still learning the art of conversation and deriving meaning from what they are hearing. Here is an example.

When I was in high school I was in speech and debate. I decided that I wanted to enter the American Legion Oratorical contest. I spent hours with my grandmother practicing my speech over and over. There were two parts to the contest. I had to have a memorized speech (the hardest for me) and then they would draw a topic to also give an off the cuff extemporaneous speech on that topic. I loved public speaking and went on to win the local, district and regional contests. Then came the state competition. I practiced harder than I ever had and wound up placing second in the state.

They had a lunch for all the attendees after the competition and as we were sitting there waiting for our food we were approached by our local chapter president. I assumed he was coming up to congratulate me for placing second and representing our town well. Unfortunately, it was quite the opposite. I remember his words like they were yesterday. He said, “We were all really counting on you. It is too bad you let us all down”. I still get chills when I remember that moment. You see, I can remember that moment like it is happening today. However, I can’t remember any other moment through all my other competitions where people came up and congratulated me, even though there were many. Words matter.

How often is it that words come out of our mouth before our brain realizes what we had just said? Once they are uttered, we can’t take them back. Although they may often be taken out of context from what we really meant, once they have been said what ever impact they are going to have is already done.

While I believe we all have a responsibility to share, enlighten, teach and help people grow, we also have a responsibility to be caring, compassionate, loving and kind. Making others feel worse so that we can feel better serves no purpose in the long run and the impact we may be creating may be just the opposite of what we intend. In the end, it is what we say and how we say it. In the end, words matter.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles today!

Is your I love you real?

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Originally posted May 2018

Yesterday, when I was visiting my mom over the weekend, I got to go to church with her and hear the new pastor’s sermon. This particular day it was about love and whether we actually put the work into making love meaningful or if it just a word that we routinely use.  This got me thinking.

We use the word love often throughout our day. There are many things that we can say that we love: Children, family, food, travel and a myriad of other things. But when the words “I Love You” come across our lips, do we really mean what we say? It is very easy to say the words, anyone can say them. However, putting the work into what is required to make those words meaningful is the key to making them real.

Generally, it is pretty easy to tell when someone is saying “I love you” just because it is what they feel they are supposed to do.  It’s a requirement of a relationship. It’s a response to something that has been said.  It is even a way to get themselves out of a situation that should have never happened in the first place. But to truly believe that the words are real requires actions that go far beyond the mere utterance of the words.

Loving involves caring, compassion, understanding, compromise and dedication. It is almost as if you never have to utter the words for someone to understand that the love is real. However, saying the words provides a nice validation that what we think is real actually is.

One of the greatest gifts of life is the ability to love and even more so the ability to be loved. If we are used to bad relationships, it isn’t that easy once you find true love to just let that love in.  You have to respect it, believe it and then let it into your heart.  When we are able to do that, it is a beautiful thing. When we are able to say I love you and the person on the receiving end has no doubt because of our actions, that is the most beautiful thing of all.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Pet effect on our lives

Originally posted May 2018

Yesterday, I was sitting at my computer and I got an unexpected visit from my cat Moochie. He just came and sat next me, started rubbing up against my hand, purring and sharing his kitty love that doesn’t always come through. It got me thinking about the importance that pets play in our lives.

Now we all know that some people just aren’t animal people and that is okay. I was one of those people. We had a couple animals when I was growing up that had pretty tragic deaths and I swore that I would never have an animal again as long as I lived. Nor would I allow myself to get close to one. That was until 14 years ago when we were asked to pet sit for one of our friends cats while she was away and my heart began to melt.

After she returned and we had to give Tuxedo up, we decide to take the plunge and adopted Moochie from the local shelter. He was 9 months old, had been adopted out twice and came to us with the name of Maverick, which just didn’t fit. He was mooching for food all the time and one day the name Moochie stuck. We lived in NJ at the time and Sopranos was big so we made his formal name Maverick the Mooch, Mafia Kitty.

One of the amazing things about animals is the life lessons they can teach us, especially about unconditional love. Feed them, walk them and take care of them and you have a friend for life. They don’t ask us to be anything but ourselves. They provide comfort for us in our times of need and they bring joy to our lives in the most unexpected ways. Several years ago I was diagnosed with a tumor in my stomach (more on that another time). The night before my surgery I was laying in bed and Moochie came and laid across the whole of my back and stayed there all night, something he had never done before. He sensed something was going on and he wanted to let me know that he was there to support me. Fourteen years after adopting him he is starting to show his age and now it is our turn to return the favor.

Last week, I posted a couple of videos about programs that bring newborn kittens into nursing homes to the benefit of both the animal and the senior. On visits to senior communities we have seen the power of animal visits first hand when a senior’s eyes light up and agitation ceases once they are in the presence of an animal. Some communities even have their own animals adopted by the facility that become a part of the community family. It is a beautiful thing to watch.

The lesson of unconditional love is an important one that animals teach us. From them we learn to transfer that unconditional love to our own lives, which only enriches it and makes it better. If you have an animal, give them a little extra love today and remind them of the important part they play in your life. If you don’t consider donating a can of food or money to an animal shelter striving to take care of those who have been abandoned. Those of us who have them understand they are an important part of our family and they remind us of that every day.

With that, through these pictures Moochie wishes you a good day and reminds you to be the reason someone smiles.

Outside our comfort zone

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Originally posted May 2018

Sometimes we can live our life in a bubble or in a room with four walls. The edge of the bubble or one of those walls becomes the extent that we discover life. Just outside those confined areas are places unexplored, people we haven’t met, adventures that haven’t happened and a world of possibilities that we may never know.

When I was in the Air Force I was sent to Adana, Turkey as my first assignment. I was fresh out of boot camp and tech school. At nineteen years old I was being sent half way across the world to a land I had to look on a map to figure out where it was. Upon my arrival I was placed in one of the dorms on the base, a small room with four walls. I was a little reluctant to leave the base as Turkey was under martial law at the time and men with machine guns could be seen everywhere. There were people I talked to that had never stepped foot off the base in the two years they had been there for fear of what was outside the gates. This presented me with a choice. I could either follow in their footsteps and stay inside where I knew it was safe, or I could take a chance and venture out and see what the outside world was like.

I grew up in a very small town where we didn’t lock our doors at night and everyone knew everyone. The most natural thing for me to do was to play it safe, confine myself to the base, serve out my assignment and get back to the States. However, something inside of me pushed me not to do that and I jumped in full force. Due to a dorm shortage, they were offering to pay people to live off base and this nineteen year old got himself an apartment in the local village above one of the shops and promptly moved in. It would turn out to be one of the most amazing decisions of my life.

I immersed myself in the culture and met new and interesting people. I started to learn the Turkish language. I ate Turkish food, got invited to families homes and got to understand the Turkish culture and way of life. I was awed by their amazing respect for the elderly. When visiting a Turkish home, the most senior member of the family always sits nearest the door. That way in case of an emergency they are the first to safety. When sitting, you don’t sit with your legs crossed where the soles of your feet are showing. It’s considered to be disrespectful to your elders. The list goes on.

Because I chose to get out of the bubble and leave the four walls, I had experiences that most nineteen year olds never get. By leaving those four walls I made friends that I have had for over 30 years and still see today. Life can be scary, but by locking ourselves within our comfort zone, we take a chance that we are going to miss all the incredible parts of life that it has to offer.

If you have found yourself confined to your bubble or your four walls, you don’t have to start big to begin to discover the beauty that life has to offer. Pick one small thing that you always wanted to do, see or experience. Take that one small step outside your comfort zone and before you know it those small steps will become bigger steps and in time you will be running. We only get one chance. Live life, enjoy life and be the you that has always been there. Explore the outside of your comfort zone and see just how exciting it can be.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles today.

When the heart speaks

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Originally posted May 2018

Do you ever find yourself in those moments where your heart is speaking to you and you are really torn on whether or not you should act on what it is saying? It can be about a number of things at any given time, but when it happens you know that there is some reason the universe is speaking to you, even though you may never know why. One such event happened to me yesterday.

I had stopped over at my local Publix to pick up a few things around lunchtime. As I got out of my car to go into the store, I was approached by an elderly man, very unkept and disheveled. He walked up to me, shaking some change that he had in his hand and said “could you help a guy out to get on the bus?” Now anyone who has ever spent time in or lived near a large city knows that this is often a very common occurrence. You almost get immune to it as if it is white noise. As I often do, I said sorry I have no change in my pocket. Once in a while you may drop a few coins, but most of the time you assume it is just going to be used for liquor or drugs. A built in preconceived notion.

When I got inside the store and went up to the counter to make my purchase, the woman that was coming in behind me walked up the counter and asked for the manager. She proceeded to tell him there was a “vagrant” in the parking lot asking people for money and that they should do something about it. I understood why she was doing what she did, but for some reason at this moment it did not sit right with me.

I proceeded to make my purchases got back in my car and headed for home. The further I got from the store the more I felt a tug at my heartstrings and for some unknown reason I felt the need to go back and find this man. He was nowhere in sight when I left the parking lot. I wrestled with my inner self and finally did a U-Turn in the middle of SR54 and headed back to the vicinity of the Publix. I figured having been chased out of the parking lot by the store, the man was probably long gone by now.

As I entered the left lane to turn back into the Publix, I looked over to right and saw the man sitting at the bus stop. Now at this point I am all the way to the left, with four lanes of traffic to my right and cars everywhere. Normally, there would be a line of cars behind me waiting to turn in as well, but I was alone. All of the sudden, all four lanes of traffic were completely empty of cars and I was able to cross all the lanes and get over to the side of the road in front of where the man was sitting and called him over.

He approached my window and I put several dollars through the glass. He looked at me and said “God Bless You”, with a tear in his eye. He told me he was waiting for the bus in hopes that he could convince the driver to let him ride for free so that he could get back home. I told him he was welcome and drove off.

I will never know why that particular moment yesterday caused me to do what I did. I just know that for some reason my heart was speaking volumes to me and on the drive home I felt like my heart had increased three sizes. The universe had put me in a situation where for some reason I needed to respond and fortunately I listened to my heart and the world was a little better off for it. Sometimes, we just have to follow our heart without question when it is speaking that loudly.

Keep your eyes out for your moment today. You never know when it will appear, but when it does and your heart speaks to you, listen. You may never know why you did, but you will know in your heart there was a reason and for that moment you will have enriched your life just a little bit more. Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles!

Sometime we just need to unplug

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Originally posted October 2018

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and can not go back to sleep because you just can’t shut your brain off? No matter how hard you try, every thought about everything that is going on in your life comes into your mind and you can’t seem to stop the flow of information. You wind up laying there tossing and turning and before you know it hours have gone by. That happened to me the last couple of nights and I began to wonder why that may be happening.

As we go throughout our day we are bombarded by information. At work it comes from all angles. Our computers, phones, meetings, memos, messages and just general conversation. Along with that we have all of our personal issues finding their way into what ever extra minute we may squeeze in during the day. Then at the end of the day when it’s all over new avenues of information start to flow.

We hear the news or the radio on the drive home and we get bombarded with even more information. We turn on the TV after we get home and the news stories, political ads, regular advertisements start to invade out thoughts. Our loved ones get home and we hear all about what was going on with their day while we tell them about ours. We pick up the newspaper that we may not have gotten to in the morning or check our personal or work email and the information keeps coming. When you consider all of that, it is no wonder why we can’t seem to make it through the night.

What I haven’t quite figured out at this point is how to shut it all off. How do you just stop and do nothing? Even with the “me time” I talk about it involves some activity and rarely involves completely shutting down. Even when I was painting my parents living room I couldn’t take a break. I kept going until it was all finished, no matter the hours. It is if there is some gene in us that keeps the drive going, unfortunately sometimes until we collapse.

I come by it honest. My grandmother and my uncle were exactly the same way. They would go until they were forced to quit. Most of the time that involved manual labor. Now that society has added all the technology we have today, it has become practically impossible to unplug at a time when we need to unplug most. We know the news is never good, yet we watch it. We know we need to stay away from work after hours but we still sign on to see if there are messages to be answered. We know we need to take some time for ourselves, yet we still live on our phones, texting, talking and searching.

I would venture to say that many of us experience these same issues and the answer is just to unplug. Put down the phones, step away from the TV, sit on the front porch, hang out by the water or even go for a swim. Easier said than done, but something beneficial for our health that we all need to think about. If you have any secrets, share them with us. In this world that never stops we could all use a little encouragement for some much needed down time.

A smile is so much more

They say that it takes far more muscles to frown than it does to smile. Research puts just how many muscles it takes all over the place, but try it for yourself and see just how many muscles you feel when you do either.

Every morning I meditate outside by my pool for 20 minutes. I started with ten and thought that was a lot, but when I bumped it up to 20 that now seems to go by way too fast. This past week I completed a course on happiness. You train your mind to experience periods of joy and contentment, so that when things are not going so well you can center yourself to that moment during the day. On one day of the exercise I wasn’t feeling particularly like meditating. During one point of the meditation, they actually tell you to smile and keep that smile on your face. While awkward at first, it released those negative feelings that I was experiencing and gave me a whole new tool to deal with those emotions when they arise.

Smiling is at the core of the Bring Smiles to Seniors program. That is the reason it is part of our name. The cards are designed to lift the spirits of those that often live in a mundane existence without any reminder that they are remembered or cared for. They are reminders that they matter, that they are loved and they still have purpose and meaning. We have seen first hand what the power of a card can do. People have spoken and moved when they had not been seen doing so for long periods of time. The people who receive them cherish them as if they were one of their important life possessions.

At the end of my posts and podcasts, I usually tell people to be the reason someone smiles. There is a reason for that. In doing so we not only bring joy to another fellow human being, we also bring joy to ourselves. The feeling we get when we have been successful in making someone feel good, wanted, needed and special is better than any medicine that we could ever take. The harmony that we create in the world by not only being kind to each other, but also to ourselves is the true connection of spirit and compassion.

Today, I hope that you have that opportunity to not only look in the mirror and smile at yourself, but also to share that smile with someone else. Find that one moment where you can impact someone else’s life in a way that you may have never imagined. Both you and they will reap the benefit of the kindness.

SPECIAL NOTE: I will be taking a two week break to relax and recharge before we go into the final months of the year. During this time I will be setting some of my original writings to post during this time. New posts will begin again the middle of September.

Mornings with Ron is also a podcast at anchor.fm.morningswithron and on iHeartRadio, Apple and Google Podcast, Spotify and most podcast sites.

What the heart can make you do

The people that we have experienced through the Bring Smiles to Seniors program has become a model for a world where compassion, love and understanding for our seniors and fellow human beings abound. Time and time again we have seen those that give when they don’t have and give in abundance when they do. The sharing of their time, talent and love goes far beyond what anyone could ever imagine.

Many of you know from my previous postings that I love the game of Mah Jongg. I learned to play several years ago and little did I know that that world and my Bring Smiles to Seniors world would soon collide. The game consists of not only private home groups where people come together to play and become a part of each other’s lives in ways that could not ever have been imagined. In addition, there are tournament directors who run tournaments locally and around the country for those interested in friendly competition. Two of those with which I have become attached to are Destination Mah Jongg and Dragons on the Green.

At these tournaments, the tournament directors hold 50/50 raffles where entrants purchase tickets and at the end of the tournament a ticket is drawn and fifty percent of the money collected goes to the charity and fifty percent to the winning ticket holder. This gives the opportunity for smaller charities like ours, who do not have the benefit of national funding like the larger ones, to be able to receive donations to help keep us going. While Dragons on the Green and Destination Mah Jongg have made us their designated charity several times, it was in San Diego that something special happened.

The picture above is of Lorraine from New Jersey and myself. There were over 180 people at this tournament where many bought multiple tickets. After Lorraine purchased her ticket she came over to me to tell me that if she won she intended to donate her portion of the winnings back to our program. The drawing time came and the winning ticket was pulled and low and behold, Lorraine’s ticket was chosen. True to her word, Lorraine announced that her portion of the winnings were to be donated back to Bring Smiles. The amount was over $650. Now that may not sound like a lot, but it takes $7 – $9 for us to be able to send a package of our decorated cards to a senior community. Her generosity and giving spirit allowed us to be able to reach approximately seventy two more senior communities across the country.

When the human spirits come together to do good things amazing things happen. When people such as Lorraine put good out into the universe, as she did with the intention of doing good with her winnings, wonderful things happen. That amazing gesture cost her nothing except the purchase price of her ticket. Yet, the love and compassion that she put out into the world was priceless.

The small and even large things that we do have a way of multiplying when we do them. One small act encourages others to do the same and before you know it everything culminates to make significant contribution to this amazing world of ours. Today, I hope that you find your one small way to make a difference and have the opportunity to experience the heartbeat of what makes our world the best that it can be. Thank you to all the Mah Jongg players who have purchased tickets, to Lorraine for her generous compassion and to tournament directors, Fern, Bonnie, Judy and Cheryl for being part of our world.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Mornings with Ron is now a podcast available at anchor.fm/morningswithron, iHeartRadio, Apple or Google Podcast, Spotify and most podcast sites.

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