Access the library while you can

By now everyone knows that the mission of the Bring Smiles to Seniors program is ensuring that those that paved the way for us are reminded that they are remembered and loved. The contributions that they have made to clearing the way for a better life for us must be celebrated and appreciated for the gift that they were. Interacting with them while we have them is so important. When they are gone our ability to extract knowledge and wisdom is gone with them.

Before my grandmother was in her late stages of dementia I had the opportunity to interact with her a lot. I asked her questions about family, events and other things that only she would know. I took notes, asked for pictures and got as much as I could before those memories began to fade for her. Even with that, I still think of things that I would like to know that I now can’t ask. Imagine how much more frustrating that would be if I had not asked any questions at all.

Seniors are the encyclopedias of our past. In those small brains are volumes of information that only they possess. If they haven’t transcribed those memories for us, then the only way for us to get them is to sit with them and ask. We need to take time out of our busy personal lives to be with them and read their mind books, which in turn makes them feel important and useful.

In my recent trip to England I got to visit my ancestral home of Rochester south of London. Because of my conversations with my grandmother and her contributions she made to our ancestral book, I was able to look for certain things and experience that place in a way that I would not have otherwise been able. As I walked the grounds of old castles and churches I felt the presence of my ancestors and at different points felt like I was home. Sitting with her and asking her questions was her gift to me that I would use later in life.

As seniors age, it is very easy to get so mired in our own lives that we don’t ever find the time to spend with them. We will get to it next week, or the next, or the next. Suddenly the next isn’t possible because they are no longer here. Once that happens, all the knowledge that we desire is gone with them and then we are left wishing we had.

If you have that someone that is the key to understanding your past, make a point to be with them this week. Extract that knowledge that you desire. In doing so you not only fulfill yourself, but give them purpose as well.

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 influencing effect of special needs angels

This particular subject has been a subject of my writings in the past and is one of my favorite subjects to write about. The reason is that there is so much to learn about special needs kids and adults that can help us to be better people. Their lack of prejudice and innate desire to show compassion and love to all they meet, set a model for the lives that we should try to live ourselves.

Although we have come a long way, there is a portion of our population that disappointedly mocks those with special needs because of the need to make themselves feel better about their lackluster lives. If they took a moment to understand, get to know these individuals and make them a part of their lives, they would see that these angels are far better people than we could ever hope to be.

What is encouraging is all the good stories you see about those that are supporting special needs kids and adults. Clubs in schools that are focused on making the individuals feel included rather than excluded. Places of business like Bitty and Beaus Coffee shop who hire special needs individuals to staff their coffee shops. Stores that hire special needs individuals into positions that are well suited for them and in turn teach the patrons that come to their store valuable lessons.

While we have come so far, there is so much further to go. Until every special needs angel is accepted as a part of our society, equally with their fellow person, we will never be where we need to be. Being in the presence of a special needs kid or adult is one of life’s blessings. If we take the time to be with them, learn from them and understand them, we will learn lessons about how we should treat others that we can’t learn in a book. They will teach us unconditional love, provide us with laughter medicine that we could never get at a comedy show and allow us into their beautiful world without wanting anything in return.

While they themselves contribute to our lives, their caregivers are equally magical. The responsibility on the caregiver, be it mother, father or another member of the family, can be overwhelming. We can never truly know what they have to go through as the special needs individual’s life becomes theirs. What I do know is that their relationship is a beautiful thing to watch and provides another life lesson and model for the unconditional love that we should all strive to possess.

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

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What will your palette look like?

One of my favorite things about getting out of bed in the morning is that I get the chance to be a master artist. With my first foot on the floor I am starting a canvas that can be anything that I want it to be, as the minutes of my new day start. The choices of the past may have influenced how I got to this particular moment, but the choices I make from this minute forward will shape what my day, week and eventually my life will be come.

One of the things that I have been focusing on in my meditation is the importance of not letting the mistakes I have made and the choices that were not the best affect the choices that I will make going forward. Growing is learning and mistakes are a part of that process as we try our best to figure out this thing called life. Bad choices do not mean that we have a license to punish ourselves for the rest of our life. Good choices provide validation that we are on the right path and doing what is necessary to make our lives whole and fulfilled.

Equally important is not letting others step on that canvas that we are trying to create. It is not theirs, it is ours and their negativity and lack of support should not be used as a crutch for us to excuse ourselves from making it the most beautiful picture that it can be. While we can draw from the experience of our mistakes, dwelling on them and allowing them to be a primary color in our palette does us no justice.

As you work on your canvas today, take a good long look at your colors and decide what that picture is going to look like. Will your primary colors be blacks, grays and the darker colors of the palette? Or, will you choose those vibrant colors that will shape the life that you truly want and deserve.

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

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Reflection

If you have ever had the experience of visiting some of the great cathedrals of the world, then you know how moving they can be. They are grand, beautiful and in many cases have stood for centuries. As you look around the building and see the brick and glass and realize that most often they were built at a time where the technological capabilities of today where non existent, you gaze in awe of what has been created.

However, it isn’t only the building that makes you feel that you are in someplace special. Most cathedrals are so steeped in history that people from past generations are buried right within the walls. It is almost as if the past is connecting with the present as you sit and ponder all that is around you. Even as you sit amongst the vastness of the building itself, there is a sense that you are cocooned and enveloped by what is right inside your soul.

I have had the privilege of lighting a candle in many different cathedrals around the world. Every time I do I feel this sense of connection with the person that I am honoring and of that for which I am asking. Of course, this visit was in honor of my grandmother, who was with me in more ways this trip than I could have ever imagined.

This picture was taken at Rochester Cathedral in the town of my ancestors. As I sat in the building and looked around, I felt a sense of peace and calm. I felt a sense of approval and acknowledgement that my life path is taking me on the journey that I am meant to have. Most of all, I felt the love and compassion of those that had come before me and a sense of belonging in the world from which I came.

If you ever have the opportunity to experience your ancestral past, I highly recommend it. It helps give you a sense of purpose and belonging. If you happen to get to experience one of the grand cathedrals in the process, then that will be an added bonus!

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

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.

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