Scott Alexander

tributes | family | love | honor | to mom | to dad | siblings | cousins | aunts | uncles | grandparents | memorial | funeral | speeches | eulogy | dies | letters | sad | death | thoughts | children | kids

I want to start with an apology to my readers for my decline in activity of late. So many of you have been so encouraging of my posts, I’ve had all of your “don’t stop writing!” voices in my head for a couple of months now and I hope this message finds you well. I’ve had some minor medical complications to deal with and frankly, I was trying hard not to make my writing feel like homework. Instead, I want to post when I feel most inspired, which unfortunately means less often, but I hope to continue to bring you good quality! Anyway, this post is about my brother, so let’s get to it!

My youngest brother, Scott, is an exceptional man. Boy, did he take a beating growing up. He had the unfortunate dinner table seat right next to mine and I never let him forget it. I was ruthless. The poking, the joking, the pushing and shoving. Most of all, the relentless flipping of his ears. And whenever I had the chance, I actually picked him up by his ears. Don’t worry, he was holding on with all his might to my forearms, so not all the pressure was on his ears, but yes, that was an ongoing torture.

Fortunately, at our dinner table, more than the teasing and the ribbing, was the love. I can’t thank my parents enough for making the dinner table so important in our lives. We ate together….always. Up until maybe the times when sports practices in high school made the timing difficult, it was dinner together always. And whatever antics went on during dinner, they almost always culminated in uncontrollable laughter and the natural back-and-forth that ensues when you have a close knit family that truly loves each other’s company. We respected each other, and we all had something to contribute, each of us had our quirks that when landed at the right time, made the whole table burst out in laughter. It was priceless. The only time it got us in trouble is when we were supposed to be praying, but instead couldn’t hold our laughter. Mom didn’t like that, but inevitably, there were times when she had no choice but to just join in.

Scotty had a childhood any boy could envy. The baby of the family, so certainly a lot of things that he got to do because our parents were just tired of saying “No,” the way they did to us, especially me, as the eldest. I got away with nothing…he got away with everything. He also got away with the red BMW, while I drove Grandpa C’s 1977 Cadillac Coupe DeVille to school. Man, he was lucky. He had great friends, many in the neighborhood, so whether it was his school life, or his summer life, he always had playmates that kept him on the straight and narrow, for the most part. Our house was the one that every neighborhood has, with the revolving front door. It was never locked, shoes never needed to come off, and everyone was always welcomed. You just showed up.


I was so proud of his accomplishments growing up. A star soccer player, a star basketball player, and a darned good student. When it was time for college, he followed his dream right from the start: Sports Management at Western New England College. Following undergrad, he went right on to get his MBA at Wagner College on Staten Island, NY. He ran the athletic complex there while he studied. He accomplished, so quickly, what takes many people years to do. The best part, of course, was that he met Jackie there. In perfect progression, he was moving step-by-step through life’s stages and I was so happy for him. The best way I can express my gratitude for our relationship, is to share with you the speech I wrote for the rehearsal dinner of his wedding. It goes like this…

It’s an honor to be standing up here with my siblings. I want you to know, Scott, how much it’s meant to me, to always be able to count on our friendship. I guess one of the things I’m most proud of is the way that siblings grow on each other. When you spend as much time together as we have, you begin to talk like each other, think like each other, and influence each other. We taught each other how to be best friends. When you’ve never known what it’s like to be alone, that makes for a pretty wonderful life.

I think we’re great friends because we have an uncommon understanding of the value of friendship, family values, and a positive outlook on life. Scott is fun to be around, he’s compassionate, and he’s a man of his word. I admire his appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. A family meal, a swim in the pool, watching the game, a trip to the bar. I know he’s gonna make an incredible father someday. And, Jackie, as far as a husband, I can guarantee you he knows how to be a best friend.

He’s weird though. He changes the channel on the radio if the national anthem comes on. Not because he’s not patriotic…but because he’s so patriotic that he feels uncomfortable listening to the national anthem without taking his hat off, standing at attention, facing a flag and placing his hand over his heart. Anything less is just not the appropriate way to listen to that song.

Scotty’s a stand-up guy. I’m more of a sit down guy. He does things for a reason. I nap whenever presented with a soft, flat surface…he naps when he has a hangover. I play beer pong to remind myself of why I stayed off the basketball court…Scotty plays to beat Shawn. I play racquetball to see Scotty’s cheeks turn bright rosy red…Scotty plays to beat Mike Simon.

And when Scotty met Jackie…he had met his match. Jackie is competitive, but she’s fair and she’s kind…and she’s beautiful. When you know your brother so well that you can finish his sentences, it didn’t take us long to realize that Scott and Jackie were perfect for each other, and that she was everything he’d ever wanted in a soul mate. I’m not saying he’s fast. I think he’s been with Jackie longer than I’ve been a husband and father. But he’ll make up for it…he’s got a lot of love to give.

Marriage is not about finding a person you can live with, it’s about finding the person you can’t live without. My brother has found that person. I’m very proud of you, Scott. I’m very proud of the person you are and of the commitment you’re making tomorrow. You deserve the best life has to offer.

Our friendship means the world to me. It’s an honor to be your brother. May your marriage bring you to all the places you’ve never been, but always wanted to go. And may the Lord watch over your home and bless your marriage with all the love two hearts can hold.

Please join us in a toast…To love, laughter, and happily ever after…To Scott & Jackie.


The wedding was great, the marriage is great and now, they have a son, Braden, who is just a couple months younger than our Elliott, and an absolutely adorable addition to our family. Their second son is due in August. Scott works at something he loves – he is a personal trainer, mostly for kids. He is a great husband, he is a great dad and I will forever be immensely proud of my youngest brother.

I just had the pleasure of taking my 18 month old, Elliott, to Scott & Jackie’s place on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland over the weekend. A quick round trip from Saturday morning to late Sunday night. But it was priceless – the bonding with my younger son and the precious time with Scott’s young family. I love you, Scott. May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family.

Essential Tools for Every House

I would guess that most of my readers are women, although I have no real statistics on this. I do know, however, that blog readers and writers, in general, are predominantly women. So, I have two purposes in mind as I start to write this post. 1. To Redeem My Manhood; and 2. To Encourage You, My Loyal Women Readers, To Keep Reading.

There’s two ways I figure that you can go about this. Either show this to your husband, or keep reading! I have taken on the task of documenting literally almost every common tool you would ever hope to need around the house.  This is a reasonably comprehensive list of tools that are certainly helpful around the home. Every homeowner does not need every one of them, but whether you are a man or a woman, you should know what they are.

  • Drill & Driver. The quick explanation is that a drill applies a constant torque (or turning force) and is better for more delicate jobs. An impact driver powers screws through seriously dense material with more torque and concussive blows. As a general rule, if you’re working with drywall, softer woods, veneers, plastics, or brass screws, stick to the drill because it won’t dent or break the material. If you’ve got a project that requires a ton of screws, using long or thick fasteners, or driving through dense materials (such as building a deck), save your wrists and some time and go with an impact driver. When I finally discovered a driver years ago, I couldn’t believe I went so long with only a drill.
  • Table Saw (for long straight cuts), Chop Saw (for short straight or angled cuts), Circular Saw (similar to table saw, but can be harder to keep cutting straight; great for portability) & Jig Saw (for cutting shapes in all sorts of materials):
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Types of Power Saws, from left to right: Table, Chop, Circular and Jig
  • These are secondary power tools that every homeowner does not need. If you have everything else, you might move on to these. Drill Press (if you need a lot of very straight holes, like you’re manufacturing picnic tables or something), Band Saw (again, helpful in small manufacturing for a variety of cuts), Scroll Saw (similar use as Jig Saw, but in table form), Reciprocating Saw (a great demolition tool):
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Larger Power Tools: Drill Press, Band Saw, Scroll Saw & Reciprocating Saw
  • Panel (hand) Saw (all purpose hand saw for wood), Tenon Saw (hand saw that allows for more precise stopping points), Hack Saw (for cutting metal, like pipes), Compass Saw (typically for awkward shaped holes), Coping (for precise shapes), Mitre Saw (usually a tenon saw used with mitre box to do what a power chop saw does):
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Hand Saws, top to bottom, left to right: Panel, Tenon, Hack, Compass, Coping & Mitre
  • Claw Hammer (all purpose nailing), Ball Pein Hammer – I like to use the rounded head to sink holes and blemishes in a drywall surface before filling them with spackle prior to painting; Club Hammer (for heavy duty pounding); Rubber Mallet (for lighter duty pounding on delicate surfaces); Hand Axe & Sledgehammer/Maul:

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  • Drill & Screw Bits. I always prefer the hex shank, quick change type (that power impact drivers require) because they are easier to change and stay in place better. In the far left and right photos, see how the ends that go into the drill/driver are hex shaped and have a notch, versus being round the whole way down? The hex shape keeps the bits from spinning in the drill and the notch allows for quicker bit changes.
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Drill Bits, Large and Small Hole Bits, Phillips Head Screw Bits
  • A selection of nails and screws. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need a bunch of “nuts and bolts” – I have almost none. For screws, I would not recommend the gold colored brass ones, they are very soft and tend to strip. Coarse thread drywall screws are actually a great, all purpose screw for around the house. A simple variety set of each will do:
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Nail & Wood Screw Assortments; Drywall Screws
  • Screwdrivers, Mini Screwdrivers (very handy for changing batteries on many kids’ toys), Slip-Joint Pliers, Groove-Joint Pliers, Lineman’s Sidecutting Pliers, Needlenose Pliers, Tin Snips (think of them as ultra heavy duty scissors) & Wire Stripper/Cutters (pictured in order):

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  • Picture Hangers come in a variety of styles. The top left shows a “Gorilla” or “Hercules” Hook, which is an ingenious way to use a tiny hole to carry a considerable amount of weight (up to 50 lbs). The middle picture is that of a brilliant way to be able to adjust the height of a picture, especially useful when trying to line it up with one hanging beside it. Then, pictured at the right are String, Wire  & Twine:

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  • Wall Anchors, for securely hanging things on drywall when there is not a stud behind the drywall to sink into. I use these all the time, because there’s never a stud where you need one! 1 – Plastic Anchors never seem to work for me…they just spin in the drywall when I try to screw the screw in. 2 – I personally tend to have the most luck with these. 3 & 4 – These self-drilling anchors are very easy to use. 5 & 6 – Brolly Plugs are very effective and the nail-in version makes them easy to use as well. 7 – These are my least favorite. You need a huge hole to insert them and they are only for securing things completely tight to the wall, as you cannot leave the screw protruding for hanging items, as that will not tighten the bracket into place. My best recommendation is to purchase an anchor assortment and try a few different kinds for yourself.

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  • Allen Wrenches. I hate Allen wrenches – Allen should be ashamed of himself. Pictured at left are your standard and metric Allen wrench sets. They are a pain in the neck to use…hard on the hands and often used to put together furniture made overseas. They are also very often used in such tight places that you can only ever get a quarter turn in at a time. Very frustrating. I would highly recommend the sets pictured in the middle and right. Used together in an impact driver (on a low torque setting), if you have the room, you have the functionality of the Allen wrench (also called a Hex wrench), with the wrist-saving power of a driver. Or, if you are in a tight spot and don’t have the room for a driver, you can attach the socket bit to your socket wrench (pictured in next set of photos) and at least have the advantage of the ratcheting motion.

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  • Wrench Set, Adjustable Wrench Set & Socket Wrench Set (ideally both metric and standard):

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  • A durable Flashlight, I prefer the MagLite; a good selection of Batteries; Extensions Cords; Glue Gun; Label Maker; Krazy Glue & Goof Off:

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  • Flexible Measuring Tape; Utility Knife; Bubble Levels (I recommend a couple sizes…perhaps 18″ and 48″); Packing, Painter’s & Duct Tapes; a Combination Stapler/Nailer, or for more intense jobs like installing crown molding, you might need an Air Nailer, but probably a job for a pro; Measuring Tape & Chalk Line:

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  • Quick Grip Bar Clamps; Vise Grips; C-Clamps; Spring Clamps; Bungee Cords; Tie-Downs are nylon straps that are useful for securing things to the top of a car; Cable or “Zip” Ties; Gear Ties are reusable rubber twist ties that have hundreds of uses:

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  • Engraver (a pulsating tool for scratching words into all types of surfaces, including metals); Dremel (a rotating tool for a variety of uses from polishing to cutting); Multi-Function Tool (an oscillating cutting tool for wood and metal in places that are tough to get to with any other cutting tool); Palm Sander (also comes in triangular and circular shapes); Wood Router (for shaping edges, such as putting a quarter round on a cabinet door); Razor Scraper (for getting those pesky price tags off); Caulking Gun (for applying all kinds of caulk or adhesives); Kreg Pocket Hole Jig (you’d only need this if you were building cabinetry or framing something else in which two pieces of wood come together perpendicularly); Wet/Dry Shop Vac:

Organization, Simplify, Storage, Garage, Kitchen, Cleaning, Containers, DIY, Office, Closet, Cabinet, Workshop, Basement, Tools, Dremel, Engraver, Multi-Tool, Palm Sander, Router, Razor Scraper, Caulking Gun, Kreg Pocket Hole Jig, Shop Vac, Wet Dry Vac

  • Garden Tools: Bow Saw; Shears; Wheelbarrow; Gas Blower; Garden Hoses (I’ve tried the expandable kind and my first one popped…but they are getting better in quality and the one I have now is working wonderfully); Round Head, Square Head & Garden Spade shovels; Loppers; Pruning Shears; Hedge Trimmer; Grass Trimmer; Chain Saw & Gloves:

Organization, Simplify, Storage, Garage, Kitchen, Cleaning, Containers, DIY, Office, Closet, Cabinet, Workshop, Basement, Tools, Bow Saw, Garden Shears, Wheelbarrow, Gas Blower, Garden Hose, Shovels, Loppers, Pruning Shears, Grass Trimmer, Hedge Trimmer, Chainsaw, Work Gloves

  • Ladder; Step Stool; Rolling Dolly; Hand Truck; Crowbar; Vise; Framing Square & Drywall T-Square:

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  • Pick-Up Tool (these also come with a magnetic end, but this one is perfect for fishing items – such as small plastic baby spoons – out of your sink drain); Putty Knives & Spackling Paste for patching walls; Safety Glasses (for use with all those power tools!!); Shop Light; All Purpose Utility Brush; Tool Box (if you’re going to go anywhere with your new batch of tools, or have some you want to keep in your car):

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Finally, this is meant to be a list of basics, but there are many other tools that would fall into the “Specialty” category, such as those for flooring, tiling, painting, plumbing, electrical, etc. I would recommend hiring a professional for anything you want to look like a professional did it, or could cause major damage to your home if done wrong – you certainly don’t want water or fire damage! That’s where I draw the line and hire someone who is trained, certified, insured and experienced.

Specialty categories involve skills that take years to master and while trying to do it yourself is brave and might save you some money, it certainly will not save you time. It is so much easier and provides so much more peace-of-mind, knowing something is getting done properly and skillfully. Don’t overlook skillfully. You may be capable of tiling the backsplash in your bathroom or kitchen, but are you going to be happy with the precision with which it is done? Is it going to look like a third grader did it, or that you were trying to save a few bucks and weren’t too concerned with the aesthetics of it? If you want a professional looking job, hire a professional who practices what you want done day-in and day-out.

Now, don’t go out and purchase this whole list of stuff!! That’s overkill and would be way too expensive. A good way to approach this would be to use the list and the tools’ uses as a reference. Turn to it when you have a need for something, and in the back of your mind, you’re saying, “I bet there’s a tool for this,” and there probably is. Then, purchase what you need as you go and next time you run into a similar problem, it’ll be there for you.

Happy Home Repairs!!

When God and Nature Help Us Heal

hope | faith | Bible | inspiration | Scripture | Jesus | God | Christ | Lord | Christian | prayer | Catholic | healing | love | strength | cross | family | verses

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy….So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.                  John 16: 20 & 22

For fifteen years of my life, I was a Memorialist. What’s that, you ask? It’s someone who helps families design and create lasting granite tributes (aka, monuments, headstones, tombstones) for their cemetery plot. I’ve always enjoyed working with families and I’ve certainly always been artistic. This was a very good fit for me for a long time and I hope to have the opportunity to get back to more of it in the future.

It was such a pleasure helping families create something as permanent as stone, that best represents their life’s works, values, beliefs and loves. How do you express a family’s love in an artistic manner that sets their memorial apart from their neighbors and gives them a sense of pride in what they’ve created? Often it is a very freeing exercise. I would say I most often saw folks about six weeks after a passing. By this time, they often felt comfortable talking freely and even laughing and joking about their loved one enough to really get a sense of who the person was and help them dial into the important parts of their relationships. Granted, there were times when the atmosphere was much more somber, but for the most part, designing a memorial was one of the last tasks after a passing and offered a great deal of closure for the family. I loved this work immensely.

And I heard the greatest, heart-warming stories, one of which I’ll share with you here. I was working with an aging couple, who had just lost their daughter to breast cancer. There were a couple of things at work here. First off, they described a row of rose bushes that they had at their house that had, for years, come up with vibrant red colors. Their daughter, in her cancer battling years, had come to love the crusade of fighting for the cure and raising money and awareness and thus, the color pink had become a badge of courage for her. Well, after she had passed, the parents said that their entire row of rose bushes came up pink that year. Now, I’m no green thumb or plant geneticist, but whether that is a normal occurrence or somehow special in the world of rose growing, at the very least, it was a special sign to this grieving family that somebody was watching over them and was adamant about showing a sign of their daughter’s love in their garden.


Now, that’s a great story in itself. But it doesn’t stop there. Their daughter’s husband, their son-in-law, had taken her passing quite difficultly. He had such a hard time with it, that he could not return to the house they lived in together for quite some time. The pain of returning to their home without her was too great for him to bear. Through much growing and stretching, he had finally garnered the courage to make the trip to the property with his in-laws by his side. Now, besides pink ribbons, his wife was extremely partial to beautiful butterflies. As the husband stood on the front porch, hesitating to walk through the door of the home they had built together, a graceful monarch butterfly landed softly on his shoulder. This was the sign he needed that she was there with him and it was time to move forward. It was a sign like no other that he had the inner strength to carry on optimisticly in honor of his beloved wife.

There are signs all around us. I heard many a story like this from my memorial clients. Most people who see them are of course, open to them. I pray that you will be open to the signs of God’s grace and love in your life. Have a great week.

The Best Salad Dressings Ever!

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You’re in for a special treat with this post. This is a four-for-one-deal! Four of the most succulent, flavorsome salad dressings you could ever hope to create at home. They too, are the creations of the old Jessie’s Restaurant of Winsted, CT. Please pick a salad worthy of the finest dressings and then feast your taste buds on these:


1 1/2 cups Blended Oil

1 cup Wine Vinegar

1/2 cup Brown Sugar

1 teaspoon of each of the following:

Salt, Pepper, Dry Mustard, Celery Salt,

Hot Pepper Sauce, Worcestershire

1 tablespoon Parsley

1 tablespoon Minced Garlic

Simply blend these ingredients in a blender and you will never go back to Italian dressing from a bottle.



2 1/2 pounds Sour Cream

1 1/2 tablespoons Lemon Juice

1/4 teaspoon Dry Mustard

1/4 cup Dill Weed

1/2 quart Heavy Cream

1 1/2 tablespoons Solid Chicken Stock

Black Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients well and be prepared for a taste explosion!



3 cups of canned Tomato Soup

1 1/2 cups Oil (Vegetable or Olive)

1 1/2 cups White Vinegar

2 tablespoons Dry Mustard

2 teaspoons each of: Salt, Pepper, Paprika & Garlic Powder

1 1/4 cups Brown Sugar

1/8 cup Chives

Mix all ingredients well. I never liked French dressing growing up. However, this version I count among my favorites. There’s a whopping good chance that you will too!



Ready for easy? See if you can handle this one…

24 oz. Frozen Strawberries or Raspberries

2/3 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Blend. Beautiful simplicity. Homemade, delicious elegance.

Why am I depressed? My life’s too good.

tributes | family | love | honor | to mom | to dad | siblings | cousins | aunts | uncles | grandparents | memorial | funeral | speeches | eulogy | dies | letters | sad | death | thoughts | children | kids

It took a long time to find my therapist, Maria. I have an entire post about what that process was like. Thankfully, it was so worth it when I finally knew I had found someone who could help. We’ve had some major breakthroughs over the couple of years I’ve been seeing her. I’m going to tell you about one of them, and perhaps some of you can relate.

I had come to Maria after the closing of my business. It was traumatic for me – the thought that I had ‘wasted’ ten years of my life on something that failed. This, and the ensuing struggle to find a new work identity was certainly the impetus for needing therapy. But we soon went deeper.

Digging Deeper

Why the need to feel so successful? Why did I have to be my own boss instead of a fantastic employee? Why was I so addicted to entrepreneurism, that nothing else could make me happy? And was all of this really the issue, or did what I do for a living have literally nothing to do with my depression? Were we barking up the right tree to begin with?

These were some questions we battled with for quite some time. And poor Maria – it seemed like I had a new business venture idea every week I saw her. Something new to pump me up for a bit and then back down to the depressing reality when that idea was determined not to work either. All the while, jumping from job to meaningless job, trying to help support my family in the meantime…before I could really hit the big-time with another crazy new idea.

How was your childhood?

As most therapists will do, we started talking about my childhood. I almost shrugged it off because my childhood was so good…what could possibly have caused all this pain from my childhood? I told Maria how incredibly loving and supportive my parents always were. The fact that I got along very well with my siblings – since we were kids and through today – we remain best friends. Even my extended family…the most loving, faith-filled families you could ever hope to be a part of – and both sides!

None of my family lives in town with me, but even as we see each other just a handful of times each year, it’s always big hugs and kisses and the genuine “I love you” is never hard to come by. We all respect each other, we get along with each other and certainly enjoy each others’ company during every chance we get. Close like brothers and sisters with all my cousins. Aunts and uncles who could step into the roles of parents at a moment’s notice. And we’re talking about big numbers of people…66 on my Dad’s side and 60 on my Mom’s side…every one of which would drop everything to be there for you. Very little drama, riffs, or grudges to speak of. As for friends, I had always had a solid group of close friends who were great influences…never ran with a questionable crowd that led to dangerous decisions.

So, how could this wonderful life, filled with extraordinarily positive memories lead to such a crippling case of depression? Maria had an idea.

She explained that the “real world” is very much unlike my family, in general. Many people are not nice, looking out only for themselves. Judgmental, conniving, unsympathetic, un-empathetic, and quite disinterested in my rosy view of the world. Maria contends that I had such a rosy view of the world growing up, so surrounded by love and kindness, so void of true discontentment, disaster and tragedy, that I don’t know how to handle stress and disappointment in my life. I simply was never trained on how to do so.

Pain is pain.

Can you relate to this? When I set out to write this post, I knew that there would be a large contingent of depression sufferers who would simply have absolutely nothing in common with my battle. Many depression sufferers, obviously, have much bigger problems that have led to their affliction. Tragic loss, financial ruin, nobody to turn to, unbeatable health problems. There is some significant suffering out there that I pray people can find the Faith and Hope to beat. It often makes me think less of my suffering. But it shouldn’t. And if you can relate to my situation, you shouldn’t think less of your suffering either. Pain is pain, and everyone experiencing it deserves to acquire the tools to battle it in ways that can make them feel whole again.

Consider this:


We’re all trying to get to “complete.” When I joined a Grief Therapy Group, there happened to just be the advisor, myself and one other lady. She was dealing with two major losses in her life – the deaths of both her parents, decades apart – that were still affecting her emotions quite significantly. We’ll call her Patient A. Myself, Patient B, had come to the group because I closed my business and had no tragic losses in my life to speak of, but was equally crippled by constant depression.

When it comes down to it, though, we were both just trying to become “whole” again. And we acknowledged and respected each others’ challenges. We recognized that whether you have a large slice of grief to battle, or a smaller one, we both set out to heal – and could use the same strategies to do so – in order to close the gaps in our happiness wheel.

Becoming whole again

So, don’t belittle your struggles. When you’re not whole, it hurts. This chart only assumes the logical scale of what you might be dealing with, but it doesn’t chart your pain. I could very well have the smaller piece of grief pie, but be handling it more difficultly than the “larger” tragedy. So, really, the reason for the depression you battle, and the way your emotions are handling it are two different things and both need our attention in order to close our circle. Don’t compare yourself to others. Recognize that your grief and your pain is valid, however small or large, and that your journey to completion – or becoming whole again – is just as important as anyone else’s. Focus on your health and take the steps you need to close your gaps.

Unrealistic Expectations

Getting back to my “diagnosis,” I was never taught how to properly handle challenges and loss in my life, because I had very little reason to do so. Not only did my family life create an overly rosy view of the world for me, I did not go to college immediately after high school. I think, when kids hit college, and they’re finally forced to live more independently and get along with a roommate, and a floor- and a building-full of different personalities, they learn some valuable lessons on trustworthiness, disagreement, compromise and frankly, how to stand up for yourself.

In contrast, I grew up and arrived in an unforgiving world, without the skills to confront many of the challenges that the real world presents. I had, what Maria refers to as, “Unrealistic Expectations of a Ruthless World.” This would become my challenge, and the focus of how to get me from ‘la-la land’ to operating in and among those that for the most part, don’t care about you. How to stick up for myself and react when things don’t go the way I’m used to them going.

Does this sound like a possible cause of the depression you battle? I’m sure it’s not an uncommon theme. If there were a thousand people struggling with major depression, there must be many thousands of people struggling with minor depression. Many people grow up in wonderful homes with all the advantages one could hope to have. While that generally makes for a pretty wonderful life – and I know that mine is – it can certainly be cause for some pain when life hits you hard, right in the face. Please comment and share your experiences with depression and sadness if you’re so inclined. And remember, Hope is around every corner in your life. Be ready and waiting for all the opportunities it provides to lead you to peace in your heart. Don’t give up!

Your Gratitude Journal

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In my last post, we talked about 35 Ways to Practice Gratitude in Your Life. I hope that it was as eye-opening to read that post as it was to write it. I don’t count myself as an expert…this is not an easy task. In many ways, I was suggesting that you “do what I say,” and not necessarily, “do what I do.” I’m not perfect. But in sharing “recommended practices” together, perhaps we can learn from each other. I hope you’ll post comments that encourage more ways that we can all learn from. The final step I suggested last week was to document your gratefulness in a simple journal. In an effort to “do what I say,” my wife and I have started this with our kids this week.

We also use this exercise as kind of a “prayer prompt.” It helps us remember those things that we should thank God for and remember who to pray for. We’ve also started a “prayer wall,” in which we simply jot down on small pieces of paper, those folks and things we need to pray for, and tape them up on the wall. Our gratitude journal has provided good impetus for many of these thoughts.

So, last week’s post was the “What, Where and Why,” and this is the “How.” Use these prompts to help you create entries in your Gratitude Journal:

  1. What did I see in nature today that stirred an appreciation of true beauty?
  2. How did I think positively today? What could I have seen in a better light?
  3. Am I grateful for certain negative thoughts I was able to keep at bay?
  4. Did I avoid gossip and turn a negative conversation into something positive?
  5. Did I behave or perform in a way that should make me proud?
  6. Did someone else do or say something that made me proud to know them?
  7. Which kind gestures did someone share with me today?
  8. How did someone’s presence, service or smile make my day better?
  9. Which conversations did I witness or take part in today that made me feel thankful?
  10. Was I generous with my smile today? Did someone else’s smile brighten my day?
  11. How did I feed my passions today? Were my time, money and talents well-spent?
  12. Did I tell enough people that I love and care about them?
  13. Did someone make me feel loved and respected?
  14. What did I do to nurture friendships today? Did I receive friendly gestures to be thankful for?
  15. What inspired me today? Was I happy with the balance of good news and bad?
  16. How did I pay it forward today? How did I benefit from somebody’s generosity?
  17. Was I impressed by somebody’s example of integrity?
  18. Is there anybody I spoke with today that filled my soul?
  19. Were there any milestones to be recognized today?
  20. How did my family express love today? Did we experience anything new or exciting together?
  21. What qualities exemplified today made me so proud to be someone’s husband, wife, father or mother?
  22. Did I experience the blessing of a good neighbor today? Has anyone made me feel especially welcomed?
  23. How was I able to live in the moment today? What small things are worth big appreciation?
  24. Is there baggage that I was able to leave behind today and anxiety for the future I was able to release?
  25. How were my meals today? Were they as healthy as possible and did I share them with anybody special?
  26. Was I recognized for my efforts at work today? Was I able to share gratitude toward someone else’s work?
  27. If I were to hand write a quick note to someone today, who would that be to? How can I express my appreciation for them?
  28. Did I thank enough people today for their contributions to their families and society?
  29. Which challenges today allowed me to grow? Were there any mistakes that I can learn a valuable lesson from?
  30. What did I learn today? What did I teach today?
  31. How were my prayers answered today and what should I continue praying for?
  32. Am I thankful for the level of peace and calm that I feel? What did I do today to achieve greater balance?
  33. What was the best part of my day?
  34. What am I looking forward to from tomorrow?

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Again, remember that none of us is perfect. Don’t assume that I or anyone has an answer to each of these questions every single day. This is an exercise to stretch us and new habits are not easy to form. Maybe your journal should be a weekly one instead of a daily one – believe me, with two kids and the whole dinner, bath, teeth, books and songs routine every night, adding 34 questions to answer would not be easy to squeeze in…I get it! But could you and your family have a weekly discussion that centers around these prompts? Do the best you can and make practicing gratitude a priority in your life. An abundance of blessings will ensue when you’re cognizant of those you receive and generous with those you give.

35 Ways to Practice Gratitude in Your Life.

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Weekly Inspiration – 2017 Week 12

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What is Jesus saying here? Shouldn’t we be rich in spirit? At first glance, it is hard to understand how lacking in spirit could be something Jesus would want for us. What does He mean here?

“Simply this: We must be humble in our spirits. If you put the word “humble” in place of the word “poor,” you will understand what He meant. In other words, when we come to God, we must realize our own sin and our spiritual emptiness and poverty. We must not be self-satisfied or proud in our hearts, thinking we don’t really need God. If we are, God cannot bless us. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).”1

“Being poor in spirit is admitting that, because of your sin, you are completely destitute spiritually and can do nothing to deliver yourself from your dire situation. Jesus is saying that, no matter your status in life, you must recognize your spiritual poverty before you can come to God in faith to receive the salvation He offers.”2

“God offers us salvation as a gift, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, the full payment for sin’s penalty. Before we can receive this gift, we must understand that we cannot make ourselves worthy of it. Salvation is by grace through faith, not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). We must recognize our sinfulness before we can understand our need for a Savior. We must admit our spiritual poverty before we can receive the spiritual riches God offers (Ephesians 1:3). We must, in short, be ‘poor in spirit.’”2

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At church today, Pastor Jay taught us about II Corinthians, Chapter 8. The part of his sermon that brought me to tears was this. See if you can comprehend the immensity of Jesus’ love for us in this truth: “Jesus teaches us to share grace and to treat people as if they have never sinned.” This is one of the most moving phrases I have ever heard about the depth of Jesus’ love. While we are so guilty of sin and unworthy of His grace, He loves us so much that He would come to Earth, walk in our shoes as a poor human, experience and empathize with the horrible physical pain that we endure and so much as suffer and die for us on the cross. And through this holiest of sacrifice, He would treat us as if we had never sinned. This is an incomprehensible love. Are we capable of treating others as if they had never sinned? Has anyone in our life ever treated us this way? I would contend that only Jesus is capable of this love.

Jay also reminded us to remember that one of your most valuable assets is the people who love you. This, and your genuine love for others, is the true measure of your wealth.

1, September 1, 2004.

2, © 2002-2017

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35 Ways to Practice Gratitude in Your Life

As we “Spring into Spring,” here’s some ideas on practicing gratitude in your life in this new season. Be determined to be more grateful and you’ll learn to recognize blessings you never realized you had. Please comment on your thoughts and how putting some of these steps into practice fill your life with abundance of spirit!

  1. Recognize the absolute beauty in the natural world around you. If you need a refresher course, go watch BBC’s “Planet Earth.” The absolutely diverse, colorful, powerful, yet graceful planet and all its wonders should heighten your sense of beauty when perhaps some days all you can see is concrete, pavement and a bland set of walls. Open your eyes to the vast magnificence of nature.
  2. Resolve to think positively and affirmatively. One of my most favorite books is called, The Magic of Thinking Big, by Dr. David Schwartz. In his Chapter 5, “How to Think and Dream Creatively,” he writes, “When you believe something is impossible, your mind goes to work for you to prove why. But when you believe, really believe, something can be done, your mind goes to work for you and helps you find the ways to do it.” Essentially, your mind is a supercomputer of stored information. Just like an internet search engine, when you initiate a thought, your subconscious mind goes to work immediately, looking for all the reasons to backup that thought – and there exists much backup for either attitude you choose to engage. Without even knowing it, your mind sets out to authenticate your thoughts from its databank. If you give it positive direction, it will substantiate your position. So consciously think positively and watch your subconscious come to your aid with support and encouragement!
  3. In contrast, stay away from those negative thoughts. Not just your damaging self-talk, but vow to refrain from gossip, complaining and criticizing.
  4. Practice being humble. When you have humility, you exude a quiet confidence instead of arrogance. Definitely strive for high self-esteem, but do so keeping your pride in check. Be modest and respectful.
  5. Share an attitude of appreciation and be generous with your compliments.
  6. Learn from your mistakes. What can you take away – even from the bad situations – that you can be thankful for?
  7. Smile on the phone. Set your bad mood aside if necessary, but always smile on the phone. Even better, stand up when you talk on the phone. You will brighten the day of the person on the other end simply by expressing your enthusiasm for life. In this way, you share a kind gesture that is easily recognized through non-verbal communication.
  8. For that matter, smile as often as possible. Your in-person interactions deserve as much enthusiasm as your phone contacts. Remember that you just might make someone’s day with a simple smile…you may be the only person all day who had bothered to do so. Go out and make someone’s day!
  9. Identify the things that stir passion within you. Volunteer your time, money or talents and you will be rewarded in indescribable ways. Not to mention, you will fuel the fervency of worthy organizations and inspire others to join your cause or another one just as powerful.
  10. Tell someone every day, as many people as appropriate, that you love them. There will come a time when you wish that so many more had been said when you had the chance.
  11. When an “I love you,” is not appropriate, try an “I appreciate you,” an “I enjoy being with you,” or a “Your friendship means the world to me.” Good friendships are hard to come by, so the ones you have should be nurtured. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings.
  12. Find an inspirational channel on YouTube or through your television service. Be it religious or not, find ways to remind yourself of the good in the world. Dedicate at least as much of your time to uplifting media as you might to mainstream news…we all know how little they focus on the “good news.” Fill your mind with positivity.
  13. Practice random acts of kindness. It might be simply a smile, or it might be paying for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop. How else could you find ways to “pay it forward”? Take the initiative to start something good and watch is spread.
  14. Limit your exposure to violence. We get enough through the overload of media in our daily lives. Don’t add to it with destructive movies or video games. Normal is what we’re used to. Don’t allow violence to be normal for you.
  15. Dress for success! When you look good, you feel good, and feeling good is contagious. Proper attire and cleanliness says that you respect the people around you and that you demand dependability.
  16. Hold the virtue of integrity in the highest regard. Integrity means honesty, honor, reliability, humility and righteousness. It is one of the most powerful words in the English language. Make it a pillar of your character.
  17. If you’re wondering if you call your Mom or your Grandparents enough, you probably don’t. Pick up the phone…even if you can only spare a quick hello, they will love it!
  18. Let your kids see you work hard and prioritize correctly. Most importantly, however, be sure to leave lots of time for them. Quality, focused attention that creates deep connection and expresses love. That’s what they need most.
  19. Check on your neighbors, especially if they’re elderly. And don’t take for granted that right next door, you most likely have people who are surely special in their own way and practice love and gratitude in their life. Don’t be strangers, be thankful you have the opportunity to create a relationship with somebody who happens to be in such close proximity. The blessing of a good neighbor is often overlooked. Don’t assume anything you don’t know. Go introduce yourself at the very least.
  20. Practice being “Present over Perfect.” This happens to be the title of a book that would become the most influential one in my fight against depression and anxiety. If you struggle to let the past go and not worry about the future, this book is for you. Appreciate the small moments you have and make what you do every minute count the most. Be characterized by how you live your daily life, not what you’ve done or haven’t done.
  21. Pick a small handful of meals that you actually enjoy cooking and eating. Make those your go-to meals when you want an injection of happiness. Allow the act of cooking for others to fill you with satisfaction and fill those you feed with love.
  22. Let your true self show at your workplace. Do everything you do with heart and conviction. Set an example to your coworkers on how to be a grateful person. Recognize them when they’ve done a good job.
  23. Be hugely generous with your spoken and written thank-yous. Better to say “thank-you” too much than not enough. You will make someone’s day if you acknowledge the smallest of gestures.
  24. So many of us are glued to our computers and “devices.” Take a break from word processing enough that it feels a little awkward. I hate to put a number on it because we’re all so different, but how many times a week would actually hand-writing a letter to a dear friend or relative feel uncomfortable to you? Between business colleagues and relatives, could you write one note per day? Maybe you don’t have a lot of relatives…can you find someone to grace with a personal note once every two weeks? Pick a schedule you think would make you grow and put it on your calendar. Stick to it. Just to tell someone you’re thinking of them and appreciate their presence in your life.
  25. We can’t all be CEOs, or Congressmen, or religious leaders, or policemen. But everyone has something to give to society. Be sure to thank those that provide a service to you, even if they look miserable doing it. Most people are doing their best every day to make a better life for their family. Thank the bus driver, the postman, the grocer and the cashier for doing what they do and helping you with a small part of your day. Everyone deserves appreciation.
  26. Your immediate family serves each other in many small ways every day. Don’t take for granted the small stuff. Be sure your spouse knows that you appreciate the dishes being done or the garbage being taken out. Try to do as many small things as you can to help show your appreciation. Kids, thank your parents for the food on the table, parents thank your kids for finishing their homework. Spouses, don’t go to bed without that “I love you” kiss.
  27. Embrace the challenges you face and the mistakes you make as opportunities to grow.
  28. Learn something new every day.
  29. Spread the wealth. Teach others to live a life of gratitude. In fact, teach everything you know.
  30. Pray for strength. Pray for the vision to see the good in your life. Share this with your family at mealtime.
  31. Focus on your strengths. Embrace your God-given talents and relentlessly pursue your life’s purpose.
  32. Celebrate special days, anniversaries and events. Mark your calendar annually with everything you need not forget! Send birthday cards, well wishes and always look a week or two ahead of time. Consider sending a one-page family update with your Christmas cards, in which you share all the things you’ve been grateful for over the past year.
  33. Organize your personal life. What does this have to do with being grateful? It frees your mind from stress, worry and too many “to-do lists” in order that we can focus on the really important things. Those menial daily tasks take too much of our energy, but streamlining and systemizing them can free you up for better things! Keep an up-to-date spreadsheet of Christmas card recipients, a personal financial budget, a short- and long-term goals sheet, etc. Keep your bills, recipes, medical records, resumes and other important documents together in one file cabinet or computer in well-organized file folders for quick reference and updating.
  34. Use people’s names whenever possible. Sometimes I’ll thank a cashier using their name and they’ll look at me like I have two heads. It’s right on their nametag, but so few people use their name that they’re astounded somebody bothered to do so. Again, it’s about making people’s days: Smile, be generous with thank-yous, and use first names whenever possible!
  35. Document your gratefulness in a simple daily journal. Nothing fancy, just a bullet point or two each day to remind you how blessed you are. When you feel stumped, review this list and pull from it those things that may have surfaced during your day. Count your blessings and meditate on your list as it grows. In addition to adding to the list each day, go back and read all that you’ve been thankful for over a period of time.

Stay tuned next week for helpful prompts to help you create your daily Gratitude Journal entries. Again, please comment and for Goodness sake, add your suggestions to my list and help us all better practice gratitude!!

Weekly Inspiration – 2017 Week 11

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And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say to them? And God said unto Moses, I AM WHO I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.     EXODUS 3:13-14

I remember discussing this verse with a good friend. I had brought up the subject because I was facing a crisis of faith. I was struggling with what to believe. I couldn’t comprehend an all-knowing, all-powerful God. Who made man? Who made the Earth? Who made the Universe? What’s on the other side of it? That common inquisition, “What’s the meaning of life?” My friend Dan and I talked about this matter…it’s not an easy thing to answer, and I certainly don’t believe I’ve come anywhere near it. But I was able to connect and hold on to the idea that there are some things in life that we’re just not meant to know yet. Otherwise, it’d be a little easier to find the answers.

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There’s no question that questions will always be a part of our existence. It’s what makes us human. And it’s how God created us. I remember asking Dan that day, sitting in the back yard of his beautiful mountain retreat listening to the sounds of a perfect nature, “If God created us, who created God?” Much to your surprise, I’m sure, he did not have that answer. But he made a profound suggestion. God is not a being that we can comprehend…he’s not a man with two arms and two legs, sitting on a gold throne in a field of clouds. We are in completely different realms and can’t be compared. That day in his garden, Dan taught me this verse from Exodus: “I AM.” That was God’s response to Moses, when asked how he should refer to God to the Israelites. It’s simply inexplicable. “I just am.”

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It dawned on me quite quickly that we’re not meant to know, we’re not necessarily worthy of knowing just yet. We’ve got an Earthly life to live yet and there is a Paradise awaiting us that will open all doors of enlightenment and comprehension. The unexplained does not mean the impossible. We are finite beings with finite minds. Infinity of comprehension is not in our realm. More importantly, for us to worry about, the Bible speaks of Faith thousands of times over. There is a level of Biblical evidence that we, as Christians, base our belief on, but God wants the Good Book to be enough for us. He gave us this and all he asks in return in Faith. And promises an eternity of Paradise for our Faith. That’s good enough for me.

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