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The Change Button

The Dream You

What if you had control over your life? I mean really had control? Say, for example, that you could decide what you want to weigh and would be that weight? What about money? Or love? What if your career path was up to you?

What would you do? Who would this “dream you” be?

If You Could Push A Button?

You are probably suspicious right now but hang in there for a great secret of life. Science backs it up.

The answer to that question matters – a lot.

What if it were easy?

Taking control over one thing

Yesterday, I started with my desk. I hate paperwork. Kind of funny for a writer, but true. Not blank paper. I love that. That is my surfboard just sitting in the corner waiting patiently for me to play. Weird, I know.

I hate paperWORK. Receipts, federally mandated forms, taxes, legal documents. Because of my Mom, I’m awash in it. Everything she does generates mounds of it. So, it piles up on my desk, waiting in a bad way.

When I want to grab my surfboard and run, it yells at me,”Hey surf boy! Do your homework! You’ll just feel guilty out there. You can’t have any fun until you finish (insert long list of very responsible activities).”

So, what did I do? I cleaned my desk.

That’s right. I did it. You can’t stop me. I’m a rebel.

What’s that got to do with any of this? Here it is. Wait for it . . .

It was a small change I control.

Pow! Take that paperwork! Bam! You don’t own me! There’s a desk under there and I’m not stopping until I remember what color it is! I am the King of Paperwork!

Whew. Sorry, I got a little excited. Man, what a rush. Breathe.

You see what happened there? I got emotionally charged. I took control of something. I changed my life. It felt good.

So, did I finish it all? Are you kidding? It’ll take me weeks. But here’s what I did do.

I took control of my creative space, my work area. The papers are organized in stacks on a bookcase I already had. I threw a bunch of the garbage away so there’s less of it.

I did more than I imagined I could do. I have a clear path to get through it. I have energy. I have a desk (espresso colored). And one more thing . . .

I Believe I Can Do It!

Science shows that big change happens like dominos. When the first small thing falls, you get momentum for the next. Pretty soon,”Pow! Take that!” You get the large, creative, emotional side of your brain involved and big things happen.

Think Super Bowl comeback. Momentum shifts. Hope springs. Soon, you’re unstoppable.

Hang on. We’re just getting cranked up here. I can’t wait.

Adventure Dogs Encouragement Endurance Featured Music Nature Pets Spiritual Uncategorized

Finding The Road

Suzie and I play a game of exploration I call finding the road. Not a road. The road. The mythical road ahead, an unexplored road, the yellow brick road, the allegorical path of life, the road not taken, the . . . well, you get the idea. That’s why I just call it finding the road.

What I mean is finding that perfect stretch of open road, at that perfect, peaceful time of day, with the perfect company, leaving all cares behind. The fantasy used to include that perfect song on the radio but now I have so many years of music in my head that the perfect song is most often the whisper of the wind. Insert your own song here:

There’s no load I can’t hold
Road so rough this I know
I’ll be there when the light comes in
Tell ‘em we’re survivors

Life is a highway
I want to ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I want to drive it all night long
– Tom Cochrane

Of course, we prefer daytime. Better views. Yesterday, some great views were waiting.

If you had told me sixteen years ago that Suzie and I would share a mesmerizing Sunday afternoon like the one we just had, I would have thought you cruel. In addition to not believing you, I would have felt you were mocking me with tired platitudes.

It’s hard to look into the foggy future and see bliss. Even on good days we don’t risk dreaming the future will be deliriously happy.

Sixteen years ago the road ahead looked like Armageddon, a great smoking hole where our future had vaporized. With Suzie facing an ever-expanding maze of cancers, our Arts and Crafts dream home with a stone fireplace, lots of cozy, built-in book cases and a wide front porch for our grandchildren to play on vanished in a blink.

Losing your dreams is scary. Losing sight of the future around a curve of doubt is unnerving. Being afraid to even look to the future is heart stopping. The best I could do was hope for survival. I had not yet learned one of life’s great surprises.

Bliss happens.

Sometimes it comes in little things, like the pillowy percussion of a puppy galloping on carpet. Or the thump of a wagging puppy tail on your pants leg. That just happened. I’m smiling.

Other times a magical confluence of events unfolds as if God had planned it all long ago. Sunday afternoon was such a moment. It was like driving through an hour-long post card.

Suzie and I found time after a post-lunch nap to get in the car for a drive. Nessie came along to add puppy wonder and wagging. The sky was crisp, deep, unmarked, New Mexico blue.

We drove up Signal Mountain Highway and crossed to the Sequatchie Valley. The sun, falling behind us, cast a golden glow on the mountains ahead, fading slowly into purple. Bluebirds flew across the narrow black top between undulating green fields. A flaxen Clydesdale appeared on a hill, backlit, silhouetted against the sun like a Hollywood cinematographer set up the shot.

Around a curve on a one-lane back road, a family with three little girls and four puppies appeared, laughing and playing on pavement so abandoned they felt they owned it. And for the moment they did.

We stopped to let Nessie stretch her legs at a white church, built in the 1800′s, tinted orange by the sunset. To the east, a mountain range stretched from Kentucky to Alabama. To the west, another range paralleled, creating between one of the longest, most scenic valleys in the world. In between were fantasy-photo farms riding the waves of grassland down the Sequatchie River.

I was raised on the road. I should be jaded by now. Movie scores played in my head. I spun in a 360 IMAX pan, trying to take it all in. It was magnificent.

It is in these moments that God surprises you with unexpected beauty and grace. Unmerited wonder. Undeserved amazement.

We stood together for a moment, tingling with a view that no one else in the world enjoyed. As if it were created just for the two of us. Nessie was lost in her hidden world of smells, probably wondering how we were missing it.

As we drove to the north, out of the valley and over the mountains, a full moon rose in the windshield.

I mean, come on!

I took no pictures. It would have been a waste and a frustration. It would have taken a full movie crew to capture half of it. Helicopter shots. Orchestra scores. I was overwhelmed just trying to absorb it.

If you had told me sixteen years ago, in a hospital waiting room or a doctor’s office that this day would happen . . .

And this was only one afternoon, admittedly a good one. Imagine sixteen years of trying to be grateful for every day, working hard at appreciating it, attempting to grasp the beauty of it as it passes.

The first time we had seen this valley we were exploring the area our youngest child would be going to college. Now he’s graduating. Think of three children growing, plays, recitals, graduations, proms, dates, vacations.

We drove this valley through waves of memories, through sunsets of days gone by, through dreams arrived and enjoyed and faded into more dreams . . .

Yesterday, we found the road. We could see it stretching into the past. We could see it winding into the future. We could see the whole path, the ache of it, the accomplishment, the adventure.

We understood that, long ago, in our darkest hours, this was ahead of us.

Yesterday, we found the road.

Today, we are excited for the chance to take up the journey again.

Blog Courage Dogs Endurance Featured Health Pets Play Prayer Uncategorized

The Joy Choice – Part One

Nessie’s “Perfect” Moment.

This morning I awoke to peals of laughter. It was the best alarm clock I have ever had.

I get out of bed this morning with joy and curiosity. What are they laughing about?

Suzie and Mom are laughing uproariously at a TV show. It’s going to be a great day.

I stretch and start to move when the door bursts open. Suzie has Nessie by the collar and she’s heading for the crate.

“That’s it! I’ve had it. She needs a time out,” Suzie said.

“What did she do?”

She exhaled in exasperation. “I’m done.” It wasn’t an answer which meant she didn’t want to talk about it. I’m thinking its my fault somehow. So much for joy.

I get up with the realization that this is hospital day. Mom is getting a CAT
scan. Two recent falls have her doctor concerned. He wants a look to make sure there are no small brain bleeds.

A day at the hospital, oh joy

But the thing is, if I only have joy when things are perfect then I’m in for a long, sad life. Some of the most joyful people I know have been through the most horrible things and live in less-than-dreamy circumstances.

They choose joy.

It’s a conscious decision on their part. Or maybe it’s such a habit and joy is so disconnected from their circumstances that, by now, they believe it’s normal. Either way, they chose at some point.

So, with a naughty puppy in her crate and a frustrated wife and a hospital day ahead, I decided to choose joy.

Note, I make a distinction between joy and happiness. It’s a long story but joy is a deeper, more meaningful emotion with spiritual overtones and happiness is more temporary and out of my control. Like when autocorrect just turned happiness into gappiness.

So, joy means taking on this day with a positive attitude. Obviously, Nessie needs a little physical activity before I take Mom to imaging.

Breakfast and a long walk are in order. I decide to take her to the art district after breakfast and work on heeling. The bridge is a perfect place because there are always fascinating distractions.

Long leash, heel, treat, long leash, heel treat, repeat. Nessie does well across the glass bridge. The Walnut Street pedestrian bridge is covered with water puddles which Nessie loves.

In spite of dogs, runners and unruly toddlers, I am pleased with her performance. The sun bursts through lingering rain clouds and the breeze is brisk, bordering on icy. Herons and pigeons fly and the river sparkles between the bridge planks below.

Nessie has moments of true, blissful perfection, which is all anyone can ask of a puppy. We dawdle and sniff in the art district, savoring the moment. All is right with the world.

This satisfying combination makes choosing joy a breeze. With the sights and soynds and success blowing through my mind, I’d have to work at ignoring it.

Nessie is tired. I’m happy. Phase one is complete. I wonder how I will do when it’s not so easy. I guess we’ll see.

A “Perfect Nessie” moment
Interesting smells
Smells like coffee!
Walking the wall.
This guy is boring


The Joy Choice – Part Two


Too Big A Story

I just want to let you know that I’ve found a story that is just too big to write in the time I have today. This is annual check up day for Suzie when she meets with all of her doctors. It’s quite an event.

In the midst of this, I found a ballerina, psychologist and survivor with a story so sweeping that I’m trying to get a handle on it.

I will probably have to break it down into a few posts to keep from dumping too much material on you at once. You do, after all, have a life to live.

Thanks for your patience and may you have a blessed day.

Blog Connections Dogs Emotional Humor Pets Play Uncategorized

A Dog’s Opinion

I love my dog. I must begin with this fact lest you begin to wonder. I really do.

In a little more than two weeks, Nessie, our Christmas puppy, has outgrown a collar, a leash and a car harness.

In addition, she has eaten another leash and two dish towels. We discovered the second towel when she threw it up in the corner last night, along with all of the food she’d eaten for the day.

She is also fond of the taste of socks and has attempted to eat several including some that still had feet in them. Couch tassels and throw pillows are also targets for teething, as are chairs, computers, lamp cords, shoes, shoe strings, rugs, eyeglasses, hats, coats, scarves, gloves and floor moulding. You get the idea.

She is fairly well house trained, as long as her humans pay close attention. We, I admit, are in need of more training. She will sit to get her leash snapped on to go outside. She will sit to get it snapped off and “stay”, waiting patiently for her treat. I’d like to take full credit but she almost came this way. We just had a little reinforcement and rewarding to do. Once we learned our part, she had her duties down pat.

She’s also learned the fastest way to get more water from the humans is to place both feet on top of the counter by the sink, which she can do with ease. It creates lots of noise and attention and eventually leads to water.

But her favorite new trick of all is retrieving, which is what all labrador retrievers have in their bones. She cannot resist a tennis ball tossed or soccer-kicked in her field of view. She will quickly bring back anything you toss in return for a round of lavish praise. She is learning to “drop” the toy but it’s going a little slower. Releasing the hard won prize is hard for a teething puppy. It just feels too good on her gums.

But the best thing to retrieve by far is not a ball or bone. The ultimate prize is fetching my son’s underwear out of the dirty laundry in his room and proudly parading them into the den for all to see. She can’t seem to understand why we don’t appreciate this clever feat.

In spite of the confusing humans she lives with, Nessie has yet to find a person she doesn’t love. Since we are her fourth (and final) home in four months, maybe she’s just playing the odds. A fresh person to play with trumps toys, food and other dogs. We are all, in her opinion, just marvelous.

This has led to an interesting role reversal. Suzie and I spent the years since Hershey passed living on borrowing dogs. We would ask to pet the dog and end up explaining our need for a little dog love to total strangers. The dogs usually didn’t mind and the people were often receptive to someone declaring what a wonderful, beautiful, perfect dog they had.

Now, we find ourselves on the other end of that equation. We have met people from all over the country who are traveling without their dog, or left him in the hotel, or are here for a day trip and have dogs at home. We have heard about their Chihuahuas, huskies, beagles, labs and mutts. We have answered questions and received training suggestions. You learn a lot about a person from their relationship with dogs.

Nessie loves them all. She makes me like them a little better, too. They are no longer strangers or tourists or loud people with noisy kids who take my parking place. They are a family of dog-lovers. They are neighbors from far away. They treat me like I must be as wonderful as my dog thinks I am. I start treating them as if they are as wonderful as Nessie believes.

Because Nessie loves me. Thoroughly and totally. Without reservation. Nessie makes me think maybe I’m not such a bad fellow. And I’ve learned to value Nessie’s opinion.

So if Nessie loves you, well, you can’t be all bad.


Blog Encouragement Uncategorized

The Good You Can Do

There are huge problems in the world today. Bigger problems than you can solve this morning. But you can do something.

Here’s a thought: why don’t you focus on what good you can do today? Your choice.

The big problems will be there tomorrow.


Learn the name of your Starbucks barista. They always ask yours. Ask them back. Then remember it. Write it down and use it tomorrow. And smile. Remember, every day they have to deal with you before you have your coffee.

Smile and talk to your waiter or cashier like a person with a difficult job to do. Remember not to be a difficult job.

Catch someone doing a good job and tell them. Just smile and say, “Good job,” or “Excellent work.”

Don’t make a production out of it. They’ll get suspicious and wonder what you’re up to. Just have an honest moment and move on like you do it every day.

Then, do it every day.

P.S. This is not about getting something back, or passing something on. This is about starting something.

Photo by waferboard
Blog Courage Creativity Encouragement Success Uncategorized

Dream Makers

When you look into the future, what do you see? What do you hear? What is possible?

Dreams are beautiful things, weightless to carry and entertaining to contemplate. It is easy to underestimate them as fantasy, to dismiss them as playful fiction.

Until you see one take hold.

When a dream seizes a person in a personal way, when they can see it, feel it, taste it, walk around inside of it, then a dream can become one of the most powerful forces on earth. It can alter a person’s life. It can make them rethink who they are and what they are capable of being.

Dreams change the world

So far we have talked about the courage to survive what happens to you. But there is another courage, an optional courage: the courage to be the one who creates the future.

Wrestling dreams into reality, making them true, is much more difficult than dreaming. Reality is stubborn and unyielding. There are powerful forces in your mind working toward keeping things the same. Your brain prefers what worked yesterday. It’s much easier. It is a known difficulty.

But a dream interrupts that stability. It has the power to seize your brain and build a whole new world of possibility right there in your head. Soon the dream becomes so temptingly delicious that you have to give it a try. It’s simply too strong to resist.

You’ve seen it

My daughter came home one day from school and asked the question,”What would you think if I wanted to be a nurse?” It was a bolt right out of the blue for us and a total change of direction for her. But she went on a school career trip to a hospital and it sparked a dream. Suddenly, everything changed.

It happened to me when I first walked into a recording studio. It happened for Olympian Bart Conner when his mother first took him to a gym. It was mesmerizing! At least for him.

It’s the,”I want to do that!” moment.

In some way, it has caused everything you see around you to exist. I’m writing this post on Steve Jobs’ dream, a MacBook Pro. I’m sitting in a coffee shop that was the dream of the doctor who lives next door. His dream built the entire art district around me. Someone’s dream began the city you live in.

But it’s easy to talk about distant, successful, celebrated dreamers like them. Their dreams are already visible. How about something more relevant.

Dreaming you

Dreams have also happened to you. You may not think of yourself as a dream builder, but you are. Whenever you imagine the life you want and do something to make it happen, you are making dreams come true. Your hopes in school, your career choice, where you want to live, what color your bedroom is are all dreams. Dating is a particularly courageous kind of dreaming. Having children is the best kind of dreaming. You are imagining a world of your own making.

But then begins the hard work of wrestling dreams to the ground. My daughter sweated through nursing school. Bart Conner started training. I began trying to find a way to get back into that studio. It’s difficult stuff.

It takes courage to wrestle dreams out of the clouds. It takes commitment, hard work and time. It takes opportunity and hard-headed determination. But in the beginning, if the dream is big enough, powerful enough, beautiful enough, then you find the courage.

The courage to dare to be great. To do and do again. To try until you succeed.

Moving toward the fear

Rather than simply surviving your fear or avoiding your fear, in this case you have to move toward the fear.

In fact, if you don’t reach the fear, you’re not doing enough.  Fear means you’re doing something that hasn’t been done, or that you haven’t done yet. But everything in your past was once something you had never done. And look back at how well some of those untried things turned out.

Fear is a sign. It means growth. Progress. It means you are developing the courage within you. It means you have dreamed a dream big enough to be challenging. A dream worth dreaming. A dream worth all of the effort and sweat and pain it will take to make it come true.

A dream big enough to change you. And maybe change the world.



Musical History

For those interested, I’ve added a page about my musical self under the “About” menu.

To get there please click HERE