Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Sunset of Life

I walked down the corridor checking the numbers posted on plastic plaques outside a never-ending line of doors.  As I passed rooms I heard the sounds of people cursing, people crying, TV’s broadcasting the news, and a handful of persons visiting with family and friends.  I had been through these halls a number of times before to visit other people, but today I was visiting someone new.  As a young minister on staff at a local church, I shared the rotation of hospital and nursing home visits with other ministers.  Today, Ms. Brown was on my list.

I knew Ms. Brown’s grandchildren well.  They were in the student ministry I led at the church.  However, I had not met Ms. Brown.  I understood she had been sick for sometime.  She was frequently in and out of facilities like this one.  When I saw her name on the list of those to visit I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Finally, I arrived at the door.  I knocked softly and inquired if it was okay for me to enter.  A small voice welcomed me.  When I walked in there were machines whirring and dispensing data on small screens that were unrecognizable to me.  There were tubes running to and fro around Ms. Brown.  I introduced myself to the elderly lady before me.  Immediately, her face lit up and she began talking.  Her sweet spirit filled the time of our visit, which ended up being longer than normal.  As I exited the room I was amazed how someone in such a condition in the latter years of life could be so kind-hearted.

Not every visit I have made to those in the sunset of life has been as pleasant.  Many were filled with inner bitterness that had consumed their souls as much as illness had consumed their body.  Others were engulfed in deep regret.  They longed to right a relationship or re-do the events that had long since transpired. 

Still, there are some like Ms. Brown.  Their lives have been full of love. While they have not been perfect (none of us are) they live with few regrets.  They have chosen to pass the days of their life with hope and joy even as those days are drawing to a close.  Psychologists and sociologists have studied the aging brain for decades and drawn some incredible conclusions.  Many have come to the same conclusion: the attitude you cultivate over the course of your life will be magnified in your final years.

What this means for all of us is the kind of person we choose to be today will ultimately be the kind of person we become tomorrow.  We would all like to believe we are getting better with age.  Hopefully we are more wise and understanding as the years of life come and go.  However, our chosen outlook on life today will greatly affect the person our grandchildren and great grandchildren will become acquainted with.  We cannot stop the aging and decay of our bodies.  We can choose to stop the decay of our attitudes, though.  Who do you hope to be in the sunset of life?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't pay for more than you need!

Have you ever watched one of those TV infomercials that seem incredibly too-good-to-be-true!  You think to yourself, “Wow!  If I just have that (fill in the blank) life will be so much easier.”  Then, the more you watch, the more that they offer!  “But wait!  If you order in the next 30 minutes we’ll send you not just one “Sham wow”, but two!”  You know what I’m talking about!  Keep watching the commercial and they may finish the ad by offering you 4 of the item as well as 2 other completely different items altogether!  What a deal!  (Please notice my sarcastic undertones…)

Recently, as we were combing through our own monthly budget, and trying to find places to save costs, we determined to contact our “variable cost providers” and see what else they could do for us.  You see, we realized that we were paying for nearly 700 minutes a month MORE on our cell phones than what we use on a regular basis.  There wasn’t a lower plan advertised online, but hey!  It’s a phone call and the worst that they could say is “no.”  I called and much to my surprise, they found a cell phone plan that provided us with all of the “perks” and benefits that we needed and still saved us $20 a month from what we had been paying!!  As you can imagine, we were thrilled!

Well, it didn’t stop there!  We decided that there are a BUNCH of channels on our TV that we rarely ever watch, so we gave our TV Company a call asking if they had any plans available that would match what we needed.  (We didn’t want to extend or re-up a contract at all, but wanted to drop our bottom-line bill amount.)  Much to my surprise, they DID have a plan available which offered us all of the main channels and many of the fun kids channels that Caleb likes to watch when I let him (Sprout, Disney, etc!) and it was another $20 less PER MONTH!  That means, between our TV and Cell Phones alone we saved $40 PER MONTH ($480 per year) with just a simple phone call.    Neither adjustment really changes our normal life at all, but we can do a lot with an additional $40 every month!  (Not to mention an extra $40 this month to spend on Christmas gifts – YAY!)

Here’s the point.  It’s easy to get roped into the biggest and the best products, thinking that we need all of the bells and whistles that are offered.  Many times, though, we just don’t end up using those ‘bells’ as originally thought.  Perhaps its time to take a look at your cell phone bill and see how many minutes you’re ACTUALLY using on average every month, compared to how many you’re paying for.  Just because “unlimited” sounds great, doesn’t mean it’s necessary!  Who knows!  Maybe you just want a landline phone to use for emergency situations, but you’re still paying $30+ for that service!  Why not check out and do away with your monthly phone service altogether!  (Disclaimer: I haven’t ever used magic jack myself, but have heard rave reviews.)

As Christmas gets closer, and we’re all trying to make “miracles” happen with our gift-giving, why not look at other areas of your spending first to see where you can free up some money without making any sacrifices.  You’ll be glad that you did!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Do Gyms Work?

You see them everywhere.  They come in the mail with a glossy finish on card stock.  You find them on the table or counter top of local restaurants.  They may even be tucked under your windshield wiper when you come back to your car in the parking lot.  Gym advertisement flyers pepper the landscape of our lives. 

Some make broad promises as to what their membership will cause in your life.  Others show how affordable a membership can be.  If you are already thinking about your health, when you find these little flyers it seems like a no-brainer to sign up.  After all, aren’t gyms supposed to help you get healthy or maintain fitness?  Maybe.  Maybe not. 

A few years ago, we signed up for a gym membership at a Rec Center.  The rates were very affordable and we were looking for an indoor environment to exercise during the winter months.  When we showed up for the first workout we discovered a few problems.  The machines and weights we intended to use were already taken.  In fact, there was a waiting list for most of the machines.  In addition, the times when we could work out were the peak times for that particular gym.  This meant the gym was over-crowded and offered benefits only if we could commit additional time to wait your turn in the midst of all the other gym enthusiasts.

Within a few weeks, we stopped attending the gym because it offered no real value in a workout experience.  The membership eventually expired, having only been used a handful of times.  This taught us a number of questions to ask before jumping into another gym membership.

1. Does the Gym offer enough options and equipment to handle its members?  Most of the employees of the gym can tell you which machines and weights are used the most.  You can also ask gym members who will give you the honest scoop on availability of equipment.

2. When are the peak times of use?  If you don’t like working out with a lot of people around, you need to know what times are crowded.  Then you can plan your schedule around it or decide it doesn’t fit with your time constraints. 

3. Can I try it out for a trial period?  One of the best ways to decide if a gym is for you or not is to try it out for a week.  In this way you can get a real feel for what working out there is like and if it is a good fit for you.

A gym membership is not a guarantee of a healthier you.  It is not a silver bullet.  However, it can be a tool toward health.  A tool is only good when it is used.  You can have a hammer, but it will not create a new roof on a home unless its owner uses it.  You can have a gym membership, but it is only helpful if it is utilized. Ask around to discover if a gym membership could be right for you.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftover ideas -- Don't throw them out!!!!

The turkey has been eaten, the dessert tasted (because let's face it....who has enough room in their stomach after eating all of that 'deliciousness' to eat some pie?), and your stomach is still stuffed from all the food you enjoyed yesterday!  There’s just one problem…  now your fridge is also STUFFED with tons of leftovers waiting to be eaten.  Now what?!?

I know of many people that really just don’t like leftovers of any kind.  Many in my own family, in fact!  Me?…. I’m a leftover girl!  I get so excited when I open the fridge at lunchtime and realize that instead of my usual ham and cheese sandwich there’s some leftover Chicken Pot Pie or Baked Ziti waiting for me!  It completely makes my day. (I know, I know…. it’s the little things, really!)

I’m just one person though, and although I might get THRILLED at the idea of having turkey, sweet potatoes, and green beans for lunches this next week, my family doesn’t share the same sentiment.  It was after hosting our own “Pre-Thanksgiving meal” years ago, and having nearly 8 POUNDS of turkey leftover, I became extremely creative with “re-creating our leftovers!”

Here’s just a few ideas to turn your leftovers into a delicious new dinner…. and chances are…your family won’t even know it’s leftovers!

Turkey Pot Pie -- It may sound silly, but use some of your leftover veggies from yesterday’s meal (carrots, celery, potatoes even!) and dump them in a pan along with some turkey!  I’ll include an actual recipe I’ve adapted, from an INCREDIBLE chef serving at a church in Florida below for you, but feel free to be creative based on what you have in your fridge!  Throw a new piecrust on top and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and voila!  A yummy…. “quasi-new” dinner!

Turkey Enchiladas – This is a BIG change up, but still tastes delicious! Take your usual enchilada recipe and exchange the chicken for your leftover turkey!  The change in taste is EXTREMELY minimal and you’ll be able to save big bucks by not having to purchase meat!

Turkey Noodle Soup – Similar to Pot Pie, this is a great chance for you to use up lots of leftover veggies!  Toss in some egg noodles, and canned chicken broth (to make it easy for you!), along with some turkey, and go ahead and bake a few biscuits in the oven to serve with it!  No one will even know it’s Thanksgiving leftovers and the yummy smell will penetrate your home causing everyone to come find out what you’re cooking in the kitchen!

Turkey Spaghetti – Ever had chicken spaghetti?  Just substitute the turkey for chicken and voila – delicious change-up ready super-quick!

Turkey Pizza – I haven’t tried this recipe before, but we make a lot of homemade pizza in our home so it sounds like a real winner!!  Again, get creative with the toppings you love to eat!  This recipe even includes leftover cranberry sauce giving it a sweet taste!

Now, the potpie recipe I promised…
(Just a little disclaimer…the chef would absolutely make his own piecrust, and probably stroke if he knew I made it using leftover turkey sometimes and make the adjustments I do.  He uses chicken, so I’ve included that in the recipe below.) 

You can make your own…but I usually buy the refrigerated rollout crust you can buy near the butter in the grocery store….

3 T butter
3 T flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 ½ - 2 cups milk
2 lbs chicken (I usually buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery and shred it myself to save some time!  For TGiving…use TURKEY!)
2 potatoes cut into ½ inch cubes
1 carrot, thinly sliced (Steve doesn’t like peas, so we use 2-3 carrots instead!)
1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
½ pound of frozen peas (again, we don’t use these…but you should!) J
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped (yeah…. we usually just use whatever dried herbs I have on hand-- just less of them.  Rosemary, Thyme, etc.)
2 t. salt
½ t. black pepper
(I told you he would stroke!)

Create the sauce for the potpie by melting the butter in a large saucepot.  Once melted, stir in the flour and cook over medium until it forms a light paste (called a roux).  Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, being sure to eliminate any lumps.  Next, add the milk and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat and add the remaining ingredients.  (I usually sauté the veggies quickly in a pan to tenderize them a bit before dumping them in.)  Stir to combine.  Gently simmer 3-5 minutes over medium-low heat to begin the cooking process.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Add the mixture to a deep pie pan.  Roll out the dough and place over the pie dish to cover.  Then, if you have one available, break up an egg in a bowl with a fork and brush over the crust.  (Creating an egg wash – this will give it that beautiful golden brown color!)  With a knife, cut out a few vent holes in the crust to allow steam to escape.  Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the crust turns golden brown.  Let it cool 10-15 minutes before serving to allow the filling to set!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Navigatingtherope regular daily posts will resume tomorrow.  Be sure to check back for some great ideas to do with your leftovers!  For today....go enjoy time with your family!  
Happy Thanksgiving from Steve, Beth, and Caleb!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Cure for the Complainer

Several weeks ago, a water main outside our neighborhood burst in the middle of the night.  The next morning our household awoke to make coffee, but none could be made.  We went to take a shower, but cleanliness could not be attained.  We tried to wet our toothbrushes, but there was not a drop available.  At least for the moment, all the conveniences of running water had ceased to exist in our home.  Our neighbors poured out of their houses hollering across dimly lit streets, “Do you have any water?”  The negative response echoed from home to home, “No.”  Without warning we were experiencing our own hydropocolypse.

I have seldom (if ever) thought about the blessing of having running water piped at desired temperatures into my home, but on that morning I did.  It was a blessing I never thought to count before it was momentarily taken away.  Then the next thought came… How many other blessings am I neglecting to count? 

A blessing that has not been counted is a blessing taken for granted.  I am sure there are hundreds if not thousands of them in my own life.  From little things that make life easier to big things we would have a hard time functioning without, there are many conveniences we possess which others could have only dreamed of. 

It is no small wonder that an atmosphere of complaint has been cultivated our lives.  When we cease to count the multitude of blessings around us, we are left to complain about what we do not have. Perhaps you grew up in a home where your complaints were met with common refrain, “Count your blessings.”  Of all the parental clichés in existence, that one was correct.

Take a moment today or tomorrow to reflect upon all the things you have to be thankful for.  When you are tempted to complain, consider the endless list of things for which you should be grateful.  When we have an attitude of gratitude we cut out the complainer in all of us.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Black Friday Tips and Tricks

Thanksgiving is just days away and for many of you, that means that the anticipated “Black Friday” is almost here!  There are phenomenal deals to be had, and wild memories to share, but this day can also create a lot of additional stress and unnecessary spending if you’re not careful.  Here are just a few tips for you, as you head into this popular spending day.

1. Plan ahead – Stores are full of incredible deals, and therefore the temptation is GREAT to walk into the store planning to buy 1 TV and walk out with 4 IPOD’S, and Nook Color, 2 TV’s and a few DVD’s!  Just like on any day of the year, stores are smart and will place catchy signs and “incredible deals” right near where you’ll be (check-out line, ends of the aisles, etc) with the hopes that you’ll see it and realize that the “deal is too good to be true!”  Your best bet is to walk into the store with a plan already in mind, and not become distracted or enticed by the stores schemes to get you to spend your money.  Whether you want to start planning today, by visiting sites online that list the ads that will be in Thursday’s paper (, or you spend an hour going through the ads on Thursday carefully planning out your shopping trip(s), it will help you tremendously come Friday morning!  Then, once you’re in the store stay in charge of your spending and stay focused!

2.  Set your budget, and stick to it!  -- Perhaps the best idea, before you ever open up a single sales ad, is to create your “Christmas shopping list” and include the prices that you honestly can afford to pay for those items.  Once you’ve got your list together, then go through the ads, and if the price is more than you want to pay, then pass on it.  It’s absolutely NOT worth going into debt in order to buy the latest Blu-Ray player or Amazon Fire that is on a deep “Black Friday Clearance!”

3. Shop Online – One of the best strategies we have used over the years, is to do much of our Christmas shopping online!  I’ve been amazed at the deals we’ve been able to score without having to fight the crowds at Best Buy or Target, or even wake up super early Friday morning!  Keep the end in mind and remember that although the deals may not be what you’re looking for on Friday, they may be even better if you just wait and look at their website Monday morning!

4.  Don’t forget the drug stores – I know this sounds ridiculous to most of you, because when you think Black Friday, most of you think Best Buy, Walmart, or another “Super store!”  I’m here to tell you that drug stores offer some killer deals if you’re willing to work a little bit for them!  Printing off a coupon online before you head out the door, or clutching a ”Free Money“ coupon that prints after you buy the item for use at another time, can save you big bucks in the long run!  Items we’ve scored at drug stores include vacuums, digital picture frames, and even digital camera’s, all for LESS than $5 each!!  (Most of them were free!)  If you’re looking for some ways to save money at drug stores, go ahead and scout out some of the coupon websites we’ve mentioned to you before!  They’ll map out your purchases for you, and even do the math, leaving the bottom line figure for you to decide if you want the item or not!

5. Most importantly…. have fun!  -- Christmas is meant for memories to be made, families to enjoy time together, and the birth of Jesus to be celebrated!  Don’t let crazy lines, stellar deals, or pushy people ruin the start of this magical season!  Keep your attitude in check (even if your day starts at 2AM), and enter the most “wonderful time of the year” with a happy heart!!  You’ll be glad you did!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Hefty Holidays

This week begins the onslaught of holiday happiness.  With the arrival of Thanksgiving our calendars are about to get booked, our debit cards are about to get charged, and our days are about to get a little bit merrier.  This time of year also means an endless stream of dinners, parties, and baked goods.  Many people fear the holidays will derail their efforts to get fit.  After all, doesn’t everybody gain weight during the Thanksgiving and Christmas?  Not necessarily…

According to the American Dietetic Association, the average American only gains about one pound during the holiday season.  There are some Americans that gain much more than that, but weight gain is not the certain destiny of each person simply because there are increased opportunities to eat yourself silly.  Whether or not you agree with the research that went into those statistics, it does point us to an important truth… You do not have to fall off the wagon in reaching your fitness goals during “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Here are a few tips to help you think about staying on track during the next few weeks.

1. Pre-Count Calories.  This is where you have to get proactive with your food intake.  Many people use calorie counting reactively, counting after the food has been consumed.  This can be a helpful practice if you are in your normal environment and routine, but this often goes out the window during the holiday season.  Often you can know what kinds of foods to expect at a Thanksgiving dinner or holiday party.  By counting your calories ahead of time, you are giving yourself some boundaries to help you stay on track.

2. Know when to put down the fork.  Just because the spread includes every food item imaginable doesn’t mean you have to eat it all.  Choose to eat your food a little more slowly during meal times at special events.  This gives your body time to let you know when it is satisfied.  Try not to eat to the point of feeling overfull or sick. 

3. SPLURGE (kinda) There will be host of holiday treats to choose from.  Its okay to eat those special treats, just not 5 of them.  Choose the one or two things that you really want to enjoy and stick to those choices.  It doing so, you are not denying yourself some of the things that make these kinds of gatherings special, but you are not overdoing it either.

There are other strategies out there.  Upping your exercise during the months of November and December to burn off excess calories is one way to do it.  Losing some additional weight coming into the season to off-set any gain is another possibility.  The point is to find a way to maintain your fitness goals so you don’t reach January in a state of regret.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Courageous – Part 2

We watch movies to be entertained.  Whether we sit in a theater with a hundred others in front of a massive screen or at home with a few family members in front of a DVD player, the goal is the same… be entertained.  For the most part, a movie has the power to transport you to another comedic moment or dramatic event which will last for about 2 hours.  Afterward, we think upon the story line for a fleeting few moments as we recount the movie’s events with others and then go about our lives.  Every once in a while, a movie impacts us in a greater way than just a moment or an evening.

Courageous was one of those impactful movies.  The story line of fathers working in harms way while struggling to find meaningful relationships with their sons was compelling.  It caused me (and many others who have viewed the film) to stop and think about what this really means for dads and sons.

Here are a few questions I’ve been chewing on as a dad since watching the movie.  I don’t have the answers yet.  My guess is that the answers to these questions will morph over time as my son continues to grow and change.  So I’ll just lay these questions out for each of us to consider.

How Should I Be Fighting For My Children?  The men of the film were fighting for their kids.  They were going against the grain of culture and popular opinion to give their children better opportunities.  They were guarding their children’s hearts and helping them navigate real life decisions.  My son is still young, but I’ve got to be ready to fight for his life and future as he matures.

What is More Important Than My Children?  The answer should be an easy one, right?  Aside from my relationship with God and my wife, there is nothing that should be more important.  And yet, as the movie displayed I can say my top priorities include my son, but live in total denial of that fact.  To put the question in another way, what are the things in my time and actions that I allow as a greater priority than my son?  What can I do to rearrange those priorities?

What am I Modeling?  As a dad, you are the primary male role model for your child.  Every other man will be measured against your standard in your children’s eyes.  Therefore, I’ve got to consider what kind of role model I am for my son.  Let’s rephrase the question… If my son grew up to be just like his dad, would I be okay with that?  If not, what changes do I need to make?

Who Is Holding Me Accountable?  The film portrays a group of men who gather to make a commitment to their family and hold each other accountable.  This was difficult at times for the men in the film, but it gave a realistic depiction of what accountability looks like.  Men need someone to ask them tough questions.  We need accountability from others, especially in the great calling of Fatherhood.

What Do I Need To Do To Be Courageous?  Self-examination and action are required to assume the role of becoming a courageous dad.  There have been a number of resources and books made available in recent days on the subject of being a courageous parent.  These are helpful tools to continue to challenge us toward courage in raising our kids.  In the end, it all comes down to my resolve as a dad to be courageous no matter the cost.  My son’s life is on the line.  What do I have to do today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life to be a courageous dad?

Courage is not easy.  If it were, then each man would be described as heroic, but we know that this kind of description is worthy of precious few guys.  Even so, I want to be a courageous dad.  It doesn’t require perfection (thank the Lord).  But, it does mean giving it my best effort and top priority.  Courage is the calling for fathers.  It has been issued all across the country by this film.   Will you and I answer the call?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Huge Requirement for Leaders

Leaders are always ready to act.  We see capture a vision and are ready to move on solutions, dreams, and fulfilling the mission.  For leaders, the answer has been confirmed.  We have thought through the possible scenarios and the various aspects of the issues we face.  So when it comes to taking action, leaders are chomping at the bit to go!  

Action is where the leader desires to be.  It is where they thrive.  It is also where they find themselves most vulnerable.  If those we lead have not yet captured the vision or committed to the mission, they can easily get suspicious of the leader.  

"Who does he think he is?" "What does she think she is doing?" "I'm not so sure this is the direction we need to be heading." Just because the leader feels as though they have reached the answer does not mean their followers have reached the same conclusion.

A wise man once said of leaders, "Don't get too far out in front of the people you are trying to lead.  If you do, they will not be able to keep up.  Then you are no one longer a leader.  Just a guy taking a walk."  This is the dangerous tendency for the leader whose vision is huge.  That is why each leader must learn the character trait they may find the hardest to develop, patience.  It is among the most essential necessities for a leader.

Patience means taking the people you lead with you on the journey toward the future.  It means being mindful of getting buy-in and input into the goal-setting process.  Leading is guiding the process and insuring the mission remains supreme.  It is not draging people unwillingly toward a perceived vision of the future.

So what do you do we you are tired of being patient?  When you know where you want to go and how you want to there? When you are ready to press the pedal to the metal and race toward the fulfillment of the vision you have created?

Don't Quit - If you are tired of waiting, don't quit the ones you are trying to lead.  Chances are you may think others would move more quickly toward your vision I another context.  This is untrue for the most part.  People are just as slow to adopt change and create momentum in any context.

Keep Casting the Vision - Night and day, keep casting the vision you possess. Be known by it.  Don't stop sharing it until the people around you can quote it and have adopted it for themselves.

Pace Yourself - A former pastor I worked for was fond of saying, "We are in a marathon, not a sprint.". Remember, almost everything worth doing takes an incredible amount of time.  Pace yourself just ahead of where those you are leading find themselves and not any further.

Get Input and Buy-In - Ask people what they think.  Really listen. be open to exchanging your ideas for better ones that come along.  Invite people into the process of building a vision and direction.

The patient leader gets to enjoy the victory of achieving the vision.  The impatient leader often never sees this occur.  You may be frustrated with what little can happen in three months.  You would surprised with what can happen in three years.  Be patient.  Good things come to those leaders who are.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Foursquare has always been a popular P.E. game.  Each player steps into one large square containing four equally sized squares.  The game calls for one of those red-rubber balls that are useful for nearly every other P.E. sport from Dodgeball to Kickball.  Player One bounces the ball into one of the squares of their three opponents who must then deflect the ball into another opponent's square.  This goes on and on until the ball is double bounced in a single square or goes out of bounds.  It is a simple game and yet it bears a striking resemblance to a personal growth principle.

There are four quadrants concerning our time and tasks. 

1 – Important and Urgent: Things that have to be done.  These items generally shoot to the top of our top do list and get priority status on our schedules.

2 – Important and Not Urgent – These things may not cry out for our attention, but are important to get around to at some point.

3 – Un-Important and Urgent – These are things that seem to want your attention right now, but are not necessarily of great value in the grand scheme of things.

4 – Un-Important and Not Urgent – These are the things that are not pressing and have no great value in terms of progress.   However, Quad 4 cannot be ignored.  Down time and relaxation are found in this quadrant.

Each life has tasks, appointments, meetings, and requests of varying degrees of importance and urgency. In trying to create a life of balance, we have to learn to divide our time across the spectrum.  Here’s an example.

In a three-minute span, the following occurs.
·      You get a call that your son/daughter has slipped at school and hurt their ankle.  The child should be okay, but they will need to see a doctor.
·      When you got the call, you had just begun working on a special project for work.  It has great impact on your department, but isn’t due until the following week.
·      When you hung up the call, your spouse sends you a text that reads, “We are out of milk and bread.”
·      In the corner of your computer screen, a new email notification pops up reading “FW: Hilarious video of Dog with Red Balloon”.

You can probably already distinguish which things are most important and most urgent in the scenario.  Each thing fits somewhere in the spectrum referred to above. 

Quad 1 - It is important and urgent for you to take your child to the doctor.

Quad 2 – The work project will have to be done at some point if your value your job.

Quad 3 – Picking up milk and bread is an urgent, though not particularly important given the circumstances.

Quad 4 – You may love dogs, balloons, and red may be your favorite color, but this email is neither urgent nor important.

The key to balance is learning to prioritize wisely while creating enough margin to spend time in each of the quadrants.  If you live in Quad 1 and never spend any time in Quad 4, you will be heading for burnout.  If you spend all your moments in the urgency Quad 3 you will never accomplish the important things in Quad 2. Not everything is important.  Not everything is urgent.  However, each quadrant has merit for finding balance in our lives.

Back to our foursquare reference, the goal is to keep the ball bouncing from square to square.  It will probably bounce most often in Quads 1 and 2, but should occasionally bounce to 3 and 4 as well.  This is more of an art than an exact science.  No one gets it perfect all of the time.  However, as we look at our time in these kinds of terms we understand that balance is attainable.  Start thinking of ways to get the ball bouncing between Quads.  Be a master foursquare player.

** Elements of this concept have been  first attributed to Steven Covey and can be found in many of his resources.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It Was Just $2

Beth and I had been married less than a year when it happened.  I was making a purchase at the bookstore on campus where I was attending school.  The credit card system was down in the store, which meant they could not swipe my debit card.  The books I wanted to buy were important, but not necessarily an urgent need for that day.  However, I was already there and had the books in hand.  The cashier told me there was an ATM just around the corner I could use.  I left the books with him at the counter and went in search of some cash.

When I found the ATM I noticed it was from different bank than we used.  I realized there would be a charge, but I reasoned that the charge would be minimal and would save me time in the long run.  My card was inserted, the cash spit out, and I returned to the bookstore to make my purchase.  After running a few more errands around campus, I came home to our first apartment.

Like normal, I entered in the door and found my new wife welcoming me with a smile.  We talked about our days and I got around to showing her the books I had bought.  Then I recounted the crazy story about the credit card system being down at the bookstore.

Then she asked, “So how did you get the books?”

“There was an ATM around the corner.”

She inquired further.  “Was it a Wachovia ATM?”

“No.  But it was just a $2 charge.”

The mood in the apartment changed quickly.  She was frustrated and I could tell.  I asked why it was such a big deal for me to use the ATM.  After all, it was just $2!

That was when my financially savvy wife, gently showed me of a pattern she saw emerging.  In the early months of our marriage, “it was just $___” had become a common catch phrase of mine.

“I bought this candy bar.  It was just a dollar.”

“Yeah, I parked on the street instead of using the parking lot.  But the meter was just $3.”

“I forgot to turn in those library books, but the late fees were just $1.50.”

On and on it went.  Over the course of a week I may have said it five or six times.  The average of my “it was just $ ___” was amounting to about $10 a week.  If the pattern continued without getting worse, it would have amounted to around $500 in that first year.  We were both working at quick-service restaurants (aka fast-food) and could not afford that kind of annual expense.  She got my attention and I resolved to do better.

The occasional $1 or $2 expense is not normally what sinks a family budget.  When these kinds of small expenses add up over the course of several months or a year, they can put pressure on your income.  If you are looking for a place to cut expenses to make your budget go farther, consider what unnecessary, small expenses you are spending each week.  It may just be $2, but the sum of $2 over the course of time can make a real difference in your budget.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Taking It For Granted

Growing up, our family always parked our vehicles in a carport built off the side of our home.  A carport is like a garage without walls.  There was a roof over the cars to protect them from the elements and a concrete slab for the cars to rest upon when they were not in use.  A few stairs came down from the porch of our house toward the carport and our family’s means of transportation. 

Each and every day in grade school, I would run out the door and leap off the top of the 3 stairs leading down to the carport.  Each time I jumped I braced myself against the window of our car when I landed.  This was a quick thrill for me.  The joy of careening through the air for a brief moment before landing with arms outstretched against the car window was something I became accustomed to.  I took for granted that my little moment of fun would bear me no harm.  This all changed one day when I was in the 5th grade.

Following my normal routine, I got ready in the house, exited the front door, got a running start across the porch toward the carport and launched myself into the air toward the car.  In an instant, I knew something was wrong.  Up to this point, the window of the vehicle had always been up.  I took it for granted that the window would always be up.  After all, I had heard my mother make the request a thousand times to put up the window.  On that day, as I soared through the air I realized that the car window had been left down.  I contorted my body as best I could to avoid hitting the car, but there is no use in backpedaling when you are in mid-air. 

My hands and arms entered the car.  The rest of my body did not.  My skull crashed into the frame of the vehicle above the empty window space.  I collapsed to the ground in a heap, sure that I was going to die from the impact.  What actually resulted was a lump just over my eye that eventually became my first black eye.  At school, friends and teachers asked how I received my first shiner.  I told them that I got into a fight.  I conveniently left out the detail that this fight was with my mother’s 1986 Pontiac. 

Many of us often find ourselves in the same life situation I did when I was in 5th grade.  We are going along just fine, doing what we always do, taking for granted the things that have always been in place.  Then, in a single instant we realize we have taken something for granted, believing it would always be there.  By the time we realize it has been removed, it is too late.  There is no way to turn back time, reverse decisions, or change your mind before you come face to face with the outcome you set your life toward.  This scenario is particularly true with our health.

I will never forget having a conversation with a man who was entering his retirement years.  He told me about the many things he had to look forward to.  This would all be possible because he said, “I have my health.  I’ve got a good, strong heart.”  Less than two years later he had a massive heart attack.  He took his health for granted. 

I find myself in that place many times as well.  It is easy to take our health and well being for granted and to not be proactive in developing a healthier lifestyle.  However, when we take our health for granted we will be surely surprised when it is taken away.  While we cannot plan for all the scenarios that may affect our health, but we can certainly be proactive in the things we can control. 

Being healthy requires being proactive in diet, exercise, and awareness.  We do not naturally drift toward better health.  We cannot take it for granted.  We have to take conscious steps to improve our health continually in each stage of our lives.  Put another way, if you are not taking steps toward a healthier you, then you are slowly shifting to un-health.  Don’t take your health for granted!  What proactive steps can you take toward improving your overall fitness?