Lonely Docks and Sea Glass

I have always loved wooden docks. I love looking down at the water, watching the fish.

There is nothing quite like climbing into a boat while it is tied to the dock, starting the motor, untying, and heading out onto the lake. In the early morning, the quiet sound of the water curling back from the bow is so relaxing!

Lake life is wonderful. The beauty of the water with the sun glistening off the ripples is unbeatable. Walking the beach while no one else is around provides a quiet time for thought, or just time for nothing at all.

I don’t know what fascinates me so much about this pole with the light. I don’t know if the light works. There is an antique wooden pulley hanging from the top. At one time, it probably held huge sharks recently caught. Except it’s on a lake. So, forget that.

With the Great Lakes water levels being higher than they have been in many years, the beach has changed drastically. Some people don’t have a beach in front of their cottage at all. The lonely tree out in the water (above) was totally out of the water just two years ago.

We love searching for sea glass. Some people call it beach glass. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful and we have a jar of pieces we have found. These were taken from the lakeshore just this morning.

This morning the lake was so calm we could hear the sounds of boat engines far out on the bay without being able to see them. The water was like glass. So beautiful!

The water, the sun, the sand, and a few clouds passing slowly overhead provide a gentle rest from the noisy world around us.

It’s time for coffee.

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Awareness of Your Personal Value

How are you feeling today? What kind of day are you going to have?

Whatever you have decided about the day and how you’re feeling in it so far, it is possible to make it better. Not perfect. Better.

When you decide your personal value is the foundation of every judgment and decision you make throughout the day, you are immediately on your way to having the kind of day you want instead of reacting to the day that happens to you.

Economics is based on scarcity. If everyone has the same thing it has no value. The item might be extremely useful, appreciated, necessary, but as far as monetary value is concerned, there is no demand because everyone already has it. If only a few have it, the demand is high because everyone believes they have to have it, and the price is high because there is not enough. That is economics, advertising, commercialism, and the common understanding of value in a paragraph.

Your personal value has nothing to do with economics, but you are trained to believe it does. You are constantly bombarded with messages that remind you you do not have enough, there is not enough, you can’t get enough, and no matter how hard you work, it will not be enough. The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be. You are constantly reminded that unless you have this, unless you go there, unless you’re wearing this, unless you’re eating that, unless you’re driving this, unless you live in that, you have no value. Oh, not in specific words, but that IS the message.

None of it is true.

Your value is you. There has never been another you. There is no other you. There will never be another you. We are all snowflakes! There are no two people exactly alike. There has never, in the history of humanity, been an exact repeat of anyone. Nor will there ever be.

Your value cannot be measured because there is no comparison. Your value has nothing to do with how you look, act, feel, live, think, like, dislike, hope, dream, work, play, eat, smell, run, throw, sit, or stand. Your value has nothing to do with abilities, talents, grade point averages, status, careers, awards, stars, accolades, applause, or friends. Your value is you.

Here is the key. Your value has nothing to do with anyone else’s value. You do NOT have value because someone else does not. You do NOT have less value because someone else has more. Your value is not in relation to anyone but you.

If you do not accept your value, then you will spend your life and effort trying to find it. You will value yourself when others value you. You will value yourself when you finally are able to buy that car the ads tell you to drive. Value will finally be yours when you can afford that house, get that promotion, go on that trip, receive that award, get that attention, be seen with those people. And then you will be left alone with not an ounce more real value than was yours all along. Your value is you.

The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be.

Your value is not a feeling. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your feelings. Your value is not your personality. But not realizing your value will affect whether you react or respond, whether you stagnate or grow, whether you trust or fear. Your value is not behavior. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your behavior.

Your value is you. Say it. “My value is me.” Say it until you’re tired of saying it, and then say it a bunch more.

Dale Parsons MA LPC

How Did You Find Your Niche?

Do you have a niche? How did you know it was right for you?

I need your help. I have been writing for many years. I have written four books, somewhere in excess of a thousand total pages. I have been published many times in curricula and periodicals. I had a weekly column in a local newspaper for two years. Writing has never been a problem, except for maybe being too wordy. My motto has always been, “why say something in ten words when you can say it in forty?” I’m like a friend once said, “The only way that guy could have said less is if he had talked longer.”

Blogging is driving me crazy! I can’t seem to get it right. Maybe I have read too much and I’m making it too hard. I read, “Don’t be personal.” Then someone else says, “Make sure it’s personal.” A blog authority says, “Keep it short.” Another says, “If you’re saying what you need to in five paragraphs, you don’t really have anything to say.” Someone with a ton of followers says, “Be passionate!” A writer with even more followers says, “Make sure you’re not too passionate about what you’re saying. You don’t want to drive people away.” Ahhhhhh!!

This whole thing about “niche” is mind-boggling! I know the definition. The problem is I can’t seem to find mine. I’m a pretty smart person. I’ve had a ton of experiences in many things, probably most of which no one would care about. I’m pretty talented. (Someone said, “If you don’t toot your own horn it won’t get tooted.”) But there are lots of really talented people around no one has ever heard of.

Not only have I done a bunch of writing for readers, I’ve written a big boat-load of music. Most of it absolutely worthless, not worth the space on the manuscript paper. Putting words together isn’t the problem. My problem is settling on something as a niche and sticking with it.

I’m not interested in writing a public diary as a blog. I don’t understand people who take pictures of what they’re eating and write about it. I don’t want to be like a pinball, bouncing around from one topic to the other.

So, I need help. I’m sincerely asking you for your advice. A plebe, a freshman, a neophyte, a beginner humbly asking for assistance.

How long have you been blogging?

What was your experience when you were first getting started?

Where did you find inspiration?

How did you keep going when it seemed like nothing was working?

I’m not trying to make money. I don’t have a website to which I’m trying to drive traffic. Is blogging worth the effort just as an expression of yourself?

Anything else you can offer that you think would be helpful, I will appreciate. Thank you for your time. And, thank you for being an example of how to be blogger.

When Your Kids Outshine You

Graffiti Rock

It’s a gift to be able to watch our own children becoming all they want to be. With a daughter and triplet sons, and now a son-in-law, three daughters-in-law, and eight grandchildren, it’s hard to imagine life getting even better.

Our daughter has been drawing since she was little. She used to love playing with a “Spiro-graph”, an art toy that was popular in the 70s. She was always doodling and we still have many of her early drawings.

As our children were growing up, we loved spending time at Lake Huron. Actually, it’s Saginaw Bay, since we are west of Pt. Austin, the “Tip of the Thumb” of Michigan. There is a huge rock that has changed a great deal over the years, that is a favorite destination for walks along the beach. We always called it “the big rock”, but now it is referred to as Graffiti Rock, since, sadly, years of spray painting has changed it’s appearance drastically.

With constant changes in lake levels over the years, we have seen times when the rock was completely out of the water. Now it is surrounded. On the outside, the water is deep enough for brave (?) ones to jump from the top. I sure wouldn’t do it.

As a middle school art teacher, our daughter has encouraged and motivated students for many years. At the same time, she has continued to use her skills to create her own beautiful work. Recently, her painting, “Graffiti Rock”, was chosen by the National Art Education Association to be included in the NAEA Virtual Art Exhibit. Over six hundred works were submitted. We couldn’t be more proud.

Nothing makes us happier than watching and being included in the lives of our children and grandchildren. All of our kids have made us incredibly proud.

“Graffiti Rock” hangs in our daughter’s home. It’s a constant reminder of just how blessed we are.

Seniors’ Discount Coffee

Let’s admit it. Coffee is not about the taste as much as it is about having a cup in your hand. Trips go better with a cup of coffee. And it doesn’t matter how long the trip is. If you have to be in the car and actually drive somewhere, then it’s coffee time.

I am well into senior land, but the first time I received a seniors’ discount, I was only 45. In fact, it was on my forty-fifth birthday. My wife and I were in the drive-thru at McD’s, and I asked for two small coffees with one cream in each. When we arrived at the window the girl said, “That will be fifty-two cents.” I said, “I ordered two coffees.” “Right. I gave you the seniors’ discount.” My wife and I just looked at each other, I didn’t know what to say. I took the discount.

I wonder if seniors’ discount coffees are skimped in some way to make up for the loss in revenue. Maybe they pull the cup out from under the magic coffee spout just a little early and add hot water. Maybe they have a “seniors only” pot that only contains three-fourths the amount of grounds that a normal pot does.

Isn’t the idea of a discount backwards? It seems, after having four children, that there should be a range of discounts for parents with kids, depending on how many you have. For example, thirty-six years ago, we had triplet boys. Total surprise, boom! We went from one child to four. Coffee should have been free from that point until our kids were out on their own. At the window the McD person could say, “Do you have children? How many? Three? Ok, your order will be twelve dollars and ten cents, instead of eighteen dollars and forty-two cents.”

I have to admit we had the McD meal down to a science. We got one large drink, split if four ways. Four hamburgers, one large fry – four way. Loads of ketchup works like gravy or soup if you have enough.

Bill Knapp’s, God rest it’s soul that is so missed, was like heaven for us. Since our kids’ birthdays are all within a week of each other, we always headed to Bill Knapp’s. We could get a free chocolate cake for EACH child for their birthday. We walked out of there loaded with chocolate birthday cake, which lasted about a month if we froze some! Man, I miss that! No wonder they went out of business!

Seniors’ discount coffee doesn’t taste any different, no matter what they do or don’t do to it. But ask yourself. What does the seniors’ discount mean? Are we being rewarded for actually making it to this age? Are we being emotionally penalized for still being around? Are they saying, “We don’t expect as much from you, so we’re not going to take as much”? Or are they saying, “We know your taste is fading, so we’re not going to charge you as much for something you can’t taste anyway.”

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know the seniors’ discount is available. Coffee at a lower price. What could be better?

Where’s my coffee?

Travel to Australia

Have you ever been to Australia? Do you have a desire for LONG-distance traveling? If you do, Australia is a terrific destination.

We had the incredible privilege of visiting Australia. It was our first trip half-way around the world. Our son and daughter-in-law were married in Queensland and we were thrilled to attend.

We were able to make all connections originating with our local Flint Bishop Airport in Michigan. From Flint we flew to Atlanta, then on to Los Angeles International (LAX). Our flight from home was mid-morning, but we didn’t leave LAX until 11:00 p.m., which was 2:00 am home time. Obviously, by the time we were in flight to Brisbane, we were exhausted.

We flew Qantas Airlines round-trip from LAX to Brisbane. The attendants were wonderful and made our flight as comfortable as possible. We were offered dinner as soon as we boarded, but we were too tired to eat. We immediately fell asleep and awoke some hours later, far over the Pacific Ocean.

Qantas food was very enjoyable, and plenty of coffee and other drinks were frequently offered. We were able to walk around the cabin as needed to stretch our legs. There were many choices of entertainment including movies, music, comedy, and, my favorite, watching live progress of our flight on a digital map.

Being international travel rookies, we made a couple significant mistakes. We didn’t purchase our visas until we were at LAX, which maybe wasn’t a problem, unless it had been. I don’t know what we would have done if they had said, “Uh, you were supposed to get these weeks ago.” When we arrived in Brisbane, it was immediately apparent we had no phones. We didn’t know about purchasing an international travel option from Verizon. Luckily, our son and his fiancé arrived pretty quickly.

The family we stayed with provided a car for us to use. Driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car was tough at first, but we managed. However, I soon discovered my “I know where I’m going” attitude didn’t stretch from the US to Australia. We left the rehearsal dinner and were quickly lost, but just happened to see a couple from the party on the road. We followed them to their house and they told us how to get to our home.

Our host took us to a local country club to see the resident wallabies that were everywhere. They were lying in the grass just feet away from our golf cart and couldn’t have cared less we were there.

It would have been great fun to see a koala, but it didn’t happen.

We were only able to stay in Australia for five days due to work schedules. Our trip was amazing, just not long enough. Someday it would be fantastic to return.

Bats in the Belfry

Nothing quite beats the experience of waking out of a deep slumber to the unmistakable sound of a winged creature flying around in your bedroom!

I heard about people who had bats in their home and could not imagine the horror. When we moved into a house that had a history of bats we were nervous, to put it mildly. The homeowners paid for an exterminator to come so we could be assured there were no bats in the belfry. We were so relieved!

After we settled into the house we were feeling more confident as the days passed. Certainly, the worst of the stories from years before were nothing but memories and we had nothing to worry about. My wife is terrified of birds and has been since she was five years old. The thought of a winged mouse flying around was more than she could stand.

Blood-curdling screams came from the basement!! Our daughter and her fiancé were playing pool but came pounding up the stairs with our three sons close behind. “There are bats flying all over the place!!” I wanted to throw something. The authorities told us the bats were gone!

I slowly crept down the stairs, expecting to be mercilessly attacked by the savage vampires. Nothing. I looked in all of the dark corners. Nothing. I peered in between, under, around, over. Nothing. If there had truly been bats, they were now gone.

I convinced my wife it was safe to stay in the house and not move out immediately. Since the house belonged to the church of which I was the new pastor, I was sure the perishioners wouldn’t understand if we disappeared within the first three months.

For the next few weeks we were not visited again. Then one afternoon I was home for lunch while everyone else was at school. I was sitting on the couch eating and was shocked to see a bat fly into the room. I slowly stood, picked up a pillow, and when he appeared again, I threw it and nailed him! He fell onto the couch and lay there, stunned I guess. I retrieved a BB gun and dispatched him quickly, quietly. Right there on the couch. I didn’t tell anyone.

Two of our sons had bedrooms in the basement. “Daaaaad! Daaaaaaaad! There’s a bat flying around in my bedroom!!” That’s an awful wake-up call!

Workers came and dismantled the basement, once again assuring us the problem was over. There would be no more bats. There were.

I always wondered if I would hear a bat flying through our bedroom in the middle of the night while I was sound asleep. I got my answer. I heard it loud and clear. “Honey, honey, wake up.” “Whaaat?” “There’s a bat flying in our bedroom.” “What?!!!” “Go into the bathroom and shut the door.” She was gone in a flash.

The bat headed for the living room. I started turning on lights and the bat finally made it to the den. I closed the door. The den was the exit to the back of the house, so I went around outside and came back in to confront the intruder. In a very small room, I could not find him!! Finally, I actually said, “Lord, you know where he is.” At that moment I looked up on the book shelves and realized there were spaces behind the books. Starting on the top shelf, I pounded the books into the wall. Finally, when I reached “Moby Dick”, I found the predator. The bat went the way of Captain Ahab.

After many long fights, we finally reached the level of bat-free living. When the house was built, the top of the basement wall, which was cement blocks, was not capped. Once the bats got in, many years before, they were in the catacombs of the basement walls, free to live, breed, eat, sleep, make babies, and reek havoc. The final remedy was foam insulation sprayed into and filling each of the openings at the top of the block walls.

Bats really are cute. From a distance. Having that horrible experience, which actually lasted several years, taught me how to get rid of the bats that had taken up residence in the house we bought to remodel. Lots, and lots of bats. And squirrels.

Whose idea was it to put wings on a mouse anyway?

Free Fun

Do you love a campfire? Isn’t there just something about the crackling sound and constant change of the flame that is mesmerizing?

I love coming out to the fire pit after a great campfire the night before to see if there are enough remaining hot coals to start it up again. To be genuine, you have to start it naturally. No blowing on the embers. You have to find small, dry twigs, stack them over the hottest part of ash, and see if they’ll ignite. It’s a thrill to see that first flicker of flame.

Why keep a fire going on the second and third day? Just because I can. No productive reason, other than pleasure. Yes, just like a kid. Our record is four days. No charcoal lighter, no paper, just dry sticks in the coals.

Why do you like sitting by a fire? What is it that makes you stare? To me, there is a calming effect that is hard to match.

When I was a kid it’s a wonder I didn’t burn the house down several times over. I remember making a stove out of a coffee can and a tuna can. I used a can opener to make holes around the closed end of the coffee can, lit charcoal in the tuna can, then turned the coffee can upside down over the burning coals. The bottom of the coffee can is the grill. My grill meat of choice was balogna. Baloney. Ummm, sizzling, curling balogna, fried to perfection in the garage.

There are lots of simple things to enjoy. A campfire is one. There is incredible pleasure in returning the second or third day and finding enough coals to ignite the flame again. It’s something about ashes that look cold, finding fuel, and discovering the coals are still alive. Flame. Not an inferno, just a nice, constant but ever changing flame.

Makes me want coffee. Where did I leave it?

The Pleasures of Traveling

Do you love to travel? Do you have a long list of the places you plan to visit?

We have had the privilege of traveling to all but ten states in the Country. Unlike many people I read about, I don’t dream of visiting other countries and then saying I’ve travelled. I have loved traveling across the United States.

A few of the career opportunities we have had through the years came with many miles of travel and some very nice accommodations. Probably the best, though, has to be Waikiki. I was conducting a brain-storming session for the sales team at our company. During a lull in the action, I kept writing on the white board until suggestions started again from the group. I wrote “Send Dale and Mary to Hawaii” on the list, and thought nothing more of it. Later, during a dinner trip into town with the team, the owner of the company said to me, “If you’ll visit a few places for me while you’re there, I’ll send you and Mary to Hawaii for a week.” Shocked, I said, “Are you kidding me?” “You suggested it, didn’t you?” he asked. “Yes!” He said, “Done.” We spent a week on the beautiful sands of Oahu and Maui. Amazing. Truly incredible was our introduction to Kona coffee. Oh, wow!!

I always said the best job in the world would be traveling to places and not having to do anything when you get there. I imagine that being a company pilot might be like that, but I’ve come pretty close in recent years. I just enjoy getting out and going places.

With one group we worked for, I was thrilled to pick up a brand new custom luxury van and drive it to Florida from Texas. This was in the 70s, so it was one of those big vans with the cushy seats, paneling, colored lights inside, a fold-down couch, a sink, and a fridge. Oh, and a CB radio! Man, that was living in those days!

On one trip that included flying, I got on board with the boss, he “turned left” (to first-class) and I turned right. I didn’t care, we were flying. On another flight we were both bumped to first class because of a ticketing error. I wasn’t paying, so I didn’t care about that either!

The first long trip in my life was in 1967 when my older brother and I accompanied our grandparents on a cross-country trip on historic Route 66 to California. I wish I had paid more attention to the route and taken lots of pictures. I have been to California many times since, never dreaming at the time I would ever be back. All that is left of Route 66 is stories and old photos.

Now we don’t have to go far to enjoy the trip. It doesn’t have to be someplace new. The drive can include sights we seen many times and we like it just as much. Many good miles don’t include distance.

Where did I leave my coffee?

These Taste Great with Coffee

To real coffee drinkers, coffee is a food group. You know that question about what you would want if you were stranded on an island? There’s only one answer. Coffee.

Coffee alone is wonderful, as long as you have something to munch on. No, really. Coffee, by itself, is amazing. Nothing else is needed. Except M&Ms with peanuts. The hierarchy of needs should be topped by coffee, then M&Ms with peanuts. After that, anything else goes.

Have you ever wondered why coffee is offered in just about every office of any kind, anywhere? It’s because serious-minded people know life functions around coffee. If coffee was removed, life would end as we know it. Nothing would work after coffee.

What to eat with coffee is a question discussed around the world. After M&Ms with peanuts, the next best choice is Dove chocolate. Preferably dark chocolate. The little hearts are just the right amount. Next on the list would have to be nacho chips right out of the bag. Have you noticed that the best nacho chips are in the bottom of the bag where you can reach in and masterfully grab a stack of chip crumbs? Lucious!

Another great companion to coffee is McDonald’s pancakes, no sausage, and extra syrup. The little plastic trays they have are great for eating in the car. I’ve done it many many times, syrup and all. No spills! While I was working on my counseling master’s degree, on weekends for over two years I had pancakes at McDonald’s every Saturday morning, without exception.

Every list of what to eat with coffee has to include no-bake cookies. We were recently introduced to peanut butter no-bakes, which are, essentially, the original no-bakes someone made and forgot the dark chocolate. I don’t know how you forget chocolate, but the resulting cookies were fantastic!

After M&Ms with peanuts and Dove chocolate, can you seriously come up with something better to eat with coffee than Bush’s baked beans? Come on! Really! Doctor them up with a little brown sugar and some barbecue sauce, and you’re sitting on the top rung. Coffee and baked beans. Oh, wow!

Here are a few more suggestions you might want to try with your next cup: Frosted Mini-Wheats, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Ritz Crackers, Mini-Saltene Crackers, carrots, apples, cheese of all kinds, potato salad (without mustard), hot dogs, cold bean salad, potato chips, raw almonds, sliced almonds, baked almonds, cashews, Cocoa-Puffs, and ice cream.

I think I have some M&Ms with peanuts somewhere.

Where’s my coffee?