Toilet paper rolls, these simple pieces of cardboard and versatility go hand in hand. It may be an unusual image, but more things have been made out of them than almost anything I know. All it takes is a creative mind and a refusal to limit one’s thinking. We all can turn simple everyday items and actions into a versatile, productive life.  

The modern tissue had its origins in our country around 1857 in New York. I don’t know who first used the cardboard roll as a craft item, but I imagine it didn’t take long. Most likely, it was someone with limited financial resources, and an unlimited imagination.  

My point is this, we all have a finite amount of materials, but we are not restricted to them alone. We have been blessed with minds that can turn throw away things into works of art. How much more can we do that with our own lives, if we take a few simple steps.

The first involves perspective. Take inventory of what you have to work with, and then refuse to be limited by it alone. To build a building, you have to be intimately familiar with the building blocks. Our problem is that, too often, we see a brick as just a brick. An architect turns three brick on their side, and places it above a window as a design element. The same brick that makes up the building, now reflects the structure’s character.

Your viewpoint can alter your entire path. For example, my Grandmother was a woman of limited income. Yet she seemed to have her own personal bank. Her health prevented her from extensive travel, but oh how she made use of her closet. 

It was as if she had bankers waiting to lend her money. Grandma would take a few dollars she had here and there, and slip them into a different piece of clothing. When the account “matured” she would make a withdrawal and send Grandpa to the store for her new living room suit.

Second, you must have tenacity. In mineralogy, tenacity refers to a mineral’s behavior when deformed or broken. Things are going to try to break you, to do deform you, or at the very least scar you. Their goal is not to injure your body, but to bruise your mind. Their hope is that if they can weaken your resolve, you will give up. They can hinder, but only you can stop you.

The third is flexibility. It may sound counterintuitive to the second, but I assure you it’s not. Tenacity is about refusing to quit, not being too rigid to alter a plan. You will succeed, but you may need to adjust your methods to get there.  

There are going to be times in your life when something isn’t working, and your attempts to fix it aren’t either. You must first ask yourself why what has worked in the past doesn’t now. The most likely answer is it’s a different problem.  

If it’s a different problem you have to look at it from a different perspective. Don’t allow frustration to force you into giving up, have the tenacity to see it through. Once you eliminate waking away, you’re committed to finding a new solution through flexibility.  

A toilet paper roll can be everything from a kazoo to a flying machine. A few crayons, a little glue, and a boundless mind turns trash into a toy. What do you have that can be transformed to improve your life?  

Our tool sheds will be different, but the skills to use them are universal. We are blessed with the same mental facilities that placed a man on the moon. They weren’t successes at first either. Before that big piece of metal landed on the moon, it was a paper rocket. Prior to the model it was a drawing, and before that it was an idea.  

One scientist’s propulsion system may have even entered existence as a hand propelling a toilet paper roll across the room. You have ideas, dreams, and hopes, don’t allow you’re struggle to stifle you. Refuse to be rigid, you may have to reshape a few things, but you can be successful. Take a fresh look at your life, and build with what you have. Where you start doesn’t dictate where, or how far you can go.

The Sea Horse: Hyperbole’s Lair

“They’re beautiful, but why are they all video screens and holograms?”  One of Hyperbole’s two guests asked.  “No one sends you to prison for these. Plus, it allows me to alter the entire layout with very little effort.  Some of the walls aren’t real either.  It is my virtual art gallery. One moment it can resemble the Met, another the Louvre.”

His second guest responded. “Today it looks like Oceania’s own Colonnade, including the new Milton Kirby Wing that hasn’t been opened yet.” “Yes, my spies are well informed, as are yours. Tell me, you have a theme, have you settled on a moniker yet?”

The muscular African American gentleman was dressed in the finest golf wear, sporting a beautiful nine iron in his hand. His gray hair looking strange on such a young face, as did his dark gray eyes. “It’s my idea to keep it simple, so I’m going with Tournament.”  

“Advertising, that’s all these things are anyway. This however, this is pleasing.”  Galleon said, the three of them looking at two Vermeer from the Colonnade.  “I knew that you two, more than any of our associates would appreciate it.  If you both partner with me in my real plan, I’ll secure each of you one of the actual painting as payment.”

“So the dinner party was a red herring?” “No, that plan was completely true.  However, an unexpected occurrence has necessitated two partners. Each of you are skilled, and neither of you are well known to our opponents.  Is it a pact then?”

Galleon shook his head in agreement. Tournament spoke, “On one condition, you tell us what has changed.”  Hyperbole smiled. “A seemingly unrelated event, the investment of an old acquaintance into the Colonnade.  I want her to review her alliances, re-evaluate her choices, and retract some old opinions.”

The three men agreed to work together, but while they wrapped up their meeting another was starting.  The Sea Horse, the Inspector, Loggerhead, and the Brittish Rose, and a few others were laying out a strategy to counter any threat. The Sea Horse addressed the group, some were in costume, some weren’t.   “Each of you has sacrificed to protect your local neighborhoods, today, we join together to protect an entire city.”

The Ego Vaccination

  Romans 12:3

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

We all struggle with it at some time in our lives, this disease known as pride. It’s not that we think we are the greatest on Earth, just in the room. No matter how well intentioned or level headed, at some point, our egos are going to need a vaccination.

The best of us are human, and from Adam downward we’ve wrestled it. The threat of it comes with any measure of success. The potential to think to highly of ourselves can be guarded against in four manageable ways.

The first is why I spent two paragraphs saying virtually the same thing. You must be aware of the potential of the problem. Once you accept that it’s a possibility, you’re on guard against the symptoms. That’s what the Apostle was talking about in the verse.

When we watch for signs of a prideful thought, feeling, or action, we’re practicing prevention. That’s what a vaccine is, you take it before you need it, not after. Evaluating our own attitude after a high period of success is vital to your health.

Second is by remembering that our gifts, skills, and talents are not self existent. Every thing we know how to do is a gift. If it’s a natural talent, it was God given. Skills are guided through our teachers, mentors, and experiences. Any gift that we have, was wrapped by someone else.  

A third way is quite honestly through keeping in mind those times we didn’t succeed. Steve Jobs, a business visionary, didn’t learn how to be himself through his success. He learned it through expulsion from his own company, starting over, and swallowing his pride. It may leave a bad taste in our mouths, but like many health foods, it’s extremely good for you.

Fourth, and my personal favorite, is loving others. Relationships give you an appreciation of other’s skills, talents, and abilities. Loving people takes our focus off of us, and places it on those we care about.

Last night I had a wonderful experience. I was part of a meeting with a very creative group of individuals, void of any ego issues at all. Each one appreciated the others in the group, valued their viewpoint, and were flexible to change.  

It was a reminder of what can be accomplished when pride is kept out of the room. To be successful is not the primary thing, to make a difference is. When we remember that, it reminds us that everyone can better this life. As long as we know this, we’re on our way to vaccinating against ego.

Scheduling Relationships

  Scheduling relationships, it’s a funny phrase, even sounds like a new TV show, but it’s not. What it is instead, is the age old practice of making time for those people who are important in your life. Even in a constantly moving society, there are ways of blocking out time for those we love.

The first is the simple act of communication. It doesn’t have to be only verbal either, although it should begin there. Even with six hours between us, I talk regularly with my parents and siblings. My brother and I text pictures back and forth to each other. My sister will send me a message just to let me know I’m on her mind.

Up until her recent loss, my wife played certain turn based smart phone games with her Grandmother. It was a fun way of sharing time with someone hours away. A text, an email, even a joint Pinterest board are means of connecting.

That leads me to the second subject, a joint interest. I know of two individuals a continent apart who formed a lasting friendship over art. At work, people who would normally have nothing in common unite in a love for football.  

Gift giving is a third way of reaching out to those that matter to you. From a greeting card to a gift card for a restaurant or coffee shop , it says I’m thinking of you. To give a gift well, you have to know the recipient well.

You may have figured out by now that what you connect with, and how you connect are only instruments. They can be a piano and a piccolo, as long as they accompany each other. The important thing is to be a part of each other’s lives, even when far apart.

Being present in someone’s life is very doable, if we take steps to block out the time. There are ways to eliminate the distance between us, in spite of the physical limitations, to do lists, and work constraints of life. If we schedule doctor’s appointments, vaccinations, and vacations, we can arrange a few minutes to reach out.

Scheduling relationships isn’t only making time to say I love you, but to show it. Life is fleeting, and our loved ones are with us for such a short time. All of us must find a way to connect, even if it’s making the same recipe over FaceTime on a Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t matter how trivial or shallow the method, the important thing is the person on the other end of your heart.

The Roses Of Our Republic

  Today we honor those brave soldiers whose convictions empowered them to give their lives from Valley Forge to Mosul and Kabul. They cared enough to do whatever it took to keep us a free people. Americans of all races and backgrounds came together to make a statement. That statement was simply this, the American Dream is worth defending.

Like our soldiers, all across this country, good men and women, feel the need to impact our nation. We may not all be able to fight in uniform, but we can all make a difference. In honor of our soldiers, let us start today to better our country, in whatever way we can.

Whether it’s the voting booth, running for local office, or giving time to our community let us accept the call. Falling in step with the men and women of history who improved this country. We can leave our nation better than we found her.

It is fitting that our Lady Liberty is made of copper. Her skin was once brown, but age gave her that now famous green patina. Over time we can change the face of our nation, if we make a start.

What do you believe our country needs that you can help to make happen? I believe in the three great documents of our country, and what they stand for. The Declaration Of Independence, the Constitution, and Bill of Rights.  

I believe in the right to worship, free speech, and the freedom of the press. Which by the way, is the order listed in the first amendment itself. If we believe it, then we must contribute to its preservation.

Look for a place to serve, a gap no one is filling. Whether it’s through prayer, political office, or local charity work, we can beautify our corner of America. It can be as simple as placing flowers on a warrior’s grave.

Historically one of the early days chosen for Memorial Day was selected because the flowers were in bloom. The hope of a better life still grows on that shining city on the hill. The roses our republic were planted by America’s defenders, and must be cultivated by it’s citizens.  It’s our job to maintain what our brave soldiers planted, and to cause it to flourish.

The Sea Horse: The Galleon

The Sea Horse’s cape was made of a special fiber that helped conduct electricity. It wouldn’t survive an explosion by itself, but if it could generate enough power it could ignite the bombs.  Normally that was what you would not want, but it was his only way out.

He positioned himself behind the wreckage, attached the rocket from his boot to a rock, tied the cape around it, and released it.  Then piloting the small makeshift shell he had fashioned from the old cannon, he followed the explosions.

It was a crazy plan, but it worked.  Instead of all of them going off at once, as his attacker had planned, they went off in a sequence.  This created a hole in the chasm, giving the Sea Horse a side door to escape out of.

Soon, he stood on the deck of the boat.  His would be assassin grinning from ear to ear.  “You are much harder to kill than most I’ve seen.  That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, just that it will be harder to achieve.”

The man spoke with an Irish brogue, he wore a gray leather bodysuit, and green vintage coat.  A very special generator in his coat caused his silver hair, mustache, beard and bright green eyes to glisten in the sun, as did the two cutlasses pointed at the Sea Horse.  “These are a modified version of an old weapon, beneath the blade is the barrel of a laser pistol.  I suggest you stand down Sea Horse.”

“We made an agreement, that money is the joint property of the Irish and U.S. governments.  They’ve promised a handsome finder’s fee, you don’t have to do this.”  “Oh you’re right, but you see I’m greedy.  I don’t want 2 percent, I want all of it. As of right now, you and I are the only ones who know where it is.  So goodbye.”

The Sea Horse somersaulted backward while The Galleon, as he was known, fired.  The Sea Horse threw a flash pellet to temporarily blind his opponent.  It only lasted temporarily, which enabled Sea Horse to disarm one of the villain’s weapons.

Recovering quickly the battle ensued, each landing a blow against the other.  The fight lasted no longer than ten minutes, long enough for the Galleon to realize he was mismatched.  “The next battle will be different Sea Horse.”  He plunged himself over the boat.

The Sea Horse followed, but without any sign of where the Galleon had escaped.  Our hero had little time to search, he was due back in Oceania to stop another menace.  His trip was successful though, having completed the negotiations his Mother had started, he finished her mission.

The revolutionary war treasure ship, Vermont, which the British had sunk years before would be salvaged.  The Republic Of Ireland and the U.S. would split the treasure, and the Sea Horse’s organization would obtain a 4% finder’s fee, thanks to their friend the Senator.  This would fund Oceania’s war against crime for generations.

Never willing to deplete Henry’s hard earned fortune, now they had the resources to go after the criminal organization that ran Oceania.  The Sea Horse would spend every penny needed to free his city.  Now it was time to get back and lead his team against Hyperbole.

Project Life

  There are times in our life when we are so busy that every day is a project itself. They are filled with going, working, and doing. This is wonderful, but it can leave you tired, burned out, and lacking passion. There is an escape from the lethargy you feel.

Usually at times like this our thought is “I need a vacation.” We spend two minutes dreaming of the one we can’t take, migrate back to reality, and feel overwhelmed all over again. There are other ways of combating what you’re experiencing.

One way is to carve out five to ten minutes in your day to do what you want to do. Doing for others makes life worth living, but God never intended for you to be neglected in the process. Taking a few minutes to walk, read, listen to a book, or watch your favorite rerun, can give you something back.

It will recharge you, because for a little while, you’re not doing, you’re being. Most of us have some electronic device with us at all times. Make it work for you, find a game, a drawing program, or a podcast which interests you.

A second way is to pick a project out of your wish list that you’ve wanted to do for years. Before you say it, I understand, I’m not saying to complete it. Just pluck it from fantasy into the realm of reality. Make a list of the resources it will take to achieve it.

Start planning it, a little each day. If it’s a question of money, label an envelope or a jar, and put a few pennies into it each week. As you can, buy the supplies and place all of them together, in a specific area of your home. 

When that overwhelming feeling hits you, and you need an escape, go mentally to your project. Work it in your head, walk through what you need to do, buy, or make next. Every step closer does more than make the project happen.  

It gives you an outlet. Empowering you to know that you can have things, in your life, the way it is, without dreaming of a non existent reality. It is possible to pursue your dreams in this wide awake world, you just need a plan to do it.

A third way of dealing with feelings of drowning, mundaneness, or boredom is to learn something new. Whether it’s taking a class, learning a hobby, or teaching yourself a new skill, it’s possible. From YouTube and eBooks, to your local community center, accessing new skills is within reach.

Introducing a new element in your life, no matter how small, breaks up the monotony. It reminds you that there is still more in this life that you can learn and achieve. One of my go to sites is the art of Tony Bennett. His pictures inspire me work on my art. It gives me something to plan, to practice, and to perfect. 

Establish a list of go to resources for inspiration, implementation, and for insulation. This can include people, websites, books, magazines, and locations. Inspiration jump starts the engine of your mind. Learning how to implement your project keeps it running. Insulating is about blocking out those negative feelings that try and run you off the road.

You can get there, you can do something worthwhile, and you can achieve what you want to do. No matter how financially, physically, or time challenged you are, it is possible. It just takes a small amount of time, planning, and consistently working towards your goal. 

Sound familiar? The way you achieve for everyone else is the way that you can complete your own dream. Plan, practice, and progress towards turning your project from a hope to an already happened. Then pick another dream, and repeat.