Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Giving away $200.

I'm giving away $200.  But need help.   Read my following blog post today to see how. 

On Saturday nights I moonlight at the local golf course tending bar and waiting tables.  During the summer months the money can be quite good, but once the snow covers the ground and the golfers go south, the restaurant slows down.  Significantly.

In the summer I tithe 10% of my earnings without hesitation because I'm making more money and work a lot more weddings and events.  In the winter, when the heating and electric bills are higher, and when the golf course slows down, I don't tithe each week, and when I do tithe, my giving is way down.  However, last week I hesitantly decided to finally to put some money in the collection basket at church.  I told myself, that this isn't my money, but God's.  I said this, but still had trouble parting with the cash.

That Sunday evening I had pizza at my parent's place.  Davanni's deep dish pizza.  With the works.  Awesome!  After we filled our bellies with pizza pie, we started bundling up to go home.  As I'm walking out the door, my mother hands me a card and told me to open it up later.

We went home, kicked off our boots, hung up the parkas, and opened the card.  Inside was a cashiers check.  A very unexpected check.  It was an inheritance from the passing of my grandmother.  The money won't make much of a dent in our debt, but is a blessing because financially, February is the toughest month for our family of four.  It's the month with the highest heating bills, and it seems like all of the irregular bills tend to hit our mailbox.  Is the inheritance check a blessing because I committed to tithing that morning?  I'll let you decide.

A portion of that inheritance will go towards debt and bills, but I want to do something in memory of my Grandma with the money.  I want to give $200 away.  This is where I am asking for your help. 

Do you have a worthy cause that is close to your heart that could use an extra $200.  Do you know a person who is down on their luck and $200 would rock their world?  Do you have a creative idea on how the money could be used to help someone?

I'd like you to post your ideas on my blog or on my facebook wall.  I'll look at each post, each comment and award $200 to the best cause or idea.  A small committee (my wife, my mother, my dog, and me) will pick the winner.

I'll take your ideas until Friday, February 4th.  Then will announce the winner on this blog after the Superbowl, Sunday, Feb. 6th. 

Forward this post to anyone you can think of so we can get a good range of ideas.  Thanks for helping!

Monday, January 24, 2011

 The Following is from the Art of Non Conformity blog.... worth Sharing here.
January 24, 2011

How To Get What You Really Want

Last week I hosted a fun contest to give away my Frequent Flyer Miles to one reader. I expected a few hundred comments, and I got a few thousand.

Wow. I tried to publish as many as I could; the rest are backlogged in Wordpress-land--we can see them from our side, but they're not up for public viewing due to the site being overloaded.

First lesson: if you want your site to run very slooooow, just get hundreds of people to comment all at the same time. In this post I'll share the winner's name and story (it was a very tough choice for my biased judges and cat), but I also want to look at a broader issue.

But really -- and this is important -- you don't need to win a contest, or even join a cartel, to pursue an adventure. Many of the commentors mentioned that it was their "life dream" to go to the place they mentioned. Hmmm.

If it's your life dream, you don't need me or anyone else to make it come true.

Please don't misunderstand me; contests are fun and I'm thrilled to share my mileage wealth with one of the many great members of our community. No problem. But even better, if we can work to help many people have fun adventures of their own choosing, the rewards will go much further than the one person who wins the miles.

With that in mind, here's how you get what you really want:

1. First, decide what you really want.
Studies have shown it's hard to get something if you're not sure what it is. If time and money were no object, who would you be? What would you do?

2. Never make decisions based on the perceived limitations in front of you.
There is almost always a way around perceived limitations; watch this video for a great example. Instead, make decisions based on what you identified in Step 1.

3. Take small, immediate steps toward getting what you want.
Don't wait long; take the first step right now. Possible small steps toward traveling where you want include reading a guidebook at the library or bookstore, saving $2 a day, scheduling a date in your calendar even if you're not sure it will work, etc.

4. Review the steps on a regular basis.
If it's your life dream to go to Destination x, write it on a post-it note and put it where you'll see it everyday. Then always think, "What's next? How can I make this happen?"

A long time ago, Barbara Sher wrote something that made a big impact on me:
Whatever your dreams are, start taking them very, very seriously.
I loved this philosophy when I first read it years ago, and have been actively applying it ever since. Dream big! Then follow the dream, step by step.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Piano Lessons

My little girl has taken an interest in the old fashioned upright piano in our living room.  The piano was my mother-in-laws, which we hauled from her basement in Winona to our house in Jordan.  After the traumatic experience of moving that beast of an instrument, I have vowed to never move it again.  The thing will be blown up before it gets moved.

The piano has remained virtually untouched for over a year, until this fall.  My daughter discovered that when certain keys are played together, the sound can please the ears.  Her only other experience with this piano is her little brother banging the keys in the most obnoxious way.

I think my daughter is experiencing her first "spark".  A spark is a hidden flame in kids, that excite them and tap into their passion.  I don't want to put out the spark, and want her to enjoy playing the piano.   Playing the piano is difficult, it involves math, coordination, and persistence.  I also want her to know that the most accomplished piano players puts in many hours of practice.  Even though practicing can be tedious, it should still be something she enjoys.

So what has been my approach?
1) I let her dictate the amount of practice time.  She asked if I could give her a few lessons (I took a piano for 2 years and also have a few beginning piano lesson books) and we went through the lesson book.  When she had enough of my coaching and when she became frustrated when her brain was out of sync with her fingers, then we took a break.   Now we practice about once a week for 15-30 minutes. 

2) Make it fun.  We try to play fun kid music she likes, rather than some boring music exercises.

3) Praise the effort, not her talent level.  In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliars, Gladwell points out that every professional instrumental musician has put in minimally 10,000 hours of practice.  Were they talented?  Absolutely, but it was the practice that made them great.  If I praise her talent, she may think she can't improve as talent can only take one so far.

4) If she demonstrates an eagerness to take piano lessons.  We will fork over the dough.  However, if piano lessons ever turn into, "I don't want to." Then her piano playing days will be over.

5) Support her as far as she wants to go. 

Will it work?  Who knows?  I'm just trying to turn the spark into a flame.

Anyone out there have any suggestions?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The cheesecake dude

Had coffee with one of my favorite people on Saturday - Dave Johnson the cheesecake dude.  To read how Dave and I met click here.

To say Dave is an interesting man, is like saying Michael Jordan was a good basketball player.  Total understatement.  Dave is by far, the most interesting person I've ever met, and for folks who have met my father, that's saying a lot!

Dave called a couple of weeks before the holidays to see if we could connect.  The reason being was he found an old broken chair next to a dumpster that was about to be tossed.  Upon closer inspection he realized the old chair was made of white oak.  He ended up saving the chair and refinishing it.  A process that took three months.  Knowing that I work for a school he thought the chair looked like an old teacher's chair and wanted to give the antique chair to me.

A pretty neat Christmas gift if you ask me.

The Saturday before Christmas Dave drove to Jordan with the antique chair (and a couple of mini cheesecakes).  When he rang the doorbell he looked into our sunroom and yelled, "I can't believe it!"  I opened the door to see Dave with a big smile on his face. 

"You're not gonna believe this," he said, "but the chair matches your antique rocking chair."  We quickly brought in the "new" beautifully refinished chair that Dave was giving to us and examined the two chairs.

Both chairs have the same rounded armrests, the same style backrest, and both were made with white oak.  Both chairs are have slight symmetrical differences in the armrests and the in spokes on the back rest, meaning that both chairs were not made in a factory, but by hand.  I can only guess that a carpenter or a small furniture store made the chair.

To make the story a little more unique, is that the rocking chair was my great aunt Lou's.  Easily a 100 year old rocking chair.  It was given to me a few years ago when she passed. 

You tell me, what are the chances that I meet I guy like Dave, become friends with him, he finds a decrepid old chair, gives it to me and just happens to be a match to another antique chair that was given to me by family? 

Amazing.  Can't wait to hang out with Dave this weekend.  Who knows what will happen next?

Want to see what the chairs look like?  Check out a few pictures below.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

JK Rowling speaks of failure

Highlights include:

“…why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned…”

“And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy…”

“If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Questions to ask yourself as you begin a new year

The news we received in the final days of 2010 were a huge reminder to keep one's priorities in order.  The news heard was the worst kind.  First a friend and former co-worker died of cancer.   Then a favorite high school math teacher was diagnosed with terminal cancer and likely only has a months until he goes home.  Then we lost a very special person to myself and many people, my Grandma Kaster.

Two lives cut short because of cancer, and one long life with a sudden ending.  We all know our time on this spinning rock is short.  Some live in denial of death, and some choose to live each day to its fullest. 

This year I will set goals knowing that my life is finite.  The theme of 2011 is "intentional"... I aim to do what I say this year.  No regrets.  Below are questions I will be asking myself as we begin a new year.  I post these so that maybe they may help you reflect on your goals for 2011.

There are seven areas in life we all should be reflecting on consistent basis.  A new year is a good time to remind yourself of your priorities.
  • How much debt do I want to pay off this year?
  • How can I save 3-6 months worth of expenditures for an emergency?
  • What can I sacrifice to receive financial peace?
  • What non-fiction books can help me in my parenting, my marriage, my children, and career?
  • What podcast can I listen to while I commute in my car?
  • How can I spend more time with my children?
  • How can I lead my family better?
  • How can I date my wife again?
  • Who can help me on my spiritual journey?
  • How much of the bible can I learn from this year?
  • What changes in my diet can I make permanently?
  • How many 5K races, half-marathons can I run this year?
  • What do I want to be known for when I leave?
  • How can I do more of the one or two things I love to do?
  • What is my career legacy?
  • What friends have I lied to and not set a date to hang out with?  
  • Which friends have I been neglecting?
Other important questions
  • What are my passions and strongly held beliefs?
  • On a daily basis you should ask yourself, Why am I doing this?
  • What one sentence would describe my main focus on life?
It is my hope that these reflection questions will help determine my goals (maybe your goals too) for the year.  Some rocking advice on achieving goals are below.
  1. Attack the goals with intensity and passion, without intensity and passion, you are likely to fail.
  2. Goal must have a big "Why" behind it.  If you don't have a good reason for setting the goal, it won't happen.
  3. Goals must be specific... instead of I want to lose weight, the goal should be, I want to lose 10 pounds.
  4. Goals must be measurable... you need to know when it is accomplished.
  5. Goals must be yours...  Don't lose 10 pounds because your wife thinks you should.
  6. Goals have to have a time limit... I want to lose 10 pounds by May 1st.
  7. Goals need to be written down, and shared with someone who will support you.  Put your goals in a place where you will see them often.