It isn’t stealing if you give it away.

Perhaps you have read about the New Hampshire man who recently lost his life savings on a carnival game. For some reason he thinks that he was cheated. There is something seriously wrong going on here, and it isn’t with the carnival game.

Perhaps it was rigged. That is par for the course with carnival games. It is how they stay in business. But they didn’t have a gun to his head. He felt cheated by them, but he let it happen.

The man is 30 years old, and his life savings amounted to $2,600. That alone is kind of sad. I certainly understand it. I’ve been there. This is the American way. Don’t think about the future at all. Don’t save, don’t plan ahead, don’t think about the repercussions of your actions. This is why people who smoke for years get surprised that they get lung cancer.

There is something very dangerous in this way of thinking. We are asleep when we think like this. But let us continue with the facts of the story.

He was trying to win an Xbox Kinect. They cost anywhere from $200 to $300 based on the capacity of the model.

He was playing a game called Tubs of Fun. The object is to toss balls into a tub. The problem is that the balls kept popping out the further he got into the game. He kept playing, and spending more money.

This is the very definition of throwing good money after bad.

He lost $300 to start off with. He would have been better off just buying the console, but by then he was hooked. He said “You just get caught up in the whole ‘I’ve got to win my money back.’”

Then it gets even worse. He went home. He didn’t keep working on impulse and the excitement of the game. He had time to cool off. But he didn’t. He got the rest of his money ($2,300) and went back to the carnival and continued to play the game. He lost all of it.

He did however win a stuffed banana with dreadlocks.

He contacted the police and is considering a lawsuit. The company that put on the carnival has since pulled the game and is interviewing the contractor of the game.

It isn’t the game that is at fault.

I find it doubtful that you can sue anybody for taking what you hand them. He wasn’t robbed. He got caught up in the game. He had time to cool off and didn’t use it. Nobody forced him to play the game.

“For once in my life I happened to become that sucker,” he said. “It was foolish for putting up my life savings.”

It is a sad story. It isn’t unfortunate. There wasn’t bad luck involved. There were a series of bad decisions. It is sad because he lost a lot of money for no good reason. It is sad because he didn’t know when to stop. It is sad because he still thinks it is somebody else’s fault that he threw away his money.
We have to stop letting ourselves be victims of our own lack of attention. We have to start being intentional. We have to wake up. We have to think about the repercussions of our actions, and our lack of action.

Writing and the Word.

The more you pay attention to the results, the more you aren’t paying attention to the now. People need to hear what you have to say, but the more you think about how you are going to present it, the less you are actually presenting it.

Don’t worry about the title of the book or how you are going to manage the book tour. Just write the book. And how do you write a book? Word by word, line by line. If you look at the hugeness of the idea of a book, you’ll never get started. If you start to wonder if “hugeness” is really a word, you might not even get to the next paragraph.

I find it helpful to work in other mediums as well, such as painting, collage, and beading. Any creative exercise is the same. You can learn something about the process of creating while doing anything creative. Whatever you work on, it will almost never end up the way you planned. Often that is a good thing. Whatever the medium you will learn patience and practice and process.

Let the Spirit of the Creator work through you. We are merely vessels. We aren’t the life-giving nourishment within. We are just a way to hold it.

What if someone needs water, and you bring it to them? Do you bring them a glass or a bucket? Or perhaps they need a sippy cup. Or just a handful? They need water to live, but bringing it to them in a way that they can’t handle isn’t fair or helpful. They can’t drink from a firehose. Perhaps they can handle a garden hose, but then they would feel like you don’t care.

Do you use your best stemware, or do you use a plastic cup from Taco Bell? The water is the same. They need the water to live. But how you present it makes a huge difference.

Some might feel that they aren’t worthy to use the stemware. It is handcut lead crystal. It is from Waterford, Ireland. They are afraid they will drop it. They are afraid they will chip it.

Then there are those who feel insulted if you serve them water in a plastic cup from a fast-food restaurant. “Don’t you know who I am?”

The same is true of giving people the truth. They might not be ready to receive what you are ready to give. They might not like how you are serving it to them.

You can’t please everyone. Serve the water. They need it. You can make it easier or harder but you still won’t reach everyone. Write what you want to write, the way you want to write. Some will get it. Some won’t. That is ok.

Worth.

Where did our culture get this idea of not having worth? Is it a problem that pervades culture and nationality? Is it just part of being human?

I met a guy who recently had been in a car accident. The car got out of control and ended up in a lake. The car was destroyed yet he was unharmed. He kept telling me about the trajectory of the car. There was no way he should have survived.

He became choked up just thinking about it. He was surprised that God would have saved him. He didn’t feel special or important enough to save.

I think a lot of us feel that way. I think a lot of us feel that we aren’t special, or important, or valuable.

I am here to tell you that your existence on this planet is proof that you are valuable to God. The fact that you were born means you are special. The fact that you are still alive right now means that you are important. You are part of God’s plan.

Really.

It may not make sense to you. You may not know what your purpose is. That is OK. You don’t have to know.

I heard in a podcast I enjoy that every breath you take in, every beat of your heart is God saying that He loves you and wants you here.

Know that you are loved. Know that you are cherished.

The world goes out of its way to bring you down. Don’t join it.

On writing.

I’ve always heard that if you want to be a writer, just write.

While this is true, it makes it seem so simple. And it is that simple. Yet it is very hard. Anybody can write. Not everybody can write well. What makes a good writer is a lot of practice and not a lot of self-editing at the beginning.

We think we should be able to write well without any work. We are surrounded by language all the time. We talk in complete sentences (mostly). We are able to make ourselves understood. But writing is a skill that has to be learned and practiced. It doesn’t come naturally.

It is a lot like running a marathon. It isn’t something you just go do. It requires training, and the right mindset, and the right equipment.

I have a degree in English, with a concentration in writing. This doesn’t help me at all. What helps me is that I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I’ve written in a journal for most of my life. The only time I stopped writing was when my parents died, and at that point I switched to beads as my creative outlet. I strung together beads like I did words. Each bead was symbolic of an idea. I still work with beads even though I’ve gone back to writing. It is refreshing to not use words all the time.

Julia Cameron tells us in “The Artist’s Way” to write three pages every morning. This is very helpful. Write three pages of whatever. It is your warmup. Write about the weather, or how scratchy your pen is, or how much sleep you didn’t get. It doesn’t have to be wonderful, and it probably won’t be. Morning pages aren’t for public distribution. Morning pages are to get things going. You may come up with something fabulous or a seed of a blog post from morning pages, but don’t worry if you don’t.

Carry a notebook with you at all times. Become a sifter, a picker. Ideas will come to you and your job as a writer is to catch them and save them. Anne Lamott says ” Carry a pen with you everywhere, or else God will give me all these insights and images that were supposed to go to you.” This way, when you are ready to write, you already have the ideas captured. It is then simple to string them together into paragraphs and pages.

This took me a long time to figure this one out – divide the notebook in sections. Put a topic at the top of each page as it comes to you. Fill in the pages as more of that topic comes. This way you aren’t flipping the notebook pages back and forth trying to find similar notes when it is time to write.

Margaret Guenther in “Holy Listening” tells us that it is OK to cover the same topic. You won’t ever exhaust certain topics, and by approaching them from different angles on different days, you’ll find out different things. Go ahead and write what you have to say now, knowing that you might have other things to say about it later. You won’t ever have it all in one place. Write anyway.

It takes a pretty high level of self esteem to write when you know other people are reading it. It means you think that you have something worthy of being heard. Here’s the important part – everybody has something worth being heard. Every single person’s voice is important. Use yours. I’m giving you permission. Even if you think it is just silly rambles, write anyway. Somebody will get something from it. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it too.

Do something rather than nothing. Your post might not be as wonderful as you think it should be. It might be OK, but not stellar. It is better to post it and move on than to not post it at all. I’m always surprised when people say that they really liked something that I thought wasn’t my best.

Whatever you write, it will look pretty ugly at the beginning. Nobody writes perfectly composed pieces at the beginning. This is true at the beginning of writing in general, and writing each piece. Let go of the self-criticism and just keep working.

Life Hacks

Consider this a public service announcement.

Toilets and gross personal stuff

Always live in a house that has two toilets. One will invariably break and it will invariably take a while for the plumber to come. Also, if you don’t live alone, it is also very common that two people will need to use the bathroom at the same time, especially after coming home from a trip.

Always make sure there is toilet paper in the stall before you need it. This is especially true when you are not at home.

Just go ahead and use the bathroom before you are leaving a place. You never know if there is going to be a traffic jam.

If female, place a towel under yourself while sleeping when you are having a period. I cannot believe it took me nearly 30 years to figure this one out.

Housekeeping

Whatever it is that you always wash together (towels, underwear and socks, jeans), sort them as you go by putting them in a separate bin. Don’t waste time every wash day digging them out of the pile.

Bananas are a real pain to separate when they start to get very ripe. Tear them apart from each other when you get them so you don’t end up with two that are “open” when you only wanted one.

Whatever it is that you use regularly, get an extra of it so you have it on hand when you need it. Nothing slows down a home-maintenance project like having to go to the hardware store. Sometimes it slows it down so much it doesn’t happen at all.

Only shop with a list. No list – everything is bought on impulse and you probably won’t pick up what you needed to get in the first place. Most smart phones have a list application. This is very handy – no paper to lose.

Take apart a bath puff to create a soft mesh container to hold and use all those tiny soap bits. This way you can use up every bit of a bar of soap. Just tie up the ends and you are good to go. This way it also exfoliates.

Money

Sometimes you need a check. Sometimes places won’t take a credit card and you won’t have enough
cash. Fold up a check and put it under your driver’s license. I have gone to restaurants that only took checks, and they didn’t post or mention this before I ate. I went to a doctor’s office that didn’t take cards and I didn’t have the cash for the copay. Worst situation – I went to buy a car and tried to pay for the down payment on a credit card (I wanted the points). No dice. Four hours of negotiating and paperwork for nothing – but I had one check. They took checks. Trust me on this one. Carry one check.

Always carry some cash. I have a 20, a 10, a 5 and some ones at all times, as well as some change. I normally use my credit card, but every now and then the credit card machine isn’t working. This is especially important when you need gas.

Pay your credit card off every week. Don’t accumulate a balance. The fees are exorbitant. Why should you pay extra for what you bought?

Get a credit card that gives you money back for using it. I make about $150 a year this way.

Relationships

This is not original, but I like it. Here are six things to tell your spouse in order to have a successful marriage – “You look great.” “Can I help?” “Lets’ eat out.” “I was wrong.” “I am sorry.” And of course – “I love you.”

Heard from our minister when we got married – “trouble shared halves it, joy shared doubles it.”

Never date a guy who drives badly with you in the car. If he doesn’t care about your safety, he doesn’t care about you.

When choosing a spouse, think of it as interviewing someone for a job. Don’t hire them if they aren’t willing to do the job you need them to do. Somebody has to cook, clean, mow the lawn, take care of the bills and deal with service techs. It doesn’t have to be divided along standard gender lines, but it does have to be done. Talk honestly beforehand about what you are willing to do and what you won’t do.

Some people will annoy you. They may not know that they are annoying. Tell them how you feel. If they continue their bad behavior towards you, then it is intentional. If it is intentional, it is abusive.

Just because someone is related to you doesn’t mean they have the right to be abusive. If they are abusive, they do not respect you as a person.

Avoid tedious people who don’t respect you. Especially if they are family.

Health

When sick with a head cold – drink a lot of water. OK, more than that. 8 glasses is the recommended amount, and almost nobody gets that. Drink a glass every half hour while you are awake. Water is water – not Coke, not coffee. Take an Echinacea tablet with every meal. Eat a spoonful of local honey every morning. Eat an orange every day.

Prevention is cheaper than cure. Eat real food, not processed. Get regular exercise. This is more than just moving around. That isn’t exercise – that is proving you aren’t a plant. You need to work hard at least thirty minutes every day.

Exercise – Find something you like to do. Dancing counts. Nobody said it had to be drudgery. I do water aerobics, walking, and yoga. If you like doing it, you’ll do it more often.

You get out what you put in. Give it your all. Don’t waste your time going through the motions. Really try hard when you exercise.

Don’t make up excuses. Just do it. You’ll be happy when you are through. Skip, and you’ll feel bad. Trust me. I’ve been there.

Get a coat that fits and use it. Don’t wear your coat unbuttoned and then complain that it is cold.

If your hands are cold, it means your core is cold. Instead of putting on a pair of gloves, put on a sweater.

If there are medicines that you take every day, get a small container and put three days’ worth in there and carry it with you. Emergencies are bad enough but they are worse if you are without essential medicine.

Wear a hat. Not a ball cap. Aside from looking stylish, you’ll have a warm, dry head. This alone leads to much happiness.

Other

Take leftover containers with you when visiting family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. You know you’ll want to take some food home.

Find things that make you happy other than food. “Comfort food” can lead to a lot of problems if you need to be comforted with it a lot.

If you have to pick up or touch something questionable with your hand, use your non-dominant hand.

Travel

Pack a spare pair of shoes.

Bring a map, not just the GPS. “Lost satellite reception” translates to “lost.”