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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Promise Of Spring



                           


If you like baseball, pitchers and catchers soon will report to spring training camp.  Some cultures will celebrate what is known as The Charming Of The Plow, or Disting, a celebration of new beginnings and if only symbolically, the early stages of field preparation.  And here on the Texas Gulf Coast, my wife and I will start up our garden.  Spring is almost here.

Spring is the evidence of eternal renewal.  The cycle of winter with its cold and barren grip, gives way to warmth and life.  Even a pre-geezer like me feels the rejuvenation in my bones.  Spring holds out the promise of many things to us, but it is just a promise; mother nature can be a fickle mistress.

To make those promises happen, we must work towards them.  It is the time for us to put our backs into our plans, to light the fires of life within us, and look forward to success.  These promises spoken of are none other than the plans made, or should have made during Yuletide.  We make our own luck and begin with planning our endeavors.  Spring blows life into your plans as you follow your pre-planned steps to reach your goals.  If you just sit around and do nothing, waiting for you plans to take form, you will be waiting a long time.  Good planning and follow through makes that plan, dream, or wish a reality.  But, you have to work for it.  There is no such thing as a free lunch, a fairy godmother, or a genie in a bottle.  There is only you.

                                                    Copyright @2013 Terry Unger  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Winter's Chill







For many of us, it starts around the beginning of November.  It's that cold, damp, feeling that enters your bones and does not want to let go.  And, it seems to get worse as we get older.  It's almost like winter has a claim on us.  We yearn for the warmth of a fire and a hot bowl of soup.  But sometimes, a hot bowl of soup is not enough.  We look for hot coffee, tea, chocolate, and our favorite alcohol.  All of these remedies have a temporary effect.  When they wear off, as they always do, winter still has its icy grip on our bones.  Is this all about how physically old we feel at the unset of winter or is it something else; I believe it is.  

As we approach the winter of our lives, we start to look back on our life and wonder if we could have done better.  We silently sit before the fire and ask ourselves probing questions, and at times, we are not pleased with the answers.  

We question our courage.  Did I do the right thing?  Did I hold to that truth within my heart?  Did I have the discipline to push myself to stand my ground and have the perseverance to achieve my goals?  Did I live the life I believe in?  Or did I quit? 

Did I live in fidelity with that truth, my family, and my friends?  Was I industrious enough to be as self-reliant as possible and have a feeling of personal honor?  All of us ask these questions in one form or another.  We do this, I believe, because we abhor failure.  It is like our conscious will not leave us alone.  

It can be called a gut check.  As we approach the winter of our lives, it's just something that we do; our higher selves seem to force it on us, as if it was some sort of precursor to the future.  For my younger readers, this is something to look forward to, not in dread, but in grateful expectation.  Just because you have some decades under your belt does not mean that your life is over; far from it.  Age has its experience and experience leads to wisdom.  Just because there is snow on the roof-top, do not  discount the fire that still brightly burns inside.   

                                               Copyright @2013 Terry Unger       













     

Monday, January 28, 2013

Snow


                           


Since I live in a moderate to tropical climate, snow is something that I no longer see.  As a child, snow gave my friends and I various chances to experience seasonal adventures.  Those snow forts were great shelters for snowball fights, and huge snowmen were our generals.  The tightly packed snow was awesome for sledding and tobogganing.  But when I went from a kid to a working stiff, snow had lost its' luster.

When you have to live with it, work in it, and constantly shovel it, snow is a real pain in the ass.  So during a longer winter with constant snowfall, where do you put it?  If the temperatures stayed below freezing, even during the daylight hours, that snow ain't going nowhere soon.  You piled it up in your yard, and the city hauled off their responsibility, dumping it into lake and rivers, or unused parking lots.  And after 24 hours, the snow that was on the streets mixed with salt and cinders from the city's road treatment, and the smudgy dirt from the streets, to produce various shades of gray; what was pretty against the moonlit night sky became ugly after lunch.  I can remember the good, bad, and ugly of snow in my life, as I can about other things.

Calling up a memory, filing through your brain's memory storage locker, is a conscious choice.  A memory is a personal story of a past event or events in our lives.  When you do it to hurt yourself, to beat yourself up again, that is foolish.  Often, we do just that when we regret a negative event from our past.  We need to learn from our past, even from the good times.  You cannot turn back the clock and redo that past negative event.  All you can do is learn from it so that you do not repeat the same errors in the future.  This is also true for cultures and countries.  Yeah well, I still don't like snow.

                                                  Copyright @2013 Terry Unger

















         

Friday, January 25, 2013

Self-Reliance and Personal Honor







Being as self-reliant as possible is a great feeling.  Well, as least it is for me.  Having the ability and skills to do many chores around the house, and building various things as a hobby, is a good thing.  Plus, having the ability to do many electrical and plumbing things around the house gives me a satisfied feeling of self-worth.

Are there things that I cannot do because I do not have the knowledge to do it?  You bet.  So when I call in the professionals and pay the big bucks, I stand there and watch, learn, and ask questions.  If there is a next time, I have a good idea of to how to proceed.  On another note, I have some basic carpentry skills.  If I can build a 10 x 10 storage shed from scratch, a house cannot be far behind.  If I can do it, so can you.  Being self-reliant and industrious is a wonderful thing.

When you can do it yourself, when you are self-reliant, you will save money, but in the long run, that is the small thing.  Having the ability to do things yourself boosts your self-esteem and your feeling of self-worth.  Literally, you feel honorable about yourself.

People who have that personal honor, that Yes I can do this whatever it is, are the go-getters who achieve their goals. That confidence is huge.  Those people do not sit around and wait for things to happen; they make things happen.  Those folks have a personal honor that denies defeat and only accepts success.  And, they have the perseverance to see it through.

Each and every one of us can have this kind of honor and self-reliance but the want to must be present.  I can tell you that the freedom and independence is awesome.  What are you waiting for - go get some.

                                                  Copyright @2013 Terry Unger







  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Truth and Fidelity


               


The question, what is truth, probably is as old as another question, what is the meaning of life?  Truth certainly is not absolute; it is relative to one's perception of reality.  And since reality is fluid, constantly changing by increased consciousness and discovery, so is truth.

Centuries ago, man truly believed that the Earth was flat and the center of the Universe.  Discovery changed that.  For a few centuries, people truly believed (and many still do) that Columbus discovered the new world.  Discovery changed that perceived truth; Leif Ericsson beat him by 500 years.  And, discoveries in genetics and DNA have opened a whole new world of truths previously unknown.

There are those who hold that their Truth is absolute, and the only real Truth.  In my opinion, that is blindness of a special kind.  That kind of Truth usually has its adherents clinging to blind faith, regardless of how ridiculous the majority of the binding tenants have proven to be.  When something has been proven to be not just outdated but patently false, many times, and the purveyors of such continue to spin their tale to their mesmerized adherents, it has to be either a form of brainwashing or a lie.  Or is it?

To the blindly faithful, it is not a lie but the Truth as they choose to live it and experience it.  It does not matter to them how many times and in how many ways science has proven that their Truth is incorrect, since they believe that science itself is a lie.  When something is repeated over and over again, whether it be truth or fiction, people gradually will believe it.

It can be said that when we live out our Truth, what we believe to be right, it can be witnessed in our words and deeds.  There are those adherents of a certain Truth that feel compelled to leave written tracts about their Truth at your door; they are acting out their Truth.  Even if a person deems that Truth to be false, it is still the Truth for its adherents.  And, when a man holds something to be true, he does not have a problem being loyal and living in fidelity with it.  But what should be done with the loyalty and fidelity given to that Truth when something happens to damage it or prove it false?

In the 21st century, daily discoveries are made that change previously perceived Truths.  A discovered something else is added to the mix (that particular truth) and it alters our perception of that Truth; it makes that Truth even more so, or it proves it to be false.  When men enter into a contract, both parties agree to terms and to the end means that they consider mutually beneficial, thus binding.  Based on this, both parties expect to live in loyalty and fidelity with the agreed contract.  But what happens if one of the men was duped by the other, with deception, into signing the contract?  How can that man continue to live in loyalty and fidelity with the other who had duped him?  In my opinion, he cannot and should not.

If a man purchased some land and the seller had agreed to certain specifics to happen after the sale, and they did not because the seller had no intention of doing so, there is no reason for the buyer to have any loyalty and fidelity with the seller.  Sue him.  If a man had a house built to certain specifics and the builder cut corners by not following those set specifics (to increase his profit), then there is no case for loyalty and fidelity.  Take him to court.  If a spouse has had an extra-marital affair or secretly entered into the marriage for financial gain, the victimized spouse has every reason to end his or her loyalty and fidelity.  These three examples describe how people entered into a "truth" and how deception altered that believed truth (in the mind of the victimized) making it, loyalty, and fidelity null and void.  There should be no reason to continue to be loyal and live in fidelity with something or someone who has deliberately harmed or intended to harm you.  However, there are those things known as accidents, things that should not be confused with the aforementioned deceptions.

A neighbor wanted to do you a favor, a kindness, and he decided to cut your grass.  Unknown to your neighbor:  you put down a lawn treatment that required a 48 hour "do not disturb" before cutting your lawn.  You are out your time and the expense of the lawn treatment.  What should you do?  Thank your neighbor for his effort but tell him about the lawn treatment.  Share a joke and a beer or two over it.  If reimbursement for the treatment is offered, take it.  There is no reason to remove your loyalty and fidelity from this man.  He preformed, within his perceived Truth, an act of neighborhood fidelity to you, and did so without malice.  It should always be so easy.

                                           Copyright @2013 Terry Unger             




















Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Courage In Our Times


                                       


We live in a multi-tech, plugged in, connected world.  Most folks are so connected that their smart phone has become an added appendage.  If all that technology were to disappear, I fear that many people would experience a mental breakdown.  Don't get me wrong; I like technology and the benefits are readily apparent to me.  But today it seems that people walk around with smart phones strapped to their hips, similar to the folks of yesteryear who wore a gun around their waists.  And before guns, it was swords and knives.  

Contrary to what gun control nuts want you to believe, few people walk around with a gun strapped to their midriff.  However, the opposite is true when it comes to smart phones.  Frankly, I believe that it takes some courage for a person to leave their smart phones at home for a day.  Oh, good gawds!  Just consider what that person will have missed!  Like, what virtual friend bought their breakfast coffee at what particular coffee shack.  And, what some goofy reality star posted, somewhere.  Please don't forget who unfriended who on Facebook.  Ah yes, perish the thought!  Yes, I am being silly, but there is nothing silly about true courage.

The lion's share, the majority of us never will be (well, let's hope so) in a situation that played out in my book, The Last Wizard - The Story of a Reluctant Hero (the first book of my Reluctant Hero Trilogy).  Those fictional characters of mine faced a bad situation and made a choice to live free or die trying; many perished.  What the average person faces today still requires courage, but of a different kind.

Personally, I believe that the underlying principal of courage is to do what is right, always, regardless of the consequences.  This is harsh, do not doubt it.  To do that, to do that what is right, to stick to your guns so to speak, requires intestinal fortitude and and a huge amount of personal discipline.

When a fellow employee is dismissed based on false information, and you know the truth, it takes courage to speak up in his defense.  When a woman has the same skill sets and time on the job and receives less pay then her male counterparts, it takes courage to speak up for equal pay for all.  If a child is tossed off a juvenile sports team because he does not fit the social nature of said team, that kid needs a champion.

Unfortunately because of the overreaching of political correctness, most people will absorb the previous examples, plus more, and just drone on.  They are afraid to act because they know that there will be personal repercussions.  The old adage, doing what is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right is spot on in situations like these.  Putting your head on the chopping block never is.

There is no question that people who have done the right thing and had the personal discipline to carry it though have taken a beating.  They have withstood personal disrepute, loss of income, loss of social stature, and fractures within their family.  Well, the heavy-handedness brought against the little guy who stands up for what's right is nothing new.  But for those brave few who have stood up for what's right, and who have stayed the course, they have won the day.  And in some small way, they have made it better for us.  This is a small example of courage in our modern times.  Think about that when you are struggling to summon the courage to leave your smart phone behind.

                                              Copyright @2013 Terry Unger          

     
















 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Art of Hospitality


                                                   

                             

Nobody that I know of likes a glutton.  That's the guy you had invited to your party or BBQ, and acted like a human vacuum cleaner; he sucked up everything in his line of sight.  Usually, people like that do not get re-invited anywhere; they make everyone feel uncomfortable.  On the opposite side of the hospitality coin is the host.

If you are having a party or BBQ, have you planned to have enough food, drink, and some music for your friends?  Or have you skimped out?  Nothing is more embarrassing than running out of food and drink before the event really kicks into gear.  You have decided to serve burgers.  You invited 20 people but only purchased 12 burgers and 12 rolls.  What are you going to do?  Have one of them cut your grass and then make a salad out of the clippings?

The underlying principal of hospitality, I believe, is a willingness to share, but also it is the willingness to be generous with your hospitality.  If a shortage happens like mentioned above, you will make your guests feel unwelcome and you will come off as not only dimwitted but cheap.  If you are not willing or for some reason cannot provide amply for your guests, don't have the event.

On another note, if your next door neighbors drop by, be prepared to offer them at the very least a cup of coffee or tea.  It does not matter if it is a surprise visit, that is not an excuse for poor hospitality.  

A friend of mine and his wife were invited to another couple's home.  When both couples still were young in their marriages, they had lived in the same apartment building.  They were reunited at a mutual friend's backyard BBQ and were amazed at how the other couple kept going back for "seconds."  The inviting couple had made a big deal about the four of them getting together.  When my friend and his wife arrived, the other couple did not ask if they could take their coats.  For almost two hours they sat there, their coats around their wastes, and were not even offered a glass of water.  My friend told me that it was quite embarrassing for he and his wife, but the other couple thought nothing of it.  Who needs people like that?

When I gave all of this some thought, It appeared to me that there is a direct link between the glutton and cheapskate/miser.  They both want it all but give nothing in return.  They have to be one and the same person.  

                                                    Copyright @2013 Terry Unger





       

  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

PBR






For the uninitiated, PBR stands for Pabst Blue Ribbon, an old line German beer with a rich history in the USA.  It was, and still is in some places, the beer of the working man.  From personal experience, I can tell you that there is nothing like and ice cold PBR After a good day's work.  Yes, I am partial to, and sentimental about PBR; it was the beer that I grew up with.

PBR was the keg beer we had at all our family gatherings.  It was the keg beer my dad always had on tap.  PBR was the beer.  And, it's still as good today as in day's past.  However, the popularity of PBR is in decline, as are many things.

PBR is a simple pilsner beer made for, I believe, people who enjoy the simple things in life (there may be those who will argue that PBR is a lager).  Well, in the past, that's the group of people who adopted PBR as their own.  But, it appears to me that living and enjoying the simple things in life has gone out of fashion.

People are still living well above their means.  It seems that the recession that started in what, 2007 or earlier, had taught them nothing; personal debt is still high.  And many politicians have crowed that the recession is over.  Maybe it is but many people are still unemployed and the prices at the pump and on the supermarket shelves have increased, with no end in sight.  So many of the excuses as to why these prices are going up have become, strange.  Wages have not kept up with this creeping inflation.  Period.  But people don't seem to care, provided that they can super-size two or three times a month, play their video games, and be "online," in one way or another.  What kind of life is that?  It is far from the life of days past; go ahead, call me a relic.  It would be nice to see a major and sustained surge in the sales of PBR.

                                                 Copyright @2013 Terry Unger











Friday, January 18, 2013

World -Wide Pants, Etc.



     


Did you ever wonder why, after trying on one pair of pants, and then another, that they never seem to fit you the same way?  Around the abdomen, one pair is a tighter fit.  The pants can come from the same manufacturer, or not, and results always seem to be the same.  The same goes for the pants inseam.  Also, shirt size becomes a pain in the ass when one manufacturer's large is equivalent to another's medium, when said medium is factory labeled as a large; just sayin'.  And really - what the hell is it with shoes?

Women's cloth sizing completely freaks me out.  Men's sizing, even after going through the hassles mentioned above, are breathtakingly simple compared to women's.  The ladies deal with petite, juniors, misses, and women's.  Gentlemen, a size 12 petite just ain't equal to a size 12 women's.  And what is a junior and a misses?

Maybe men's sizing is simpler because men tend to be not so complicated.  Women, on the other hand, are a complex mystery.  In one breath and without shifting gears, a woman can be wife, mother, best friend, and lover; my awesome wife Sandra is just like that.  Sometimes, because of their complex nature, women are hard to figure out; I like it that way.  But I really prefer that they do their own clothes shopping.  

                                                Copyright @2013 Terry Unger


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Supersized


                                           


No, this is not about fast food or obesity, at least not directly.  It's about a shopping adventure my wife and I just had.  "Go to this place," we were told, "and you will get great deals."  Curious beings that we are, we hopped into our Ranger and went for a ride.

When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw that the place was packed.  The store itself was laid out to look like a warehouse; warehouse racks,floors, and walls without any department store frills.  And the way the stuff is packaged and sold, the merchandising method must be to get the consumer to buy in bulk, whether he needs all of the product or not.  As we walled through the voluminous aisles, my wife and I did some mental math.  When we divided the case lot quantity into the price, the individual cost per item was not any cheaper than that same item on our local supermarket's shelf.  Supersized!  Then we looked at the meat, frozen stuff, fresh fruit and veggies.  The price per pound was almost the same as our local supermarket.  Again, the packaging was supersized.  What really hit us was that to buy anything from this joint, you have to pay for the privilege.  They call it "membership."

We chatted with a clerk who had one job; to sell memberships to the "club."  Not gym memberships or social club memberships but memberships to this retail chain for the privilege of buying stuff.  The basic membership, we were told, was $45.00 per year, but for $100.00, we would get all sorts of bells and whistles, stuff that the poor guy who only forked over $45.00 could not get - like being allowed to come into the store earlier for special sales. We politely smiled, said no thank you, and walked away.  Why, we said to each other, should we pay a membership fee to buy stuff we could get elsewhere for the same price, or less?  The only thing that came to mind was that people with large a family needed to load up their pantries and freezers.  But that didn't sit well with us because we reasoned, the large family can do the same as us.  Businesses and restaurants?  They get their stuff from wholesalers that specialize in servicing those concerns.  Or, do folks like breaking down stuff into smaller containers?  Maybe the answer can be found in the psychology of how people are easily led.  When it is said long enough, loud enough, and made to look really pretty, many people tend to believe it.  Have you seen the ads on the boob tube where one retail giant takes a shopper and compares her bill to what they could have saved at their locations?  When a retailer wants to give the potential customer the idea that they can save money by shopping at their stores, they cherry pick items to create that effect, mass market the ruse, and tell the tale over and over again.  So, let the buyer beware.  As we were leaving, we skirted the check out area and saw two things that made us chuckle.  In one line, a rather short woman was holding the largest plastic container of cheese curls we had ever seen; almost half her height.  Two aisles over, a man with his belly protruding outside of his shirt, waited patiently in line to pay for his really huge bag of potato chips.  Some people make the choice to be supersized.

                                                Copyright @2013 Terry Unger      











            

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tag - You're It !




Sometimes it's better to cut the cord than trying to repair the nicks.
                                                     

If you are going to stand for something, you need to believe in something.  If you believe in nothing you cannot stand for anything.  
                                       

Stupidity always stands in the way of common sense and reason, even when it's cute.  
                                         

If you teach a man to fish and are still baiting his hook, you're being conned.
                                   

The sun always shines; there is no need to fear the dark.
                                                     
If a man knows his date of death, he will make a choice between living in fear in a closet, or living his life to experience the most he possibly can.  However we men are not aware of that date, but many of us live in fear of life itself.

                                           
                                 

                                             Copyright @2013 Terry Unger

Monday, January 7, 2013

Freedom




Never doubt that many people have died to preserve our freedom; the laying down of one's life so that others can sup from the horn of freedom is the highest sacrifice.  And it should go without saying that nothing in life is free.  Sacrifice or payment, in one form or another, is required to get anything.  That reminds me of a story.

Once upon a time, four friends and I decided to treat ourselves to a once a month poker party.  We agreed that for the first month, all of us would put twenty bucks into our "fund."  Also, we agreed that a small percentage of every winning pot would go into the fund to help defray the cost of our refreshments.  That pot percentage allowed us to drop our monthly "dues" to ten dollars.  We had more that just snacks and good beer; a few times we were able to grill choice-cut steaks.  We were living large.  But nothing that good seems to last.  Something always comes along to muck it up.

During one of our poker parties, one of our number mentioned about a guy who was down on his luck.  To protect the guilty, I will call him Joe.  After hearing what a rotten life Joe had, we decided to invite Joe to be our guest for one poker party.  We felt really good about our decision.

That night came and Joe certainly enjoyed himself.  He ate and drank excessively, won a few pots, and when the night ended, Joe gleefully tossed two bucks into the fund.  After he left, we congratulated ourselves for showing Joe a good time; a brief respite in what appeared to be a life full of emptiness and failure.  Before we parted company for the evening, we remarked about how much cash we had in the fund.  And, the reminder of where our next venue would be, something that was brought up while playing cards.

Our next poker party night seemed to arrive rather quickly.  But, the night was not what we had expected; Joe invited himself to our party.  Surprised, but not to appear that we lacked hospitality, we allowed him to join us.  Again, Joe ate and drank excessively, but only won one pot.  When we reminded him of the pot percentage, he argued that he had only won once and that we had won more.  Since the percentage was well under $2.00, we shrugged it off and let him keep it.  Before the night was over, we told Joe that if he wanted to be a part of our poker group, he had to pony up the ten bucks for the monthly "dues," and had to rigidly adhere to the pot percentage, regardless of the number of pots he won; he agreed.

The following month's poker party arrived and so did Joe, minus his ten bucks.  We allowed him to pay his dues out of any winnings he had, that night.  That night, Joe won three pots and paid off his dues debt but became a bit testy when we reminded him of the pot percentage (remember, the pot percentage was a big factor in aiding our refreshment fund).  He told us that he needed the money for gasoline; we let him slide, again.  Later, two of our original number confessed that they had allowed Joe to win two of his three pots.  One held a full house and took himself out of the round; Joe won.  Soon after, the another had a flush and did the same; Joe was jubilant.  They said that they intentionally lost so that Joe could pay his ten bucks and maybe feel good about himself.  This is the point in the story where everything really went downhill.

Over the next several months, Joe always showed up without his ten bucks.  And, he never contributed to the refreshment fund.  His belligerent whining and complaining became so great that we even let him slide on the ten bucks; we had created a freeloader.  Joe had reached a point where he thought that we 'owed' all those slides to him - because we were a tad better off than he was.  But, "that tad better off " varied just by degrees between us and Joe.  The bottom line:  the refreshment fund was almost depleted.  The original five of us reviewed our options and decided to end it; it was no longer fun.  After reading this, I know that you are wondering what the hell the story has to do with freedom.  I believe that it has a lot to do with freedom.

How free  can a man be, to pursue success, happiness, or even failure if he is completely dependent?  So dependent in fact, that the feeling is.........everything is "owed" to him, as an entitlement, while never paying in his fair share.  I believe that this kind of dependency is a roadblock to freedom.  Now, there are some folks in the United States who think that the American Dream is dead; I think not.  The underlying principal of the American Dream is Freedom.  It is the Freedom to pursue your dreams, to taste the bitter sweetness of failure, and to drink from the horn of success.  Looking for a hand up is one thing but expecting to be carried all the way is a horse of a different color.  Our words and actions shape our lives, and how we handle life's cross currents, obstacles, defines us as individuals.  The last words:  freedom of any sort is never free - be careful of what you ask for.


                                               Copyright @2013 Terry Unger  

  

















 

Our Visit to Sutton Hoo

When walking the grounds, you can feel the specialness of this place.  It is quiet, save the wind rustling through the trees.  The ages...