short stories

Are they family or relatives?

When does family become just relatives? This I believe is a great question.  People of all walks of life view this question extremely differently. Some believe once you say family, it includes all the people that are in your ancestry. Others feel family means the people related to you that are still alive. Others consider a certain group like clubs, gangs and maybe a whole community they grew up with as family.

My feelings may be welcome or scoffed at, but here goes. I was taught and have passed on to my children that family is you, your spouse and your children. Now, when I say children,  I mean those that are still in your care.  This means, it may be the blood child of both parents or one of the parents and not the other. The other being a stepdad or stepmom.

Before we go on, let me say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a stepparent. Some of the best parents are stepparents. A stepparent has taken the children, knowing who those children are and loving them as their own. This is a true blessing, and don’t ever think otherwise. For any of you that have or had a stepparent, remember,  anybody can make children, but it takes someone special to take you in without creating you. This also goes the same for adoption. I believe these are very special parents. Don’t ever feel you are unloved if you were adopted, you are extremely important and loved. You were chosen from the many.

Now back to my feelings on family and relatives.  I believe when you find that special someone, and you move out of your parent’s house, something really special happens. You are out to start your own family. You, your significant other and your children are now your own family. All others at this point become relatives (nice to visit, but no longer considered home).

Multiple relatives gathered around a baby for her first birthday
Relatives are nice to visit, but it’s also nice to head back home after the visit

We all have that special place that we remember as home. However, home now is where your newly made family lives. I believe this is very important to understand. You and your significant other set the rules for your household.  You two have taken on that responsibility, as well you should. It’s nice to ask Mom and Dad for advice, but ultimately you two should have the final say. Your Mom and Dad did their job, and it’s up to you to decide what is best for your family.

I have seen many times how outside influences can hurt a marriage and family. I personally was involved in such a relationship years ago, and it was not good. Furthermore, I and my wife at the time would decide something for us and next thing I know,  my father-in-law would get too involved, and it would end up a big mess to  put it lightly.

Now, if your little family falls on hard times, and you have to move back in with one of your sets of parents, the game changes. You have to understand if this happens, you are now under the rules of the household you have just moved in with. I’m not saying it’s wrong, just be well aware what you are getting into and make a plan to move back out as soon as you can, if for nothing else but your own  sanity. Also remember, your Mom and Dad did their job with you already,  don’t make them come out of retirement and do it all over again.

Mom's left hand and dad's right hand together making a heart. Within their hands is a teenager's hands holding the baby's feet.
One whole family

I am the first to say that I’m no specialist in family matters, far from it. I have been in some of these situations and I know the problems they can lead to. If you plan on having a happy marriage for years to come,  you must back each other up and don’t let relatives tear you apart. As I said relatives are nice to visit, but home is home. Take care out there and remember,  we are all in this together.

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A simple handshake will do

Do you remember when a handshake was all that was needed? I remember, when I was a kid growing up in Missouri, watching my dad do many business deals with nothing more than a handshake. At the time, it didn’t seem like much of an undertaking.  I mean, everybody in them parts had a contract with someone else and all it was a simple gesture. The only time I remember seeing my dad sign any kind of paperwork for services of any kind was at the car lot or when he signed the banknote for our house.

Why is it now you have to sign your life away to get anything.  I mean, if you have a next door neighbor, and you want to put up a fence on the property line, the first thing that comes up is going down and getting a legal document signed so nobody gets sued. It doesn’t matter if this so-called fence is helping both parties or not.

I remember a neighbor we had come to dad and asked if it was okay to replace a fence in between our farms that had been damaged by a winter storm.  My dad kinda laughed and said, “Now, Jerry, why would you ask a silly question like that? Of course, you can change out that section, and I’ll pay half the cost”. Jerry said,” I just wanted to be respectful “. The next morning, when I dragged myself out of bed, I looked out the window and their Jerry and my dad were working together to replace that section of fence.

It was the same all over the Ozarks, and I’m pretty sure it was everywhere else except maybe the big cities where everyone was uptight all the time living so close to each other with no elbow room.

Nowadays, even in the backwoods, it seems like everybody is so afraid that they are going to be sued over something stupid,  there’s a mountain of paperwork to do with your neighbor just to put up a flag pole on your own property because your neighbors have to look at it.

I want to get back to the time when people trusted one another and not just be neighbors, but be neighborly. When did things change and become so bland? Where did we go wrong? I know part of it is because everything everywhere offends someone somewhere. But, I don’t think that’s the whole problem, even though it is a big part of it. I’m concerned about this great mistrust of one another that has gripped society today.

White man and black man shaking hands in the woods

It used to be a handshake was a man’s bond, now it means little to nothing.  It is really sad how far we have regressed as humans. Wait long enough and clothes, music and other such things come back into style again. Let’s bring back trust in our fellow man and make a handshake a man’s bond once more. It’s bad enough we can’t get countries to get along, but when we can’t even get along with our own countrymen, something is truly amiss.

I know I bounced around a lot in this post, but if you really look at what is happening out there, this is all tied together. We better figure it out soon because it isn’t looking good. Take care of yourselves and your neighbors. We all have to work together before it completely falls apart. The sad part is we are barely holding on by a thread now. Remember, we are all in this together.

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I said patience!!!

I thought I had great patience, however, like most Americans, I don’t have as much as I thought. I am learning to be a little more patient because of this blogging thing I have going on now.

I have learned that one letter or number put wrong in the wrong spot, can cost hours upon hours to fix unless you have the gift or training to find your mistake. I do not possess this quality on either side of that coin. Furthermore, I’m a learn as you go kinda guy. This learns as you go thing is not a great thing to have when dealing with computers.

I have made a total of three mistakes since I have started this blog that have cost me enormous hours of work trying to fix. I will get one thing fixed just to mess things up somewhere else. 

Man leaning over table,  gripping table with left hand, shaking right fist and screaming angrily

Where am I going with this? Well, other than the complaining I mean. I want to tell you that losing your patience with something is no reason to quit! If I had given up any one of those times, my blog would’ve ended right there. Instead, I buckled down, did a few chats with the computer geniuses and kept going.  There is always a solution, you just have to keep going and trying different things until something works.

Why the exclamation points in the title, you ask? That was what I caught myself yelling at myself earlier today, just before I figured out the solution to the mistake I made night before last. Of course, that wasn’t the whole sentence, there were a few choice words also used, but I’m trying to keep this a G rated blog or at least PG.

Man in a yellow raincoat standing on a bridge fishing in the rain, waiting for that first bite

As a recap, I want to ask you a question. How long is your patience? I think the answer to that question is, how important is it to you? This blog is important to me. I want it to be the best one of its kind. How long is my patience? I have yet to find the end of it. I may get upset, throw my hands in the air and yell out some profanities, but afterwards, I’m right back to work.

Learning to be patient is a lifelong lesson but given enough attention, it can lead to lifelong dreams. Take care and remember, we are all in this together.

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Crossroads showing up in life

I know you have heard the term, I’m at a crossroads in my life. To this, I have to laugh.  If a crossroads in your life isn’t just ahead, well, you must be pushing up daisies. We as humans are at a so-called crossroads every day of our lives. Every day, when you wake up, you have choices to make. These choices (crossroads) can be as simple as getting out of bed or just going back to sleep. They can be as complicated as putting your paycheck in the bank or trying out the stock market.

Aero view of a major intersection of highway that resembles a cloverleaf

We all have plans for our lives, and some work out, some don’t. I am willing to lay odds the ones that don’t work out are because we have either decided to quit on that plan or found a better opportunity to follow instead. Some people believe if they are able to pay their bills for the month,  it’s all going great. Others believe if they haven’t made a million dollars this month, they have failed.

I don’t know where you are in life or where you want to end up. I do know you can go as far as you want if you want it badly enough. Furthermore, I’m not talking about just money, but what really makes you jump for joy.

When you wake up in the morning, don’t think of how bad things went yesterday. Instead, think about how great things are going to be today. In turn, if you had a great day yesterday, that was yesterday and today is here. How are you going to make today as good, if not better than yesterday? Hmm, a crossroads? That’s right, every choice you decide to make today is a crossroads in your life.

Your choice to go left, right or straight ahead with the plan you set in motion today will lead you down a path. Is it the right way or wrong? I am here to send you some good news. If you choose the wrong path, you can fix it because there is another crossroads up ahead. Think of it this way, you just took the scenic route instead of the expressway. May take a little longer, but there’s less traffic!

Don’t dwell on mistakes because you chose the wrong path. We learn from our mistakes, and it makes us stronger people for making them. Remember, mistakes are learning tools, failure is only when we quit. What is your crossroads today? Is it simple or complicated? It doesn’t matter, go with your gut feeling and if you’re wrong, it can be changed at your next crossroads. Have a wonderful life and remember, we are all in this together.

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Technology, Good or Bad?

I have been offline for a couple of days because my website was broken.  It was a rough couple of days full of a lot of hair pulling.  As you can see, my site is back up and running.  Thanks to the good Lord above it wasn’t any longer because I’m running out of hair. This little stint away has brought me to my next journey into a phase where I ask myself and others, “Are we better off with or without the technology we have today?”

The first thing that comes to mind is, I wouldn’t be able to communicate with all of you if there wasn’t internet. The second thing that comes to mind is how much simpler things were when I grew up without all these gadgets we are stuck to today.

Picture of apps on a phone screen

I believe this is a subject that takes some looking into. Do these electronic devices help or hurt us? In some ways, life is so much easier. You don’t know the answer to a question today, well ask the all and powerful Google.  I mean, before Google,  we had to look things up in a dictionary or travel to the local library to find the answer.

Of course, on the other hand, if the grocery store loses power before you are done checking out, we’ll then you go home with no food because none of the registers work. Before all this technological advancements, if the power went off, it’s okay because the drawer still opens to make change.

Nowadays, we can find out what our military is doing overseas by simply turning on the television and searching through a million channels twenty-four hours a day. When I was growing up, we had three channels, and you couldn’t pause the station to use the restroom.  If you left the room for any reason,  you missed what ever happened to be on.

Now, I’m in an up and down battle with myself whether these advancements are good or bad. I mean as far as knowing everything the military is doing overseas at any given time may be a good idea for you, but I’m against it. As a veteran of these United States,  I believe something’s are better left untold. I may go into more detail of that at another time. ( If you would like to read my thoughts on why I don’t believe we need to know everything that our military is doing, send me an email and I may write a blog about it)

River rushing through the forest
There are many things to see without a phone on hand, like this creek.

So where do I stand with technology? I guess I enjoyed life a lot more without it. Sure it’s neat to have a phone I can carry around with me and not get strangled in the cord, but I spent a lot more time enjoying the world we live in without it. I  didn’t have that feeling all the time that my phone buzzed even when it wasn’t in my pocket. Anybody else gets them sensations?

I guess that’s my feelings on technology.  Let me know what you think.  I really like reading the opinions of others. If you don’t want my audience reading what you have to say, it’s okay,  drop me an email like a lot of others do, and it will be between us.

Well, I’m glad to be back to writing again, and I hope you are glad I’m back. Take care of yourselves and set that phone down sometime and enjoy the world around, there are a lot of things to see without a screen.  Until next time, remember, we are all in this together.

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What makes us who we are?

What does make us who we are? Heritage would be one. Our family structures. Someone we looked up to while growing up. Who was that for you? Mom, dad, brother, sister. Maybe it was an aunt, uncle or one of your grandparents. No matter who it was for you, the question is, was that person a good influence or bad in your life?

In my case, it was a toss up between my stepdad and my grandfather.  They were both very honorable, standup men. I got lucky. Others are not so lucky, and their choice of whom to follow may not be the greatest person to follow.

Of course, education helps define who we are. When I say education, I mean learning hands on as well as book learning. The old adage is book smarts and street smarts. I’m more on the lines of street smarts I guess because even though I have a fair amount of book smarts, I have always learned more on the go.

Furthermore, we have to add if something tragic happened in your life, especially if it were at a young age. I have seen some with tragedy in their lives do very well and others not so well.

Sign laying on a desk  with you got this printed on it
Be who you want to be

In all the cases I have presented, you have a choice how to respond to the things in your life, whether good or bad. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to follow the good influences or bad? Are you going to get back up after a tragedy, or wallow in self-pity?

Again I ask, “What makes you who you are?”. I believe this is self-evident,  You are who you make yourself! Now go out there and tackle this world and give it everything you got. I’m with you, Remember, we are all in this together.

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Why are people so mean?

We all have a certain mean streak in us. I believe some people have an easier time showing their mean streak than others. Well, that’s the nice way of saying it, anyway. Now let’s dig into what I truly believe. I like to look at this in another way. Everyone has kindness in them somewhere. It may be a very tiny bit, but it’s there. Most mean people are lacking something, and I would venture to believe it is because they have a low opinion of themselves. Why should anyone possess this low opinion of themselves? A lot of the time it is because someone they looked up to told them they are not as good or as smart as someone else, which ultimately causes jealousy.

One teenager shoving another teenager up against a brick wall and yelling at him

Jealousy can cause great anger in somebody that has been knocked down by someone they admired. Now, this could include mental and/or physical abuse. If no one steps up and helps this person, it could turn into something terrible. Maybe it’s terrible for themselves, but could also lead into abuse or worse of someone else. Either way, it’s not good. I believe a kind word at the right time to someone in this situation could spark the kindness that has been buried deep inside just looking for the light to flicker, so it can shine.

I’m not saying there aren’t pure evil people out there, but I have never seen a newborn baby showing evil before. Something in this person happened after they were born.

Some people do have psychological problems and need special attention, but that doesn’t explain to me how someone could become pure evil. Evil enough to do evil things to others (especially children). Next time you feel the need to tear someone down or hurt them in some way, think about it, you may be helping create a monster. That’s how I feel. Remember, we are all in this together.

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Calm down supervisor

  I feel the need to write about supervisors and their health today. I have worked for a variety of people through my long working history and have seen many supervisors react to various situations. There are ones who take things as they come and others who go into full-blown panic mode.  To be a successful supervisor and also keep your health in good shape is a hard thing to do. I will be the first to stand up and say, if your health is deteriorating because of the job you hold, it’s time for a change. 

Now, I’m not suggesting you quit your job or step down from your position,  I’m saying you need to calm down and take one nightmare at a time. Having a heart attack because you are too stressed at work is no joke! Here is my suggestion,  if you work in a high stress position, then you need to prepare for it before getting to work. What do I mean? Okay here goes, I’m preparing to go to work, let’s say in the mining profession, I have one hundred people I am responsible for when I get there.

A woman with file in hand talking with her boss while he sits at his desk scratching his chin

Now, when working in the mines, equipment breaks, people get hurt and upper management wants more out of my crew than I can produce during my shift. Do you get the picture?

Firstly, let me throw this out there, keep home at home and work at work.  This will keep your family happy and keep your mind on your job. Now back to our mining job.

When you leave your house for work, you should go into work mode. Always leave one hour early in case of traffic, flat tire or weather. Also, leaving early will help you prepare for the nightmare that’s about to happen. When you get to the parking lot don’t go directly into work. This is your prepare time. I suggest you do not carpool if you are a supervisor. I know it saves gas and all but you need to prepare yourself without those that work with you taking away your focus. Now you are sitting in your car alone with the radio off. Just imagine the worst day that could happen today. Keep this going for half the time you have before you have to go into work. Did a piece of equipment break? Did you lose electricity or water or something else that is essential to the company? Did a person or persons you need there call off sick? Think of all these things happening today.

The other half of your time is imagining how you’re going to fix these problems. Did you find your solutions to each situation? Now you are prepared to go to work because you have a plan! If you go in and some or all of these things happen today,  it’s ok because you have already figured out how to cope with each situation. If you go in and none of these things happen, well then, you will have that fantastic day you have been waiting and wanting for a long time.

Always remember, when things do happen, deal with one nightmare at a time. If five employees are talking to you at once,  you can’t hear anything but noise.  Pick one employee to tell you their problem, and then move to the next person. Usually picking the calmest one is the best because it gives the others time to settle down before it’s their turn to talk.

I know it’s hard out there, and I feel for you, but you chose this job, so learn to work within your abilities and most of all keep your health. Your family needs you as much, if not more than your company. Be safe, healthy,  and deal with one nightmare at a time. Remember, we are all in this together.

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Failure is not an option

       I  cannot fail. Wow, Billy, that’s a bold statement! That’s right, let me say it again, I cannot fail. I mean every word of that statement, too. Let me see if I can explain why I stand by that bold statement. Through life, we have our ups and downs, our good days and bad. We have our successes and our what? Well, I just talked about no failures,  so what is the second part? Success and our learning curve (not failures).

     The only way that you and I can fail is if we give up. I cannot fail because I have learned not to give up! There is a saying, “We learn from our failures.” I say hogwash to that saying. My feelings are if it wasn’t a success the first, second or even the hundredth time then what do I need to do to make it successful?

      Therefore I am looking for an alternative to fix whatever the situation is I’m dealing with. It may be an hour, a day, a year or even years before I find the solution but I never quit! Until I find the solution to the problem at hand, I’m in training to learn all I can to fix it. I may be asking for help from someone that has more knowledge than me or looking up the solution on the internet but I’m still working on it.

Big tree standing by itself in a field

     A wise man once said “What is a oak tree but a acorn that held it’s ground?” That acorn didn’t give up even when the squirrel was hunting it to eat. Will you stand with me and wipe out failure? Say it with me “We cannot fail!! That is alot better than learning to live with failures I think. Until next time, remember, we are all in this together.

Respect truck drivers

         I know you have seen those big rigs and some are driving them as I write this post. Truck drivers deserve all the respect in the world. 

     I drove some of these big rigs before  I worked in the mines (and sometimes when I was on layoffs from the mine). Now let me say this first,  I was in the military where I was a firefighter. I also have worked in plumbing and welding along with my time in the mining industry. Now I’m not saying those are easy jobs, but in my experience,  over the road (O.T.R) drivers have the hardest job with the least amount of pay for the work they do.

Three semi trucks pulled off to the side of a small paved road in the country

      Not only are the hours ridiculously long, but some of the people you have to deal with on a daily basis are, well…. not the most understanding, saying it nicely.  People look at these big rigs and think,  how hard can it be to sit on your butt all day and hold a steering wheel? Let me say that is the break you get when doing this job unless you are driving in a blizzard, on black ice or even during hurricane force winds!

       If you want to be a truck driver, there are plenty of schools to get your CDL license and give it a try. During one of the layoffs from the mine, I worked as an instructor to teach this valuable job. I knew It was a difficult job, but I never knew how few make it a career.  On average, about 15% of people make it the first year, and it drops to about 2% that make a career of it. What’s the reason for this? It’s simple,  it’s a very hard job! Don’t believe me? Let me give you a small example that happened to me.

      I showed up at a grocery warehouse with a 42,000 pound load of canned green beans, canned corn, canned mixed vegetables and canned carrots all mixed up together on slip sheets (these are flat cardboard sheets they sometimes use to avoid using pallets). When I showed up at this warehouse in California, I was informed that lumpers (guys you can hire for unloading your truck for you) were not allowed on the property! Oh, it gets worse. Not only was I  not allowed to hire somebody to unload this massive load, but they wanted  all these mixed up cans separated and put on pallets. Wait, that’s not all, after they were put on pallets,  they had to be staged at dock number one where they will be checked by the fork truck driver that worked in the warehouse. Now they had me docked at number twenty-two.  I had to use a manual hand pallet truck to haul them to dock number one because the guy “resting” on the fork truck wasn’t allowed to touch anything until all the product was checked at dock number one!

      Needless to say, this task took all day to accomplish.  After all was said and done, I thought well at least my company is going to pay me for it. This company  MNX out of Joplin,  MO. (which is no longer a company that I know of) would pay a lumper $100-$150 depending on what they had to do. I was thinking this had to fall into the $150 range. Imagine my surprise when I got paid for this massive undertaking, it was $35! This has to be a mistake! Of course, it wasn’t,  this was the highest amount they would pay their truck drivers for unloading.

     Anyways, if you are planning to be a truck driver, toughen up, because it’s nothing like the movie Smokey and the Bandit. Show some respect to these hardworking men and women.  Remember, the truck drivers keep this country going!

Listen to your elders

     It’s funny and sad how we think about the well-being of others but don’t take better care of ourselves. Why is this? I am guilty of this myself. I catch myself looking for a reason to help others and in the same turn, I am horrible about taking care of myself. 

I have a hypotheses about this phenomenon.  First, we never think it will happen to us. We look at someone that is homeless, and we want to help them by giving food, money, clothing, a job or whatever else we may have to offer. Now I’m not saying to not help others because we absolutely should! But what about us? Why do we eat and drink things we know will hurt us, or do things that may leave us broke or broken? Fun, pleasure, pressure, stress or something else?

I believe we truly believe we are indestructible until we aren’t.  I am very guilty of this. When someone says that I need to take better care of myself, my first thought is to look at what’s wrong in their life. This is a poor way of thinking, and I believe it is this attitude that is hurting all of us. Some people get the worst of it and become homeless, in the hospital, or even die from something that was easily avoidable.

Sometimes things just happen, but most of the time it’s our own stupid mistakes.  Nobody is perfect, but I believe we can do much better. Think of when you became a teenager, and you knew everything.  Mom and Dad were morons, and the old man at the corner was just crazy when they try to tell you something about life.

Now for those that have teenagers, (God be with you) are you catching yourself in the same position as your Mom and Dad were? Why is it technology gets so much better but we as a society keep making the same mistakes? Maybe if we were to lend an ear to our elders and pay a little more attention (in some cases, A lot more attention) we would evolve as a society like technology keeps evolving?

Middle aged lady leaning over talking to an elderly lady sitting in a wheelchair

If you think I’m wrong, that’s okay, I’ve been wrong many times. But I believe I have hit on something, and I am trying to follow my own advice.  I’m taking better care of myself and listening to others (especially my elders) more. I have been learning a lot, and I’m feeling better both physically and mentally. Take care and remember, we are all in this together.

Tomorrow never comes

      I have had the conversation about tomorrow with my children many times. This is what I’m talking about, we have lived the past, and we are now living the present, but tomorrow never comes. Let me explain further.  Everyone understands the first two parts about the past and present,  however the third part gets people thinking real hard and some just think I’m crazy. 

When I say tomorrow never comes,  I’m dead serious! Let’s examine this concept. If you think like I do (around corners), then you will get this quickly, but for others I will make this as simple as I  can. Think about tomorrow.  As I write this, it is Friday.  The next day coming is Saturday.  We all agree with this, right? Okay, if I were to tell you we are going to the park on Saturday,  then you would know on Saturday we are headed to the park.

Now if I were to tell you we are going to the park tomorrow,  then we may never go because when we get to Saturday it will be today. I know, sounds kinda crazy. Think of it this way, we are here today, and we already used up yesterday, but there is no tomorrow that we can live in. Are you mad at me yet? I know that you think I’m talking crazy, but there is a point I want to make, and I hope it will help you through the rest of your life. 

Scrabble pieces say if not now when

Here goes, we can’t change what has already happened and we can’t fix tomorrow.  So if this is true then we have to do our best today.  Don’t live in the past. Don’t worry about the  future. Do your best today! If you follow this advice  then the mountains (problems) that are put in your way won’t be anything but small hills. We can conquer any thing that gets in our way if we do the best that we can today and put worry behind us! As far as yesterday,  it’s over. We are not going to fix yesterday! All we can do is learn from yesterday and change our ways to make ourselves better today. Live your best life today and everything will work out. Remember, we are all in this together.

Your opinion matters

Do you have an opinion, and do you want to share it?

         Have you ever heard the saying (Opinions are like buttholes, everyone has one, and they all stink!)? This is true in some cases, but I’m here to say your opinion matters. Don’t let the right, the left or anybody else tell you otherwise. Wake up and let it be known that you and your opinion matters. It took me a long time to come to this conclusion. I have opinions/views myself. You may not like them and that’s okay, however if you are going to change my opinion on any subject, you better have some good reasons why. I believe in common sense. Remember, we are all in this together.

Shepards are leaders / sheep can only follow

     Don’t be fooled, we can change the  world given enough like-minded people working together. One of the things I hate are those that follow blindly and don’t form their own views. Why choose what others want? I believe that we all matter, not just the chosen few. Take some time and meditate on that simple concept.

Sheppard tends his sheep

It always amazes me to hear someone complain the organization they are with, or the government does something they don’t like. However, when asked if they attended the meeting to choose board members or if they voted in the election,  the answer is no. Are you kidding me? If you aren’t part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. 

Let me know what you think… Please, before you speak, think. I don’t want anyone to look like an idiot. YOU Do Matter!! Stand up and make the difference. If you decide just to follow the rest of the flock, then don’t complain when it doesn’t go your way! Remember,  we are all in this together.