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Bluebonnets and New People

Thoughts From the Porch: I got to see the sunrise this morning. Big deal, you say? It is after several days of rain and overcast skies. I know we’ll be praying for rain in a couple of months, but I have way too much to do to stay at the desk.

Photo by nagaraju gajula on

A slight chill hangs in the air as a reminder that the official start of Spring, the vernal equinox, is still a week away. Still, the birds are singing and I even saw Bluebonnets peeking through the grass. For those unfamiliar with Texas, Spring comes with an explosion of bright color along side our highways and bi-ways. I know it happens elsewhere, just not like here. Bluebonnets bring vibrant blues, followed by the orange and black of the Indian Paintbrush. Yellows and deep greens fill in the blanks and everywhere is awash with blooms. It makes up for the winter months and reminds us to truly “stop and smell the flowers”.

Facebook will soon be plastered with pictures of people sitting in fields of blue. That’s a big thing here in Fort Worth. Taking pictures of loved ones, especially kids, amongst the wildflowers is a tradition for many folks here in North Texas. Nature provides the perfect background for the best portraits. The photographs are constant reminders that life is always fresh and new, even during the coldest of winters.

Each Wednesday I attend the Fort Worth Development Group (FWDG), a business networking and development group that seeks to “Bridge the gap between Business and Ministry through cultivating meaningful relationships in the workplace.” I knew that I needed to network for my writing business even though I’m painfully shy in new situations. I picked the FWDG because of their Mission Statement and quite frankly, it was close to my house. Maybe I’d be more comfortable with like-minded folks despite my fear they would engage in “religious speak”, but hey, I didn’t have to go back, right?

What I found was a group of business people who really do seek to cultivate meaningful relationships and help each other grow. It’s not simply lip service. I’ve come to look forward to my Wednesday meeting, knowing I will leave feeling stronger in my faith and in my business. Life is fuller and richer when I step out of my comfort zone. I find new friends and new resources for living well.

My friend Edgar always reminds me that “self-sufficiency is a lie”, we need something beyond ourselves to live life well. We need each other. I’m happy to be surrounded and supported by the myriad of people God has brought into my life. What’s your circle?

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Telemarketers, Plumbers, and Nazis

Thoughts From the Porch: I have a great deal of respect for people who perform dirty jobs. Last month our plumbing backed up. It was a simple fix. The back-flow valve and broken and stopped up the drain. The difficult part of the solution involved the raw sewage that needed to be drained to fix the valve. I can stomach a lot of things, but raw sewage isn’t one of them. Fortunately, we had a plumber friend who helped fixed it in no time. I have no complaints about their hourly rate. Plumbers are paid well for a reason: dealing with ugly, and disturbingly aromatic drainage issue.

business close up energy equipment
Photo by Digital Buggu on

I truly respect people who perform jobs they’d rather not have to do. My friend told me that he’d rather be doing something else, but plumbing had provided a good living for he and his daughter. I know how he feels. I’ve worked jobs I didn’t like because I need to keep a roof over my family’s head and provide food on the table. A lot of people do. Willingness to do what it takes is an admirable trait.

My dad used to tell me that it didn’t matter what I did for a living. Work hard. Try to be the best at whatever job I had. Wise words from a man who grew up during the Great Depression. He understood the value and importance of work. All work was honorable, and one should be grateful to have it. He also grew up prior to the age of telemarketing…

As phone technology advanced from party lines to individual land lines, the telephone became a great marketing tool for business. Telemarketers scheduled their calls around when people would be at home, so they usually called during family dinners (and yes, there was a time when the whole family sat down to dinner…) or when one was in the middle of something. Telemarketers developed a unique knack for interrupting and being a general pain in the you-know-what.

Now that we have cellphones, they can be annoying anytime. One company representing USA Auto Care and some savings club, calls my cellphone at least six times a day. I’ve even counted ten calls from the same company! I’ve tried to block their calls, but they are able to call from different numbers each time. So, I answer the phone, hear the same mispronunciation of my name, and the beginning of the same annoying script. I try to refrain from questioning the caller’s maternal lineage, but I’m not always successful.

In fact, they called again this morning during my ‘porch’ time. I‘ve begun plotting some form of revenge. I’m convinced that even Jesus would have a hard time loving a telemarketer. I told my wife I should get an airhorn to sound of in response to the telemarketers. Her reply was “they are just doing their job”. Isn’t that the same defense used by the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials…

As a freelance writer and a business owner, I know that cold calling is a necessary evil. Telemarketing companies wouldn’t exist if it didn’t turn a profit. Someone out there is staying on the line, right? It’s a numbers game.

I know to that I offer a service and a solution to my client’s problems. I only hope that I’m more sensitive to my prospect’s needs when I cold call.

I’ve gotten it together a bit more since this morning. I’m not getting an airhorn. I wouldn’t like it if someone did that to me. Telemarketers don’t compare to Hitler’s SS, even if they are “just doing their job”. They’ll call again. That’s just what they do. I’ll reply with a firm, “not interested, thank you” and hang up.  

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Labor Day…

The air is thick with humidity this morning and ragweed season has begun. I’ll spend as much time on the porch as my allergies will allow, but it tends to be somewhat shorter in duration this time of year. It’s a little frustrating because Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year, and a perfect chance to enjoy the quiet of the porch. Spring is nice, everything coming back to life and all, but Fall beckons me to introspection and reflection on the past year. It begins slowly and reaches a crescendo by the Christmas holidays, just in time to look forward to the New Year.

Fall in North Texas may be different from others’ experience of the changing seasons. Fall officially begins on the autumnal equinox and occurs around September 22nd each year, although it may not feel like it until late October or November. Even then, it may only last a couple of days or weeks until the cold of Winter moves in. Now that the average temperature for each year seems to be one for the record books, the seasons can’t be forecast accurately anyway…

Fall, or at least the timing of it, brings a sense of urgency to living fully and enjoying the blessings in life on an even deeper level. Looking backwards, I can see missed opportunities and instead of regrets, I learn to be more vigilant. It’s easy to fall prey to tunnel vision and miss the doors that God has unlocked along the way, especially when it comes to family and friends. Fall brings clarity and renewed purpose to live life well.

I turned sixty a couple of weeks ago. It’s probably not as big a milestone as I’ve made it out to be, but it feels like it to me. Last year, I decided to step away from the contracting business, go back to school, and re-start my writing career. The last year hasn’t been easy, at least financially. Although I’ve stayed busy, starting a business is never easy. It takes a lot of grit, determination, and perseverance, especially for introverts like me. Although I’m far better at being social when business is involved, I still have difficulties, especially cold-calling and networking. Fortunately, most of my work is from home.

Most of stem from internal issues like believing I’m worthy. I’ve struggled with that for a very long time. I typically don’t like the word ‘self’ in front of things like esteem or worth. Not that healthy self-esteem or valuing one’s self is a bad thing, mind you. It’s just that I tend toward an inflated sense of self if I’m not careful. Holding myself in high regard tends to add the words ‘ish’ and centeredness after the hyphenated ‘self’. I begin to think of my own abilities rather than the gifts I’ve received from God. I forget where ego and pride have taken me in the past.

My friend Edgar often tells me that “I’m not a slow learner, I’m a fast forgetter”. I’ve always known I was reasonably intelligent. Given that it took so long to learn how valuable I am to God, I’d he nailed me down well. It’s easy to forget my successes are the direct result of plugging in to a far greater power than myself.

I may have issues when it comes to self-esteem, but I know without a doubt, that God sees me differently. When I remember who’s I am and how much He treasures me, I begin to accept myself for who I am a bit more and everything becomes easier. I treat myself a little better, forgive my failures a little more, and experience far less fear of the outside world. It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s sure gained speed as I progress further in life.

Remembering who I am makes me ‘right-sized’, as my dad used to say. I used to run from one extreme to the other: either I was the better than anyone else or I was a piece of crap. Today, I’m okay being human. I make mistakes, try to learn from them, and move on to the next thing in front of me. It also makes me far more capable of doing that both personally and professionally. I’m certainly not the best, but I do it well and perform in my own unique way.

When I was a child, my father used to tell me how special I was. I was adopted – a chosen baby. As I ventured out into the world I found out that no one else thought I was that special, and that proved to be a disappointment. I was well into my adult years before I knew what he meant. I was just like everyone else, but I was special to my father, whether it was my adopted father or my heavenly one…

So, as Fall approaches I have the opportunity for another season of introspection and reflection, not that it’s seasonal, mind you. My friend Jim (I really miss him…) always told me that’ “Self-examination, coupled with prayer and meditation, followed by vigorous action, produces favorable results”. I’ve learned just how right he was. I’m ready for Fall…

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Bridal Showers and Starbucks

Time and recovery has taught me to “stay where my feet are”. I’m not very good at it, but I’m better than I used to be. I’m having some difficulty with staying in the moment when I look ahead to the remainder of the day. Our son is getting married next month and today is the prerequisite wedding. His fiance is an only child and apparently this shower is a big deal for her and her mother, as well it should be. I’m told there will be around fifty people or so there. I feel , well, a huge sense of dread when I think of being part of such a large crowd, especially with people I don’t know.

If it were a recovery, church, or business meeting I wouldn’t have an issue. I know what to do, how to act, and what to talk about then, but being socially awkward and an introvert in a group of strangers is a whole different ballgame. The discomfort has already started, and the shower is still hours away.

Moreover, the shower is in Dallas. I am from Fort Worth. For as long as I can remember, there has been a tension between Dallas And Fort Worth.  When I grew up and spent time in other parts of our state, I discovered that Fort Worth was not unique. Dallas seemed to be at odds with everywhere else in Texas. In fact, most folks will tell you that I might as well be crossing state lines when I enter Dallas county…

Later that day…

Okay. I admit it. I ‘chickened out’. My wife is at the bridal shower while I sit here in a Starbucks down the road with my trusty laptop. It takes a lot to get me to sit in a Starbucks. I would much rather patronize a small, local place, where the coffee doesn’t always taste burned, unless it’s free and then it’s tolerable. It’s just that when we rang the doorbell and I saw all those young ladies between the front door and the back patio where far fewer men were congregating, I lost all nerve. So here I sit, drinking a ridiculously overpriced, pseudo-coffee drink, with my head stuck deep in my computer screen lest someone I know sees me…

I’ve been writing this blog for almost a year now. One of the things I appreciate most is the sense of community that exists in the “blogosphere’. When I decided to leave my contracting business and return to professional ‘business’ writing full-time, my peers stressed the importance of reading and writing everyday, whether it was professionally or not. It was an easy instruction for me as I’ve always been a voracious reader and kept a journal of my thoughts and feelings; privately, of course. I always tell clients that successful marketing includes regular blog posts and customer contact, so maybe I should try some of my own advice. Hence, Thoughts from the Porch was born.

I guess I’m a relative latecomer to the whole blogging deal. I never spent time reading things from the screen. I prefer something tangible, a book or a magazine, that I can hold on to and read at my leisure. However, over the last few months, I’ve discovered a whole world of great writers and incredible thinkers that I’ve been missing for a good while. Today, I follow many other bloggers and enjoy the diversity of words and thought. One of my favorites (which I recommend) is Stephen Black and his Fractured Faith blog site. He tends to end when a question inviting engagement. For me, feeling self-conscious and inadequate, this invitation to engage is sorely appreciated.  I often feel that whatever I have to say just isn’t that big of a deal to anyone but me.

This morning, he asked, “Do you write truthfully?” and I’ve been thinking about it all day. I sincerely hope I do.

When I write, whether it be personally (like here) or professionally (my business and marketing), I strive to be honest. I hope that it has some intrinsic value and offers something new and refreshing. Then I feel as I have nothing to say that hasn’t been said. Like it or not, that’s true. I read and listen to a wide variety of writers and authors and I haven’t discovered something that hasn’t been said before. The thousands of years of human existence leave little room for new experiences. Nothing I can think of or say is new and original. In fact, I feel a little silly when I’m excited by the things I discovered so much later in life than most folks and feel a need to tell everyone. I always was late to the party…

So I’m simply not that special or unique. Yet, nothing I say has ever been said in my voice, from my perspective, and in the way that I feel ( nor has it in everyone else I read or listen to) so maybe that makes it worthwhile, at least to someone. The more I read and listen to others, the more I feel a part of something far bigger than me, the more I feel a sense of community, and the less isolated I feel by my shyness and introversion. If I feel that way, could someone else possibly feel that way as well? The only way to find out is to speak and write honestly…

The next morning…

The thought train was off and running yesterday when I received a text that everyone at the bridal shower was asking where I was, there were more men than expected, and maybe I should come. I thought about it a bit (and prayed!), and mustered up the courage to put the laptop away and head over there. I sheepishly rand the doorbell and was greeted by laughter, a bit of chaos, and welcomed inside. I met some new people, saw some I already knew, and eased my way into the festivities. Honestly, I had a good time despite my initial discomfort. Life’s like that. Every time I walk past the ‘fear’ curtain it turns out things aren’t as bad as I thought. I have a lot more in common with folks than I thought…