Posted in My Journey

What Is Love?

Love does not hate; it does not boast, nor does it seek revenge. Love cares for another more than oneself; it is not proud, arrogant or unmerciful. Love leads, conquers prejudice, and gives even when in need. Love is not afraid and will always be kind.

It would be easy to quote the apostle Paul’s inspired words about love from 1 Corinthians 13, but one of the greatest thoughts about love comes from Jesus himself, when he said:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Jesus demonstrated that very love when he died on the cross for us in order to pay for the penalty of our sins. And although the night before his death Jesus fervently prayed to God regarding this great responsibility placed on his shoulders, he still accepted it because it was God’s will. No other act in human history depicts just how much God loves us than for him to have given his son Jesus as a sacrifice to redeem us from death.

What is love? It is to look upon Christ’s sacrifice and to conclude how selfless an act it truly was for him to give his last breath for us sinners. It is to become like Jesus and to sacrifice ourselves for others as a means to allow Christ to live in us, not only in word but also in deed. We Christians owe our lives to God, and what better way to show our love for him than to give as he gave so that we can experience the fullness of his love living in us. No greater love is it than to sacrifice one’s life for friends.

As we move into the new year, let us resolve to let our light shine so that others may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.

Posted in How-To Guides

5 Ways to Break a Bad Habit

We all have them but are too afraid to admit it. They dominate our lives, they control our routines, and they sour our mood.

What are they? They are bad habits. And bad habits is bad news for those wanting to live happy and abundant lives.

Let us take a moment to have a look at five ways we can break bad habits, and the benefits that come from overcoming weaknesses.

1. Confess the Habit

Mildred: “Judy, you may not believe it, but I bite my nails, bad.”

Judy: “I noticed, you have yet to gnaw off your cuticle to the bone.”

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to beating a bad habit. What better way to admit you have a problem than to confess it to a friend or loved one.

As difficult as it sounds, it really is easy to do. The problem lies with forgetting about your ego so you can grow into a better person.

If you find you cannot tell your bad habits to someone around you, you can take to writing them down on paper. Once you read them to yourself several times, you can either burn or introduce scissors to them.

In my case, I have done both. I have written them down and destroyed them, and I have told Luana about my deepest, darkest secrets as a way to throw away the insecurities caused by my weaknesses.

Yes, you may think that is extreme, but confessing our bad habits to others liberates us from carrying the burden ourselves.

2. Recognize the Triggers

Central to every bad habit rests a trigger. That trigger could be the innocent whiff of a scrumptious cake, the sight of a beautiful woman, or simply the craving for something that will calm the nerves.

Whatever the trigger, it will lead you to where you do not want to go. Therefore, recognize it. Tame it. And move on to bigger and better things.

It is easy to say, but incredibly hard to do. How do you recognize the very thing that causes you to stumble?

Self-reflection is an awesome power that all of us bad-habit harbingers possess. By finding a quiet spot and reflecting on what causes us to fall, we can identify the trigger. It will not happen overnight, but every moment we spend on improving ourselves is a moment spent overcoming a bad habit.

Sometimes, it is a matter of working through mock scenarios in order to determine the origin of the bad habit. Again, it will take time, but do not ever think it is time spent in a useless pursuit.

You will find the trigger. You will overcome your bad habit.

3. Replace the Bad with the Good

What is your bad habit? Is it eating late-night snacks before bed? Are you saddled with debt but cannot help spending more money on that fancy new vacation? Do you drink more than you should, even though you know it will lead to long-term health problems?

The best way to throw away a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. Positive reinforcement is better than negative execution. Find the bad and lift away its effects on your life by flooding it with good.

You would love to eat a slew of late-night snacks. I understand that. Try drinking water, it will fill you and act as a cleanser. You have so much debt that you do not know how you will handle it in several months when the creditors start knocking on your door to repossess your home. Forget about that vacation and work at cutting down your spending. After all, you would like to have a future without worrying about who you owe, right? And that cocktail you are thinking about consuming? Consider having a soda, or, better yet, a tea. Always think about the future. Learn how your actions today will shape your tomorrow.

Do you bite your nails? Snack on carrots. Do you have a problem with wandering eyes? Think of the one you love. Are you prone to laziness? Find something to do other than watching television. It may sound harsh, but we are talking about getting rid of the things that hold us back from achieving our true potential.

4. Make New Friends

Every bad habit carries with it baggage. That baggage includes friends who are enablers. And enablers only have one thing on their mind—their own self-gratification.

Surround yourself with people who genuinely love you for who you are.

When you are with enablers, they will tear your down, strip you of your character, and allow you to struggle and fall in a pool of your own misery. What you need to do is identify the enablers and cut them from your life. How far do you go?

Think of them as if they never existed.

You never knew them.

The other side of it is you now have the chance to meet new people who will build you up, carry you forward, and believe in you for the person you are and not the person they think you ought to be.

New friends mean new experiences, which translates to new opportunities for growth.

5. Bring God to the Fight

Everyone may have a concept of what or who God is. For me, God is the creator of all things, the one who sacrificed his only son, Jesus, for the salvation of the many. Without God, I do not know where I would be.

When faced with a destructive pattern, it is good to know that a higher power, such as God, is there to fight on our behalf. We do not have to fight alone. Whatever the frailty, strength is always available. We can tap into it and not worry about the cost.

When our minds focus on eternity, the awful behaviors that plague us now do not seem so unstoppable. We can continue living, knowing there is always someone there to pick us up after a fall.

The trick is to permit that strength to course through our lives. In so doing, breaking a bad habit then becomes possible.

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

The Men of Friends

Has anyone else watched Friends and said, “I know those people, they’re my friends!” I’ve done that. In fact, I’ve watched episodes of the sitcom thinking, “Gosh, has someone peeked into my past to document my life in a comical way?” The television show, which was a hot commodity in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, is now a syndication gold mine. What better way to celebrate Wednesday Warriors than to include the men of Friends?

Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer

Each male character in the Friends universe has his quirks. Ross (David Schwimmer), for instance, is never quite sure where he stands in a relationship. Chandler (Matthew Perry) is the wisecracking joker of the group. Who doesn’t have a sarcastic buddy in their group of friends? Then there’s Joey (Matt LeBlanc), the struggling actor who doesn’t seem to have much luck landing a job in his profession. Together, they make up the men of Friends.

Let’s go deeper.

Friends
Friends

Ross Geller—He works with dinosaur bones. He knows a lot about science. Ask him about carbon dating and he will tell you everything there is to know about the subject. Unfortunately, Ross’ problem is not his job but the women with whom he falls in love. His first wife left him after becoming a lesbian. Divorce soon followed. To make matters worse, at the time of the split, she was pregnant with his child, which she carried to term with her new wife by her side. His second marriage lasted a day. She was English and the sweetest thing, but also a control freak he luckily shook from his life with a second set of divorce papers. His third marriage was with Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), the love of his life, but we won’t count that since they hooked up in Vegas and were drunk to high heaven while doing it.

In spite of Ross’ affinity to falter in his relationships with women, he really is a nice guy. Rachel once fixed him up with the pizza delivery chick and said that once she got to know him, she’d find he was kind, considerate and gentle. She would realize what a good heart he had.

Chandler Bing—Crazy Chandler. Nothing but sarcasm spews from his mouth, but in a good way. Quick-witted, funny and wise beyond his years, Chandler rules every scene. His problem? He uses humor to hide his insecurities about his present state. The more awkward the scenario, the funnier he gets as the humor rolls from his lips in buckets. Chandler also has one other slight problem that gets in the way. He’s been dating Janice (Maggie Wheeler) since, like, forever. Janice is, what you would call, annoying. Her laugh can cause any man to drive an icepick through his skull.

Yet, Chandler’s good qualities are his tolerance for his goofy friends and his perpetual willingness to help those in need. Can anyone forget the $1,500 he wanted to give Joey as a way to help him ride out a glut in his acting career? Generous is what makes Chandler special.

Joey Tribiani—He’s Italian. He loves food. And it’s a guarantee he also has forgotten how many sisters he actually has. His issue is that he’s been looking for work in acting for such a long time that he’s numb with the silly jobs he’s held in the meantime. Wait, Joey did have one job as a doctor in Days of our Lives, but it blew his head so big that he trashed the writers. The writers did one better. They threw his character down an elevator shaft. It was a dark day in soap opera history.

Joey’s biggest attribute is his big heart. He’s the traditional naive character with the generous eyes. He loves the women, but he’ll drop them in a second if it meant helping a friend.

And those are the men of Friends, folks. In some strange and wonderful way, each character in that show reminds me of my very own friends. How about you?

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Have you seen the show Friends? What do you enjoy most about the show?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Marriage and Stuff

Last week, my wife and I had the opportunity to take some time away to enjoy each other’s company. Every once in a while, we’ll leave the kids behind to visit either a place we’re familiar with or a place we’ve always wanted to go. This year, we chose to do the latter and decided to explore The Blue Mountains.

The Blue Mountains Chalet
The Blue Mountains Chalet

Located a couple of hours north of Toronto, The Blue Mountains is a resort/cottage community that hosts a large following during ski season. Along with a few friends, we managed to secure one of those fancy chalets overlooking the mountains. The view was great, but, having grown up in Italy where I would wake up to the sight of the Italian Alps every morning, it didn’t impress me as much as, say, it did with some of my friends. I can take or leave mountain views. Nonetheless, it didn’t diminish the enjoyment I had with my wife.

The vacation was a wonderful cap to my newest book release. I had been running around many weeks prior that I hadn’t realized just how much I needed the downtime to regain focus.

Rather than give you a summary of what happened every day, as I’ve done in the past with my other vacation posts, I thought I would give you the highlights of what I enjoyed most about the getaway instead, and about the lessons learned.

First off, because we were sharing the chalet with friends, we each had separate rooms and shared common areas. Kitchen, living room, hot tub and balcony were all common areas. Some couples also shared bathrooms. As troublesome as it could have been, it worked out quite well. No more than two families had to share a bathroom, so mornings were fun.

The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains

Other than breakfast, the organizer cooked everything. Kudos to her! The food was simply delicious. The meal I liked the most was also the meal served the last night we were there. It was roasted chicken with rice and veggies. I’m not sure how she made it, but the flavor led me to go for seconds without a problem.

My wife and I spent most of our time together with the exception of breakfast, lunch and dinner, which we spent with our friends. Our main entertainment was each other, and because of this, I’ve learned something interesting. I knew about this little truth but didn’t know until recently how to put it into words.

Before getting married, we did everything together because we enjoyed each another’s company. What that means is we did what we could to spend as much time with each other, not because we had to, but because we wanted to. It wasn’t duty. It was because we really enjoyed being together.

After getting married however, somewhere along the way things changed. Jobs, kids, finances, new homes, deaths, health issues–you name it, resulted in the creation of a quiet mission statement that stated we were bound to please the other person. Not to sound preachy, but the idea that we wouldn’t be happy unless the other person was happy crept into our lives. It’s not a bad thing to want to please our mates. It is, though, a bad thing doing it out of duty.

With that realization, this past year our marriage has gone through a transformation of sorts. We’re no longer doing things to please each other, but we’re doing things because we enjoy doing them together. For us, it has become a matter of perspective. The idea being, we now share acts of kindness with each other, not because we have to but because we want to. All of a sudden, the enjoyment we once felt before marriage has returned and we can’t get enough of each other.

Okay, so maybe that was an overshare.

But I don’t care. If it helps others find what they once had, then I’ll shout it from space!

Anyway, that was our weekend. What are your plans this weekend?

Get the Ranger Martin zombie trilogy now!

What do you like about traveling?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

What Excites You?

An article in Psychology Today eloquently titled What Excites You?—yes, you can smack me later for ripping off the title—states that the prevalent thought in psychology according to Silvan S. TomkinsAffect, Imagery, Consciousness is that humans have an inherent need to maximize positive and rewarding emotions while minimize negative ones.

Pizza with tons of toppings
Pizza with tons of toppings

Given it’s Freedom Friday, I figure the best way to maximize positive thought is to provide you a peek into what excites me. Later in the comments, you can tell me what excites you. How does that sound?

A Good Song: First up, nothing can really replace a good song. You know when it happens as soon as it hits your ears. Your feet begin to shuffle, your fingers begin to tap, and you’re off bobbing your head to the rhythm of the beat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a lousy mood only to rise from the dumpster when one of my favorite songs is playing on my earbuds. My secret weapon for curing the blues is three hits of AC/DC, two chasers of Led Zeppelin and one shot of John Williams.

Good Food: How can I describe the feeling I get when sitting at the table anticipating my mom’s home-cooked meal? There’s a whole method to the act of patiently waiting. I’m Italian, so a meal doesn’t only consist of the main course but it includes the antipasto, the salad, dessert and other foods I can’t bare writing about without eating part of my anatomy. The whole experience is reminiscent of a grand opera served on a platter. Delicious.

Exercise
Exercise

Good Exercise: I love taking walks. I love doing my stretching exercises. I love physical activity outside. Actually, let me qualify that last bit. I love physical activity outside if there’s a goal to achieve. Cleaning up a garage is not my idea of a physical activity I like. I’ll do it, but it’s far and away not on my Top Ten list of things I love doing. Okay, back to my walks. When I go for a walk, I grab my phone, plug in my earphones and soak the tunes while I perform a half-hour jaunt around my neighborhood. The music helps me focus and my love for my neighborhood allows me the convenience to say hello to all my neighbors. The activity is also great on the heart.

Good Friends: Lastly, meeting with good friends over a meal or a ball game makes for one of the most wonderful times ever. I’ve known my best friends, those people who I can call on and say they are my friends, since I was a single. We go to each other’s houses, have BBQ’s, picnics, etc. and we simply enjoy each other’s company. What’s not to like? People change, but the friendship always remains. That time together will one day become a memory worth talking about.

These things excite me. They thrill me, lift me up and inspire me to do better in all that I do.

What excites you?

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RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

What activities do you enjoy doing? What would recommend that I ought to try?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Facebook

I’m not seeing my friends’ posts on Facebook anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m seeing a lot of their activities, their comments, their likes, but I’m not seeing their actual posts on my news feed. I don’t know why. Then again, on a good day my care less factor when it comes to Facebook ranges between 9 and 10. So, yeah, I guess I’ll tell you a bit about my experience with the platform for Freedom Friday and hopefully I’ll make some sense of this predicament.

The facebook news feed
The facebook news feed

The news feed is a good place to start. I loved Facebook a few years ago. I could pop in, check to see how my friends were doing and if I found anything they had written interesting, I’d interact with them like a cool drop-in or social. I loved the photos they shared and the cute stories attached to the memory.

I don’t see any of that now. My news feed has become a mishmash of so-and-so commented on this and so-and-so liked that. It’s become more of a reporting system for anyone curious to see what their friends are into. I liken the current environment to someone walking through our backyard and peeking through our window to spy on who we’re hanging with. The whole idea has shifted from seeing what others are posting to what others are commenting on and liking. I’m not sure when it changed, but lately I’ve been trying to bring back the old news feed in order to not feel so much as a Peeping Tom than anything else.

Behind facebook
Behind facebook

First order of business was playing around with the “Follow” button. I notice when I unfollow someone on Facebook, I don’t see anything of theirs on my news feed. No likes. No comments. Nothing. That sort of defeats the purpose of wanting to only see their posts. Next, I worked through all my friends’ walls to like and comment on things I found interesting much like I would have as if the posts had appeared on my news feed. Facebook took my actions to indicate I enjoyed following those friends and shortly thereafter, my news feed once again became a hodgepodge of nonsense. You got it. Facebook enabled the “Follow” button for my friends’ activities and thought I’d appreciate knowing what my friends commented on and liked. I was back to the very beginning.

For several days, I worked through the problem trying various combinations of “Follow” button and “Acquaintance” status changes as a way to achieve my goal of bringing back the old news feed. Nothing worked. No matter what I did, Facebook wanted to show me what my friends were doing through their kitchen windows as opposed to admiring their rose gardens out front.

Then, in the middle of dinner one night, a bright idea hit me. I say a bright idea because it was as if someone had flipped the switch in my brain and I could finally see the answer in front of me.

Lists. Yep. Lists.

Apparently, if I add all my friends to a list I can see their posts just like the good ol’ days. Well, guess what I did? Yep, I added all my friends to a list and I’m back to the way I like it—admiring the rose gardens at the front of my friends’ homes.

Facebook makes sense again.

Do I regret not going to my news feed to check out what my friends are commenting on and liking? Not really. I just want to know what they want me to know, not what Facebook thinks I should know.

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RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you had a similar experience with Facebook? What have you done about it? What is your experience with using Facebook? Do you like it?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Ja$on

Boy, oh, boy. Do I have a treat for you. If you’re like me and follow a number of Twitter accounts simply because they’re funny, then I have an account you may want to have a read through. The best part about this Twitter user is I’ve know him his entire life—literally. And as time goes on, he gets funnier and funnier.

Jason Chaulk
Jason Chaulk

For today’s Freedom Friday, I’d like to introduce you to Jason Chaulk a friend of our family and a really funny guy. Okay, I’ve said that a few times—I better stop.

My wife and I have known Jason’s parents before any of us ever got married. Yeah, you might say that’s a long time. We used to go to the same church together, and we’d also have game nights at each other’s homes. We also participated in the same Outreach group, which entailed us going to entertain the elderly at nursing homes. And we’re still at each other’s houses, enjoying the company and having the time of our lives.

As for Jason, he’s been cracking jokes ever since I could remember. The last time we got together, we were reading through his tweets when all we could do was laugh through the whole night. I think what makes him unique is his ability to think quickly on his feet. He always has a comeback, and he always has a good nature when delivering his comebacks. That’s what spurred this article about him. I suggested if he wouldn’t mind if I went ahead and featured his work on my site. He said sure. No problem, in fact.

"I was very dissapointed when I found out it wasn't a house made out of waffles."
“I was very dissapointed when I found out it wasn’t a house made out of waffles.”

To give you an idea of how he works: whenever he gets an idea, he writes it on his phone. He has draft versions of many of his jokes, and when he feels they’re ready, he releases them.

Anyway, enough of my yakity-yak. Below are a few of his tweets he’s written over the years. By the way, before I forget—he’s still in high school!

  • My dentist recommended for my sensitive teeth to spend more time with them and talk about our feelings
  • Going to the dentist is uncomfortable enough without us locking eyes while his hands are in my mouth
  • Little does Santa know that one day I will sell all this coal and buy out his dumb little business
  • People tell me to be myself but the Little Mermaid taught me otherwise
  • Kids nowadays need to stop TWERKING and start WERKING
  • I was in an argument with an amputee but he didn’t have a leg to stand on
  • Before a fight, take off your cardigan to assert dominance
  • Auto correct ruined my leaf
  • I once tried to shoplift but they totally saw the shirt hanging out of my pocket
  • I used to model as a baby so of course I put it on my resume
  • The thug life chose me but it conflicted with my trumpet lessons
  • "R2-D2's career has really gone downhill since the last Star Wars movie."
    “R2-D2’s career has really gone downhill since the last Star Wars movie.”

    The cop told me I “have the right to remain silent” then he asked me “where’s the body?” lol make up your mind bro

  • Keep sending me Candy Crush requests, maybe one day you will break me
  • Not only am I smart and beautiful but I am also humble
  • Superhero capes are just backward aprons
  • I am probably better at being humble than all of you
  • I still don’t smile in photos unless someone holds a teddy bear over the camera
  • To avoid jury duty become a convicted felon #lifeprotip
  • The One Where Monica Has a Mental Breakdown and Brings a Gun to Work #rejectedfriendsepisodes
  • When someone is yelling in your face give them a little kiss on the forehead to difuse the situation #lifehacks
  • My girlfriend does this thing where she calls me a “stalker” and threatens to have me “arrested”
  • My life in a nutshell is basically me looking for places to sit down
  • So glad this subway has windows so I can see the nice view
  • I woke up today to birds chirping and I did that thing in Shrek where they sing until the birds blew up
  • Without spell check I would so scruwed
  • How come all my friends can talk to me in third person but when Jason does it it’s weird
  • My only regret in life is that I didn’t love more, that and I did crystal meth for 6 years #latenightconfession

I hope you enjoyed reading Jason’s work. You can follow him on Twitter, but I’m sure one day this rising star’s comedy will be everywhere for you not to miss him.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Do you know anyone in your life who is a success in the making?