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 Live a Fulfilling Life

There is no trick to being happy.

Well, there is, but it has more to do with attitude. One can be a millionaire and be miserable. Money has nothing to do with it. Although, having money sure makes things easier. Still, as the old cliché goes, money does not buy happiness.

What about having the power to do just about anything? Will that bring happiness? Will that make for a fulfilling life—telling people what to do? I always thought those with the greatest power were those who served every day, unappreciated, ready and willing to surrender their lives for the downtrodden in society. At least, that is what I always thought.

I suppose there is more to leading a fulfilling life than having money and power.

There is, and it is much easier than you think.

Below is what has brought me to lead a fulfilling life filled with hope, joy and happiness. This five-point roadmap is not hard to apply on a daily basis, and its rewards are immeasurable.

1. Enjoy a Healthy Lifestyle

I get seven hours of sleep every night. I am talking about seven full hours of solid sleep without waking up. I never used to be that way. There was a time I only slept two hours a night. It was awful. Every morning I felt as if someone had run over me with a dump truck.

Paranoia also has a nice effect on someone who is an avid insomniac. I looked like a character out of a Tim Burton movie. Spiked hair, shadows under the eyes and pale skin that would make a corpse look good.

After several attempts at self-medication—not really—I took to changing my diet.

I went on a regiment of fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of fish, nuts, whole grains, and vitamin supplements. Slowly, the hours to my sleep pattern crept up to three, four and five hours nightly. I could not go beyond five hours until I introduced wine to my evening meals. Suddenly, I broke the five-hour barrier and blew past six to arrive at seven hours sleep per night.

With the added sleep, I found I could focus more, reason better, and do all the things I could not do, like, carry on an adult conversation; something my wife, Luana, now appreciates.

Oh, and before I forget, I drink lots of water every day—half my weight in ounces. Nothing oils the joints better than the wet stuff.

Once I stabilized my health, good things followed. The days were brighter and my attitude was warmer. I said goodbye to zombies and said hello to superheroes.

2. Do What You Like to Do Best

What other activity could bring fulfillment than to enjoy doing what you like doing best? Everyone is good at something.

It can be walking, running, crafting needlepoint art, singing, fishing, playing guitar, playing video games, watching the stars, listening to music, painting, playing soccer, or football for that matter, building things, traveling, relaxing on a beach; it could be anything.

For some, their job is what brings fulfillment. That is quite all right. Imagine having a job as a skydiving instructor. Would that not be the best job ever? I could never do it, but there are those who made their hobby a job.

If you could make your hobby your job, how cool would that be?

The point is, find what you like to do and do it. The joy of doing it is the reward.

3. Spend Time with Others

One of the biggest pleasures I have in life is to sit down with someone to share a meal.

The conversation can go back and forth between past and present, on common activities, or simply on family. The exchange of ideas is a thrilling thing to experience. A good conversation can bond people, create future dates for more conversations, and provide an opportunity to discover something new.

Sometimes, the biggest surprise comes when it seems you have exhausted all dialog.

In those quiet moments together is when you realize what the relationship really means to you.

The simple act of playing ball with them, or singing, or doing something crazy, like, setting up soda bottles in the backyard with baking soda at the ready to produce the most awesome rocket ship ever, can make it one of your happiest memories yet.

Besides, embarrassing moments are best shared among friends.

Then, should a lull hit your life, you will have those memories to draw on, to carry you forward, and lift you to your feet.

A happy and fulfilling life is more than the dinner entrée we serve our guests.

It includes our guests.

4. Do Good

Has anyone ever held the door for you? Do you remember how it felt?

Has anyone ever given up a parking space at the mall for you, just because?

How about at the grocery store checkout, has anyone ever beaten you to the front of the line but let you go first?

Imagine doing little things like that for others all the time. What would your life be like?

The old widow across the street would have someone to mow her lawn in the summer and shovel her driveway in the winter. Your neighbor could borrow your hedge trimmer without thinking that he owed you something in return. One of your friends could ask you for a ride to the airport without worrying about imposing on you.

Communities would flourish. Cities would not need the vast policing that it does now. And everyone would be nice to one another because it would be the right thing to do.

Of course, a change like that would be unheard of, unless…

…well, unless it began with ordinary people wanting to make a difference.

Part of that willingness to make a difference can involve volunteer work. Many organizations out there need help with initiatives tailored for the community, such as spending time reading to the elderly, feeding the homeless, or planting a tree for the future. Getting involved can be as easy as making a phone call or dropping an email.

Whatever you choose to participate in, recognize that your involvement will not only benefit those in need, but also provide you with the satisfaction of knowing you have done good.

5. Believe in Something Greater Than Yourself

A life with a purpose is a powerful thing.

People who do not believe in something will fall for anything.

I think that is a quote from somewhere.

Many of the greatest heroes of our time were the ones who believed in a cause. They saw something was missing and went ahead and filled the void. Sometimes, as is the case with Leonardo Da Vinci, who conceptualized flying machines, or Isaac Newton, who formulated the Laws of Motion, they end up changing the world.

That single belief in something greater than oneself made these people rich in knowledge and productive in life.

For some, it is the belief in a higher power.

What keeps me balanced is my belief in God and in his son, Jesus, who came to take away the sin of the world.

For others, it may be the belief in making this world a better place.

Having an anchor will keep you stable from the blowing wind that may want to take you away. That very same anchor may act as the cornerstone that will keep you grounded to your goal of pursuing your life’s calling.

Again, a life filled with purpose is a life fulfilled.

Believing in something greater than yourself will keep you fulfilled and grounded in a life bursting with purpose.

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?

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

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
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

Friends, Love and Other Things

I had a Freedom Friday post dedicated to Black Friday scheduled for today, but I felt the need to push it forward a week so I could write about something else that’s been on my mind. [Update: Pushed the Black Friday post to next year.]

Friends forever.
Friends forever.

I recently visited the blog and Twitter feed of a longtime author friend of mine. In the interest of respecting their privacy, I’ll use they and them as a means of address. About this friend, I’m overjoyed to have learned they’re in good health again. They were going through a rough time last year—hospital, surgeries, going to sleep and not knowing if they’d wake up. Yet, despite the chaos, they pulled through. Today, they are healthy, exercising, eating right, and have a renewed sense of accomplishment and productivity. I admire their will to live and their ability to bounce back from such a devastating blow. To me, they are the truer hero than the fictional characters I write about on an ongoing basis.

Cancer is an insidious disease. It tears apart families and destroys lives. I hate it and wish medical research would hurry up and find a cure. Regarding this author friend of mine, their family is no stranger to the dreaded disease. And, from what I’ve pieced together, it seems to have resurfaced. I’m not sure what I can say here: I hope for the best? get well soon? No matter what I say, it never seems enough. The words sound fake, and I wish I could do more.

I guess the only sincere thing I can say is that my thoughts are with you.

Anyway, I have a few things I would like to briefly touch on for the remainder of this post.

First, Aristotle once said this about friendship:

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

I can’t say how beautiful a statement that is. It captures the essence of two people bonded to one another by a single heart. Oh, how devastating it would be if one-half was no longer there. Holidays wouldn’t be the same. Birthdays wouldn’t be the same. And the other half wouldn’t be the same.

Second, friendship and love are siblings:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

“Love never ends.”

Oh, to love and be loved in return.

Finally, the “other things” portion. As the end of the year approaches, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming to my site and offering support.

At the risk of sounding preachy, can I be so bold as to ask something of you?

Appreciate those around you. Never let them go. When they’re no longer there, it’ll be too late to say I love you. Be kind to one another and give to those in need. And—live to make every breath count.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Do you have friends you’re cheering for during their trials?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Julia Sullivan

When I grew up in the Eighties, the girls wore large hair, wide shoulder pads and long dresses. The guys, on the other hand, sported small collars, huge dress pants and thin belts. Bringing the sexes together was the color. Bright primary colors dominated the scene, wild hats became the norm, and to see guys with makeup was not an exaggeration.

Drew Barrymore as Julia Sullivan
Drew Barrymore as Julia Sullivan

The Saturday night parties became something special to look forward to as well. The music by The Police, Duran Duran and David Bowie blew all us kids away. The dance floor became a place where we could make a statement about who we were. We danced without shirts. We danced with everyone. And we had fun playing dare games while admiring each other’s styles. It was one big party.

The movie The Wedding Singer captures that era perfectly.

Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore) just started her job as a waitress at a banquet hall when she meets wedding singer Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) in the 1998 movie appropriately called The Wedding Singer. Right from the outset, Julia displays attributes female characters ought to possess in order for them to be part of my Women Who Wow Wednesday series. She doesn’t kick butt, but she certainly has that warm and fuzzy feeling surrounding her.

The first time meeting Julia we find out about her engagement. The problem, though, is she’s not sure how serious the guy is with his proposal. She says, “I feel like I’m doomed to wander the planet alone forever.” Which Robbie replies, “Like the Incredible Hulk.” They agree that Robbie would sing at her wedding, if it ever takes place. Revealed later in the film is Robbie’s engagement to his own fiancée. He hopes they would last fifty years, much like one of his vocal students’ marriage.

Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore

Julia’s fiancée eventually springs the news that he wants to marry in Las Vegas, but he cedes to getting married where she wants to marry. That’s the first sign of trouble. In the meantime, Robbie has his own problems. His fiancée dumps him and his latest wedding gig turns into a dirge. He has nothing to live for but the thought of stringing his neck to a clothesline until his feet shake lifeless.

Throughout it all, Julia shows Robbie what a true friend is. She stands by Robbie in his darkest times in spite of him wanting to kill the bride and groom at his upcoming wedding gig. Julia appreciates Robbie by asking his opinion about things that matter to her. She also brings him into her world by introducing him to her friends and family. That’s a big step for a girl only having friendship on her mind.

The thing about Julia is her warmth. As bad as things get, she’s always ready with a kind word, a quirky smile and a timid laugh. Something about Julia makes her shine. She is the perfect example of support during bad times. She lifts the spirit, lends an ear and gives of herself in whole, regardless of what anyone thinks of her.

Is there anything more we need to know about Julia? No. Julia’s the perfect friend.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

If you’ve seen The Wedding Singer, what did you think of it?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Hard Being a Zombie

It must be difficult to live life as a zombie. To have no hope. No dreams. To pretend of being of value to others only to suck all the good from them until there’s nothing left. It must be tough to have a false sense of purpose, treating humans as nothing more than a piece of meat.

Lost and abandoned
Lost and abandoned

Maybe you shouldn’t read this Monday Mayhem post. If you’re a zombie, I don’t know if you’d understand.

How can zombies live with themselves? Their moral compass is broken. They have no ability to see what they’re doing is wrong. Their loyalty lies in one thing—to fulfill their selfish inner craving they have festering in their putrid shell. What do they see when they look at themselves in the mirror? Do they see good? Do they see the pain they cause themselves and to others?

Zombies have their horde with which they commune. They’re all the same, though. Following the pack. Not thinking for themselves. Much of their undead life consists of roaming about seeking of whom they may devour. Sure, they have their dormant phases where they appear as if they’ve gotten better, hanging with their brothers and sisters in a quiet state of depression. But that doesn’t mean they’re harmless. Once they catch sight of another victim, nothing prevents them from kicking into full chase mode.

At least zombies have something to which humans can aspire. If anyone dares attack them, they don’t run. They don’t hide. They simply show their rotting teeth and hit their future kill at a time when it’s at its most vulnerable.

Unlike other carnivores, zombies will keep pursuing their quarry even after sustaining an injury. The undead may have lost an arm, a leg, the front part of their face, but they’ll do everything in their power to exhaust their victim until the victim can run no more.

When the evil predators finally catch their prey? They consume them while they’re still alive.

Then there’s the little matter of the zombie bite. All the undead has to do is snap and wait until the virus takes effect. If they can’t kill their target, they’ll do one better—make the target into one of them. What better way to guarantee the zombie culture will not die? The perfect plan.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather remain human than become a maggot infested drain on civilization bent on destroying the good in people. Sounds to me like a lot of work to keep tabs on victims in order to ensure they’ll one day either become food for the miserable lot or part of the problem.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Is there such a thing as a good zombie?