It's a Great Big Beautiful World! Let's Discover it Together

Showing posts with label Serving Others. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Serving Others. Show all posts

Thursday, July 30, 2020

So Much Has Changed in A Year

This memory popped up in my Facebook feed today, and wow, how much has changed in a year! Last year today I was interviewed for a TV segment on travel and business was booming. This year...not so much. Hopefully, travel can return sooner than later. There are so many places I've yet to explore, so many experiences yet to be enjoyed, so many mountains to climb, and so many time zones to go to sleep in.

But until's Food Pantry Day. I'm excited to be able to go over and finish the prep work this morning so that our guests can receive some fabulous food blessings this afternoon. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

stopher's stuff - The Places You'll Go

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to great places! You’re off and away!”

So begins the classic tale from Dr. Seuss in his aptly titled book, OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO.  If you have never read it before, I would definitely encourage you to do so.  It’s a wonderful tome, filled with classic Seussian wit and wisdom.  I’ve used this book several times as gifts to graduating seniors and to Scouts who have earned the rank of Eagle. It always serves as a good jumping off place for the congratulatory letter I like to write them. For not only is their future typically bright, and their accomplishment a good foundation, it serves as reminder too, that even though they will be shooting for the moon, they need to be prepared for the down moments that will inevitably come. And when they do, it is great to pause and reflect, as you seek to find the best way out of or around those valleys or bumps in the road. Because once on the other side, it's great to look back and see just how far you've come as you've worked through each individual low point. To see how utilizing the feedback and counsel of others may have helped bring about the necessary change in direction to help get you back on track.

It continues…

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.”

This past year has definitely been one where I have been personally living out the book’s message.

“…You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights… wherever you go, you will top all the rest, except when you don’t, because sometimes, you won’t. I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true, that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.”

I’ve certainly had some high moments and then still many other moments that were much lower. Those moments of frustration (such as website improvement / development this past couple of months); as well as moments of distress (lost sales); or moments of rejoicing (repeat business from clients as well as referrals bringing new business);  they all work together to make things better – overall.  Taking the time to pause and reflect, and yes, seek honest feedback about what you’re doing is so very important. Remembering too that each one of us is not an island, and we cannot do things completely alone. I may be in this business “alone”, but I’ve definitely got several key supporting players that I turn to for help, guidance and mentoring. People that aren't vested in my financial success, but rather are interested in my personal success as an individual, as a businessman, as a father, a husband and a friend.  

A mentor - that’s something that I have been to numerous people over the past decade, but have easily overlooked utilizing myself - until the past year and a half when I recognized the need to seek counsel of others.  Back in the days of working for an employer, I had built-in peer groups, of course bosses and others who constantly critiqued how I presented things, or fulfilled my work, or even how I came across meeting with clients.  When you work on your own, those built-in resources simply don’t exist.  I only have my actual clients, who are willing to share their feedback with me, to truly critique my services.  Even on this blog, unless someone actually posts a comment (which is rare), I don’t even know if anyone is truly interested in what I post.  Sure I see the numbers of people who check-in and view the various things, but I don’t know if anyone actually is interested or cares, or finds any of the stuff I post remotely useful.  I could be simply posting pictures of bacon, but wouldn’t know if anyone liked it or not unless they said something.  Feedback is always a nice thing.

Getting back to the very beginning of this post though, the places you’ll go – I’ve got many great places on the agenda for the rest of this year.  Places that will be visited representing various aspects of my life… family, my business, the largest aspect of the community service I do (Scouting), and my faith – going on a mission trip to Africa.  Each destination is both near and far, and requires a great deal of time and preparation – physical, mental and spiritual.  I’m excited about them all.  I can’t wait to share about each one in this blog, and hope that you will find each destination somewhat intriguing – and that you’ll tell me what you think after I post them. 

I’d love to know what types of information you might find useful in this space.  Please leave a comment with something that you would like to learn about in the weeks and months to come, as it relates to travel destinations.  I’m trying to work at getting the long-dormant “Where in the World Wednesdays” re-established, and of course would like to bring some new life into my posting through other topics as well. 

As always thanks for checking in and following along.  
Until next time,


Monday, April 15, 2013

stopher's stuff - Should We Build an Ark?

Last Monday I said it, and I’m going to say it again.  WOW.  What a crazy week last week turned out to be.  Regardless of all your plans and good intentions, sometimes you just have no control over how a week might turn out.  And that’s exactly how last week was for me.  I went into it with lots of great plans and ideas for following up on previous contacts and leads from the Bridal Show that I participated in last weekend, but a bit of a curveball was thrown my way. 

Typically water is a very good thing.  We use it for drinking and replenishing our bodies, cooking, washing, taking care of our gardens and so much more.  It’s cool and refreshing.  But also at times menacing.  Noah discovered the power of water long after God told him to build an ark.  It had never rained on the earth prior to that time, so he wasn’t quite sure what God was instructing him to do, but soon enough realized the power of water.

This past week we too learned the power of water.  Though it felt like we might need to at time, we didn’t quite need to build an ark, but I will say we could have had a mini regatta in our garage and kitchen.  We had a slab leak.  Thankfully we discovered it before too much damage had been done – the operative phrase being “too much”.  Damage was certainly done, and our lives about to be disrupted for a while.  But it could have been much, much worse.  In the end our entire kitchen floor has been ripped out (there was a huge pond of water beneath the laminate, all over the slab) and we currently have four very large, industrial drying machines working on drying out the floor, walls and under the great big hole that was opened up within our slab.  They are big.  They are loud.  They make it difficult to sleep at night.  But they are working. 

One of my favorite characters in Les Miserables is Gavroche, the little boy who claims he “runs the town”, and that little people are basically a force to be reckoned with.  As all first-time parents understand fairly quickly, little people can have a huge impact on life.  So too can other little things, like openings or holes.  The culprit of our troubles ended up being a tiny, less than 1/8 of an inch, opening in a copper pipe. But that little opening might as well have been a big opening in the amount of water that it let creep out and scatter through the walls, and across the floors.  Until this week I never knew that there were people specializing in doing ultrasound scans of walls and floors before.  I also never knew that there were people who specialized in floor removal.  But I do now.  And it’s actually been quite fascinating watching these different specialists “do their thing.”

In my business, a tag line or marketing strategy that I use is that we sell adventures and experiences to create memories to last a lifetime.  And we do.  Well this week was our own personal adventure.  It’s been an experience that has certainly created new memories for my family that will last us all a lifetime.  We will laugh about it later.  I still remember the year from my youth when the house I grew up in was being added on to.  My parents decided that adding up to our single story house would be better than selling and moving to a different neighborhood.  So the process began, and literally took a year to complete.  It was frustrating for my mother, fun for my brother and I, and yes, VERY neat to watch the transformation.  So too is this relatively minor project in comparison to what my parents dealt with for that year. 

Our journey is not complete, but we are on the good side to recovery.  The problem was identified and fixed.  Now the resulting damage is being undone and repaired.  Will it take a while?  Probably so, but we can deal with it.  At first I was quick to complain that we had no hot water, but then I stopped myself and recognized that in the scheme of things, my water problem was trivial.  There are people all over this world who don’t have the LUXURY of plumbing in whatever they call home.  People that don’t have the LUXURY of clean water near their village or town and have to walk miles each day just to draw water from a well, or worse, a pond, creek or river that is shared not just with other people, but with animals who also drink from it, bathe in it or live in it. 

As a whole, those of us living in North America often can be very spoiled in that we have so much that we simply take for granted.  And that is a big part of why I am going to Kenya this fall.  To not only remind myself of that fact, but also to do what I can to help bring both physical water to the village of Isinon through the well that our church is funding, but also the living water of Jesus Christ.  I am not ashamed to say that ministering to people in His name is why I’m going to Africa.  The trip won’t be a vacation, nor even a research trip for my business – though I certainly WILL learn a lot and get to experience a lot while I’m there.  It will also give me, no doubt, information to come home and share with others. But it will be about transformation – life transformation for me, and for all those on the trip who will be impacted in very real, personal ways in how we approach our daily lives when we return home once again. 

So this slab leak, however frustrating it’s been, really is only a bit of preparation for me as I prepare to go to “the other side of the world” in less than 6 months and experience for myself the stories of those who have gone before me.  The conditions will certainly not be 5-star, and that is perfectly okay.  As I said earlier in this whole slab leak mess, “Thank you Lord for disrupting my oh-so-comfortable life.” 
Until next time,


Monday, April 8, 2013

stopher's stuff - So Much Going On

WOW.  Sometimes that’s about all you can say.  There has just been so much going on this past week, and there’s a LOT coming up this week as well.  I’m trying to breathe and stay focused, but it can be hard at times.  But you know what being very busy is like, I’m sure. 

This past week was a good one in many ways.  First, our tenants have moved in!  We are excited about that.  We signed the lease late last week, and they spent the weekend moving in and starting to make it their new home… at least for the next year.  That was a big scramble to make it happen by Friday, but we did.  Then the weekend was filled with a Bridal Expo that I was a vendor at, and Saturday was my daughter’s 9th birthday – both happening on the same day, which made for a) a very full day, and b) a very tired guy by the end of the evening.   Sunday was going to church, and then later spending time outside tending to my yard… the first time this season!  It was great to be able to be outside in the sunshine digging in the dirt, fixing some flower bed walls that had gone askew during the winter, and prepping the soil for some new plants to be added, as well as moving some existing plants from one location to another.  I do enjoy being out and working in my yard – I always have, even way back as a kid.  The feel of dirt on your hands, and the thrill of watching things that you plant begin to blossom and grow, is such an enjoyable feeling.  At least to me it is.
Another exciting thing that happened this past week was the news that I have surpassed the one third mark of my needed fund-raising goal for my Kenya mission trip this fall.  That is huge, and I’m very excited about that.  I’m waiting for the list of donations to be provided to me by my church at our upcoming team meeting on the 21st so that I can then start to thank those who have supported me financially.  I’m really looking forward to this trip, and continue to pray that the rest of the needed funds will be raised.  The team itself going to Kenya has grown too, now up to about 25 people now, and might even go a bit higher as well.  I’m really excited about it, and looking forward to being used by God in this way to make a difference. 

Other “fun” of the past week was the completion of our income taxes for 2012, and the reorganization of my garage (another thing that got quite askew during the winter months).  Neither of these were fun tasks, but things that had to be done.  Which then leads me to the first task of the week this week… one that I’m torn about.  It is taking place today, and is just the first of several more to come… our son’s first college visit.  It is not something that I’m overly thrilled about (the acceptance that he’ll be moving on to college in just a little over a year is something that I’ve been struggling with for a few months now), but of course he is growing up and we all knew it would come eventually.  Way back when he was just a little guy, who loved to hold daddy’s hand, and wanted to be with me all the time – I couldn’t even fathom him going off to college because it was just so far away in the future.  But now, as he drives off in my car to hang out with his buddies, or other events… naturally it’s not that far off.  So I’m just a bit melancholy as the realization is growing on a daily basis. 
And so, I will close, as I have a hundred things to try and get done throughout this week in preparation for taking the Scouts to Summer Camp, business needs, and of course, family needs as well.  I hope you have a phenomenal week.  I’m going to do my best to do the same.

Until next time,


Monday, February 18, 2013

stopher's stuff - Exciting News and More

Happy Presidents Day!  In my former life within corporate America, this was always a day off holiday for me, as both companies I worked for all those years observed all Federal holidays.  So if YOU have the good fortune of having the day off… enjoy it!  If not, make the best of your Monday, and try to enjoy the day as best you can.  

This past week was full of interesting, fun and exciting things for me.  One item that happened has to do with things to come yet this fall, another has to do with the here and now, and the other has to do with both the recent past and the future.  I’m excited about all three.  What are they you wonder?  Well of course, since I’m writing this blog entry, I’m going to tell you!

First up – I’m headed to Africa this fall!  That’s right, Africa; specifically to Kenya.  I’m very excited about the trip, and what possibilities it holds for me as a person.  This trip has nothing to do with my business, but rather is entirely about my faith, beliefs and my ministry.  As a Christian I take the words of Jesus to heart, and therefore this is just one way of living out my faith and trust in Him.  I am going on a mission trip with my church in to Kenya.  I’ve been wanting to make this trip for the past 3 years that our church has been going to Kenya, but haven’t been able to make it happen… until now.  I know it will rock my world in many ways – but I’m looking forward to the transformative nature of the trip.  I’m open to what God wants to show me, and do through me while on this trip.  I pray that I will not be “in the way” – but rather be used as He sees fit as we go in to the Mathare slums and interact with those who live there.  My church has been sponsoring a school there for the past 3 years, providing much needed funds for construction of new facilities, as well as the construction of a well to provide clean drinking water to the community.  It will be very exciting to be there in person and experience for myself what friends who have been on this trip in previous years have described. But I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't also say that I'm a bit excited about going for one day to the Maasai Mara and experiencing a real safari.  As part of the total trek, the team will be going and seeing the real savannahs with some of God's incredible creatures... not just the recreated version in the Disney parks and at the Animal Kingdom Lodge... but the real deal!  I love staying in savannah view rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge... I can't wait to be able to experience the savannah in person!  Plus when we're going will be during the traditional period of the annual migration, so it will be amazing to behold if we're truly able to see many of the animals en route.  

Second, my wife and I recently acquired a home for investment purposes, to rent out.  I have spent the past couple of weeks doing the various tasks of getting the house ready to rent, and this weekend was able to get the last “big” thing done with the replacement of the non-functional water heater.  Now I just have to replace the master bathroom floor tile, and do some painting and we’ll be ready to roll for new tenants to be able to move in.  Tiring, yes.  Rewarding, yes.  Exciting, yes, yes, yes!

And third – and this was a big one causing me to do a little “dance of joy” – I am now officially  an Accredited Cruise Counselor, by CLIA (the Cruise Lines International Association).  This was no small feat to achieve either.  Basically, when you enroll in the certification program, you have 2 years from enrollment to complete it.  Thankfully I was able to achieve it in less than a year (about 10 days shy of one year).   From their press release information…  “The Accredited (ACC) Cruise Counselor designation is conferred by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) upon dedicated travel professionals who have completed an extensive program of classroom training, cruise experience, ship inspections, and a combination of video training and attendance at industry events. A CLIA Certified Cruise Counselor is your best resource in choosing a perfect vacation.”    The Accreditation, according to CLIA, goes a long way too, as the average certified agent experiences some fairly substantial increases in their sales with industry-wide increases as much as 261%.  So even if it only helps to increase my business by 25% or more, I’ll be pleased, mainly because of the rigors of completing the program.  But I’m not stopping here, as the next level of certification, the Master Cruise Counselor (MCC) is in my sights.  I want it, and will be going after it as well.

So there you go.  A big week.  An exciting weekend.  And a very exciting fall on the horizon.

What’s new and exciting in YOUR world?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanks. Giving.

“We have ANOTHER HOLIDAY to worry about.  It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us” laments Charlie Brown, in the annual classic, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving - first seen on CBS television in 1973 and aired in prime-time every year since.  Once we hit Halloween, it seems, we are barraged with holidays and their respective celebrations, festivities, gatherings and fun all the way through January.  In my family it’s actually all the way through the end of April.  It’s the “gift giving” season – between Christmas in December and four birthdays and an anniversary in January, February, March and April.  Whew.  But of all of the various holidays and celebrations, one of my favorites, and honestly one of the most-often overlooked is Thanksgiving.  It just kind of is there, at the end of November, very much overlooked by the traditional start of the Christmas season. Especially considering here in the U.S. “Black Friday” is the very next day, though in the past few years those sales have been creeping further and further over onto Thursday – and continuing to overshadow Thanksgiving. 

As a holiday, it lacks the hype and build-up that both Halloween and Christmas have, and certainly doesn't spark a lot of extra-celebrating as the other 2 do either - no costume parties, or staff parties, or caroling through the neighborhood.  In stores it's truly overlooked, except perhaps in the grocery store where all of the feast supplies will be found.  There may be a few decorator items to be found (and I do mean few), but they're most often relegated to the worst shelf space way behind the more prominently displayed Halloween fare, and often behind the soon-to-be prominently displayed Christmas fare. Very few people send out Thanksgiving cards, and no one puts up Thanksgiving lights on the exterior of their homes.  In fact, many people bypass it altogether by not just putting up their Christmas lights - but turning them ON each night days or weeks before Christmas.  In my neighborhood, there are already more than a dozen homes who have been turning on their outside Christmas lights for the past week or more.  And a couple already have their lit and decorated Christmas trees in their front room window for all to see.  So much for giving Thanksgiving a little bit of prominence, huh? Personally I do install my outside lights, simply because I like to avoid freezing my butt off in the cold whenever possible.  I'd much rather get them up and in place when the temps are still decent, so I like to grab a nice weekend in late October or early November whenever possible...but I never turn them on until after Thanksgiving. I don't want to give Thanksgiving the shaft by heading straight to Christmas.  That's almost as bad in my opinion as just lumping both of your children's birthdays together in one single birthday party.  That might be acceptable if you have twins, but if not, they each deserve their own celebration...even if they were born in the same month, and might have birthdays close together.  They're different people with different friends.  Just as Thanksgiving and Christmas are different holidays celebrating different things.  Don't lump them together.  That's just sad. 

But I do like Thanksgiving.  Sure it is filled with wonderful foods; and since our celebration of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. is always on Thursday, it can generate 2 or even 3 days off from school or work depending on a person’s age and situation in life; and it’s generally a time to spend together with family or friends.  But it’s really so much more than just those things.  Thanksgiving.  Have you ever really stopped to consider it between bites or turkey, mashed potatoes and rolls (or popcorn, buttered toast and jelly beans as Charlie Brown served up on his ping-pong table in the backyard?) 

This year, like last year, my mother and her husband are here with us to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It’s a great time for them to reconnect with the grandchildren, and for us to be able to enjoy with them.  We have always recognized the brevity of life, but after last year’s death of my wife’s father in the fall, the first of any of our parents to leave us, we better understand the importance and opportunity of being able to spend time together.  Throughout our nearly 19 year marriage we have always tried hard to be sure to spend time together with extended family when possible, but living 2400 miles for more than a dozen years of those years has not really made it all that easy to do.  We can’t simply go across town to see them, or call them up and ask them to come over and babysit.  Every gathering is intentional and purposed.  We give thanks that we still have them in our lives, and that they are still able to travel.  We know that one day they won’t be around, or simply won’t be able to travel.   We’re relishing the time that we have. 

Thanks.  Giving.  Two very different words combined together create the name of the holiday.  Here in America Thanksgiving traditionally has its’ roots with the Pilgrims and a feast celebration from 1621 – but there have been days and feasts of Thanksgiving before that.  Even sacrifices and offerings as far back as the Israelites of the Torah section of  Old Testament in the Bible.   Thanksgiving has been set aside to recognize and celebrate with great joy the bountiful harvest, and celebrating all that God has given or provided.  So by name alone it speaks of gratitude for what WE HAVE.  But when further examined, it also is a great opportunity for GIVING.
For the past 8 years, our church has partnered with another ministry in town providing meals for the community – shut-ins, and others in need, specifically on Thanksgiving Day.  Through meals delivered to people’s homes and meals served on-site in the church’s gym, each year nearly 2,000 hot meals are provided free of charge.   In addition they offer a phenomenal Food Pantry, serving more than 200 families each week.  We have used both the Thanksgiving Meal and the Food Pantry as wonderful ways to teach our children the importance of GIVING.  Each year on Thanksgiving morning we get up and head over to the church to pick-up our maps for delivery, and then the corresponding meals that we will be taking.  Many wonderful interactions with people have taken place through the years.  Some older and not able to get out on their own anymore, others simply in need of some help due to bad situations they’ve found themselves in. 

Because of the serving others concept that my wife and I intentionally added in to our Thanksgiving celebration all those years back, for us Thanksgiving has become so much more than merely a parade on tv, food comas and sports in the afternoon.  It’s a time where we can and do give thanks for our own blessings, but also a time to celebrate and give thanks for the lives that we are able to touch by giving to them.  For all the media loves to hype the “door buster” savings to be found in stores – the true blessings aren’t found in any store, but rather, in the people you surround yourself with in life.  Whether they are family, friends or someone you meet in serving others. 
Whatever you do this Thanksgiving week, whether you celebrate together with family or friends, or by yourself, I wish you a wonderful time and hope you’ll find some way to give this year.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,