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Disney World 2014 078Disney World is a special treat in and of itself.  We dreamed of visiting this theme park for years.  The savings started years ago to make our dream a reality.

Finally, we booked the tickets, set aside the vacation days and anticipated the vacation.  I emailed our travel agent countless times building this dream trip for our simple lives.  Planning the trip was a big part of the excitement.

In that planning stage I was introduced to the the Disney website.  One of the features on the site was ordering a welcome gift that would be delivered to your room.  It would be my secret for my bride.

Scrolling through the options was like most online options.  You could buy a gold plated Rolls Royce with a Mickey Mouse hood ornament or a candy bar with a Donald Duck sticker on it.  The range was limitless.

Winnie the Pooh caught my eye.   It was in the price range that I could afford but more importantly, my bride likes these cute little characters.  Furthermore, the gift came with a number of balloons and we could deflate them when it was time to board our airplane home.

The agent on the telephone was so friendly.  She was careful to get all of the details and rehearsed the delivery date and location.  I was looking forward to the surprise when it welcomed my bride to our dream vacation.

When we walked into our room after a night out with great friends, the welcome gift was sitting on the side table.  All of the balloons were inflated and dancing in the air conditioning breeze.  Pooh topped the piece with his indomitable smile and cheery eyes.

On another helium floater, Pooh is hugging little Piglet.  The first balloon was terrific.  Both Tigger and Pooh are trying to squeeze some joy into Eeyore.  It is a lost cause but their efforts are part of the cheer.

My bride not only liked it, she loved it!  She sat for posed pictures with this special addition to our journey.  Through the night and several days after she smiled at the pictures of her bouquet and thanked me long after the first presentation.

Simple gifts filled with color and unexpected but attached to inner delights sure make great memories.   I had the job of deflating the balloons on our last day in Orlando.  Once flattened my bride took over to fold each balloon neatly into a package for transport home and into our world of nostalgia for years of reliving.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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For those who are followers of Jesus Christ, it is not a matter of what we know.  Rather it is more important that we know what we believe.  What we believe is not a matter of what we say.  Rather, we live what we believe.

This book series “Real Life” is about our daily living.  When we embrace and express our faith in our Savior, we live differently.  The Holy Spirit makes it possible to live each day differently because of what we believe to be true.

This volume Always Hope is about living each day after the bottom falls out from underneath us.  No one like tough times.  Trials are not our choice.  But, they happen in all of our lives.

When they come, each day keeps on coming, one after the next. They do not slow down or stop or disappear.  How we live those days when trouble has slammed into our lives is what this volume relives.

I was hurt by others and difficult circumstances.  Each day I got up and struggled through the subsequent days.  By God’s wonderful grace and the love of His finest, I kept getting up, day after day.

If you read this book and the words inside cause you to smile, laugh, hope or reflect on good things, then it was worth the effort it took to write it.  May your hope forever be a part of your new days to come.

It is available on Kindle for all e-book readers.  Or you may order a hard copy from http://www.createspace.com/4190780. Thank you and enjoy your reading!

IMG_3314It is Stephen’s 50th birthday.  Being a half centenarian means maturity, experience, impact, establishment, success, promise, hope and joy.

Very special gifts must be carefully planned.  No one “needs” gifts when they turn 50.  Adding to the collection of other stuff does not need to be the focus.  However, what’s a party without gifts?  This day calls for a personal work of creation that is fitting of the new season of life.  It is that special.  Such a gift must be thoughtful, fresh and full of meaning.

I had those inspiring stimuli in my mind when I visited our local discount store.  There I roamed in the various departments collecting items that would form into a sculpture worthy of this once in a lifetime landmark.  If an item lit up my face, added to the vision forming in my mind, and especially made me laugh, then it passed the sniff test and went into my shopping cart.

“Back at the ranch” I unpacked my discoveries and went to work on the assembly of the unique presentation.  First, the heart and soul of this sculpture was the cane.  It was a red, white and blue telescoping deluxe model.  Certainly, it would depict the patriotic spirit of this newly minted 50 year-old.

Close to the cane’s handle was a combination bell and compass.  The bell can easily be operated with his thumb.  It serves as a friendly sound to signal friends and neighbors, a cheerful “Good-day!” sound.

Next, a rear view mirror is attached.  Of course it is multi-directional with unlimited adjustments.  The glass is a fish-eye style to help aging eyes focus on oncoming traffic.  Hanging on the stem of the mirror is the headlamp.  It really is a “head” lamp.  With the elastic band, he can strap his light around his forehead for night-time walking.

Just below the mirror is the advanced emergency warning system.  Some might think that it is just a horn.  But, they would be wrong.  When traffic is slowing him down a single blast of this instrument will clear the obstacles for a clear hobble home.

Finally, there is a sports bottle for a single dose of Ensure.  A bear bell hangs in a sack on the bottom of the stack.  Once it’s popped out it will jingle with every movement so that his wife will always know where he is.  The combination chain lock will keep this unique and practical sculpture safe for his own secure use.  Happy Birthday, Stephen!

IMG_3319On the road, when the tummy is calling for a refill, it’s easy to look for a familiar sign and pull in and grab something satisfying.  Naturally, eating healthy is also a big draw.  When it tastes good, it is even better.

One of our choices has been a sandwich chain.  It has a national presence and our far and wide travels makes it a common choice.  No matter where we have been it seems as if one shows up when the hungries make their call.

They had ads for a month-long sale. Every sandwich was marked down.  “Hey,” I exclaimed, “let’s pick up a couple of their sandwiches for dinner tonight.”  “Sure,” my bride smiled back, “I can grab them on my way home.”

With honest expectations of a delicious meal my day went along with its normal brutal pace.  But, I had the anticipation of a fun dinner with my bride over bargain priced sandwiches.  It was a satisfying drive home.

My phone rang.  It was my bride, “I’m at the shop. What kind of sandwich would you like?” “Get one of the deluxe ones since they are all included on the sale.” “Does cheddar bread sound good?” “Sure!  At this price we can go all out!” I exclaimed and garnered a laugh from her.

Not only could I taste the dinner but I could smell it as well.  Naturally a smile broke out on my countenance.  It was going to be a pleasant evening.

There is something very gratifying about earning a good day’s wage from hard work and then relaxing at home with the love of my life over a shared meal.  My home was in sight.  I parked my rig and entered our retreat with an appetite ready to be satisfied.

Together we sat at our dining table.  Each of us had our sandwiches still wrapped and sitting in front of our seats.  We gave thanks for our meal.

We rehearsed our day to each other.  The blessings of people and circumstances were shared with delight.  Together we sliced our sandwiches in half and ate while we talked.

Then, as if on cue we both slowed our munching.  We looked at each other and then at our meal.  Each of us set our sandwiches on the table and opened up the bread.  The same quizzical look came over both of us, “Where’s the meat?”

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3028I am in the transition generation.  Modern technology has kept me scratching my head.  Once I get my arms around one new twist in the world of cyberspace, five others pop up.

Vocabulary, short-cuts, speed and wonder are all wrapped together and leave me bewildered.  Just when I am feeling sort of confident with one mechanism, I find that I have to learn a new system, a variation or a completely different practice.  Just the world of computers is amazing.

I remember taking a laptop to the library to do my research.  It had an 8088 chip inside.  This processing unit made me feel modern.  The portable computer weighed 28 pounds.  Now, my smart phone is brighter than that unit.

Nevertheless, technology has brought us a special blessing.  Our first grandson is 2,000 miles away.  We had our first Skype visit.  It was fun.

In real-time and with real sound and real video we watched each other, talked to each other, laughed with each other and just hung out over two-way communication together.  It took me a while to warm up to the experience.

I am used to Skype but I normal enter into that scheme with a prepared agenda, a designated chair and team dynamics.  At the office we use this technology on a weekly basis.  We are very productive with this media option.

Now, however, it was very different.   We had no agenda.  No one was running the interaction.  It was just spontaneous conversation.  That was odd.  It took some time to get used to it.

At the office I am used to spotting the end of the dialogue.  When it happens everyone is ready to hang up.  This was so different.  It was time to let moments of quietness fill up with our grandson’s noises.  Noises came from both ends.  They all made us laugh.

I do not know how much the little guy can comprehend on the computer screen.  But, it really did feel like he was watching us.  His eyes and sounds made us feel close to this precious little life.

We still measure his age by months.  He has not been long with us yet he has won over every heart in our family.  We have welcomed him with open arms.

Here on Skype he is opening his arms and laughing with us.  We burst out laughing and the cacophony of our raucous sounds startles him.  So we smile on and chuckle on and love on through the wonderful world of technology.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2989The Big Box Store was our destination.  We were on a mission.  It was time to get a replacement watch.  When we arrived, there was nothing too interesting to capture our attention.

We had allowed an hour to shop but we were done in 9 minutes.  That was the perfect time to laugh with each other.  “Now what do we do?”

Our evening church service did not start for an hour and a half.  There was no place else that we wanted to go.  Being opportunists, we decided to walk around the store where we were and see if something inspired us or jogged our memory of something that we needed to pick up for our home.

My bride checked out the books.  I wandered around to see what new things IMG_2986there were to see.  It was the middle of October and the displays set up in the store made me smile.

Is it really time for Christmas?  Could we be nearing that most special time of the year, already?  It seems that we just entered into the Autumn season.

According to my calendar, Halloween is not even here yet.  That Harvest Festival time is still weeks away.  Still the brightly colored light, theme colors of red and green are generously on display.

Toys and decorations, special candies, splendid ornaments and seasonal beverages are stacked for the shoppers’ delight.  At first the hurried season was a bit shocking.  Then, I stared at a Christmas moose and smile.  He made me chuckle.

Hmmm…maybe it is never too early for Christmas.

This is the favorite time of year after all.  God made a promise of a Messiah and He kept it by giving us His Son.  That is the heart and soul of the meaning and beginning of Christmas.

IMG_2987Life has been tough for wonderful friends.  There have been painful disappointments for them.  Hardships have brought trouble into their lives.  Hope and mercy from God are great comforts during the Christmas season for them and all of us who have been praying and cheering them on until the  Father chooses to grant them better days.

Christmas and the real meaning of this season peak back into our lives with the simplest of brightly colored ornaments.  These shiny globes push a smile back into our hearts.  We remember better days and restore the hope in the days of His promises still to come.  It is never too early for Christmas.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

Copy of IMG_2946A wonderful season has swept over the land.  It is a change from the blistering hot temperatures of the summer.  Now, the coolness of the new days settles us in for the long commute into work, the bustle of getting ready for school and the remarkable days of beginning everything new.

Fall is a favorite time of year.  It is the season for planning, anticipating and enjoying.  Our calendar rules the day during this time of year.

Emails fly with relatives who are hundreds of miles away.  Our fun conversations map out on the schedule when our times-off can correlate with the holidays.  We have to get on to the airplane schedule and set up arrangements for family time.

Special meals are the topic of so much conversation.  Favorite dishes, sumptuous recipes, unique sweets and by-popular-demand main courses are highlighted.  I get hungry just reliving the conversations.

The grocery stores are decorated with seasonal produce changes.  Often I first notice the price changes.  Favorites that were so common in the summer are becoming scarce and much higher for a lot less.

These delectable choices like asparagus, peaches, nectarines, artichoke, cherries, blueberries and plumes are disappearing.  Now, the few that are still available are smaller and the servings are in noticeably smaller quantities.  A short season of fresh corn on the cob signals this seasonal transition.

Now, the Autumn options began to make their appearance.  Wonderful winter squash appear.  Washed, sliced and sautéed with onions and special seasoning makes eating healthy very attractive.

Pumpkins come into the markets.  They are comical gourds that signal the football season and the coming family favorite of Thanksgiving.  Jack-o-lanterns blink from pictures, candy shelves and Halloween costumes.

Family recipes of pumpkin pie invariably bring a smiles to people looking forward to seeing grandpa, grandma, siblings and distant cousins.  Variations of the old recipe make their way into the gatherings.  A simple occasionally new entry can expand family traditions when everyone gets a taste of something new.

Jackets become a garment of necessity.  Rain, wind and cool temperatures call for the storage of shorts and flip-flops.  Our favorite T-shirts go into storage bags.

God reminds us that as the season change so do we.  Our days are being spent.  Only He knows when those days have reached their limit.  In the meantime He allows us to enjoy the whole process of growing older with fun shifts in the seasons.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

How busy has my schedule become?  For the first time in ages I missed a self-imposed deadline on my blog page.  It felt very weird.

For years I have been keeping up a rigorous schedule of writing.  It has been fun.  No, that is too general.  It has been absolutely exhilarating!
The satisfaction of putting life into words has been off the charts for me.  It has given me a new appreciation for the life that I am graced to live.  Each day is an adventure, an opportunity, an expectation and a feverish delight to have experienced.
I was born an optimist.  Joy is a common goal with each new day.  Overcoming and making a difference are daily ingredients to invest in the mix of a great job, a loving family and loyal friends.
There is always plenty of material to guide my daily blog.  Often it is a matter of what to choose more than searching for an inspiration.  Over the years the blogging world has given me the avenue to express my creative musings for any who are interested in reading them.
By the way, thank you, readers.  You have honored me with your time.  If a word here or there has given you a reprieve with any life challenges, painful trials or regrettable nasty people then, I am very pleased.
For some reason my life has hit a confluence of obligations and activity that has surpassed any such moment in the last 7 years since starting to write these missives.  I missed yesterday’s blog!  I felt it.  It nearly stressed me to consider that I would miss my deadline.
Sad is not a sufficient term to describe how I felt.  Nevertheless, I was doing my business with care.  Time just did not allow creative time on the keyboard.
There will be more days like this one.  My calendar is packed during certain intersections of appointments and obligations.  Instead of worrying, I just look that much more forward to joining my world of blogging that much more the next time that I can use the keyboard to turn my thoughts into digitized word on a screen.  Thanks for joining me on this pilgrimage through life.

Real Life front coverSimple living is a blessing.  Yet, life does not always allow that lifestyle to exist for very long.  Each of our lives is complicated with the lives of other people, circumstances that pressure normal living or troubles that need to be addressed.  Thankfully, in between disasters, horrific strains or disappointing people many of us live lives that are quietly uneventful.  Those common days captured my curiosity.

I lived each day trying to capture how special it was just to be alive.  No day is wasted when we pay attention to how valuable it is .  We can touch the life of someone else and give them a bit of a boost.  Afterall, we are all on a journey to eternity and we can cheer each other on that pilgrimage.

Here is a look at one of my book projects (coming soon) that observes these common days:

Life has its high points.  There are great episodes that become memories forever.  Nevertheless, we all have the routine days.  Those are the majority days of our existence.  Is it possible to be quite frank about those 24 hour periods?  Can life be taken as it comes and totaled up to hopeful come up with a sum that is positive?

I have been accused on more than one occasion of being too optimistic.  My friends have teased me to take off my rose colored glasses and sulk with them from time to time.  Certainly I do not begrudge my friends to have the luxury of griping once in a while.  We all grouse about something that is unpleasant or uncomfortable.  Yet, I have never seen a good reason to be mostly negative about life. 

That choice to deliberately be positive is not being Pollyannaish.  Instead, if we are cheerful by choice that decision can influence our day.  A good attitude over the same challenging circumstances in life can make our days much more pleasant.  

Being real does not mean that we are required to complain.  Nor does it mean that we have to confess something about our weaknesses.  It is sufficient that circumstances alone will make life “weak-kneed”.  While we cannot change those circumstances we can choose our disposition while living through those moments.

These pages are about those days.  Some of the situations are funny while others are sad.  Some of those are just nothing special at all yet, even as we live those days we can come out of them with a smile and a load of cheer. 

 I invite you to share these pages of life with me. They are pages from real life.  I enjoyed living them.  I hope that you will as well.

IMG_1826Procrastination is an ugly word.   Who ever invented that nasty term?  It must have been someone with an evil sadistic streak in them.

There are people out there who get their jollies making other people squirm.  No, it is not that they feel joy in their spirit when they inflict pain on others.  That would be too normal.  The rest of us like the sensation of delight that comes from do something that helps others, gets ticked off as a project-well-done or leaves a legacy for others coming after us to enjoy.

Sadistic types like to hurt others.  They feel that what they have done is “right”.  It must have been someone like that who invented the word procrastination.

“Putting something off for a better time” is this the definition of that horrid term?  Stop laughing, you and I, we feel the scourge of this word.  Give us a reason to achieve a goal and we will get it done . . . eventually.

What is  wrong with relaxing while planning on getting a project done? The I.R.S. is busy too.  No use stressing our Federal Employees.  They work for us, after all.

So, if the deadline is filing our tax returns by midnight on April 15, what is the big deal about turning them in early?  Oh, some tout the amount of interest that you do not give up to Uncle Sam while he is getting free use of our tax dollars for three and a half months.  Sure, there are bright people who can figure that kind of stuff out while the rest of us are trying keep our bills paid each month.

Aside from that miniscule financial picky detail, why else do we make everyone feel badly who haven’t yet turned in their taxes?  When we were in school and taking a test, no one got extra credit for turning their examination early.  In fact our teachers told us to take our time.  If we happened to finish early, then we should go back over the test and check our answers.  Is not this April 15 just like that?

We could actually make a game of it.  We could plan our filing, plot out the local post offices just in case the lines are too long at one or the other, then make a final dash just before midnight to grab as much “our time” as possible.  No, I am not of that stripe either; I already finished my taxes too.

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