Archive for November, 2012

I’d like to give some advice to the young; not the very young because, quite frankly, to them I’m an old fart who doesn’t know what life is like today…and that’s fine because people my age didn’t know what it was like to grow up when I was their age. However, you should know that, aside from the speed with which life passes you by, not a hell of a lot is all that different.

No, my remarks are addressed to those between the ages of 35 and 55. You’re still rather young to me although I’m not exactly certain what happened to those years during my own lifetime. My advice goes something like this:

  • Forget company loyalty. You may believe that you have the very best job in the world and that you’re moving up the corporate/not-for-profit/education ladder to the top just about as quickly as possible. There will always be someone who is envious, jealous, or doesn’t like you because of the color of your eyes. If you’re not careful, that person or those people will knock you off that ladder so quickly, you’ll wonder why your ass is sitting on the sidewalk rather than in the top chair. Company loyalty today appears to be a one-way street. Years ago, a friend of mine was hired to solve a problem at an institution in Pittsburgh. On his first day at work, his boss came to him and said in all seriousness, “Bernie, you play ball with me and I’ll shove the bat up your ass.”  Suffice it to say, it set the tone for all future relationships with that boss.


  • “Fast track” is generally a crock. Unless you are a perfect human being, fast track merely means that you are being given the opportunity to screw up faster than others. Where will you wind up if you’re on the fast track? Which leads to…


  • …What do you want out of life? Is it your ambition to be the absolute top dog in your field? Do you want to be the one the Sunday talk shows call when they’re looking for expert advice? This is a little thing called long-term goals. If that’s what you desire, fine, but study those who are now on the top rung of that ladder. Are you willing to do what they did to get there? Sometimes, it’s not all that pretty. For example, my goal upon undergraduate degree completion and based on my first job, was to be a college president. Then I saw (a) what it took to get there, and (b) what a toll it took on the families of those I knew who had reached that pinnacle. It became a price I was unwilling to pay. You may feel differently; in which case, I wish you all the best.


  • We each have 168 hours per week to accomplish what it is we hope to do. Have you ever asked yourself, “Where did the time go?” If that’s the case, maybe you should keep some kind of a time chart to determine exactly what happened to that time. Were you spending it as you wished or were you spending it as outside forces wanted you to spend it. That is, who’s running your life, you or the dreaded “them?”



  • Don’t get discouraged. I cannot tell you just how important that bit of advice is to your well-being. So what if you haven’t gotten where you want to be by the time you’re 55 or even 60. If you have a job that pays you enough to keep a roof over your head and food on the table, that’s a good thing; if it costs you to put the kids through college, that’s okay. You and the kids will find a way to beat that debt. The world isn’t going to end because of this.


  • Money is not a measure of your success. There will always be someone making or having more money than you. Determine how much you need to meet your goals and be happy with that until you set new goals and need more. You may never get it, but the thought is there. Besides, you will never, ever, have enough money to do everything you want…unless you were born with the proverbial silver spoon.


  • Take the time to take care of your body. After all, it’s the only one you have and, trust me, if you don’t take care of it, it won’t take care of you. It’s frightening just how fast the pounds can begin to build up, the arteries can begin to hardened, and your overall health can go to hell-in-a-hand-basket! If you don’t want to do cardio exercises at a gym, make certain you go for a brisk walk at least three times a week…and watch the freakin’ fast foods, will ya please?

I could go on forever; well, that’s not quite true but there are any numbers of bits of advice that I could offer now that I’ve reached the ripe old age of 78. It’s so easy to look back and tell others what they should or shouldn’t be looking for in their lives. Did I ever reach my own goals? The answer to that is, “Yes…and No.”  The positive is that I achieved what I considered a position of reasonable responsibility in the field in which I chose to work…and I was happy. Happiness comes when people value your contributions and have no problems letting you know. Happiness is when you go home at night with a smile on your face because you did something that day that either helped another or helped your organization.

One last bit of advice: Life is exceedingly short. You don’t know from day to day what surprise it will bring. All too often, those surprises aren’t the kind to which you look forward. My advice on that is to make each 24 hours the best damned 24 hours that anyone ever lived. Oh, sure, there will be those nasty interruptions like sleep, going to the bathroom, eating, and…oh, yeah…work, but there’s still time left, if you’ll take it, to look at the stars and to find the beauty that will serve to make your life richer.

Good luck. I wish I’d followed my own advice, but like you…I was just too damned busy!

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“Tis the season to be jolly…fa, la, la,, fa, la, la, la, la, la.

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, particularly here in America. Yet, it appears to me that for far too many Americans, it becomes a season of terrible tragedy.

As I watched the news this morning, it occurred to me that there has not been one – not one – morning newscast this week where people were not thrust out into 20 to 30 degree weather, many in their pajamas and robes, because their apartment building was on fire. Fortunately or ‘un’ as the case may be, only one person has so far lost his life. There appears to be some direct correlation between dramatic fires and cold weather, at least here in the Northeast. There was a time when we attributed this to the use of space heaters; however, either they’re making safer space heaters or idiots have found other ways to burn down their domiciles. The one man who was killed was using a plumber’s torch and dollars to donuts he didn’t have an asbestos shield behind where he was working.

There will be more fires before Christmas 2012. In some cases they will be caused by candles left unattended; in others it will be because someone had a few too many holiday ‘spirits’ and fell asleep with a cigarette in his/her hand. Speaking of which, I heard a man complaining this morning that his apartment building fire meant he had no place to stay. There he was, casually smoking a cigarette and saying that he’d lost everything and had no insurance. I wanted to say, “Hey, asshole, with cigarettes at $70 per carton, it’s your own damned fault if you don’t have insurance! Renter’s insurance runs a little over $500 a year. Don’t bitch when you’re not trying to do anything for yourself.” I don’t want to appear holier than thou but I cannot begin to conceive of the amount of money that I’ve saved since quitting cigarettes in 1998. Okay, that was “holier than thou;” sorry.

This is also the time of year when too many people lose their collective marbles about spending. When the bills begin rolling in after January, they suddenly realize that the great deal they got on that 104” television, the one for the sixteen by twenty foot living room, is one that in hindsight they really could not afford. As a consequence, the joys of Christmas morning are suddenly replaced by the realities of beginning 2013 in way over one’s head. The marketers of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, oh joy, oh joy Sunday, and Cyber Monday have suckered us in another year. They really don’t have anything for Sunday yet, but it will probably be Joyous Jesus Sunday when you can celebrate the upcoming birth of Christ day – which isn’t when He was born anyway – by “Saintly Spending” to celebrate His birth!

We are such a friggin’ materialistic nation that it’s beginning to turn my stomach. However, and this is a very large, very bold faced underlined and italicized ‘however,’ I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a woman who loves me, a roof over my head, food on the table, a furnace that works, a couple – not many but a couple – of extra coins in my pocket and a POSBIR in the garage . Wealthy? Hell no, I’m not even comfortable, but “Ah has what ah has…and that’s all I need.” I have some very wealthy neighbors who take all sorts of trips and who have the latest toys…but I don’t want to be them; I don’t need to be them. What they do is what they want; what I do is what I want. I will say this, “My neighbors are also just as frugal in their spending as I am. We will not be conned by the marketers who would have us go in debt over our collective heads. I have driven through parts of this country where the dwelling is a broken down mobile home and in the front yard is the biggest damned television receiver you have ever seen. I suppose that to those folks television is more important than the cracked windows in the place where they live. It’s not my idea of responsible living but then, to each his own.

So, the fires will continue. At least one toddler will die because he or she played with an extension cord; Christmas trees will fall over and a family will be overcome by smoke. But look on the good side, Roland Dow and Jessica Linscott will be spending this holiday season behind bars, and won’t have the opportunity to torture and burn her child ever again. That’s really a cause for celebration

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Now that we know the chicken came first [see Now we know…dammit!], perhaps it’s time we move on to bigger and better things. We shall ask ourselves, “Which came first, man or woman?” This vexing question is very clear if one is to believe The Holy Bible. That is that God created man. He then removed a rib and created woman…simple, uncomplicated, and straightforward…if you believe the Bible. There is also the old story of God creating woman first but giving her three breasts. She spoke ‘unto’ God and said, “I only need two boobs; this third one gets in the way.” God removed the excess breast, held it for a moment and pondered, “What am I going to do with this useless boob?” The punch line, of course, is that that is how man was born…ah, well, worth a minor chuckle. There are days, however, and there are people…we’ll just let that one go.

While the earth may have been around for millions of years, the best dating of man that can be found says that thee and me have only been on this planet for the far shorter period of 195 – 200,000 years. Such a short space of time for us to do all the damage we have done, isn’t it? Somehow, in that short period, we’ve managed to pollute the oceans, rape the forests, change the climate, and developed weapons that can wipe out all living things with just the push of a button. If you ask me, God or whoever allowed us to have life really fucked up big time! Ah, well, one’s follies must be placed on the back burner for at most a brief moment

According to an ABC News article by Maggie Fox…

“Science may have caught up with the Bible, which says that Adam and Eve are the ancestors of all humans alive today.

“But in the scientists’ version, based on DNA analysis, “Adam,” the genetic ancestor of all men living today, and “Eve,”the genetic ancestor of all living women, seem to have lived tens of thousands of years apart.

“How could this be?

“Peter Underhill and colleagues at Stanford University in California have an explanation. “They had different molecular clocks,” Underhill said in a telephone interview. “Fewer men participated in reproduction than women did.”

“Tracing Women to Earlier Time

“His team, working with top geneticists across the United States, Europe, Israel and Africa, did a genetic analysis of DNA samples from the Y chromosomes of more than 1,000 men from 22 geographic areas and determined that their most recent common ancestor was a man who lived in Africa around 59,000 years ago.

“Only men have Y chromosomes and researchers can look at gradual genetic mutations in them to “count” generations.

“Other studies have used mitochondrial DNA, which women seem to pass down virtually unchanged from mother to daughter, to show that the genetic “Eve” lived 143,000 years ago.

“The latest study, published in the November issue of the journal Nature Genetics, reconciles the two findings, and in the process the researchers came up with new tool for looking at how people are different from one another genetically.

“They also added a great deal of detail to the family tree of all men living today, information that can be used by historians, anthropologists and other researchers. “We can look at the tree and see, ‘Oh, this section of the tree is where Asians go.’ We can say, ‘Oh, here is a Japanese Y chromosome and this is a Chinese Y chromosome,’” Underhill said.”

Does this mean that science and theology are once again at war? No, I don’t believe so. I would much prefer to say that they work in consort. Science has one set of beliefs and theologians something that while it might be called opposing, is still within the realm of possibility within the faithful. If you would like to pursue this subject further, I cordially invite you to read,”What is Man” by Mark Twain, or any of the 9.9 billion references that Google provides.

Looking at it from a very personal view, I would have to say that man is an extremely complex piece of equipment that is wired differently in each and every version. As a species, we have the capacity for both good and evil; our wiring determines the direction in which we proceed. However, I agree with Twain that outside influences can help in that determination and our environmental and socioeconomic positions as well as the groups with which we come in contact will, in large measure what we are. There are times when we as a species are content to flow with what we learn, and yet, there are others who are discontented and seek out a different flow. In other words, anyone who says that they fully understand the complexities of man is someone of whom to be very, very wary.

As for women, I have been on this earth long enough to understand that any man who says he has women all figured out really does belong in protective custody, preferably in a room with padded walls, floor and ceiling. Understand women…preposterous!

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Don’t you just hate it when scientists come along and take all the fun out of life? Well, I don’t know about you but I finally decided to satisfy my curiosity and learn which really did come first, the chicken or the egg. I was certain that there would be discussions galore on the Internet and that no concrete conclusion would be reached; after all, scientists have better things to do with their grants than arguing the age old question; you know, they get that million dollar grant to determine if mice can get cancer by eating 200 pounds of sugar a day for six years and important things like that.

I regret to say that I was wrong. The definitive answer according to Science & Tech, a magazine published in both the UK and the USA, scientists “cracked” the problem on July 13, 2010. It scrambles my brain just to think how [over] easy they made it sound. According to these devils, “Researchers found that the formation of egg shells relies on a protein found only in a chicken’s ovaries.” Now I don’t know about you, but I think that they’re getting rather personal when they begin to screw around with a chicken’s ovaries, but then, I didn’t get the grant!

I would be remiss if I did not print the entire article so readers may  view the sunny side of the study so here goes: “The protein – called ovocledidin-17, or OC-17 – acts as a catalyst to speed up the development of the shell.

“This hard shell is essential to house the yolk and its protective fluids while the chick develops inside.

“Scientists from Sheffield and Warwick universities used a super computer to ‘zoom in’ on the formation of an egg.

“The computer, called HECToR and based in Edinburgh, revealed that OC-17 is crucial in kick-starting crystallisation – the early stages of the creation of a shell.

“The protein coverts calcium carbonate into calcite crystals which make up the shell.

“Calcite crystals are found in numerous bones and shells but chickens form them quicker than any other species – creating six grams (0.2oz) of shell every 24 hours.

“Dr Colin Freeman, from Sheffield University’s Department of Engineering Materials, said: ‘It had long been suspected that the egg came first but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first.

“’The protein had been identified before and it was linked to egg formation but by examining it closely we have been able to see how it controls the process.  ‘It’s very interesting to find that different types of avian species seem to have a variation of the protein that does the same job.’

“Professor John Harding, from the same department, said the discovery could have other uses. ‘Understanding how chickens make egg shells is fascinating in itself but can also give clues towards designing new materials and processes,’ he said. ‘Nature has found innovative solutions that work for all kinds of problems in materials science and technology – we can learn a lot from them.’

“The discovery was revealed in the paper Structural Control Of Crystal Nuclei By An Eggshell Protein.”

Frankly, I believe that a super computer has uses other than determining which really came first in this chicken/egg argument, but then, I suppose a grant is a grant is a grant.

If we really want the super computer to help us determine difficult topics, we might ask, “Which came first, man or woman? Which came first, God or the universe? How about a really tough one…If Noah was so smart that he could build an ark for all of the animals [two by two, don’t forget], how could he possibly have been so dumb as to invite a couple of mosquitoes on board…or fleas for that matter?

So, for all of you who I have disillusioned today, I regret the error of my ways; for those of you who feel you can now lord it over those who are ignorant of the facts…ah, stop being such a smartass!

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What do you suppose we did before 1983? Seriously, how did we actually survive before that momentous year? That’s not even thirty years. That’s alright, however, because the majority of the idiots I see driving around with a cell phone glued to their left ear are, for the most part, thirty or under. They could never drive with the Motorola DynaTech 8000X because the damned thing was so bulky and had such limited capabilities, you might as well have had elastic string and a couple of tin cans.

Perhaps the people who were driving prior to 1983 did so while thinking. What a novel idea that would be…to actually think while you’re driving. You might actually be aware of your surroundings rather than flapping your gums about nothing…just to be flapping your gums and to show how much more important you think you are. Is there really anything so critical, so absolutely vital in your life that you need to talk on the phone while you are driving?

Yes, life is being lived at a much faster pace than it was back in the “old days” of 1983. There is urgency in living nearly three decades later that ‘older’ people just don’t understand. I damn near threw up as I wrote that statement, largely because it’s not true…well, not to the extent that the one-armed morons with a cell phone glued to their ear would have us believe. Before cell phones, we knew who was driving the car pool, and we knew that there would be backup in case something happened. It would just be a quick phone call from out land line…that phone on the wall or sitting on a table somewhere within easy reach. We car-pooled for over 25 years and there wasn’t a cell phone among the group…and we weren’t all from the same community! Wow, how the hell did we do it? If we were making dates for tennis or golf, we did it sufficiently in advance that we didn’t need some Nokia 1011 or an IBM Simon Personal Communicator worn as most women…and today some men…would wear an earring. Some of us actually began our day with things called “to do” lists. We might have even started it the night before.

There was a time, prior to my wife’s death, when we might go somewhere with one of our daughters. I don’t remember a ride where the minute we got in the car, the daughter’s cell phone would not go right to her ear and she would be calling this one or that one. It would generally go something like this. “Oh, I’ll drive. Oh, I have to call so-and-so; this won’t take a minute.” The conversation that would ensue was, from my point of view, not something of such vital importance that it could not have waited.

Cell phones have evolved into smart phones, and those fit just as easily in the palm of your hand, In addition, you can download ‘apps’ that will let you play games, read, and/or watch sporting events – all of this while you’re traveling through the supermarket parking lot and yelling at the kids in the back seat. Bluetooth’s are even better, a horizontal finger attached to your ear; you’re so bloody important that you’re speaking out loud…no, I’m not impressed; I think you’re an asshole.

I don’t believe that anyone will deny that cell phones are a great invention. It’s the manner in which they are used that should be cause for concern. If you climb into the car the first thing in the morning and attach your seat belt and the next thing you do is place a call on the phone…before even turning on the freakin’ motor, you have a problem. You need help. Your insecurity is showing…big time! If you cannot drive to the bank and back without having four different conversations, you have a serious problem. If you drive to work with a cup of coffee in one hand, a laptop on the seat beside you and a cell phone attached to your ear, you are in deep doo-doo! Get over yourself! You are not that important! Unless you are driving one of the children to the nearest hospital because his or her skull is split open and you can see grey matter, you really don’t need to call Mary Jo or Sally or even your spouse. You think speed kills? Well, so do cell phones.

Do I not believe there are occasions when you might need a cell phone while you are on the road? Of course there are. Two questions: What would you have done before the invention of the cell phone? There were automobiles long before the cell came into existence. Second, what is there to prevent you from pulling over to the side of the road, put on your hazard lights and then making or receiving an important call? The answer to that one is that there is nothing preventing you from pulling over. Don’t give me that crap about how you might get rear-ended. That’s more likely to happen while you’re driving and distracted.

I love my cell phone; it’s an important part of my life. My doctors all have my cell number; the bank has it; friends and family have it. If anyone ever needs to reach me, they will do so on my cell. You see, I found that since I have a cell with me all the time, I have no need for a land line in the house. It’s a big money-saver. There are rules, however. If I’m driving the car, the cell does not come out of my pocket. When I reach my destination, whether it be a store parking lot or my own driveway, out comes the cell and I respond to my messages.

Should you choose not to heed what I say, you may well go through life without a care in the world and never have an accident…but I’m not going to bet on it. I know too many people who thought their hard drive would never crash…oops!

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This very well might be called, “observations from a parking lot.” Here it is, the beginning of Thanksgiving week and already the supermarkets are packed with people buying the turkey and all the fixings; you know, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie filling for the very lazy, Pepperidge Farm stuffing, and for the connoisseurs, the last box of Twinkies or Ring Dings they can find.

Juli went for bananas and ginger; the former for my early morning, pre-gym snack and the latter for a Chinese marinade and glaze that does wonders for chicken wings. Suffice it say, she came out with several more items that just, “jumped into the carriage,” but I’m jumping ahead of my story.

Sitting in the parking lot – my back’s been killing me all day – you gain a rather interesting perspective on whom and what we Americans or a microcosm thereof are really like. The first thing I noticed is that the studies regarding obesity are pretty much true. One of the frightening things was that nearly every person dressed in hospital scrubs…sure looked like nurses to me…were the most guilty of having hefty hips and thunder thighs – pray God I’m not hospitalized again soon and further that they don’t read this blog. The second thing that stood out was just how many of the people going in and coming out of the store had back problems. What, you don’t believe someone who has had three back surgeries and still undergoes pain injections doesn’t recognize back pain? As Joan Rivers would quip, “Oh, grow up!” One young woman who looked to be in her teens but was probably much older grimaced with every step, and I know that look; been there, done that, and wouldn’t take the T-shirt on a bet.  These people were not all scale tippers. While I will agree that the vast majority could afford to lose a few, there were many, many others who, other than the slight limp and a shift in the way they walked, appeared perfectly within the dietary limits.

To get into the store, people had to walk by a Salvation Army bell ringer. She had a chair and sat most of the time but whenever anyone stopped to put money in the pot, she would stand and be effusive in her thanks…all three times while I was sitting there…for half an hour…while more than a hundred people walked by her. I’m being too judgmental here, but the number of people who looked away as they passed this lady was embarrassing.  Another thing that was quite evident concerned the carriage folks. At this market, you don’t just wheel out your own carriage, unload it into your car and leave the carriage where you damn well please. At this store, people who are mentally challenged, have a slight learning disability, or however you wish to describe them are there to bag your groceries – they do a damned good job – and take them out to your car. There are several group homes in the area and this is a way of helping these folks to find employment. Since Juli worked in special education, she takes great delight in talking with these folks when they have to wheel her cart out. Her philosophy is to treat them just as you would your own son or daughter; I learn from her skills and I have the feeling that the carriers also appreciate her attitude. Sad to say but what I witnessed today was rather the antithesis of Juli. Women, in particular would walk far in front of the carrier, some even looking back and gesturing for the employee to hurry up. On only two occasions did I see a customer and a carrier walking side by side and having a conversation…it was kind of sad.

While it’s great to be focused, I’m not certain it should be to the extent that people can’t take the time to slow down. Other than those with really bad backs, the elderly, and one man with artificial legs, everyone appeared to be moving just too damned fast. It was around 3:15 in the afternoon and people were cutting one another off just to get in the store. When she arrived at the car…with only one bag and a gallon of milk I’m pleased to note, Juli commented that if it’s like this on a Monday, we should come and just sit in the parking lot on Wednesday afternoon. It would be fun or maybe it would just be sad enough to spoil Thursday. After all, that is supposed to be a day of true thanksgiving.

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Somehow, the rancor that remains following the first Tuesday in November, i.e., the local, state, and national elections, seems to have a carryover that lasts up to the first bite of turkey or whatever on the fourth Thursday of the same month. Not too surprisingly, I still hear people at the gym who are unhappy about the Presidential and Senate election, and I read almost daily of former presidential candidate, Mr. Romney’s complaints about why the election turned out as it did.

It’s just too bad that people cannot look at the fact that the earth didn’t stop spinning on November 7th or the Nutella has now taken charge as the way to get kids to the breakfast table. Whether or not we fall off a fiscal cliff, our taxes go up or down, health care is dealt with in some way that benefits or horrifies us, or that Social Security is tampered with, there really isn’t a whole hell of a lot that you and I as individuals can do about it.

The one thing over which we do have control is how we react to November. On the one hand, the month is host to an event that will always cause controversy, victory celebrations, and gloom and doom parties; on the other hand, it is the month – at least this year – on which we celebrate the 341st anniversary of the first Thanksgiving. If you wish to carry things to an idiotic extreme, I suppose one could suggest that Thanksgiving, too, is a day of both celebration and commemoration as well as a day when defeat of one’s hometown high school football team can lead to doom and gloom…ah, what the hell, there are always the Detroit Lions to watch after the turkey!

There’s something else that goes on during the month of November. This seems to be the start of a revelation. It’s the time when people stop thinking about themselves for a while and begin to think of those less fortunate. Oh certainly this is done at other times of the year, but I’m not certain it’s quite as apparent as it is this month and on into December. I read a quote from Mark Twain this morning and I wanted to work it into this little piece. Now look, I’m into the fourth paragraph and I’m still not certain it will work; let’s see what you think. Twain said, “Kindness is the language, the blind can see and the deaf can hear.” That seems to sum up November and December for me. It’s a time when people understand more than at other times of the year that this is the time to be kind. One does not have to be blind or deaf to see the kindness of the food pantries or the organizations that set up to serve bags of Thanksgiving foodstuffs for those less fortunate. Perhaps what I have failed to recognize is that the food pantries, in particular, are showing this type of kindness year round; it’s just that they receive greater recognition around this time of year.

Recently, I said that, “An act of kindness makes two people happy.” I find it unfortunate that that attitude isn’t more common in our society. This morning a hawk attacked a small group of birds that were feeding on our patio. The hawk went away hungry, but one of the doves in the group escaped by trying to smash through the French windows in the family room. The dove was stunned, but before the hawk could return, Juli went out, picked it up and placed it under a tree where it wouldn’t be found. I commented on her kindness. She said, “You just do what you can do when you can do it.” While that certainly speaks to her character, it also speaks to the character of those who raised her. It’s not really what our parents tell us to do; it’s what we see them doing when we are children that sticks with us as we grow up.

Now, during not only the next two months but for the remainder of our lives, wouldn’t it be nice to take a step back and review how we can spend a little more of the kindness that is in all of us on those who can benefit from it. I remember Malcolm Forbes say, “The way I judge the character of a man is to watch the manner in which he treats those who can do nothing for him.” Do you know someone who can use a little kindness, but in return can do nothing for you? Go ahead, give it a shot; you’ll feel fantastic!

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