Lightning and Life

A few years ago lightning struck our house. It seems most of the energy was safely dissipated via a ground wire, as intended. Yet some took a variant path, following along the eave trough and blowing the downspout away from the house, before jumping to an unused underground cable and heading towards our prized maple tree. The telltale sign of the end of its path was mound of dirt over where the wire once was. The height and width of this trail diminished as it approached the tree, disappearing a few feet from the trunk.lightning and life-the tree

I expected the leaves to turn brown in a couple of days. I braced myself to watch my tree die. To my relief, this didn’t happen. The tree lived the rest of that year and all through the next. A year and a half later, just as the leaves began to unfold in the spring, they stopped growing and turned brown. Within a couple days, my maple tree was dead. The likely explanation was the lightning damaged the root system enough to where the tree couldn’t recover.

Above the ground, the tree looked healthy and alive. Yet, hidden from view was a tree fighting for survival. Though it hung on for eighteen months, it couldn’t recover.

Such it is with life. Every action has ramifications. Yet if the effects are delayed, we can easily assume everything is fine. With an unwise action, the lack of an immediate consequence can lull us into assuming everything is all right and embolden us to repeat our reckless behavior. On the outside, everything may look fine. But what no one can see—what we may not even realize—is that on the inside we are wounded and moving towards death, be it literal or figurative.

We need to do what is good, even when we see no benefits from our wise actions or no consequences because of our unwise acts: we never know what may await.We need to do what is good, even when we see no benefits from our wise actions or no consequences because of our unwise acts: we never know what may await. Click To Tweet

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Breaking Needless Habits

Several years ago, I realized that a ritual had crept into my morning hair-combing routine. This added activity was inconsequential, not contributing in any way to my final appearance, yet morning after morning, I persisted in this needless habit.Breaking Needless Habits

It took only a few seconds and eliminating it did not substantially increase my free time each day—I calculated that time I freed up through the elimination of this habit garnered me an extra 30 minutes per year. Break each needless habit. We need to identify needless habits and eliminate them from our routine. Click To Tweet

Another Needless Habit

Recently, I noticed another time-wasting habit relating to brushing my teeth. For some reason, I would wet my toothbrush, apply the toothpaste, and then wet the paste, before brushing. Why? I don’t know.  It’s not in the instructions—-in fact, the instructions don’t even say to use a toothbrush.

I eliminated the initial application of water on the brush with no discernible change in the teeth-cleaning experience. Removing the second hydration only slightly changed the initial feel of toothpaste in my mouth, but likewise did not detract from the final outcome.

However, this has been a hard habit to break.

First, I would catch myself after it was too late. Within a week, I would stop myself after turning on the water, but before inserting the toothbrush into the water. The next phase was catching myself as my hand moved towards the faucet.

Now after a month of effort, the first application of water has been successfully stopped. However, avoiding the second time still requires some effort.

It is well worth it, however, because once I have successfully broken this habit, I will gain an extra two hours of free time a year.

Now, if I could just identify a bigger needless habit, then I would really gain some free time.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Road Rage is Not a New Thing

Some 30 years ago, my bride and I experienced road rage. We were headed home from work, making a detour for groceries. I drove down the area’s busiest street, full of rush hour traffic, and attempted to pull into the left turn lane. Due to various reasons, I made a couple of partial forays into it, only to return to the lane for regular traffic. This infuriated the driver behind me, who began vehemently sounding his disapproval through the liberal use of his truck’s horn.Road Rage

Once we were fully into the left turn lane, he began to roar past us when my spitfire of a wife stuck out her tongue. This sent him into a full fury. He screeched to a halt in the middle of rush hour, opening his truck door hard into the side of our vehicle. He ran around our car and challenged me to a fistfight in the middle of the road. Talk about road rage. Being of sound mind, I stayed in my car. This irritated him even more. Click To Tweet

Being of sound mind, I stayed in my car. This irritated him even more. He stepped towards the driver’s door and cocked his arm. Just then, oncoming traffic cleared and I gunned the engine as he swung his fist towards my window. But due to the car’s acceleration, he ended up shattering the rear window instead, spraying glass throughout the car. He then returned to his truck to give chase.

We drove around the store’s parking lot, playing cat and mouse between the rows of cars. Eventually I was able to maneuver to the front door, letting my bride escape and summon police. She was sure she was going to become a widow. I figured I could continue playing “keep away” until the police arrived—or I ran out of gas.

Fortunately I was too cagey for him and he soon gave up the chase. One witness got this license plate number and a bored cabby followed for a while to make sure he wasn’t coming back.

The police ran the plates; the truck’s owner had a history with the police and was well known to them. They arrived at his home to find his right hand wrapped in a bloodied bandage. He confessed to the whole thing and admitted he was aiming for my head when he swung his fist. He was later found guilty and required to pay court costs and make restitution.

I’m glad he wasn’t carrying a gun, or this road rage story could have had a different outcome.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Are You a Reliable Witness?

A number of years ago my wife and I were witness to road rage—and our car was the victim. As the police officer took our statements, he asked if the assailant walked around the front of our car or the back. My bride quickly answered “the front” and just as promptly, I replied “the back.” We gave an incredulous glance to the other, with real concern over the other’s sanity.Are You a Reliable Witness?

I attributed our contradicting testimonies to the trauma of the situation and later wondered if eyewitness testimony in a court of law could really be depended upon with any degree of accuracy.

This has all been brought back to mind with our “52 Churches” journey, where we will be visiting a different Christian church each Sunday for a year. Each week as we drive home from church and later process our experiences, we all too often recall details differently. Usually these are over trivial facts, but occasionally our conflicting observations are over more substantive matters.We're focusing on making detailed and accurate observations, even to the point of taking notes—the testimony given in any hearing or trial is most certainly suspect. Click To Tweet

It will be pointless for me to suggest who is normally right—especially since my bride will be proofreading this post—so I will declare it to be 50-50.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

In Memory of

Yesterday was Memorial Day in the USA. It is a national holiday set aside in memory of military personnel who died while serving their country. As such it should be a solemn day of remembrance, attending parades and visiting the graves of loved ones.

Memorial DayMemorial Day is also an appropriate reminder to thank all those who have served their country through military service. Regardless of your opinion on the politics behind the various US involvements in which they serve, commend them for their many acts service; they put their future and their life on the line for their compatriots.Memorial Day is also an appropriate reminder to thank all those who have served their country through military service. Click To Tweet

Additionally are those who return from military service with life-altering injuries, both physical and mental. Too often they are forgotten or marginalized. Remember them too.

Some observe Memorial Day by doing these things. For others it is a day to relax or have a cookout. However, too many have lost sight of why this holiday exists, seeing it merely as a day off from work (for most people) or a long weekend. Aside from enjoying the day, one can take in a parade, visit a grave site, thank a military man or women, hire a vet, or do whatever they can to show respect or appreciation.  But whatever you do, remember to remember—today and every day.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Is it Time For a Checkup?

Is it Time For a Checkup?

In my newsletter a four years ago, I recommended we periodically check our credit reports. This is a wise move in order to correct reporting errors and catch possible identity theft. Other finance related initiatives include making an annual budget, having life insurance, establishing an emergency fund, and planning for the future.So we take control of our finances, watch our health, care for our possessions, and protect our time, all by preforming regular checkups. But what about relationships? Click To Tweet

On the health front is scheduling appointments with the doctor and dentist. In addition, some people regularly check their pulse or take their blood pressure. Even stepping on the scale is a form of a medical checkup.

Aside from health issues, we regularly have the oil in our car changed and follow recommended maintenance to keep it running great. Many take similar steps with their homes.

I also do periodic checkups on my schedule to avoid over-commitment and guard against under-involvement.

So we take control of our finances, watch our health, care for our possessions, and protect our time, all by preforming regular checkups.

But what about relationships?

I too often take relationships for granted. Either they work or they don’t. But I should be intentional about them, too. I need to do a relationship checkup. Maybe you do, too. In my checkup, I ask these questions:

  • Am I investing in the relationships that are important to me? Do I seek to make our interactions significant? Do people anticipate spending time with me?
  • Conversely, am I protecting myself from toxic relationships that demand much, give little, and drag me down?
  • Am I looking to build relationships with others?
  • Do I need to remove myself from some relationships?
  • Am I in any enabling relationships?

Even more important is my relationship with family. They, too, deserve a thorough checkup.

On the spiritual front, is God, the most important relationship of all. Maybe we should do this checkup first.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

When Customer Rewards Programs Go Bad

Ten years ago, I have signed up for the “rewards” program at my favorite office supply store. In addition to mailing me coupons and emailing me special offers (which is how I bought a paper shredder for $10), they also keep track of my purchases, which allows me to earn quarterly discounts.When Customer Rewards Programs Go Bad

Conceptually, this is a great business idea. It promotes store/brand loyalty and gives me an incentive to not consider their competition.

When I was emailed my recent statement of activity, I actually looked at it. I wanted to make sure that the recent ink cartridges that I returned for recycling had been credited to my account. They had not. Nor was the purchase that I made that day. Looking through each statement for this year, they had a record of only one purchase.If rewards program has gone bad—and as a result this customer could go away. Click To Tweet

Why do they scan my card? Since charges don’t end up in my statement, scanning it seems to be largely an exercise in futility.

It makes me wonder if their competitor—whose store is right across the street from them—has a rewards program that works better and could actually capture all my purchases.

I’m sure that it’s not the goal of their rewards program is to drive customers to their competition, but that could very well be what happens.

Sadly, their rewards program has gone bad—and as a result this customer could go away.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

A Disconnect Between Marketing and Technology

I was a loyal customer of a national office supply chain (they’ll remain nameless to protect their otherwise good image). I was a preferred customer, which entitles me to special discounts and occasional rewards (on those rare quarters when I buy “enough” product.) They also send me an email, seemingly weekly, of sales and special offers.

Ten years ago,  I scanned their latest missive and noticed deals on paper shredders. I’ve been using a light-duty model for years and it’s showing its age as it groans through the documents I feed it. I figured that when it shredded its last page, I would replace it with a heavy-duty model.

Incredibly, they were offering an “on-line only” price of $10 for a light-duty model, similar to, but better than my old faithful.  At $10, there was little to lose; the super-deluxe model could wait.

I went to their website to place my order. I entered my email address only to be informed that they had no record of it in their files.There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT's ability to support them. I wonder how many sales were lost as a result. Click To Tweet

How curious. They had just emailed me that morning; obviously, someone had a record of my email. Unfortunately, the marketing department and the IT (information technology) department were not operating from a common resource.

I was going to abort my order (one explanation why e-commerce shopping charts are abandoned). However, out of a sense of adventure, I forged on. I placed my order without logging in; at it’s conclusion I was asked to sign-up to receive email alerts. I entered my address and they happily took it.

There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT’s ability to support them.  I wonder how many sales were lost as a result.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Not Talking About Abortion

Ten years ago I tangentially touched on the abortion topic. I didn’t address it head on—and won’t be doing so today, either.Not Talking About Abortion

Although some people are ambivalent towards the subject, most have pronounced and decided opinions on the matter. Both sides of this volatile issue have been known to take determinedly dogmatic and militant stances. Just throw out the “A” word in casual conversation—and then duck, because someone will start slinging something, be it hurtful words, strong rhetoric, or pure invective.

The issue is currently too emotionally charged to conduct a cogent conversation, so with words seemingly inadequate to win over the opposition, the prudent course of action is often silence. Each side is convinced that the other is ignorantly wrong and hopelessly barbaric. Unfortunately there is apparent truth to that, even if only in media sound bites and the fanatical fringe—which is present in both groups.

What I am sure of is that it will take the efforts of future historians to pronounce a victor. Once the emotion of the present has been dispatched and the distanced logic of another generation takes over, then opinions can converge.The issue is currently too emotionally charged to conduct a cogent conversation, so with words seemingly inadequate to win over the opposition, the prudent course of action is often silence. Click To Tweet

These future historians will look back, concurring with one side and condemning the other. They may uphold the pro-choice group with the same applause as those who promoted civil rights or salute the pro-life group with the same reverence as those who opposed the Holocaust and genocide. And when they do, whatever they decide, public opinion will line up squarely and smartly behind their conclusion.

I know what I want their verdict to be, but I’m not sure if they will agree. Only time will tell.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

A Restaurant Is Only As Good As Your Last Meal

Some 20 years ago, a shuttered restaurant—just down the street—was being renovated. Excited to have a nice eatery within a couple minutes of home, our family paid them a visit within weeks of their re-opening. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, the food was tasty, and entrees were not unreasonably priced.

I heard that the owner, a retired (or displaced) worker had invested his entire retirement fund into the place. I was pulling for him, hoping he could make a go of things, whereas the former proprietor could not. As the evening progressed and all guests had been served, the restaurateur emerged from the kitchen and began making the rounds, stopping by each table to greet his guests.

Methodically he navigated his way to each table in the dinning room, steadily moving towards us, the table furthest from the kitchen. I anticipated getting to meet him, encourage him in his endeavor, and wish him the best. Upon completing his schmoozing with the second to the last table, he took a half step in our direction, scrutinized us, and made a hasty U-turn, retreating to the confines of the kitchen. He did not reappear. I wonder how much fuller it might be if they welcomed families with children? Click To Tweet

Dumbfounded, my wife and I exchanged confused glances. Then I looked about the place, becoming quite self-conscience upon realizing that we were the only quests with children. Apparently kids weren’t welcome in this establishment. Now things began to make sense. The hostess seemed a bit flustered when seating us, mentioning something about a good table for children, and moved us to the far corner of the room, farthest from the door.

He did make a go of it, but we never went back, even though it’s still the closest restaurant to our home. Sometimes the parking lot looks a bit sparse. I wonder how much fuller it might be if they welcomed families with children?

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

%d bloggers like this: