Your Life Is In Your Hands

What if you had one more day to live? Would that change the way you lived today? And why?

Life is a long sequence of sunrises followed by sunsets – thousands to be literally correct. Too often we dismiss days off the calendar like we mindlessly dip our hand into a bag of chips. The start and finish similarly thoughtless.

Again, why? Why wait until a wake up call to lead your life by design, guided by what defines you, your dreams, and your values? Why not make your life, yours?

To be honest, we’ve all gone stretches of life with our heads boring into the wind, telling ourselves this too will pass. And for the most part, those moments are an essential part of building character, demonstrating to ourselves we can survive the worst life can throw at us. Nothing builds confidence like earning a victory by your own sweat and determination.

But do we also understand, those moments, as necessary as they are to our development, are designed to be temporary? Markers in life for us to rise up and build a better version of ourselves?

Time is a great teacher. Along the way we learn to understand not too much in life is worth getting worked up about, grudges tend to cheat us from important relationships, and the fear of the trying or doing new things is akin to being afraid of your shadow.

I know I’ve been blessed beyond anything in my dreams. I met the most wonderful woman in the world, together we built a beautiful family, and survived everything from not having money to buy a package of diapers to holding hands for possibly one last time before a surgery.

But in the end, which could be today as likely as any day, life has made each of us stronger and more resilient to whatever is ahead.

Life should be lived one day at a time – but on your terms. Too often the world would like us to sign on like we do for cable television and simply accept what comes out on the other end. Unfortunately, like what comes out of your television, most of it is crap.

I’m not the smartest guy in the room and most likely never have been or will. But life has helped me see taking notes and acting on what is most important to me is the difference between genuine fulfillment and helpless anxiety. It is my responsibility to use my God-given tools to create and shape the world around me.

I tell my children-now-adults that life is hard. But I also tell them you will more likely regret the opportunities you don’t take than those you will. Our minds want us to be safe; life, however, wants us to evolve, grow, and drink it in.

Before you figure out how to live tomorrow, make sure the one you are living today is one you would have no regrets of turning off the light switch one final time.




Americana Served with Chili

I discovered America alive and well over a bowl of chili the other day.

Romance is a funny thing – our hearts and minds working together to present an edited version of the past. One where the burs are softened the unvarnished is touched up here and there. Artist Norman Rockwell made a good living tapping into this vein of Americana.

But on the corner of two well-worn streets, America is still living as true as red, white, and blue.

Grey skies and cutting northerly winds instinctively send me searching for a bowl of chili. This week, however, I found warmth is not limited to a ceramic bowl and stainless steel spoon. In a small, community pub, you would be hard pressed to find a better slice of Americana.

Darkened wood, black and white sports photos, and dollar bills lightly draping from the walls and ceilings, these bastions of our history would make Norman Rockwell proud.

The waitress takes my order without needing to write it down, greets people by their first names, and connects with every patron on one level or another. The menu is simple but honest. Some sandwiches appeared to be originally named after star athletes who now sit in their respective sport’s halls of fame. Larry Bird and Ryne Sandburg should be honored.

The door, cut at a 45-degree angle and facing both streets, swings open and patrons purposefully walk in taking a seat at the modest bar. Never reaching for a menu, the waitress many times simply confirms what she thinks they want. Drinks, similarly, arrive without spoken communication. One man’s shirt reflects the contractor he is working for while the person next to him thumbs through the Wall Street Journal. Flip phones competed with iPads.

Americana is alive and well.

In true Texan style, my chili arrives absent of beans.

The door abruptly swings open. A man loudly asks everyone in the room where the nearest Mexican restaurant is located. Patrons offer directions and he is off back into the cold.

Americana is an interesting concept. Honest, authentic, and you can touch it like you shake a man’s hand. Rusted pickup trucks, catching the whiff of a hot dog on the grill, and two people laughing for the sake of laughing. Real. No filter. You know it when you see it, hear it, feel it.

The chili is great. My body sends a thank you card up from my toes – the warmth apparently working its way through my system.

The door burst open again. The return visitor loudly says that is not the right Mexican restaurant. He describes the booths. Someone gives him directions to another up the street. He turns and exits. The place returns to normal as if loud strangers bursting through the door and abruptly asking for directions is normal in the first place.

The chili disappears quickly, my body hungry for not only the food, but for the peek at Americana. Have faith, America still exists.


Keeping A Grinch Named Harvey Away

Rows of tall empty cardboard boxes stand at attention waiting to be filled. Each box represents a family in-need; each family represents a child or three. There are hundreds of them. The math equates to over 3,000 Galveston County children in need this season.

For many, Hurricane Harvey is the Grinch attempting to steal Christmas.

The Salvation Army of Galveston County is housing their distribution center inside the dark and hollow space once occupied by the Dillard’s department store at the Mall of the Mainland in Texas City. The space is deep, dark, and cavernous. Voices echo and get lost in the depth of the once alive space. The number of rows of boxes only adds weight to the task ahead.

The other evening my wife and I stopped by to offer a hand filling orders for the Angel Tree. The hard truth is there are still too many Angel Tree vouchers waiting to be filled this year. The impact from Harvey continues to hang over Galveston County – threatening to steal Christmas from the youngest and most innocent residents.

Behind every cardboard box is a family prequalified to be in need. While their circumstances are as individual as the spelling of their names, their situations are similar – they are hurting.

Each year many people go out of their way to collect an Angel Tree voucher. The process is simple – children request a few modest items they would wish to see under the tree. A toy, a book, and more times than you would imagine, clothes to wear. When an individual returns the order filled and ready, the bag is then placed in the box designated for the family and child, waiting for the pick up date.

The hard reality is not all Angle Tree vouchers are collected ahead of time – leaving many to be being filled by volunteers inside the hollow shell of an empty department store.

On the night we visited, children and adults were filling Angel Tree vouchers. Long tables of donated items – toys, clothes, socks, and books – lined the walls as volunteers work to fill the orders. Once filled, the volunteer searches through the rows of numbered boxes, placing the bag inside the family’s designated box.

Here is the truth – this is labor intensive and the supplies are low. If you have the opportunity to help, this is the year. Remarkably the items in need are modest, many kids saying clothes as their most needed items. Books, too, are especially high on the list and low in availability.

The entire experience of filling the orders is humbling. Imagining the faces behind the vouchers is impossible for anyone with a beating, loving heart.

Let’s not let a Grinch named Harvey steal our children’s Christmas. Reach out and help. Allow your blessings to help bless others this year.


Make a difference today by making a donation or volunteering to help. Contact Holly McDonald at the Salvation Army of Galveston County at:

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Handshake Becoming Endangered Species? 

Strolling down a quiet street in eastern Texas, a small white window sign catches my eye.

“Where a handshake still means something,” read the black letters.

Pausing, I couldn’t help to find myself transported back to learning the ropes of life as a young adult and how one conducts themselves as a person of character. A world where your word is stronger than any signature on a piece of paper, a handshake universally binds you to another, and your name is the most valuable possession you’ll ever own.

The black and white letters hung with me as a full moon looked over my shoulder, casting my shadow towards the building.

Life really is that simple, I thought. And are we making sure to pass these timeless concepts to future generations? And if not, what will this mean?

I’ve bought cars, houses, and deeply apologized over a handshake. And never was there a question by either end of the grasp what being communicated or committed. Deal was done or apology accepted.

Today I pay for items with the swipe of my phone or by inserting a small plastic card into a reader. I can also spend thousands of dollars by clicking a mouse over a small image on a computer screen. Nothing is real, nothing is said – only ones and zeros racing around the globe in small packets of data.

I increasingly miss the currency of the handshake. Binding, personal, and universally accepted as more valuable than gold. As much as the world of technology continues to tractor us into a world absent of looking one another in the eyes, I take great comfort in knowing people of true character never walk away from a handshake.

A friend once casually tossed out a phrase after explaining why he’d done something to help another in need.

“Heck, that is just the Cowboy Way,” he said. He was tall, his words slow, and his word gold.

I thought about his words and the emotional gravity they projected. Your word is good, your handshake binding, and doing the right thing is non-negotiable. And at every opportunity, he did.

The sign kept looking at me. I thought about the tradition of teaching young people to look another directly in the eyes when speaking, being sincere in your commitments, and only offering a handshake when you are ready to conclude an agreement or reach a mutual understanding. Are we making sure to instill these values in current and future generations? I hope so. These values and traditions are critical predictors of a person as they go through life.

I wonder where this is all leading, that is are these basic tenants of maturity going to end up in the scrap heap of society? The outcome is nothing short of unnerving. To have our most valuable currency evaporate, replaced by digital signatures or passwords, is to potentially undermine our trust in each other.

My friend clearly knows what his word and handshake mean. Let’s hope technology doesn’t delete this valuable tradition.