A Positive Year – Week Five

Beginning of February – and the sun is starting to show some warmth!!   VERY positive!

Because I have to wear shoes at work – I have made my own in the past.  Unfortunately, by giving up on rigid soles, heels, arch support, you also give up on the durability of the shoes.  But, there is a positive side!  I get to make a new and better pair of shoes!  (Fancier too, this time.)

The week ended on a hugely positive note!

What could be more fun than hanging out with sixty other guys, playing challenging and fun games, listening to a good speaker and enjoying some good food. I also got to see the three masterful champions receive their trophies!


A Positive Year – Week Four

I made some more progress with the ax sheath trophies and was able to deliver them in time!  In a very hectic week, that was a very positive achievement.

And I also had time just to chill in front of the TV, scrolling through Google+ and playing a game or two.

I had a chance to revisit of of my favorite spots on the Mississippi River -= downtown St Paul.   The river has almost no ice on, as you can see.

Here was something that caused me to try to focus on the positive again:  They are breaking down some buildings on the cliff face right on the river.  You can see this as an ugly scar, or you can be positive and see this as necessary renewal, which is what I think it is.

It was cold enough that the walk only took about 10 minutes:

A Positive Year – Week Three

I was asked to help with the trophies for our Men’s Retreat again – this time three ax sheaths for the three axes that will be presented to three winners of some fun games played at the retreat.   This was a start on the first (gold) prize.  What a good feeling – and positive – to make something to give away!

So, I think this little hat make me look ridiculous, BUT it keeps my head and ears warm in the Minnesota winter.  Sometimes it is better to be practical rather than to ridicule yourself……

And on the subject of selfies – I don’t like them, I refuse to pull my mouth like a chimpanzee, I don’t mind if other people want a selfie with me, and I take very few of them.

But I do feel obligated now and then to do it, and here is why:

My dad was the photographer of the family – he took all the photos at funerals, and when family got together.  Which meant that there are relatively few photographs of him.  I wish that was not so.   So in an age of photographic documentation, I will attempt a selfie now and again and see how they come out.

This one was not too bad:

A Positive Year – Week Two

Few things are as positive as the sun in the midst of the Minnesota winter. Accompanied by the bluest of blue skies! 
The sun still does not have much to offer in the line of heat, but the beauty of the sunny days more than make up for the cold. 

The sun even looks good when it shines in on a disorganized work bench.

Another few positive minutes in a hectic work week: Kudos to the Culver’s staff in Plymouth who has spotless restrooms – even fresh flowers in the men’s!

A Positive Year – Week One

So here is something new I am going to try to do this year. Publish something once a week about the preceding week. And it can only be positive.

I enjoyed the one photo a day I did on Facebook last year. It opened my eyes a lot to things going on around me and to notice beautiful things in my surroundings.

I almost had withdrawal symptoms from that project.

The first of the year was on a Sunday and I could not help noticing this very good start to publishing about a positive year.

It was also a very cold week – yes, that is positive – it kills the mosquitos, it makes me appreciate warm weather in autumn summery and spring and it makes for beautiful days when the sun comes out in full blast!

I went to look at one of my favorite spots on the Mississippi River. No barefooting this time though!

It was just spectacular with a blue sky and the ice on the river. On the far side the water was open.

So, what does it mean to be more positive?? Being blind to the negative in life?

No, I think one should just think about your first reaction to everything you observe. A positive attitude can do a lot for physical health and happiness.

At the Start of Lent

A few thoughts:

The secret of life: to be in the right relationship with God and also with all people.

Of course, there are many aspects to the term ‘right’.

One such aspect: not to leave a relationship carnage behind you in your life’s journey.

The challenge then is to think twice before you speak your mind, send an email or ‘attack’ people in any other way.

The bottom line is to be nice to all people all the time. Not false nice – really nice. You should leave behind you people who feel good to have been in your presence and who feel that you have enriched their lives.

Can everybody live this way? Not instantly, no. You have to work at it, but the Holy Spirit will give you an awareness of when you are not being nice to everybody.

Humility helps. Someone who wants the last say and wants to be unkind to another person, lacks basic humility. Humility also does not come to us too naturally. We have to work at it, again dependent on and in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

A Little Piece of Life

Two hours to kill…

In a small city in Illinois. Very small. Rock Island.

It’s after five, and in the sea of closed office blocks, is an island, a small island.  A coffee shop.

This is probably as far away as I can get from everything I know, and everybody that knows me.

The word “dingy” wants to surface in my mind every now and then, but the place is clean and has an open glass front on the street.  I sit in one corner – non-smoking.  Another corner holds two chess players.  In the middle of the floor is a woman at a table, studying the newspaper, smoking and everything points to a very tough life.

Around six “regulars” sem to start to come in.  First an old white-bearded gentleman with a huge white scull cap and I realize I cannot decide between devout Jew and Muslim.

A suit takes the table next to mine – probably from the law firm I saw next door.  He looks a bit out of place.  He is busy with pen and paper.

Surprize! The woman who looks sixty and is probably only forty, speaks to the suit – do they now each other? But his reply is terse and short and she turns her attention again to the cigarette and the outside view.

Earlier the music was Jazz and Blues: Dizzy Gilespie.  Now it has deteriorated to a mild rythmic tortured grunting.  How can a country that spawned the Gershwins and other greats, give such performers a right to exist?  I’ll put it down to a question of personal taste.

The sun fades very slowly between these high buildings and I realize I am writing by the light of a feint yellow lamp that is peering over my shoulder.

If only I could see a five minute movie, a summary of each of these lives.  The two young guys running the place, like most mid-western youth, both are clean cut, open faced, with caps on.  One has long hair, neatly tied at the back.  What do they do when they are not here?  Maybe attending a college?  Maybe one of them owns the place and is always here?

And still the regulars contradict each other in appearance:  a regular guy, 40-50, office worker?, reads a paper, no family?  Opposite him, the table next to the woman, a young man with only a tank top vest on, tanned, a cleaner somewhere?  Oh no, the “rag” hanging from his belt is probably his shirt …   Another guy comes in for coffee – blue Stetson hat, cowboy boots, jeans and a denim vest – could almost be a cowboy businessman or a country singer, grey moustache and all.

As the light fades outside, a second dark hand on my paper helps me write and the fans hanging from the ceiling, causes nervous shadows to flit across the floor.

[*** Here I switched to writing in Afrikaans – you can read the original text below.]

Two more come in – he is wearing only a loose sweater with his jeans, leather thong around the neck with five beads – short blond hair – light goateeen rings through both ears and who knows where else!?  She is oriental and might be married to him.  They also know everybody.

It’s only the suit and me that have not greeted anybody.  He now has a long yellow legal pad and thoughtfully makes notes.

The woman, the young man with the tank top and a family deeper into the coffee shop are all smoking.  In a restaurant – this is how far we are from any big city.

The music changes to a more listenable swing  “…everyone was gay, at the start of the holiday…”  From when ‘gay’ meant something else.

With the sun not doing much outside, the ‘dingy’ lights inside now appear to be much brigther. Even the one quietly peering over my shoulder at what I am writing.

Agains the outside window is a box that is beaming its bright neon sign to the street:  “OPEN”.  In red with a blue frame.  You doubt in that regard.

Another regular – his shirt hangs over, just like his huge walrus moustache.

The suit starts filling in an order form that he tore from a small yellow catalog.  My eye catches a photo in the catalog:  more skin thank clothing – a man’s hand on another man’s butt…  I quickly glance around – I hope I am not in a gay bar …  so what, I can just say “not tonight” and then escape.  But I do not think so.

I think the suit is just ordering something kinky – the catalog disappears quickly into a white envelope and now I am curious: no, at least he is not wearing a wedding ring.

The music vists the Girl from Ipanema and I have to go.

For more than an hour I was allowed to sit inside a 1999 Norman Rockwell painting, anonymous, in three dimensions, caught up in the warm colors and sounds …  it was ‘n slice of life …


Nog twee mense – hy met net ‘n los trui by sy denims, leer riempie en vyf krale om die nek – ligte kort hare – ligte bokbaartjie en oorringe aan altwee kante en wie weet waar nog!?  Sy is ‘n oosterling en seker maar met hom getroud.  Hulle is ook nie vreemd nie en ken almal.

Is nog net die suit en ek wat nog niemand gegroet het nie. Hy sit nou met ‘n lang geel legal pad en dink en maak notas.

Die vrou, die jong man met die tank top en ‘n familie dieper in die coffee shop sit en rook.  In ‘n eetplek – dis hoe ver ons van die naaste groot stad is.

Die musiek vanander na ‘n meer luisterbare swing.  “… everyone was gay, at the start of the holiday…”  Toe was gay nog iets anders.

Met die son wat buite nie meer veel doen nie, lyk die “dingy” ligte binne nou helderder.  Selfs die een wat oor my skouer stilweg kyk wat ek skryf.

Teen die buite venster hang ‘n kassie wat sy buis neon boodskap na buite straal: “OPEN”.  In rooi met ‘n blou raampie.  Jy hoef nooit te twyfel nie.

Nog ‘n regular – hemp hang uit, nes sy groot walrus snor.

Nou vul die suit ‘n bestelvormpie in wat hy uit ‘n klien geel katalogus geskeer het. My oog vang ‘n foto in die katalogus:  meer vleis as klere – ‘n man se hand op ‘n ander man se broek…  Ek kyk gou rond – ek hoop nie ek is in ‘n gay bar nie…  so what, ek kan maar net sê “not tonight” en dan ontsnap.  Maar ek dink nie so nie.

Ek dink die suit bestel maar net iets kinky – die katalogus is vinnig terug in ‘n wit koevert en ek is nuuskierig:  nee, hy het darem nie ‘n trouring aan nie.

Die musiek kuier nou by die Girl from Ipanema en ek moet ry.

Vir meer as ‘n uur kon ek binne ‘n 1999 Norman Rockwell prentjie sit, anonymous, in drie dimensies, vasgevang in warm kleure en klanke…  dit was ‘n stukkie lewe…