Author: Chris Siegel

No one to blame

No one to blame

I am no longer dreaming of a white Christmas. No, we have not been hit by a massive snowstorm causing all the bread and milk to disappear in the South. Instead, I turned my kitchen white this morning because I am an idiot. You see, if you go to shake up the coffee creamer and don’t check to make sure the lid is on tight, well …

As is the case I am sure with many of us, when we do something stupid we look for someone to blame. Unfortunately, I didn’t have to look long to find the responsible party. I could blame someone else in my house for not closing the lid, but I was the one who just checked to make sure the seal had been removed. I could blame the company for making a terrible lid, but that line of thinking would be faulty. I only had myself to blame for the sticky mess that now had my black sweatshirt spotted white and smelling of cinnamon roll.

The unfortunate white out reminded me of a critical life lesson – we all look for someone to blame when life doesn’t go as planned. Certainly there are times when things are not of our doing. The person running the red light who hits our car is not our fault. The company going bankrupt causing people to lose their jobs is not their fault (entirely). The storm that damages your house again is not your fault. And we could sit around playing the blame game and pointing fingers, but would it do any good?

You see, finding someone to blame doesn’t change the situation. Sure, I wouldn’t feel like the complete moron I am if I could blame someone else for my creamer conundrum. But that wouldn’t change the fact that creamer was everywhere and needed cleaned up. All that would happen if I had someone else to blame is I would be angry and sticky – what would that solve?

There will always be unfortunate circumstances in life – and some will be completely our own doing. Wasting time trying to find someone to blame would simply be counterproductive. Passing blame and complaining about what someone did – or didn’t – do is merely a waste of time. What we need to do is pick up the pieces and move on. Just as I had to clean up the mess I made in my kitchen, we need to sweep up the messes life makes from time to time and keep living life.

As Christmas approaches, are you sitting around blaming someone for the troubles in your life? Have you taken a moment to look in the mirror and see if you are really to blame? Forgive whoever needs forgiven and quit wasting time playing the blame game. Life is not going to stop while you point fingers, so clean up the mess and move on. You will find life is more enjoyable and productive if you do.

Why not?

Why not?

I have hesitated to put into words the feelings I am about to share. I am about to wade into the deep end of the pool, and I know by the time I finish some of you may be ready to hold my head under until the bubbles stop. That’s OK; this is a topic that is dividing not only our country but the world. But I am going to share anyway, and I hope you take these words with the spirit intended and not as me trying to stir the pot.

Before I go any further, I am not here to start an argument about the weapon chosen to take human lives in Texas. Devin Kelley could just as easily have stolen a semi and drove it into the Sutherland Springs church killing scores of people. He could have mixed pounds of fertilizer with other chemicals and blown up the building. He could have used a large knife to kill innocent people. But he chose a gun as his weapon. And it was just that – a weapon. So this is not about the weapon but the event.

Now, attacks on innocent lives are happening with regularity around the world and many times the first question people ask is why. Now, not to be crude or uncaring, but I think the question that comes to me first is why not. I don’t mean to be a curmudgeon or some doom-and-gloomer, but to me it is a miracle more things like this don’t happen. And, again, it has nothing to do with the weapon these people choose.

Here is my thought on this – people are quick to label these mass murderers or terrorists as having mental issues. Well, of course they do! You have to be a little off to willingly take countless innocent lives. I would like to think no sane person wakes up in the morning thinking acts like this are acceptable. These individuals have issues that need to be addressed, and unfortunately, they often are not.

As a society, we are failing those who need us most. Maybe it’s because we are scared to confront someone who we know needs help. Maybe we don’t know where to turn to get them help. Or maybe we just don’t want to get involved. No matter the excuse, we are failing people who need help, and too often lately these people spiral out of control and others pay the price. We need to change the way we see mental illness and do more to help those in need.

When a friend or loved one has a physical issue, we encourage him or her to seek medical help. When they are unable to do so for themselves, we call the appropriate medical authorities. Why are we not as willing to do so for those who are suffering from mental issues? When did we become so concerned about political correctness as to turn our backs on someone in desperate need?

In a world marked by hatred and division, is it any wonder that these situations happen? People who already are suffering are being bombarded with hatred and violence every time they watch the news or pick up a paper. In a fragile condition mentally already, they are moved by these images and accounts thinking that might just solve their problem. Often these individuals have lost the ability to think clearly because of whatever demons they are battling, and without help, may make deadly decisions.

I am not so naive as to think that better mental health care will solve all the world’s problems. There always will be radicals driven to violence by their beliefs or the ideology they choose to follow. But I do believe that if we can help those who desperately need it we might just be able to stop one or two of these individuals. And don’t you think the people of Texas would be much better off today if someone had helped Mr. Kelley get the help he obviously needed.

Folks, you are not being intrusive or meddlesome by trying to help someone with mental illness. You are showing them the ultimate act of love and caring by encouraging them to seek help – or in extreme cases, calling someone in authority to force them to get help. We can no longer ignore the plight of the mentally ill. We do so at our own risk, and to the risk of countless innocent people. It’s time to stop asking why these things happen and do what we can to prevent them from happening. Why not help? Why not be part of the solution? Why not?

If I only had a brain…

If I only had a brain…

As I sit here and listen to music that takes me back to a simpler time, I am asking myself – if I could go back to those days, what would I do differently? Laugh more? Love deeper? Live life more fully? What would I change if I was able to go back and do so?

While I would certainly do all of those things I have mentioned, there is one thing I am convinced I would do if I could turn back time – I would think more. Now lest you think am an idiot – and believe me, I am sure there are many people who think I am just that – it wasn’t like I didn’t think at all. I do see myself more like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz than the other characters, but I do have a brain. Trouble is I just didn’t use it enough.

Like many young people, I relied on what others were telling me rather than thinking for myself. While I do believe we need to seek out wise counsel, I’m not sure I was always hearing from wise people. What others said sounded good and many times it was easier for me to roll with what they thought than to think for myself. You see, thinking is hard work. You actually have to stop having fun and concentrate. Unfortunately for me, that was not always high on my to-do list.

Now, I don’t have anyone to blame for the poor decisions I have made in life other than myself. It was my choice to not think (or not think enough) about the choices I was making. It was my laziness that caused me to simply rely on other’s advice or follow the first thing that came to mind. I chose to dance around and sing, “If I only had a brain.” Again, like many of us, I’m not stupid – I just didn’t think about what would happen if I made certain decisions.

So, what now? All that not thinking has gotten me to where I am today – what should I do now? Simple – think more. Be more careful with my choices. Take the time necessary to analyze the major decisions of life rather than jump at the first thought. Seek “wise” counsel from people I know I can trust and who have proven themselves worthy of that trust over the years. I have to use my head for more than a hat rack if things are to change.

For some people things like laughing, loving, living carefree come easy. But thinking can be a real challenge. It’s not that they aren’t smart. It’s just they often can’t slow down from living life and take time to ponder what it is they are to do. And so, for me, I believe today I will think about thinking. Then and only then can I use the brain the good Lord gave me for more than remembering song lyrics from a day gone by.


I got nothing

I got nothing

“Not sure how one is supposed to keep going when it is one disappointment after the next.”

I read those words yesterday and it was a like gut punch that left me gasping for air. A dear friend expressing the despair of their heart as life seems to be overwhelming them. I replied simply, “I will pray for you.” That was all I said, and honestly, that was all I could say.

Now, I didn’t type those words because it is the “Christian thing to do.” Yes, we should pray for one another when able. But my simple answer meant much more than that. You see, I am not the brightest bulb in the lamp. In fact, at times I wonder if my lamp even has a bulb. One thing I do know, however, is I can’t offer you something I don’t have myself. For the words my friend uttered I have no answer.

I will not offer a pithy saying or solution when I myself don’t have one. I also am wondering how one can keep going when it feels like life’s storm is overwhelming you. When you are in the darkness all you see is dark. When you are lost in the wilderness all you see are trees. When storms rage around you there is no sun peaking through the clouds. It is just pain, despair, heartache, disappointment. No pithy saying, cute gif or pat answer is going to make things any different.

We must be careful offering advice to one who is being battered by life’s storms. We can never know how much pain and suffering those around us are going through. I know for a fact there are people around me who are going through and have gone through far more difficult times than which I am suffering. Who am I to offer some simplistic answer to help them through their difficulties? But I can pray to one who knows all and sees all.

Prayer is not the last thing we should do; it is the first thing we should do. Prayer is not a last resort; it often is our only resort. And when you are the one going through trying times it can be difficult, dare I say impossible, to pray. The darkness envelopes you until you are left paralyzed, unable to do anything. At these times, it is critical that there are those who are praying for you. Believe me, I know. It doesn’t need to be an hour-long diatribe for another; it can simply be one or two sentences uttered to a God who knows and cares.

So, when my heart broke for my friend, my brain immediately told me I got nothing for you. How can I help when my life seems to be falling apart? But after a moment of reflection I realized – I can pray. People are praying for me and I certainly can pray for a dear friend. So I did. I still have nothing as far as answers or advice, but I do know someone who can help. And I know He has everything.

Give or take

Give or take

For the sake of this post, I am going to be very simplistic. Actually, if your IQ is as low as mine, all of life is lived based on the KISS method – Keep It Simple, Stupid! Thus, I am about to “KISS” you with this post. And away we go.

The world is made up of two groups of people – givers and takers. Chances are you can see this clearly in the people around you, but you may have trouble determining which you are unless you are brutally honest with yourself. And the simple fact is this – givers always give and takers always take. Sure, there are times when people cross over a little – I mean we all eat different kinds of doughnuts from time to time, right? But, generally speaking, people are one or the other.

Takers are those who never get enough. Their paycheck is never enough. Their time off is never enough. What people do for them is never enough. They are going to constantly demand more and more from the people and the world around them. While in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with wanting more out of life, unfortunately takers many times have no consideration for the feelings of those around them. They just want more and don’t care who they take it from.

Now, givers will pour themselves out and do anything for anybody. They will continue to give even when they have nothing left to give. While it is admirable to be a giver, you can’t give if you have nothing to give. And givers will often empty themselves and still try to give which can leave them depressed because they can’t do what they are wired to do which is give.

True takers and givers will find life to often be frustrating. There is never enough to take – I mean that’s the way I feel every time I go to a pizza buffet (ha, ha). Enough really is never enough for some folks. And there is never enough to give. You will think if you just give a little more you will get the promotion or people will like you more. Take, take, take! Give, give, give! If you live life with no balance like this, life will be like sitting on a seesaw with nobody on the other end. You ain’t going nowhere.

So takers need to learn to give, and givers need to learn to take a little. As takers give to others, they will learn to better appreciate what they have and maybe not be so inconsiderate of other’s feelings. As givers take, they will be replenished so they can continue to give. Life needs to be about give AND take not give OR take. There needs to be a balance if we are to coexist in this world.

So, if you are taker, lighten up a little bit and give to someone today. You might find out it isn’t so bad to give of yourself. And, givers, take a little from someone when they offer. Now, don’t go demanding from another person – that’s what takers do – but accept something when offered. Find the necessary balance between giving and taking so you can be a better person. If we all do this, we might just find that life is a bit more enjoyable.


I’m afraid …

I’m afraid …

Start a sentence with “I’m afraid …” and the ending of that sentence can be almost anything. Heights, water, enclosed spaces, public speaking – on and on the answers can come. It seems there are almost as many things in life to be afraid of as there are grains of sand on the shore.

In today’s world, there seems to be even more of which to be afraid. Nearly every day something in the newspaper or television news paralyzes us with fear. Where can we go to be safe? Will it happen to me? Is my family safe from all the horrible things in the world? Fear seems to cover us like a weighted blanket that no amount of effort can cast off. It weighs many people down to the point that they stop living life.

As I look at the fears that cripple many of us there seems to be one (really two but putting them together) that has many of us locked firmly in its grasp – the fear of rejection and failure. So many bad things have happened to us that we simply are too afraid to keep trying. We have failed so many times we wonder why bother to keep trying because we are only going to fail again. Our efforts will not be good enough and we will be rejected. This fear is real and it grips many of us.

So, what we can we do? How can we set out on a new day when we are scared to leave the “safety” of our own bed? Is there a way to break free from the fear of failure? These are not easy questions. I can be trite and say you just have to get up and put one foot in front of the other. While there is truth in this statement, it is simplistic. Yes, we need to live life and keep trying. We have to realize that not everything we do is going to be successful. We must come to grips with the truth that some will reject us. But these truths don’t make the fear disappear.

However, in spite of the fear, we do indeed have to keep living. We can’t let the possibility of fear and rejection keep us locked up in our own world. Think of all the amazing things and people you will miss if you don’t try. Certainly putting yourself out there means you will be exposing yourself to fear and rejection, but you also will be giving yourself a chance to succeed and meet amazing people. You must risk greatly to succeed greatly.

Took a few minutes today to look through your Facebook feed or watch some YouTube videos of the amazing talents some people have. Some of them are mere children who have incredible gifts. Now, don’t let this overwhelm you. Instead, think of what these people had to risk. Someone may not like their talent and will ridicule their video. They might have failed in front of a live audience when they performed. Maybe they failed in the past but kept trying. In the face of fear and rejection, they pressed on. And they found success.

Start today by saying, “I’m afraid …” and then name your fear. Then, confront that fear. Begin to take steps to conquer your fear. Share that fear with a loved one or a trusted friend and ask them to help you. Take one step toward overcoming your fear. Yes, you might fail and take a step back. But keep trying – each step forward is one step closer to conquering your fear. And remember this, all of us are afraid of something. But, maybe just maybe, as we all step out together and help each other we can put some of those fears behind us.

Maybe that’s childish

Maybe that’s childish

As I have gotten older, I find that many of us “adults” often wish we were more like a child. Our aspirations to be an adult now seem misplaced. We longingly look back to the days of our youth and think if only we could go back. And the reasons for wanting to recapture those days gone by are endless.

First, we wish we had the body of a child. And, no, this is not just because our midsection now keeps us from looking down and seeing our toes. Stop and think about it – children can play outside for hours, slow down for a drink of water and a cookie, and play for several more hours without the hint of being tired. I can’t even tie my shoes without pulling a muscle. Just the simple act of getting out of bed tires me to the point of needing a good two-hour snooze. Oh to have the never-ending energy and flexibility of a child.

Second, we would love to go back to those carefree days of childhood to recess and snack time. Sure, as a youngster, we found school to be difficult at times and boring most times. But come on – it pales in comparison to the life of an adult. I mean try asking your boss to give you an hour each day to play a little dodgeball or to go outside and run around. My guess is you will get a far different response then when your teachers were begging you as a child to go outside and burn off some energy.

And let’s not even get into the stress of working for a living. Yes, I do admit that homework at times was a bit taxing and vexing, but that was nothing a game of touch football in the yard didn’t cure. Now it’s 60-hour work weeks, never-ending projects and hoping there will be more money than month. I will take a red plastic ball to the face any day over that.

Lastly, there are times we wish we had the mind of a child. Not simply because we have gotten older and are “losing our minds” (losing our memory is a more accurate description). Children have a far different view of life and the world. This probably is because they haven’t become jaded or sarcastic like many of us have. (Also, they have no idea who the Kardashians are which certainly is a good thing.) Honestly, they just live life seeking out one new adventure after another without a care in the world. As adults, many of us are trying to avoid one nightmare after another with far too many cares.

But here’s what I miss the most – the sense of humor of a child. Come on, little people laugh at anything. I mean someone falls down and they laugh. Wait – so do I. Bodily noises of any kind cause a child to break out into hysterics. Come to think of it – I do that too. The corniest jokes elicit uncontrollable laughter. Hmm, come to think of it I tell and laugh at those jokes as well.

Maybe there still is a little child left in me. Nah, I think it’s more accurate to say that I am still childish. And in some ways, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Doing my duty

Doing my duty

Earlier this year I was doing one of my favorite things – checking the mail (Don’t laugh – you know you love it too!) As I opened the mailbox, I noticed an official looking letter from the illustrious sheriff of our fine county. I quickly panicked – what had I done that might have caught the attention of local law enforcement? After jump starting my feeble memory, I relaxed realizing that I don’t think any of my recent infractions should have hit the sheriff’s radar. So, I started to get excited. Maybe he was offering me a job or possibly I was going to be named citizen of the year. So I ripped into the envelope and was smacked square in the face with reality – I had been summoned to serve jury duty.

After having my week of service delayed on two occasions because of work commitments, I recently had my chance. Of course, as the nice woman at the clerk of courts reminded me, I had no more delays in my bag of tricks – I had to be there or I would get a not-so-friendly visit from the sheriff. After enduring traffic I didn’t even know existed at an hour of the day I hardly see, I was in a room with about 60 people waiting for what came next. Nervous excitement might have been the best way to describe what we were feeling as we all crammed into a room that certainly was not designed for the number of bodies now inhabiting it.

At last we were herded (no better word to describe what happened) into the court room for the pomp and circumstance that awaits new jurors. After instructions, a video and a swearing-in we were ready to go. And it didn’t take long before I heard my name called and I was introducing myself to the judge and lawyers. As 12 of us settled in, the questions started. And didn’t stop. In fact, I heard the same questions so many times I am certain I was hypnotized and asked to cluck like a chicken in front of the whole courtroom. (I can neither confirm nor deny the previous statement.) After three hours of prying, the defense attorney evidently didn’t like my shirt or something and dismissed me.

After that, I began to realize what jurors actually do when called to serve – sit and wait. And believe me, we did a lot of sitting, a lot of waiting, and lot of wondering why in the world we were there. At times, we had the distraction of being in the courtroom and watching fellow jurors play the million question game. Other times we were crammed in that back room striking up conversations with people who were perfect strangers just days before. But it was during those moments of conversation that I realized the one good thing that I learned while on jury duty – or jury service as the officials like to call it.

You see, the more than 60 people called to serve that week came from all across the county and from all walks of life. They were young and old, from different cultures and socioeconomic statuses – but all were called to perform the same task. Thus, the playing field was leveled and we were all just citizens. Maybe that is why it was so easy to talk to people who I normally would not have struck up a conversation with or approached. But talk we did. I wouldn’t say we became best friends during our moments in the jury waiting area, but I now have a better idea of who shares this chunk of earth with me. And there are some really good people out there and I am glad I met them.

As we were dismissed for the week, the judge thanked us and let us know that the court would not have gotten its business done if we had not been there. I mean if the justice system moves forward because a couple dozen of us sit in a room and talk, so be it. But I do have to thank the county for giving me the opportunity to meet some new people and get to know some “neighbors” that I would not have met without the wonderful invitation from the sheriff. Mind you, I am glad I am exempt for the next two years, but here’s hoping I bump into some of my fellow jurors as I traverse the county. They are good people who did their service – and I am glad I did it with them.

Aged wisdom

Aged wisdom

So, recently I turned 25 for the second time. Wait a minute – that’s not right. I turned 10 for the fifth time. No, no, no – I am 5 for the 10th time. Well, I think you get the picture. One thing I have realized as I have aged is the world is full of not just people who are challenged in the intelligence area (trying to be P.C. here), but also there just are a lot of dumb things out there. Don’t believe me? Let me lay a couple of them on you.

Warning labels

Now, in concept, these labels serve a purpose and are necessary. I honestly believe it is wise to tell people not to wash down their medicine with a fifth of Scotch. I get it – good advice. But some of these warnings are just, well, stupid. I mean do we really need to tell people not to operate their toaster in the shower? Must Harry the handyman really be warned not to point the nail gun at his face? Must someone really be told not to hold the wrong end of a chainsaw? I mean come on people.

“Timed” traffic signals

OK, now this one I think is the Department of Transportation just flat lying to us. Supposedly if you travel the speed limit you should hit each light as it turns green – as long as traffic allows constant driving speed. Yeah right and if you play the lottery enough times you are going to win. WRONG! I really think there is some marshmallow head in a room somewhere that is too busy playing Angry Birds to turn the lights green in a timely fashion. I mean, come on, just tell us the truth – these lights are timed to irritate you to the point of making you not only want to pull your hair out but also the hair of the driver next to you.

Conspiracy theories

OK, now I enjoy these when it comes to movie plots. Who doesn’t want to believe a 12-year-old in Omaha has been given the opportunity by the U.S. government to control all the computers in China so as to cripple their economy. I mean that’s great stuff for the big screen. But the amount of namby pambies in the world who buy into every “theory” that comes down the pike is ludicrous. Come on folks if any one man or government had the power we ascribe to them in these conspiracy plots, the world would have ended a long time ago. Get a grip and grasp a little reality folks.

Scam emails

I mean there are enough dumb things in the world to fill countless libraries, but I will end with this one. The fact that anyone believes these makes me wonder how we as the human race still exist. Come on – the prince of Nigeria wants to share his fortune with you? Mrs. Belvidere – who has amassed billions of dollars – now wants to give you that money because she has no children, her husband has passed and she can’t spend it all? Bill Gates will give you $150 for each person to whom you merely send this attachment? If you all are going to believe this, I have some beachfront property in Nebraska I will sell you at a good price.

OK, so maybe these things aren’t stupid. Maybe as I get older I just got more irritated by stuff like this. Maybe I am the one who is stupid. That’s up for you to decide. But just know that if you call me stupid, I don’t come with a warning label and I will fill your email box with scam emails of conspiracy theories about traffic signals. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

All shook up

All shook up

I’m willing to bet it has happened to most, if not all, of us at one time or another. You go to open your favorite beverage and BOOM – you are greeted with an explosion of carbonated proportions. There is drink all over the walls, the ceiling, your favorite shirt. And chances are your reaction to the mishap is anything but puppies and rainbows.

The occasional exploding beer or soda can happen to anyone. And despite all the tricks – tapping the sides of the can or opening it slowly – the trapped bubbles are going to rush to escape causing a sticky mess. Unless of course you do the one tried-and-true method – show patience when opening the can. Of course, this trick is only successful if you know the can has been agitated before you try to open it.

Many of us are like that potentially exploding can. The people around us have agitated us. Life has shook us up to the point where we are ready to explode. We are simply waiting for the right situation or person to loosen our lid and start the volcanic eruption of pent-up frustration and anger. Good chance the results will be quite messy. We can try venting slowly, but even then, there is a good chance of an emotional blowup happening.

So what can we do? Much like the shook-up can, we need to be patient. We need to take time away from the people and things that have us at critical mass. As we do this, we can slowly calm our frayed nerves, allow our anger to pass and calm ourselves to a point where life doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Without this time to relax, an explosion is inevitable. It will be messy and others will get caught in the mayhem. Relationships will be ruined. A job may be lost. Irreparable harm may happen.

If life has you shaken and ready to explode, you owe it to yourself and others to take time to calm down. Give yourself the quiet space to allow life to settle before you try to “open up.” Be patient with yourself and ask others to be patient with you so things don’t bubble up and over. Maybe find a quiet place to relax and enjoy your favorite beverage – one from a can that has not been shook up, of course.