Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Year Older

Today, to help kickstart my vacation, I had a birthday. It was a great day, I enjoyed it very much! It's an interesting thing birthdays. Some people look forward to them all year, some ignore them, others get depressed, and some are resentful to everyone around them for forgetting them!

To me celebrating my birthday is a self-care thing. Yet for the past two years I've found myself not really knowing what to do on my birthday. I feel torn between making myself happy and making those around me happy. I'd like to plan a grand adventure for myself (and those with me) but either few of my friends/family would be too excited about accompanying me or my young children would be excluded because of the limitations of their age. Sigh.

How do you handle the whole birthday thing? I'm curious to hear how others view and take part in celebrating their birth. Today I decided to ask grace at my birthday meal. I prayed "Thank you God . . . for me." A few snickers came my way but I am indeed thankful for my existence and all the things God has blessed me with. Now I just need to figure out how to celebrate it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Take A Pill - It Doesn't Even Matter Which One

What if the world was spending billions of dollars a year on something that for most people wasn't doing anything that a simple sugar pill could accomplish, yet had many difficult side effects?

Apparently, that is exactly what is happening. Check out this article. Oh yes, doctors are aware of it. The power of the placebo effect is astonishing . . .

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: The Mummy at the Dining Room Table

Book Review: The Mummy at the Dining Room Table: Eminent Therapists Reveal Their Most Unusual Cases

I am a sucker for case studies - real stories of people and their issues in therapy. My love for these stories is mixture of two factors, one is noble and the other not so much. First of all case studies are helpful for counsellors as they give them ideas, illustrate therapeutic techniques, encourage creativity, and give hope to those helpers who are wishing to improve their service to those with problems in living. The second factor? Well, you know that feeling you get when you pass an accident on the side of the road - you feel like you should look away but you can't help yourself? Um, that's it. It's just very, very intriguing to hear about the kind of things that happen in the privacy of a therapist's office.

The Mummy At The Dining Room Table is not just a collection of case stories of good therapy - it is a collection of stories from undisputed masters of psychology - stories that stood out to them. Stories that taught them, stories that haunt them, stories that will chill your blood, make you laugh out loud, or bring a tear to your eye. Three favorite master therapists of mine share including William Glasser, Albert Ellis, and Carl Whitaker. If you are a therapist (or someone interested in counselling) you will not be bored. The insights and reflections are both highly entertaining and deeply thought provoking. Warning: Some of these stories are quite graphic and not for the faint of heart (or stomach). If it was a movie I'd rate it an "R." As a book though I give it 4.2 ninja stars out of 5.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Sweet Moment

Today I dropped off my 8 year old Riker off at his very first week of camp at Beaver Creek Bible Camp. This is momentous enough but he is also staying in the very same cabin that I first stayed in when I first came to my first week of camp - how cool is that? Not to mention the fact that he was almost born at this camp (Jobina's water broke while we we were up at camp and he was born a few hours later after a terrifying drive to Winnipeg). I guess you could say that our family has a lot of history at this place.

Dropping him off today I tried to think about what it must have been like for my parents to drop me off to that very same cabin 26 years ago. Were they as excited for me as Jobina and I are for him? Were they nervous? I think about how that first camp experience changed my life - feeling the dedication and joy of not just my counselor but a whole camp staff dedicated to showing Christ's love. I remember the feelings of awe and mystery that surrounded me that first week of camp. Camp fires, exploring the bush, canoeing on the creek, listening to Bible stories before bed in my bunk. It was there that I first remember feeling a hunger to know and serve God. I had stayed as a camper in this cabin, then I was a counselor in it, later I was a camp director who walked by it and prayed for and occasionally disciplined those inside it, and now I was coming back to it again to drop off my eldest son. A sweet moment indeed. All these thoughts and memories ran through my mind as we walked up to "River Bend Pad" this morning. I felt like I was walking on holy ground.

Riker seems a lot more confident and a lot less shy then I was (I remember feeling so nervous that I almost wanted to throw up) but when I asked him how he slept the night before he told me "I woke up a few times worrying if the other kids would like me." Ah, my son, I know how you feel! My prayer for him is that he will be safe, have fun, and most off that God would get ahold of him in a powerful way. It is a bit of a harrowing thing to surrender your children to a camp for a week - even if you know the camp as intimately as I do. But I know he is in good hands.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review: That Hideous Strength

Book Review: That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

I recently finished off the third Book in the Cosmic Trilogy and I was not disapointed. I must warn you though, this book starts slow . . . very . . . slow. And it continues that way for about 1/2 of the book before it really gets interesting. If you hang in there though it is worth it. In many ways I like this book the most of the trilogy - it combines the theology and sci-fi with kind of (dare I say it) horror-like genre. The main character (Ransom) is only really present in the last part of the book, dividing it nicely from the other books in the beginning and tying it all together in the end. There are no deep theological conversations in this book - rather it a mystery that slowly unfolds and then ends in dramatic fashion. Along the way you get to hear the intricacies of university life that will both fascinate and bore you - sometimes right after each other. This book is perhaps the most "mature" as well with some questionable language, dark themes, and macabre situations. I rate it 3.85 ninja stars out of 5.

Rip Off!

The other day I had my van (a 98 Toyota Sienna) in for service and the mechanic noticed that there was a leak in the power steering hose. OK, no big deal I said, how much would a new hose cost? The answer? $600!

Hmmmmmmm . . .

It turns out that only Toyota makes this hose (no aftermarket ones exist for this model) so then they charge an arm and a leg for it. Luckily, I could get the hose "reconditioned" for a much more reasonable $65 at a local hydraulics shop and so I did.

As I choked back my initial emotions I had to smile - I think a lot of people would have been tempted to react with outrage to the fact that Toyota would charge that much for a hose. Indeed, it seems kind of crazy. I imagined some responses:

"That's outrageous!"
"That's so wrong!"
"What a rip off!"
"What crooks!"

The problem with feeling injustice towards companies "ripping us off" is that we forget that everyone has freewill. Toyota can charge what the market will stand. They have the right to do that - it doesn't matter if it is logical or not. Others have the right to buy - or not. That is there right. To complain bitterly that a place is being unjust and "ripping me off" because they are charging a price I don't like is quite frankly intellectually immature. Is there some law saying they have to charge a price that is reasonable to you? (I didn't think so). As a proponent of choice theory, I recognize that agree that I can't control other people, I can only control myself (and that is difficult enough!).

It's normal to feel feelings of frustration and disappointment when a place charges more then we were expecting or wanting - these would be healthy negative emotions to experience. But when we start feeling outrage, rage, or depression then we can assume that something has twisted in our thinking. And whose responsibility is that? I'll give you a gentle hint: It's not the company or individual trying to sell you something! By challenging our thinking, we can learn to extend freedom to others, just as we want it extended to ourselves . . .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review: Perelandra

Book Review: Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Part 2 of the Cosmic Trilogy)

Ransom is back in the 2nd part of the trilogy. This time he is sent to Venus on a special mission - to save this noble planet from a terrible enemy - sin. C.S. Lewis magically describes the attempted corruption of the first two inhabitants of the planet, taking you back to what it might have been like for Adam and Eve in the beginning. Lewis really made me think. The fascinating dialogue between The Woman, The Unman (a human inhabited by The Enemy), and Ransom will theologically blow your mind. Using much of the same skills found in Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, he is able to talk about what Evil is in a completely unique way. Perhaps we don't really understand how Evil truly affects everything we do. What would a person look like without evil in his nature? What would that world look like? Lewis' answers to these questions are fascinating. Although a bit verbose at times, it's definitely a good read. I'd give it 3.8 ninja stars out of 5.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Soaring vs Quacking?

Robin Elliot wrote this recently in a newsletter of his.

Harvey Mackay, tells a wonderful story about a cab driver:

He was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing Harvey noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for Harvey ..

He handed my friend a laminated card and said: ‘I’m Wally, your driver. While I’m loading your bags in the trunk I’d like you to read my mission statement.’

Taken aback, Harvey read the card. It said: Wally’s Mission Statement: To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment….

This blew Harvey away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean!

As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, ‘Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf.’ My friend said jokingly, ‘No, I’d prefer a soft drink.’ Wally smiled and said, ‘No problem. I have a cooler up front with regular and Diet Coke, water and orange juice..’ Almost stuttering, Harvey said, ‘I’ll take a Diet Coke.’

Handing him his drink, Wally said, ‘If you’d like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and USA Today..’

As they were pulling away, Wally handed my friend another laminated card, ‘These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you’d like to listen to the radio.’

And as if that weren’t enough, Wally told Harvey that he had the air conditioning on and asked if the temperature was comfortable for him. Then he advised Harvey of the best route to his destination for that time of day. He also let him know that he’d be happy to chat and tell him about some of the sights or, if Harvey preferred, to leave him with his own thoughts…

Tell me, Wally,’ my amazed friend asked the driver, ‘have you always served customers like this?’

Wally smiled into the rear view mirror. ‘No, not always. In fact, it’s only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do. Then I heard the personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day.

He had just written a book called “You’ll See It When You Believe It.” Dyer said that if you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you’ll rarely disappoint yourself. He said, ‘Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.’

‘That hit me right between the eyes,’ said Wally. ‘Dyer was really talking about me. I was always quacking and complaining, so I decided to change my attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their drivers. The cabs were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly, and the customers were unhappy. So I decided to make some changes. I put in a few at a time. When my customers responded well, I did more.’

‘I take it that has paid off for you,’ Harvey said.
‘It sure has,’ Wally replied. ‘My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year I’ll probably quadruple it. You were lucky to get me today. I don’t sit at cabstands anymore. My customers call me for appointments on my cell phone or leave a message on my answering machine. If I can’t pick them up myself, I get a reliable cabbie friend to do it and I take a piece of the action.’

Wally was phenomenal. He was running a limo service out of a Yellow Cab. I’ve probably told that story to more than fifty cab drivers over the years, and only two took the idea and ran with it. Whenever I go to their cities, I give them a call. The rest of the drivers quacked like ducks and told me all the reasons they couldn’t do any of what I was suggesting.

Wally the Cab Driver made a different choice. He decided to stop quacking like ducks and start soaring like eagles.

How about you?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Would You Do This With Your Baby?

I'd like to. I just need to convince the wife . . .

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another Way To Buy A Car

Someone was telling me yesterday about how he bought his car. He put a $10,000 downpayment (a windfall) down on it and the payments were a little over $300 a month. He was telling me about how the extra $300 a month was more of a hardship for their family then he had anticipated.

Here's another way to buy that same car. Let's say you'd like to buy a new car that costs about $20,000. You've got an old car that works so either you use an unexpected windfall or you spend a few years saving up $20,000 to buy the car.

Instead of these traditional methods of buying a car you could do his instead: what if you would take the $20,000 and instead of buying the car outright you, put it into an alternative investment with a return of 30% per year that pays monthly. Thus, the investment income per year would be $6000 (or $500 per month) - more then enough for the car payment! This is how the wise and wealthy buy vehicles - they simply buy an investment whose return will pay for what they want.

The best thing about doing it this way is that at the end of the investment (usually 1, 2, or 5 years) you get your initial investment of $20,000 back! So you get a car plus your initial $20,000. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Of course to do this you need to be able to save up the initial amount/receive a windfall, find an alternative investment, and manage the risk of the investment. But such things are indeed possible for the average person. Jobina and I have this kind of investment (a 30% return for two years, paid monthly). If we can do it, anyone can!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review: The Feeling Good Handbook

Book Review: The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns

Don't let the somewhat cheezy picture of the author fool you - this is a solid book. And I don't just mean that in relation to it's size (768 pages of newsprint!) but it's scope. You have heard of self-help books? Well, in some way this is the self help book of them all. It is a very practical guide to self-cognitive therapy - how to change the way you way feel by changing how you think. I say it has scope because of the indepth number of subjects that it covers (and gives practical techniques for); depression, anxiety/fears/phobias, relationship issues, communication, procrastination, etc. It also has a good section on prescription drugs and tips for counselors who work with difficult clients.

The sheer amount of wisdom in this book is head spinning. I read through it in a week and was wishing for more. Burns approaches things in such a humble, human way and writes in such a simple manner that you can't help but be disarmed. Chock full of stories of people improving their moods by challenging their thinking, The Feeling Good Handbook has become an instant favorite to me. If you believe that having to write anything down on paper can't possibly help you feel better then this book might initially be tough on you. But for people who are motivated and are willing to try something different to change this book is just exceptional. It is full of charts, quizzes, weekly self-assessment tests, and his famous daily mood log. The Feeling Good Handbook actively engages its readers in their own recovery - no counselor is required. It has become an instant favorite for me and I'm using some of his vast arsenal of techniques in my personal and counselling profession quite effectively. I rate this book 4.7 out of 5 ninja stars.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Being A Genius

I saw this pic from postsecret and it made me smile:

Sometimes becoming a genius is as simple as reading the instructions. How delightfully novel!