Can’t Do It All

Many people are quite good at more than one thing, yet they consistently force the issue trying to accomplish multiple tasks, when their specialty and their passion may be one. Well folks, like it or not, we can’t do it all. We may want to believe that there are more than 24 hours in a day, but unfortunately, there are not.

Pessimistic, you say? No….realistic! I myself have been told that I am a pretty good oil painter….but I know if I spent a decent amount of time at it, my music would suffer. I had to make a choice….what will come first? This is before one starts factoring in family, friends, and Life. At some stage we all have to sit down and ask ourselves not only what we want to do with our lives, but what we can reasonably accomplish.

So here’s a suggestion…when you get a chance, jot down on a few index cards, or a sheet of paper, what talents and skills you know you have.  Then ask yourself, what one thing do I want to do over all the rest? Then let that one thing become your focus. It’s sad….I wish we all could be more than one person….split ourselves into multiple people and send those persons off during the day to accomplish many missions…unfortunately, it cannot be! Focusing allows us to get better at the given talent or skill we choose.

The landscape is littered with businesses and corporations that started off focusing on their niche in the marketplace. Over time, in order to expand their businesses they drifted so far from their center that their identities became blurred to the public. The latest victim of this scenario is a very famous boutique coffee chain. They tried to expand beyond their store atmosphere and coffee base to include music and multiple items and their core business began to suffer. They also tried to expand too fast, and are now setting about to correct their mistakes, which they probably will. Yet, the lesson to learn is that you can’t be everything to everyone….you can’t do it all.

Growing pains happen to everybody…still, we must try not to take our eye off the ball on what it is that we do well, and love the most.

Choose wisely,

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon

Peace, if Possible

In the perfect world, there would be harmony and ultimate peace. It is a premise that mankind must strive for in the long term….if not, we truly will become extinct. We are put here to solve our disagreements, develop solutions to our problems, and compromise our positions. It is in the best interest for all of humanity to share all of the land, water, and resources, because in the end, the planet belongs to God. Seeing that we are all God’s children, what better way to give thanks then to live together in peace?

That being said, I am not foolish….I also believe that there are those out there who will do everything in their power to not allow community and peace to take hold. History is littered with individuals who see nothing short of themselves as God-like….dictators, ego-maniacs who have sneered, spit, and laughed at the idea of compromise. Negotiate? By all means, in good faith….but when one sits across from the table from another whose only objective is destruction and control, we are left with only one action…to walk away and prepare for battle. It baffles my mind every time why the dictators of the past see no other solution than total domination of the planet. To a monster, life is totally meaningless….the only objective is surrender and obey. Freedom? To a monstrosity, freedom does not exist.  For me, I am a believer in peace, if possible, but not at any price.

Freedom too has its army….many who have sacrificed their limbs and their lives so that others can dream and breathe the free air. So many nameless souls who are buried in the ground, each one with their own story to tell. I salute you, Souls of Freedom….your memory and sacrifice will never be in vain. As long as one can dream, there will always be a need for that dream to be defended. I wish intellect and common sense could prevail in solving the world’s conflicts….yet as long as there are those who feed on conquest, freedom and democracy will have to be protected.

I will never give up hope, and I do believe that one day, all God’s children will be able to live together….and on that day we will all look back and ask why it took us so long.

Let freedom ring,

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon

Agree to Disagree

All over the media, in many coffee shops, across various main streets, the mood and the conversation has gone full blown into politics. The three no no’s of any conversation are money, politics, and religion….a little vino added to the mix, and a get-together or fun evening can turn quite volatile. The possibility of all of us agreeing on everything is rare…so when we get together with our friends or family, how about agreeing to disagree?

The 2008 cycle on the political calendar this time seems to be more tumultuous than usual. I recently overheard a conversation where one friend said to another, “If you don’t vote for Barack Obama, I will not be able to continue being your friend.” What’s unfortunate is that they have been friends for over 40 years! The lines seem to have been drawn…there is the Hillary Camp, the Obama Camp, and the McCain Camp…each Camp digging in their heels and basically saying “It’s my way, or the highway.” It’s astonishing the level of disdain and anger that has entered the Presidential Campaign. Agree to disagree? Come the Fall, we will see how much these warring factions are willing to come together. What’s unfortunate is how much these candidates have taken over the relationships between family and friends.

Faith and religion play a large part in the direction of many people….here too the lines seem to have been drawn. A few days ago a friend of mine said to me, “Jennifer, through your website do you reach any Buddhists, Muslims or Jews?” When I replied that of course I do, I talk to people of all faiths, she gave me a strange look and said, “You know, I’m only really comfortable being around people like myself…I don’t like to venture too far off the reservation.” It’s interesting, I wish I had a dollar for every person who I saw on television telling me that if I don’t believe the way they do, I will go to hell. I would be quite a wealthy woman! Which brings us to our next topic…

Money….are you rich? Perhaps, perhaps not. I have an interesting saying to myself, after I pay all my bills and have a little to put away, that anything after that is just more “stuff.” The difference between 2 million dollars and 10 million dollars, is more STUFF. Not that I have 2 million dollars…yet! (tee hee) But quite a few out there are either invested in the stock market, or playing the lottery, or football pools. Being rich may not be such a bad idea after all….yet all I hear on the television with the pundits is “Let’s get the rich!” Keeping up with the Joneses, as the old saying goes, has become one of the ultimate art forms, among some.

Let’s see…how about the next time we have a conversation with someone who disagrees with us, before the dialogue gets too heated, change the subject, pay a compliment, or, commission the old standby….”would you like another cup of coffee?”

Be of Good Cheer,

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon

Coming and Going

Does your life sometimes feel like a “Lifetime Hotel?” Mine too….there are constantly people, places, and things coming and going. Talk about feeling like a conveyor belt…I guess life always makes us grapple with changes.

Each year that rolls around I’m always astonished at the people who have left my life, and the new ones that have come along. Indeed, there are always those that seem to be around…but on the edges there are always the losses, and the welcomes. Even now as I speak, there are two elderly members of my family that are entering the final stages of their lives. As much as I want them to live forever, I understand that there is a time for everyone. Watching how they are coming to terms with their circumstances gives me great strength, dignity, and courage in my own life. They talk freely about how much time they have left, how they want to be remembered, and their wishes for after they are gone. This past Christmas many of my family gathered around the table laughing and joking that we were all “still here,” while out of the corners of our eyes there was a glance, wondering, would we all still be around to celebrate another holiday?

At the same time, new life entered the fold…nothing is more miraculous than seeing the shine in a newborn baby’s eyes…reminding us all what a miracle Life truly is. The children look to us for guidance, for us to show them around Life’s Hotel…the safe places to play, the rooms to avoid. As the merry-go-round of Life spins it wheel each year, it never ceases to amaze me who jumps on, and who jumps off. This time of year in the northeast of the United States, the ground, the flowers, the trees awaken with new life….ready to blossom and bring forth their rainbow, knowing full well that in the Fall, they too will fold up and go away for the Winter.

We all live on the merry-go-round….being told when we got on, and wondering when we too must jump off. The merry-go-round of Life is quite busy, while also quite peaceful. There are no real surprises….we all know that we come, and we go. What happens in-between is what it’s all about.

Enjoy the ride,

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon

Go Manure

There was a great story a couple of nights ago on the NBC Evening News, featuring the Crave Brothers Wisconsin cheese farm. During the day while they were going about milking the cows, one of the brothers had a revelation. He thought to himself, can I turn the cow manure into energy? Lo and behold, the Crave brothers constructed a methane container where energy was created to service the farm, and 120 surrounding homes. After the process was completed, the condensed manure was cleaned and recycled back to the fields as new fertilizer. Go green? Go manure!

Now crazy as it seems, I got to thinking….with all the manure that we humans deposit in our toilets daily, why can’t we build plants where the methane created from our manure and waste be transposed to energy? Did you ever think that our contribution to the toilet bowl could end up powering our homes?? A few more stories like the one on the evening news, and I do believe some town or city is going to put this idea fully into practice.

As far as stretching gas mileage, a local television station, WBZ in the Boston area, did a fascinating report on a New England man who has invented a way for a car to get up to 150 miles per gallon with a hybrid automobile. The contraption that he demonstrated was a converter that turbo-charged the battery system in the hybrid, and gasoline was only used when the batteries got low. See, there are people out there looking at ways to solve our energy crisis.

It’s astonishing that many times the greatest inventions or ideas take place from people mucking about in their garages, or doing a job that is totally unrelated to a problem that it solves. I do believe it is only a matter of time before all of our homes will have solar panel roofs. What a waste of space right now, where energy can easily be created to power our homes. Trust me, we’ll all get used to seeing those panels on our roofs when we get our future heating and electrical bills.

We haven’t even begun to try the numerous solutions to our energy problems. With oil hovering around $110.00 a barrel, it’s only a matter of time before we start seriously considering the ways we get energy. So remember the next time you go to the bathroom, how valuable your “deposit” really is.

Go Green, Go Solar, and by all means, Go Manure!:)

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon

How Much?

Over the past few months I have never received more emails than those regarding energy and health care costs. The concern and fear that people have cannot be understated. Each year if income only rises between 2 to 4 percent and energy and health care costs double that, at what point does energy and healthcare become unaffordable for the average person?

I know, I too have been to the gas pump lately, and looked at my quarterly payments to my healthcare provider. But I don’t want this essay to focus on a negative approach to these dilemmas that many of us face. We do have more power than we think….how so, you may ask? Well to start with, you have the money in your hand….just like if you were going in to purchase a car, buy a house, or get a new refrigerator….you do have the power to negotiate. How can you negotiate at the gas pump? Many wholesale merchants, like BJ’s, Sam’s Club, Walmart,and Stop & Shop, etc. have gas at facilities that give their members discounts at the pump. Also, conservation and carpooling can do wonders for the pocketbook.

How many of you out there have recently seen or received in the mail advertisements offering huge discounts on selected items? Hey, it’s on the television everywhere that we must be in a recession….this doesn’t escape or go over the heads of retail chains that have to meet their payroll and bottom line each week. If you have the money, you can negotiate for a better price on just about anything. If you go into a store, don’t necessarily accept the price that you see on an item….many times the salesperson or owner are quite happy to give a discount to close a sale.

And last but not least…healthcare. How many of us out there, before we go to a doctor or dentist, ask them, when possible, how much their service costs? Unfortunately, quite often we walk in with a blank check, freely accepting whatever the price. More and more healthcare insurance companies, each year, decrease what they are willing to pay for our healthcare visits. I have been told by my insurer that whenever possible, I am to call them before I go to any practitioner, so that I fully understand what is and what is not covered. An emergency is an emergency….and in those cases one does not have the luxury…but overall, as long as we hold money in our hands, we do have a right to say, “how much?”

There are so many other issues that each individual grapples with daily. These are just the tip of the iceberg, but many of us out there, overall, are extremely concerned about runaway costs. We do have the power….we are not alone….and just about everything can be negotiated more than we think.

Spend wisely,

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon

Reminisce

Is it healthy for a prolonged period of time to look at and fixate on the past? As much as we may have wonderful memories, and as fully we may have enjoyed them, each day they do move further and further away. Reminisce, yes indeed, but never forget that right in front of you lies a clean sheet of paper which will hold a story yet to be written.

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine where every five years she attends her high school reunions. She explained to me that the first time it was wonderful to catch up with old friends and reminisce about the good times, and acknowledge a tear or two. She then went on to say that after a while these reunions started to become painful. It was always a question of who would show up or who wouldn’t….she concluded that she was fully aware that she couldn’t truly go back, yet looked upon the good old days as a foundation for what was to come. We all get older each day….the trick is to improve and find a little peace and contentment.

Favorite songs, favorite movies, enjoyable vacations, your first car….all of these things are not there to show us that the good times are all behind us, but perhaps the best may be yet to come. Our faces may change in the mirror over time, but do we truly want to stay at 16 forever? Do we want our lives to stay in a holding pattern? Or is it really acceptable for cobwebs to sprout up around us? The only way for these things to not happen is for time and change to occur. For sure, when we look back we may agree that one decade may have been better than another, but overall was yesterday just there to show us tomorrow?

I recently thought about the places I have lived in the past. Overall, I enjoyed every one of them, for different reasons. Still, there must be a reason why I no longer live there. If our lives add up to an incredible book, then there must be chapters…each chapter being a different stage and part of our lives. I do enjoy looking back and visiting the past from time to time….but it never slips my mind what wonders the future may hold.

Life is full of comings and goings….it will probably always be that way until the day we die. We can only imagine what story this planet will tell, when its life is over.

Seize the sunrise,

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon

Innovation

Innovation is the progression of what we are and the world we live in. For eons the process of innovation has been embraced and fought tooth and nail. While the Wright Brothers looked to the sky, some suggested if man was meant to fly he would have wings. One thing’s for sure, now more than ever mankind is embracing innovation.

It’s all around us….the internet, telecommunications, medicine, transportation…you name it, innovation is being practiced daily. For some, our best days lie ahead, while others think that our golden era is behind us. Innovation always brings about change…and change is something, in one way or another, we all struggle with from time to time. It is quite possible that within the next twenty years the innovation that will come forth will surpass much of what we have done in the past one hundred years. We are all going to have to take a long hard look at what world we want to see materialize.

There is quite an argument for who is best for the practice of innovation. This being an election year, who is best to take the mantle of innovation…Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, or Liberals? This year in America we get to make the choice. While Conservatives see an ethical steady-as-she-goes policy towards business and innovation, Liberal ideals always are there to think outside the box and come up with alternative answers for current dilemmas. Some of the innovative issues on the table? Let’s touch on a few….cloning, robotics, stem-cell research, space travel, and one that’s always in play….religion. Who best should handle the baton of our future? Can mankind control his thirst for knowledge and power, or should he put the pedal to the metal and just go for it? How about alternative forms of energy? Where are they? And why aren’t they here already? Innovation is going to have to answer these questions. By this point, we should have more choices as to how we heat our homes.

More and more countries are embracing innovation. China and India are playing catch up, but they are catching up fast. As the world becomes smaller, innovation becomes larger. I still know people who refuse to have a television set in their homes…they believe it destroyed the family unit. Like all facets of innovation, inventions can be used in both a positive, or negative, way. The way children learn these days is drastically different than even their parent’s generation. Computers have become a vital part of many occupations. What was once written by hand, in a split second is now processed and delivered by a PC, or MAC.

Innovation….love it, or scorn it…it’s here. How far can it go? Who pushes the envelope? Or do we eventually fall off a cliff? We’re all going to have to grapple with these questions. Is it possible to drive ourselves into the future, not too fast, not too slow? I guess we’ll all find out….by all means reach for the Heavens, but don’t forget to keep your feet on the ground.

Choose wisely,

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon

Nature Demands Respect

Everything in life has a balance…up and down, right and left, high and low, dark and light, etc. In order for a tree to grow it must have a certain amount of light and moisture….in order for a tornado to form it must have a certain amount of hot and cold air come together….in order for ocean life to survive it must have a certain amount of oxygen. Everything in balance….everything susceptible to tipping points.

Just like our bodies, if too much of one thing or another upsets our systems, we become ill. The same can be said of Nature….she is as tough, and as delicate, as we are. She fights for her survival, as do we, when she feels threatened….heavy snowfall during a drought, fires when there is tangled undergrowth, glorious sunlight after a flood. Mother Nature, like us, wants to be kind, in general, and only bares her teeth when she isn’t respected….hence, Nature Demands Respect.

As children, we know this instinctively. We know if we build the sandcastle too close to the ocean’s edge, it will be gone by morning….if we dig too deep in the dirt, the ants will surface and bite us….if we climb too often on the branch of the old oak tree, we will land on our behinds. As adults, we think we can overcome Nature…that she will bend and weave under our heavy dominance. The opposite is true…it is us who must bend, weave, and sometimes break….

Mother Nature demands respect….and she will get it whether we offer it to her or not. Because in the end, it is she who, along with God, rules the Universe….and the Lord will always make sure that Mother Nature will be kept in balance….for the sake of us all.

Respect Mom,

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon

Digest and Grow

Time is a Teacher…as students, we are supposed to learn from Life, digest it, grow, and move forward. No matter what it is we do, be it pleasure or pain, each day we should learn from our experiences and improve.

Schools, jobs, religion, and just plain living…these are tools to help us grow….help us discover what is going right, and what is going wrong. We start to run into problems when we digest the wrong information, or simply let the right thoughts go in one ear and out the other. I have a friend who reads the Bible daily, and tells me that she believes totally in the Lord…unfortunately, if you saw the way she lives her life, you would never believe it. How many people do we know who have health problems…they know the cause, yet they refuse to correct the source of the problem? Some have financial problems…yet they refuse to slow down their spending, while the debt on their credit cards grows daily.

We all make mistakes…yet, aren’t we supposed to learn from them, so that we can correct them? Money, alcohol, drugs, and yes, food, can easily get out of hand…at some point we’re supposed to stop, examine, and ask ourselves, what the heck am I doing? The mistakes can go on and on, until we realize the big word that we are trying to avoid…. “Change”…. eventually comes. The quicker we deal with our problems, the easier it is to move on.

Time multiplies the Good, and also the Bad….plain and simple, whether we like it or not. The slate or notebook we have in front of us has to be periodically examined and updated. Denial is not, as they say, a river in Egypt! Spirituality is there to help us extract the weeds from our garden. Until somebody comes up with a way for us all to live here forever, we are only visitors to this planet, who must accept a way to digest and grow. Many times I’ve asked myself, if so many people are praying to God daily, why does the world still look the way it does? Something has to be wrong with this picture! Are the Words of the Heavens just being digested and abandoned, like a plate of spaghetti? Or one day will we truly look at the pages of our Holy Books and finally understand the paradise that God wants us all to make this planet? Talk may be cheap, and paper may not refuse ink, yet surely in our hearts we must know the Truth. With each sunrise brings a chance to make our lives better, and what can be done today should never be put off until tomorrow. The path lies ahead….all we have to do is put one foot in front of the other, and climb on the shoulders of giants.

Carpe Diem,

Jennifer Avalon

© 2008 Jennifer Avalon