The Marble

Old school personal development personality Earl Nightingale once told a story about a glass marble. Nightingale related how he had been hogging the conversation with a friend. He eventually noticed the friend was looking over Nightingale’s shoulder seemingly bored. He realized his social error and later purchased a glass marble at a “five and dime” store. Nightingale carried the marble in his pocket and every time he conversed with someone he took the marble out of the pocket. Nightingale would hold the marble in one hand then switch it over to the other.

One day a friend asked Nightingale about the marble. Nightingale told the friend that the marble was a tactile cue that reminded him that conversation is a shared act. That’s why he developed the habit of taking the marble from his pocket and moving it from hand to hand.

I’ve enjoyed that little parable for years, but I’ve never purchased a marble for that purpose. I do try to watch for visual cues from the other person while talking with them. We can discover a lot about life simply by listening to others because other people have different life stories than our own.

My flamboyant friend, Nicky (not his actual name) has a lot to teach. Although he loves to talk and dominate conversations, I don’t mind because he’s fascinating and funny. He grew up in Cuba and came to the U.S. in 1996 with his family. The family departed Cuba and ended up in Mexico and finally completed their journey in Texas. Nicky naturalized his citizenship in 1999 and relocated to Nebraska two years later.

I’ve learned a lot about Cuban LGBT culture from Nicky. In the past, the culture was largely underground due to the repressive Fidel Castro dictatorship. Life there was especially difficult for flamboyantly gay people like Nicky. Nicky didn’t feel fully liberated until he became a U.S. citizen in Houston. There he could let his “freak flag fly”. Every time I see him, Nicky has outrageous stories to tell–sometimes about his childhood in Havana.

“I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.” The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

While people like Nicky are easy to listen to, not everyone has such a colorful, outgoing personality. What about the “average” people who go about their lives in a routine manner. They have things to say about living and coping with everyday problems and sharing their successes, too. Oftentimes, people simply hope that someone else will lend them an ear and hear them out. People feel safer and speak more intimately when they know we are listening intently to them. This is how trust is built and in turn, friendship.

All things considered, people’s stories connect us. There are millions of people who have their own stories to tell. It’s just a matter of us giving them a chance to tell us those stories.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Dutch priest, professor, and theologian, Henri Nouwen. “Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.”

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International Day Of Democracy

Various pundits around the world will likely editorialize and otherwise communicate their opinions about democracy more than usual today. The United Nations sanctioned International Day of Democracy is a time to review the state of democracy. The intent is to promote the viability and availability of democracy to everyone in the world. The stated goals are to promote and protect freedom and human rights in conjunction with the principle of periodic, genuine elections by all citizens.

When pondering the concept of democracy, we remember that people must take mindful care of it because democracy is actually quite fragile. It is susceptible to demagoguery and scare tactics. Fear is poison to the democratic process. We must be careful not to create scapegoats so as to not allow irresponsible abridgement of human rights.

When basic democratic institutions such as universal suffrage and reasoned debate are threatened we are in danger of falling into the grips of totalitarianism. When democracy is overthrown, it is difficult and improbable for its easy return.

“Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.”–journalist and cultural critic, H. L. Mencken

It is tempting to dismiss our responsibilities regarding the safeguarding of democracy when we see and hear the seemingly constant confusion and grandstanding these days. One must remain highly skeptical of individuals and organizations who claim to be the protectors of it. It is through a well-informed citizenry who considers issues from all viewpoints that help ensure the health of democratic societies. In such a society all citizens share dominion. Inept, corrupt leaders can be peacefully replaced and disastrous policies can be corrected by the will of the people.

I intend to spend much of today contemplating the concept of democracy and how it operates in a reasonably healthy society. How can we remedy the unsolved inequality, inequity, and injustices in a lawful, peaceful manner? There is much to think about.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes President Franklin D. Roosevelt. “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

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The young man stepped off the curb just as the pickup truck entered the intersection. I honked the horn in my car, hoping to warn one or both about the dire circumstances that seemed imminent. The young man looked up from his phone and stepped backwards to return to the curb. The pickup truck driver flipped his middle finger at me and sped away. I remained stopped at the crosswalk and waited for the pedestrian to get to the other side of the street. The young man waved and smiled as a gesture of gratitude.

That particular intersection has a long history of several vehicle-pedestrian mishaps–two of the accidents were fatal. Signs and flashing yellow warning lights have probably helped prevent many incidents, yet people have gotten injured regardless of the city’s efforts.

A great deal of harm and evil in the world happens as a result of carelessness. People either let their vigilance down, or they are unaware of other people’s needs for safety and wellbeing. I sometimes categorize the lack of empathy as a form of carelessness. Sometimes it seems as if being careless is a result of the lack of empathy. Either way, not caring about others and/or oneself results in unhappiness and sometimes physical danger.

In the case of the young pedestrian, he had allowed himself to be distracted by his mobile phone. Meanwhile, it appeared that the pickup truck driver had either been inattentive or had active disregard for others–as shown by him not slowing or stopping the vehicle and by his rude gesture at the scene of the near accident. I’m glad the pedestrian was able to return to the safety of the curb. I hate to imagine the tragedy that could have ensued.

Have you noticed that many of our woes are caused by a few moments of inattention and carelessness? I recall injuring a finger on my left hand last spring. While scraping dried Bondo putty during a window frame repair on my house, I violated the cardinal rule of moving the sharp edge of the five-in-one tool towards me instead of away from me. I failed to move a stepladder to a better position to allow for safe tool use. My carelessness meant a trip to the emergency medical clinic on the other side of town. The resulting pain and inconvenience hampered everyday life for several days. Thankfully, I’m more careful with sharp tools and knives these days.

During the process of living our lives it is wise and compassionate not to harm other beings. We also need to be alert to the possibility of other beings causing harm to us. This is not to say we should be paranoid. These are primarily precautions to take to enable friendly, successful interactions. Using these precautions helps us to better avoid fraud and deception.

Finally, carelessness manifests in how others perceive us. I know that it’s currently fashionable to proclaim that we should not give a f**k about other people’s opinions of us. To a certain extent this is OK. In other respects, not giving a f**k can be seen as carelessness. Like it or not, people sense our attitudes by our speech and actions. People instinctively sense care and carelessness because this sensitivity is part of our survival mechanism. We know that if someone is careless in deed, they may well be careless in giving us all due respect. Carelessness is rightfully seen as offensive because such a state of mind and disrespect are ultimately harmful.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Mormon religious leader, lawyer, and politician, James E. Faust. “Unfortunately, some of our greatest tribulations are the result of our own foolishness and weakness and occur because of our own carelessness or transgression.”

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One of the most helpful attributes we can develop is focus. The person who has her/his mind made up make sure that nothing will get in the way. Such people use their intellectual and physical prowess to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in some of us to be over eager to complete specific goals. This may include cutting corners and hurrying to finish the job.

Such hurried thinking and acting means that we can overlook issues and problems that could cause unintended consequences and scenarios that get in our way. At other times, we become involved in other projects that end up being dead-ends or just distractions that are not aligned with our overall goals. This means we are overflowing with energy but have not focused and channeled our motivation. We feel frustrated, impatient, and eager to do something–anything even if we are not fully prepared.

This is the time to pause and put on our thinking caps. We need to consider how to effectively use our energy. After all, the scattered thinking and impulsive decisions are more harmful to ourselves and others. The constant, unfocused activity is confusing and frustrates others; making teamwork difficult or impossible. The restlessness impedes the way to success. A good dose of mental discipline is necessary in order to get back on track.

The judicious use of a rest-break can help us reassess the situation and consider better techniques. This pause also minimizes the risk of burn-out and exhaustion so we are less prone to giving up. When we are filled with energy, it is wise to pace ourselves. This allows us to apply consistent effort. Grounding ourselves in this manner gives us the ability to concentrate our thoughts onto priorities.

There are times when even these practices have limitations. Perhaps a lack of experience, immature leadership, or bad timing interfere with fulfillment. The energy is present but we must find alternative ways to bleed it off so as to avoid rash actions. Again, a time-out to pause and ground oneself with discernment and patience will work wonders.

If the lack of experience is our own limitation, we may need to go it alone for awhile to learn and experience lessons. We can stop and evaluate our mistakes caused by restlessness and impatience. We will certainly screw up again, but we don’t need to be harsh on ourselves. We can adopt the philosophy of successful people that it is best to own our mistakes and learn from them.

We all feel restless from time to time, that’s just being human. We do ourselves a favor by learning to be proactive and forward thinking. We temper this attitude with considering the overall effects on people and other environmental factors. By harnessing our restlessness we are better able to create harmonious, joyful lives.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Swedish film and television director, Johan Renck. “I’ve never been a frustrated person because I learnt at a very young age that the frustration I had inside of me had to do with creativity and the ability to transform that into action. I realized very early my restlessness had to be channeled into things I could do.”

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“The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.”– Aesop

There were few readers of classic literature and fiction in my family, so there was little encouragement to explore the genre at home. High school English and literature teachers did manage to spark my interest. While the classics are rarely part of my current reading habits, I’m somewhat aware of the major works. I’m thankful for the teachers who nudged their students towards those antique works. The classics I’ve explored have helped to expand the mind.

Perhaps one of the best gifts we can give one another is encouragement. Knowing that someone else cares, even a little bit, makes a lot of difference between giving up and continuing along one’s path. Just the act of asking relevant questions about someone else’s plan can inspire her or his enthusiasm. Switching someone’s discouragement with encouragement can be all that is needed to help that person regain motivation and get unstuck from inertia. Knowing that someone is interested in your meaningful idea is more helpful than getting some advise about taking next steps.

At the very least, encouragement helps open the mind to unexplored aspects of life–as the teachers did for me regarding classic literature. Getting and giving encouragement was rewarding for the teachers, knowing that at least a few of the students were awakened to the world of beautiful and wise words from the ancient writers. This is an example of how giving encouragement to others fosters self-encouragement.

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”–Friedrich Nietzsche

There are times when we feel discouraged and there is nobody nearby to encourage us. When that happens, taking a break from overthinking and self-criticism is in order. Letting go of urgency for awhile by stepping outdoors for a walk or just to take in one’s surroundings can help us shift to a brighter attitude. We can also find inspiration and encouragement from pondering quotations like the one from Nietzsche. Some people utilize spiritual wisdom or some form of meditation.

Tapping into such activities can be a jump-start to getting the mind back in gear towards positive action. Refreshing the mind with inspiration is a form of self-encouragement. These types of internal encouragement are deeper and longer lasting. You might say that such motivation comes from the heart.

Do you remember that the root word of discouragement and encouragement is courage? We know that courage is doing even though we feel fearful. Discouragement is submitting to fear and encouragement is feeling the fear and going ahead anyway. Some of the most meaningful events of our lives take place when we decide to go ahead despite our fears while still taking wise precautions into consideration. There are times when we must embrace uncertainty and take our chances.

This phrase from Don, a long ago passed mentor and coworker, comes to mind during times of personal trouble: “Courage Hoss!” Oftentimes, this is the jolt I need to regain momentum.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century boxing trainer, Angelo Dundee. “Criticism is okay, encouragement is better!”

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Today, while America observes another anniversary of 9/11, one might claim that the horrific terrorism came about, at least in part, due to anger and resentment of the perpetrators. The tragic destruction of lives and property demonstrated the dark power of resentment.

Resentment is basically repressed anger mixed with disgust, fear, self-pity, and disappointment. Some psychologists classify resentment as a secondary emotion that develops after real or perceived injury or insult. That emotion or feeling can devolve into obsessive thoughts and compulsion for revenge. Extreme manifestations of resentment appear as mayhem, murder, and terrorism. In other words, resentment run amok can destroy lives.

The objective of this short blog post is not to analyze the terrorism that took place on September 11, 2001; that has been and continues to take place elsewhere. For purposes of this post, memories of the 9/11 attack served to trigger a contemplation about the secondary emotion of resentment.

We’ve all harbored anger and resentment at various times of our lives. Certain people have caused us physical harm or emotional pain. Perhaps we were humiliated or unjustly treated. We indulged in over-evaluation and created a mental loop that kept the pain simmering over long stretches of time. In some people, resentment becomes a touchstone and an integral part of their identity. In effect, their mission is retribution. Therefore, it behooves us to defuse this deep-seated emotion.

Even if a person does not act upon resentment, the feelings linger as emotional and physical pain. The resentful person experiences muscle tension, headaches, anxiety, and other chronic pain–perhaps ulcers or problems with the digestive system. Resentment harms the victim while the victimizer possibly goes about life contented and satisfied. Many times, resentment manifests as violent revenge, which is the seed for resentment in the other party. The mutual resentments escalate into rivalries, feuds, and warfare. Once resentments spiral down into this realm, they are difficult to resolve. They usually fuel more resentments.

As I contemplate 9/11 and the current state of affairs internationally and domestically, I realize how greatly our attitudes and what we harbor in our hearts affect how we experience life. There are plenty of folks who harbor anger, bitterness, and resentment. They view the world as an evil, uncaring place.

Resentment is easily created when one side benefits more than the other. Although the victor might reap great results and satisfaction, the appearance of success eventually breeds distrust, dislike, and resentment in the other party. This fosters the endless cycle of retaliation and counter retaliation. We see this happen between organized sports teams and their fans. On the international scene, the retaliatory cycle results in terrorism by one or both parties then frequently devolves into all-out war.

We know that anger and resentment are harmful and toxic, yet we are prone to experience them. Anger generally occurs due to an action in the present. Resentment is the cultivation and harboring of past anger. One famous, often-repeated truism is, that resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

One way out of the resentment cycle is forgiveness. It’s natural to wish for the forgiveness of one’s transgressors, yet we are too often reluctant to forgive them. In reality, it’s up to us to forgive, not forget. Then the healing begins. This is something to ponder today on 9/11/21.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ancient Roman historian and politician, Publius Cornelius Tacitus. “To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.”

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A Touch Of Blue …Floral Friday

Today’s three projects are all about subtlety. Of the three primary colors in their pure form, blue is the most understated of them all. With that in mind, I made sure to include some shades and tints of blue in these arrangements.

A vintage Fenton carnival glass dish is the foundation of this Ikebana inspired arrangement. The iridescence filters the cobalt blue glass–depending upon the viewing angle. Some of the tiny berries are also a blue hue. All of the light colors provide a soft frame for the solitary sunflower.

The cobalt blue-toned standard glass florist’s vase supports an earthy arrangement of various types of spider mums and greenery.

This ceramic “basket” was a creation of New Earth Clay Pottery at Brownville, Nebraska. The small, family operated company produces dinner and serving ware as well as artistic pieces. I added a rural inspired posy of small blossoms and blooms.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th-20th century French Fauvist painter, Raoul Dufy. “Blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones it will always stay blue; whereas yellow is blackened in its shades, and fades away when lightened; red when darkened becomes brown, and diluted with white is no longer red, but another color–pink.”

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