Warning Signs of Increased Stress Level

reprinted from “Sleep Great for Life,” rated 5 stars on Amazon.com

by Rich Nilsen

One of the common behavioral reactions to stress can be an exaggeration of an existing habit.  Maybe one of your responses is overeating, and you suddenly notice yourself eating way more than you usually do.

These will be important factors to keep a close eye on after you solve your sleep disorder.  Insomnia can come back, but only if you let it.  Be confident that you won’t let that happen, because you will have established a solid foundation. Your precious sleep life will not be built on shifting sands.

The following are some red flags to watch out.  Feel free to add to this list based on your own experience.

  • Muscular tension and physical pain
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Closing yourself off from others
  • Increased levels of bad habits – e.g. smoking, overeating.
  • Tics – face, eyes, etc.
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Increased need to urinate – often a sign of depression.
  • Ulcers
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed with your workload
  • Feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Other [list your own] ________________


The Mustn’ts

Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the lmpossibles, the Won’ts.

Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.

Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

-Shel Silverstein

I remember my daughter climbing on my knee as I read her this poem. I talked to her about how life was wide open for her–full of choices and options. She hung on every word. I told her she could be anything she wants when she grows up. She listened intensely. I told her how achieving greatness is a decision, rather than a circumstance. She believed me.



And then I thought how I had just lied to my little girl. Her warmth in my arms, and I thought of the lie fresh off my lips. I thought about how, for all of us, “anything” is bound and chained by reality. The reality is that we have mental and physical limitations, and we have limitations of opportunity.


I thought how, for many of us, life has laid opportunities in our path that are not available to others … opportunities to have good families and sound employment.  Opportunities that have spared us getting news at the doctor that no one wants to hear.  Opportunities to live in a country where we do not have to worry about things like roadside bombs.


And in the same manner others have opportunities we can only dream of.  And no matter how much we may want to, we can never have the opportunities for fame or fortune or whatever opportunities God has selected to bypass us and fall in the laps of our neighbors. It seems we are dealt certain cards in life, and we are prohibited from handpicking through the deck.


Back to the poem … I let the lie rest with Rachael. I never corrected it, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because the dream is so much more appealing than the reality. Maybe it was because I was embarrassed that I had been told the same story and could never pull it off.  Whatever the reason, I’ve thought about this poem and my daughter a lot lately.  I’ve thought about how life is about hope, and hope is about convincing people that “anything can be … ” I’ve thought about kids with cancer, child rape, school lockdowns in Frankfort, school shootings in Ohio, and famous stars of Hollywood who have taken their own lives because behind the glamor and fame, life was just too hard.  I’ve thought of how 60% of the adult population is on prescription antidepressants.  I’ve thought of the burdens carried by hard workers caught in the cross hairs of a corporate downsizing.  I’ve thought of bullying at school … and I’ve thought of a million other problems I do not know how to fix.


It makes me sad.  But then I think of what Paul Harvey used to call, “The rest of the story.”  How I cannot be anything … without limitations … but I can be one thing very well.  I think of how, with all the people with all these problems, I get opportunities to live my faith each and every day.  Each day I get opportunities to be the Good Samaritan.  We all do.


The opportunity to be a Good Samaritan is not something far in the distance … it is at my doorstep.  You know the opportunities.  You see them in the eyes of the Walmart clerk.  You hear them hiding behind the words as a kid talks about school.  You sense them in the overweight coworker who just cannot loose the weight.


How great it is that our options are limited.  How wonderful it is that we can help carry a little bit of the load for friends and neighbors.  If that doesn’t open a world of possibilities, I don’t know what does.

Life Lessons from Legendary Coach John Wooden

John Wooden's bookUCLA basketball coach John Wooden led his  team to 10 national championships, including  a remarkable seven consecutive titles. This was an unprecedented streak in modern major sports that most likely will never be duplicated in any of our lifetimes. However, as many people know, NCAA basketball championships were the least of Wooden’s passions.

Coach and author John Wooden lived to teach others, on and off the basketball court. His insight and wisdom led to the publication of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, which outlines behaviors necessary to achieve success in life.

Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and his powerful All Pro Dad organization took a look recently at 10 of his life principles:

1. Be True To Yourself
This is number 1 in Coach Wooden’s 7-point creed that was passed down from his father, and this one is first for a reason. Wooden teaches us that before we can become leaders of others, we must first understand ourselves. We need to distinguish our talents and strengths, as well as our weaknesses, and use each to their maximum benefit. Stay true to what you are best suited for and do not compromise your values.

2. Always Keep Moving
Personally, I love this one because it is so true. A former player of Coach Wooden said that he was always shouting, “Move, move, move!” He was not only referring to basketball, but to life in general. We must take action and we must always be progressing. Building upon success and learning from failure. We must think and we must always be in motion.

Read the remaining 8 steps at All Pro Dad.


It Never Fails

Loveby James Smith,

Looking at the world around us, most of us would have to concede that there is something wrong.  But there’s always been something wrong, hasn’t there?  You can’t explain the Hitler’s and Khan’s and Nero’s of the world without admitting that something is just out of sync with God’s intention for mankind.  Even if we call these obviously “evil” men abnormalities, what do we call the hundreds of thousands who follow them and twist our world into something dark and chaotic?  For every Hitler, there are thousands who pick up guns to follow him.  For every Pilate, there are thousands screaming “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  Yes, something is wrong in our world.

Coming closer to home, it is hard not to recognize that whatever is wrong with our world is also wrong with our families, our friends, and with us.  Marriages and relationships that we thought and intended to last forever end almost every day.  Somewhere along the way, the wheels fall off!  What is wrong in our lives?!

A Bible verse that seems to fly in the face of our culture today is 1 Corinthians 13:8.  It reads “Love never fails.”

As defined by wikipedia, “Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. Love is also a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection; and “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. Love may also be described as actions towards others or oneself based on compassion, or as actions towards others based on affection.”

True “love” encompasses all of these attributes.  It is emotion, virtue, and action.  When we have all three attributes, Paul says that love “never” fails.

Mirriam-Webster defines “never” as 1. not ever : at no time and 2. not in any degree : not under any condition.  At no time and under no condition will love “fail.”  That’s a pretty big claim!

Why then do marriages fail?  Why do kids rebel against parents who love them?  Why do men and women commit atrocious acts of evil against one another?  Culture and society are not getting better.  If we enter marriages with love, why are so many of them failing?  If we’re trying to love one another, why is there so much discord and hatred in our society?  Why has our culture become a breeding ground for division, whether it is over politics, race, religion, or sexual orientation?  Why did the “love revolution” of the 60’s fail to transform our country and our world?  Did love fail?

I don’t think that love failed.  I think we failed to love.  We failed to love “one another” the way God designed and wants us to.  Husbands, we have failed to love our wives the way God wants us to. Wives have failed to love their husbands the way God wants us to.  Republicans fail to love Democrats and Democrats fail to love Republicans.

All the hatred, discord, division, and animosity would stop if only we could learn to “love one another.”  Jesus called this the 2nd greatest commandment after “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.”  We have to learn to love as an emotion, virtue, and action.  Love is NOT just an emotion.  We have to learn to love even when the emotion is not there.

Why?  Because love never fails.  At no time; under any condition will love fail.

So, you want a better marriage?  Love!  Want a better family?  Love!  Want a more productive career?  Love!  Want a better community?  Love!  Want a better world?  Love!  Want a closer relationship with God?  Love!

Love the way God designed you to love!  Love the way you were meant to love!  Love will never fail!

Happy, Thankful and Awed

I have a personal mission statement for my life.  Hokey… yes.  Academic… just a little.  Trite and frivolous… no way.

You see, my mission statement pushes me to live my life and to view things in a particular way…in a way that I have consciously chosen to look at things.  A realist by nature and downright pessimistic at times, the life view demanded by my mission statement is completely different than how I would naturally look at things.  This mission statement forces me in a direction that is uniquely different from the way I would approach life on autopilot.

My mission statement is a bit of intentional dreaming I did years ago under one of my mentors, Tricia Thurman.  Tricia taught me that personal mission statements should capture the type of person we want to be, which for me was a long distance away from the type of person I was.

I wrote my mission statement as part of a class, and then reviewed it and edited it daily until it seemed right.  It took me three week of off-and-on thinking to craft my mission statement, and the months and years following were perhaps the happiest time of my life.  Everything I did, everything I saw, and everything I felt snuggled warmly against my newfound mission.  For the first time, all of life seemed to fit together, like a jigsaw puzzle with no missing pieces.

But then life got busy, two more kids came along, my mother-in-law got Alzheimer’s, my father-in-law died, my dad died, and for some reason I forgot my mission.  I started to withdraw.  Life for me grew darker…not bad, just darker.

Out of the blue, my mission statement popped into my head the other day.  I don’t know why it did.  I was just driving down the road and I guess my mind wandered.  (Thank you, wandering mind.)  Since then, my view of life has been a little clearer, my work has been a bit more productive, and I have seen a joy I haven’t noticed in quite some time.  Welcome back, mission statement.  I’ve missed you.

I know the path to your mission will be different than mine.  I know it won’t take you three weeks…it may be shorter or perhaps longer.  But I also know you will be happier if you spend the intentional time deciding what type of person you want to be when you grow up.

Post your mission statements on this blog, and let me know the process you went through to get to yours.  We’ll all grow from sharing our experiences.

James Hale—MISSION STATEMENT:  Happy with my life, thankful for my gifts, and awed by inspirations from those around me.

It’s a Sad Day when Parents have to screen Disney Shows

Your Disney Airing at 9:45 am on a Sunday Morning
Your Disney Airing at 9:45 am on a Sunday Morning

I turned on Disney for my two-year-old daughter this past Sunday morning because she was asking to watch “miss mouse.” I found two channels on the Verizon Fios guide. Had never heard of either show, so I simply choose one, something called Phineas and Ferb. Meanwhile my daughter had migrated to another room in the house. I quickly went back to what I was doing on the computer, when I heard my wife call down from the upstairs hallway, “do you know there is an old man in his underwear on the tv?”


I looked up from my laptop to see a cartoon character of a creepy old man in nothing but underwear.

What has society come to in this country? A parent can not put on the Disney Channel on a Sunday morning without worrying about what their child may hear or see? To me this is simply mind boggling.

Phineas and Ferb is a show that I was unfamilar with, but upon doing so Internet searches, I learned that this is a popular Disney production that appeals to not only children but also adults. Hmmm.

In the Wikipedia description, with Phineas and Ferb “Much of the series’ humor relies on running gags… Aspects of the show’s humor are aimed at adults, including its frequent pop-cultural references. Co-creator Dan Povenmire, sought to create a show that was less raunchy than Family Guy—having previously worked on the show—but had the same reliance on comic timing, metahumor, humorous blank stares, expressionless faces and wordplay. Povenmire describes the show as a combination of Family Guy and SpongeBob SquarePants. Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, the other co-creator, said the show was not created just for kids, but simply did not exclude them as an audience.”


So here was a parent on a Sunday morning simply tuning into the Disney Channel for their young, impressionable daughter, only to be presented with a cartoon character of a person that no reasonable parent would let their child be around.

Phineas and Ferb is a huge money maker for Disney, as there are all sorts of off-shoot products that have been derived from this show. Only a couple of years ago, Disney announced that the show had become the number one primetime animated television show for the demographics 6-10 and 9-14.


The irresponsibility of the Disney Company is incredible in this day and age when scandals of sexual abuse (such as what occurred at Penn State University) seem like an every day occurrence. But it comes as no huge surprise to this author, since Disney has a checkered past that most in the public are unaware.

Disney also owns numerous companies including the ABC Network, which puts out some of the worst trash on network television. Their latest project is a show re-titled “G.C.B.,” which stands for the original name “Good Christian Bitches.” The show is even more offensive than the title, if that is possible. But more on that later.

When I was a child, I grew up watching shows like Tom And Jerry and Donald Duck. Not creepy old men in their underwear.

Not cartoons geared towards adults but aired during children viewing hours.


Editor’s Note: The Parents TV Council (PTC) is your family’s voice in Hollywood, and they need you to help make it stronger. If you want to support the Parents Television Council, join the nearly one million active members who are helping the PTC to bring responsibility to the entertainment industry.

WatchDog Dad

You can be anything you want in life. So not true!

Got Purpose?

“You can be anything you want in life.”

That is a lie told by well-meaning parents who want their kids to dream big and achieve greatness.  The reality is there are limits and restrictions on your potential.  One of these limitations is your natural skills and talents.  There are some skills—perhaps reading or math or caring for others or an ability to focus quietly—that come easy to you.  Maybe you have chosen to work on refining these natural gifts into perfected talents, or maybe you are like most of us and fallen a little short in this effort.  Regardless, these seeds must be watered and nourished if they are to grow.  Get to work perfecting your natural gifts.

That’s your natural gifts.  But there are other skills that are not as natural for you.  These areas can limit your options in choosing a career, and they can be your downfall in the job search.  For example, the brilliant yet introverted mathematician who cannot deal with people makes a lousy teacher, if he does not deal with his shortcoming.  Similarly, the extroverted people-person who lacks the discipline to master mathematics also becomes a lousy teacher, if he does not try to control skills that do not come naturally.  Recognize that you are set free by your natural skills, but limited by those that are not as developed in you.

But raw skill is not the only variable affecting your ability to choose your profession.  You are also either empowered or restricted by your finances, your network of support from family and friends, and the unique opportunities that come your way every day.  You cannot simple “will” your way into a job by raw desire.  And no matter how hard you work at achieving career goals, some will simply stay beyond your grasp.

When I was in school at Western Kentucky University I worked hard to be the Geologist Senior of the Year.  I was a lab assistant, I volunteered to help teachers outside of class, I tutored people who were struggling in geology, and I studied nightly into the wee hours.  I got the highest grades in the class on nearly all my tests … and I came in second.  Similarly, every day thousands of talented, brilliantly gifted kids work tirelessly to become the next music superstar … but only one person can hold this spot.  You must live YOUR life, recognizing that you will not have the opportunities provided to others.

You cannot be anything you want to in life…but the reality is even better.  You have been placed on earth for a unique purpose… with unique skills…at a unique place…at a unique time.  You cannot be anything, but you can be one thing better than anyone else.  Better than anyone!  That’s because you have a truly unique skill set and completely unique opportunities that no one else will have.  Just like you may not be able to be the next President of the United States, the next president cannot be you … even if he or she tried.

The opportunities come your way every day, but they are usually subtle and you have to look carefully for them.  They reside in the manager you walk by every day, but never talk to.  The back-to-school scholarship you never looked for on the web.  The online degree taught by the university half-way around the world. The article in the newspaper about a community problem.  Or the difficulties that a friend or co-worker is facing.

Look for YOUR opportunities.  YOU can serve YOUR purpose like no one else because of the unique combinations of abilities you have, the unique lessons your life experiences have taught you, and the unique opportunities that will be presented to you and no one else. Successful people focus on the short-term opportunities around them, rather than the vague dreams that can never be realized.

Facing Death

By Timothy Kelley (All Star Press is thankful and honored to be allowed to re-print this blog posting)

The reality of death is a confrontational foe – or in some cases a friend – that never ceases to knock on the door of our human consciousness. Its looming presence is kept at bay for much of our life until we are given windows into the eternal while attending a funeral service or possibly when receiving an ominous doctor’s report. There is only one weapon we can use when coming face to face with mankind’s greatest enemy—faith.

Paul exhorted the church at Corinth to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) in relation to life in time and space as well as our eternal state. With the loss of a close loved one, sight and feelings are more often than not our dominant means of perception. We know how we are supposed to think, it’s just that our feelings and our thinking are out of sync.

Probably the most referred to chapter in the Bible on the subject of faith is found in Hebrews Chapter 11. The chapter starts like this:
(1) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (2) For by it the elders obtained a good report. (3) Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11:1-3)

This chapter speaks much about death. These “heroes of faith” all died without the promise they looked forward to throughout their lives. The promise was Jesus Christ living in the hearts of the believer and His kingdom reign on earth. Faith is needed in death more than any other time in life – not for those who have died, but for us – those left behind. Those of us trying to make sense as we swim in the abyss of grief and loss. Let’s look at faith’s relationship with death.

Faith faces death squarely in the face. A famous quote says, “Where there is life there is hope.” We can say by faith, “Where there is death, there is hope.” The believer sees death for what it is – the passing of one life directly into the next. There is no cessation of life, simply a transformation of life. We understand that when we or our loved one passes, life does not cease; it transforms into a larger, far greater existence. Faith always sees a bigger picture in the death of one of God’s saints.

Faith takes death seriously. Though we are Christians, we are still human. God wired us to love and to grieve. Faith allows us to be humans; it is ok to experience and express grief. It does not reveal a lack of faith; it reveals just the opposite. It reveals one who is comfortable with who God has created them to be, and how he has created them to be. The person of faith embraces the fact that the loss of those close to us will forever alter the landscape of our lives. Yet, though the loss is great and the grief is real, God still has a plan and purpose for our life in the here and now. There is also an understanding that God’s plan on earth for the deceased has be fulfilled and completed also. The man or woman of faith knows that in the big picture of God’s eternal scheme, this loss has a purpose attached to it. Thus death, though not welcome, can be accepted.

“There is only one weapon we can use when coming face to face with mankind’s greatest enemy — faith.” – Timothy Kelley


Editor’s Note: Timothy Kelley is Pastor of Grace Connection Church in St. Petersburg, FL.   Pastor Kelley lost his beautiful 20-year-old daughter Hannah Grace Kelley last month in a freak accident that received national news coverage. She passed on Feb. 18, 2012. How does a man of true faith handle the worst of tragedies? Click the YouTube video link below to view the memorial service for Hannah. Scroll to the 18:24 mark to hear Pastor Kelley give his daughter’s eulogy – the hardest thing any father would have to do in their lifetime.



The Ticking Clock

by James Smith,

Dark Bedroom ClockIn my bedroom is a clock.  It’s not digital, but it has the round face with the numbers 1 – 12 and a couple of hands that spin around it.  And it ticks!  We get so used to the clock that we typically don’t notice the ticking anymore.  Last night I noticed the ticking.  Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick….

Each of those ticks represent a second of my life.  Tick, tick, tick, tick…  They go by so fast.  A second may not seem like a long time but when you add several together you eventually have a minute.  Add a few more and you have an hour.  The hours turn into days, the days weeks, and the weeks years.  All made up of individual seconds.

As the seconds of my life were ticking off that clock, I thought about the fact that with each tick a second of time was gone forever.  Wow!  How precious each moment of our lives are when we hear the wheels of time rolling.

The question becomes, “How valuable do we see those ticks of life’s clock?” The answer is found in how we spend them, what we do with them.  For me, I want every second to count for something.  I want every tick of my life’s clock to be valuable in some way to someone.  Whether it’s God, my wife, my children, my church, my friends, my community, or myself, I want to use those valuable seconds to make me or others better.  It all comes down to how I choose to spend them.

My Bible says in the letter of James that our life is a “mist.”  It’s here today but tomorrow may be gone.  Several psalms compare life to grass of the field, here today but gone tomorrow.  We have no idea when our clocks are going to stop ticking, that makes every tick a gift from God – a gift to be treasured and used for something marvelous and wonderful.

Thoreau wrote in Walden, “I went to the woods to live deliberately; to drink deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”  Drink deep of this wonderful gift of life.  If you’re reading this today, God gave you a gift of another day in time.  What are you going to do with it?  How are you going to show your appreciation to Him for it?  Do you value the gift?  What are you going to spend your time doing today?

Watching TV?  Playing video games?  On Facebook?  Or maybe talking to God?  Spending time with people?  Reading God’s Message to you?  Serving the poor?  Making your community a better place?  Connecting with co-workers?  Loving your spouse and children?

There’s a million choices that we can make each day on how we’re going to spend the ticks on our clocks.  How are you going to spend yours today?  How valuable do you see them?  Are you going to make them matter?

Tick, tick, tick…


— written by James Smith